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The selling off of our prized possessions

Posted: 23 Feb 2012

The record of private security company G4S is deeply troubling (including in Papua New Guinea, from where I recently returned).

So this news is both worrying and a sign of things to come globally. For some privatisation propagandists, everything should sold to private interests:

Private security company G4S is about to sign a deal which would see it building and staffing the first British police station run by a private security contractor.

The deal with Lincolnshire Police Authority – expected to be signed within days – represents the most radical outsourcing of law enforcement so far, according to a report last week in the Financial Times .

The contract will see G4S take over jobs previously handled by police officers including custody and ID duties (but with custody sergeants still on hand), control room staffing, town enquiry officers, the crime management bureau, the criminal justice unit and firearms licensing.

But Simon Reed, vice-chair of the Police Federation, told the FT that he had some reservations about the scheme, as private employees may not have the same enshrined sense of public duty as police officers.

“Our concern is the resilience of the companies doing this,” he said. “When we have national emergencies or unforeseen events, will they be able to bring their staff in to work long hours, regardless of what their contracts say?”

The police station move is part of a £200m contract with G4S over 10 years. Other police forces are said to be considering similar moves.

In a joint statement announcing the contract last December , Lincolnshire Police Authority chairman Barry Young and chief constable Richard Crompton said:

“Over the period of the contract this new approach will make significant savings, whilst also providing investment in key areas like IT infrastructure. The subsequent streamlining of processes will free up officer time to concentrate on operational policing.

“This new approach will mean that the leanest police force in Britain, which already provides its services at the lowest cost per head of population, will be able to meet the challenges laid down by the government, whilst also meeting the high standards rightly expected by the people of Lincolnshire.”

John Shaw, managing director of G4S police support services, said:

“Lincolnshire is leading the way in responding to the challenges of the economic environment and this transformation project will mean many of the services provided by Lincolnshire Police will now be delivered externally by specialists who can deliver greater savings and improve efficiency.

“We believe that the combination of Lincolnshire’s policing model and our expertise in delivering middle and back office functions will improve services and deliver the savings the Authority needs.

Finally, in the NYT, acknowledgement that media leading us to war against Iran

Posted: 23 Feb 2012

Slow down there, eager journalists, hacks, politicians, Zionist lobby and think-tankers. An attack on Iran is clearly the war you’ve been dying for (since Iraq and Afghanistan worked out so well for you).

This piece in the New York Times, a paper with a long history of backing America’s imperial wars, offers necessary caution:

The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.

So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?

Talk of war over Iran’s nuclear program has reached a strident pitch in recent weeks, as Israel has escalated threats of a possible strike, the oratory of American politicians has become more bellicose and Iran has responded for the most part defiantly. With Israel and Iran exchanging accusations of assassination plots, some analysts see a danger of blundering into a war that would inevitably involve the United States.

Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 are unmistakable, igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran’s progress toward a bomb. Yet there is one significant difference: by contrast with 2003, when the Bush administration portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat, Obama administration officials and intelligence professionals seem eager to calm the feverish language.

Both the ombudsman of The Washington Post and the public editor of The New York Times in his online blog have scolded their newspapers since December for overstating the current evidence against Iran in particular headlines and stories. Amid the daily drumbeat about a possible war, the hazard of an assassination or a bombing setting off a conflict inadvertently worries some analysts. After a series of killings of Iranian scientists widely believed to be the work of Israel, Israeli diplomats in three countries were the targets last week of bombs suspected to have been planted by Iranians.

Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said the Obama administration’s policy was now “in the exact middle of American public opinion on Iran” — taking a hard line against a nuclear-armed Iran, yet opposing military action for now and escalating sanctions. But as the November election approaches, Mr. Feaver said, inflammatory oratory is likely to increase, even if it is unsuited to a problem as complicated as Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“This is the standard danger of talking about foreign policy crises in a campaign,” he said. “If you try to explain a complex position, you sound hopelessly vague.”

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