Guardian Unlimited OnLine July 29 2007
Revealed: MI5's role in torture flight hell
July 29 2007
· British source tells of betrayal to CIA
· 'I was stripped and hauled to US base'
An Iraqi who was a key source of intelligence for MI5 has given the first ever full insider's account of being seized by the CIA and bundled on to an illegal 'torture flight' under the programme known as extraordinary rendition.
In a remarkable interview for The Observer, British resident Bisher al-Rawi has told how he was betrayed by the security service despite having helped keep track of Abu Qatada, the Muslim cleric accused of being Osama bin Laden's 'ambassador in Europe'. He was abducted and stripped naked by US agents, clad in nappies, a tracksuit and shackles, blindfolded and forced to wear ear mufflers, then strapped to a stretcher on board a plane bound for a CIA 'black site' jail near Kabul in Afghanistan.
He was taken on to the jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba before being released last March and returned to Britain after four years' detention without charge.
'All the way through that flight I was on the verge of screaming,' al-Rawi said. 'At last we landed, I thought, thank God it's over. But it wasn't - it was just a refuelling stop in Cairo. There were hours still to go ... My back was so painful, the handcuffs were so tight. All the time they kept me on my back. Once, I managed to wriggle a tiny bit, just shifted my weight to one side. Then I felt someone hit my hand. Even this was forbidden.'
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Times OnLine July 29 2007
Flood chiefs get big cash bonuses July 29 2007
Flood chiefs get big cash bonuses
Robert Winnett, Holly Watt and Jonathan Leake
SENIOR executives at the Environment Agency face new controversy after it emerged last night that they received five-figure “performance bonuses” shortly before the recent floods hit Britain.
Baroness Young, the quango’s chief executive, got a bonus of about £24,000 on top of her £163,000 salary. A further eight executives, including the director of water management, shared in the bonus handout last month. The average paid to each executive was equivalent to 10% of their salaries, although Young received 15%.
Details of the bonuses were to be revealed in the agency’s annual report, which was expected to be released last week but publication has been delayed due to the floods.
Board minutes also show that the agency’s top executives privately expressed strong concerns last September about the country’s preparedness for serious floods.
At a meeting on September 20 the board “expressed concern over the inadequacy of evacuation plans in some areas of England and Wales and believed that there may be a serious risk of loss of life in significant flood events”.
Gloucestershire, where thousands of homes have been flooded and at least three people have died, was one of the local authorities that did not have an evacuation plan. Tewkesbury borough council, which covers one of the worst-hit towns, had also failed to make full preparations.
Young, a 59-year-old Labour peer, has warned that water bills will have to rise to cover the costs of increasing Britain’s protection against flooding. Her comments came as residents in the affected areas were braced for heavy rainfall last night. Police urged people to stay at home and not to travel because of fears of further flooding. Severe flood warnings were issued for the Severn and Avon and 20,000 sandbags were distributed yesterday.
In Tewkesbury, firemen recovered a body, the third known victim of the Gloucestershire floods. It was feared to be that of Mitchell Taylor, 19, a local barman missing since last weekend.
The flooding of the Mythe waterworks near Tewkesbury has left 340,000 people without running water and the situation is likely to last for days. There are fears floodwaters are becoming dangerously contaminated because sewers are not flood-proof. Tests have shown high levels of the deadly E coli bug and other bacteria in floodwater, sparking fears of disease.
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Independent OnLine 'Indy' News July 29 2007
Whistleblower: Surgeon breaks cover over NHS beds crisis July 29 2007
Specialist wards full to breaking point. Patients with serious injuries denied care. A health service paralysed by arguments about funding. Martin Bircher, one of Britain's most senior consultants, speaks out. Exclusive report by Andrew Johnson and Marie Woolf
One of Britain's leading trauma surgeons has broken cover to expose the scandal of a national shortage of emergency trauma beds which is leading to thousands of serious injury victims suffering in agony.
In an unprecedented intervention by a senior practitioner in the NHS, Martin Bircher, a consultant at St George's hospital in London, one of Europe's leading centres in the treatment of major accident victims, has revealed a system paralysed by red tape and disputes over funding, which is putting thousands of patients waiting for treatment in specialist wards at risk.
His revelations have prompted calls for a review of funding for A&E services and a shake-up in the management of Britain's leading trauma centres.
Mr Bircher says the problem is worsened by the bureaucracy of the internal market. He has become so frustrated that he has broken free of NHS strictures against speaking to the press and agreed to talk to The Independent on Sunday about the suffering patients are put through.
Every one of Britain's specialist trauma beds is full, which means some patients can wait up to three weeks after their accident before badly broken bones can be repaired. The delay, says Mr Bircher, can jeopardise recovery. With nothing but praise for frontline staff, he says patients who have been critically injured in road or other accidents have to wait an average of 12 days – often in agonising pain – before they can receive the vital specialist treatment.
This is because only a limited number of hospitals have the expertise to repair smashed bones, and those hospitals have a shortage of intensive care beds. With the average cost of keeping a trauma patient at around £500 a day and up to £2,000 a day in intensive care, this is also a false economy.
Reacting to the revelations Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, said: "It is vital that clinicians are able to prioritise patients according to clinical criteria. It's only if we dispense with central targets and the bureaucratic burdens of the Department of Health that we can give GPs and local hospitals the opportunity to make services more efficient."
John Pugh, the Lib Dem health spokesman, added: "This shows how counterproductive the target culture is. Patients are being shunted in and out of A&E to satisfy the expectations of Whitehall. Medical staff should feel free to act in the best interests of patients."
Squabbles over funding
Mr Bircher, who risks censure from the NHS for speaking out, said primary care trust and bed managers are involved in making the final decision as to whether a patient can be moved. If they have to move them there is often a conflict or reluctance because the new area does not want an extra cost. So after initial admission to a general hospital's emergency wards, where lives are saved, patients can find themselves waiting up to three weeks before their real recovery process can begin.
Mr Bircher, 52, cited one patient who had a motorcycle accident earlier this month and was referred to him to decide if she needed surgery to repair her badly broken pelvis. However, he did not receive the request for a week because an initial referral to another hospital was "intercepted by the primary care trust" and rerouted to a hospital that did not have a surgeon with the expertise to make the decision.
He called for emergency medicine to be funded centrally.
"These are basic core services that have to be provided," he said. "We shouldn't be sending each other little bills. Trauma and other emergency services like cardiac and stroke services should be top sliced. The money should come from central government funds."
Mr Bircher added that doctors and nurses on the frontline in hospitals should not be criticised. He said they do their best but are hampered by layers of managers whose major concern is the budget rather than patient care.
Delays in treatment
He said: "The delays are caused at various levels. If doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, the treating teams, were left to communicate between themselves without bureaucracy, things would happen much more quickly. In the good old days somebody would ring me up about a patient, I'd say send them across, make one call to sister on the ward and it would happen.
"Now I'm loath to accept a patient unless I'm sure their injury requires surgery. If I'm unsure I ask them to send X-rays. Even in this technological age this can take two or three days. It's not unusual for them to be delayed or get lost.
"It may be decided that the patient needs an operation and we decide to bring them in. There can still be a delay because bed managers are reluctant to accept a patient for three or four days before the operation is due because of the extra costs. So the patients often come in just hours before the operation. It is not unusual for a patient to arrive in the early hours of the morning, a very short time before their surgery.
"You suddenly find the patient may develop a problem and you can't operate. So you've accepted a patient for a slot and then you can't operate. A much better system would be to have a free flow of patients to the trauma centre where we can get to know them preoperatively. But because trusts all have separate budgets, though we're all playing for the same team, there seems to be a reluctance to accept patients at an appropriate time before the operation.
"You can argue whether a patient needs a hip replacement at hospital x or y," he added. "As long as it's done in a reasonable time by a good team it doesn't matter. You can't have these petty squabbles. There just isn't time with trauma."
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