Guardian Unlimited OnLine July 12 2007
Brown U-turn over plan for supercasino July 12 2007
· Cabinet was not consulted on move
· Decision could cost 2,700 jobs
Tania Branigan and Patrick Wintour
Gordon Brown yesterday tore up Blairite plans for a supercasino based in Manchester, breaking with his predecessor and reasserting Labour's moral stance in the face of the Conservative focus on family values and the "broken society".
The prime minister chose to overshadow his own presentation of the legislative programme by telling parliament that regeneration might be "a better way of meeting [the] economic and social needs" of deprived areas than a Las Vegas-style casino. Whitehall sources later acknowledged that the controversial plans were "dead in the water".
His abrupt announcement was greeted with delight by anti-gambling campaigners, but with fury from MPs and businesses in the north-west, who questioned why the government had changed its mind at such a late stage. They complained that the belated decision had wasted time and money, and dashed hopes of bringing up to £200m investment and as many as 2,700 jobs to the deprived area of east Manchester.
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Times OnLine July 12 2007
Three million homes but not a supercasino July 12 2007
Philip Webster, Political Editor and Jill Sherman
Gordon Brown yesterday promised the biggest programme of housebuilding since the 1970s — but left the country guessing where the homes will be, how much they will cost and what they will look like.
At the same time he stunned MPs by killing off the supercasino, the centrepiece of Tony Blair’s long-planned expansion of gambling in Britain.
The Prime Minister pledged the creation of three million extra new homes by the end of the next decade as he put the housing crisis at the top of the political agenda. The annual housebuilding target is to be increased to 240,000 homes a year. The last time that figure was reached was in 1979, when council houses were still being built.
In the years since, council building has virtually stopped, but it will be revived drastically as part of yesterday’s package. Doubts were voiced last night over whether councils would be able to remobilise the construction expertise that they once had.
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Independent OnLine 'Indy' News July 12 2007
'A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi... You know, so what?' July 12 2007
Interviews with US veterans show for the first time the pattern of brutality in Iraq
By Leonard Doyle in Washington
It is an axiom of American political life that the actions of the US military are beyond criticism. Democrats and Republicans praise the men and women in uniform at every turn. Apart from the odd bad apple at Abu Ghraib, the US military in Iraq is deemed to be doing a heroic job under trying circumstances.
That perception will take a severe knock today with the publication in The Nation magazine of a series of in-depth interviews with 50 combat veterans of the Iraq war from across the US. In the interviews, veterans have described acts of violence in which US forces have abused or killed Iraqi men, women and children with impunity.
The report steers clear of widely reported atrocities, such as the massacre in Haditha in 2005, but instead unearths a pattern of human rights abuses. "It's not individual atrocity," Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, a sniper from the 263rd Armour Battalion, said. "It's the fact that the entire war is an atrocity."
A number of the troops have returned home bearing mental and physical scars from fighting a war in an environment in which the insurgents are supported by the population. Many of those interviewed have come to oppose the US military presence in Iraq, joining the groundswell of public opinion across the US that views the war as futile.
This view is echoed in Washington, where increasing numbers of Democrats and Republicans are openly calling for an early withdrawal from Iraq. And the Iraq quagmire has pushed President George Bush's poll ratings to an all-time low.
Journalists and human rights groups have published numerous reports drawing attention to the killing of Iraqi civilians by US forces. The Nation's investigation presents for the first time named military witnesses who back those assertions. Some participated themselves.
Through a combination of gung-ho recklessness and criminal behaviour born of panic, a narrative emerges of an army that frequently commits acts of cold-blooded violence. A number of interviewees revealed that the military will attempt to frame innocent bystanders as insurgents, often after panicked American troops have fired into groups of unarmed Iraqis. The veterans said the troops involved would round up any survivors and accuse them of being in the resistance while planting Kalashnikov AK47 rifles beside corpses to make it appear that they had died in combat.
"It would always be an AK because they have so many of these lying around," said Joe Hatcher, 26, a scout with the 4th Calvary Regiment. He revealed the army also planted 9mm handguns and shovels to make it look like the civilians were shot while digging a hole for a roadside bomb.
"Every good cop carries a throwaway," Hatcher said of weapons planted on innocent victims in incidents that occurred while he was stationed between Tikrit and Samarra, from February 2004 to March 2005. Any survivors were sent to jail for interrogation.
There were also deaths caused by the reckless behaviour of military convoys. Sgt Kelly Dougherty of the Colorado National Guard described a hit-and-run in which a military convoy ran over a 10-year-old boy and his three donkeys, killing them all. "Judging by the skid marks, they hardly even slowed down. But, I mean... your order is that you never stop."
The worst abuses seem to have been during raids on private homes when soldiers were hunting insurgents. Thousands of such raids have taken place, usually at dead of night. The veterans point out that most are futile and serve only to terrify the civilians, while generating sympathy for the resistance.
Sgt John Bruhns, 29, of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, described a typical raid. "You want to catch them off guard," he explained. "You want to catch them in their sleep ... You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall... Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds. You'll ask 'Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda?'
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