News & Current Affairs

September 1, 2008

MoD to hold bearskin hat meeting

MoD to hold bearskin hat meeting

Soldiers at Trooping the Colour

Bearskin-hatted guardsmen at this year’s Trooping the Colour

The Ministry of Defense is to meet an animal rights group to discuss alternatives to the bearskin hats worn by guards at Buckingham Palace.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has approached Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney to design a new shape for the 18in hat.

The charity has previously called for fake fur to be used, but said the MoD was not happy with prototype designs.

Baroness Taylor, minister for defense procurement, will meet Peta on Tuesday.

Tourist sight

The MoD says it is open to alternatives to real bearskin, but that previous attempts to replace it with synthetic fur have failed because the material has not been durable or weatherproof enough.

The ministry also wants to avoid if possible any change in the look of the red-coated sentries guarding Buckingham Palace, whose uniforms have long been one of the top tourist sights in London.

However, Peta is proposing a new hat shape and has also approached designer Marc Bouwer as well as McCartney and Westwood.

Robbie LeBlanc, Peta’s director for Europe, said that although the group was proposing a different shape for the hats it did not mean the new design could not become “iconic”.

“Most people think it’s fake fur and when they find out it’s real and it takes one bear to make a hat, they are appalled,” he said.

‘Inexcusable’

The meeting is the culmination of a media campaign by Peta that has included a naked protest outside Buckingham Palace.

More recently, comedian Ricky Gervais sent an open letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, calling the continued use of real fur inexcusable.

“I understand and appreciate the importance of uniforms, but continuing to use real fur in the 21st century is inexcusable, regardless of ‘tradition’,” the letter said.

“The public are relying on you to bring about a humane changing of the guards.”

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August 15, 2008

US jail guards in Iraq abuse case

US jail guards in Iraq abuse case

Camp Bucca

Camp Bucca in southern Iraq holds 18,000 prisoners

Six US sailors working as prison camp guards in Iraq face courts martial for abusing detainees, the US Navy said.

Eight detainees were allegedly sealed in a pepper spray-filled cell at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.

And it is claimed that two detainees were beaten, although suffered no broken bones, the US Navy said.

The assaults occurred on 14 May after some guards had been spat at and had human waste thrown at them by detainees, a naval spokeswoman said.

“Two detainees suffered minor abrasions as a result of the alleged assaults, eight others were confined overnight in a detainee housing unit which was sprayed with riot control agent and then the ventilation secured,” the US Navy said in a statement.

The six sailors are charged with assault and will face courts martial at Camp Bucca within the next 30 days, Navy 5th Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr Jane Campbell said.

Camp Bucca
Largest US-run prison camp in Iraq
18,000 detainees
Average length of stay: 330 days
80 detainees held since 2003

Seven other sailors received non-judicial punishments for failing to report the abuse at the sprawling desert camp, she said.

Two had their charges dismissed and others were given reductions in rank, with some also docked pay or confined to base for 45 days.

The latest abuse claims come after the US military said it had carried out reforms to its prison system.

In 2004 there was an international outcry after the release of pictures showing US soldiers humiliating detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad.

Abu Ghraib jail has since been closed and 11 US soldiers were convicted of breaking military laws.

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