"“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, February 02, 2008

Let slip the Dogs of War - dishing the dirt on Billary


The Right wing attack dogs are out now. The NYT fingered slick Willy on Friday , "After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton " . Tiny but perfectly formed and evidently well connected Frank Giustra (he plays the trumpet ) made a $31.3 million donation in early 2006 to Bill Clinton's Library, that had remained a secret until he acknowledged it last month.He also publicly pledged to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million recently.

The connection ? Well slick Willy was holding Frank's hand on Sept. 6, 2005, when they both visited Nursultan A. Nazarbayev in Almaty, Kazakhstan and they flew out on Frank's beautiful MD-87 jet with preliminary agreements his company, UrAsia Energy Ltd.
signed with Moukhtar Dzhakishev President of Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom giving it the right to buy into three massive uranium mining projects at Akdala, Inkai and Kharasan. (all scheduled to be in production Q1 2008)

The transaction was finalized in November, after UrAsia raised the money through the largest initial public offering in the history of Canada’s Venture Exchange. (Note the involvement of Dr. Sally Eyre in UrAsia's affairs)

On 31st January 2007, a Canadian mining company called Uranium One one of the world’s largest uranium companies ranked by market capitalization agreed to pay C$3.1 billion to acquire UrAsia. Mr. Giustra, a director and major shareholder in UrAsia, would be paid C$7.05 per share for a company that just two years earlier was trading at C10 cents per share.

The Wall Street Journal (now oned by Rupert Murdoch) on January 22nd had the intriguing headline, "Bill Clinton May Get Payout of $20 Million". This involved Yucaipa Cos.an investment firm run by his billionaire friend Ron Burkle.

Slick Willy had signed on as a senior adviser to closely held Yucaipa - the financial side of the arrangement was Ron agreed to give Billy boy a share of the profits from two Yucaipa domestic investment funds if their returns reached a certain threshold. This cosy arrangement ended in early 2007, five years after it began. But Mr. Clinton still hasn't settled the issue of his payout.

In the complicated world of these matters Billy Boy is also a partner in Yucaipa Global Partnership Fund LP and had invested some of his own dosh in the fund. He also had an interest as one of three owners of the global fund's general partner (the folks who actually run the fund) . The others are Ron, who is the managing member ( he does the heavy lifting) , and an entity (Dubai Investment Group (YGP) Ltd.,) connected to the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

The WSJ says , with its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek, "Mr. Clinton's duties and activities as a Yucaipa adviser have never been completely clear to outsiders."

Ron has contributed large amounts of cash to the Clintons’ campaigns, their legal defense fund, and to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The question is, and has always been, what will Ron Burkle get in return for his generosity to the Clintons? Especially if Hillary wins the presidency.


Pic of Slick Willy with his tiny pal Mr Giusta

Vote for McCain - Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb ...Iran

Sarkozy weds - third time lucky ?

''The bride wore white; she was ravishing, as usual,'' Francois Lebel, mayor of Paris' 8th arrondissement, told Europe-1 radio after marrying tiny President Sarkozy 53, and Carla Bruni 40, chanteuse, part time model and starfucker at the Elysee Palace today.

Which is a change because most of the pics we have seen of her she has very few clothes on.

The pyramids in this happy pic of the happy couple in Egypt may represent some connection with either the jungfrau, or have a connection with the mystical ANNUIT COEPTIS NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM ...

Iran - Did Zalmay Khalilzad have a chat with Manouchehr Mottaki when they were on the piste ?

As land based Internet and telephony circuits with Iran remain disrupted due to 3 major cable cuts / breaks off Alexandria and in the Persian Gulf between Muscat and Iran it is worth recalling what happened in sunny Davos last week. (Satellite circuits remain open)

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad 57 is a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq.

He popped up on a panel discusion at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week with the Iranian minister, Manouchehr Mottaki - about which the State Department was apparently unaware until a You Tube video of the two diplomats sitting together was circulated Tuesday on the Internet.

The full panel meeting lasted 1.5 hours was discussing "How should the international community engage Iran in the context of energy security, nuclear non-proliferation and regional stability" and consisted of Khalid Abdulla-Janahi, Chairman of the Executive Committee, Shamil Bank of Bahrain, Switzerland; Vice-Chairman, Arab Business Council
Manouchehr Mottaki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran (see pic)
Seyed Mojtaba Samare Hashemi Shajareh, First Adviser to the President, Presidency of Iran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate, Carnegie Moscow Center, Russian Federation
Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (he speaks in Video from 28 mins on "one of the most important issues facing the world" - "Iran is seeking regional pre-eminence" ) and was moderated by Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, Belgium (who pointed out that Khalilzad's main advantage at the UN was that his name wasn't John Bolton)

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack wouldn't comment on a NYT report that steam was rising from the White House over the meeting - but not it might be noticed from Condi.

He did suggest the ambassador's interaction with Mottaki went beyond standing policy under which U.S. diplomats are told to "be polite but move on" if they encounter Iranian officials in social situations.

McCormack insisted that Afghan born (born Mazar-i-Sharif), US educated Khalilzad had no policy discussion with Mottaki, and that if Iran does want to engage on substance, the door is open provided it meets international demands to halt uranium enrichment. Khalilzad's spokesman, Richard Grenell, was busy emphasising to the press that is quick to point out that Khalilzad and fellow Mulsim, Mottaki didn't shake hands or meet separately.

U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has had meetings with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad but they have been limited to Iraqi security issues (it says here) . The Swiss government also acts as an intermediary (dead letter box) for other diplomatic exchanges between the two countries, which have not had formal relations since 1980.

Khalilzad (see pic) will be leading U.S. contacts in the Security Council in a few days on a new (and so far very, very, secret) sanctions resolution against Iran, the third such measure since late 2006, because of its nuclear program.

Secretary Rice and other big-power foreign ministers approved the draft resolution last week in Berlin. It reportedly would ban trade with Iran in so-called "dual use" technology - having both military and civilian applications, and authorize inspections of air and sea cargo bound for Iran.

Lord Patel pointed to the boy David's enthusiasm for this mysterious and highly scret resolution last week on Wednesday David Miliband in ecstasy over secret UN resolution on Israel Iran

Hilaire Belloc once remarked when someone said Monto Carlo was a rich man's playgorund, that if there were rich men, it only seemed reasonable they should have a playground. Davos is evidently a place where some pretty rarified diplomatic wrangling is also going on.

The Iranian State news service is open on it' satellite circuits which doesn't seem to mention the broadband network problems. They have reported today (UPDATE 2/2/08 2.30 EST) Ali-Asghar Soltanieh Iran's representative on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)spoke at Geneva University last night and made the point that the IAEA was "the only legitimate international body" to examine technical and expert issues of the member states' nuclear programs.

He was anxious to point out that the Security Council should not interfere in the work of the IAEA including the Non-Proliferation Treaty and called for UN representaives from developing countries , "to vigilantly avoid any threats against the absolute rights envisaged in the international conventions." which some Western states misinterpreted some parts of those documents in their own favor.

UPDATE :
Reuters report that France's Ambassador to the United States, Pierre Vimont speaking at a conference on Iran hosted by the Middle East Institute, a Washington think-tank said,""This is not easy. We are still having some difficulties with some of the (U.N. Security Council) members but we are trying to reach an agreement on the new resolution," the article mentioned South Africa, Libya, Indonesia and Vietnam voiced discomfort over moving ahead fast on the resolution.

Evidently the US inspired sanctions are either not going to see the light of day or be watered down beyond recognition - although the boy David is happy to stand in line.

Microsoft v Google - the fight begins as MSN swallows Yahoo


Microsoft have offered US$ 31 a share for Yahoo , half and half, stock / cash.

At 31/12/08 Microsoft had US$21,076,000 cash at the bank so they can afford this US$44.6 Bn. deal , which is at a mind boggling premium of 62% of Yahoo's closing price on Thursday. ( MSN paid US$6 Bn. (Mkt Cap US2.4 Bn pre bid) last May for online advertising specialist aQuantive)

On Friday Yahoo closed out at US$28.38 up 48% which gave it a P/E of 60.38 and a Market cap of US$37.93 Bn.

Microsoft closed out at US$30.45 down 6.6% with a P/E of 17.32 and a Market cap of US$283 Bn.

So by spending all their cash pile, diluting their stock Microsoft can boost their current share of the search market to just over 30%.
Remember that MSN were late into the search market and they have doubled their share of the market since year end 2006.

There appears little synergy between Yahoo (who laid off 1,000 of its 14,300 workers this week) and MSN (79.000 employees) , this is a case where 2 + 2 does not necessarily = 4... and Google (7,000 employees) have an unstoppable, superb global model, constantly refined and improved which serachers choose because it produces the results they want.

Frankly the sages of Seattle have no choice, the market for bloated software is over, Vista has been a disaster.. they need to get a bigger share of the global search pie with it's attendant revenues and they need it fast.

Five years down the line this will be seen as a masterstroke. MSN will be a leaner, fitter machine... first thing they need to do is buy Blinkx.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Iranian web traffic now at zero.


UDATE 3/2/08 - It now appears that the test for Iran is a single server at Yerevan University which is down and so provides a wholly inaccurate view of the situation - apologies but we did say - " Accuracy ? Who knows".

Internet Traffic Report provides a real time view of traffic with current response times and packet losses - well every 5 minutes the reports are updated. Accuracy ? Who knows. FAQ's here


No traffic in or out of Iran. Maybe there is more to the 2 cables down , offshore Alexandria. (Still the same at 2/2/08 4.20 EST)

UPDATE : See Prison Planet : Middle East Internet Blackouts Spur Geopolitical Suspicions

BBC report that a 3rd cable the Falcon cable has been damaged . The first two reports of cable damage related to The first cable - the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) - was cut at 0800 on 30 January, the firm said.

A second cable thought to lie alongside it - SEA-ME-WE 4, or the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 cable - was also split.

Omar Sultan, chief executive of Dubai's ISP DU, told The Associated Press, following the most recent break. "The situation is critical for us in terms of congestion," .

They say that the only connection working Europe - India is the older Sea-M-We 3 system, according to Washington based research firm TeleGeography whose Daily Comms Update has no informtion about the breaks.

UPDATE Saturday 2/2/08 EST 7.15 Market watch - reports that "We had another cut today between Dubai and Muscat three hours back. The cable was about 80G capacity, it had telephone, Internet data, everything," one Flag official, who declined to be named, told Zawya Dow Jones. Internet traffic shows Iran is still showing zero traffic.

See also Inquiry Labs

See previous post about these disruptions. All very mysterious. No press / TV comment at all.

Gannett press sales, revenues, profits in Q4 2007 take a dive

Gannett Co. Inc.'s are the US's largest newspaper publisher and own 85 daily newspapers - including USA Today, 23 television stations and hundreds of nondaily publications.

Things look bad for the dead tree press based on their latest quarterly results ;

Q4 2007 revenue was US$1.9 billion, down 12% from US$2.2 billion in Q4 2006. Earnings were US$245 million, or US$1.06 per share (down 30%) compared with $354 million US$1.51 per share last year.

Newspaper advertising revenues dropped 12% US$1.2 Bn. and circulation fell 7% to US$313 Mn. Broadcast advertising fell 21.7 % to US$212 Mn.

In Q4 Gannett took a charge of US38 Mn. in severance expenses and facility consolidation costs - USA Today, gave the pink slip to 45 of its 500 newsroom staff on December 3rd.

For the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, Gannett earned US$1.06 Bn. down 9% from US$1.16 Bn in 2006. Annual revenue was US$7.4 billion, down from US$7.8 billion in 2006.

Sigbn of the Times ? The company two weeks ago created the position of chief digital officer, charged with expanding and enriching its global digital operations, as it looks to get more out of its digital operations amid waning print revenues.

Charge, Ad Slump Sink Gannett WSJ
Gannett Fourth-Quarter Profit Falls; Ad Revenue Drops Bloomberg

Gas up takes on a new meaning

One of our American staff sends this vulgar but amusing comment on having had to pay as much as US$3.20 for unleaded regular gas.

In the UK we are now paying US$8.40 for the equivalent of a US gallon. One Imperial gallon = US$ 9.70.

Of course on both sides of the Atlantic we are both paying much the same price for gas, we just pay approx 75% of the pump price in taxes.

162nd Fighter Wing's Alert Detachment protecting the Superbowl and the Homeland


Security for the National Football League's championship Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3 at the 73,719-seat University of Phoenix Stadium is a serious and demanding job. (UPDATE Little known - Tom Petty's "American Girl" is being used on the bilious Billary campaign trail and OAP John MC Cain has been using Tom's "I won't back down" ...BUT Tom has asked him to stop using it. 50 Big Clams says Tom's wig falls off during the half time gig.)

Especially to the Top Gun pilots assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing's Alert Detachment at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., who will be flying air patrols and air defense deterrence missions all day.

The F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly at 2,000 feet at about 8 a.m. Feb. 1 over the Phoenix Metropolitan area and Nogales at 8.00 am local time to "reassure the public of their safety".

The jets will make approaches at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Sky Harbor Airport, Goodyear, Glendale, Deer Valley and Scottsdale, and then press south near Nogales to demonstrate U.S. air defense capability near the border.

During the Super Bowl, an undisclosed number of F-16s will perform air patrols to enforce the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restriction over the area.

"We won't be as visible to people on the ground during the game on Sunday, but we'll be up there," Colonel Milham said.

It's good to see that Colonel Ronald K Lanbaum Guards the Guardians at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. On November 21st 2007 he issued an Emergency off limits order placing Club Envy, 6211 E.Speedway Boulevard, Tucson off limits - as " a danger to good order and dsicipline, health, safety and morale ".

Related to an altercation at the club on 3rd November between 3 soldiers and another man led to a drive-by shooting that killed one of the soldiers ( 25-year-old Spc. Robert A. Glenn, 69th Signal Company) and injured another.

Anyway on January 10th owner Larry Chanenson lost his liquor license for the club (the name had been changed to Club Z, allegedly to skirt round the military off limits order) which was suspended indefinitely by the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control.

So no more Envy and no more temptation either.

By the way, it's a slam dunk for the Patriots.... bad day to hi-jack planes and fly them into the White House as well.

Friday in Baghdad - Female bombers blown up over 70 killed hundreds injured

2 female suicidalist bombers exploded in Baghdad today , the first was in al-Ghazi market which has been attacked 5 times since June 2006 . The explosion killed at least 46 people and wounded 82 others. The popular market only opens on Fridays and is a popular spectacle where you buy animals ranging from guard dogs and monkeys to parrots, pigeons and tropical fish.

In a S. Baghdad market another female suicidalist exploded 20 minutes later and killed at least 27 people and wounded 67 others.

But Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military in Baghdad said the bombs were exploded remotely using mobile phones, which they had found.

The LA Times reports according to U.S. military statistics, since October, the use of suicide vests has doubled across the country as a response to increased vehicle checkpoints. At least 6 women are known to have blown themselves up since November, including the two today.

Yesterday , rockets slammed into a British base in southern Iraq, wounding at least two British soldiers and killing a number of Iraqi civilian workers outside the entry gates. In Baghdad, a parked car bomb killed at least three people and wounded civilians nearby.

Four other roadside bombings in Baghdad yesterday killed least seven people and wounded six others.

Al-Forat TV reports that an Iraqi television crew was on assignment to report on the second anniversary of the February 2006 bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samara, 95 kilometres north of Baghdad were hit by a roadside bomb. The cameraman Alaa Abdul-Karim al-Fartoosi and his driver were killed, female correspondent Fatima Al-Hassina and camera assistant Haidar Kadhem, traveling with them were wounded. Al-Forat is the mouthpiece of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), a Shiite political party.

It was on this same stretch of road near al-Balad that Atwar Bahjat of Al-Arabiya TV and her crew were kidnapped and murdered in 2006.

Elsewhere Egyptian news station Dajla TV crews were roughed up by police yesterday in Diyala province, northeast of the capital - cameraman Adnan Khader and reporter Sawssan Al-Dulaymi, were beaten and briefly detained by police officers in Baladruz, a town 30 km outside Baquba, for filming police trying to get fuel from a service station without waiting in line.

Iraqi government figures claimed to show that 466 Iraqi civilians had died violently in January, a reduction of 76% on the 1,971 killed in January 2007.

New York based media advocacy group, The Committee to Protect Journalists, lists at least 125 journalists and 49 media support staffers killed since the war began, with about 85 per cent of that number Iraqis.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, report at least 207 journalists and media workers killed in Iraq since the illegal U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

UPDATE : Saturday - we are now being told the 2 women were Down's syndrome - truth or further media / political demonisation ? Next stop babies used as bombs ?

The NYT has a grisly report ..." Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem al-Ezzi, a senior officer in the Ministry of Interior police commandos, said officials at the Ghazil market concluded after studying the bomber’s severed head that she had Down syndrome. But Iraqi officials have made similar claims in the past, and it was not immediately clear whether the bomber’s head could have been distorted by the blast."

Airbus A380 arrives in Heathrow in 46 days time.... the Boeing 787 will take a little longer


The first Airbus 380 0n commercial services arriving in London Heathrow at 1505 on March 18th will be the Singapore Airlines daily Changi / London service.

The huge plane is configured with 12 suites (32" LCD screen) , plus 60 business-class seats (15.4" LCD screen) and 399(10.6" LCD screen) in economy for a total of 471 passengers and everyone gets a USB port and power point.

Economy class seats because of the 1-2-1 configuration are all aisle seats, and are made by Weber of America who supplied foldable crew couches and escape systems for the Gemini and Apollo space missions in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jahongir Sidikov 's appeal against removal to Uzbekistan successful

Craig Murray writes that Jahongir Sidikov phoned ihim last week to say that the Home Office has just granted him asylum. He was due to be returned to Uzbekistan and certainty of torture and worse.

"Special thanks go to the MPs you activated. Several deserve thanks, but Bob Marshall Andrews deserves a really special mention." says Craig... and so say all of us.

Wonderful thing democracy, when it works.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cyprus - After refugees protest, UK forces destroy the houses provided by bulldozer

On Thursday 18th October there was a demonstration outside Xylotympou roundabout in the British sovereign base area of Dhekelia camp , in the Sovereign base Area of of Cyrpus ( this roundabout is a historically important forum for protest - the UK forces helpfully provide Portaloos) which Cypriot It was demonstratin by Iraqi asylum seekers who are resident on the base who are seeking access to the UK and UK passports. Police kept citizens away and Photography is illegal on the base area.

On October 22nd 2007 Lord Patel posted the story Cyprus - a leaky hole for refugees seeking asylum in the EU

Well things have moved on ...and they have left UK expatriates and many others feeling very concerned about the UK authority's actions.


At the Akrotiri UK Sovereign base Area in Cyprus seven Iraqi and one Iranian asylum seeker from the Dhekelia base (over 50 miles distant) , who had previously demonstrated as Lord Patel previously witnessed, scaled a 14 metre fire service training tower on the RAF Episkopi base waving a banner "We demand the British Passport" , they threatened to jump if they were not provided British passports. They are said to have into British sovereign territory on the island between 2001 and 2003 through the loosely patrolled border with the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.

The RAF / UK authorities would not force the men down, a spokesman said. "It would endanger them and us," he said. Reuters and AP reported that Britain's border and immigration service had assessed their applications as asylum seekers (and had visited tem from the UK on the island) and rejected them.

The 8 men have been living on weekly allowances of £40 each ( as they have no work permits) and housed for seven years at Richmond Village at Dhekelia SBA in neat well kept housing where some had "married" and had children.

A Captain Ulvert from the Akrotiri SBA said “Ultimately, they are the responsibility of the Republic of Cyprus. From the outset, the group was informed that they had to get asylum from Cyprus, but they said they do not trust the Republic.”.

Tjhe Cyprus Mail on 12th January said that the bases maintain the ( quasi-legal) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the SBA and the Republic of Cyprus clearly states that asylum seekers are the Republic’s responsibility. Based on this agreement, the SBA asked the group to leave Dhekelia by January 14.

While the seven men were still in the tower on the morning of 13th January, base authorities moved in to evict their families from their houses (owned by the UK taxpayer) in Dhekelia on the other side of the island where they had lived for the past seven years.

“They were evicted from their houses. They will be allowed to pick up their personal effects from SBA customs,” said Captain Ulvert.

“They won’t be allowed back into Richmond Village. They shouldn’t try to re-enter. It’s not in their interest. We know who they are. They know their best option is to appeal to the Republic of Cyprus”.

The operation, which started at 12pm , specifically targeted the families of the eight protesters, while the other Iraqi immigrants living at Dhekelia were allowed to remain in SBA housing.

A total of 40 Iraqi immigrants, including 22 children, in addition to the eight men on the roof, were housed at Dhekelia ( and had arrived separately ) but only the homes of the eight protesters in Richmond village were targeted.

The eviction operation started with the cutting of electricity and water supply. Then, windows and doors were removed from the houses, to render them totally uninhabitable.

A bulldozer was also on site and it is expected that the operation was evetually completed with the demolition of houses. “These houses are dangerous and not fit to be inhabited as they are made of asbestos. They must be demolished,” said Nikos Pandehis, Deputy Police Director at Dhekelia Pandehis, evidently showing extreme concern for their welfare but evidently little for the remaining refugees occupying the identical adjacent houses. (the Dhekelai base has vast quantities of empty service accomodation due to running down numbers of servicement on the base to some 300)

According to Nikos Pandehis, Deputy Police Director at Dhekelia SBA the SBA is not trying to punish the eight protesters by removing their Dhekelia housing, but is merely enforcing a previously scheduled eviction.

“The eviction took place because they are illegal immigrants. Temporary housing was provided to them at Richmond, but they have stayed here for seven years.” said Nikos Pandehis, Deputy Police Director at Dhekelia SBA

This treatment of these people is monstrous. The MoU - "Whereas on 20th February 2003 at Nicosia the Governments of the Republic of Cyprus (“the Republic”) and of the United Kingdom respectively signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the manner in which they would continue co-operating in relation to illegal migrants and asylum seekers on the Island of Cyprus:"
PART IVRIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF REFUGEES23. –

(1) Any person recognised as a refugee under this Ordinance shall -

(a) have the right –(i) to fair and proper treatment ...etc.,

The complete document can be read here.

These wretched, hopeless people, the flotsam of the wars the west wage , either directly or by proxy have been washed up , in admirable fashion we have helped them, fed, them housed ... and it appears, allowed them to undergo a form of marriage ( a status because their own is uncertain in law , itself uncertain) and have children. Now they have been , because they have sought after 7 long uncertain years some action (and it appears the costs are of concern) - they have literally been thrown out on the street. Many people from the UK are ashamed of their Government's actions - which have failed to be reported in the MSM.

Britain Reconsider

Unsurprisingly this protest has also coincided with a newly formed protest group calling itself ‘Britain Reconsider’ that protested outside Akrotiri bases on January 4th to demonstrate against the British Bases’ presence and British policy towards Cyprus. (reports from Cyprus Mail)

The group formed has been formed it appears by students who are calling on Cypriots from across the political spectrum to join to voice their exasperation with British policy on Cyprus and to note their disappointment with the Cypriot political leadership - especially since they have not reacted to Britain signing a strategic partnership with Turkey on October 23.

This group who claim not to be affiliated to any political group have a leader in Andreas Apostolou,wjo said on local radio proto that the initiative was launched by university, college and school students.

We are against the Bases. We find it unacceptable that in 2008, a European country has occupation forces on its territory, because that is what the Bases are, that belong to another European country.”

Around 120 people arrived outside RAF Akrotiri last January 9th at around 7.45pm, in 60-odd cars from Nicosia and Limassol. According to the same source, the group was well organised and answered to the commands of one man using a megaphone.

TV footage of the protest ( Satellite vans arrived prior to the protest) showed the group marching towards the gate waving Greek flags and carrying a large banner with the words ‘This land does not want you’. No Cyprus flags were seen.

The mob chanted various slogans, including ‘Fire to the bases’ and ‘No more excuses’.

As the crowd neared the gate, a number of hooded men appeared out of nowhere and began kicking members of the SBA police. The scenes turned ugly as violence between police and protestors ensued. The demonstrators threw sticks, large stones and flares while metal bars were also used against police.

The Cyprus Mail said on January 17th that 9 Syrians and 31 Iraqis were caught crossing from the north on Tuesday night and yesterday morning in a joint operation between Cyprus police and Sovereign Base Area (SBA) police.

Please distribute / post / e-mail this as far and as wide as you can.

Latakia / Famagusta ferry speeds asylum seekers to Cyprus (EU) via Turkish occupied Cyprus

Lord Patel posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 about the newly opened ferry services - Syria / Turkey / Cyprus in spat over new Famagusta - Latakia Ferry Services ....remarking "This does not have anything to do with Cyprus being used as an entrepot port for human trafficking, money laundering, drug shipments, not at all, nothing, nada."

Well consider this report from The Cyprus Mail on January 8th ;

THE CONTROVERSIAL ferry service between occupied Famagusta and Latakia in Syria has been temporarily suspended after Georgia struck the vessel from its flag, mainland Turkish Daily News (TDN) has reported.

“The matter is a technical one. Georgia is looking to clear its image that has been tarnished as many ships operate under the Georgian flag illegally, and the issue has no direct link with Greek Cypriot pressure on Georgia,” a Turkish diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told the TDN.

TDN said Georgia had bowed to pressure from the Greek Cypriot side in cancelling the registration despite pleas from Ankara not to do so.

The ferry service began in October to great fanfare but has not been doing well and recently cut back to one trip a week from two due to average passenger numbers of around 20 people per trip even though the vessel has the capacity for 297.

The other problem that arose was that the service turned into a convenient passageway – not for day trippers from Syria visiting the north, but for illegal immigrants wishing to gain entry to the Republic of Cyprus.

Even Turkish Cypriot police expressed their concern over the number of immigrants the ferry was bringing in, saying the vast majority of passengers had disappeared once they landed in the north.

During the same two-month period, November and December, Greek Cypriot police arrested dozens of people who had crossed into the south, most of whom had used the ferry to travel to Cyprus.

According to TDN, which sent one of its reporters on the journey, the ferry is “essentially a heavily subsidised ghost ship carrying a fraction of its capacity on each journey”. “Of those who do pay the $150 fare for the four-hour passage, most if not all aboard the Su are seeking to travel beyond disembarkation in northern Cyprus onto Greek Cyprus in the south, a member of the EU with all that membership implies for the refugees seeking a new life amid the allure of asylum,” TDN said.

“On the TDN's voyage aboard the Su, the ship left Latakia harbour with a record manifest. The 140 passengers comprised the largest number on any trip since the service began… at least two-thirds were Iraqi or Palestinian refugees who said they had forsaken hopes of a better life in Syria and were now moving on to try their chances further West.”

Since the route’s inception, Cyprus has been trying to persuade Syria to put a stop to the service and said recently they had been given assurances from Damascus that the ferry would be stopped."

In a reply to a question European MP Marios Matsakis regarding the ferry service between occupied Famagusta and Syria, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the use of ports in the north was not prohibited.“Based on the general principles of international law, entry and exit of vessels from sea ports in the northern part of Cyprus is not prohibited,” Rehn is quoted as saying in an announcement released by Matsakis.“The Commission is not in a position to intervene regarding the Syrian authorities,” the EU official said.

US$1 Bn. of contracts placed for bombs and missiles for Iraq / Afghanistan

More Bombs

The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has been awarded a US$116 million USAF contract for more than 4,000 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits.

These will be delivered as kits in 2009 and 2010. The Lot 12 production contract includes options for additional tail kits in successive Lots 13 -17, with deliveries will continue through to 2015 with a total contract value of US$590 Mn.

The Air Force and Navy have used JDAM weapons extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq. JDAM is a low-cost guidance kit that converts existing 500-, 1,000- and 2,000-pound unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided "smart" weapons. Boeing has produced more than 190,000 JDAM tail kits since 1998.

More Rockets and Rocket launchers

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has received a $512 million contract to provide the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) to the U.S. Army and to the U.S. Marine Corps.

To quote at length from today's Press release ;

"The HIMARS system brings much more mobile and lethal dimension to Soldiers and Marines," said Lt. Col. John Chicoli, U.S. Army Precision Guided Munitions and Rockets Product Manager. "HIMARS’ exceptional mobility and transportability, together with the newest evolution of the MLRS family of munitions, bring long-range, precision fires, all-weather, near-vertical impact to theater – greatly reducing collateral damage."

HIMARS can accommodate the entire family of MLRS munitions, including all variants of the Guided MLRS rocket and Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. Designed to enable troops to engage and defeat artillery, air defense concentrations, trucks, light armor and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations, HIMARS can move away from the area at high speed following missile launch, well before enemy forces are able to locate the launch site.

Because of its C-130 transportability, HIMARS can be deployed into areas previously inaccessible to heavier launchers and provides a force multiplier to the modular brigade. It also incorporates the self-loading, autonomous features that have made MLRS the premier rocket artillery system in the world.

HIMARS carries a single six-pack of MLRS rockets, or one ATACMS missile. Its fire control system, electronics and communications units are interchangeable with the existing MLRS M270A1 launcher, and the crew and training are the same. HIMARS units are currently deployed by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

In January 2005, the U.S. Army issued an Urgent Need Statement for acceleration of GMLRS Unitary deliveries in support of counter fire operations. Lockheed Martin delivered the first 72 GMLRS Unitary rockets in June 2005 satisfying the requirements of the Urgent Need Statement. The first 900+ rockets were delivered to the U.S. in 2005 and 2006.

"In theater, the GMLRS Unitary rocket has earned the nickname ‘the 70-kilometer Sniper Rifle,’ and continues to live up to that reputation mission after mission," said Lt. Col. Mark Pincoski, U.S. Army Product Manager, Precision Guided Missiles and Rockets. "Guided Unitary has reshaped the way indirect fires are applied throughout the battlefield thanks to its 24-hour, all-weather availability and pinpoint accuracy."

It was reported to be first used in Iraq by Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery Regiment who fired eight guided rockets in Tal Afar Sept. 9 and 10,2005 killing 48 insurgents, said Maj. Jeremy McGuire, deputy of operations, Force Field Artillery, Multi-National Corps

Battery A, 3-13 FAR fired another six rockets Sept. 11, 2005 as a part of Operation Sayaid (Hunter),destroying the Mish’al Bridge and preventing its use for insurgent forces in the Al Anbar province in Western Iraq, McGuire added.

Quite what artillery, air defense concentrations, trucks, light armor and personnel carriers, they expect to have to take on in Iraq is a little difficult to gauge .. but hey the guys out there are pretty excited as this video shows.

Fox Battery - Himars Shot in Iraq - The Marine Coprs 1st HIMARS launch ever in a Combat Zone ! Biggest guns in the Marine Corps! HIMARS Highly Mobile Artillery Rocket System Fox battery's first Rocket launch in Iraq.Camp al Asad July 31st 2007 (Up loaded Aug 4th 2007)




It is best left to Rick to explain ..."The successes of these systems speak for themselves," said Rick Edwards, vice president of Tactical Missiles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "HIMARS and GMLRS, coupled with a world-class logistics footprint, are becoming ubiquitous to the urban and counter insurgency fight whenever surgical precision is needed."

Mile End rail Crash - RAIB report published.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) have published their Derailment of a London Underground Central Line train near Mile End station 5th July 2007

At 09:01 hrs on 5 July 2007 westbound Central Line train 117 struck a roll of fire resistant material lying on the track in the tunnel between Mile End and Bethnal Green tube stations nd Network. In consequence three bogies were derailed. Thetrain operator applied the emergency brake and the train stopped after approximately148 m (468 ft).

Twenty passengers received medical treatment one had a broken ankle. Five hundred and twenty people were evacuated along the running tunnels to Mile End station from the incident train.

The cause of the accident was the dislodging of a fire resistant blanket which had migrated by wind onto the track - 7 similiar incidents of stored materials had ocurred in the 2006/7 where stored materials hit trains....storage bins, bin lids, plastic bucket and water butt and plywood sheets apparently dislodged by wind movements. These had been the cause of criticim by Bob Crowe and the RMT before the Mile End crash when reservations had been expressed about trackside management.

Tests by Metronet show that a force of a force of approximately 64 kg could be generated by a wind speed of 60 mph (96 km/h).(Mile End Station, Cross Passage Air Velocity. Issued by 4-Rail Services LtdReport No: 4RS-AJB-070449-R174401)

Paradoxically the fire blanket had been used (quite needlessly and not very safely ) to cover paper sacks of Tecroc fast setting cement, because, post King's Cross paper was seen as a fire hazard. The RAIB says , "The underlying cause was the lack of a comprehensive risk analysis being performed to support the use of fire-resistant blankets. "

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said at the time, that it was the fourth incident in 18 months in the same area where private contractors were operating.He said, “This union has raised concerns over the bad storage of equipment by contractors in this area and wrote to London Underground back in April demanding an investigation, yet nothing has been done.

Since the accident, Metronet has gone into administration and everyone involved is sat round scratching their heads wondering how they move forward on the massive £13 Bn. regeneration of the Underground's infrastructure... much of it vital for pnning for the 2012 Olympics ...and who is going to pay for it.

Bob Crowe responded to the House of Commons' Transport Select Committee's report last week on the Metronet collapse..." "Metronet's shareholders have stuck two fingers up at the people of London, and it is time to return the compliment. If any of them stands in the way of transferring the Metronet contracts back to the public sector they should be told to get on their bikes."

Northern Rock - Adam Price MP asks an intriguing question

Adam Price . Plaid Cymru (Carmarthen East & Dinefwr): will ask the Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon , how many Financial Services Authority officials involved in regulating Northern Rock during the last two years (a) have left the organisation, (b) have received bonuses and (c) are on permanent sick leave. (183895)

This cannot possibly he anything to do with Northern Rock's auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers and the (now old) revelation that PwC was paid £500,000 in 2006 for auditing and £700,000 in 'non-audit fees', specifically 'in respect of securitisation transactions and the raising of wholesale funding'.

Nor can it have any connection with Rosemary Radcliffe, who was a non-executive director at Northern Rock, (until the load shedding exercise on Friday 16th November 2007) and was also a former chief economist at PwC ( she was at PwC 82-2001) and of course would be aware that (now long gone) Andersen's advised Enron about their off balance sheet SIV's.

Rosemary joined the NR Board on Jan 1st 2005 and in that year was paid for her Non Exec duties £37,000 for that year, which increased handily in 2006 by 50% to ££54,000. (NB : Pic is 10 years old)

No doubt she would also be aware that when the Interim accounts were prepared and published and approved by the Directors, on July 26th that 73 % of the loans covering the NR balance sheet was due in 3 months.

Nor should we forget that the FSA announced on 03/09/2001, that Rosemary Radcliffe, former Chief Economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has today been appointed to be the independent Complaints Commissioner for the Financial Services - Authority an appointment made by the then Minister glamorous, intelligent fun loving Ruth Kelly. Rosemary left the post on 3rd September 2004 to be replaced by Sir Anthony Holland, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission (?) and a former Principal Ombudsman for the Personal Investment Authority.

At the time the shortly to retire FSA Chairman Callum McCarthy said: "I would like to express the thanks and appreciation of the FSA Board to Rosemary Radcliffe for her work to establish the Complaints Commissioner position as one of undoubted independence and integrity."

Clostridium difficile down 21% , MRSA down 14% in new Quarterly HPA figures for England

Health Protection Agency: Quarterly Clostridium difficile and MRSA figures

The HPA figures released today show the most remarkable reduction in Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) in England.

The latest Clostridum difficile figures, show that there was a 21% decrease to 10,734 cases in patients aged 65 years and over in England, for Q3 2007 (July – September) down from 13,699 in the previous Q2 2007(April – June) and 16% / 2,087 cases down on Q2 2006.

For atients 2 -62 , 2,496 cases were reported in the Q3 2007 (July – September) a 14% drop on the Q2 2007 (April – June).

The latest figures on MRSA bloodstream infections show that there were 1,072 cases reported in England during the July to September quarter of 2007. This represents an 18% decrease on the previous quarter (April to June) when 1,304 reports were received. (HPA Press Release)

Dr Georgia Duckworth , Head of the Agency's Healthcare-Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance Department, said that whilst these figures should be interpreted with care as the surveillance system is undergoing significant changes, “This continued decrease in MRSA bloodstream infections is a major achievement against the seemingly unstoppable rise that we saw throughout the 1990s. Latest figures show a continuing downward trend, despite a backdrop of increasing workloads and complex patient needs.”

Unsurprisingly those Trusts reporting reduction in infections were anxious to spread the good news in their local press ... It does demonstrate that effective action can (and is being taken) be taken.

Hospital 'winning superbug battle'

Royal Bolton Hospital managers welcomed Health Protection Agency (HPA) figures showing the number of Clostridium difficile cases fell by 21 % to 151 in the last 6 months compared with 190 in 2006.

Killer bug cases fell by 100 in last year

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced that HPA data reveal 413 cases of Clostridium difficile 2005, 434 in 2006 and have fallen to 333 in 2007.

WHIPPS CROSS: Hospital infections drop

The number people aged 65 or over catching Clostridium difficile had increased at Whipps year by year, reaching 403 in 2006 = this has fallen and from Jan-Sept in 2007 there were 168.

Drop in number of MRSA incidents

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust showed a 37% reduction in recorded cases of Clostridium difficile, from 474 in 2006, to 300 in 2007.Two specialist isolation wards - one at Lister and one at the QEII - were launched in the last 6 months to help combat MRSA and CD.

HOSPITAL REPORTS A DROP IN CASES OF C-DIFF BUG

Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital has seen a small decrease in recorded cases of Clostridium difficile from July to September 2007 for patients older than 65...and a small increase in patients aged two to 64 with the bug.

Indian / ME Internet connectivity hit by ship's anchors off Alexandria

FLAG Telecom, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Communications, (***) they own and operate the world’s largest private undersea cable system, > 65,000 route kilometers over 4 continents - and growing.

This network serves as a Global Service Delivery Platform connecting 37 key business markets in India, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the U.S. through an overlay low-latency, global, MPLS-based IP network.

Unfortunately ships off Alexandria, Egypt were asked by harbour authorities to anchor in a new location - 8.3km offshore and their anchors made multiple fractures in FLAG telecom's undersea cables connecting their European / Middle East / Gulf / Asian networks.. (UPDATE Friday : 2 cables were cut / damaged , The two cables, named FLAG Europe Asia and SEA-ME-WE 4, are in close proximity...apparently .. Debs at Moon of Alabama is suspicious )

The cables are easily accessible, but repairs will take 3 weeks and result is that internet conectivity from India and Middle East has been hit very badly.

The Hengchun earthquake (7.1 Richter) on December 26th 2006 off Taiwan (LP post) Initially Taiwan's largest telephone company, Chunghwa Telecom Co, said damage to an undersea cable had disrupted 98% of Taiwan's communications with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong.

This resulted in widespread disruption to FOREX trading / stock markets and problems for over 2 weeks in the far East whilst repairs were made.

The Wall Street Journal commented December 28: “Asia, which has seen hundreds of billions of dollars of direct investment in recent years, is home to some of the world’s most earthquake-prone areas, and there are fewer cables connecting Asian countries to each other and the rest of the world than linking the US and Europe, making networks there more vulnerable.”

Apparently there are six cable routes within one system across the Atlantic so that customer traffic can survive even multiple cuts which reduces the chances of an outage dramatically.

The Southern Cross high-speed cable loop,that connects Australia and New Zealand to the U.S. has 2 strands of the loop both run through Hawaii through different islands , which is a seismically active area.

**** Reliance Communications is controlled by 49 year old Anil Ambani , who has 1.35 Bn shares = 66.75% of the company.

Between 1999 to 2002 Reliance Infocomm built the data comms backbone for India — 60,000 kilometres of fibre optics, connecting the whole country. This network was commissioned on December 28, 2002, the 70th birth-anniversary of Dhirubhai Ambani, ( he died one year earlier ) the company's founder and father of the current chairman.

By buying Yipes Enterprise Services for a US$ 300 MN cash in June 2007 the company entered the US telecoms market.

Anils's brother Mukesh runs Reliance Industries and Reliance Petroleum . According to Forbes Rich list ,Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani have fortunes worth $ 20.1 billion and $ 18.2 billion, respectively maling them the 6th and 7th richest people inthe world - said to be equivalent to 5% of India's GDP.

SEA - WE - ME 4 cable route.

Keep your eye on Moon of Alabama for more.

US launches 2 pronged diplomatic assault on Central Asian republics - Afghanistan poppies and pipelines

Adm. William Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), has been dashing about the Central European Republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and also Pakistan. On the 26th Jan he met Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in Ashkhabad. It was no coincidence that he had been preceded by Senator Richard Lugar, who also visited Ashkhabad where he tells us that pipelines were high on the agenda. He also made stops in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and finally - on his way home - Ukraine.

In Tashkent, Fallon met President Karimov, fresh from his unexpected success in the December presidential elections (a third term - despite a constitution limiting presidents to two terms in office) as well as the Security Council secretary, defense and foreign ministers and the commander of the border troops and is said to have focussed his meetings on the problems the US have in Afghanistan - although the meetings were wrapped in secrecy.

There has been an apparent change in the official Tashkent stance which has been reciprocated by EU Special Representative for Central Asia Pierre Morel announcing that the EU considers Uzbekistan a reliable partner and wants to promote cooperation with it...on Jan. 17, just one day after Karimov's inauguration.

Brussels partially alleviated the sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan after the Andijan events and to reciprocate , Uzbekistan pardoned several human-rights champions, and has abolished capital punishment , and gave the courts the right to issue sanctions for arrest, thereby demonstrating its interest in normalizing relations with the EU.

Evidently the EU and the US are responding to the real politik that Karimov - unless he magically disappears - is there for another 7 years, sedulously playing Russia, China, Japan against the US and EU energy interests.

Human rights ... well Karimov didn't actually ban capital punishment .. it appears he is having a look at it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

AirTankers - MOD PFI financing suffers from Ambac credit rating downgrade - will / can the banks agree a financing deal ?

Lord Patel has pointed out the problems PFI funding was experiencing with the problems with monoline bond insurers like Ambac.

Now the Government / PFI funding of a desperately needed new fleet of Airbus tankers for the Royal Air Force - a 27 year 13 Bn projecty has hit the buffers. The AirTanker consortium (Cobham EADS, Rolls-Royce, VT and Thales) - will supply the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) based on the supply of A330-200 aircraft with banks led by Deutsche Bank, the initial £2.5bn expected to raise a combination of bank debt and a bond issue supported by guarantees provided by Ambac.

Now Fitch's Ratings credit re-rating of Ambac below AAA - and maybe followed by further downgradings has made those guarantees unattractive to bond buyers. Spreads on monoline-wrapped bonds have suddenly shot up with market concerns about the ability of the insurers to stand behind their commitments.

That suggests the Government and the AirTanker consortium are likely to revert to the original plan to finance the deal solely through bank debt - involving a higher (and probably variable) interest rate.

Up to press HBOS will lead the group of banks lending the money. Lloyds TSB are also involved, and the consortium is talking about getting the deal done by the end of March.

Currently the RAF relies upon the antique VC10 and TRi-Star tankers, provided by 101 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton.In 1996 the RAF were told that they could have 24 converted Airbus A310s. This has now been whittled down to 14 owned by PFI partners - 14 available at any time and the rest with a notice period. The aircraft are to be owned by the private sector partners, who are meant to be able to charter them out whenever available.(See MOD Press release 6/6/07)

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff said in June ....

"Although our current fleets of VC10 and Tristar aircraft are doing a superb job, both fleets are coming towards the end of their useful lives. "

Who would insure, fly, crew, maintain, these new aircraft are still unresolved questions.

So another triumph for MOD procurement ... start talking in 1996 .. 12 years later we have an expensive spatchcocked deal that is still in doubt.If the finance is signed and sealed tomorrow it would be 3/4 years before there is any chance of them being operational.... ooops forgot to mention it in the light of the Metronet debacle. The AirTanker website does point out that ...
"Typically in a PFI the shareholders provide around 10% of the total investment." ...shades of Metronet and the ta / rate payer picking up the bill when the shareholder's decide to call in the administrators.

Maybe this picture will help.


Of course if they cannot stitch up a financing deal the RAF will be left to struggle along with the tankers that Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff described as ".....coming towards the end of their useful lives. "

People interested in aircraft re-fuelling might like to examine the report on the Nimrod crash whilst re-fuelling over Afghanistan...." While the Board considered that the Ministry of Defence had done all that was required of it to cater for the increasing age of the Nimrod, the Board
was unable to discount the age of the seals ( 38 years old on the airframe XV230 of the Nimrod that crashed) as a possible cause of the increase in leaks from fuel couplings and of the condition of the hot air pipes’ insulation."

Ryanair ads upset the readers, pull in the punters, but costs chip at margins - so they have pushed up fees / charges

The Advertsing Standards Authority (ASA) received complaints from 13 outraged readers about Press ads in the Herald, Daily Mail and Scottish Daily Mail this summer - the ad featured a skimpily clad girl in a classroom , wearing a comic and abbreviated version of a tartan school uniform. Body copy stated one way fares to Derry, Belfast, Budapest, Grenoble and Stockholm were £10- under the Headline "HOTTEST BACK TO SCHOOL FARES."

The ASA have today Upheld the complaints explaining the ad breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Social responsibility) and 5.1 (Decency) and said the schoolrom setting appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour - it was "irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence."

The newspapers which originally ran the ad have agreed not to carry it again. The agency has no enforcement powers, but it can refer advertisers to Britain's Office of Fair Trading for legal action.

Having milked the rage over the image, Ryanairs head of communications, Peter Sherrard, provoked more dismay amongst their critics : “The ASA becomes more Monty Pythonesque by the day."

“ .... a fully clothed model is now claimed to cause ’serious or widespread offence’, when many of the UK’s leading daily newspaper regularly run pictures of topless or partially dressed females without causing any serious or widespread offence.”

An outraged Sherrard added: “This isn’t advertising regulation, it is simply censorship.”

Ryanair have caused complaints elsewhere in Europe - An attorney for tiny French President Nicolas Sarkozy on filed two lawsuits on his 53rd birthday on Monday over a Ryanair ad that uses a photograph of him and his girlfriend, singer Carla Bruni. They claim infringement on the rights of his image without consent and for the purpose of advertising, Sarkozy has demanded one euro (1.47 dollars) in damages and interest and an injunction against the commercialization of his image. Bruni is asking for a payment of 500,000 euros against eventual future damages based on her work as a model The offending ad shows the smiling couple with a comic book speech bubble coming from Bruni's head saying: "With Ryanair, all my family can come to my wedding."

The airline last year reportedly settled out of court a lawsuit brought by Sweden's ex-prime minister Goran Persson after it used his picture without his consent.

Last month, Ryanair upset Spain's government-run Women's Institute, who complained about Ryanair's 2008 calendar (now Sold out) and called it sexist. The calendar (whose proceeds go to charity) featured bikini-clad flight attendants blowing suggestively into a lifejacket and washing a plane.

God knows what the Spanish ladies would make of this airline.

Ryanair announced a jump in charges for passengers on Friday 26th Jan - the cost of checking in a bag at the airport has risen 20% from £10 to £12 (as has the the online fee , up from £5 to £6), and the charge for passengers to check in at the airport, rather than online, has gone up 50% from £2 to £3.

Ryanair said 3.95 million people flew with them in December compared with 3.36 million last yer a year earlier, the load factor for all flights , or proportion of seats filled, fell 2 percentage points to 79 % and was at 82 % for the full year.

Ryanair's shares have fallen over 20 % the past 12 months as record and rising oil prices slowed global economic growth and raised the airline's costs. The Dublin based company's earnings will be hit as Sterling continues to slide against the Euro. More than a third of Ryanair's revenue is in sterling. See also ;
Ryanair breaches ad rules again 17 Oct 07
Ryanair's Eurostar claim banned 21 Aug 07
Ryanair's green claims criticised 18 Jul 07
Ryanair ad goes back into hangar 08 Nov 06
Ryanair advert was 'misleading' 24 May 06
Terror advert 'was not offensive' 09 Aug 05
Ryanair advert dubbed 'offensive' 04 Feb 04

EU set aside zero subsidy policy produces a rapid response by English farmers.


Set-aside was first introduced in 1988 as part of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as a simple way (the MacSharry reforms) of dealing with over-production and controlling the supply (and price) of cereals by requiring farmers to leave a proportion of their land out of production - for which they would still receive a subsidy. In the UK a target of a reduction of 10% of agricultural land was to be taken out of production and loud were the cries from tax-payers about farmers being paid for doing nothing - at the rate of 406 euros per hectare last year.

In November the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Danish sprightly 65 year old Mariann Fischer Boel, slammed this policy into reverse gear and announced zero set-aside rate for the 2007-08 cropping season (i.e so far for one year only) . She forecast that this would enable the EU farmers to provide a further 17 million tons of grain for hungry world markets, currently paying record prices for food grains for humans and their animals.

At the same time caps have been introduced on the size of subsidies, - for example the Queen's estates, which received £465,000 in CAP subsidy in 2005, will drop by £140,000 under the new rules. Quelle horreur !!

She also proposes proposes to increase the amount of land a farmer has to own before qualifying for EU aid, from the current 0.3 hectares, to ensure that only genuine farmers receive subsidies.This far sighted lady , who has 3 farms in Denmark also wants to abolish milk quotas by 2015 and eventually all farm subsidies. ****

What glamorous Mrs Fischer Boel (pic) did overlook however is that most of that set-aside land is already being used, (for a different EU program - the production of bio-fuels, not food) quite legally, to grow non-food crops, such as rape and even wheat, most of it for biofuels as well as willow coppice . The EU wearing it's eco-hat is so keen on planet-saving biofuels that it has decided that by 2020 they must supply 10 per cent of our transport fuel, replacing petrol and diesel.

Despite this total and complete contradiction of policies, it also meant that precious environmental benefits would shrink along with the area of fieldside strips, and fallow land.

The increasingly inept and confused Hilary Benn has revealed today in a remarkably swift report produced by DeFRA that the amount of farm land left uncropped in England is likely to fall by more than 50% in 2008.

CHANGE IN THE AREA AND DISTRIBUTION OF SET-ASIDE IN ENGLAND: JANUARY 2008 UPDATE Defra Agricultural Change and Environment Observatory January 2008

Areas in area in margins and corners of fields (which can be only 10 metres wide) is only expected to reduce by 13% but
non-rotational area - out of production > 1 year will fall by 35% and rotational area - land left out of production for one year only - will fall by 85%.

Which shows that Johnny Farmer is extremely sensitive to changes in CAP subsidies and can react with remarkable speed when his income is threatened.

**** Mrs Boel also has her eyes on the 500 Euros spent (wasted) by the EU every year distilling ethanol from surplus wine stocks (usually that stuff indistinguishable from battery acid from Greece) and wants to institute a vine pulling program ( removing 13% of EU vineyards at a one off cost of 2.4bn euros) to reduce wine production and to spend the money saved, on marketing and promoting the decent EU wines to compete with New World and South American wines.

Wine accounts for 5.4% of EU agricultural output and employs about 1.5m (mainly seasonal) people. Average production over the past five years was about 178hl, worth about 16bn euros.

EU wine imports have grown 10% a year exceeding growth in exports In 2005, exports of 13m hectolitres only narrowly exceeded imports (12m hl).

Wine produced but not sold has been steadily growing. It could reach 15% of the EU's total output by 2010/11. The EU wine lake currently exceeds one year's production.

**** Just remember that due to huge incompetence under Ma Beckett the United Kingdom government has been fined as much as £305 million for its failings in implementing the new Single Payment Scheme of the Common Agricultural Policy = 20 % of the £1.5 billion paid out under the Single Farm Payment Scheme in the EU budget year 2004-05.

Not that you would disentangle this easily from the Parliamentary Statement ... "In a written statement to Parliament, junior Defra Minister Barry Gardiner explained there would be "a claim on the Reserve of £305,000,000 of non-cash programme resources to cover provision for disallowance arising from Common Agricultural Policy schemes, most notably the Single Payment Scheme." Full and nasty details in National Audit Office report.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Severn Summer Floods - Secret Services - "D" Notices and nuclear power alerts

Mr Snow on Channel 4 News tells us tonight that a report of the HOC Intelligence and Security Committee (shortly to be chaired by that human dynamo Margaret Beckett) that in the flooded Severn valley, GCHQ was under threat , although there are details about those moist days which even they will not publicly discuss. Nor would Channel 4 at the time , under threat from the quaint "D" notice system.(Daily Torygraph)

However readers will remember a post of Saturday, July 28, 2007 - Civilization stopped from descent into 3rd world conditions by bags of sand

"There was something delightfully primitive that the miracle of electricity was saved for some 600,000 consumers, including GCHQ and it's spooks and the (don't mention under threat of 'D' Notice Oldbury on Severn Power Station - an antique Magnox site opened in 1967 and due to shut in 2008) by schoolboys dressed as soldiers manually filling and carrying sandbags to keep God's Acts at bay and civilisation just hangin in there.. "
It appears that even the slumbering guardians of national security, not alerted by the seers and seaweed watchers at the Meteorological office are now aware that it was a damn close run thing this summer and ..." well...er...something must be done...lessons learned...

The report says that a cross-party committee will now undertake a review of “business continuity arrangements” of all three security agencies - MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.... spread the blame, share the burden, point the fingers .... (Hint : get the Met office in and give them a bollocking for being so piss poor at forecasting)

Don't by the way mention anything about the antique Magnox type (due to cease operation this year) Oldbury on Severn Nuclear Power Station ..."D" Notice old boy, nudge , nudge , wink, wink. Although it might explain why the BBC reported that the station re-opened on August 24th .."A nuclear power station shut down in July has started generating power again. " .. only to shut down again days later... stories of a vibrating turbine.

This is what the report said about the incident at GCHQ, interpreted by some as folks staying on site 24/7 because they couldn't get home, not quite James Bond but above and beyond .. (Click to enlarge)

This was another fascinating little tidbit in the report..

Those interested might well read this fascinating report about asymmetric warfare by use of low tech VOI comms in Lebanon and China..."Military Hackers Turn To Commercial Electronic Attack Tools" and you are probbly reading it B4 the spooks do.

German combat forces get ready to invade Afghanistan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has, very sensibly not visited Afghanistan recently, but she was in Kabul in November shortly after the Bundestag renewed the mandate for 3,500 German troops in Afghanistan, combining two previous mandates.

Some 3,000 Bundeswehr troops are currently deployed in a strictly non-combat , training, reconstruction and security role in the relatively peaceful north under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) . There are also 6 German Tornado reconnaissance jets and their back-up units based in the country although it doesn't appear they get to bomb anything or anybody...yet.

But German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, swept through Kabul yesterday meeting President Hamid Karzai and Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak He also stopped for a chat with ISAF commander Dan McNeill.

NATO has formally asked for up to 250 German soldiers to take over from the Norwegian Quick Reaction Force, in N. Afghanistan and is due to end its mission at the beginning of the summer and all the signs are that a decision to ready German troops for combat (the first time since WWII) had already been made.

In an interview with Der Spiegel in September McNeill had politely danced around Germany's contribution to NATO forces..



"Some governments, and I'm not talking about Germany specifically, find it easier to accommodate their constituency if they impose certain caveats, certain restrictions, on the forces they contribute to this effort, such as that they can only be deployed in certain areas. These restrictions make things difficult for me as ISAF commander. "
Ahead of the decision to beef up the Bundeswehr presence Mc Neill takes a hard headed approach to the international view of the Taliban and dscribes them in robust and bloodcurdling terms ..." These people kill more civilians than any force amongst the Alliance or the Afghan army. They are hard core extremists. They behead people that don't agree with their positions."

Which overlooks the massive aerial bombardment , and long distance shelling, by coalition / ISAF air forces which produces a long litany of missed targets, friendly fire, and disputed deaths, women, children, burnt out compounds, smashed mosques.

It is an impression that is very much at odds with the one presented by the President in his State of the Union message .." Afghanistan" , he described "a nation that was once a safe haven for al Qaeda" as "a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope." (See also "he didn't mention the violence that has killed 147 students and teachers, and closed 590 schools in the last year." )

Having said that , he went of to sign a bill (H.R. 1585) prohibiting the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 Tomcat fighter jet parts - the only country flying and buying F -14's - Iran. They ( and canny Chiese buyers) had been exploiting a loophole in military sales .. parts for Chinooks as well as Tomcats also found their way to Teheran, equipment bought in the heady days in the 70's when the Shah was the US's stooge.

This might of course add fuel to the argument that as Bush winds down the Presidency he has taken his eye off the ball... for example USAF ISAF air forces burn 575,000 gallons of fuel per day in Afghanistan (an F-16 Fighting Falcon, takes roughly 1,000 gallons of fuel per service) of which 80% comes from Pakistan refineries. Without this they have to rely on a a lengthy and precarious logistics line that extends more than 1,000 miles from northern Baku, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. e.g. From the 25th January 2008 Airpower Summary On Jan. 24, U.S. Air Force and RAF aerial refueling crews flew 42 sorties and off-loaded approximately 2.9 million pounds of fuel ( 1 US gallon = 6 lbs = 480,000 gals ) to 231 receiving aircraft.... and without the "close air support" the troops, be they German, British or US are fucked.

Difficult to tell who is more desperate, Rudy or Jon

Jon Voight, raised as a Roman Catholic, who played the role of Pope John Paul II in a recent CBS mini-series, father of Angelina Jolie, and whose brother wrote "Wild Thing" which propelled the Troggs (?) into stardom, is supporting a guy called Guiliani in Florida for the Republican nomination ...and sent this letter to Florida voters ...

"Israel is in worse danger than ever. Israel's enemies are many, and speak arrogantly and blatantly about how they want to destroy all Jews and Israel. Let us not forget the Holocaust. We will need a strong president, one who will be
committed to the safety and survival of Israel; one who can stand up to the terrorists and extremists.

Rudy Giuliani will not be bullied. Every Jew should be voting for Giuliani. He understands the importance of Israel to America, as well as it's importance to the rest of the world. Rudy Giuliani grew up in New York City, which has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. There is no other candidate running who has closer ties and understands, respects, and loves the Jewish people as does Rudy Giuliani. He is a man of his word, and his promise to protect Israel is sacred".

Still hustlin' like Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy .

UPDATE : BBC4 "Today" (30th) had a brief interview with Voight today who expressed his disappointment at Rudy's withdrawal.

Enterprise is dead in America

Israeli Chief Rabbi wants to build a Golden City in the Sinai for the Palestinians - Jerusalem is Jewish forever, and ever. Amen

This is Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger who gave an interview to Jewish News. Metzger called for Britain, the EU , the USA to assist in the construction of a Palestinian state in Egypt's Sinai Desert. He was appointed appointed as chief rabbi in 2003 for a ten-year term.

According to Metzger, the plan would be to "take all the poor people from Gaza to move them to a wonderful new modern country with trains buses cars, like in Arizona - we are now in a generation where you can take a desert and build a city. This will be a solution for the poor people - they will have a nice county, and we shall have our country and we shall live in peace."..."Much nicer than Washington and New York".

He also described Jerusalem as "the capital city forever to the Jewish nation."

Got his ideas for transplanting populations from Stalin no doubt.

Take care with doorstep milk deliveries as the warm weather arrives

Campylobacter jejuni is a widespread bacteria that causes diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain, vomiting is rare, and illness normally lasts several days.

Campylobacters are found naturally in the guts of domestic and wild animals and birds, including cattle, poultry, seagulls, jackdaws, cats and dogs.

Although eating poorly cooked chicken and handling raw poultry are the main risk factors it has been suggested that doorstep milk bottles, with thin aluminium foil tops , pecked by birds such as magpies and jackdaws can be a source. Therefore it is advisable not to drink or use milk where bottle tops have been pecked by birds.

An unpleasant and sometimes fatal consequence of infection with Campylobacter is the Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) which is an acute, autoimmune, polyradiculoneuropathy affecting the peripheral nervous system - first described in 1916, by Georges Guillain, Jean Alexandre Barré, and Andre Strohl diagnosed two soldiers in the French Vth Army - hence it has been also called French Polio and Landry's ascending paralysis.

In 1921, when he was 39 years of age, Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted an illness which debilitated him for the rest of his life and this has subsequently (2003) been attributed to GBS and not polio, as usually claimed.

Didn't stop him being President for 12 years.

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