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Review: Agent Storm – My Life Inside Al Qaeda – by Morten Storm

agent storm

This real life tale of espionage is fast-moving and thrilling. It is a real edge-of-the-seat tale of true grit, the lead character, Morten Storm, leading a bewildering double or even triple life, his journey a myriad tour of far-flung places and his work at the key cutting edge of the War on Terror. After a misspent youth in biker gangs and as a petty criminal, Danish protagonist Storm becomes radicalised and rapidly moves through the chain of command in the developing structure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates across the World. His rise within this world comes through devoted study in traditionalist schools in Yemen where he is enabled to make contact with the critical figures that allow this tale to develop. After a crisis of conscience where he could have easily slipped the other way, Morten realised that his path of jihad was wrong and defected to the West’s security services: Danish PET, British MI5 and mI6 and the American CIA. He begins a life as an agent and provides absolutely vital intelligence on many of the most high profile missions, including the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki, scourge of the USA. The true aspects of this story make it stranger than fiction and the rapidly burning tale leads us on a rollercoaster journey of clandestine intelligence meets and very dangerous infiltrations of terrorist networks. What strikes me is how tightly knit the jihadist community is, how Morten seems to have had contact in some way or other with most of the key terrorists that have attacked or attempted to attack Western targets in the news stories of recent years. I loved the down-to-earth attitude of Morten as he reveals a passionate story where his personal sacrifice to the cause was immense. I wish him all the best in the dangerous life he must now lead, in the crosshairs of Al-Qaeda and outside of the protection of security services after becoming a whistleblower. An amazing five star read.

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Review: The Story of Spain by Mark R. Williams

the story of spain

This is a full history of Spain. It gives a good, full overview of the Spaniards, from prehistory through to the present day. The chapters are neat and easily digestable and each conclude with nice references to museums and locations of interest throughout Spain. I felt the book came into its own when discussing the height of Spanish Royalty. I have read more detailed histories of the Moorish period and also of the Spanish Civil War although the chapters in this book were good summaries of these epochs. The book is fast and flowing, without going into an overload of detail. It is a good compliment to my Hispanic Studies course at Cardiff University.

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Review: A Spy Among Friends – Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal – by Ben Macintyre

a spy among friends

Telling the remarkable story of Kim Philby, who was probably the most effective spy in history, this book reads fast and furiously, a real page-turner. The book focuses on the dramatic relationship between two friends, both rising stars in the world of British espionage, Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby. The intrigue of Philby is that he was working for the Soviet Union after being drawn to communism through his time at Cambridge University, from where a ring of five key defectors were recruited. Philby managed to infiltrate MI6 at a top level, ultimately serving as the liaison officer between US and UK secret services in Washington DC. He had access to information from leading CIA agents such as James Angleton and through his public schoolboy charm he was adept at getting colleagues to drunkenly reveal all their secrets, secrets that he discretely passed to the KGB centre in Moscow, from where he took his orders. Even after the fall of fellow Cambridge conspirators, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, Philby managed to shake the tale of a particularly suspicious MI5 and continued to operate in the clandestine world of espionage. His ultimate confrontation with best friend Elliott, after the game was finally up, left the door open for him to finally defect to a relatively anonymous retirement in Moscow. He chose political ideology over loyalty to friends and the story of Kim Philby is one of ultimate treachery. In his wake he left much damage and must have throughout the Cold War caused the death of hundreds, even thousands of people who were involved in Western operations. The book tells a most exciting tale and its global spanning and most exceptional debauchery and intrigue make it a real life James Bond adventure. Certainly worth a read and proof that real life is often stranger than fiction. Five star rating.

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Review: Comandante – Inside Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela – by Rory Carroll

comandante

Hugo Chavez, Bolivarian Revolutionary, Presidente, Comandante. After a failed military coup in 1992, Hugo Chavez managed to democratically come to power in Venezuela in 1999. This book from the Guardian’s chief South America correspondent, Irishman Rory Carroll, based in Venezuela, explores the intricacies of the Miraflores Palace. Inside the opulent walls lies a mystery of intrigue and uniqueness. Chavez lived an exalted life of a philosopher king and his self-styled approach to government made him a twenty-first century caudillo, leading a socialist revolution and upturning the status quo in Venezuela and becoming a major player on the international stage. The Revolution, financed on the whole by incredible oil wealth, upturned Venezuela. Initial progress eventually tumbled into relative chaos although I feel thatChavez on the whole was a success for the people, and turned their lives around, especially the poor. Chavez had a rigorous propaganda campaign,, using 21st century technology in innovative ways that captivated a largely captive audience. I loved the tales of his flagship TV show, Hello Presidente, and hearing of the devotion of Miraflores to the twittersphere was exciting. Ultimately many of the grandiose ideas that kept turning electoral victory after electoral victory for Chavez, proved to be neglected and unrealised goals. There was economic atrophy, unbridled crime, huge corruption and nepotism and unnecessary crackdowns on political opponents. However, the Revolution succeeded in wooing luminaries such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Noam Chomsky and had an incredible friend and supporter in Fidel Castro. This book reads fast and furiously and is entertaining if often unbelievable as it unfurls its ever imaginative hero’s escapades. Five star rating.

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Brexit and Mental Health

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Brexit, like it or not is a reality. 54% of the public voted in a referendum for us to leave the EU. I watched with despair as events unfolded and was almost praying for us to stay in as I feared that a Brexit decision could really send my End Of Terror situation spiralling out of control. Post-Brexit, if I believed in restricting people’s liberties for thought crime and nowt else and I had the power as a psychiatrist, then maybe I’d be sentencing 54% of the population for section detainment in mental hospitals for making a completely irrational decision in voting, a decision I believe that long term will make the entire UK suffer, economically, politically and more importantly, to End Of Terror, within the mental health system. Why the big fear, you may ask? Firstly, one of the core components of EU membership is that EU citizens have access to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This court, although I’ve never used it personally, acts as a safeguard for human rights. I’ve always dreamed of getting over to Strasbourg and felt that it would be one of the only places in which to get justice for End Of Terror. I will never realise that goal. But,many good things have come from Strasbourg over the years and indirectly it has safeguarded all those unnecessarily under the cosh, detained in UK mental health institutions. One piece of legislation that has been delivered through the presence of the EU Human Rights Court, is our own country’s Human Rights Act (1998). This Act came into being under the supervision of the Tony Blair government and basically enshrined EU Human Rights legislation into British Law. I have always felt that the Human Rights Act is incompatible with the Mental Health Act. The fundamental freedoms it enshrines are usurped once the Mental Health Act is invoked. I have constantly tried to argue a Human Rights case for myself, even in the Mental Health Tribunal Courts, quoting the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and referring to Strasbourg and indeed the Human Rights Act. Most debate, however, falls on deaf ears, and the tribunal courts tend to favour the misplaced incorrect mindset of Mental Health Workers who generally claim that the Mental Health Act is more important than any human rights legislation and overrides it. Treatment against consent is my main bugbear…

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End Of Terror Under Attack – Repression Inside Talygarn

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The authorities – local mental health workers and Gwent Police – are not happy with End Of Terror exposing their misdeeds. When I first started the website there was an immediate clampdown and I was ushered off into the Mental Health system. I later understood why my then Doctor, Dr Darryl Watts, was unhappy about being published on the internet as he had been convicted of child sex offences. It is convenient for the authorities to mask their repression and cover up End Of Terror. I think it important though, to expose this hidden system to the world and I certainly, over the years, have taken much refuge in the fact that End of Terror exists. It is a crutch of support to me. 2015 was a horrific year for me. I was taken into the hospital on no fewer than four occasions. It took me out of my undergraduate university studies at Cardiff University and set my life back again. After nineteen years in the mental health system it came as no real shock and i am used to dealing with the State disrupting my life. It is an asset to be resilient and to forge on with life plans in spite of the constant mental health harassment and its infringement upon my liberty. During the last hospitalisation I was detained from July 2015 through to November. I was sat at home, minding my own business, doing work on the internet for my music business and out of the blue Dr Basu turned up with the police and a magistrate-signed warrant to remove me for assessment. I had done nothing whatsoever and was just carted off and incarcerated. Basu proceeded to give me the maximum dose of CloPixol Depot injection, something to which it has been proved I am allergic to. I had two stints on the secure PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) Beechwood, St. Cadoc’s, Caerleon, for dissent on Talygarn Ward, Griffithstown County Hospital, Pontypool, where I was detained for the bulk of my stay. My notoriety as a patient precedes me on Talygarn and on the ward I have some formidable enemies, usually within the nurse management structure. People who are constantly vying for their own selfish climb up the ladder whose disdain for patients is most cruel. I name Keith Sullivan, deputy ward manager, Jayne Hughes, former ward manager and Paul Hanna, Deputy Nurse Manager, to…

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