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Backdrop to Dr Zhivago


THE PETER and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg was once a prison but is now a museum. You can wander round its cells and see grainy photographs of its former occupants, political prisoners under the old Russian Tsars 100 years ago. A large number are women-revolutionaries usually from middle class backgrounds who braved torture and exile for their cause.

UN acts as figleaf to cover war drive


THE WORLD is much closer to a terrifying war after the United Nations Security Council vote last week. "Senior British and US officials say that both George Bush and Tony Blair privately regard war against Saddam as inevitable," reported the Observer on Sunday.

Steve Earle: the darkest hour is just before dawn


<blockquote>"I'm just an American boy, raised on MTV and I've seen all those kids in the soda pop ads but none of them look like me so I started lookin' around for a light out of the dim and the first thing I heard that made sense was the word of Mohammed, peace be upon him." </blockquote>

How secret state spied on activists


FORMER MI5 officer David Shayler was jailed for six months on Tuesday for revealing state secrets. He should have been congratulated for shining a tiny bit of light on the stinking covert forces whose existence subverts any notion that we live in a real democracy.

Turkey: ruling parties stuffed


THE "social explosion" which the International Monetary Fund and the Turkish employers' organisation have long been worrying about has, in a sense, expressed itself in the general election in Turkey on Sunday. The centre ground of established politics in a key US ally and NATO member has collapsed. The three parties which formed the coalition government of the past three and a half years have been decimated.

A tale of two islands


I LISTENED a week ago to some radio programmes about people affected by the Falklands War in 1982. We heard from a woman whose husband was a computer technician in the navy. It was clear from the way she spoke that she admired and loved him.

Determined action makes a difference


NEW LABOUR presents itself as a party that won't be pushed around. But over the last week we have seen how it can be forced to change its tune. First the government insisted it would not be influenced at all by the firefighters' threat of strike action. Blair resorted to the same sort of language Thatcher used against the miners.

Callous deals that shape debate on war


WHATEVER THE ups and downs of media coverage, the planned war on Iraq remains top of the Bush administration's agenda. Once the United States went to the United Nations Security Council for authority to attack Iraq the immediate drama went out of the story. There have been weeks of negotiations over the text of a resolution.

Saint Estelle did not excel


I WENT away for a couple of days over half term, and when I came back I found that Estelle Morris had resigned. Or at least I thought it was Estelle Morris. Reading the papers and watching the news, it appeared that the carping, nasty, vicious education secretary, a figure prompting contempt and ridicule in my school - and thousands of others, no doubt - had become Saint Estelle the Humble. The media claim she was an honest victim of the bullying Mr Fixits of Downing Street.

A nuclear near miss


I AM a bit of a fan of the TV programme The West Wing. In it a fictional president of the US often has emergency meetings in the war room, where military advisers turn up and talk tough. Radio 4 had a great, if alarming, programme on last week about what these meetings are like in real life. It went through just how close the world was to nuclear war 40 years ago in October 1962.

A vital challenge for everybody


NO ONE should have any doubt why the government is refusing to budge in the face of the firefighters. Andrew Rawnsley, the well connected political commentator of the Observer newspaper, reported on Sunday a discussion he had with "a member of the New Labour high command just before they came to power":

Para says it was slaughter


TONY BLAIR last week gave a speech blaming the IRA for violence in Northern Ireland. Yet just the day before, a former soldier gave shocking evidence at the Bloody Sunday inquiry which graphically illustrated the responsibility of the British state.

Hope can banish terror


George Bush and Tony Blair claimed that their "war on terror" would make the world a safer place. The horrific bombing of the Sari nightclub in Bali last weekend shows that they were lying.

When banks get in debt


THE WORLD media's attention has been so focused on George W Bush's plans to attack Iraq that little notice has been taken of the fact that the global economic crisis is getting worse. Take the three biggest economies &#8211; the US, Japan and Germany.

Solomon Burke - 'Amen' to the king of peace


MOST PEOPLE have a favourite soul singer. For many Otis Redding was without peer. Others cite Sam Cooke and Ray Charles as the originators, and James Brown still remains the Godfather. In my opinion Solomon Burke should be included on that list. You may not have heard of him, but his musical influence runs deep.

Armed, dangerous but not all-powerful


GEORGE BUSH has the military power to smash Iraq easily. But for all his attempts to pose as an all-powerful president, he is a very nervous man. One week he talks about regime change, the next he is doing deals to get UN backing for war, and now he talks of building a coalition.

Fight on both fronts to beat Tony Blair


TONY BLAIR is fighting on two fronts. His speech at Labour's conference shows he is determined to press ahead with backing George Bush's war plans and pushing through PFI. To add insult to injury, he is openly abandoning the principle of comprehensive education by talking about "post-comprehensive education".

Doctrine for domination


IN JAMES Bond films the villain always has a plan to dominate the world. Usually this is something that he reveals in private, in some secret hideout far from the everyday world. Not so the United States under George W Bush. A fortnight ago his administration published The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

Spud you don't like


NEWSPAPERS REPORT that we are eating fewer potatoes. The British Potato Council says sales of fresh potatoes fell dramatically in the past ten years. At the start of the 1990s 80 percent of potatoes were bought as nature intended. Today only around half of all the spuds consumed in Britain come as real potatoes.

We need 'regime change' in Britain


OPPOSITION TO launching a military attack on Iraq is growing in Britain, according to the latest opinion polls. The feeling against war has led to a significant drop in Labour's support on the eve of the party's conference.

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