Thursday, 31 January 2013

UK defence contracts spending.

"Global defence contractor spending is set to grow from $180bn to over $400bn in the next four years." These are the words of Adam Thomas from UK Trade Investment (UKTI) in a recent documentary from the Vice News team at the Special Operations Forces Exhibition 2012 (SOFEX) held in Jordan.

Defence contractor spending relates to the monies spent on borderland defence, homeland security, surveillance, oil rig protection and other such domestic targets. SOFEX it should be noted does not discriminate against its customers for colour or religion. If you have the money, you can buy the arms. Nations that would not vote for each other during a Eurovision contest would quite happily sell weapons of real mass destruction to each other.

Against the back drop of a depression this gratuitous spending on services that are specifically sourced with the people in mind seem excessive but then these are not ordinary times. NNI wanted to know what the expenditure was for the UK alone and how this figure compared against the austerity measures in place, as the governments seek to tighten its grip on the public purse.

Following a communicae with UKTI prior to Christmas NNI tried to establish this figure solely from the UK perspective. The UKTI spokesperson confirmed: "The quote was reference to security export spending, we do not have the individual figures for 'homeland' security, you may wish to contact someone within the Home Office." They added: "We collate these figures (defence export contracts) by assembling them annually via engagements with the companies in the sector."

NNI contacted the Home Office seeking an estimate regarding this figure but as yet have had no response.

The figures involved are astonishing at a time when vital services are being decimated. Add to this the latest battle cry sent out by the government with the news the UK will be sending a support team to Algeria and the problem begins to compound itself. The chance of more military aggression by the armed forces in Africa will not serve to make the UK safer, but will ultimately resort in a further clamping down of our liberties in the name of our freedom.

We can bomb this world to pieces but we cannot bomb it into peace. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Zero Dark Thirty and the U.D

Bigelow - Picture by Time
Zero Dark Thirty, the latest blockbuster from Hollywood's war porn queen Kathryn Bigelow (who brought us the Hurt Locker), is in cinemas now and drawing much debate on the use of torture to secure information from prisoners.

The film centres around a raw recruit in the C.I.A Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, as she joins an intelligence team and her pursuit of the illusive Osama Bin Laden, intent on bringing him to American justice. The first hour of this movie focuses heavily on the tactics of torture, which at first Chastain is uneasy with, until she becomes hardened to the perceived merits and benefits of torturing someone to provide results. After all, military intelligence is a results driven business and business in this world are bodies in bags.

The movie depicts the various scenes of terrorist acts since 2001, starting with a black screen and the harrowing voices of victims in the twin towers in their last moments to control operators, through to the marauding gun men of Mumbai in 2008. It does not however show us any of the terrorist acts committed by the U.S. and UK governments on our behalf that have taken place during the same time frame. Time and again we hear how many people were killed during the attack on the twin towers, but not once do we hear how many civilians have been killed at the hands of our troops at the direction of their commanders in chief, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Barack Obama and David Cameron respectively. We know exactly how many troops have been killed or maimed by the insurgents since operations began in 2001 but not how many children have been orphaned or suffered loss of limbs, robbing them of their fundamental right to play. We even know how many journalists have been killed in the different theatres of operation. When it comes to the civilian casualties of these wars, we are given estimates in the tens of thousands or 'thereabouts'.

To say it is one sided is to put it mildly.

It is of course highly likely that the Pentagon had access to the script; it is not uncommon these days for the Pentagon to review scripts before they commit to helping directors with the use of equipment or military personnel for scenes. This was exposed in a documentary on Al Jazeera called Hollywood and the War Machine where they interviewed a man from the Pentagon's Hollywood department, Phillip M. Strub, who features in a tremendous list of credits for military movies. It is here that Hollywood come cap in hand for access to specialist machines and personnel in exchange for the military having influence over the script. What we are left with as consumers is a one sided, watered down version of whatever the director's original vision of a movie was.

Zero Dark Thirty is another example of what some call 'war porn', which salutes the godly duty of servicemen and women of our armed forces to do 'what is necessary' to get the job done. What it fails to mention is the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of war, specifically Article 3, which clearly outlines what is prohibited. There was no mention of this during the two hours and thirty minutes but there was a candid comment from one of the main characters who said: "Do not be the last person caught holding the dog lead." This was reference to the revelations in 2004 at Abu Ghraib and just about sums up the feeling towards torture in many areas of the state.

It should be remembered the feeling by general society of the treatment of prisoners during World War Two at the hands of the Japanese for example. These people were armed combatants that were caught by an opposing military force. Some of the people that have been subject to the torture and indefinite detainment subject to the rushed through terrorism laws, have been done so solely on the suspicion of terrorism in some way.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Django unchained and uncut.

Quentin Tarantino's new movie Django Unchained has hit the big screens and divided opinion. Following Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds I was hoping for a return to form.

Much of the complaint has been around Tarantino's blood lust and overt displays of gore. To complain about this however is as worthwhile as complaining about an England football team under performing at a major tournament, it happens.

The film Django is set in 1858, two years before the civil war and during a time of open slavery. The movie centres around two slaves, marries and then sold and separated for attempting to run away. One of these slave, Django (Jamie Foxx) is found by a charismatic German bounty hunter, Shultz (Christopher Waltz), in chains on route to a plantation. His offer to buy Django is refused with murderous results as the bounty hunter dispatches with the slavers and 'frees' Django to assist him with collecting a bounty.

The relationship between the two men is interesting in as much as Shultz is uneasy at freeing Django, only to hold him until they find the men Shultz is hunting. Django is a key witness as he knows what the men look like.

The movie unfolds to become one about love and friendship as Django is intent on finding his wife. The relationship between the two men blossoms as Shultz agrees to help Django find and free his wife. The pair up and become a team, Shultz casually compares the bounty hunting life to that of a slaver stating "slavers deal in bodies for cash and bounty hunters deal in corpses for cash." The first scene Django rides into town draws more than a handful of comments or stares.

Eventually they find the wife is being held at a well known plantation called Candie Land by a man named Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo Dicaprio and supported superbly by Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the head 'house negro' and is perhaps the worse villain of the two.
The film at this point sways a bit from its path. It is essentially a revenge movie regarding the history of slavery, more than once there are references to a black man being paid to kill white men, though the word black is not the one necessarily used to describe him.

Having at times been gripping we then slip back into some of the more familiar scenes of Tarantino action, with outlandish gun fights and exploding guts and gore which are quite needless. With enough compelling nods to the great spaghetti westerns of the past Tarantino decides to almost undo ninety minutes to two hours of excellent work with a shoot out that may find some looking at their watch. The film around this time could have drawn to a natural conclusion but we instead get another forty odd minutes riding around the wild south and shoot outs.

Despite this slight stammer towards the end Django Unchained is still thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, my Tarantino days now have a worthy addition. The negative comments coming from some quarters are unfounded and centre, as previously stated, on the excessive gore content of the movie. There have also been some complaints about the excessive use of abrasive language, particularly around the use of derogatory terms, which is difficult to understand considering the period and topic on which it was set. You would not watch a Shakespeare play and then complain about the form of English being spoken would you?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Tesco launch uni-quorn meat

There is so much that could be said about the great Tesco fiasco of horse meat in their burgers but I would imagine most of it has already been said.

Not Banksy
Where's Banksy when you need him? 

The jokes of course are doing the rounds, with my personal favourite being the veggie burger made from uniquorn meat but I am not here to tell cheap jokes.

What I will do instead is give a good link to some great documentaries that will better address the Tesco issue that has occurred this past week, far better than the mainstream media has dealt with it at any rate.

Top Documentaries is an almost one stop shop for all your documentary needs Films for Action  is another good site for the documentaries listed below:

Food Inc;
Blue Gold:Water Wars;
The Cove.

The documentaries outlined here are but a sample of the information available to you at the end of your finger tips, courtesy of the Internet. I have written about some of them before, namely The Cove and Blue Gold. They will fundamentally change the way you look at Coca-Cola and dolphins, though I do urge caution before watching The Cove as it is pretty savage in its depiction of the treatment of dolphins by SeaWorld trainers in Taiji Japan.

Enjoy, with love

From the NNI team.

Madness of a service society

As the relatives make their way back to the four corners of the planet I am left with a lingering question, why do people applaud airline pilots on arrival at their destination?

My partner began to explain how Ryanair flights are regularly greeted with a round of applause when the plane reaches its destination on schedule. I began to say how I had never flown Ryanair when my memory banks fired up and recalled the traumatic experience of being almost stranded in Berlin following the marathon in 2011. An experience that Ryanair saw fit to charge me over £400 for, for the pleasure of my company to get back to England. Once I had regained my composure following a Gene Wilder outburst of "WH-WH-WH-WHAT?!" I weighed up the cost of staying in Germany for another four weeks versus having to remain civil for two hours on a plane full of mercenaries. 

One thing was for certain, I was never going to applaud that arrival.

As a younglin the thought of air travel always filled me with dread, until I took my first flight at the age of 16. If I had been told of the time honoured tradition of applauding the pilot for doing their job I may perhaps have never set foot upon a plane in the first instance. It is not something I find fills me with confidence, after all, I never applauded a taxi driver for getting me to the pub in one piece and on time, though I may have come across one or two that deserve a round of applause for getting me home in my younger, more reckless days. So why do people feel compelled to applaud an airline taxi driver?

When you consider that medium to long haul flights will set you back £400 plus, then the very least you would expect is to land safely and comfortably.

Some will cite the precision and skill associated with flying and landing an aeroplane, loaded with passengers and cargo but when you take away the take off and landing what is left? The autopilot mainly, but I do not see people bending over backwards applauding SKYNET for getting to their holiday/work destination on time. More often than not in my limited experience I have found that most pilots seem to wait until they are about a foot off of the ground before they then seem to switch off the engine, smashing into the tarmac, making some men and women scream and breaking glass in the drinks cabinet...yet still some applaud. Though this may have been more of a case of nervous release.

So it is I shall continue to wonder why it is we applaud a pilot for just doing their job and perhaps I shall begin a craze of applauding the taxi driver, bus driver and train driver for coming to a safe stop, on time or not.