Socialist Worker

Exploding the myths over 'terror bomb'

Issue No. 1898

"FLESH-MELTING Bomb Plot Foiled," screamed the Sun on 7 April. Not to be outdone, the Daily Mirror weighed in with "Dirty Bomb Plot Foiled: MI5 Stop 'Poison Gas Gang'." Overnight the gutter press was full of tales of osmium tetroxide, a toxic chemical available on the internet for £100 which, it was claimed, dissolves flesh and causes blindness and "dry land drowning", where lungs fill with fluid.

A "senior police source" told the Mirror, "The effect would have been horrific. People close by would have been killed or maimed. The blast would have sent the gas in all directions. Anybody breathing in even a small amount would have died."

David Blunkett seized on the discovery of the "dirty bomb" to justify tougher measures against terrorists. Articles by Brian Jones, ex head of Defence Intelligence responsible for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, and the New Scientist magazine demonstrating that there was no osmium bomb have not received such attention. They point out:

  • The targets mentioned-the Underground, Gatwick airport, etc-had not been specified by any "terrorists".

  • The chemical had not been obtained by the would-be "terrorists".

  • There were no arrests, so no plot had been foiled.

  • The chemical is far less toxic than cheaper alternatives.

  • The chemical is hugely expensive, costing £100 for just one gram.

    "It would be like putting platinum in a bomb," said Alastair Hay, toxicology expert at Leeds University. "I'd say it's very implausible. One wonders if it isn't a hoax," said Frank Barnaby, a member of the Oxford Research Group.


    IN THIS WEEK

    90 YEARS AGO: 1914

    Thugs hired by the US coal bosses murdered 26 people in the "Ludlow Massacre". They had been evicted from their homes for daring to strike against the murder of a miners' union organiser. They set up a tent village on public ground at Ludlow, Colorado.

    The state governor sent in troops, alongside the paid thugs, who attacked the tent village with machine guns and set fire to the tents. The massacre sparked protests across the US.


    Huge pulsating malign wart

    TV's Jeremy Clarkson is widely reviled for his sexism and adoration of big, gas-guzzling cars. In the Sunday Times he turned his fire on a new scourge of modern society-health and safety.

    He rants, "Health and safety is the cancer of civilised society, a huge, ungainly, malignant, pulsating wart. In the past, companies used to walk in fear of the trade unions. They have metamorphosed into the Health and Safety Executive and now they're back, sticking their nose into every single thing we do."


    Sticky web of deceit

    THE GIANT Pepsi multinational has revealed it's running scared of anti-capitalist activists. It appears that the company has bought the www.boycottpepsi.com website. Anyone trying to look at the website is automatically redirected to the official Pepsi site.


    Tony Blair's big con

    When Tony Blair was accused of being out of touch, he launched Labour's "Big Conversation". People were encouraged to send their views to be posted on www.bigconversation.org. But only pro-Blair comments managed to get on the website. Another site has been set up, www.thebigconversation.org.

    It received thousands of messages and posted them uncensored. On the uncensored website 70 percent think that politicians will not/probably will not listen to them. A majority, 54 percent, do not feel represented by ANY political party.


    He was sent back to die

    COLOMBIAN refugee Jhon Reyes-Prado fled to Britain with his wife and children when four members of his family, including his father, were killed by right wing paramilitaries. When the family was threatened with deportation, people in South Shields where they lived mounted a campaign. But the Home Office deported the family last month.

    Within a month after being deported to Colombia, Jhon was shot by hooded assassins on motorcycles. He suffered severe injuries and his wife and three children are now terrified for their own lives.

    The Home Office rejected the family's appeal against deportation, ruling it would be safe for them to live somewhere away from the city of Cali. But Jhon was shot in Bogota, an eight-hour drive from Cali.


    Insulating the bosses

    NEW LEGISLATION on asbestos at work comes into force next month. Critics are already accusing the government of backing away from introducing tough legislation. Doctors estimate that some 100,000 people in Britain will die from direct contact with the substance. According to the British Medical Journal, one in every 100 men born in the 1940s will die of lung disease caused by asbestos.

    The new legislation contains nothing that will force bosses to take this responsibility for asbestos in their buildings. Construction industry experts say bosses don't care about being sued because it takes so long for the disease to develop-up to 40 years.

    And the Health and Safety Executive have been instructed to let companies off the hook if they have "plans in place" to check for asbestos later. A construction company dumped a massive lorry load of killer asbestos waste in Bexley, south east London, on Sunday of last week.

    A member of the public found the dumped load and reported it. The fire brigade was called in on Monday morning because the killer dust was blowing all over the area.


    Figure it out

    50%

    The share of the economic pie going towards wages, according to Business Week magazine. The figures are the lowest in the US for over 50 years. The top half of US society owns 94.4 percent of all assets. The bottom half owns 5.6 percent.


    Who says?

    "It is a great tactic for flushing out these insurgents. We are accusing them of hiding behind women and children."

    US ARMY, defends bombarding Fallujah in Iraq with rock music all night interrupted by insults in Arabic

    "Freedom was given to the Americans by the Almighty and encouraging freedom throughout the world is what we have been called to do."

    George Bush, at a press conference

    "I don't think I'll bother reporting it to the police."

    MARK DALY, undercover reporter on the Secret Policeman documentary after his BAFTA award went missing

    "A march too far? A despondent-looking protester at the demonstration yesterday."

    GUARDIAN, 13 April making a snide comment about Easter Monday's anti-nuclear protest

    "You used a photo of me to help to discredit the Aldermaston marchers. I can assure you I was not despondent. I was thinking back to my own tiny protest in Oxford Circus around 50 years ago. When the marchers arrived I could hardly contain my emotions at such wonderful people."

    MARJORIE POOLEY, veteran demonstrator corrects the Guardian, and praises marchers

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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Sat 24 Apr 2004, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1898
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