Socialist Worker

How the Star has been shining no light

Issue No. 1900

"A BLUEPRINT for race riots." That's how the pornographer Richard Desmond's Star described a scheme in Tower Hamlets, east London, to provide sheltered accommodation for elderly Asians last week.

It went on to incite the very racist violence the Star says it condemns when it comes from the BNP. It called for the scheme "to be knocked down". By whom? Fired-up Star readers? Of course what the Star, the Sun and other rags did not report is that one third of elderly people in the area are Asian.

Residents at the two similar homes in the borough are almost all white. Far from "excluding white OAPs" the council, however cack-handedly it presented it, is including Asians in the service in a way that reflects the local population.

In fact extended networks in many Asian families mean fewer Asian elders tend to end up in council care. Neither paper, of course, has a word of opposition to the rampant privatisation that is slashing care home places or driving up prices. The tycoons who own the rags support such measures.

It won't come as a surprise either to find that neither the Sun nor the Star even bothered to contact Tower Hamlets council to find out the facts before spewing out their racist bilge.

And the Commission for Racial Equality, which the papers said was investigating the project last week, had not even received a complaint by the time the story appeared.


IN THIS WEEK

50 YEARS AGO - 1954

FRENCH colonialism was defeated at the Vietnamese city of Dien Bien Phu. The French had installed a colonial government in Indochina. But in 1946 a Vietnamese independence movement began fighting the French troops.

The Viet Minh, as the insurgents were called, used guerrilla tactics. The French wanted to crush them at Dien Bien Phu. Instead, the Vietnamese overran the garrison and it fell to the Viet Minh on 7 May in what was a key defeat for French imperialism.


A big miss on teacher numbers

THE LATEST figures on teacher numbers are another sign of soaraway success on the domestic front, according to the government. In fact last week's figures showed the number of teachers in primary and nursery schools is set to fall.

At the end of this parliament teacher numbers are almost certain to be below where they were in 1979, when disappointment with Labour lost it the general election.


OK if it helps to cut the costs

BOTH Richard Desmond's Daily Express and the Star called for nationwide celebrations of St George's Day and pride in being English. His recent anti-German tirade was disgusting, but surely it left no doubt about his patriotism?

Well, money is thicker than blood it seems. Porno Des's weekly OK! is printed in Mönchengladbach by German company Tiefdruck Schwann-Bagel.


Computer error puts £6bn at risk

THE WEEK home secretary David Blunkett announced his big brother ID scheme news emerged of a burgeoning crisis in the contracted-out information system in the NHS. The NHS scheme to put all patients' details, prescriptions and appointments on a single database costs a staggering £6 billion.

In a health service run for need, it could have benefits. But it will siphon money out of patient care and into half a dozen contractors. They are the companies that are likely to be paid to run the national ID scheme.


The jackal and Mr Hyde

WHEN IS admitting blame not admitting blame? Well, when the admission comes from one of the cut-throat privateers that run the railways. Infrastructure company Jarvis "admitted liability" for the Potters Bar rail crash last week. But at the same time it briefed the media that an admission of liability does not mean it accepts that its negligence caused the crash.

Louise Christian, lead solicitor for the bereaved families and injured at Potters Bar, calls Jarvis's move a "cynical manoeuvre". The letter Jarvis sent to the bereaved and injured backs that up. It is signed by chief executive Kevin Hyde. The same boss escorted reporters round the crash site two years ago trying to convince them that vandalism or sabotage was responsible.

The Observer enhanced its reputation for whatever you'd call the opposite of investigative journalism by splashing Hyde's claims on the front page. The company said CCTV footage would show saboteurs at work. None was ever found. The Health and Safety Executive eventually dismissed the whole story.


Profit and puppet

THE BONANZA gets bigger for the family of convicted fraudster and Pentagon favourite Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi is a key player in the puppet Iraqi governing council. His nephew, Salem Chalabi, has set up a law firm in Baghdad and teamed up with the former law partner of the US defence department's architect of Iraq's post-war planning.

Lawyer L Marc Zell worked for 15 years in the same law firm as Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's undersecretary and a key hawk pushing for war on Iraq. The Feith-Zell-Chalabi story is just one example of what one Iraqi official calls "a gold rush mentality" among US firms.

A partner in Washington firm New Bridge Strategies boasts to clients, "Baghdad has not one single recognisable brand name, not one single oasis of quality, no brass, glass and steel office building, or a retail store you're familiar with. "One well stocked 7-11 store would put 30 Iraqi shops out of business."

New Bridge Strategies was set up by a group of influential Republicans with close ties to the Bush family.


Figure it out

25%

The proportion of people retiring who have not yet finished paying off their mortgage. Ten million people in Britain face a huge drain on their pensions from continuing mortgage repayments.


Who says?

"Hordes of East Europeans were preparing to seek a new life in Britain. Thousands have already packed their few possessions and booked their tickets."

The Sun, 26 April

"Thousands of migrants are massing at Europe's eastern frontier."

Daily Express, 29 April

"700,000: that's how many Eastern Europeans came last year. Early predictions are that the total could double to almost 1.4 million this year."

The Sun, 30 April

"In vain I walked the streets of Bratislava trying to find even one lone Slovak to corroborate the apocalyptic predictions that 1 May would spark an exodus of Eastern Europeans. But everywhere the story was the same. At a large travel agency staff laughed at the notion. A low-cost airline was equally as dismissive. 'There has been no increase in demand'."

The Observer, 2 May

"You have placed US diplomats, civilians and military doing their jobs overseas in an untenable and even dangerous position."

Letter from 50 ex-ambassadors to George Bush

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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Sat 8 May 2004, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1900
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