Archive for May 11, 2011

Banks to hire 6,000 to handle mis-sold payment protection insurance complaints

Lloyds, RBS, Barclays and HSBC face huge staff costs and admit £5bn needed to compensate PPI customers.  So in effect, Tax Payers money bailed out Lloyds and now they are using that to pay for yet another fraudulent action and mistake they have made.

The big high-street banks are preparing to hire up to 6,000 workers to tackle complaints from millions of customers wrongly sold payment protection insurance.

The banks are believed to be seeking temporary offices to house the army of staff needed to contact customers who may be in line for a payout after the banks abandoned their legal action against a decision by the Financial Services Authority to demand they compensate customers mis-sold PPI.

Contingency plans are now being dusted down by the banks, which have disclosed that they face bills of more than £5bn to compensate their customers andcover the adminstration costs involved.

None of the banks – Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC – was prepared to disclose their staffing requirements as a result of the PPI climbdown. However, industry sources said that they expected up to 6,000 staff to be needed.

Bailed-out Lloyds, which started the capitulation by the banks last week by announcing a £3.2bn provision, has linked up with outsourcing company Huntswood to bring in 500 extra staff. Industry sources believe its headcount is likely to swell – at least temporarily – by 1,000 or more while it works through all the complaints it faces as the largest player in the market.

A Lloyds spokesman said: “We are already using third parties and internal resources to deal with PPI complaints. We are keen to move quickly to bring about resolution for our customers”.

Categories: News of the moment

Air passengers’ lunch details to be stored in terrorism plan

The details of millions of British airline passengers will be stored for up to five years under EU plans to tackle terrorism.

By Tom Whitehead, 11 May 2011        Full Article Here:-

Information including names, addresses, credit card details and travel partners will be collated.

The database will store what a passenger ate, where they sat and whether they were flying on to another destination.

The same data could be handed over to any other EU country in which the plane lands. That would include British tourists on package tours to Spain or travellers going to parts of Eastern Europe.

The proposal will be enforced despite the Tories coming to power on a promise to row back the surveillance state.

The new policy, once approved, means immigration and police authorities will be handed a variety of additional data including a passenger’s phone number and how they paid for their ticket, such as credit card details and billing addresses.

The information can also be shared with other countries if it helps solve or prevent a crime or terrorist attack.

But critics attacked the Government for signing up to a diktat that could see details of Britons handed around Europe without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Damian Green, the immigration minister, told the Commons yesterday that Britain would opt in to the EU directive on passenger name records. Bill Cash, the Tory chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee, said: “There is certain concern about opting in on the hoof because these important negotiations are still going on. We will keep them closely under scrutiny.”

Britain currently collects the data on a passenger’s passport, such as name, date of birth, country of birth and gender.

Under the new EU wide power, airlines will be forced to hand over all the other information they collect — at least 19 extra pieces of data.

Categories: News of the moment

Deaf children’s services cut at one in five councils in England

Freedom of Information Act request reveals specialist teachers and radio aids are being scrapped.

Almost one in five councils in England have cut services for deaf children, some by scrapping posts for specialist teachers and cutting budgets for radio aids, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

There have been cuts in 28 local authorities. In Stoke-on-Trent, five “teachers of the deaf” posts have been cut in the past two years. The visiting teachers train mainstream staff and provide extra support to help deaf children.

The cuts are detailed in responses to FoI requests by the National Deaf Children’s Society. In Thurrock, Essex, the council confirmed it was cutting a teacher of the deaf who specialises in early-years education, leaving one teacher to support about 90 children.

In Sandwell, West Midlands, one post was being cut, leaving 5.5 staff to support about 51 deaf children each. The council added that “the frequency and duration of support to some individual children will be reduced”.

In Cumbria, the council said 2.8 posts were being cut, leaving 5.8 teachers supporting about 52 children each.

Cuts were expressed as fractions where local authorities are reducing hours or referring to part-time posts.

See more on Public Sector Cuts  Here:-

Categories: News of the moment

Steve Bell on Tory plans for higher fees university places

11.05.11: Steve Bell cartoon

David Willetts, the universities minister, has insisted there is “no question” of wealthy students being able to buy a university place after facing criticism over proposals to allow teenagers from the wealthiest families to be able to pay for extra places at the most competitive universities.

Categories: Cartoons

MET Police buy software to map suspects’ digital movements

Geotime software, bought by the Met, collates data from social networking sites, satnavs, mobiles and financial transactions.

Britain’s largest police force is using software that can map nearly every move suspects and their associates make in the digital world, prompting an outcry from civil liberties groups.

The Metropolitan police has bought Geotime, a security programme used by the US military, which shows an individual’s movements and communications with other people on a three-dimensional graphic. It can be used to collate information gathered from social networking sites, satellite navigation equipment, mobile phones, financial transactions and IP network logs.

Police have confirmed its purchase and declined to rule out its use in investigating public order disturbances.

Campaigners and lawyers have expressed concern at how the software could be used to monitor innocent parties such as protesters in breach of data protection legislation.

Alex Hanff, the campaigns manager at Privacy International, called on the police to explain who will decide how this software will be used in future.

“Once millions and millions of pieces of microdata are aggregated, you end up with this very high-resolution picture of somebody, and this is effectively what they are doing here.

“We shouldn’t be tracked and traced and have pictures built by our own government and police for the benefit of commercial gain,” he said.

Categories: News of the moment

Schoolgirls ‘beaten’ in Bahrain raids

In a secretly filmed interview, 16-year-old tells how she was severely beaten as Gulf kingdom cracked down on protests.
 11 May 2011              Article and Video Here:-

Secret filming conducted by Al Jazeera has revealed shocking evidence of the brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

An undercover investigation conducted by Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Charles Stratford, has unearthed evidence that Bahraini police carried out periodic raids on girls’ schools since the unrest began.

The government of Bahrain deployed security forces onto the streets on March 14 in an attempt to quell more than four weeks of protests.


A three-month “state of emergency” that was declared by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on March 15, is due to be lifted on June 1.

At the height of the protests, up to 200,000 people rallied against the government. The crackdown was an attempt to end the protests that demanded the end of the despotic rule of the Khalifah royal family.

In an interview “Heba”, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, alleges she, along with three of her school friends, were taken away by the police from their school and subjected to severe beatings while in custody for three consecutive days.

“He hit me on the head, I started bleeding. I fell down, he told them [guards] to keep me in the rest-room,” she said during the secretly filmed interview.

“He [the officer] hit and banged me against the wall to scream. Since we did not cry out or scream, we were beaten more and more, stronger and stronger.

“Beating was severe, but being afraid of what comes next, we were senseless to the pain.”

Bahrain’s government has not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.According to the mainly Shia opposition Al Wefaq party, police have raided up to 15 mainly girls schools, detaining, beating and threatening to rape girls as young as 12.

A Bahrain human rights group says at least 70 teachers have also been detained. Meanwhile the media clampdown continues.

Categories: News of the moment

Nuclear Whistle-Blower Vanunu Demands his Israeli Citizenship be Revoked

The Israeli Committee for A Middle East Free of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms.

May 8, 2011       Article Here:-

Morderchai Vanunu demands to apply a recently passed law and revoke his Israeli citizenship. “I have no interest in Israeli citienship, I don’t want to go on living here.”

To Mr. Eli Yishai, Minister of the Interior
2 Kaplan Street
Hakirya, Jerusalem

Re: Revocation of Citizenship

I am Mordechai Vanunu, who was kidnapped in Rome on September 30, 1986, by the security services of Israel.

I was tried by the Jerusalem District Court, convicted of espionage, treason and assistance to the enemy and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, following a newspaper interview to the London “Sunday Times” where I told of the production of materials for nuclear arms in Israel.

I have enacted the democratic principle of the public’s right to know.
I have spent 18 years at the Ashkelon Prison, mostly under conditions of complete isolation. On April 21, 2004 I was released, under severe restrictions.
Seven years have passed and the restrictions are renewed again and again, every year, on the basis of the 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations. Now these restrictions are about to be renewed for yet another year.
Since my release I lived for six years in East Jerusalem. Since September 2010 I have lived in Tel Aviv.
On June 1986 I have converted to Anglican Christianity.
Recently, the Knesset passed a law authorizing the revocation of Israeli citizenship for those convicted of espionage and treason.
For 25 years I am waiting and demanding the restoration of my complete freedom.
I am asking the State of Israel to revoke my citizenship.
This wish for revocation of citizenship is neither new nor recent.
Now, however, it is supported by the new Citizenship Revocation Law, passed on March 28, 2011.
I am asking and expecting that this law be enforced to the letter, and that my citizenship be revoked here and now, under the spirit of the law.
I have no other citizenship, but I can easily get one, even during my enforced sojourn in Israel, and certainly if I leave the country.
After the treatment and “care” which I got from this country and its citizens, I cannot feel myself a wanted citizen here.
In the Israeli media and on the Israeli streets I am called “The Atomic Spy” and “A traitor”, harassed and persecuted as an Enemy of the State for 25 years.
I feel myself still imprisoned, still a prisoner of war and a hostage, held by the state and the government.
After 25 years of getting various harsh penalties from the state, I would like to see an end to punishments and the realization of my basic human right to freedom.
I wish to exercise my right to the Freedom of Conscience and the Freedom of Choice, by choosing not to be a citizen of Israel.
I have no interest in Israeli citizenship, I do not want to live here.
I ask that you revoke my citizenship here and now.
I request that you set me free of Israel, since Israel does not want me nor do I want Israel.
All that I knew I told, already in 1986, to the English newspaper. I have no further confidential information.
The time has come to let me leave Israel, after 25 years of imprisonment, a full quarter of a century!

Mordechai Vanunu

(c/o Att. Avigdor Feldman, 10 Huberman Street, Tel Aviv)

Copies: The President, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister and Justice Minister.
Facebook: Vanunu Mordechai.

Categories: News of the moment

Israeli Army Starts Wall Construction Around Palestinian Town North of Jerusalem

Saed Bannoura    May 9, 2011 – IMEMC      Article Here:-


Local sources reported that the Israeli Authorities started the construction of a segment of the illegal Israeli Annexation Wall, around Qalandia Palestinian town, north of occupied East Jerusalem.
The sources said that several army bulldozers supported by armored military jeeps invaded the area and started leveling Palestinian lands to prepare them for Wall construction.
The Annexation wall will eventually divide Qalandia into two sectors while isolating dozens of Dunams of Palestinian farmlands as they will be on “the Israeli side” of the Wall.
There are at least 1100 Palestinians living in Qalandia and they fear that they will eventually be living in a ghetto, isolated from the rest of the West Bank.
The wall devastates the educational, social and economic lives of the residents and also denies them access to medical facilities in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Several Palestinians villages in the West Bank became totally surrounded by the Wall, while the soldiers open or close Wall gate whenever they want.
In mid-2004, the International Court at the Hague issued an advisory dubbing the Annexation Wall as illegal as it is mainly built deep into the occupied territories, and not on the border line between the Palestinians areas and Israel, and isolates dozens of villages in addition to isolating thousands of farmers from their lands.

Categories: News of the moment

Glencore: Profiteering from hunger and chaos

The world’s largest commodities trader is issuing a stock sale, and critics say the firm causes spikes in food prices.
Chris Arsenault 09 May 2011              Full Article Here:-

Glencore controls more half the global copper market and almost ten per cent of the planet’s wheat trade [Reuters]

The rapid rise in prices for food, fuel and commodities has been disastrous for the world’s poor, including Indonesian market vendor Lia Romi. But it’s a bonanza for multinational trading firms such as Glencore.

While Romi has trouble feeding her family, Glencore – the world’s largest diversified commodities trader – is planning a US$11billion share sale, likely the largest market debut ever seen on the London Stock Exchange.

“The price for our daily food has at least doubled in the past two years,” Lia Romi told Al Jazeera through a translator. “Food costs 100 per cent of my family’s daily income [of about $3]. I have nothing saved and I owe [money] from my [market stall] business.”

While Romi, and millions like her, worry about feeding their families, the initial public offering from the commodity speculating giant will create at least four billionaires, dozens worth more than $100million and several hundred old fashioned millionaires. Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg is set to make more than $9bn from the share sale. And speculating on food prices is an important part of his wealth.

Controlling prices

Valued at about $60billion, Glencore controls 50 per cent of the global copper market, 60 per cent of zinc, 38 per cent in alumina, 28 per cent of thermal coal, 45 per cent of lead and almost 10 per cent of the world’s wheat – according to information the firm disclosed prior to its share sale. It also controls about one quarter of the world market in barley, sunflower and rape seed.

“They are possibly one of very few mining companies that are price makers, rather than price takers,” said Chris Hinde, editorial director of Mining Journal magazine. “They are the stockbrokers of the commodities business [operating] in a fairly secretive world. They are effectively setting the price for some very important commodities,” he told Al Jazeera.

The firm employs about 57,000 people, generated a turnover of $145billion in the past year and has assets worth more than $79billion. Glencore’s media department refused interview requests from Al Jazeera.

Lia Romi has had trouble feeding her family in Indonesia because of high food prices, which some analysts link to speculation [Credit: Oxfam]

Based in Baar, Switzerland, where regulation is minimal, the company’s sprawling interests span Bolivian tin mines, Angolan oil, zinc producers in Kazakhstan, Zambian copper mines and Russian wheat operations.

“Glencore’s vertical integration really is unprecedented,” said Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with GRAIN, a non-profit international organisation working on food security.

“Glencore owns almost 300,000 hectares of farm land and it is one of the largest farm operators in the world. They are engaging in speculation on the grain trade and have immense market power,” he told Al Jazeera.

Global food prices have climbed recently, returning close to their 2008 peak, when bread riots swept parts of the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“A disturbing amount of price increases, I fear, is being driven by speculative activity,” Marcus Miller, a professor of international economics at the University of Warwick, told Al Jazeera. “Bets [on future price rises or declines] can become self-fulfilling if you are big enough to affect the market.”

In March 2011, the World Bank’s global food index was 36 per cent above levels from a year earlier, although prices for commodities have dropped in the past few weeks.

Some analysts believe price increases have more to do with a growing global population and rising middle classes, particularly in India and China, who are eating more meat and thus driving up prices for corn and other animal feed.

Duncan Green, the head of research at development organisation Oxfam Great Britain, said international markets for food and other commodities can be compared to the shape of a champagne glass. “There are a lot of people producing, and a lot of people consuming, but there is a pinch point in the middle, controlled by corporations who can walk away with the final value,” he told Al Jazeera. “Many of the world’s poor are -bizarrely – people growing food.”

In 2010, investment bank Goldman Sachs warned of “violent price spikes” in commodities markets, and that prediction has more or less come true.

Categories: News of the moment

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