"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some interesting ideas .... on the New World Disorder

Try this

Nicky Hoogstraten has an arresting experience in Harare - nothing is ever as simple as it seems

Lord Patel's post on Wednesday, April 26, 2006 Davy / Hoogstraten / Zimbabwean funny forex deals is one of the most frequently visited parts of the archives - not probably because of the details of Mr Hoogstraten and his funny financial deals with ZANU Party grandees, mining companies etc., or his deals with Charles Davy who was accused at the time, just as Hoogstraten has just been because of funny Forex deals.

Charles Davy ( temporarily a resident of SA) is of course the future father in law of the red top's friend, the alcoholically challenged , red topped Prince Harry (putative son of the prince of Wales) , whose studious daughter Chelsey sans clothes is (probbly) the principal cause of global interest in this fascinating nugget of journalism.

If convicted murderer (but acquitted on appeal) fun loving landlord, Nicky Hoogstraten has been pulled in (along 20 billion Zimbabwe dollars (£335,883; US$665,148) in cash, US$37,586 (£18,980), 92,880 South African rands (£6,552; US$12,975), £190 (US$376) and 180 Botswana pula (£15; US$29) and a stash of very interesting pornographic films and pictures of local celebrities) it is more to do with having fallen out in his dealing with corrupt ZANU politicians (he was reported to have given Mugabe US$10Mn.)and Ministers (the name of Didymus Mutasa is called to mind) and their desire to steal properties from him and failure to respond to ...er...blackmail.

It is likely of course that the soaring cost of coal, demanded by Eskom in South Africa and Zimbabwe Power Company has attracted interest in his holding in Hwange Colliery Company
"The Company takes cognizance of its role as the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy and supports a plethora of strategic industries", they say on their website." Oddly their notes on Directors page has gone blank.

Ben Rafemoyo of Zimbabwe's ZESA Holdings said on Jan 6th 2008 said they want to re-open 3 thermal stations at Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare, have not been in operation due to coal shortages. They produce a combined 150 megawatts when fired to full capacity. Nearly ZIM$1-trillion has been targeted for building up stocks to fire the thermal juniors. He said the payment for coal would be made to Hwange Colliery Company once the 5.4-trillion dollars (Gulp!!!) it was allocated under the 2008 National Budget was released. Hwange recently took delivery of ten modernised haulage trucks from the Chinese based world acclaimed Norinco Industries.

To put this into perspective , Zim whose peak electricity demand is possibly around 2 900 MW, imports at least half of its national requirements from Hidroelectrica de Caporal Bassa of Mozambique, Eskom of South Africa and SNEL.... however paying for it is a major problem.

Reading for today Ecclesiasticus xiii. 1 He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled therewith.

Also see The lights are going out all over Africa

Hain - and his terrist connections - past and present.

Talkspace reveals a very distant but nonetheless interesting bit of Hain family history dated Feb 13th 2007.

The Minister for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain was born to South African parents who were anti-apartheid activists in the South African Liberal Party, for which they were made "banned persons", briefly jailed, and prevented from working. Friends of the Hain family formed a small resistance group, the Armed Resistance Movement.

The Armed Resistance Movement (ARM) was an terrorist group whose members were mainly white, and friends of Peter Hain's family were involved.

ARM came into being at the time of the arrest of the major ANC leadership. It succeeded in several bombing operations. However, a bombing in Johannesburg station in July 1964 led to the death of an elderly woman.

One of the ARM's operatives (John Harris, a school teacher) was subsequently arrested, convicted, sentenced to death, and executed.

Harris was a friend of Peter Hain's family, and Harris' wife, Ann, and their young son, David, went to live with the Hains in the run-up to the trial. The 15-year-old Peter Hain delivered the eulogy at the service for Harris after his execution by the South African government for planting the bombs that killed and wounded people in the blast.

Another site has a related part of the story which is best visited to fully understand ..

My grandmother . . . born and bred in England . . . ( Ethel Rhys) died one month after being
blown up on Johannesburg station (july 24th 1964) and it was thought that I would too.

Which might explain how well he understood the NI terrists and gangstas he had to deal with and meet their demands at the St Andrews summmit.

Or the embarassing case of his appointment of Mrs Bertha McDougall as Interim Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of the Troubles On 24 October 2005.

Mr Justice Girvan was tasked to review this curious appointment and taking the role of Solomon, said the appointment of Bertha McDougall by Mr Peter Hain, was in breach of "the accepted merit norms concerning public appointments" and he also called for a high-level inquiry.

Mr Justice Girvan held that Mr Hain had been motivated by an improper political purpose, namely a confidence-building gesture to the DUP.

Bertha is the widow of a police reservist killed by the INLA (Dirty Catholic bastards) in 1981 and her appointment and the method of appointment was challenged by Brenda Downes, whose husband Sean was killed by an RUC (Dirty Prod bastards) plastic bullet in west Belfast in 1984.

Interestingly, in a Judgement delivered on January 15, 2007 Lord Justice Girvan held that the post of IVC formally came to an end on 5th December 2006 by operation of Contract, as a result her report was issued as a personal report... and ..er ... Mr Hain's misdeeds.. er...swept... er... under the carpet. Forgotten .. but not by everybody.

Northern Rock - Dividend excess ... all helped along merrily by the Fucking Stupid Authority

A study of The Commons Select Committee on Northern Rock will produce many fascinating nuggets as obervers and commentators trawl through it's pages - and many more no doubt will remain hidden. Here is just one fascinating insight the report affords into the ways the crooks ran Northern Rock.

Lord Patel has been fascinated with the Interim results of Northern Rock for some time. The Directors were able to very swiftly produce accounts on July 25th 2007 for the 6 month period to 30th June 2007 (showing a profit rise period on period of 0.7%) and declare an increase in dividend of 30.3%.

That they were able to do this was due to the adoption of what is called the Basel II "advanced" regulatory rules controlling requirements for capital adequacy.

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision explains the 2 ways that are available to banks under the Internal Ratings-Based Approach of managing credit risk ;

1. Foundation - banks provide their own estimates of PD [probability of default] and rely on supervisory estimates for other risk components.

2. Advanced - banks provide more of their own estimates of PD [probability of default], LGD [loss given default] and EAD [Exposure at default], and their own calculation of M [Effective maturity], subject to meeting minimum standards.

The "Advanced" route adopted by the Directors of Northern Rock requires a waiver from the FSA (Financial Services Authority Handbook, BIPRU 1.3, Applications for Advanced Approaches ) - which was approved by the FSA on 29th June 2007 -Northern Rock's Interim Results, for six months until 30 June 2007 and the consequences of this important waiver are explained on p 14/15 of the Interim results..

Take a deep breath here...

Capital Management and Basle II

On 29 June 2007, we received notification of approval by the FSA of our Basle II waiver application. Our regulatory capital requirements, comprising both Pillar I and Pillar II, are therefore calculated under Basle II with effect from that date.

We have adopted the Retail Internal Ratings Based (IRB) approach for our residential and personal unsecured loans, the Foundation IRB approach for our treasury portfolios and the Standardised approach for commercial loans and operational risk.

The implementation of Basle II results in our Pillar I risk weighted assets at 30 June 2007 falling from around £33.9 billion under Basle I to £18.9 billion under Basle II, a reduction of some 44%. The risk weighting for our residential mortgages reduces to mid-teens %, treasury assets to around half of Basle I requirements, also around mid teens %, reflecting the low risk nature of these portfolios and personal unsecured loans to slightly below Basle I requirements.

Under Pillar II, the Group is required to hold capital to cover risks other than credit and operational risk and for risks not wholly captured under Pillar I. Overall, Pillar II capital is expected to amount to around 40% of our total capital requirements, including the effect of transitional adjustments that place a floor on capital requirements in the first three years of implementation.

This floor is calculated as 8% of Basle I risk weighted assets less collective provisions, multiplied by 95% in 2007, 90% in 2008 and 80% in 2009.

We continue to treat securitised assets as “off balance sheet” for regulatory capital purposes, resulting in deductions from both Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital for the first loss piece retained by Northern Rock. ****

Deductions are also equally made from Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital in respect of the excess of expected losses over provisions, whereas under Basle I Tier 2 capital benefited from the add back of collective provisions.

The introduction of Basle II, together with the planned disposal of capital inefficient assets and continued capital management such as the Whinstone programme results in an anticipated regulatory capital surplus over the next 3 to 4 years. This surplus will enable the reduction of previously planned subordinated debt issues and permit capital repatriation of up to £300 to £400 million over this period. Such repatriation will follow the release of capital as a result of asset disposals and will ensure that available capital is sufficient to support existing rating agency credit ratings and maintain an appropriate mix of Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital.

During the first half of 2007 we issued $650 million (£328 million equivalent) of Upper Tier 2 subordinated debt.

Or as CEO "Shagger" Applegarth , in between visits to the buy to let department, could more simply explain this recklessness with the shareholders funds in answer to Question 135 when he met the Select committee ..

" ....when you get your Basel II approval, the relative risk weighting of certain assets in your balance sheet changes. So what we had, because of the quality of the loan book, was you saw our risk weighting for residential mortgages come down from 50% to 15%. That clearly required less capital behind it, so that links to why we were able to increase the dividend.."

It is a reasonable assumption that to the Directors "We continue to treat securitised assets as “off balance sheet” for regulatory capital purposes, resulting in deductions from both Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital for the first loss piece retained by Northern Rock." meant - we can now pretend that we don't need to have capital to back up Granite and all that other other SIV shit.

..and therefore we can now pay out a dividend increase of 30.4% 3 days after the FSA gave us waiver approval. Luvvly Jubbly. Trebles all round and Adam is off to the Presidential Suite in the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington with Amanda Smithson to shag his brains out.

Hopwever 2 weeks later, by August 7/8/9 th the Directors were having a chat with Mervyn's minions about raising the odd £30Bn. (See BBC Radio 4 interview with the King of the Bank) simply to keep the business going ... and eventually they had to ditch the interim divvy entirely.

Incidentally to Question Q 220 Chairman of the FSA Sir Callum McCarthy ( 64 on February 29th) who it was announced on January 12th, just ahead of the report's publication that he would be "standing down" in September) strongly rejected the notion that the Basel II waiver process was a "a box-ticking exercise".

The next section of the report after the above is Section 46.

It commences, " The problems affecting Northern Rock were those of liquidity and funding, rather than solvency" ... too fucking right, the Directors were pissing away all the money on divvies they couldn't properly fund ... a liquidity problem that resulted in insolvency... ie. they could not pay their debts as they fell due... but of course the CEO had unloaded his shares at the top of the market i January ... the divvy was just another ploy to suck in the mug punters.

Dark secrets lurk somewhere in this unholy and (to the taxpayer) every, very, expensive mess.

******** Although the "Highlights" Press release can boldly claim "Total underlying assets of £113.0 billion - an increase of 28.3% from June 2006 ,underlying assets of £88.0 billion. Statutory assets of £113.5 billion, growth of 27.8% . Capital assets - now you see them, now you don't need to count them in under Basel II **** and all approved by the FSA !!!!

Clostridium difficile in hospitals - a present and growing danger

Lord Patel has always maintained an unhealthy interest in the communicable diseases that patients enjoy during their hospital visits, since the National Audit report in 2002. It is evident that Clostridium difficile (especially amngst the elderly) is a a growing and very unpleasant problem.

Updates on Clostridium difficile in NI Hospitals

The Irish Times reports that Stormont (NI) Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has allocated an additional expenditure ( well he called it an "investment") £9 million would be invested over the next 3 years in a bid to improve patient safety and reduce the spread of infections like MRSA and Clostridium difficile

Single rooms are to be introduced in Northern Ireland hospitals and a new e hospital being built in Co Fermanagh will be the first to have single rooms for all appropriate patients. new measuress have also been introduced , including restrictions on visitors, a rolling programme of unannounced hygiene inspections to all hospitals and a new dress code for all health care staff.

An official outbreak of Clostridium difficile ( of a highly virulent ribotype 027 ) has been declared at Antrim Hospital (which Members of Stormont's health committee visited yesterday) where a specialist ward has been set up to treat patients after the number of cases in a month nearly trebled.

Updates on Clostridium difficile in Scotland

C. difficile Working Group, 1st report in December 2007 on the (now mandatory) surveillance of Clostridium difficile associated disease (CDAD) in Scotland (which only has data for cases in hospital patients > 65 years) states that there were 6035 cases for the whole of Scotland. The annual rate for Scotland per 1000 acute occupied bed days in persons ≥ 65 years old was 2.03 which they say is "comparable to rates generated in England".

The report is a model of it's kind and it is good to see that "approximately 65 % of the laboratory data are received by HPS via the electronic reporting system ECOSS (Electronic Communication of Surveillance in Scotland)". Analysis of samples includes ribotyping which is best presented int his graph - only two cases of ribotype o27 were found with 1 isolate in October.

In a sombre conclusion they say

"In conclusion this first year of data collection under the mandatory surveillance programme for Scotland has shown that healthcare associated Clostridium difficile associated disease is a significant problem throughout the healthcare system in Scotland. CDAD is today considered the leading cause of healthcare associated diarrhoea in the industrialised countries."

It is interesting to note that on Monday, 29 October 2007 Lord Darzi of Denham Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health in answer to a question from Lord Morris was only able to give such figures up to 2005. But they were alarming

Mentions of C.diff9181,1501,3381,7022,1553,697
Number of these where underlying cause of death is C. diff4996617099121,1872,008

Figures from ONS for deaths involving CDI for primary care trusts cannot be provided "without disproportionate costs".

The number of deaths in hospital in Fife involving Clostridium difficile were 23 in 2005, and 41 in 2006 , where it was the main cause have gone down, from 13 in 2005, to 11 in 2006 which means that thenumber of deaths where the bug was considered to be a contributing cause trebled in one year.

NHS Highland said there had been 120 cases of Clostridium difficile last year, up from 50 in 2005, C. difficile was also an "underlying or contributing cause of death" for 5 patients in the area last year.

Clostridium difficile Ribotype 027 - Global incidence

Since 2003, the emergence and distribution of a hypervirulent strain of Clostridium difficile PCR ribotype 027 has been described in North America, Japan, England and Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, and has also been detected in Austria, Scotland, Switzerland, Poland and Denmark and has ben present in Sweden for several years.This new epidemic strain (PFGE type BI/NAP1 in the USA , also called ribotype 027) appears to be more virulent, with the ability to produce greater quantities of toxins A and B due to a mutant toxin controlling gene.

C. difficile is difficult to culture and none of the commercially available toxin tests differentiate between the various strains of C. difficile - it also appears to be it is resistant to newer fluoroquinolones. Both factors which may have aided it's rapid spread.

Alyson Smith Thames Valley Health Protection Unit, Bucks,UK reported the first evident UK cases in June 2005.

In the Netherlands, St. Jansdal Hospital in Harderwijk, the incidence of C. difficile-associated diarrhoea (CDAD) increased from 4 per 10 000 patient admissions in 2004 to 83 per 10 000 in the months April to July 2005 -this was characterised as C. difficile ribotype 027. (see also In total 17 Dutch institutions have detected patients with ribotype 027 so far, 15 hospitals
and 2 nursing homes )

In December 2007, C. difficile PCR ribotype 027 was found in two cases of C. difficile-associated disease treated in a hospital in Oslo, Norway.

Evidently treatment of severe or recurrent C. difficile -associated diarrhea is an evolving science and recent literature from outbreaks of severe disease in Canada and the U.S. suggest that mortality is associated with advanced age (≥ 75 years), immunosuppression, shock requiring vasopressors, very high WBC (> 50,000 cells/mm), and elevated lactate levels ( ≥ 5 mmol/L).

Advice from the Dutch Working Party on Infection Prevention is that in all patients who develop diarrhoea in hospital, especially during or after treatment with antibiotics or chemotherapeutic agents, an infection with C. difficile ribotype 027 should be suspected... and treated accordingly.

Hospitals on alert as superbug C difficile becomes resistant to key drug - news report in the Scotsman Sunday January 28th states that a new report by public health officials at the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections has a report that taken from patients in the Leeds area of England showed that a C difficile ribotype 001 , the 2nd most common in the UK had "reduced susceptibility" to metronidazole - the antibiotic of choice in treating infections.That leaves only vancomycin as the last line of defence for antibiotic treatment.

Out of 88 tests 21 showed "reduced susceptibility".

Examination of the HPA website could find no evidence of the quoted report

There is however a useful article by Jon Brazier, Consultant Clinical Scientist and Head of the
Anaerobe Reference Laboratory, part of the National Public Health Service for Wales Microbiology Cardiff laboratory situated in the University Hospital of Wales. This can be found here. Clostridium difficile disease: a case of greater virulence and new risk factors page 20 HPA magazine Volume 5 Suimmer 2006. This has valuable information on the increasing numbers and spread of different ribotypes of C. difficile within the UK.

See also the Leeds Health Trust Annual report November 26th 2007 - The total number of C difficile laboratory reports for LTHT (indicative of cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea) across the Trust: 860(≥65; 648) in 2006/7, 645(≥65;490) in 2005/6, 692 in 2004/5, 743 in 2003/4, and 883 in 2002/3. The C. difficile rate for patients equal to or greater than 65 years in LTHT for 2004 was 2.0/1000 bed days, for 2005 1.86/1000 bed days, and for 2006 1.53/1000 bed days. Nationally there has been an increase of 5.5% in the number of C difficile reports for patients equal to or greater than (≥) 65 years.

Leeds have introduced routine intensive prospective molecular and clinical surveillance of hospital and community CD cases to determine the relative prevalence of epidemic strains, and the spread of CD 027. It is the only such service in the UK. We have examined ~500 cases in detail. C. difficile 027 was identified in both hospital and GP patients (4% of all cases), mainly causing mild/mod disease, and with only minimal evidence of spread or clustering. Intensive surveillance will continue to improve our understanding of C. difficile infection epidemiology and to detect emergent strains.

The Health Protection Agency asked Leeds to establish and lead a Clostridium difficile Ribotyping Network for England (CDRNE). The CDRNE consists of six regional microbiology laboratories in England: Leeds (Reference Laboratory, Leeds General Infirmary), Birmingham (Heartlands Hospital), London (University College Hospital), Manchester (Manchester Royal Infirmary), Newcastle (Newcastle General Hospital) and Southampton (Southampton General Hospital). The CDRNE service is now operational, and is to be used by hospitals/infection control teams in England to investigate increased frequency or severity of cases of C. difficile infection, increased mortality, or increased recurrence rate.

PS : Minister humiliated over Rose Gibb NHS payout Rose Gibb resigned 1 day ahead of a damning Healthcare Commission report into two outbreaks of Clostridium difficile, which led to the deaths of at least 90 patients, at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust . She will receive a £75,000 pay-off despite the Health Secretary Alan Johnson’s pledge at the time that it would be witheld.

Putin plays the power card (again) in the Balkans

There were high level discussions and agreements made in Moscow on Friday when Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica met President Putin and Russian Minister for Fuel and Energy Viktor Khristenko as well as Directors of Gazprom.

The agreements involved cooperation in the oil and gas sector, as well as a protocol specifying the main terms for Russian company Gazprom Neft would obtain 51% of Serbia's state oil company NIS. WaPo says Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Popovic confirmed reports that Russia had offered US$600 million -- about one-fifth of the company's estimated market value plus an additional US$730 million to modernize the run-down company.

Under a package deal, apart from the Gazprom / NIS deal a segment of the South Stream gas pipeline just agreed with Bulgaria will transit Serbia and on to to the Bosnian Serb Republic, Croatia and Italy ; construction of the huge Banatski Dvor underground gas storage with the capacity of about 800 million cubic meters will be completed costing some Euros 128 Mn. (See plans for NSI here by Dr. Svetislav Krstic pdf alert)

This whole shindig was a pivotal exercise in Balkan real politik and Putin's Russia, leveraging power through it's energy policy. The pro western Democratic Party faction in nationalist Kostunica's Cabinet, dropped opposition to the deal, ( a view supported by Isvestiya on Friday) needing the Prime Ministers support for incumbent President Boris Tadic, (he is allowed 2 x 5 yr terms) to defeat an ultranationalist challenger Tomislav Nikolic, the deputy leader of the hard-line nationalist Serbian Radical Party, in the country's runoff presidential vote on Feb. 3rd. Nikolic has in the past called for military intervention in Kosovo if it becomes independent and splits from (Greater) Serbia - he also would refuse to hand over fugitives such as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

The agreements also reflect the joint Russian / Serb opposition to a western supported independence for Kosovo. (Even though Tadic is said to advocate closer ties with the EU)

"Serbia very deeply respects the position of Russia on Kosovo," Tadic publicly told Putin. "We will defend our interests in Kosovo, operating on the basis of international law, and we will never do otherwise."

Putin was, as usual boastfully pushing Russian interests, and to please the public, resolute ; "Russia is categorically against a unilateral declaration of independence for Kosovo," he said, adding that it could "seriously damage the system of international law and have negative consequences for the Balkans and affect stability in other regions." ( Sub text "Watch it you unruly Ossetians")

Russia has historical, cultural, religious and linguistic ties with Serbia , they threatened a veto last year in the U.N. Security Council to block a Western-backed plan for internationally supervised statehood for Kosovo.

Ruairi OConnell our man in Pristina's blog has been brought to readers attention before ... his naive ramblings make one wonder how he will deal with these pesky Russki's..

.."We have to deal with the situation as best we can. And we do have to deal with it, right now; this is vital for European Security, but, most importantly of all, to give all the people of Kosovo a hope for a better life." ... and presumably a supply of natural gas.

See : Guradian U.S. worried about Russia's Balkan energy grab (Reuters) Friday January 25 2008

"A confidential Serbian government document obtained by Reuters said Washington was considering using diplomatic channels to express its concern at the deal and point out the shortcomings. "

"The U.S. side warned about the political influence Moscow would gain by controlling energy resources in Serbia and the region, and expressed a negative assessment about the economic justification of South Stream," said the transcript of a high level meeting between U.S. and Serbian officials in Belgrade."

And Reuters also had a high level contact ...

A State Department spokesman told Reuters via telephone from Washington that the U.S. continued to view Nabucco as the best scheme to provide energy diversification in Europe......"the best option for achieving European energy diversification, particularly with regard to providing a direct route to Europe for Caspian and central Asian gas supplies".
What NU Labour spinners would call ..er... an ..er .. "aspirational" view. What less well equipped might describe as being outflanked and those who express their political views more directly...er.."Fucked"

UPDATE 28/1/08

MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has effectively engaged a designated target with a supersonic cruise missile as part of a Navy exercise in the northern Atlantic, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.

The Moskva guided-missile cruiser launched the P-500 Bazalt (NATO reporting name SS-N-12 Sandbox), a liquid-propellant supersonic cruise missile, last used in 2003.

The P-500 Bazalt, which entered service in 1973, has a 550 km range and a payload of 1,000 kg, enabling it to carry a 350 kT nuclear or a 950kg semi-armor-piercing high explosive warhead.

Florida sees heroes paid and more terrists locked up - anyone notice ?

Clarence ''Clancy'' Prevost, 69, a former Navy and Northwest Airlines pilot is an American hero and US$5 Mn. richer today. The Rewards for Justice program created in 1984, has paid about $77 million to more than 50 people. The largest payment the program has made was $30 million to a person (unknown) whose information led to Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, according to its website.

Prevost,was a key witness at French citizen , and schizophrenic Zacharias Moussaoui's trial and his eventual conviction as a 9/11 conspirator.

Prevost testified that he urged his bosses at the Pan Am International Flight Academy outside Minneapolis to call the FBI in August 2001 because he was suspicious of Moussaoui, an inexperienced and incompetent pilot seeking commercial jetliner training. A few days after Prevost warned his supervisors, an FBI agent came to ask him questions about Moussaoui.

All this leaves two of Prevost's previous colleagues Tim Nelson and Hugh Sims a bit sore. They also have been credited with tipping the FBI to Moussaoui and were honored by the Senate in 2005 with a resolution that commended their "bravery" and "heroism."

Senate Resolutions don't buy many groceries.

Moussaoui's trial, was of course, a farce, but it did give the opportunity to present as evidence all sorts of bits of information to back up the fictions of the official conspiracy theory of what happened on 9/11 - Bad photocopies of even worse printouts of Passenger Manifests of indeterminate origin for all 4 flights. Bits and pieces of an aeroplane "found" at Shanksville .. er... photographs of bits and pieces etc.,

Elswhere in Florida U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke (A Bush appointee) sentenced Jose "Dirty Bomber" Padilla, Adham Amin Hassoun, and Kifah Wael Jayyousi on charges of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim individuals in a foreign country, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Padilla to a term of 208 months imprisonment; Hassoun to a term of 188 months imprisonment; and Jayyousi to a term of 152 months imprisonment.

Cooke said that as serious as the conspiracy was, there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts of terrorism anywhere.

"There is no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, kidnapped or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere," she said.

Padilla was added in 2005 to an existing Miami terrorism support case just as the U.S. Supreme Court was considering his challenge to President Bush's decision to hold him in custody indefinitely without charge. The "dirty bomb" charges were quietly forgotten and never figured thereafter.

Adham Amin Hassoun was supposed to have recruited Padilla and 46-year-old Kifah Wael Jayyousi a financier and propagandist for the cell that assisted Islamic extremists in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere, according to trial testimony.

The convictions follow a 3 month trial based on tens of thousands of FBI telephone intercepts collected over an eight-year investigation and a form Padilla filled out in 2000 to attend an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan (magically discovered recovered by the CIA shortly after the U.S. invasion in late 2001 ). Padilla, a former Chicago gang member with a long criminal record, converted to Islam in prison and was recruited by Hassoun while attending a mosque in suburban Sunrise.

It was a patriotic jury that appeared in court on the last day of trial before the Fourth of July holiday with one row of jurors dressed in red, one in white, and one in blue (Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2007).

Perhaps they will join Clarence ''Clancy'' Prevost, as an American hero and collect a handsome reward from The Rewards for Justice program ?

Friday, January 25, 2008

The lights are going out all over Africa

At the end of a week of unprecedented power cuts across southern Africa, South Africa's Cabinet has declared a "national electricity emergency" and announced energy-saving measures including solar power and more use of gas. (All Africa.com) Government's complete statement here . Power crisis "national emergency": SA govt ."South African power supply company Eskom is looking for a total reduction of 15% and 20% of current electricity consumption across the system. "

Lord Patel and FCUKED have been bleating on about energy security since 1999 - here is a post from Monday, January 08, 2007 which clearly and succinctly states the dilemma facing Southern Africa.

However the whole of Southern Africa is facing huge electricity supply problems.

The SA Power Pool*** - a body that co-ordinates the planning and operation of electricity power systems among South African Development Community member states — total annual demand will clock 44 689 megawatts by the end of 2007
against combined net generation capacity of 45 000MW.

At the current growth rate, total regional demand for electricity is projected to hit 45 827MW by the end of 2008; 47 920MW in 2009; 48 795MW in 2010; and 50 291MW in 2011.

Capital projects totalling US$5.2 Bn are required simply to meet the projected shortfall in the region.
Among the SA government’s new proposals:

Promoting solar water heaters and solar-power traffic and street lights;

Introducing liquefied petroleum gas (LP gas);

Distributing energy-efficient light bulbs;

Introducing power rationing;

Putting pressure on the coal industry, which is exporting its best quality coal, to provide local power stations with a higher quality coal.

Eskom has coal stocks for 2/3 days.The current spot price of coal is about R100 a ton, the cost of transporting it 80km is about R150 a ton.Excessive rain has also dampened stockpiles of the fuel.

Extra transport costs and fuel quality are also problems especially as coal mines were closed over Christmas . ...Many more weeks of rolling blackouts are in prospect.

The sound of stable doors being shut is deafening.

*** Created in 1995, the South African Power Pool (SAPP) aims to link SADC member states into a single electricity grid. The national utilities currently participating in the SAPP are Angola's Empresa Nacional de Electricidade (ENE), the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), the Democratic Republic of Congo's SNEL, the Lesotho Electricity Corporation (LEC), Malawi's Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom), Mozambique's EDM, Namibia's Nampower, South Africa's Eskom, the Swaziland Electricity Board (SEB), Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), Zambia's ZESCO, and Zimbabwe's ZESA

East Africa: Regional Power Pool Starts in 2011

Webster's Dictionary adds new words daily

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a Kentucky Wildcat fan.
5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting lucky.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee! intravenously when you are running late.

10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease with a boner.

12. Karmageddon: It's when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes,and then the Earth explodes, and it's a serious bummer.

13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

14. Glibido: All talk and no action.

16 . Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

Joining the Dots Part 127 : Cambridge spies study the internet to 'Counter Militant Islamist Radicalisation on the Internet - Tony O'Reilly pays the b

Tony O'Reilly's Irish Independent has a fascinating story today about the O'Reilly Foundation making an award...."MI5 spies help student unlock terrorists' web"

Johnny Ryan (27) an Irish student is completing a ground-breaking PhD at Cambridge University under the supervision of British security service MI5's official historian.

Johnny is hoping for a Doctorate after studying how terrorists use the internet under the supervision of Prof Christopher Andrew, 67, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, the official historian of Britain's domestic spy agency - and the University website says of him,"Professor Andrew has been a regular presenter of BBC Radio and TV documentaries on modern history and international relations". He is also a friend of popular TV historian Peter Hennessy with whom he studied under cryptanalyst Harry Hinsley. He is "very close" to the SIS and they chose him to launder and publish (In miniscule and unreadable type) the rather odd , selective and copied / re-copied KGB *** papers of Vasili Mitrokhin, memorable for in unmasking the famous "Grandmother Spy", 87-year old Melita Norwood (d. June 2005 aged 93) codenamed "Hola" by the KGB when she was recruited in Britain in 1937 + other spies****. One report says he is "Widely believed to be MI5's main recruiter in Cambridge. "

Professor Andrew is a great one for spreading the view that the short lived President Yuri Andropov, the KGB chairman had no hand in the attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981. He is also a passionate believer in the utility of SIGINT and other aspects of communications based intelligence...

Johnny Ryan , has already made an impact with his first book, 'Countering Militant Islamist Radicalisation on the Internet', (ISBN: 1-874-109-86-9) published by the Institute of European Affairs which was launched last year by the former chair of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones.(Amazon)

The publishers blurb says ...."Violent radicalisation on the Internet is at the nexus of two key trends: the democratisation of communications driven by user generated content on the Internet; and the democratisation of strategic violence driven by mass-casualty non-state terrorism. How best can Europe capitalise on the first trend to counter the second? "

The Independent continues ..."The book argued against the European Commission's suggestion of using internet censorship to combat terror, and was heavily cited in the Commission's official impact report that decided to abandon the idea of an EU-wide internet censorship system."

Besides a fulsome review on the Amazon website from the Irish Times on 1st July (5 stars given) there are two more very fascinating reviews both awarding the book 5 stars ....

Elegant analysis of link between terrorism and the internet, 3 Jul 2007
By cormacio "cormacio" (france)

I found "Countering Militant Islamist Radicalisation on the Internet" provided an excellent overview of how the internet helps users make the transition from their home environment to a virtual world of dissatisfaction and aggression and, in some cases, on towards active participation in terrorism. The author has undertaken in-depth research and provides many illustrative examples and anecdotes. It is rare to come across a book which marries expertise on both internet and terrorism.

And the following day ...

Insightful overview with a refreshing perspective, 4 Jul 2007
By Marie Della Roche "Marie"

A meaty subject presented in such a way that those of us who are not media savvy can understand. Indeed, the reader need not be an expert on terrorism to benefit from the the authors point of view. Ryan offers an interesting view on the power of ordinary citizens and our ability to influence society through our ordinary lives. Very empowering!

Curiously both "Cormacio" and "Maria Della Roche" have never found the time, energy, effort or enthusiasm to write reviews on Amazon before (or since). Which is very puzzling because the publishers website quotes the OAP Baroness Lady Dame Jane Pauline Neville Jones

"This book is food for thought. ... We really do have a problem in society, and this is chapter and verse what this book is about." - Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, UK Shadow Security Secretary speaking at the launch of this title on 9 July 2007.

(Which was a week after these enthusiastic reviwers had bought, read and put finger to keyboard !!!! - good job someone keeps an eye on what people put on the Internet)

Quick minded readers will remember that this bears more than a passing resemblance to Ms. Plessington who on Christmas Day put up an Amazon review for Peter Neumann and MLR Smith, The Strategy of Terrorism,How it Works, and Why it Fails (Contemporary Terrorism Studies) Routledge, October 2007. ISBN 978-0-415-42618-3 (hardback) ISBN 978-0-203-93700-6 Amazon and an amazing US$130The book (published Dec 11th 2007)

*** Which he was able to do because he was given the job of packing up First Chief Directorate files in the KGB's Moscow headquarters, a massive turn-of-the-century building called the Lubyanka, and shipping them to the KGB's new quarters in Yasenevo.

Mitrokhin started taking notes on the dusty documents passing through his hands—strictly forbidden, of course, and highly dangerous. He hid these notes under the mattress in his Moscow apartment; then he transferred them to a dacha in the countryside, and finally, in 1992, he carried them with him by train to one of the Baltic countries where he, his family, and his 6 cases of materials were picked up by the British SIS. Ho.Ho.Ho.

****Other spies brought to light, partially or fully, were "Hunt," a spy recruited by Norwood but still unidentified by British authorities; "William," a trade union official who worked for the Russians in the 1970s; the British policeman John Symonds, who served as a roving agent for the KGB; and the American Robert Lipka, a clerk for the National Security Agency now serving an eighteen-year prison term for spying for the Soviets in the 1960s.

MRAP - A Correction is needed apparently

On January 22, 2008 we posted 1st US fatality in MRAP in Iraq - Force Protection slides

Badgers Forward (An Army Officer in Iraq commanding an Engineer Company according to his blogger profile - see pic ) corrects the record - (his wife is a self confessed sassy girl, also corrects his posts and listens to NPR) and somewhat testily

The New York Times gets it wrong.

Corporal Stephen Shannon of Company C, 397th Engineer (Task Force Pathfinder) was killed in Ramadi in January 2007 while riding in an RG-31.

Sergeant James Holtom, Sergeant Ross Clevenger, and Private First Class Ray Werner of Company A, 321st Engineer (Task Force Pathfinder) were killed 8 February 2007 while riding in an RG31.

A Soldier from the unit we replaced had a Soldier killed while riding in an RG31 in July of 2006 and there have been several incidents of Soldiers getting killed while riding in Buffaloes.

This is not a point of mere semantics.

As a Commander I told my Soldiers they had MRAPs and the very few in theater were dedicated to Route Clearance operations. When I wrote letters home I told the family members that their loved ones were in MRAPs and they had the very best protection available. None of that has changed except now with DoD stating the first MRAP deaths have occurred, many people have a question in their head. That is unfair to those families and the Soldiers that road in those vehicles.

I think the NY Times could certainly have asked more questions. It is true they accurately quoted the Department of Defense press conference; I can't fault them there, however, if they really knew what was going on here, they would have known that there have have been some MRAPs in country for quite a while.

There is a great deal more, well worth reading for aficionados of MRAP's. Wired have also updated their report " " ...the MRAP hit yesterday was not a Force Protection Cougar (as originally pictured) but a Navistar Maxxpro. These e-mailers note that the 1st Battalion of the 30th Infantry Regiment uses Maxxpros, not Cougars. " Which is good news for seekers of the Truth but not for Navistar shares.

Full taxonomy of all the US MRAP vehicles here, with details of vehicle, manufacturer, orders placed and pictures.

Claims US troops / airstikes in Ghazni kill 9 and wound 4 Afghan police and civilians

Aircraft supporting an operation by American forces in Ghazni , 45 miles SW of Kabul fired on vehicles - unfortunately one was a police vehicle, rushing to investigate an explosion.

This was caused by troops searching houses at 3.30 am local time, for a reported Taliban insurgent. When Afghan District police officers rushed to the scene, a firefight resulted and left 9 Afghan police officers (including District police chief Kamyab ) and a civilian dead and four other police officers and a woman had been wounded according to Habib-u Rahman, deputy chief of the Ghazni provincial council. Reuters report that Dr Ismail Ibrahimzai, the head of the local public health department confirmed these figures.

Protests erupted later with hundreds of Afghan citizens , chanting anti-American slogans, and protesting about the the killings in Ghazni city.

Readers will recall 19 Korean Christian missionaries were kidnapped near Ghazni and negotiations on their release were held in Ghazni with Taliban representatives. They were eventually released on a stretch of desert road eight kilometres south of the city of Ghazni. - one report by AP of the swap of the first 2 Korean women said "Wearing head scarves, khaki pants and traditional Afghan knee-length shirts, the women were driven to the site by an Afghan elder, Haji Zahir, who also got into one of the Red Cross vehicles with the freed hostages. (see pic)

Oddly the NYT report of the US / Afghan firefight says "Hajji Zaher, an elder in Ghazni town, gave this account: “At 3 a.m., when the Americans were searching the houses and when they blew up the gates, the police rushed to the area thinking that they were Taliban. And at the same time the Americans thought that the police were Taliban and there was a firefight.”

Maj. Chris Belcher, the spokesman for the United States military at Bagram Air Base said (NYT)United States forces were conducting a night raid on the compound of a man suspected of being an insurgent and of organizing suicide bombings.

He suggested that those killed were insurgents and said that he had no information on whether they were members of the national police. “I know there were some deaths, but I don’t have a number,” he said.

AP report that Maj. Chris Belcher,Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman said that 4 police officers were wounded by insurgents and that the coalition was looking into the reports of the police deaths. A Defenselink article quotes him ; "Coalition forces searching several compounds in Ghazni district for a Taliban commander associated with suicide bombings were met with small-arms fire. They returned fire, using a combination of small-arms and aerial-delivered conventional munitions, killing several insurgents.The coalition forces found and detained nine individuals when they continued their search of the area."See also Combine Joint Task Force 82 Press ReleaseWho also have a fascinating article "Reducing collateral damage through better accuracy " about the introduction of The M777A2 155 mm Howitzer with a three man crew , which can fire one round every 10 seconds, maintaining a sustained rate of six rounds per minute, out to a range of 30 kilometers. The weapon systems provides both an extended range and the ability to fire Excalibur (XM982) rounds, new precision guided munitions. The XM982 precision guided extended range artillery projectile is the Army's premier satellite guided fire and forget smart munition. Because of its accuracy and increased effectiveness, the Excalibur XM982 requires fewer rounds to destroy a target, which will also effectively decrease collateral damage.

The International Herald Tribune report states ;

The bodies of the policemen, some showing bullet wounds, were taken to Ghazni's hospital. A video shot by AP Television News showed a bullet-riddled police vehicle close to the area where American troops conducted the operation. The metal gates of compounds raided were damaged, and mud walls on nearby houses had bullet holes in them.

Faced with troop shortages, U.S. and NATO-led troops rely heavily on the use of airpower in their fight against the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan. Such tactics have caused many civilian casualties in past years, and at times caused friction with President Hamid Karzai, who has urged caution and coordination with Afghan authorities.

Elsewhere AP report a NATO soldier was killed and two others wounded in a roadside bomb blast. Another Canadian soldier was killed and two others were injured in an improvised mine explosion near Kandahar.

Boeing 777-236, G-YMMM AAIB Initial Report Update published

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have updated their report on Boeing 777-236, G-YMMM which crashed at Heathow with an " Initial Report Update".

They report that based on data from the flight recorders there was "adequate" fuel on board and that , " whilst the aircraft was stabilised on an ILS approach with the autopilot engaged, the autothrust system commanded an increase in thrust from both engines. The engines (Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines) both initially responded but after about 3 seconds the thrust of the right engine reduced. Some eight seconds later the thrust reduced on the left engine to a similar level. The engines did not shut down and both engines continued to produce thrust at an engine speed above flight idle, but less than the commanded thrust."

They also report that ,"the autothrottle and engine control commands were performing as expected prior to, and after, the reduction in thrust."

Consequently they are undertaking , "a detailed analysis and examination of the complete fuel flow path from the aircraft tanks to the engine fuel nozzles" with Boeing, Rolls Royce and British Airways staff.

The accident has resulted in a curious story reported in the Sun of a Susan Archibald calling BA lost luggage ten weeks ago and being put through to a 777 pilot about to take off from Heathrow for Los Angeles.

Avandia® gets new labelling in Europe warning of increased heart problems for users

Following an evaluation of the thiazolidinedione class by the European Medicines Agency, GlaxoSmithKline has (GSK) announced (Press release) that it will revise the EU label for its type 2 diabetes drug, Avandia a common and popular alternative for patients who cannot take metformin. This will state that available data suggest that the compound may be associated with an increased risk of myocardial ischaemic events.

GSK specified that the labelling changes will be made to all products containing the main ingredient in Avandia® (rosiglitazone maleate) and Avandamet ® (rosiglitazone maleate and metformin hydrochloride) and Avaglim ® (rosiglitazone maleate and glimepiride).

The labelling will be modified to specify that the drug is contraindicated in patients with acute coronary syndrome, and that use of Avandia is not recommended for patients with ischaemic heart disease or peripheral arterial disease.

GSK however note that the increased myocardial ischaemic risk “was not confirmed or excluded in three long-term clinical trials and the data in their entirety on myocardial ischaemia are inconclusive.”

The EMEA has previously concluded that the benefits of rosiglitazone continue to outweigh its risks. The revisions to the rosiglitazone label resulting from this review will provide some additional guidance to physicians prescribing rosiglitazone,” said Dr Alastair Benbow, Vice President and European Medical Director, GSK.

Labelling requirements were updated by the FDA in the US over cardiovascular concerns on November 14th 2007 "FDA Adds Boxed Warning for Heart-related Risks to Anti-Diabetes Drug Avandia " , so this brings the EU label in line with the US product labelling.

This need for re-labelling follows a "meta-analysis" published by Dr. Steven Nissen, chief cardiologist for the Cleveland Clinic, in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2007 which detailed a major study showing increased risks of heart attacks, especially amongst Diabetes Type II patients without other signs or indicators of heart problems. Previous post here

Thursday, January 24, 2008

75th Anniversary of Prohibition to be celebrated in Cincinnati

In 1932, the Democratic Party's platform included a plank for the repeal of Prohibition, and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt ran for President of the United States promising repeal of federal laws of Prohibition ushered in by the hated 1919 Volstead Act. By then, an estimated 75% of American voters, and an estimated forty-six states, favored repeal.(See ***Carroll v US Govt)

On 20 February 1933, Congress adopted, by more than the required two‐thirds, an amendment resolution repealing Amendment XVIII and it officially ended at midnight April 6, 1933 . In 1933, the state conventions ratified the XXI Amendment, which repealed Amendment XVIII (The only constitutional amendment ratified by the electorate rather than legislators) and prohibited only the violations of laws that individual states had in regard to "intoxicating liquors". Federal Prohibitionary laws were then repealed.

It took until 1966, for all States to fully repealed their state-level Prohibition laws, the last was Mississippi ... today there are about 18 million Americans living in the hundreds of counties across the United States that maintain Prohibition.

Cincinnati's Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. has therefore decided to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 with a strong dark lager, that they are christening Moerlein Emancipator Doppelbock

Hardman noted that Prohibition wiped out scores of beer-related businesses in Over-the-Rhine, a district situated between Downtown and Clifton Heights. At the time this was a thriving commercial and residential district packed with German immigrants. prohibition helped trigger the neighborhood's long decline ...only recently being reversed.

The Emancipator label (no pic available yet) by Cincinnati artist Jim Effler features a newspaper headline heralding Prohibition's end, incorporated into a celebratory Over-the-Rhine street scene with a Moerlein beer wagon pulled by two goats. The goats are a tip to the upcoming bock beer season and the area's annual Bockfest carnival in early March.

Moerlien' have re-vamped their previous Doppelbock seasonal beer, with a blend of six malts and a slightly lower alcohol content, down from 7.9 percent 7 percent (!!!!). CEO Greg Hardman said he's also hoping to bring back Hudy Bock for Bockfest again this year, although a severe global hops shortage is complicating the task.

Lord Patel has been invited by Greg to the first tapping of Moerlein Emancipator which will be staged at the Pavilion in Mount Adams on Jan. 31. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit, community volunteer group Give Back Cincinnati.
To enter the brewers website you need to be over 21 and have to enter your DOB to prove that you are.

Bill Covaleski Brewmeister & President of Victory Brewery Downingtown, PA founded 1996 , tells us that they are also celebrating (as they do every year) with their Throwback Lager (a disappointing 5.4%) on April 6th - outlets will toast Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at 9.00 pm. They have some smart celebratory screen savers to down load as well, and T shirts - see pic.

***Carroll v US Gov. is in modern terms an in terestig by-product as the Supreme Court (267 U.S. 132 (1925), argued 4 Dec. 1923, rescheduled 28 Jan. 1924, reargued 14 Mar. 1924, decided 2 Mar. 1925 by vote of 6 to 2) allowed a search of a motor vehicle without a warrant - which has resonances with Dubya's prediliction to listen in to phone calls, Internet buzz of US citizens without a warrant today.

Hain gets his collar felt and Gordy puts youthful and family face on his Cabinet

As a result of Peter Hain falling on his sword after being caught lying, and being fingered to the Metropolitan Police by the Electoral Commission , his job has gone to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport James Purnell (Stalybridge MP & Balliol and one time Chairman of the Labour Friends of Israel and at 37, is no longer the youngest member of the Cabinet and has taken over "tango" Hain's full time job.

Hain's part time job looking after the whingeing Welsh is now taken over by Paul Murphy, 60 (Oriel) currently the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee and despite his name is the MP for Welsh constituency Torfaen (with 64% of the vote in 2005) . An active Roman Catholic he was an effective Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 24 October 2002 to 5 May 2005 , a job he handed over to Peter Hain over after the 2005 election.

It was Murphy who told the House of Commons that, " the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland indicated that in his professional opinion responsibility for that robbery(Northern Bank heist of £25.6 MN (ish)) should be attributed to the Provisional IRA." which helped fund Gerry Adams' political gangstersand drug dealers.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham, 37 will take on the Culture, Media and Sports portfolio.

His job will be taken over by Yvette Cooper, 38 currently Housing Minister, where she will join the Cabinet, forming a family business unit, with her tubby hubby Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and possibly illegitimate son of Gordon Brown.

Dishy, pushy, hardc working Caroline Flint ,47 (Curiously spoken of as "bright new talent") MP for Don Valley since 1997 takes on the job of Housing Minister from Yvette Cooper and will be able to attend the Cabinet in this role (as did Mrs Balls).Took a BA (Hons) in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies from the University of East Anglia and has admitted smoking (and inhaling) dope when she was there.

Bringing this game of pass the post full circle as her first Parliamentary job was in 1999, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Peter Hain in his capacity as Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (Poor girl was then passed on as PPS to John "Knucklehead" Reid, the Glasgae gangsta's friend.

What goes around comes around.

Gordon Brown has circled the wagons and prudently taken the chance to re-inforce his Cabinet with loyal camp followers . The proceeds of assiduous "brown" nosing.

Now we wait for Mr Alexander and his sister Bendy Wendy and Harriett Harman to do the decent thing.

Peter Hain caught like Al Capone by fucking up his financial records - is bertie Ahern going down as well ?

The St Andrews Agreement ( Gaelic : Comhaontú Chill Rímhinn) was an agreement between the British and Irish Governments and the political parties in relation to the devolution of power to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Minister Peter Hain, 48 represented UK Government interests and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern, 47 those of the Irish Government.

Peter Hain resigned this afternoon as a member of the Cabinet and both his day jobs - Work and Pensions Secretary and Welsh Secretary, when his financial affairs had been examined and found wanting. His hasty resignation followed the Electoral Commission saying that it had decided to refer the late declaration of £103,000 of donations to his Deputy Leader of the Nu Party (5th out of 6 candidates - although this was before 6th and last candidate Hazel Blears had her Festive face lift).Labour .. in their words ."Following discussions with the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service, the Electoral Commission has now referred matters to the Metropolitan Police for them to consider whether an investigation should commence."

Therefore there are those in Dublin how long Bertie Ahern can manage to keep his job. A man with a chequered past - he claimed he studied at University College Dublin but they have no record of his attendance. He was however a Member of Dublin City Council 1977 - 1991 and Lord Mayor in 1986, his brother Maurice Ahern is also a Fianna Fáil member of Dublin City Council and brother Noelis the Fianna Fáil Dáil Deputy (MP) for Dublin North West since 1992 .

Bertie like his political pal Peter has money and tax problems as well, which relate to the The Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments, commonly known as the Mahon Tribunal in honour of its chairman, which was established by the Irish Government on November 4, 1997.

The origins of this lengthy and very revealing and very public long running saga of bribery and corruption relating to planning in and around Dublin goes back to July 1995, Michael Smith, a former chairman of An Taisce and barrister Colm Mac Eochaidh, a Fine Gael candidate in Dublin South East in the 2002 general election co-sponsored a £10,000 reward for information leading to convictions for planning corruption.

Briefly, by the end of October last year the Tribunal had cost €69.5 million and €34.5 Mn. was recovered by the Revenue Commissioners and the Criminal Assets Bureau, according to the Second Interim Report.

The work of the Tribunal led directly to the biggest tax settlement in the history of the State. In June 2006, the Bailey brothers and their company, Bovale Developments reached a settlement worth about €25 million with the Revenue Commissioners in respect of PAYE, PRSI,Corporation Tax and Income Tax in 2006.

In 2004, Bovale was the most profitable property company in the history of the State, recording a surplus of almost €70 million. The company is no longer limited.

Lifelong and active Fianna Fail supporters, Mick Bailey (51) and his younger brother Tom (45) paid themselves (and Tom's wife Caroline) an annual salary of €5.3m and appeared at many fundraising events and can always be seen in the party's VIP tent at the Galway races and take full page advertisements in Fianna Fail's The Nation magazine.

Consideration by the Tribunal of their affairs had been hampered because of a fire at the Bailey site at Mygan Park, Finglas, in July 1998 which destroyed accounts - and this on the day before they appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent their personal affairs being considered by the Tribunal. Quite unreasonably ene of the witnesses, described the brothers as "the Mothers of Invention" to their brief and very fat cat Colm Allen.

Bertie Ahern appeared as a witness just before Christmas on 20/21st 2007. It was an appearance that provided a glimpse on a year in the life of Bertie Ahern’s quixotic personal finances. From December 1993 to December 1994, the Minister for Finance (as he then was) received for his personal use from various “friends” IR£39,000 and £38,000stg - not far off €250,000 in today’s money.

Famously he said on the first day ...“I'm not answering what I got for my Holy Communion money, my Confirmation money, what I got for my birthday, what I got for anything else, I'm not into that.

It became clear later , as the Tribunal's silver haired brief , Des O’Neill patiently and painstakingly went through the entire chronology of Mr Ahern’s dealings with the Tribunal that there was an awful lot else that he was not answering for, and that he did not answer for a long long time.

Bertie's principal problem ( and nemesis) is a Sligo-born property developer Tom Gilmartin who has previously told the Tribunal (and anyone who would listen) that property magnate and developer Owen O'Callaghan had told him that he (O'Callaghan) had given Bertie Ahern IR£80,000 that sparked off the tribunal's investigations into the Taoiseach's finances.

Gilmartin alleged that O'Callaghan told him (Gilmartin) that money was paid to Bertie Ahern for his help with the planning for the development that became the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.

Bertie Ahern and Owen O'Callaghan have both vehemently denied Gilmartin's allegations.

Well known broadcaster Eamon Dunphy was due to give evidence to the Tribunal tommorrow - In a private interview with the tribunal's lawyers, he is said to have told them that the developer Owen O'Callaghan told him (Dunphy) that he (O'Callaghan) had given money to Bertie Ahern.

In his interview a year ago, Dunphy is understood to have said that Cork-based O'Callaghan told him: "Mr Ahern had been bought and had taken money in the early 1990s."

This has always been denied by O'Callaghan.

Curiously Dunphy will not be appearing .... because the Tribunal cannot ...er .... find a lawyer to ...er...cross examine him.

Now as Accountancy Age report today battling Bertie refuses to resign over the mysteries of his personal finances, maintaining he has ‘nothing outstanding’ with the Irish Revenue office, following repeated calls from Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader (:‘This is much too serious a matter, when the Taoiseach of our country is unable to produce a tax clearance certificate and be compliant with the Revenue Commissioners.’) and Eamon Gilmore, the Labour leader to quit. Sinn Fein and their leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin have remained totally silent on the matter... there is, after all, honour amongst thieves.

In Dublin, Ahern told the press if he would quit, he said: ‘Never. I just got a mandate a few months ago so I have to see that out. Maybe 2012.’

Fine Gael this week formally filed a complaint against Ahern with Standards in Public Office (Sipo), claiming he is not tax compliant. The prime minister said he would produce a certificate of application, which was the ‘same in tax law’ as a tax clearance certificate ... er..it isn't.

Will Bertie follow Hain ...and Al Capone ... finally caught out by not keeping his accounts in order ?

It produces a pleasing symmetry that the two main players in the St Andrews Agreement will lose office for lying about their finances , watched by Gerry Adams (Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh) , 59 whose private army had lifted £25.6 Mn. from the Northern Bank and Paisley's family were so keen (letter to the MLA from direct rule Minister , Welsh Nu-Labour MP David Hanson dated October 13, 2006 - the final day of the St Andrews talks, has been published under a Freedom of Information request by ex-DUP MEP Jim Allister - who had quit the DUP over the power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein) to get approval of six matters to enrich their property developer friends as the correspondence disclosed last week detailed. (Friday, January 18, 2008 The Paisley Dynasty and the murky deals that sealed the St Andrews NI agreement - orchestrated by Tony Blair )

Commons Metronet Fiasco report due as PFI funding is threatened as Monoline Insurers of PFI Bonds struggle for credibility and new credit lines

The House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee chaired by vinegar faced Gwyneth Dunwoody (see pic - details below) publishes their report into the London Underground and its Public-Private Partnership Agreements tommorow.

High powered, highly paid consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) (£21.4 Mn.as lead Financial advisors and with a large PFI practice of 132 projects across the UK, ) Ernst & Young (£1 Mn.) , and KPMG (£2.4 Mn. ) were paid over £25m for advising on this wonderful deal which has collapsed leaving the tax / London rate payer with an embarassingly large bill to pay to simply keep the Underground working.

That of course was only a small part of the total fees of £445 Mn in fees the The Public Accounts Committee found had been paid to put the 30 year project together : more than the equity put in by Metronet's shareholders -"world-class companies"; Thames Water, Balfour Beatty, French electricity supplier EDF (employees of Pm's bro.), Canadian train maker Bombardier and engineers WS Atkins.

Metronet had responsibility for renewing nine of the twelve lines on the entire London Underground network and were projected to spend £17 billion during its 30-year contract - of which £7 Bn. would be spenty in the first 7.5 years.

Ernst & Young got two bites at the cherry because they are now handling the administration which Alan Bloom of E&Y admitted to the Committee in November was costing £13m a day to run - not including work that Metronet is still contracted to carry out - meaning more costs for prospective new owners Transport for London - who had guaranteed 95% of the £2bn debt the five-member Metronet consortium took out which carry commercial interest rates and can be called in by the banks in 6 months. Loans from the European Investment Bank that are paying for infrastructure investment in the London Underground are insured with Monoline insurer Ambac (see below).

Bloom ( who guided Railtrack back into public hands) also refused to disclose information relating to the value that had been put on the ailing company by advisers Rothschild. 'It's very confidential, he said.

Train Naming ceremony: (From left) MD of London Underground Tim O'Toole, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, John Smith and Metronet Chief Executive Andrew Lezala with Gwyneth Dunwwody MP at the naming of Metronet's Class 66 engineering locomotives

Gwyneth Dunwoody, named by Gwyneth Dunwoody, Chair of the Parliamentary Transport Committee.
METRO-LAND, named by Tim O'Toole
Metronet Pathfinder, named by Sam Ellis, a 27-year-old project engineer who entered Metronet through its graduate scheme
Harry Beck, named by John Smith, MD of GB Railfreight honouring the designer of the modern tube map.
Sir Edward Watkin, chosen by David Jukes, winner of a competition run by RAIL magazine. Sir Edward was the pioneering chairman of the Metropolitan Railway

PS : Historically, funding for PFI came from bank debt, but bonds have proved an attractive form of long term financing. Bonds require an international rating. To secure a good rating and lower the cost of funding, companies buy insurance for their bond issues from Monolines. Monoline insurers in the UK are US owned AMBAC UK and MBIA - for example a £30m bond issue by the Royal Bank of Canada Financial Group, for the Greenwich University PFI in 2004 .

They were at it again jut before Christmas ... NEW YORK, December 20, 2007-- Ambac Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: ABK) (Ambac) announced today that Ambac Assurance UK Limited recently provided a triple-A credit enhancement for the financing (£146.4 million) of new and updated roads in Northern Ireland. This financing was completed as part of the Government's ongoing Private Finance Initiative (PFI) investment in the provision (of) transport services.

NEW YORK, December 6, 2007-- Ambac Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: ABK) (Ambac) said today that Ambac Assurance UK Limited recently provided a triple-A credit enhancement for a major U.K. hospital financing (£192.65 million ) completed as part of the British Government's ongoing Private Finance Initiative (PFI) investment in the provision of health care services. Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust (“the Trust”) procured the scheme for a new 5-storey hospital and a multi-storey car park. The hospital is situated approximately 40 miles to the north east of London.

NEW YORK, November 26, 2007-- Ambac Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: ABK) (Ambac) said today that Ambac Assurance UK Limited recently provided triple-A credit enhancement to two major U.K. hospital financings completed as part of the British government's ongoing Private Finance Initiative ("PFI") investment in the provision of health care services.

The two bond issues by Consort Healthcare in September 2007 were for GBP 122 million (Salford Hospital) and GBP 78m (Tameside Hospital).

"These monoline insurers, the biggest of which are MBIA and Ambac, are hanging on to their crucial triple-A credit ratings by a thread. " Financial Times today

"US insurance bonds meltdown bad news for UK" James Doran in New York, Evening Standard today.

"Massachussets Regulator Subpoenas Bond Insurers MBIA, Ambac" Reuters Today

Quince - the Golden fruit of winter

Quinces are a curious group of low growing, prickly ansd straggly shrubs in the Rose family, Chaenomeles / Cydonia , which produce a hard green apple like fruit, turning golden in the Autumn / Winter.The Portuguese name "marmelo" gives it name to the orange confection of marmalade, popular now as the bitter Seville oranges fill the shops.

The highly perfumed fruit, (said to be eaten by the bride before she and the bridgeroom enter the bedroom on the wedding night) is added to the frozen stores of apple sauce by Lord Patel to give winter apple pies a sharp tarty bite. They also perfume a room.

Cultivation probably started 2,000 years before Christ and was spread by the ancients as the Golden Apple - which led of course to Adam's fall - and also appears as the legendary golden apple of Hesperides that Paris gave to Aphrodite and started a war. The Italian name of pomme d'oro which by an accident of transatlantic history has been transferred to the red Tomato.

In the Middle East it finds it's way into many recipes for fruity pastes to brighten meat pies and dishes - sfarjel in the Lebanon, mixed with pomegranite in Syria to produce a ubiquitous dibs rouman and in Iran as beh. Many Middle East herbalists recommend a tea of the bright luscious shiny seeds for chest complaints.

In Spain, they make a paste to accompany cheese called carne de membrillo (also dulce de membrillo) which takes up the dark reddish tinge of the cooked quince ( and which the Portuguese confusingly call marmelada and the Italian version is called cotognate) and long pre-dates (it is said) the marmalade beloved by British breakfasters on the Costas.

To make this tasty confiture is very complicated.....

1. Peel and de pip the fruit, boil for some 40 minutes until soft.
2. Mash / blitz in blender and add equal weight of sugar, then simmer with a little water (rose or orange water for foodies).
3. Turn out the sticky red paste and let it set on greaeproof paper on a tray.
4. Store when cool in jar / Tupperware.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Red Ken has trouble with wind : It is someone else's fault- the race is not to the Swift Mk. I

Peter Hulme Cross: (One London Party member of the London Assembly Environment Committee) Please can the Mayor update me on progress with the faulty wind turbines removed from the LDA head office roof?

Ken Livingstone: The wind turbines were removed due to a product recall (Swift turbines manufactured by Renewable Devices in stalled Nov. 2006 and recalled after 6 weeks). The LDA is pursuing the installation of replacement wind turbines following the re-engineering of the software that controls the wind turbines as soon as possible.

At the time the Great and Noble Leader said: "This innovative renewable energy scheme will provide clean, green electricity for the new headquarters of the London Development Agency and the London Climate Change Agency. It demonstrates my commitment for the Greater London Authority organisations to lead the way in taking measures to tackle climate change through reducing carbon emissions.

"The London Climate Change Agency has provided the expertise for this project which will act as a living example of how the Agency can help other organisations to become more sustainable in their use of energy."

Barry Marsh, Director of Solar Technologies, the contractor installing the project at Palestra, said: "This is a renewable energy first and complements our other renewable energy projects"

The installation of the wind turbines on Palestra was supported by an Energy Saving Trust grant of £155,276 under the DTI Major Photovoltaic Demonstration Programme. The total cost was £436,000 and the project comprised an 84kW renewable energy system - a combination of 63kWp of photovoltaic panels on the roof and 21kW of fourteen building-integrated wind turbines also on the roof. The combined renewable energy system was designed to generate 3,397,000kWh of renewable electricity . The total amount of electricity produced since the solar panels were installed and connected to the distribution network in October 2006 to September 2007 is 45,264kWh (11 months operation) and was claimed to exceed the predicted output of the solar panels. The economic value of this electricity was said by the LDA to be £3,560 in its first year of operation. Also see here see here

On the 8th January the LDA announced that they will trial the new Swift II wind turbine - which has been developed by Renewable Devices using re-engineered software and different construction to the original Swift Turbines - and one other turbine. Full installation will be subject to the results of the trial installation and is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2008.

Nothing in the LDA is ever straightforward or simple and "Scottish and Southern Energy have refused to re-install the wind turbines on behalf of Solar Technologies Ltd. Therefore the London Climate Change Agency ( LCCA ) has decided to re-install the new turbines outside of the Solar Technologies Ltd original contract."

Sounds a splendid way of ;
a) Spending the tax payers money
b) Demonstrating how uneconomic, such small scale "renewable energy" schemes are (Capital Payback 100 years ?).

The charming, polite, helpful Rachel Clark at the LDA Media Team on 020 7593 8616 or email rachelclark@lda.gov.uk. will answer ay questions you might have.

(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish