Daily Archives: March 17, 2010

Omagh bombing families accuse Gordon Brown of cover up

Families of the victims of the Omagh bombing accused Gordon Brown of a cover up by denying a parliamentary committee access to an investigation into GCHQ intercepts.

Telegraph | Mar 16, 2010

By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee expressed its “bitter disappointment” that the Prime Minister had refused it access to a review of how intercepted communications were used by the police in the case.

It said it was “thoroughly reprehensible” that the Government had denied Sir Patrick Cormack, the chairman of the committee, access to the full report by Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner.

Sir Peter reported to the Prime Minister before Christmas 2008 and a summary version of his report was made publicly available but the full, classified report has never been published.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden was killed in attack, said it was not acceptable and reiterated the bereaved families’ long-standing demand for a full public inquiry into the bombing.

“This [committee] is the watchdog on government in Northern Ireland and here they are saying there are a number of very serious deficiencies, that the government is refusing to co-operate, the Prime Minister did not allow Sir Patrick to see the Gibson report in private, even in the House of Commons.

“I think the honest average man in the street will always say there must be a reason, other than the reason that it could give an advantage to terrorists.

“Sir Patrick wasn’t going to give any advantage to a terrorist so there’s not much left for families to believe other than that government have something there that’s going to embarrass them and they don’t want to disclose that to the families.

“That’s the only possible answer that I can imagine.”

Downing Street defended their approach, saying: “The Gibson Review was shared with the Intelligence and Security Committee chairman Kim Howells.

“Obviously, when national security is involved, there can only be a limited number of people with who that can be shared.”

The power of TV revealed in disturbing French ‘torture’ game show

Contestants on the show were encouraged to deliver electric shocks to this ‘victim’, played by an actor

How low will they go? Power of TV revealed in disturbing French ‘torture’ game show

Daily Mail | Mar 17, 2010

A French game show which featured contestants willingly delivering what they believed were near lethal electric shocks to a rival has been aired.

Those behind the show say the experiment has exposed the dangerous influence of television.

Featuring a roaring crowd and a glamorous hostess, the show had all the usual trappings of a traditional television quiz show.

But what the contestants did not know was that they were taking part in an experiment to see if they could be pushed to morally outrageous lengths.

The experiment features in a documentary due to be broadcast in France today, called How Far Will Television Go?

The stunt is a reproduction of an experiment conducted by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s, in which volunteers were ordered to inflict electric shocks on a student in order to improve memory.

The program used the ruse of a TV show to explore how even a game show host had the authority to persuade participants to inflict horrendous pain on other people.

‘It’s more about the notion of power than about the individual,’ the show’s producer,
Christophe Nick told Reuters Television.

‘When a person is alone, face to face with someone abusing their power, then he or she becomes completely malleable and obedient.’

The fake TV contest was called ‘Zone Xtreme’ and the documentary says that 81 percent of those who took part were persuaded by the show’s host to deliver intensifying electric shocks to victims, despite increasing howls of pain.

Some 69 candidates agreed to take part in the project, believing it was a pilot game show.

Once on set, the participants were told to put questions to a ‘victim,’ played by an actor, and to punish any wrong answers by delivering increasingly violent electric shocks.

Urged on by the game show host, around 70 percent of contestants laughed at least once during the ordeal, the program producers said, and only 19 percent put a stop to the game before reaching the maximum charge of 420 volts.

‘There’s the fact that in a game, the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred, so that even if your partner screams and begs you to stop, you still think you’re in a game,’ Nick said.

Milgram’s study began a few months after the start of the Israeli trial against Nazi Adolph Eichmann for his role in organizing the transport and murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust and was meant to measure the willingness to obey an authority figure who instructed participants to perform acts that conflicted with their personal consciences.

By adapting the experiment to the television, Nick said serious issues were raised about the pervasive role TV has taken on in modern society, and the powerful influence it can have on human behaviour when abused.

‘In Milgram’s case 62 percent of participants obeyed abject orders; with television it’s 81 percent,’ he said.

‘Therefore you have to ask yourself a question which is more than about submission to an authority, but about the power of a system, a global system, which is television.’

Silvio Berlusconi in ‘protection deal with mafia’

A young Silvio Berlusconi reportedly asked Stefano Bontade, assassinated in 1981, to protect his children and his first wife Carla

Sunday Times | Mar 14, 2010

by Mark Franchetti

Silvio Berlusconi at home 1979 with wife Carla Dallglio

THE billionaire Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, once met a leading mafia godfather to ask for protection, according to testimony gathered over several years by crime prosecutors.

Mafia informants claim the meeting took place in Milan in 1974, when Berlusconi was already a wealthy entrepreneur, at the offices of his property company. The informers say Berlusconi met Stefano Bontade, then one of the mafia’s most powerful bosses, because he feared for his family’s safety at a time when Italy was plagued by a wave of high-profile kidnappings.

Francesco Di Carlo, one of Bontade’s henchmen who is now in jail, told prosecutors that he was at the meeting. He claims Berlusconi asked for help to ensure that neither he nor his children would be abducted by other mafia clans.

According to the henchman’s testimony, Bontade gave his word that he would personally ensure Berlusconi’s safety. In return Berlusconi told the mafia godfather that he was “at his disposal, for anything”.

According to anti-mafia prosecutors, the meeting was arranged by Marcello Dell’Utri, a close friend and business partner of Berlusconi. Dell’Utri later played an important role in founding the tycoon’s first political party, Forza Italia, which won the 1994 election and took Berlusconi to power.

Now a senator, Dell’Utri was sentenced in 2004 to nine years in prison for aiding and abetting the mafia. He denies the charges and is appealing — and is still a free man under the Italian judicial system. He and Berlusconi deny they met Bontade. But magistrates believe Di Carlo’s testimony, which was backed by another mafia boss who became an informant.

“In our view Dell’Utri had very close contact with the mafia. He acted as an ambassador for the mafia, representing its interests among Italy’s wealthy entrepreneurs,” said Domenico Gozzo, a key member of the prosecution team in the Dell’Utri trial.

“Instead of turning to the police, Berlusconi turned to Dell’Utri when he became worried about security. He asked his friend to find a solution. Dell’Utri did so during a meeting with the then mafia head, Stefano Bontade, in which Berlusconi took part. Bontade promised to send a person to protect Berlusconi and his family. Why? Because Berlusconi became of interest to the Cosa Nostra, first as an entrepreneur and later as a politician.”

Shortly after the alleged meeting with Bontade, who was killed in a mafia turf war in 1981, Berlusconi hired Vittorio Mangano, a mafia member.

Mangano’s official job was to run the tycoon’s luxury estate at Arcore, outside Milan. He lived at the 145-room villa for two years, driving Berlusconi’s children to school.

Prosecutors allege that Mangano was the man Bontade provided to guard the tycoon and his family, thus sending a signal to the other clans that Berlusconi was under the direct protection of the mafia. Berlusconi and Dell’Utri both claim they did not know that Mangano was a criminal. However, he was arrested twice while working for Berlusconi.

“Mangano was already a convicted criminal when Berlusconi took him in,” said Gozzo.

In 2000 Mangano, who was serving a sentence for drug trafficking, was found guilty of double murder. He died before his appeal could be heard. Berlusconi and Dell’Utri have since described him as a hero because he refused to make false claims against them.

“Mangano was a person who behaved very well with us,” said Berlusconi in 2008.

“He then had some problems with the law but I’m not aware of him having ever been found guilty for good,” he added, referring to the fact that Mangano’s appeal was never heard.

The prime minister has never been charged with mafia association. Gozzo and other magistrates sought to question him about Dell’Utri, his alleged mafia links and some of the funds invested in his businesses, but Berlusconi chose to remain silent, citing his right to do so under Italian law, It has also been alleged by informants that the mafia backed Forza Italia. The claim was made again last December by Gaspare Spatuzza, a jailed mafia hitman who killed 40 people and disposed of a rival by dissolving him in acid. He told prosecutors that Berlusconi and Dell’Utri had contact with the Graviano brothers, two mafia bosses.

Berlusconi, 73, has angrily rejected all allegations of mafia links and claims to be the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by left-wing judges. He said recently that no Italian government had done more than his to combat the mafia.

“From the moment when Dell’Utri brought Mangano in, he put Berlusconi in the hands of the mafia,” said Marco Travaglio, one of Italy’s leading investigative reporters.

“Cosa Nostra is not like a taxi where you jump on, pay for the trip, get off and say goodbye. Once you are on you can no longer get off. Berlusconi is terrified that his past will catch up with him.”

Government rebuked over global warming nursery rhyme adverts

Two nursery rhyme adverts commissioned by the Government to raise awareness of climate change have been banned for overstating the risks.

Telegraph | Mar 14, 2010

By Matthew Moore

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the adverts – which were based on the children’s poems Jack and Jill and Rub-A-Dub-Dub – made exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from global warming.

In definitely asserting that climate change would cause flooding and drought the adverts went beyond mainstream scientific consensus, the watchdog said.

It noted that predictions about the potential global impact of global warming made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “involved uncertainties” that the adverts failed to reflect.

The two posters created on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change juxtaposed adapted extracts from the nursery rhymes with prose warnings about the dangers of global warning.

One began: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.” Beneath was written: “Extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense.”

The second advert read: “Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub — a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change.” It was captioned: “Climate change is happening. Temperature and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves will become more frequent and intense. If we carry on at this rate, life in 25 years could be very different.”

Upholding complaints from members of the public, the ASA said that in both instances the text accompanying the rhymes should have been couched in softer language.

The newspaper adverts were part of a controversial media campaign launched by the DECC last year which attracted a total of 939 complaints.

The watchdog found that the other elements of the campaign, including a television and cinema advert in which a father read his daughter a nightmarish bedtime story about a world blighted by climate change, did not breach its guidelines.

Ed Miliband, the Environment Secretary, said that that his department had been “comprehensively vindicated” by the ASA but promised to better reflect scientific uncertainty about global warming in future campaigns.

US military behind Haiti quake, says Austrian political scientist

austrianindependent.com | Mar 9, 2010

Innsbruck political scientist Claudia von Werlhof has accused the USA of being behind the Haitian earthquake in January, it emerged today (Tues).

According to a report on tirol.orf.at, Werlhof said that machines at a military research centre in Alaska used to detect deposits of crude oil by causing artificial earthquakes might have been intentionally set off to cause the Haitian earthquake and enable the USA to send 10,000 soldiers into the country.

Ferdinand Karlhofer, the head of the Innsbruck Political Science Institute where von Werlhof works, has slammed her comments. He said such conspiracy theory had no scientific basis and her claim would damage the reputation of the Institute abroad.