Pagemaster: Brendan O'Neill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What was that about institutional racism?
In the same week that the Macpherson report was praised for its stand against 'institutional racism', the House of Commons quietly approved the government's Asylum and Immigration Bill. Measures include:
- Removing cash benefits for all asylum seekers, replacing them with subsistence-level Home Office 'vouchers'.
- Moving asylum seekers (who often speak little English) away from their communities in London to other parts of the country, on a 'no-choice' basis, in order to relieve 'pressure' on housing.
- Advising employers that it is a criminal offence to employ asylum seekers who do not have permission to work.
- Instructing registrars to check passports and papers before marrying people, as teachers and doctors are already supposed to do before providing services. Registrars will also be obliged to inform the Immigration Service snoopers if they think a marriage looks 'suspicious'.
While the cameras focused on the government's declaration of war on 'institutional racism', New Labour MPs nodded through another law to treat new waves of immigrants as second-class citizens.
Suke Wolton is a member of the Close Campsfield Campaign in Oxford.
Clinton's Kurd way
When does a tragic Kurdish victim become an extreme Kurdish terrorist in Washington's book? When he is at war with NATO ally Turkey instead of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
When Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), was captured in Kenya and extradited to Turkey, thousands of Kurds protested at Greek embassies throughout Europe, assuming that Greece had a hand in Ocalan's arrest. But the country that really called the shots was America.
America has supported Turkey throughout its 14-year war with the PKK, despite its use of chemical weapons and 30 000 deaths (mostly of Kurds). US governments have supplied Turkey with helicopters and arms, and have turned a blind eye to Turkish invasions of Kurd-populated northern Iraq.
At the end of last year Ocalan was encouraged by Italian politicians to seek asylum here in Italy, where he stayed for two months. Germany, France and Spain investigated the possibility of an international trial for Ocalan as part of a peace process, but the US state department effectively told them to 'peace off' by insisting that Ocalan be extradited to Turkey. When the state department announced that 'countries should take steps consistent with their national legal system to assist Turkey's efforts to bring Ocalan to justice', his number was up.
The Clinton administration claims to take a principled stand against 'terrorists', but its opposition to the Kurds is informed more by realpolitik. Turkey is the only Islamic member of NATO and a key US ally. The Ocalan crisis occurred at a time when Turkey was one of the few countries prepared to support US and British bombing raids against Iraq, many of which were launched from Turkey's airbase in Incirlik. One of the pretexts which the Western allies have used to justify their permanent war against Iraq is, of course, Saddam's crimes against the Kurds.
How will the Millennium Bug affect the little silicon chip inside your toaster? Those of you who want to celebrate the millennium with a crumpet, but fear you might burn the house down, might like to check out Sanyo's 'Two-Slice Panda Toaster' which carries the year 2000 compliant logo. Among other Sanyo items marked Millennium Bug-proof are men's and ladies' shavers, electronic hotpots and rice steamers. Even kitchen chopping boards have been labelled bug-proof, despite having nothing whatsoever to do with electricity. The message is clear: stay out of the kitchen on new year's eve.
Apparently, claiming to be Napoleon has become increasingly unfashionable among mental patients in Greenwich - having 'the millennium bug inside my head' is now the number one complaint. Meanwhile, American psychologists have been discussing how to 'treat' the growing mental illness problem of 'Y2K anxiety'. This anxiety is leading to 'hypervigilance - continually scanning for signs of danger - which interferes with reflexive thought and effective concentration'. The psychologists' tips to avoid slipping into millennium madness include pointing out that anxiety about the year 2000 is culturally, not universally based (it's already the year 4698 according to the Chinese).
Mark Beachill is a computer programmer.
The what's NOT on guide
BAN THE TAN: The Health Education Authority is asking local councils to phase out sunbeds from leisure centres on the grounds that ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer. 'We have been told for years that sunbeds are safe, but they are not', said consultant dermatologist Professor John Hawk. 'They have the same effect as the sun.' SMACKED: The National Portrait Gallery's forthcoming exhibition Icons of Pop 1958-99 will not include the gurning face of Keith Flint after the gallery's top managers took exception to Prodigy's 'Smack my bitch up' and the accompanying video. UNSAFE KISSING: Luton headmistress Maureen FitzGerald has banned five-year olds from playing kiss chase because the 'exchange of bodily fluids' could be a health risk and anyway it is 'inappropriate behaviour'. PULLED DOWN: Calvin Klein has withdrawn an advert for a new line in children's underwear showing two arm-wrestling little boys, one wearing only jockeys and one in boxers. The ad 'raised issues which we had not fully considered' a spokesman explained. The photographer said the shot 'was intended to show children, smiling, laughing and just being themselves'. No kissing, no larking about in your underwear, no sunbathing: protecting the children looks like being the death of childhood.
Compiled by Andrew Calcutt
Reproduced from LM issue 119, April 1999