Torture devices and evidence of abuse have been found in government-controlled prisons in the city of Raqqa, the first city to come under the control of the opposition, according to a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The human rights organisation said its researchers had found physical evidence that Syrians were tortured. They also found a device which former detainees said was used to stretch or bend victims’ arms and legs.
Documents indicating Raqqa residents were detained for legal actions like demonstrating or helping the injured were also found.
Human Rights Watch researchers visited the State Security and Military Intelligence facilities in Raqqa in late April 2013.
Changes at IRS amid uproar over Tea Party targeting
The head of America’s Internal Revenue Service has been replaced following news the organisation unfairly investigated conservative groups.
At a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama revealed that acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller had resigned from the agency after failing to inform Congress about employees who aggressively targeted Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. The president said misconduct at the federal agency was “inexcusable” and pledged to work “hand in hand” with Congress on the case. Obama named a successor to Miller on Thursday, shortly before it was announced another top IRS official had left their job.
“I do think that it is important to keep Police numbers high…It is something that not everybody necessarily agrees with me about. A lot of people say that the numbers themselves do not matter. I think that they do matter. I think that it is important that we keep them at or around 32,000.” - Boris Johnson, September 2012, Mayor’s question time.
2,900 police officers have been cut in London since May 2010, according to new figures released by the Metropolitan Police.
Since his re-election in May 2012, Boris Johnson has also cut over 1,300 police officers – despite promising an extra 1,000, the figures show.
The graphs below the drop in police officers for the whole of London (graph 1), the drop in borough-based police officers (graph 2) and the drop for Police Community Support Officers (PCSO). Read More
Gordon Banks is a regular contributor to the Labour housing blog Red Brick
The treasury’s rule that includes the borrowing of public corporations as part of general government debt is unique. No-one else in Europe does it and the international organisations all regard public corporate borrowing as a self-financed trading activity.
The effect in the UK has been to squeeze out borrowing by public corporations that would be entirely justified by their business plans. One casualty has been council housing but attention is now being given to other sectors, like transport and the Royal Mail.
The campaign to change the borrowing rules to allow more council housing investment is a long one, but Labour and the trade unions should now be campaigning to change the rules to allow the Royal Mail to stay in public hands. Read More
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• Not for the first time this parliament David Cameron has been besieged by Eurosceptic MPs demanding he call an in or out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Ever since Ukip’s strong showing in the recent local council elections, Tory backbenchers have been putting pressure on David Cameron to move the coalition to the right – and with some success.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than over Europe, where Tory MPs have now worked themselves into a frenzy which could very well drag the Tory leadership down with it – but which could also lead to Britain sleepwalking out of the EU in the not-so-distant future.
The possible Conservative amendment to the Queen’s Speech condemning it for failing to include a bill advocating a referendum on EU membership (which ultimately failed) was branded a “venal act of self indulgence” by former Tory MP Jerry Hayes this week. Jenny Jones also took apart Boris Johnson’s vision of Britain’s “paired down” relationship with Europe – code for an establishment assault on workers’ rights. Read More
Look Left, our round up of the week’s politics, will be going out shortly.
This week we look at the obsession with Europe that’s tearing the Tories apart, the latest labour market figures and Theresa May’s tough justice for police killers. We’ve also got our regular progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.
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To call Brendan O’Neill a professional contrarian would be to elevate him to the status of something he isn’t. Brendan O’Neill is a troll. A professional troll, but a troll nonetheless.
The Brendan O’Neill formula is a simple but effective one: work out what any reasonably decent human being would think about an issue and write the opposite.
With that in mind we’ve compiled five of the stupidest things Brendan O’Neill has ever written to give you an idea of how his whole get up works. Read More
Sian Berry is a campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport
Allowing lorries to use the M6 Toll Road for free has put Britain’s sole pay-for-use motorway back in the headlines. But this marketing wheeze exposes the weakness of the operator’s position and the flawed logic behind privatised road building.
The M6 Toll’s operator, Midland Expressway, recently announced it was to allow lorries free access to the road during July. Giving away your product with the hope that punters will subsequently adopt the paid-for version is a good way for new players to announce themselves to the market. But the M6 Toll has been around for a decade. That such desperate measures are under consideration shows the mess the 27 mile road has got into and the problems of using private finance to pay for new roads.
The M6 Toll has been struggling for some time. Traffic levels on the road have been falling since 2006 and in the last quarter it carried just a third of traffic it was built to handle. The cycle of lower use has gone hand in hand with higher tolls as Midland Expressway attempts to make running the road pay. Read More