Miliband: gaffe or ploy?

Friendly fire caught on video, the police state plus booing Brown

Many bloggers have put their views of tabloid journalism aside this week to recognise the superb work done by Tom Newton Dunn, defence editor at the Sun, by getting hold of a video so crucial to the inquest of the British soldier Matty Hull.Roy Greenslade said: “It was some leak and I foresee awards galore for the reporter in the coming year.”

But Donal Blaney thought: “The video has already now begun to be used by anti-war activists in Britain and elsewhere to fan the already dangerous flames of anti-Americanism.”

What also caught the attention of bloggers was a statement by Dr Mohammad Naseem who says Britain is moving towards a police state. This came after the release of two of the men arrested last week under the Terrorism Act in Birmingham.

At Leninology there is certainly agreement with Dr Naseem expressed again by Abu Bakr on Newsnight. But Rob Newman suggests this should be put in perspective because it is “offensive to people all over the world living in fear of their governments.” Does he have a point?

Liberal Review draws attention to, Dr Sumaya Alyusuf, the principal of King Fahad Academy, an Islamic school in London which was accused this week of teaching religious hatred.

A comment left on the blog asked: “Why should an otherwise useful text book be withdrawn on the basis of one chapter that is not used in the classroom?”

Schools Minister, Jim Knight, has ordered an inquiry to assess if the school promotes tolerance and harmony as it is legally required to do.

Ellee Seymour saw the importance of the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday on the Freedom of Information Act. She says: “The Act has, in effect, been a victim of its own success - the government has had enough.”

An accurate analysis came from Martin Rosenbaum who raised a crucial point many are missing. Any defence of the Government’s proposal to charge people for the man hours needed to find a piece of information under the FOI Act does not address the larger issue.

The proposal to also include charging for time spent considering the exemptions and consulting others, is much more controversial and widely criticised than the suggestion to incorporate reading time.

Keeping you updated on all the latest FOI news is blogger, Steve Wood.

And I leave you with some news from the Environment Minister, David Miliband. On Question Time he said: "I bet in a year's time people will be calling for Tony Blair to come back and people will be booing Gordon Brown."

Caroline Hunt thinks it wasn't a 'gaffe' at all but: "an excusable slip to put the idea into people's brains that they should keep Blair for as long as possible." Sometimes people simply analyse too much. Or perhaps I should say not enough.

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Donald Trump's threats give North Korea every reason it needs to keep nuclear weapons

The US president's warning that he may “totally destroy” the country is a gift to Kim Jong-un's regime. 

Even by Donald Trump's undiplomatic standards, his speech at the UN general assembly was remarkably reckless. To gasps from his audience, Trump vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if it persisted with its threats and branded Kim Jong-un "rocket man". In an apparent resurrection of George W Bush's "axis of evil", the US president also declared: “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph". 

For North Korea, Trump's words merely provide further justification for its nuclear weapons programme. Though the regime is typically depicted as crazed (and in some respects it is), its nuclear project rests on rational foundations. For Kim, the lesson from the fall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi was that tyrants pay a price for relinquishing their arms. The persistent threats from the US strengthen the regime's domestic position and reinforce a siege mentality. Though North Korea must be deterred from a pre-emptive strike, it must also be offered incentives to pursue a different path. 

As Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson remarked last month: "We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel. We are not your enemy... but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond. And we hope that at some point they will begin to understand that and we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them."

The present nadir reflects the failures of the past. In 1994, the Clinton administration persuaded North Korea to freeze its nuclear programme in return for economic and diplomatic concessions. A communique declared that neither state had "hostile intent" towards the other. But this progress was undone by the Bush administration, which branded North Korea a member of the "axis of evil" and refused to renew the communique.

The subsequent six-party talks (also including China, Russia South Korea and Japan) were similarly undermined by the US. As Korea expert Mike Chinoy records in the Washington Post in 2005, the Bush administration provocatively "designated Macau's Banco Delta Asia, where North Korea maintained dozens of accounts, as a 'suspected money-laundering concern.'" When a new agreement was reached in 2007, "Washington hard-liners demanded that Pyongyang accept inspections of its nuclear facilities so intrusive one American official described them a 'national proctologic exam'".

For North Korea, the benefits of nuclear weapons (a "treasured sword of justice" in Kim's words) continue to outweigh the costs. Even the toughened UN sanctions (which will ban one third of the country's $3bn exports) will not deter Pyongyang from this course. As Tillerson recognised, diplomacy may succeed where punishment has failed. But Trump's apocalyptic rhetoric will merely inflate North Korea's self-righteousness. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.