by INDERDEEP BAINS
The Daily Mail
‘Fears that a new generation of debit cards could be hitting shoppers with phantom charges grew last night after a string of complaints.
They say money was taken from their contactless payment cards – even when they did not try to use them – at stores including Marks & Spencer.
The latest incidents come after similar complaints from shoppers at other stores and outlets.’
by GEORGE EATON
‘It just gets worse for David Cameron. A new poll by Survation has put UKIP on 22 per cent (up six points since 1 May), the party’s highest ever rating and just two points behind the Tories (down five to 24 per cent). Before adjusting for don’t knows, the two parties are level pegging on 23 per cent.
One should always avoid drawing any conclusions from a single survey, but the significance of such polls lies less in the numbers themselves and more in the panic that they will induce on the Conservative right. It is no longer unthinkable that at some stage we will see a poll with UKIP ahead of the Tories. The likelihood remains that most Tory defectors will return to the Conservative fold before 2015, but the challenge for Cameron will be keeping control of his party in the meantime. The more polls show UKIP eating into the Tories’ vote share, the greater the temptation will be for Conservative MPs to follow Nadine Dorries’s lead and seek to establish electoral pacts with the Faragists
Labour is on 35 per cent (down one), 11 points ahead of the Conservatives, with the Lib Dems on 11 per cent (down one), 11 points behind UKIP. If repeated at a general election on a uniform swing, those figures would give Labour a majority of 104 seats.’
by Lucian Constantin
‘Four British men associated with the LulzSec hacker collective received prison sentences Thursday for their roles in cyberattacks launched by the group against corporate and government websites in 2011.
Ryan Cleary , 21, Jake Davis, 20, Ryan Ackroyd, 26, and Mustafa Al-Bassam, 18, were sentenced in London’s Southwark Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to charges of carrying out unauthorized acts with the intention of impairing the operation of computers.
[...] Some of LulzSec’s targets included Sony, Nintendo, News Corp., Bethesda Game Studios, the CIA, the FBI, the Arizona State Police and the U.K.’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).’
by Chris McGreal
‘Rwanda‘s president, Paul Kagame, has rejected accusations from Washington that he was supporting a rebel leader and accused war criminal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by challenging a senior US official to send a drone to kill the wanted man.
In an interview with the Observer Magazine, Kagame said that on a visit to Washington in March he came under pressure from the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnnie Carson, to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, leader of the M23 rebels, who was wanted by the international criminal court (ICC). The US administration was increasing pressure on Kagame following a UN report claiming to have uncovered evidence showing that the Rwandan military provided weapons and other support to Ntaganda, whose forces briefly seized control of the region’s main city, Goma.
“I told him: ‘Assistant secretary of state, you support [the UN peacekeeping force] in the Congo. Such a big force, so much money. Have you failed to use that force to arrest whoever you want to arrest in Congo? Now you are turning to me, you are turning to Rwanda?’” he said. “I said that, since you are used to sending drones and gunning people down, why don’t you send a drone and get rid of him and stop this nonsense? And he just laughed. I told him: ‘I’m serious’.”‘
‘The Isle of Man’s Chief Minister has defended the island’s work against tax evaders as international pressure mounts on overseas territories.
On Monday UK Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to 10 British overseas territories, urging them to “get their house in order”.
The island’s chief minister Allan Bell said the Isle of Man has led the way in cracking down on tax evaders.
The UK is expected to push for tighter tax measures at June’s G8 summit.
The 10 territories that received Mr Cameron’s letter are Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Mr Bell told the BBC Politics Show that there were evasion issues in the UK, US and Europe that needed tidying up and “not just in smaller jurisdictions”.’
‘Crucial evidence from the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster, which was undermined at the original inquest, was true, BBC Panorama has found.
An off-duty police officer has always maintained he tried to treat a dying boy after the time at which the coroner said no-one could have survived.
His account cast doubt on medical evidence that supporters could not have survived beyond 15:15 on that day.
Panorama’s analysis of unbroadcast TV footage shows his account was true.’
‘The UK has spent almost £2bn housing vulnerable homeless families in short-term temporary accommodation, according to figures that demonstrate the scale of Britain’s housing crisis.
Rising private rents, a shortage of affordable housing and benefit cuts have forced local authorities, particularly in London, to place increasing numbers of households in bed and breakfast accommodation, hostels and shelters.
With the number of houses built in Britain falling to new lows, according to figures released last week, a four-month study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has revealed that £1.88bn has been spent on renting temporary accommodation in 12 of Britain’s biggest cities over the past four years.
Campaigners have said welfare changes will exacerbate the problem. Official figures show that in London alone 7,000 families dependent onbenefits stand to lose more than £100 a week under the benefit cap, and many are expected to become homeless as a result.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said: “For the sake of cutting just a few pounds a week from their benefits, families and individuals are being forced out of their homes, to be put up in B&Bs or temporary accommodation that costs us all far more.”‘
Irish police will get powers to block mobile phone signals for G8 summit in Fermanagh ~ Belfast Telegraph
by FIONNAN SHEAHAN AND TOM BRADY
‘New laws in the Republic of Ireland are being rushed in ahead of the G8 summit to allow gardai to order telecom companies to shut off signals to prevent terrorists using mobile phones to detonate bombs.
He said it was possible a terrorist group would use the G8 as a chance to “garner publicity” for themselves by setting off a bomb.
Mr Shatter said the Boston bombing was a recent example of the use of mobile phones by terrorists to detonate bombs.
Up until now, it is understood gardai could only request mobile companies as a goodwill gesture to block the mobile phone signal in an area to protect VIPs.’
SEE ALSO: Mobile phones could be cut for G8 summit amid terrorist bomb fears
SEE ALSO: 10,000 people expected at anti-hunger rally in Belfast on the eve of the G8 summit
SEE ALSO: G8 will get security from G4S… the firm responsible for the London Olympic shambles
by Holly Williams
‘The conscientious objector is a popular trope in any drama touching on the First World War: Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs and more recently The Village have been awash with young men persecuted for their moral stance, the white feathers they were shamed with fluttering about TV screens as if war was a pillow fight.
As we approach the centenary of the First World War next year, we’ll no doubt hear a lot more about those that fought – and those that felt an equally powerful compulsion not to. But conscientious objection did not begin and end there: conflicts since, including the Second World War and the Vietnam war, have involved conscription, while countries as diverse as Finland, Israel, South Korea, Greece, Columbia and Turkey still require their young people to perform military service.
Getting an exemption on conscientious grounds is, even today, often an arduous process, potentially prompting the century-old accusations of cowardice. COs may face jail sentences or fines, despite a 2012 UN document stating that “conscientious objection … is based on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
International Conscientious Objection Day took place this week, on 15 May, and in the UK, a ceremony was held at the CO Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury. Tomorrow, a small event will be held in the Peace Garden in Birmingham. The UK has also recently seen the opening of a new memorial to COs, at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Last month, the Quakers erected a new circular limestone structure there to commemorate, specifically, the Friends Ambulance Unit – a Quaker-run body open to all COs – and the Friends Relief Service, which aims to relieve civilian distress in Britain.’
‘The rollout of 50m smart meters to UK properties has been delayed by more than a year, the government has revealed.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will now start the £11.7bn scheme in the autumn of 2015 rather than the originally-proposed summer of 2014.
[...] Energy secretary Ed Davey said: ”The government has decided to move the completion date for the mass roll-out from end 2019 to end 2020 — although I expect the vast majority of smart meters to be in place against the original 2019 deadline.”‘
by Rupert Neate
Fallon said the government would sell Royal Mail to sovereign wealth funds or other foreign buyers if postal workers’ campaign against a flotation in London makes an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market difficult. He said numerous overseas buyers had already expressed “significant interest” in snapping up the 497-year-old postal service. “It’s a great British brand with the Queen’s head on it,” he told the Observer. “We have already had quite a lot of interest in it.”
He revealed that Royal Mail’s boss, Moya Greene, had already embarked on a global roadshow promoting the postal service to sovereign wealth funds and foreign trade buyers as well as institutional investors based in the UK and overseas.’
by SHARI MILLER
The Daily Mail
‘One of Samantha Cameron’s ancestors was a slave owner who received millions from the British government following abolition, researchers have discovered.
The Prime Minister’s wife is descended from 19th Century businessman William Jolliffe, from West Sussex, whose company was responsible for building Waterloo Bridge, Dartmoor Prison and the new London Bridge.
He subsequently gave up his commercial interests to become a vicar, but before he embraced the church Jolliffe was among those who received a huge payout after the 1833 Act of Parliament.’
by Tom Moseley
The Huffington Post
‘One of Ukip‘s top donors has criticised women for wearing trousers – saying they are deliberately making themselves look unattractive.
Demetri Marchessini believes trouser-wearing women don’t realise how bad they look from behind, because of their “big bottoms”.
And he has written a book, Women in Trousers: A Rear View, to make his point.’
‘A former counter-terrorism officer who told police bosses about racism and homophobia in the ranks has alleged that Scotland Yard hounded him out of the force “like an enemy of the state”.
In his first interview, former detective constable Kevin Maxwell told the Guardian he was sacked after raising concerns about racist and homophobic behaviour by some counter-terrorism officers. They also picked on members of the public, subjecting them to searches based on their skin colour or nationality, which amounted to racial profiling, he said.
This week the Met lost an employment tribunal appeal against an earlier ruling, which found in Maxwell’s favour on at least 40 points.
The tribunal found that Maxwell, who is black and gay, suffered multiple counts of degrading or humiliating treatment. One officer talked of gay men “taking it up the arse”, and the tribunal found that one officer described a man in a photograph as being “as gay as a gay in a gay tea shop”, which police colleagues greeted with laughter.’
‘Headteachers have passed a vote of no confidence in the government’s education policies, declaring that Michael Gove‘s policies are not in the best interests of children.
Delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference in Birmingham raised concerns about the new national curriculum, major test and exam reforms and schools being forced into becoming academies.
Tim Gallagher, proposing the motion, said: “Enough is enough. This motion’s intention is to send the strongest message possible to this government that many of their education policies are failing our children, their parents and the very fabric of our school communities.”
The NAHT is the first headteachers’ union to pass a vote of no confidence in the government’s education reforms.
The UK’s three biggest teachers’ unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT passed similar votes at their Easter conferences. The NUT and the NASUWT are planning regional strikes in the north-west next month in a continuing row over pay, pensions and workload, with the prospect of a national strike later this year.’
‘According to some insiders, officials believe a pay rise as high as 25 per cent – taking salaries to £82,172 – is needed to give MPs a fair deal.
But it is thought they may recommend a figure closer to £10,000 to try to minimise the anticipated public outcry.
Downing Street will be alarmed at the prospect of a big rise for MPs on the grounds that it would undermine David Cameron’s ‘we’re all in it together’ campaign to encourage other workers to make do with no increase or minimal rises of one per cent.
A senior MP said: ‘We know we are going to see headlines of “snouts in the trough” but the issue of MPs’ low pay has to be resolved. ‘We got into this mess 25 years ago because we were frightened of being criticised by the press and public for giving ourselves a proper pay rise.
‘Instead, we were encouraged to claim more expenses under the counter.
The expenses scandal ended all that and now we are left with a pitiful pay cheque.
‘Voters may not like it but if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Unless our pay goes up, the decline in the quality of people prepared to become MPs and Ministers will increase and the whole country will suffer.’
by Terry Macalister
‘An EU crackdown on bankers’ bonuses in the City of London will just lead to a surge in basic salaries and other initiatives to circumvent regulations, experts warned on Saturday.
Banks, still unpopular for their leading role in the financial crisis, are keeping their avoidance plans under wraps, but industry figures were happy to boast privately that they could run rings round Brussels.
“Banks are pretty good at getting round rules,” said one senior financier. “If there are restrictions on us paying bonuses, we will be looking at paying some other kind of allowances.”‘
by Bill Ray
‘More than half of UK youngsters think being tracked is a small price to pay for cheaper car insurance, and 26 per cent will be actively seeking a pay-by-the-mile policy in the hope of saving a few quid.
The numbers come from by YouGov and O2, who asked 2,000 drivers how they felt about being spied on every day – only to establish that the yoof simply loved the idea.
O2 has something of an interest of course – it’s hoping to drag all that telematic data back over the 2G network that it has committed to maintain for at least the next decade – but the numbers show that far from worrying about the privacy implications the British public can’t wait to get GPS-tracking installed.’
by Matthew Taylor
‘A G4S security guard who was restraining an Angolan man who died as he was being deported from the UK had 65 racist jokes on his mobile phone when it was seized by police.
Terry Hughes, one of three detention custody officers in charge of Jimmy Mubenga’s forced deportation in October 2010, was told at an inquest at Isleworth crown court on Friday to read out a selection of the texts, which included offensive language directed at black, Asian and Muslim people.
Karon Monaghan QC, the assistant deputy coroner for Hammersmith, west London, said the texts contained “very racially offensive material”. The court heard that some of the texts had been sent by other detention custody officers.
Hughes is the second G4S officer involved in Mubenga’s case to be found with racist jokes on his mobile phone. This week, Stuart Tribelnig was found to have a string of texts deriding black, Pakistani and Muslim men.’
‘Police have admitted that undercover officers routinely stole the identities of dead children to infiltrate political groups.
The admission was made to MPs by the chief constable leading an investigation into a 40-year undercover operation to spy on political activists.
Mick Creedon also admitted that police have yet to inform any parents of children whose identities were stolen in a practice which MPs have criticised as “gruesome” and “heartless”.
Following an investigation by the Guardian, Creedon has now told MPs that the technique was “common practice” within a clandestine unit known as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).
However, he declined to specify how many identities were stolen by the Metropolitan police unit, which operated between 1968 and 2008, adding that he could not answer the question “at this time with any degree of absolute certainty”.’
Revealed: Devastating impact of ‘bedroom tax’ sees huge leap in demand for emergency hardship handouts for tenants ~ Independent
by CHARLIE COOPER
‘The extent of the suffering inflicted by the “bedroom tax” can be revealed for the first time today as figures show a 338 per cent leap in the number of people applying for emergency handouts in the month since it was imposed.
In April, more than 25,000 people resorted to applying for discretionary housing payments (DHP) to help cover their rent, according to an analysis of 51 councils by The Independent. There were only 5,700 such claimants in the same month last year.
Demand on the emergency fund – which is intended to provide short-term help to housing benefit claimants who are unable to pay their rent – is now so great that people who would previously have been given help may receive reduced handouts. Some applicants have already had their claims refused altogether.
Although the Government has increased its emergency housing support fund, which it divides between councils, from £60m in 2012-13 to £155m this year, local authorities say this is not nearly enough to help everyone hit by the cut to the spare room subsidy – known as the bedroom tax.
The Department for Work and Pensions said it was “monitoring” the situation and did not take concerns about the surge in claims lightly.’
by HANNAH FEARN
‘Social landlords are spending thousands of pounds training staff to identify tenants at risk of committing suicide as benefit and public sector cuts take their toll on deprived communities, The Independent can disclose.
Call-centre staff, housing officers and even maintenance workers are sent on courses that cost up to £300 per person, teaching participants how to judge whether someone is suicidal or suffering from mental-health problems.
Housing associations are experiencing an increase in mental distress among social tenants facing eviction or struggling to keep up with rent and other bills due to benefit cuts and the overhaul of the welfare system.’
‘Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt will meet David Cameron next week, just days after the internet giant was mauled by a Commons committee over its tax affairs, it has emerged. Downing Street confirmed that Schmidt is set to attend a quarterly meeting of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Group at No 10 on Monday.
The Google chief is one of 16 members of the group, established in 2010 as a sounding board for the PM to hear business leaders’ concerns and priorities and discuss the government’s policies for the economy and growth, and has regularly taken part in its gatherings.
Downing Street said Monday’s meeting had been in the diary for some time and was not called in response to the recent controversy over the levels of tax Google pays in the UK. Details of the discussions are not normally released by Downing Street, but the spokesman said he was not aware of any plans for multinationals’ tax arrangements to be on the agenda.
Google was branded devious, calculating and unethical on Thursday, as furious MPs stepped up pressure on the search engine over its efforts to shelter its multibillion-pound profits from UK taxes.’
by Luke Harding
The coroner, Sir Robert Owen, reluctantly agreed to exclude material from the inquest that suggested Russian state agencies were involved in Litvinenko’s death. He also agreed to keep secret evidence that considered whether or not the UK authorities could have prevented Litvinenko’s 2006 murder.
In a judgment published on Friday afternoon, Owen acknowledged that his ruling meant the inquest scheduled to begin on 2 October could end up being “incomplete, misleading and unfair”. He took the highly unusual step of inviting the government to hold a secret public inquiry into Litvinenko’s killing, which would involve the sensitive excluded evidence heard behind closed doors.
Other parties to the inquest including Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, as well as lawyers acting for the media, opposed Hague’s application. On Friday, they said they were deeply dismayed by the ruling, which follows several days of secret hearings from which they were excluded.’
by ROD MINCHIN
‘A former RSPCA inspector who spoke out about working for the charity has been found dead at home.
Dawn Aubrey-Ward, 43, accused the RSPCA of unnecessarily killing animals during an interview with a newspaper last year.
Ms Aubrey-Ward, who by her own admission suffered from “severe depression”, had worked for the charity as an inspector for two years.
In an article in the Mail on Sunday last December she claimed she was forced to put down healthy pets because they could not be rehomed.
After the interview was published, the RSPCA issued a statement denying allegations that healthy animals were put to sleep “routinely” and described Ms Aubrey-Ward as a “disgruntled former employee”.’
by Nicholas Cecil
London Evening Standard
‘A first step is being taken towards making squatting in commercial properties a criminal offence.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is to write to MPs seeking evidence of the scale of such invasions of company premises, pubs and shops. A source close to Mr Grayling said: “He is sympathetic to the problem and he is starting an evidence-gathering exercise to ascertain the extent of the issue.”
Mr Grayling has not yet decided whether to make a criminal offence of such squatting, and he is determined that any extension of existing law should be evidence-based.
Squatting in residential properties became a criminal offence last summer, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both. The law was introduced after a campaign by Hove Conservative MP Mike Weatherley who is now pushing for it to be extended to cover commercial properties. “As a result of the success of the legislation regarding residential property, squatters have moved to targeting commercial property in greater numbers,” he said.’
by John Hudson
‘Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) introduced a bill Wednesday to arm the Syrian rebels, the latest piece of legislation aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to intervene more aggressively in the protracted civil war. The bill provides lethal weapons to vetted members of the Syrian opposition and beefs up sanctions on weapons sales and petroleum sales to President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime.
In short, it has all the hallmarks of the bill Menendez introduced last week, but with a bipartisan sheen. As Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described the Menendez bill last week, “If you want to pressure the president into acting, it’s a pretty good bill …The last time the Hill moved on Syria was sanctions on Syrian oil in the summer of 2011. That pressured the president to move, and this could too.” Its new bipartisan gloss could give it that much more power.
The legislation is set to be taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a markup session scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.’
by Robert Hutton & Kitty Donaldson
‘Lawmakers from David Cameron’s Conservative Party voted against the government’s legislative program in a show of defiance over his policy toward the rest of Europe.
A total of 133 members of the 650-seat Parliament, 116 of them Conservative, voted yesterday to express “regret” over last week’s Queen’s Speech — when the legislative agenda is announced. They were unhappy that it didn’t include a provision for a referendum on continued European Union membership. Their bid was defeated by the combined votes of Cameron’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the opposition Labour Party.
It was the first time since 1946 that members of a governing party had lodged an objection to a Queen’s Speech, according to Philip Cowley, professor of politics at Nottingham University. Faced with the scale of the rebellion, Cameron was forced to declare the first so-called free vote on a Queen’s Speech since the 19th century, effectively saying that the governing party had no opinion on its own legislative program.’