Megrahi’s release: select your conspiracy theory now

As Abdelbaset al-Megrahi makes his way to the airport after his release from prison on compassionate grounds, you have a choice of two conspiracy theories about why he was allowed out.

Option 1: it was all about oil. Interesting fact: while Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, Libya has the largest reserves.  You might therefore conclude that there’s plenty of exploration / production fun to be had there.  You might also observe that the Libyan Investment Corporation’s partner in this activity is, er, BP (see their annual review, p. 26).  Add in the reports that Peter Mandelson just happened to run into Colonel Gadaffi’s son in (where else) Corfu, and presto! Your conspiracy theory is ready to serve.

Option 2: Richard Ingrams, on the other hand, has an altogether different theory - and it goes like this:

The Justice Minister Jack Straw is old enough to know that we have a long and shameful tradition, where terrorism is concerned, of imprisoning the wrong people. And the notorious Irish cases in the 1970s and 80s wreaked havoc with the reputation of the police, the intelligence services and the judges.

The offence of which Megrahi was – almost certainly wrongly – convicted after a trial lasting six months before three distinguished Scottish judges was far more serious than anything the Guildford Four or the Birmingham Six were accused of doing. Resulting in the deaths of 280 innocent people, it was far and away the most serious act of terrorism in our history. So, what if Megrahi’s appeal succeeded and it was shown that yet again the security forces and the judges had got it wrong – and this at a time when the Government is trying to introduce more and more draconian measures to deal with the supposed threat of terrorism?

Opposition to giving the police yet more powers would inevitably be boosted and the awkward question would be raised – if not Megrahi then who did it? The official hope, now that Megrahi has applied to drop his appeal, is that we can finally draw a line under Lockerbie and move on.

Take your pick…

Denim and the decline of the West

Time to catch up with the Global Market Review of the Denim and Jeanswear Industries – Forecasts to 2006, which we foolishly missed on its publication in May.

The long-term future

* Looking ahead to 2016, the denim jeans market has a rosy future, the report says.

* Dollar growth will be 6.6% between 2012 and 2016, while unit growth will be 7.7%. This is a direct consequence of the shift in the market away from developed countries and towards the rest of the world.

* Even the more pessimistic long-term scenario sees North American consumption flat at 35%, a 5% rise in the jeans market value in Japan and South Korea, and a dramatic 23% jump in the US dollar value of the jeans market in the rest of the world.

* The only blip is a 2% drop in Europe’s share of world consumption to 35%.

There goes the West…

Thought US healthcare opposition was bad? Just wait for the climate bill

Thought the populist right wing opposition to healthcare reform was bad? Just wait til you see what’s in store on climate change…

A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as “citizens” will urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation. The memo — sent by the American Petroleum Institute and obtained by Greenpeace, which sent it to reporters — urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will “put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy,” and will urge senators to “avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill.”

API [says] that the campaign is being funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups that includes the anti-health-care-reform group 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, and Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform.

That’s from TPM, who also have a copy of the full text of the API memo. Be in no doubt as to the potential impact of this kind of lobbying: news is just breaking in the US that the White House is “ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system”.

The “grassroots” opposition to healthcare reform in the US is a fascinating case study which climate nerds should study obsessively – noting not only that (a) battles of this kind are not won with facts, but also that (b) it’s not simply a case of corporate astroturf lobbying.

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On the web: Libyan relations, FEMA’s new head, the power of communication, and Afghanistan past and present…

- With the fortieth anniversary of Muammar Qaddafi’s rule fast approaching, Chatham House’s Molly Tarhuni takes a look (pdf) at Libya’s gradual reemergence onto the international stage. Four decades on, she suggests, and the basis of Anglo-Libyan relations remains much the same however.

- Over at Atlantic Monthly, Amanda Ripley profiles Craig Fugate, the new head of FEMA and a man with “a reputation for telling it like it is”. “Already”, she suggests, ”Fugate is factoring citizens into the agency’s models for catastrophic planning, thinking of them as rescuers and responders, not just victims”. Moreover, Ripley continues,

he has changed FEMA’s mission statement from the old, paternalistic (and fantastical) vow to ‘protect the Nation from all hazards’ to a more modest, collaborative pledge to ‘support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together’.

A far cry, it would seem, from Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown.

- Harvard academic Joseph Nye, meanwhile, explores the importance of good communication for effective leadership. Obama’s ability to convey a resonant narrative has succeeded in rebuilding some of the US’s soft power, he argues, though the jury is still out on whether actions can match the towering oratory.

- Elsewhere, Victor Sebestyen reflects on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan during the 1980s – “Defeat in the hills around Kabul”, he suggests, “led directly – and swiftly, within months – to the fall of the Berlin Wall”.

- Finally, fast-forward to next week’s Afghan elections and the NYT takes a look at the campaign of presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani. Reuters has some of the key election details here. Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, jests with the “Ragin’ Cajun”, James Carville, former political consultant to Bill Clinton and who regular readers will know has been advising Ghani. Don’t miss the video.

Twitter accounts of political giants (Michael Ignatieff has had some nice fish!)

Twitter, eh?  Helps us relate to the great and good like never before.  In times past, I would have spent the day vexed by the impossibility of knowing if Michael Ignatieff had anything nice to eat recently.  No longer!

Just ate some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted: Atkin salmon, a jewel of the region at l’Auberge Beausejour.

And I could not have known that Shashi Tharoor was feeling peeky…

battling a cold and cough so will call it a night. No reason to suspect swine flu, though! Media-led panic is unnecessary&disruptive

…though that doesn’t stop him feeling pretty good about his day’s work:

addressed an overflowing audience at St Stephen’s on Why Foreign Policy Matters. Impassioned plea to young to care about international relns

I bet it was!  Let’s hope they tweet about it…

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