4th January, 2002

Euro arrives


One little request for the lunatics who are responsible for this, or rather those naive enough to believe their propaganda: please stop telling us that having a single currency will end war on our little peninsular-that-thinks-it’s-a-continent. Ever heard of the Yugoslav Dinar, friends?


….but not chez Spectre


Unless we receive some euros from somewhere soon, we’ll be closing. So long and it’s been good to know you. Just about nobody answered our plea for funds so we conclude, having been schooled in market economics, that nobody gives a stale waffle whether we live or die. We have plans for more structured ways of attracting money, though little confidence that they’ll be successful.  So – watch this (free) space.


….or in the UK


Whilst the British government wrestled with its dilemma (If we join in the celebrations of the Euro’s launch people will wonder why we aren’t in it, and if we don’t they won’t want to join it – I know, I know, but it makes sense to Blairites…) others are more coherent in their response. Leading trade unionist Bill Morris has called for the government to rule out a  referendum during the life of this Parliament (which could last until 2006), saying in a television interview that “If I had one message for the Prime Minister this morning it would be to rule out the referendum for this Parliament, concentrate on getting our public services up to world-class standard, and that will guarantee, almost, a winning third term when the election comes.”


Mr Morris also warned about the dangers British industry would face with a single Eurozone interest rate. He said, “If you look at the difference between overheating economies such as Ireland and Portugal against Germany and France, there isn’t any currency stability there, and indeed the Governor of the Bank of England has said that a one-size-fits-all monetary policy represents an additional risk to our economy”.

Labour MP Ian Davidson agreed. “We will be judged at the next election on whether we have improved public services and kept employment levels high,” he said, “rather than anything to do with some grand European adventure,” whilst another union leader, Geoff Martin of Unison said, “If Britain joined the euro public services would get worse”


Blairites to step up euro propaganda

The British government is planning to use a series of secret propaganda stunts to persuade the public to support the euro, according to documents leaked to the tabloid Mail on Sunday. Minutes from private meetings of the Government’s “Euro Preparations Information and Phasing Group” show that the government hopes to force school children to “learn about the euro” in the National Curriculum. The Government also wants to use popular television programmes like Big Brother and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to promote the euro.

The documents also reveal that the Government is keen not to be associated with the propaganda. However, there will be no attempt at balancing arguments for and against British membership, with one member of the planning group stating that, “The discussions are about when we are going to join the euro, not if. We hear how other countries have introduced the euro and then discuss whether we could use the same methods in Britain. Some are common sense but others are dubious spin and propaganda” (Mail on Sunday, 30 December).

In an article on 30 December, The Observer reported that the government is planning a number of initiatives over the next few months including new leaflets by the Foreign Office setting out EU policies in “simple” language. The government is also planning a campaign that focuses particularly on women, who are more anti-euro than men.


Thanks to our friends at the British no campaign for this story. See www.no-euro.com

Environmentalist verdict on Belgium's EU Presidency: good efforts, some results


The Belgian Presidency of the EU has been "fairly positive" on environmental issues in general, but has been obstructed in making real progress in several key areas, says the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), in its traditional "end of term" assessment of the EU presidency.


In the assessment on Belgium stint at the EU's helm, which ended with the year, the EEB says that although it welcomes the spirit shown by the Belgian Presidency towards environment-related issues, and hails the "open and flexible relationship" extended by the Presidency, which included a number of joint activities, in several issues progress in real terms has been disappointing.


The EEB traditionally measures this progress, or lack of it, by reference to its "Ten Tests", covering key environmental issues, presented at the start of each EU Presidency. Shortcomings were more the fault of the European Commission than of Belgium's Liberal-Social Democrat-Green coalition, the Bureau believes.


"The EEB considers the Belgian Presidency to have been serious in promoting progress in some key areas," the assessment concludes, "However... the EEB feels that in some areas the Presidency could have been more demanding towards the Commission".


Commenting on some concrete policy areas, the EEB noted progress on climate change at Bonn and Marrakech and praised Belgium for its initiatives on environmental tax reform, which, however, fell foul of resistance from some member states.


The environmental tax issue is complicated for progressives by the fact that whilst left environmentalists generally agree that the idea is in principle sound, they fear that the European Commission will use it further to undermine national governments' control of taxation.


Finally, the EEB welcomed the Belgian Government's decision to join the bloc of countries with a moratorium on GMOs. The full assessment can be read at www.eeb.org


Via Campesina proposes thorough reform of CAP


One of the most innovative radical groups to emerge internationally in recent years is the smallholders’organisation Via Campesina, organised in Europe as the European Farmers’ Coordination and known by its French initials, CPE. CPE recently published a list of demands which amounts to a call for “another Common Agricultural Policy” based on the prioritisation of the domestic market, solidarity with farmers in other parts of the world, equalisation of farm incomes, mandatory de-intensification, support for adaptation, and development of regional markets ensuring wholesome and safe food. CPE wants to see the revitalisation of the European countryside and a redrawing of the international terms of trade. Read the full statement at this website


Coffee producers livelihoods threatened by GM beans


Coffee is cultivated in eighty different countries. 70% of production is undertaken by small farmers and 60 million people are dependent on it for a living. Genetic modification will allow the elimination of much of the labour that goes into the process of coffee ripening, which is currently done by hand.  As well as carrying unknown threats to the environment and human health, GM coffee will reinforce the unfavourable terms of trade suffered by coffee growers and the consequent inequalities of wealth and power. Don’t buy the stuff.  The EU is currently introducing a regulation which will make labelling of GM ingredients mandatory, but how effective this will be will not be known until the ink is dry on the small print. Until and unless this is introduced, or if you live outside the EU, you can avoid the Frankenbeans and ensure a cup of honest Jo by buying fair trade coffee.


Nuclear power: expensive, dangerous, unnecessary

(You knew it, I knew it, but now it’s official)


A report commissioned by the British government on the country’s future energy needs and how to meet them has been described in the highly respected weekly New Scientist as a “death knell for nuclear energy”.  The study, which had been expected to back British Nuclear Fuel’s (BNFL) proposals to build fifteen new power stations, instead recommends the phasing out of all nuclear power by mid-century and the development of renewables to meet 30% of a capacity limited by conservation measures. Undertaken by the high-level Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) which reports direct to the Prime Minister and his cabinet, the review points out that the high cost of nuclear power is partly disguised by the state’s meeting the industry’s insurance costs. As anti-nuclear activists have long pointed out, if the nuclear industry were forced to pay its own insurance costs nuclear power would become unaffordable and certainly hugely uncompetitive in comparison to renewable energy sources. The report provides Britain not only with a way out of its own energy cul-de-sac but a chance to “lead the world”, something its rather weird PM is always claiming he wants to do. BNFL, however, is not known for the subtlety of its lobbying. Watch this space.


Is this as worrying as it sounds?


“There is $15m for the High Frequency Active Aurora Research program…for capturing energy from the aurora borealis…This hardy perennial of the appropriations season was championed by Ted Stevens, the powerful Republican senator from Alaska. This year, Mr Stevens sought to confer a new legitimacy on an old pet project by saying HAARP is being configured to heat the ionosphere to improve military communications.”                                     -Financial Times, Dec 18, 2001.


To do what?  Is it just our fanatical addiction to Star Trek that makes this sound so loopy, not to say life-threatening? Could some scientifically literate reader please tell us that heating up the ionosphere is a great deal less dangerous than it sounds?


Safe, huh?


“Stray pollen and seed from genetically modified oilseed rape, or canola, is now so widespread in Canada that it is difficult to grow conventional or organic strains without them being contaminated.”

                        -New Scientist, Nov. 24 2001


In the pipeline

"The second option is to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. One obvious route south would cross Iran, but this is foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation. The only other possible route is across Afghanistan, which has of course its own unique challenges. The country has been involved in bitter warfare for

almost two decades, and is still divided by civil war. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company."


This quote is taken from a telling 1998  US Congressional transcript of testimony before a House of Representatives Committee. It provides detailed evidence regarding the economic and strategic objectives underlying the US government's decision to bomb Afghanistan. Not much in there about wars on terrorism, is there? Go to this website to read the rest.


Latest Lobster


Lobster, the UK spookwatch magazine (by coincidence based in Hull, where Spectre’s editor was once accused by a Healyite of being a CIA agent because he was reading Socialist Challenge, a 1970s Trotskyist weekly, whilst waiting to get into a football match – but that’s another story) has a fascinating collection of articles in its Winter 2001/2 edition number 42. We particularly liked Simon Matthews piece on the Green Alliance, which includes the curious news that supermarket chain Tesco are convinced that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the world’s biggest conservation groups, has been infiltrated by foreign agents.  There’s also some entertaining stuff on UFOs and a nice yellow Web Update which is one of the most useful around. Go to our magazines section to find out how to get a copy. The CIA no doubt already has one – if not, it’s listed under ‘L’, guys.