Archive for November, 2011

UK Defence cuts: the facts.

The latest redundancies revealed today in the Telegraph are the latest in a series of defence cuts made by the Government.   November 12th 2011.            Find Article Here:-

The Strategic Defence and Security Review, published last October, outlined plans to cut the military budget by 7.5 per cent over five years.

In last years Strategic Defence and Security Review the Army was to reduce by 7,000 soldiers from 102,000 by 2015.

This was quietly increased by a further 5,000 earlier this year but the paper shown to the Telegraph shows that without any public debate the MoD has decided that by April 2015 a total of 16,500 soldiers will be axed.

While those serving in Afghanistan are temporarily safe from compulsory redundancy men from the same battalions left behind doing invaluable “rear party” work such as looking after bereaved and wounded will be vulnerable.

The classified memo reveals that 2,500 wounded soldiers – including 350 who have lost their limbs in bomb explosions and roadside ambushes – will not be exempt from the cull.

The Army will be slashed to its smallest size since the Boer War, 131 years ago. Experts believe that as many as eight battalions could cease to exist.

Critics have said the cuts will leave Britain reliant on a “Dad’s Army” of reservists.

While the review revealed the RAF will be cut by 5,000 from 44,000 to 39,000 personnel, each as part of a cost-cutting exercise which also saw the cancellation of equipment including Nimrod MRA4 reconnaissance planes.

The Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was also earmarked to be scrapped along with its fleet of Harrier jump-jets

Former defence Secretary Liam Fox announced in September that spending on equipment would increase by 1 per cent above inflation each year after 2015 to pave the way for the so-called Future Force 2020.

But the Defence Committee said it was “not convinced that, given the current financial climate and the drawdown of capabilities arising from the SDSR, UK armed forces will be able do what is asked of them after 2015″.

The Gurkhas have also been hit hard, with over a hundred infantrymen from the historic Nepalese brigade making up most of those in the army who will be told that they have been selected for compulsory redundancy.

However today’s memo shows the cuts to personal are likely to go further than has been publicly announced.

The Government has rowed back on some aspects of the Defence Review.

In October defence chiefs said they would allowed service personnel to keep their children at public schools, despite pledging to slash millions from Armed Forces allowances.

They said scrapping the £180 million – a – year Continuity of Education Allowance would affect the “operational effectiveness” of personnel.

It also emerged that defence cuts and the war in Libya have left the Navy unable to provide a warship to guard Britain’s home waters for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Earlier this month MoD adviser Prof Andrew Dorman wrote to the new Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to ask him to reopen the defence review.

Prof Dorman, who holds a senior position at Nato, said the Armed Forces remain “critically ill” and recent proposals amount to “little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Publicly, both the MoD and Downing Street have insisted the review will not be reopened. But some insiders have insisted that changes will almost certainly have to be made because the MoD’s 2011–12 budget allocation is about £1 billion short of the department’s commitments.

The Ministry of Defence has scrapped nearly £1 billion of spare equipment. The Royal Navy alone disposed of £570 million worth of material, Peter Luff, the defence minister, has disclosed in response to a written parliamentary question.

Categories: News of the moment

Dweezil Zappa: My debt to my Dad.

By Adam Sweeting  16th November 2011.   Find Full Article Here:-

Frank Zappa and son Dweezil in 1982

Frank Zappa and son Dweezil in 1982 Photo: REX

Though he died in 1993 aged only 52, Frank Zappa recorded more than 80 albums which covered an astonishing amount of musical turf. Jazz-fusion, progressive rock, musique concrète, scatalogical satire, movie soundtracks and orchestral compositions all figured in Zappa’s teeming aural universe, and he is regarded as one of the most stubbornly individualistic artists of the late 20th century.

But nobody ever accused him of being easy listening, and it’s difficult to imagine an artist less attuned to our blaringly commercialised pop era. In 2006, his son Dweezil decided it was high time Zappa’s legacy made itself known to new generations of listeners who had never had their brain cells nuked by its spiky wit and wilful complexity.

“I felt Frank’s music was under-appreciated and misunderstood, and his contributions were too great for them to be allowed to disappear in my lifetime,” says Dweezil. “I noticed that, if you said to people younger than me, ‘Hey, what do you know about Frank Zappa?’ they’d say, ‘Who?’ I thought, if I’m going to do something about this, I need to make the effort now.”

Thus he conceived the idea of Zappa Plays Zappa, a band devoted to sustaining Frank’s legacy by performing his music for younger listeners who were unaware of it, as well as for Zappa’s surviving fans. The unit arrives for an extensive British tour this week, following a one-off appearance at the Roundhouse a year ago to celebrate what would have been Frank’s 70th birthday, and once again it will perform his 1974 album Apostrophe in its entirety alongside a selection of his other works.

However, in order to pick up the baton from his dad, Dweezil first had to learn how to play the music himself. He was already an accomplished rock guitarist, with a particular fondness for the hyper-blitzkrieg playing style of Eddie van Halen, but his father’s work demanded a different order of expertise and musical understanding altogether.

“The challenges were great and numerous,” says Dweezil. “I’d spent more than 30 years playing guitar, but I had to change how I did everything. It was like getting a lobotomy and then training for the Olympics. I’d be practising the same tiny part for eight hours a day, until the technique became something I didn’t have to think about.

“I’d always learned everything by ear, and I didn’t have a strong background in musical theory, but that was vital to be able to learn Frank’s music. Even more importantly, I had to be able to communicate with my other musicians in a language that made sense.”

Frank Zappa’s music is crammed with complex rhythms, difficult key changes and baffling time signatures –in fact, it’s strange that he tends to get pigeonholed under “rock” because he had more in common with composer Edgard Varèse or jazzman Thelonious Monk than he did with Aerosmith – and he insisted on using state-of-the-art technology to ensure that every nuance of sound was rendered with fanatical clarity. He was also extremely specific about how his precisely scored music should be performed.

UK’s battle with HIV goes into reverse, prompting calls for more testing.

HIV 1 virus

The HIV 1 virus. The numbers infected with HIV within the UK are on the rise, the Health Protection Agency says. Photograph: Institut Pasteur/AFP/Getty Images

More than 100,000 people in Britain are predicted to be living with HIV by the end of this year, according to an official report that warns that the virus is on the rise again in the UK.

While there is a continuing drop in new cases among people who have acquired HIV abroad, the numbers infected within the UK are on the rise, the Health Protection Agency says in the report on Tuesday. New diagnoses of HIV in men who have sex with men have hit a record high.

New infections of the virus, which eventually causes Aids if not kept in check by drugs, had been falling in the UK but that trend seems to have levelled off, according to the agency’s annual HIV report. At the end of 2010, there were an estimated 91,500 people with HIV in the UK, up from 86,500 the previous year. The figure includes estimates for those who have not had a test and do not know they are infected – thought to be around a quarter of the total.

In 2010, according to the HPA’s data, there were 3,000 new infections among men who have sex with men, 81% of which occurred in the UK. Most of the men were white (83%) and two-thirds (67%) were born in the UK. Some had been HIV-positive for years without knowing, but a third of those who were recently infected were under 35. The figures suggest that one in 20 gay men are living with HIV, the ratio rising to one in 12 in London.

When the epidemic began 30 years ago, people with HIV swiftly became sick, developed Aids and died of infections such as pneumonia that their bodies could not fight off. Today, combinations of antiretroviral drugs keep people alive and healthy and can give them a normal lifespan as long as they stay on the medication. That means the number living with the virus continues to rise.

Of the 91,500 people estimated to have HIV in the UK, just over 40,000 of the total are men who have sex with men. Around 2,300 are injecting drug users. Of the 47,000 infected through heterosexual sex, around 19,300 were African-born women and 9,900 African-born men. The prevalence rate in the black African community is one in 32 among men and one in 15 women.

Half of those who are diagnosed with HIV have gone to a doctor years after infection, at the point when they have fallen ill. Those people have a much worse prognosis: they are 10 times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis than people who were diagnosed earlier.

In 2010, 680 HIV-positive people died, 510 of them men. Two-thirds were people who had been diagnosed late. Most died within a year of being tested.

People who have not been diagnosed risk infecting others. The HPA says that there is a need to introduce routine HIV tests around the country beyond the traditional confines of sexually transmitted infection and antenatal clinics.

There have been pilot projects in the last two years in London, Brighton, Leicester and Sheffield. Testing was successfully introduced in two general practices, the acute care units of three hospitals and two community settings without opposition from staff or patients.

Greater efforts to test people and prevent infection would save the NHS money, because treating people is expensive, the HPA says. Because HIV has become a chronic, manageable condition instead of a fatal illness, the costs of providing specialist treatment and care are substantial and accelerating.

“It is difficult to calculate the true expenditure on HIV in the UK. However, of the £1.9bn spent by the Department of Health on infectious diseases in England in 2009-10, an estimated 40% was allocated to the treatment of HIV and Aids. This total does not include the costs of psychosocial care or HIV testing, so in fact the total amount spent on HIV treatment is much higher,” the report says.

The amount spent on prevention, the HPA adds, was £2.9m, just 1% of the overall HIV budget in 2010. The report says: “Investing in prevention should be a priority because of its potential for cost savings. We estimate that each infection prevented would save between £280,000 and £360,000 in lifetime treatment costs.

“If the 3,640 UK-acquired HIV diagnoses made in 2010 had been prevented, between £1bn and £1.3bn lifetime treatment and clinical care costs would have been saved.”

Categories: News of the moment

Norovirus present in 76% of British oysters, research finds.


Three out of every four oysters grown in Britain contain traces of norovirus, the study for the Food Standards Agency found. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/ REGIS DUVIGNAU/Reuters/Corbis

More than three-quarters of British-grown oysters contain norovirus, research has found.

The study, conducted on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), discovered that 76% of oysters tested from UK oyster growing beds had traces of the infectious bug.

Low levels of the virus, which causes symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, were found in 52% of the positive samples, according to the data.

The FSA said it was difficult to assess the potential health impact of the findings, as researchers were unable to differentiate between infectious and non-infectious norovirus material in the shellfish.

However, it said the results of the study would be used as part of a review by the European food safety authority, which is to advise the European commission on what a legal safe level for norovirus in oysters should be.

Currently a safe limit for the highly infectious virus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, has not been established.

Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA, said: “This research is the first of its kind in the UK. It will be important to help improve the knowledge of the levels of norovirus found in shellfish at production sites.

“The results, along with data from other research, will help us work with producers to find ways to reduce the levels of norovirus in shellfish, and work within Europe to establish safe levels.”

As part of the study, scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) took samples from 39 oyster harvesting areas across the UK.

David Lees, the lead investigator at Cefas, said: “Norovirus is a recognised problem for the sector, and this study provides important baseline data to help the industry and regulators to focus on the key risks.”

Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch norovirus every year.

Categories: News of the moment

Facebook float could value company at $100bn.

November 29, 2011 1 comment

Social network will cross the critical 500 shareholder mark by end of 2011, which will force it to file financiai data with SEC even if it does not choose to raise $10bn in IPO.

Facebook network

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is said to be preparing a $10bn flotation for spring 2012.
Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, is preparing for a public stock offering next spring which could raise up to $10bn, according to sources.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday night that the company is hoping that the IPO, which has been long rumoured, would value the company at around $100bn.

Facebook’s chief financial officer, David Ebersman, had discussed a public float with Silicon Valley bankers, but founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg had not decided on any terms and his plans could change, the Journal said.

The social network, which now claims more than 800 million members worldwide after seven years of explosive growth, has not selected bankers to manage what would be a very closely watched IPO.

But it had drafted an internal prospectus and was ready at any moment to go for a flotation, the Journal said, citing “people familiar with the matter” – a standard form of words for insiders at the company.

At $100bn valuation, the company started by Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room would have double the valuation of Hewlett-Packard.

A formal S-1 filing could come before the end of the year, though nothing was decided, the Journal added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment.

One matter which could force Facebook’s hand is the number of people – especially employees – who have received stock options as an incentive for working at the startup. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says that “a company must file financial and other information with the SEC 120 days after the close of the year in which the company reaches $10m in assets and/or 500 shareholders, including people with stock options”.

Google was forced to file for an IPO in 2004 after it passed the 500 shareholder figure. It is unclear how many of Facebook’s 3,000 staff are shareholders, but the company said in January that it will exceed 500 shareholders this year, and that in accordance with SEC regulations, it will file public financial reports no later than 30 April 2012. That will be obligatory even if it does not file for an IPO.

Facebook does not disclose its financial results, but a source told Reuters earlier this year that the company’s revenue in the first six months of 2011 doubled year-on-year to $1.6bn (£1bn).

If it does debut in 2012, Facebook’s IPO would dwarf that of any other dotcom waiting to go public.

Farmville creator Zynga has filed for an IPO of up to $1bn. In November, the daily deals service Groupon debuted with much fanfare – only to plunge below its IPO price within weeks. It is now one of the worst-performing technology flotations ever.

LinkedIn and Pandora, which also floated this year, are now also trading significantly below the levels their stocks reached during their public debuts.

Facebook has become one of the world’s most popular online destinations, challenging established companies such as Google and Yahoo for consumers’ time and for advertising dollars.

Eric Feng, a former partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers who now runs social-networking site, said that the cash Facebook will get in an IPO would allow it to make more acquisitions and refine or work on new projects, such as a rumoured Facebook phone or a netbook.

Having tradeable stock will also allow Facebook to attract more engineering talent who might have been more attracted to the company in earlier days when it was growing faster but now perhaps might be attracted to other companies. “It’ll be a powerful bullet for them,” Feng said.

Investors have been increasingly eager to buy shares of Facebook and other fast-growing but privately-held internet social networking companies on special, secondary-market exchanges.

Categories: News of the moment

Steve Bell on the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking.

Charlotte Church and Anne Diamond have revealed the pain caused by Murdoch press tactics.

Categories: Cartoons

Steve Bell on the UK’s economic and foreign policies – cartoon.

The UK has severed ties with Iranian banks as part of a package of international sanctions.

Steve Bell 22.11.2011

Categories: Cartoons

Steve Bell’s “IF” Mystic Merv says: What have we here?

Steve Bell 21/11/11

Steve Bell's If … 22/11/11

Steve Bell's If 23/11/11

Steve Bell's If… 24.11.2011

Categories: Cartoons

Steve Bell on Cameron’s bring-your-child-to-work for Public Sector Strike, idea.

24.11.11 Steve Bell

Thousands of teachers in the UK have voted to strike over changes to their pensions and pay.

The NASUWT union said 80% of those who voted backed the action, but added it was “not inevitable” that its members would strike on 30 November with other public sector workers.

It has announced its members will work to rule from 1 December.

But other teaching unions are poised to join the national day of action and thousands of schools could close.

The NASUWT balloted more than 230,000 members in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It asked members if they were prepared to strike and also if they were in favour of action “short of a strike”.

With a turnout of about 40%, it says 82% voted for a strike, while 91% backed action short of a strike.

BBC News Article Here:-

Categories: Cartoons

Steve Bell on Virgin’s takeover of Northern Rock – cartoon.

Virgin Money has agreed to buy the ‘good’ part of Northern Rock from the Treasury.

George Osborne was criticised for locking the taxpayer into a loss of at least £400m on Northern Rock after he agreed the sale of the bank to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin empire for £750m.

Steve Bell cartoon

Categories: Cartoons

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