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Voice From the Back

The farce must go on

Executions continue while work is in progress at Huntsville Prison, Texas, in renovating the spectators' salon in front of the execution chamber. For reasons of economy, the prison authorities are having the work done by the inmates, who are engaged in making seating more comfortable and spacious for the spectators, and enhancing visibility. Le Monde, 19 September (translated).

Melt-down

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic located in a disagreeable spot just south of Russia and just north of Iran. It is know for nothing except oil . . . Scholars who believe that history ended with the collapse of Communism should visit Baku, because in Baku, nothing is settled. Who could predict the future of a country that many in Moscow—volatile, feverish Moscow—believe shouldn’t be a country at all, but instead a province of a reanimated Russian empire. In Teheran, Azerbaijan is seen as an unforgivable contradiction: a secular Shiite sate, a country ripe for Islamization. In ten years' time Azerbaijan could be an Islamic state, or a new-Communist state, or a capitalist democracy, or a capitalist autocracy, or even part of Russia. New York Times, 4 October.

Relentless pressure (1)

Stress at work is on the increase, with three quarters of health and safety officers saying it is the biggest workplace hazard, according to a TUC survey published today. Guardian, 23 September.

Relentless pressure (2)

On Tuesday the Environment Agency will consider an application from BNFL to increase its emissions of radioactive gases. Mail on Sunday, 18 October.

Be happy!

Revolutionary anti-suicide glass screens are to be introduced for the first time in Britain on London Underground's £2.7 billion Jubilee Line extension from central to east London. Suicide attempts on the Underground currently average almost three a week. Guardian, 15 October.

Breakdown

"The challenge to the international community is immediate. We can't wait around. This isn't going to go away. It's here, it's now and it's urgent." It was the Prime Minister's strongest admission so far that the capitalist system may be on the verge of collapse. Sun, 8 October.

Blasphemy!

A top Manchester lawyer is to complain to the advertising watchdog over posters that "encourage people to skive off work," Paul Nicolls, head of employment law at Dibb Lupton Alsop, is increased by the campaign by the outdoor clothing firm Karrimor. It's bright blue posters, plastered on the back of some buses in Greater Manchester say: "Phone in sick—Karrimor, the great British mountains company." Mr Nicolls said: "This is irresponsible marketing, encouraging people to take time off work on the pretext of illness at a time when British businesses are losing the equivalent of £13 billion a year through sickness absenteeism." Manchester Evening News, 31 August.

Religion + nationalism = murder

Marija Bistrica, Croatia—Pope John Paul II over the weekend beatified the 1940s archbishop of Zagreb as a martyr to "the atrocities of the Communist system". Beatification is the final step before canonization as a saint. By paying such homage to Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, who was imprisoned by the Tito government as a Nazi collaborate, the Pope stepped into one of the bitterest disputes that linger between Croats and Serbs . . . They [Serbs] have long viewed Cardinal Stepinac as a wartime sympathiser with the pro-Nazi government of Croatia, which killed tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies—a regime that many here see as the precursor of today's independent state. New York Herald Tribune, 5 October.

And persecution

[With independence] "Everyone from the former USSR was considered hostile," recalls Janis Kahanovics, vice director of the Naturalisation Council. The Riga authorities only accorded citizenship to those already in the country between the wars, and to their descendants. From one day to the next, more than 700,000 immigrants who had arrived during the Soviet occupation found themselves stateless. Referring to a "violation of human rights" in Latvia, Russia refuses to normalise relations and has enforced economic sanctions. The dispersal by force of a demonstration by the elderly, for the most part Russian speakers, and a parade of Latvian Waffen-SS veterans through Riga in March, have contributed to the straining of bilateral relations. Le Monde, 3 October (translated).

Nice little earner

The government is to press on with controversial plans to privatise the state agency that owns Porton Down biological warfare unit. Despite opposition from UK arms manufacturers, the Ministry of Defence is about to appoint financial advisers to review how best to handle a sell-off. Financial Mail on Sunday, 18 October.