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Friday, 24 November, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 24 Nov 06, 05:50 PM

hospital_203.jpgThe latest events in the wake of Alexander Litvinenko’s death; security alert at Stormont; and another cash scandal?

Comment on Friday’s programme here.

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  • 1.
  • At 08:41 PM on 24 Nov 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

Perhaps the best play to approach the
Alexander Litvinenko case is literally. After all our security services, with a little help from the Americans probably know what Putin is going to have for breakfast before he does, and for that matter could even change it, if you follow the analogy, so the truth can't be hidden for long if it resides behind the Kremlin walls.

Its easy to think that someone with Putin's background could decide to frighten his enemies with a lingering death with the sophisticated bluff that such an action would be considered by everyone as a totally illogical for him to do.

But it still would be, and as suggested we would soon know. The important thing is that Europe is at peace and that stability must be protected. One death is a lot different to many ie with conflict, so it does seem that the suspicions that this murder might be a device to perhaps uncouple Russia from the west while undermining Putin do seem to
carry some weight.

Finally I'm left by the words of Alexander Litvinenko himself, he was so sure that it was Putin that his final words, which are a very powerful statement coming from a dying person, say this in the most clear and direct terms, but his profession is one of possiblities and uncertainties, so his certainty in a way confuses me.

Best wishes

Bob Goodall

  • 2.
  • At 11:07 PM on 24 Nov 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

So the 'another cash scandal' was just another non-story. Par for the course from Newsnight, as of late. Reminds me of story about bonus' being paid to BBC journalist for scoops on the 'cash for honours'.

It was pointed out in the interview that ALL parties do this kind of funding, something that was failed to be mentioned in the report.

What has happened to my beloved Newsnight?

  • 3.
  • At 11:09 PM on 24 Nov 2006,
  • Zoe C. Moran wrote:

Just watched the item about the political levy on Labour Councillors .
I was a Labour Councillor for several years until 2003 .
Our Council had brought in this move by 2003. As well as paying our subscription to the ALC, we were supposed to pay a percentage from our allowances into the Party Funds and it wasn't voluntary .
My role was Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning which was basically more than a fulltime job for which I received the princely sum of £9,000 a year .
Most Councillors including myself already made voluntary contributions to the Party .
Whilst I loved what I was doing and counted it a great privilege to have the opportunity to fullfill my role , to do it properly I couldn't take any regular paid employment .
I felt that I was being penalised for being prepared to work full time in public service for an extremely modest allowance .
If Labour is serious about wanting high calibre Councillors who are not of pensionable age , it must stop exploiting them and instead value their contribution.

  • 4.
  • At 11:15 PM on 24 Nov 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Allegedly, Labours coffers are being supplemented by Payments Levied on Labour Councillors !!...& although collected locally is going to Central Office?

Does money paid to councillors for expenses & their time come from "The Local Council Tax?

Reportedly this practice may be investigated by the Police ?..And is also being referred to the Standards Committee.

Is this yet another sleazy practice of New Labour?...the same Party who pledged to be Whiter than WHITE .... Something smells!

  • 5.
  • At 11:21 PM on 24 Nov 2006,
  • Luuk Houwen wrote:

Dear Newsnight,

I am very surprised at today's (and yesterday's) coverage of the religious jewelry issue at BA. Your reporters invariably treated this issue as if BA deliberately tried to forbid a religious symbol when it was very clear that what was at stake here was the jewelry aspect (similar prohibitions against the wearing of jewelry are quite common in other professions like nursing, but this was not even mentioned). Even more telling was the totally uncritical reporting of the opinion of all those who railed against BA's decision, despite the fact that a tribunal had actually agreed with BA. One would have expected Newsnight reporters to have at least commented on the disingenuity of ministers (both types) who rail against the findings of a tribunal in the BA-case, yet embrace it wholeheartedly in the Aishah Azmi (the veiled assistant teacher) case. I had expected better of Newsnight.

  • 6.
  • At 11:35 PM on 24 Nov 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

Michael Stone was sentenced to more than 600 years in prison just a few years ago. His release under the Good Friday Agreement has almost resulted in a massacre at Stormont and an end to a tentative new beginning. There are other stones unturned loose in Northern Ireland, people responsible for shocking murders, kidnappings and bombings. Fortunately Mr Stone was not a suicide bomber, or else the outcome would have been much different.

Good to see that BA has issued a recall of its defective so-called uniforms policy. However, the public will not forget this nonsense and when added to miserable customer service and high fares, BA cannot afford to think that it will be forgiven despite its act of contrition.

Finally the London Met have found evidence of weapons of mass destruction, though a small sample, and in London. Whatever the source of polonium, the fact that it has entered Britain and has apparently been used in the murder of one person should put security forces on alert. The focus of this story should remain on the risk to the public arising from whatever weaknesses in security allowed this stuff into the country. How much damage would a bottle of thus stuff cause in an aircraft, or in the transfer lounge at Heathrow where BA staff hold thousands in queues, or in other public areas?

  • 7.
  • At 12:17 AM on 25 Nov 2006,
  • Stranded in Babylon wrote:

So BA is going to hold a review?

Are you sure they didn't say, "We're going to hold a revue!"? A Christmas Revue. For all the staff to take turns to lampoon the media, politicians and archbishops. What a load of nonsense!

  • 8.
  • At 01:57 AM on 25 Nov 2006,
  • Lilly Evans wrote:

What delicious irony - Fiona Bruce in BBC News interviews a colleague about BA policy review re wearing a cross at work! I noticed she is still not wearing a cross herself.

Is that a case of double standard by BBC? I did not see gavin Esler question BBC person about it though - and BBC gets into more homes than BA.


I am increasingly holding back on my comments about current events, because the media hype – often reaching something like hysteria – totally confuses the situation.

It is only now, I feel, that we can put the events surrounding Alexander Litvinenko’s death into some sort of perspective. The facts which are now clear that he was deliberately poisoned, and with a very exotic poison in the form of Polonium 210 – which is naturally radioactive. In some respects this is an ideal poison for assassination since it is a delayed poison, leaving the assassin plenty of time to leave the scene (and the country), and being an emitter only of alpha particles it poses no risk to the assassin himself; screening with a few layers of aluminium foil is all that is needed.

It is also reasonable to assume that the original source lay somewhere in Russia; since only there would access to the necessary nuclear reactors be available.

There is just one very practical problem, Polonium 210 is incredibly difficult to obtain in the quantities needed; and would cost, according to some estimates, as much as $10 million for the necessary dose. Accordingly it poses no threat to the majority of the population.
The question, which all of this throws up then, is ‘Why choose such a difficult approach. A hit man, with a guaranteed fatal shot to the back of the head, would be much easier – and arguably safer – to arrange; and would cost just a few tens of thousands of dollars even for the best.

It seems that those who placed the contract wanted to demonstrate their power to others. In this context it is unlikely that Putin would indulge in such grandstanding; he still has thousands on thermonuclear warheads to demonstrate his power. Indeed, even the successors to the KGB would not need to put on such a show.

This leaves the Russian mafia and the ‘businessmen’ they work for; including those who supported – and opposed – the work of Litvinenko. The morally primeval swamp they inhabit would, no doubt, see this as a suitably worthwhile gesture; even at such exorbitant cost.

The answer for most of us, therefore, should be not to quake with fear in our beds but to pressure the governments involved to clean up this swamp!

  • 10.
  • At 03:46 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Bob Goodall wrote: "The important thing is that Europe is at peace and that stability must be protected. One death is a lot different to many ie with conflict, so it does seem that the suspicions that this murder might be a device to perhaps uncouple Russia from the west while undermining Putin do seem to carry some weight."

It seems the UK media and certain motor-mouth government ministers lack the sense, the knowledge or the sophistication necessary to protect us from the machinations of political exiles and foreign "intelligence" services. Was the manipulation of the US and UK by Iraqi exiles into overthrowing Saddam Hussein not a large-enough, recent-enough, or costly-enough lesson?

London has always been a place of conflict between such elements. The more international the city becomes - and an extraordinarily high proportion of residents now are foreign born, so many native-Londoners are unwilling exiles - the more it is likely to be so. The tendency of some of such people to bring their grudges with them, and to try to involve their host country on their sides is so long-recognised that human rights laws specifically allow exceptions for foreign political exiles. It is a responsibility of the government, and the security services, to control such activity, to protect the interests of the UK, and hopefully too of UK citizens, and other UK residents.

Putin is a popularly elected and successful Russian leader who has announced he will not stand for further terms. Russia is increasingly close to the EU, and a vital trading partner. There are many - ranging from US foreign-policy traditionalists, through the many factions the US (and perhaps the UK) have encouraged to have grudges against Russia over the years as tools in the cold war, to religious activists who see Russia as ripe for "christ" (or Islam), not to mention gangsters - who would wish to disrupt that relationship, and Russia.

The dead man seems to have been living quite a lifestyle in an expensive city. Where was the money for that coming from? The Italian who has spoken on his behalf seems to have a very convoluted background, his own history of avoiding assassination apparently that of being missed by a sniper whilst supervising the demolition of a Mafia-built villa! At the press conference on the autopsy a Ukrainian anti-Russian exile (remember many Ukrainians are ethnic and linguistic Russians) tried to spin even that against Russia. Why are these people living and plotting in our country? Why did the Home Office give them entry, and how are they supervised?

Those are the questions that should be asked ahead of trying to get to any truth there might be about the motives or the perpetrators. The one thing one can rely upon is that everything will have been spun for some end and this country, and us, the citizens, will be the poorer for trying to unravel the tissue of lies.

Newsnight needs to be more sophisticated. Too many of our "rulers" are not bringing the breadth of knowledge or intelligence, or the effort to their work that we are entitled to expect. Newsnight should be bringing them to task, not compounding the problem.

  • 11.
  • At 06:10 PM on 27 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Hmm, moderation is slow here today.

I haven't gotten anything done recently. I've just been hanging out doing nothing. I haven't been up to anything these days, but it's not important. Today was a total loss.

I've more or less been doing nothing worth mentioning, but eh. My life's been really bland today. I don't care. I've just been letting everything happen without me these days. That's how it is.

I've just been hanging out not getting anything done. What can I say? I've basically been doing nothing worth mentioning, but pfft. Not that it matters. Pretty much nothing exciting happening to speak of. I haven't been up to much these days.

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