A RECENT advert placed in the British newspaper the Western Mail offered 'excellent pay' for former soldiers 'wanted for security work in Iraq'. The add was placed by US firm Secureforce. The death of a private 'security operative' in Iraq last weekend has highlighted the extent to which mercenaries are already being used in war zones.
The US government has hired mercenary companies like ICI of Oregon, TASK International and PAE to fight in civil wars in Africa and South America. The mercenaries are used to fight in dirty wars, when the US wants to lend its support but does not want to be held accountable or risk the political backlash that could come with US troop casualties.
ICI of Oregon sent mercenaries, paid for by the US government, to Liberia in the mid-90s as the country was being torn apart by civil war. The company was given the 'Contractor of the Year' award after its private army protected the US embassy, which came under attack during the conflict.
Mercenaries are also fighting alongside the Colombian army. The US has given $2.5bn of military aid to help the Colombian government pay for its dirty war against guerrilla groups operating in the country. Much of the money has been used to fund mercenaries who operate the military equipment provided by the US.
Mum and Dad slam Hain
NEW LABOUR cabinet minister Peter Hain has travelled so far down the Blairite road that now even his own parents are turning against him. Walter and Adelaine Hain, members of Putney Labour Party, gave an interview to BBC Wales. 'We don't agree with everything he says and does,' says Hain's mum. 'We're not New Labour,' adds his dad.
When asked if they are more left wing, his mum replies, 'He doesn't like us to say that, but we think we are.'
On the phone
BLAIR'S henchman Alastair Campbell was enjoying a meal in a restaurant on his recent holiday in the South of France when he received a phone call. After the call he went 'apoplectic with rage', according to the restaurant owner.
We were holidaying in the area when a friend called to say Campbell was in the restaurant. We called the restaurant and asked for him to come to the phone. 'Are you Alastair Campbell?' we asked. Yes. 'From the Labour Party?' Yes. 'You shouldn't have gone to war against Iraq and you're a warmongering bastard.'
They'll gamble on anything
THE OFFICIAL Met Office in Britain is teaming up with US company CME to allow businesses to gamble on the weather. They are launching a range of 'weather derivatives' through which companies can speculate on future weather conditions.
Peter Ewins, the Met Office's chief executive, says, 'As global weather conditions grow increasingly extreme, CME-Met Office weather derivatives will serve a significant need in the business community.'
This insanity comes a few weeks after John Poindexter, the US government Information Awareness Office head, was forced to resign after it emerged that he planned to set up a futures market gambling on terrorism.
His scheme could have seen people gambling on events such as the assassination of a US president or war with North Korea.
Heat kills laundry worker
A WORKER died from heat exhaustion, having climbed into an industrial washing machine to free some sheets and getting stuck, an inquest heard last week. Paul Clegg died after being trapped for two hours in the 13 metre long machine. The machine washed sheets and towels at up to 75C and had been running shortly before Mr Clegg climbed into it on 21 March. He became stuck and called for help.
At the inquest, workers from the laundry where Mr Clegg worked said that they did not know about an access panel near to where he collapsed because they had never been asked to read the manual for the machine. There was no written procedure for entering the machine and no set time to allow it to cool down after it was used.
The laundry's chief engineer sat on a health and safety committee which met monthly. He told the inquest jurors that he too did not know of any access panel. By the time the fire brigade arrived and cut Mr Clegg free he had lost consciousness and later was pronounced dead.
A post mortem gave the cause of death as hyperthermia. The hearing was continuing.
Bush's new WMDs
GEORGE BUSH is already planning to develop a new generation of weapons of mass destruction. The US plans were hatched at a recent meeting of 150 defence officials, army officers and weapons manufacturers in Nebraska.
The gathering plotted the development of a new generation of 'mini nukes', nuclear weapons which could be used on a battlefield or to attack underground bunkers. The people behind this weapons programme are the Project for the New American Century, a right wing pressure group with close links to the Bush administration.
The 'mini nukes', some of which are more destructive than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima which killed 200,000 people, are not simply a deterrent. They are designed for use in wars such as the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, blurring the distinction between nuclear and conventional war.
The Nebraska meeting took place on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and was held in secret. Even members of the US Congress were prevented from attending. Outside demonstrators held rallies and a peace concert.
Figure it out - 34
A student who will leave university in 2010 can expect to be in debt of up to £34,000 when their education finishes. The shocking figure is the result of recent research by Barclays bank.
'It caused a mixture of sadness and hilarity.'
A friend of Prince William after the prince accidentally killed one of the 1,000 remaining Huemul deer on the planet
'The massage service has been extremely successful and we are hoping to extend it. It has helped to cut absenteeism rates by almost a half.'
SUPERINTENDENT CHRIS BARNES justifies West Yorkshire police's free massage service
'In the not too distant future firms will be able to tell if an advertising campaign triggers the brain activity and neurochemical release associated with memory and action.'
PROFESSOR JAMES BAILEY on the attempts by Ford, Coca-Cola and other multinationals to perfect their advertising campaigns
'We are the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful.'
T-shirt worn by US Troops in the Gulf
'The problem of too many people fighting for too little land will have to be addressed. One day we will not be free to have large families, causing overcrowding, overbuilding and claustrophobia.'
MICHAEL WINNER News of the World columnist on his dreams of compulsory birth control