Thursday, September 11, 2008

U.K. job market: Fastest decline in job vacancies for 7 years

Demand for staff last month fell at the fastest rate for almost seven years as the outlook for jobs continued to falter, according to a survey of recruitment companies.

The study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and consultant KPMG reported that appointments of permanent staff had fallen at the fastest rate since November 2001. Billings for temporary staff had fallen for the first time since May 2003.

According to last month's official figures, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit has risen in each of the previous six months, increasing in July at the fastest rate since 1992.

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The return of U.S. death squads

United Nations officials charge that secret “international intelligence services” are conducting raids to kill Afghan civilians, then hiding the perpetuators behind an “impenetrable” wall of bureaucracy.

Philip Alston of the UN Human Rights Council said that “heavily armed internationals” leading local militias have killed scores of Afghan civilians. Coalition forces have killed more than 200 Afghan civilians since January.

He called the raids, which operate independent of the US and NATO military commands, “unacceptable.” Alston pointed to a specific incident last January in which two brothers were killed during a raid in the southern city of Kandahar, an area where the Taliban have a strong presence.

 “The [two] victims are widely acknowledged, even by well informed government officials, to have no connection to the Taliban, and the circumstance of their deaths is suspicious,” he said.

When Alston tried to investigate the murders, however, he hit a stonewall. “Not only was I unable to get any international military commander to provide their version of what took place, but I was unable to get any military commander to even admit that their soldiers were involved,” the UN official told the Financial Times.

Suspicion has fallen on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which led such teams into Afghanistan during the 1990s in an attempt to capture or kill Osama bin Ladin, and again during the 2001 invasion.

According to Alston, the shadow units work out of two bases: U.S. Camp Ghecko near Kandahar, and a base in the province of Nangarhar. “It is absolutely unacceptable for heavily armed internationals, accompanied by heavily armed Afghan forces, to be wondering around conducting dangerous raids that too often result in killings without anyone taking responsibility for them,” he wrote in a recent UN report.

Something very similar may be going on in Iraq.  In his latest book, “The War Within,” Bob Woodward writes that the U.S. military has a program to “locate, target and kill key individuals in extremist groups.” Last month U.S. Special Forces killed the son and nephew of the governor of Salahuddin Province north of Baghdad. Unlike the shootings at roadblocks by U.S. troops, a common occurrence, Iraqi investigators say the two men were essentially executed.

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