March 31, 2009
Councils in England and Wales have used controversial spying laws 10,000 times in the past five years, figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) was designed to fight serious crime. But officials have been using it to spy on suspected dog fouling, littering and other minor offences.
The government has promised curbs on its use but the Lib Dems warn it could still become a “snoopers’ charter”.
- BBC News
March 30, 2009
…the mouse watches dirty movies, apparently.
The Home Secretary’s husband has said sorry for embarrassing his wife after two adult films were viewed at their home, then claimed for on expenses.
Richard Timney, who is also Jacqui Smith’s parliamentary aide, said he understood why people might be angry.
Ms Smith said she “mistakenly” claimed for a TV package when billing for a web connection and would repay the cash.
Downing Street said she had done the “right thing” by quickly rectifying the “inadvertent mistake”.
The Home Secretary is already under investigation by the parliamentary commissioner for standards over her use of the second homes allowance.”
- BBC News
March 29, 2009
… to spite your face.
A peace conference for Nobel laureates in South Africa has been postponed indefinitely after Pretoria refused the Dalai Lama a visa, organisers say.
This week’s meeting in Johannesburg was linked to the 2010 Football World Cup, which the country is hosting.
A storm of controversy erupted over the ban, with the government being accused of bowing to Chinese pressure.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President FW de Klerk pulled out of the meeting in protest.
Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, government spokesman Thabo Masebe confirmed that no visa would be issued “between now and the World Cup”…
The conference, scheduled for Friday, was intended to discuss football’s role in fighting racism and xenophobia.
- BBC News
March 28, 2009
The US has announced details of a plan to buy up to $1 trillion (£686bn) worth of toxic assets to help repair banks’ balance sheets.
The “Public-Private Investment Programme” will purchase the troubled mortgages and securities that have been at the root of the credit crunch.
The Treasury has committed $75bn to $100bn to the programme and said the private sector would also contribute…
To encourage private investors to take part in the scheme, low-interest loans and guarantees will be offered to private investors via the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp – a government agency that backs bank deposits.
This means that the private investors, which the US hopes will include private equity, individual investors, pension plans and insurance companies, will shoulder relatively little risk, with 93% borne by the government.
- BBC News
March 27, 2009
A lorry carrying whisky has crashed, causing alcohol and fuel to spill onto a road in the Highlands.
Emergency services were called to the scene on the A95 at about 1415 GMT.
Northern Constabulary said diversions were in place through Skye of Curr and the Dulnain Bridge road until the wreck was cleared.
Meanwhile, emergency services said a driver escaped serious injury after a car came off the road at Spean Bridge and plunged into a river gorge.
- BBC News
March 26, 2009
Mount Redoubt volcano in the US state of Alaska has erupted for the sixth time in 24 hours, spewing ash and steam 15km (9.3 miles) into the air.
The volcano, 166km (103 miles) south-west of the state’s biggest city, Anchorage, began erupting late on Sunday after a 20-year lull.
Ash has fallen on towns north of Anchorage, but the city itself has not been affected by the eruption.
Alaskan Airlines has cancelled a number of flights because of the ash.
Officials at the Alaska Volcano Observatory were able to monitor the latest eruption live via a webcam.
“We were able to see mudflows, pyroclastic flows and a nice ash column shooting out of the summit,” geologist Janet Schaefer told the BBC. “It was quite spectacular.”
- BBC News
March 25, 2009
Amid a furor over corporate spending, JPMorgan Chase is considering spending $138 million to buy new corporate jets and a hangar to house them, ABC News reported Monday.
The firm has received $25 billion in money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, money it has said it doesn’t need. A spokesman for JPMorgan told DealBook: “We will not purchase any replacement plane or make any related expenditure until after we have repaid TARP funds in full.”
The banking giant, one of the few firms to hold steady so far in the financial turmoil, plans to spend nearly $120 million for two Gulfstream 650 planes and an $18 million renovation for a hangar at Westchester Airport outside New York City, according to ABC News.
March 24, 2009
A man’s leg has been found on farmland in Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire Police said the area had been cordoned off after the discovery of the left leg on Sunday afternoon.
A police spokeswoman said a local resident made the discovery near the A507 at Cottered. She said officers were working to identify the remains.
Forensic officers were brought in to examine the scene and an investigation has been launched by Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit.
The spokeswoman said: “Detectives are looking into every possibility as to why the remains came to be there.” She said efforts to identify the remains were in their “early stages”.
- BBC News
March 23, 2009
US First Lady Michelle Obama is set to break the ground for an organic garden on a patch of the south lawn to grow produce for the White House kitchen. Local primary school pupils will help her with the planting and harvesting of the vegetables, herbs and salad crops.
Promoting healthy eating for American families has become a part of the first lady’s agenda. She has promised her whole family will be getting involved, and even President Barack Obama will help with weeding.
Mrs Obama hopes that inspiring children will help spread the healthy eating message to others.
“My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities,” she said in an interview in her East Wing office.
The plot of land given over to the new kitchen garden, which will measure about 1,100 sq ft (102.2 sq m), will be visible from the street.
- BBC News
Ah, but where’s he putting the dope patch?
March 22, 2009
The Dutch government will officially return the head of the former King of Ghana (then Ashanti), Badu Bonsu II.
The Ashanti tribe’s ruler was lynched by the crew of a Dutch trading galleon in 1838 as part of a mafia-style “offer the country could not refuse”. The King’s head was taken to the Netherlands, where it has rested in a jar of formaldehyde for the past 170 years in the Anatomical Museum of Lieden University.
The Dutch government issued a statement on Friday, saying that the head would be returned to Ghana very shortly, where it will receive a state funeral…
The Leiden University Medical Centre, which houses the anatomy museum, said in a statement that it had “made contact with the Ghanaian embassy to prepare for a careful restitution”.
Museum officials refused to provide further details and said that no images of the severed head would be released “out of respect for bodily remains”, in a similar fashion to the rest of its collection.