Monday, December 29, 2008

The End

The Daily review of the papers has been going on at this site for just over two years.

As from the new year,a shortened version will be appearing on my political site Procrastinating Politicians in conjunction with comment and analysis.

Thanks for reading and a Happy New Year and please keep reading on my other blogs

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The escalation of fighting in the Middle East is the lead in some of the Sunday's.

The Independent reports that

A massive wave of Israeli air strikes, launched yesterday against Hamas in Gaza, has killed at least 227 people – the highest death toll in a single day in the territory since the end of the 1967 Six Day War.
Warplanes and combat helicopters launched their ferocious assault on the Islamic faction's security compounds and rocket launching pads in what Israel said was a response to about 470 Qassam missiles and mortars, launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza since a five-month ceasefire began to break down in November.

The Observer adds that

As world leaders called for an immediate end to the biggest air assault on Gaza since 1967, Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, refused to rule out a ground invasion in the next few days saying that the retaliation against rocket attacks by Hamas had only just begun. "It won't be easy and it won't be short," said Barak. "There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight."

Bishops deliver damning verdict on Britain under Labour rule is the lead in the Telegraph

Five of the Church’s most senior figures said the Government now presided over a country suffering from family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing divide between rich and poor.
The Bishop of Manchester accused Labour of being “beguiled by money” and “morally corrupt

Meanwhile the Mail reports that

The Queen has endorsed a crackdown on honours for bankers and leading City figures because of their role in causing the economic crisis.
As a mark of Royal displeasure, leading figures from the world of finance are understood to have been omitted from the New Year’s Honours List to be unveiled this week.
The disclosure that there will be ‘few, if any’ high-ranking awards for financiers has filtered through to the City, where it has deepened the dismay among a demoralised and shrinking workforce.

The News of the World reveals that

CHILDREN’S champion Sara Payne will pick up an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list after being personally recommended by Gordon Brown.
A Downing Street insider told the News of the World the Prime Minister has been a keen supporter of Sara during her battle to keep Britain’s kids safe from paedophiles.

The Times reports that

The Conservatives are poised to propose three new tax cuts to help recession-hit families, savers and pensioners in a bold attempt to shed their “do nothing” image.
A future Tory government would aim to reduce National Insurance, income tax on savings and the tax burden on the over-65s, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, will say.
The move follows criticism that the Conservatives have failed to support ordinary people during the economic downturn, allowing Gordon Brown to seize the political initiative

Brown: we need Dunkirk spirit in 2009 says the Observer

Gordon Brown today calls on the British people to summon the same patriotic and optimistic spirit that guided them though second world war, as he warns that 2009 will be a year of grave "danger", uncertainty and "enormous economic challenge".
In a New Year message heavy with Churchillian echoes, the prime minister insists that he and his government will be the "rock of stability" upon which people can stand as the economy slides fast into the worst recession for a generation.

According to the Independent

Gordon Brown will today use his New Year message to broker a new "coalition for change" with Barack Obama on the economy, the environment and the war on terrorism.
In an attempt to make a decisive break from the Blair-Bush era of transatlantic diplomacy, the Prime Minister sets out the terms for the new special relationship with the president-elect ahead of his inauguration next month.

Near disaster yesterday as many of the papers report that Lottery chaos as computer fault leaves thousands without tickets

The National Lottery was in chaos last night after a computer glitch crashed terminals in stores across Britain – leaving hundreds of thousands of people unable to buy tickets.
Sales of tickets for the £4.2million jackpot on one of the biggest nights of the year were hit after terminals started displaying problems at around 11am.
Despite the problem the draw was due to go ahead as normal last night.
reports the Mail

Pay cuts and freezes loom for millions in private sector reports the Times

David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “First of all employers talked of pay freezes, but in the last two weeks directors have started talking to me about reducing pay next year.
“This is the third recession I’ve seen, and I’ve never seen employers cutting wages before. This shows how bad things have got – nothing is now off limits. If this keeps more people in work it’s surely the better of two evils.”

The Independent reports that UK's holiday waste smashes all records

Waste watchdogs warned yesterday that rubbish from the estimated 100 million toys unwrapped last week is likely to burn big holes in the ozone layer as well as in parents' pockets.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said toy manufacturers are not putting enough information about recycling on their packaging and, as a result, most of it will be sent needlessly to landfill. Over Christmas 2008 alone, this will lead to more than 400 extra tonnes of harmful C02. The news is a blow to the Government's 2007 Waste Strategy, which aims to see 40 per cent of all household waste recycled by 2010.

One in 10 shops will stand empty says the Telegraph

The prediction comes despite a Boxing Day sales bonanza driven by unprecedented discounts and a last-minute Christmas Eve surge in gift-buying.
Retail analysts Experian said the number of shoppers at the December 26 sales was up 12.5 per cent on last year, while John Lewis said the final four shopping days in the run-up to Christmas saw sales rise 2.5 per cent on last year.

Sales stampede too late for Woolies says the Observer

The shutters began coming down on 99 years of high-street history last night as Woolworths closed a quarter of its 800 stores. Unless a last-minute buyer is found, the remaining 600 will shut next week with the loss of 27,000 jobs, killing off one of the best known names in retailing. The chain called in administrators last month amid debts of £385m.

According to the Times,Bush’s $300m library in danger of becoming white elephant

Bush has bought a $3m (£2.05m) house in a Republican enclave 10 minutes away from his proposed library and hopes to play an active role in the policy institute that will be established there. With his approval ratings at a record low of 20%, according to a CBS poll, he is keenly interested in shaping the verdict of history
but says the paper

So far, fundraising has been “very modest”, according to Dan Bartlett, a former senior White House aide and spokesman for the library

Meanwhile more problems for the president as the Observer reports that

A $70m lawsuit filed by Dan Rather, the veteran former newsreader for CBS Evening News, against his old network is reopening the debate over alleged favourable treatment that Bush received when he served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. Bush had hoped that this controversy had been dealt with once and for all during the 2004 election.

The Independent reports that Stalin vies for top spot in 'greatest Russian' TV contest

He massacred millions of his own people, enforced a system of terror that plagues Russia to this day and, to top it all, he was Georgian. But Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet leader, has a strong chance of winning the mantle of Russia's greatest historical figure.
More than two million votes have been cast in state-run Rossiya television's Name of Russia contest, modelled on the BBC's Great Britons, with the result to be announced today.

Earl of Wessex in gun dog 'cruelty' row reports the Telegraph

The Earl of Wessex has found himself at the centre of an animal cruelty row after being captured on film raising his stick to one of his dogs during a pheasant shoot.
Prince Edward, 44, reacted when he saw two black Labradors trying to grab hold of the same dead bird on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
He went up to the dogs with his shotgun tucked under his arm and his four-foot long stick raised in the air. He then brought down the stick – a shepherd's crook – in the direction of one of the dogs, but it is not known if he made contact.

Finally staying with dogs,according to the Times

One of Britain’s most eminent vets has warned that dogs suffer as many injuries chasing and catching sticks as they do on Britain’s roads.
Owners are being advised that to protect their pets from accidental stabbing or choking, they should never throw sticks. Instead they should use rubber throwing toys or a suitably sized ball.
Dan Brockman, professor of small animal surgery at the Royal Veterinary College, has catalogued dozens of serious injuries and infections, almost all the result of animals being stabbed as they rushed after a sharp stick.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Varied headlines in the papers this morning.The Telegraph leads with the story that
Motorists face fines and points for minor accidents.

Thousands of drivers who would have escaped prosecution for collisions after simply swapping insurance details will now face likely prosecution as soon as the police become involved.
An array of trivial motoring offences in addition to minor crashes are also likely to lead to action under proposals to give police powers to issue fixed penalty notices for careless driving.

The Times reports that

Hundreds of children who suffered neglect or abuse at the hands of their parents have been given the green light to sue councils for damages that could total millions of pounds.
Between 200 and 300 cases where councils failed to take children promptly into care are being prepared after a landmark legal ruling, The Times has learnt. The delays in removing children stretch from weeks and months to years in some cases.

The Sun is in Afghanistan

THOUSANDS of miles from their loved ones, Royal Marines sing Christmas carols in Afghanistan – moments before Taliban forces staged a surprise attack.
The troops, from 40 Commando Royal Marines, were attempting to bring a touch of British normality to war-torn Helmand Province when their festive service was interrupted by enemy gunfire.
Hurling aside hymn sheets, they rushed to grab their weapons and – still in their Santa hats – loosed off round after round of mortar fire to see off the enemy.

Little Oliver is a real Christmas miracle is the lead in the Mail

Sitting by the tree with his mother and a pile of presents, two-year-old Oliver Taplin looks as happy as any boy in Britain.
But behind the Santa hat and the timid smile is the story of a toddler who has been fighting for his life since it began.
With him at every turn have been his parents, who were told by doctors to give him his last cuddle when he was just seven days old.

The Independent leads with the story that Millions stranded in trains fiasco,the paper reports that

The rail industry, the Government and regulators were engaged in a farcical blame game last night over who is responsible for Britain's annual 58-hour Christmas railway shut down, which begins tonight.
Train operating companies said yesterday that they would be ready to introduce services from next year but blamed the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) for not co-ordinating an agreement. Atoc, however, said it was prepared to take part in meetings with Network Rail and the Government to discuss a new Christmas timetable, but it blamed the Government for failing to co-ordinate talks. Meanwhile, the Government has laid the blame at the door of individual operators, which it says are the only ones who can act to introduce the services.

The recession is covered as the Times reports that

Retailers are introducing earlier and bigger discounts in the hope of unleashing a wall of pent-up Christmas spending among shoppers.
After nearly three months of poor trading, shopkeepers are offering record discounts in the hope of bringing forward the levels of spending they anticipate when the January sales begin in earnest on Friday.

The Telegraph says that

The Queen will stress the importance of the family during the economic downturn in her Christmas Message which will include rare film footage of Prince Charles as a baby.

Whilst the Indpendent reports that

Alistair Darling may be forced to revise his forecast that the economy will start to grow again from next summer amid fears that his prediction is already proving too optimistic.

A French hedge fund manager whose company lost as much as $1.4bn of clients' money in Bernard Madoff's corrupt investment firm was found dead in his Manhattan office yesterday after apparently killing himself.
The body of Thierry de la Villehuchet, 65, co-founder of Access International Advisers, was found at his company's headquarters on New York's Madison Avenue. Police said a knife and pills were lying nearby.
reports the Guardian

According to the Express

MILLIONS of families were given a dose of Christmas cheer last night after experts predicted that energy bills would be slashed by 30 per cent next year.
Combined gas and electricity charges could tumble by as much as £400 for the average household in 2009, finally bringing some relief to struggling home owners and pensioners.

The Guardian leads with the news that

Animal rights activists are continuing a campaign of threats and intimidation against scores of companies linked to the controversial animal research laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences, despite a £3.5m police undercover sting which will put key extremists behind bars.
Four leading activists were convicted yesterday for a six-year campaign of blackmail against firms linked to HLS. Three others pleaded guilty before the trial.

The Mirror reports that

A postman had his arm nearly ripped off in a frenzied attack by two Rottweiler guard dogs as he delivered Christmas cards.
Keith Davies, 54, was savaged outside a £1.3million mansion in an exclusive area of Cambridge.
He was only saved when brave builder Anthony Lunn, 44, fought the dogs off with an iron bar – before they then turned on him.

Reading to children daily 'improves achievement and behaviour at school'says the Telegraph

The Institute of Education's study found a correlation between mothers who believe it is important to teach their toddler the alphabet, to count, and read to them regularly and the child's achievement at the age of five.
The Government-commissioned study looked at the foundation stage profile, a teacher's assessment of a child's achievement after one year at school, and assessed the cognitive abilities of just over 8,000 five-year-olds

Many of the papers report that

Pope angers campaigners with speech seen as attack on homosexuality

Speaking to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration, the pope said that the church viewed the distinction as central to human nature, and "asks that this order, set down by creation, be respected". The church, he said, "should protect man from the destruction of himself". He said a sort of ecology of man was needed, adding: "The tropical forests do deserve our protection; but man, as a creature, does not deserve any less." He attacked what he described as "gender" theories which "lead towards the self-emancipation of man from creation and the creator".
reports the Guardian

The Times adds that

Roman Catholic leaders in England, traditionally a liberal province, sought to distance themselves from the Pope’s remarks, claiming that he had been misrepresented because he never used the word “homosexual”.

Finally the Mail reports on the The liposuction fatmobile

Many report that Guinea in crisis after military coup

The West African nation of Guinea has sunk into political crisis after the army staged a coup on Tuesday following the death of the president
says the Telegraph adding that

Under Lansana Conte, the late dictator who seized power in 1984, Guinea became a crucial link in the global drugs trade. Every year, large quantities of South American cocaine are smuggled through Guinea to Western Europe, often with the connivance of the army and at least one senior member of the dead president's family.

The Independent says that

The President, who was famously so paranoid that he would not confirm his own age, had held power since leading a coup in 1984 and was believed to have been in his seventies

Finally the Mail reports that

If you're keen to establish your green credentials you can install solar panels or stick a wind turbine on your roof.
Or you could become a patient of Dr Alan Bittner.
The leading Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon claims to be saving the planet by using fat removed from clients in liposuction operations to power his 4x4 car.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Mail leads this morning with the story that

Police are failing to investigate almost four in every ten crimes, it was revealed last night.
The offences include sex attacks, violent robberies, harassment, burglary and drug incidents.
Instead of being pursued, the cases are simply filed away by officers who do not consider they can be solved.
the paper adds that

Victims' groups have condemned this practice of 'screening out' offences - but it is alarmingly widespread. The Met, the country's largest force, decided that 51 per cent of crimes were not worth full investigations as there was little chance of catching the culprit.

There is a police theme to many of the stories

The Times stays on the topic of the police,it says that

The appointment of Britain’s top policeman has been rushed forward to next month amid heightened concerns about a leadership crisis at Scotland Yard, The Times has learnt.
The choice of the new Metropolitan Police commissioner, which was not expected until March, is being fast-tracked after the antiTory outburst by the force’s antiterror chief, Bob Quick.

The Guardian says that

Britain's most senior counterterrorism police officer was under pressure last night to stand down from the investigation into the Conservative frontbencher Damian Green after he accused the Conservative party of a "corrupt" attempt to derail his inquiry.
As senior figures in the Metropolitan police said that Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick's outburst had left the force "shellshocked", the shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, called on Quick to reflect on whether he could credibly continue to head the Green investigation.

Whilst the same paper reports that

Police officers were called to deal with violence in schools more than 7,000 times in the last year, according to figures revealed by the Conservatives today.
The Tories asked each police force in England how many times they were called on to school premises for an attempted or actual violent crime.

There are a variety of headlines this morning

Voters revolt over taxes says the Independent

Voters are turning their back, for the first time in more than a decade, on Labour's promise to spend more on public services because of the prolonged economic downturn, a poll for The Independent suggests today.
Those polled reject the higher taxes planned by Labour and support the lower spending promised by the Conservatives, the ComRes poll finds.

Government buildings emit more CO2 than all of Kenya is the lead in the Guardian

Unpublished findings of an energy efficiency audit of 18,000 buildings including ministerial offices, police stations, museums and art galleries reveal that the 9,000 buildings audited so far produce 5.6m tonnes of CO2, with one in six receiving the lowest possible energy efficiency rating.

The Telegraph concentrates on the economy

Shops will embark on their biggest ever pre-Christmas sales in a desperate bid to raise cash in the last 48 hours before December 25.Retail experts have predicted that the discounts, which have already reached an unprecedented level this year, will hit a new peak as stores attempt to win over last minute shoppers.
Zavvi, the troubled music and books retailer, started its clearance sale on Monday, while Tesco announced another wave of discounts, cutting 70 per cent off some of its clothes.

and on the same theme,the Express leads with the news that

DEFIANT families are determined to turn their backs on their worries to beat the economic crisis.
They are still managing to splash out hard-earned money to go on a feel-good break away from it all.
Clever holidaymakers are increasingly making the great escape to more exotic locations because of the pound’s weak value against the euro. Figures ­released yesterday showed that bookings for traditional European hot spots such as Spain and Greece are dropping off rapidly.

An Xmas theme in the Mail which is not happy about the television over the festive season

If you expect festive cheer from your favourite soap this week, you'll be disappointed.
For TV writers have been doing their best to give us the bleakest Christmas on record.
A corpse in a lake, the attempted strangling of a pensioner, a baby abduction and the return of a notorious killer and drug addict, will feature in some of the most popular shows.
and the Independent reports that this could be Last rites for Christmas TV?

It's the biggest day of the year for television schedulers, but Thursday could be the last Christmas Day on which everyone in Britain watches the same programmes at the same time. As the boundaries increasingly blur between technology, telecommunication and media companies, and mobile phones and laptops can be used to watch videos, the television industry is preparing for unparalleled change.

We'll be parents again says the Sun

THE parents of tragic youngsters Arron and Ben Peak yesterday vowed to rebuild their shattered family — by adopting a child.
Phil and Amanda Peak lost Arron, ten, and Ben, eight, when drink-drive goalkeeper Luke McCormick rammed the family car off the M6. This is their first Christmas without the boys.
Amanda, who cannot have any more kids of her own following a hysterectomy, said: “Obviously nothing would replace the boys – they were my boys.

The Times reports that Britain gets ready for an Iraqi pullout

British commanders have been forced to plan for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq after the country’s parliament failed to vote on a resolution that would allow British troops to stay beyond the end of the year.
The Speaker of the Iraqi parliament suspended moves to approve the resolution after a group of MPs called for his resignation. The resolution failed to pass for a second time on Sunday and its passage after a third reading is now in doubt.

Meanwhile the Independent reports on a forgotten kidnapping

They have been held hostage in Iraq for nearly 19 months, largely forgotten in Britain because of an official government policy to discourage publicity.
But yesterday relatives and friends of five British men, who were kidnapped from the Iraqi finance ministry in Baghdad in May 2007, broke ranks with the Foreign Office in a bid to push the plight of their loved ones to “the top of the political agenda”.

Pope: Saving world from homosexuality like saving rainforests reports the Telegraph

In comments at the Vatican that are likely to provoke a furious reaction from homosexual groups, Benedict also warned that blurring the distinction between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.
In his address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration, he described behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work" and said that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself".

According to the Guardian

More than a quarter of science teachers in state schools believe that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science lessons, according to a national poll of primary and secondary teachers.
The Ipsos/Mori poll of 923 primary and secondary teachers found that 29% of science specialists agreed with the statement: "Alongside the theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory, creationism should be TAUGHT in science lessons

The Mail reports on the

Sex film fears of Miss Asia model who 'leapt 150ft to death from married lover's luxury apartment'

A model is feared to have leapt to her death from her boyfriend's luxury apartment after discovering he was married.
Sahar Daftary, 23, suffered fatal injuries after falling from the 12th-floor balcony following an acrimonious break-up with her lover, a property developer.
Moments earlier he had made a desperate 999 call to say he needed help, but by the time police reached the waterfront building she had plunged 150ft.

Finally the Times reports that

A man who completely lost his sight after brain damage has astonished scientists by negotiating an obstacle course without his cane, in a powerful demonstration of an eerie phenomenon known as “blindsight”.
The man, known only as TN, was blinded by strokes on both sides of his brain which left him unable to see and devoid of any activity in the brain regions that control vision. He uses a stick to detect obstacles, and has to be guided around buildings. However, TN was known to exhibit blindsight, a strange ability some blind people have to detect things that they cannot see.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The recession dominates the headlines this morning

The Independent leads with the headline,Britain's job 'bloodbath'

Britain faces an unemployment "bloodbath" in the new year with many tens of thousands of jobs axed in the public and private sectors, according to a cabinet minister. Senior government figures are braced for a dramatic lengthening in dole queues in the first quarter of 2009, as employers delay announcing redundancies until after Christmas.
Thousands of civil servants and town hall workers will share the pain as government efficiency savings bite, while struggling retailers and manufacturing industry are heading for heavy redundancies.

The Telegraph leads with

Archbishop of Canterbury warns recession Britain must learn lessons from Nazi Germany

Dr Rowan Williams risks causing a new controversy by inviting a comparison between Gordon Brown's response to the economic downturn and the Third Reich.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, he claims Germany in the 1930s pursued a "principle" that worked consistently but only on the basis that "quite a lot of people that you might have thought mattered as human beings actually didn't".

According to the Times,

Gordon Brown puts millions on table to save car maker Jaguar Land Rover

Brown had decided to intervene to prevent the collapse of the carmaker and was preparing to announce a short-term bailout package today or tomorrow. But a combination of tough rhetoric in public and private reassurance appears to have helped the Tata Group to secure enough cash to postpone the bailout until after Christmas.

The Guardian though says that

A major government rescue package for Jaguar Land Rover is expected to be placed on hold amid signs that the company's Indian owners are prepared to make an emergency cash injection.
As Canada became the second G8 economy to bail out its motor industry, British government sources indicated that Tata is prepared to stave off an immediate crisis.

It leads with the news that

Funding gap puts maternity reform at risk

The government's plans for an overhaul of maternity services are in disarray because hospitals have not received tens of millions of pounds of extra funding for urgently needed improvements, the country's top midwife warns today.
Widespread failure to pass on the money means the NHS will not be able to honour ministerial pledges to give women in England world-class, personalised care – such as a dedicated midwife during pregnancy and labour, and the choice of having their baby at home instead of in hospital – by the deadline in a year's time, according to Professor Cathy Warwick

The Times reports that

Britain’s top antiterror police chief was at the centre of an extraordinary row last night after accusing the “Tory machinery” of seeking to undermine the Damian Green investigation.
Bob Quick, the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner in charge of specialist operations and counter-terrorism, claimed that the Conservatives and their supporters were “mobilised” against the investigation “in a wholly corrupt way”.
Although Mr Quick later retracted the claim of corruption, the outburst led senior Conservatives to question the judgment of the man in charge of the Green inquiry.

Tories demand full retraction from Met anti-terrorism chief says the Telegraph

The Conservatives have demanded that Britain's anti-terrorrism police chief withdraw an accusation that they are seeking to undermine his investigation into Whitehall leaks.

According to the Telegraph

Britain's generous welfare system triggered baby boom

The changes in 1999 meant the worst-off families could claim £56.76 a week instead of £39, making it "economically much more attractive to have children".
An academic study claims that an extra 45,000 babies were born to mothers who left school at 16 in the year after the "unprecedented" increase in the value of child benefits introduced by Labour

The Mail stays with that theme as it reports that

A mother of four receives more than £90,000 a year from the taxpayer to live in a £2million townhouse in one of the country's most fashionable areas.
Francesca Walker is given £1,755 a week in benefits to pay the rent on the five-bedroom villa, which is a few hundred yards from David Cameron's home.
Kensington and Chelsea Council says under Labour's benefits rules it has no choice but to offer Miss Walker the home in Notting Hill, West London.

It leads with a breakthrough in medicine

Every GP is to be trained to diagnose dementia under an ambitious five-year plan that will revolutionise treatment for Alzheimer's sufferers.
Memory clinics will be set up in all major towns to give patients and their families support, up-to-date care and help on a scale never seen before.

According to the Express

THE worst flu outbreak in nearly 10 years is set to overwhelm hospitals over Christmas.
The epidemic will affect casualty departments already struggling with huge numbers of patients suffering from the norovirus vomiting bug.
And as GPs’ surgeries shut over Christmas, hospitals will break under the strain of yet more patients demanding treatment, doctors fear.

The Independent reports from Lockerbie: a town finally at peace with its tragedy

In the hauntingly beautiful hamlet of Tundergarth, four miles east of the town of Lockerbie, there is a picturesque little cottage which houses a memorial book dedicated to those who died in Britain's worst air disaster.
Yesterday, one message stood out for its heartbreaking solemnity. It was dedicated to a brother and his wife, just two of those who died when Pan Am Flight 103 hurtled into the Dumfriesshire town 20 years ago yesterday, killing 11 people on the ground and all 259 people aboard.

Companies blacklisted in US for allegedly backing Mugabe operate freely in UK reports the Times

Businessmen who have been accused by the US Treasury of financially supporting the Mugabe regime are operating freely in Britain, in spite of Gordon Brown's declaration that “enough is enough” in Zimbabwe.
Of 21 companies put on a US blacklist by President Bush last month, 14 are based in Britain, two in the Isle of Man, one in Jersey and one in the British Virgin Islands. The other three are based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Florida and Zimbabwe itself.

Mugabe unleashes wave of terror with mass abductions says the Independent

Fears are mounting in Zimbabwe for the lives of more than 40 opposition officials and human rights activists who have been abducted as part of a renewed crackdown by the regime in Harare. At least two more members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have disappeared in the past week, along with a freelance investigative reporter.

'Merchant of death' denies arms dealing reports the Guardian

The man dubbed the "Merchant of Death" for his alleged arms smuggling activities took the stand today for the first time to fight extradition to the United States and deny charges that he conspired to arm Colombian rebels.
Dressed in an orange prison uniform, Viktor Bout was shackled at the ankles but looked relaxed and spoke in mostly measured tones during his testimony at Bangkok's criminal court

The Sun reports that

X FACTOR winner Alexandra Burke landed the Christmas No1 yesterday — and shattered sales records.
Her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is the fastest-selling single by a female in UK chart history.
It outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined, shifting 576,000 copies.
And in another chart first, two versions of the same track occupied the number one and two positions — with Jeff Buckley’s 1994 interpretation of Hallelujah just behind Alexandra’s.

Finally the Guardian reports that Stampede for 'Bush shoe' creates 100 new jobs

Their deployment as a makeshift missile robbed President George Bush of his dignity and landed their owner in jail. But the world's most notorious pair of shoes have yielded an unexpected bonanza for a Turkish shoemaker.
Ramazan Baydan, owner of the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Company, has been swamped with orders from across the world, after insisting that his company produced the black leather shoes which the Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi threw at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad last Sunday.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

According to the Telegraph this morning,Labour MPs back separation of state and Church of England

A growing chorus of voices is calling for the centuries-old link between Church and state to be broken after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, ignited the issue last week by saying that it was “by no means the end of the world if the Establishment disappears”.
Three former ministers openly backed the idea of a separation, with one claiming that the majority of backbenchers would vote to end the special position the Church has enjoyed since the Reformation.

On this last Sunday before Xmas,the Observer says that

In one of the most holy weeks in the Christian calendar, a report says that in just over a generation the number of people attending Church of England Sunday services will fall to less than a tenth of what they are now.
Christian Research, the statistical arm of the Bible Society, claimed that by 2050 Sunday attendance will fall below 88,000, compared with just under a million now

There are varied headlines in the papers though,The Times reports that

Detectives are investigating one of Britain’s biggest buy-to-let schemes in which large numbers of investors have seen their savings wiped out.
They fear thousands of people who sought to cash in on the buy-to-let dream during the boom years of 2004 to 2007 may turn out to have been victims of organised fraud

Both the Independent and the Observer report on Barack Obama,Obama cranks up the green revolution says the former

The move, which signals perhaps his sharpest break with the outgoing administration, makes it clear that he was going to put climate change and the environment among the most urgent priorities of his presidency.
And as if to emphasise the difference, President Bush is using his last weeks of power to push through a record number of last-minute rule changes to increase mining and oil drilling on public lands, and even to allow people to carry concealed, loaded guns into national parks.

Barack Obama ushered in a revolution in America's response to global warming yesterday when he appointed one of the world's leading climate change experts as his administration's chief scientist.
The president-elect's decision to make Harvard physicist John Holdren director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reveals a new determination to draw a line under eight years of US policy that have seen George Bush steadfastly reject overwhelming evidence of climate change.
says the Observer

The Mail leads with Perk that lets Lords couples claim living allowance twice even if they share a home

A new row over politicians' perks erupted last night after it was revealed that peers who have formed relationships in the House of Lords are receiving tax-free 'double bubble' payouts of up to £117,000 a year.
They are getting double allowances of £330 per night - twice the £165 intended to subsidise an individual's living costs - even though they may share homes together.

The Times reports that

A mother with four children has been placed by her council in a £2m townhouse at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £91,000 a year.
The stucco-fronted three-storey property is in Kensington, west London, the country’s richest borough. It costs £1,755 a week to rent - a bill met by housing benefit - and has a front and back garden, five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double reception room and roof terrace. The street is lined with sports cars.

Former Army chief General Sir Mike Jackson attacks US failures in Iraq says the Telegraph

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, General Sir Mike Jackson, the former chief of the general staff, said that the violence in post-war Iraq was "much exacerbated by the security vacuum created by Washington's appalling decisions" to disband the Iraqi security forces.
Gen Sir Mike, who was head of the British Army at the time of the war, added that the US policy to "de-Baathify" Iraq doubled the time taken to reach the point where the coalition could consider a withdrawal from the country.

According to the Observer,Labour MPs plan Heathrow revolt

MPs opposed to construction of a third runway at Heathrow are planning a massive cross-party revolt in the new year in a final effort to halt the project, the Observer can reveal.
Plans are being formed to force a vote in parliament - against Prime Minister Gordon Brown's wishes - in which dozens of Labour rebels would join the Tories and Liberal Democrats to oppose the plan. A defeat for Brown in the Commons would not in itself kill off the proposals as they can be approved by the prime minister and his ministers without legislation. However, such a large "no" vote would send the clearest message that the expansion was being pushed through, despite huge public opposition and concern about potential damage to the environment.

The Times claims that

One of Gordon Brown’s closest political allies has publicly called for a general election to be held next year, sparking fresh speculation that the prime minister will exploit his bounce in the polls to call a snap ballot.
June 2009 would be an “ideal opportunity” to hold an election, according to Charlie Whelan, who was Brown’s press secretary when he was chancellor and is now political officer to Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union.

The Independent reports that

Unemployment is rising faster in Labour's most vulnerable seats and in the constituencies of nearly the entire Cabinet, new figures reveal today.
Scores of Labour marginals have suffered the fastest-rising unemployment levels over the past 12 months, fuelling fears in the party that the recession will cost Gordon Brown the next election.
Some 18 out of 23 cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, have also seen above-average increases in unemployment in their constituencies, compared with the rest of the country.

The News of the World has an exclsuive with the parents of Rhys Jones

THE heartbroken mother of murdered 11-year-old Rhys Jones today reveals the searing hatred she feels for the teenage lout who gunned down her little boy.
Speaking for the first time since 18-year-old Sean Mercer was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in jail for the killing, tortured mum Melanie Jones says she prays he will NEVER be released.

The Express has an exclusive as well

SNEERING bankers have released a record mocking the economic misery facing millions of Britons.
The single, Credit Crunch Christmas, features the chorus: “Sorry we ****** up your Christmas, but really we don’t give a s***.”

Staying with the economy and the Telegraph says that

The high street sales war intensified on Saturday as experts warned that hundreds of retailers were now on the "critical list" and at risk of going bankrupt.

The News of the World reports that

shoppers can feast on a load of bargains on CHRISTMAS DAY as desperate stores launch their sales online.
Stores like Asda, Currys, PC World and Dixons are are all slashing prices as we tuck into turkey—24 hours ahead of the usual start of the sales on Boxing Day.
But John Lewis will be an even earlier bird, launching its online bargains on CHRISTMAS EVE, two days before the beginning of its sales in store.

Leading HSBC banker and father of two hangs himself says the Mail

A hotel worker found Danish-born Christen Schnor, 49, hanging by a belt, naked, in the wardrobe of his £500-a-night suite at the Jumeriah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge, West London, on Wednesday.
Next to him was a suicide note written in Danish.

Meanwhile the Observer reports that

A combination of 'le credit crunch' and sterling's slide is causing nightmares for British families trying to live the French dream

Maddie returns to the papers

ENCHANTING pictures of Madeleine McCann enjoying a family Christmas are released today in a new attempt to solve the baffling mystery of her disappearance.
In the touching scenes a joyful and smiling Madeleine can be heard talking for the first time.
Home videos of Madeleine playing blissfully with her toddler twin brother and sister, Sean and Amelie, shot around the Christmas of 2006, show her in a relaxed mood at the family home in Rothley, Leics.

reports the Express

Finally many of the papers report that,Beer goggles last longer for women
Researchers found that women who drink even moderately develop a reduced ability to rate attractiveness in male faces, even when they are sober.
Those who drank were less able to detect male facial symmetry, a marker of attractiveness and good genes which is thought to play an important role in the choice of a partner.
reports the Telegraph

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Times leads with the news that

Charities cut services as donations start to dry up

One in three organisations expects to lay off staff within months, with smaller charities fearing for their survival. Money held by the sector has fallen by 13 per cent over the past year.
The Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest charity, which supports medical research, invests heavily in property and hedge funds and has seen the value of its investments fall from £15 billion to £13 billion.

The Guardian reports that 500,000 firms to close for great festive shutdown

The Christmas break will also be the longest for 16 years for thousands of workers sent home by cash-strapped employers, with some staff not returning to work until 19 January. Car workers will be among those facing a month's enforced holiday, with Ford, Aston Martin and Vauxhall sending staff home early after closing down plants temporarily. The Federation of Small Businesses estimates that about 500,000 firms will close from Monday until 5 January: the longest hiatus since 1992.

The Mirror leads with that story,its headline the 16 days off Christmas

and recession is also on the front page of the Mail which reports that

A record number of stores will be trading around the clock next week in a desperate bid for Christmas sales.
Hundreds more will stay open until midnight.
Retailers are also bringing forward January sales - with savings of up to 75 per cent - amid fears that the High Street faces its worst Christmas for decades

The Independent reports that

Jaguar Land Rover could receive emergency state aid within days to protect tens of thousands of jobs at the luxury car-maker.
Ministers will continue talks with the company at the weekend in an attempt to reach agreement by Christmas, but have said that they will not be "bounced" into any decision, stressing the responsibility for the firm's future lies with its Indian owner, Tata.

The Times takes a different view

Gordon Brown ignored renewed calls from business leaders to save the car industry yesterday, just as America’s ailing automotive giants were offered a $17.4 billion (£11.6 billion) bailout.
The Prime Minister insisted that the responsibility to help carmakers lay with their owners, but Richard Lambert, the director-general of the CBI, said that the Government needed to provide emergency financial support.

Bush pledges $17.4bn to prevent collapse of US car industry says the Guardian

Throwing aside his usual free market orthodoxy, President Bush used taxpayers' money to provide a three-month financial reprieve for General Motors and Chrysler in return for swingeing wage cuts among factory workers which provoked immediate anguish among unions.

The Independent leads with the story that

Britain no longer has any stake in the production of its nuclear warheads after the Government secretly sold off its shares in the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston.
Ministers agreed to sell the remaining one-third ownership to a Californian engineering company. The announcement, which means that Americans will now produce and maintain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, was slipped out on the eve of the parliamentary Christmas holiday. Officials refused to say how much the deal raised

Taleban ‘threaten British values like the Nazis’ reports the Times

John Hutton, the Defence Secretary, has compared the Taleban and al-Qaeda to the Nazis, saying that British forces in Afghanistan are defending the country’s values as they did in the Second World War.
In an interview in The Times today, Mr Hutton says that, like the war to defeat Hitler, the military campaign in Afghanistan is “a vital national security mission” and not just a matter of foreign affairs.

Mugabe defiant as Brown steps up pressure on African leaders to move against him reports the Guardian

Robert Mugabe told his ruling Zanu-PF party yesterday that his country was facing a war with Britain but he would never surrender, and "Zimbabwe is mine".
The Zimbabwe president's defiant comments came amid escalating pressure from London on Zimbabwe's neighbours to press Mugabe from office. Gordon Brown urged southern African leaders yesterday to distance themselves from Mugabe and described the situation in Zimbabwe as a tragedy.

The Independent says that 'Greek Syndrome' is catching

Europe exists, it appears. If Greek students sneeze, or catch a whiff of tear-gas, young people take to the streets in France and now Sweden. Yesterday, masked youths threw two firebombs at the French Institute in Athens. Windows were smashed but the building was not seriously damaged. Then youths spray-painted two slogans on the building. One said, "Spark in Athens. Fire in Paris. Insurrection is coming". The other read, "France, Greece, uprising everywhere".

The Sun claims that

A TOP Premier League footballer is the target of a sex tape blackmail plot, The Sun can reveal.
Our reporters have seen footage of the married international being pleasured by a mystery blonde.
A team of gangsters posing as businessmen are demanding £100,000 in cash for the clip.
And while the blackmailers were trying to broker a deal with The Sun they were also threatening the player in a bid to force cash from him.

Gangs are getting younger and more violent, reports the Guardian

The country's leading police officer on gang culture warns today that gang members are getting younger and that they are resorting to lethal violence much more swiftly for the most trivial slights.
In an interview with the Guardian, Commander Sue Akers of the Metropolitan police identified other trends, including the emergence of a small number of girl gangs, and how women are being used to carry and conceal weapons.

More Xmas news from the Mail which reports that

People are queuing out of the door at post offices across the country following the closure of thousands of branches.
Efforts to get gifts and cards into the Christmas post are being hampered by the long delays in reaching the remaining counters.
Outbreaks of flu among staff are also hitting services


A WOMAN will give birth to a designer baby in Britain next week – the first to be genetically created free of the breast cancer gene.
The unnamed woman and her husband wanted to eliminate the cancer gene after three generations of women in his family were diagnosed with the disease in their 20s.
The husband’s grandmother, mother, sister and cousin were all afflicted by breast cancer and any daughter the ­couple have would be at an 80 per cent risk of suffering from the disease.

Who is going to be the new Dr Who asks the Independent

This week, after an industry screening of the festive special, to be broadcast on Christmas day, the 34-year-old actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, known for performances in Kinky Boots, Love Actually and Children of Men, joined a slew of others vying become the next Doctor Who. The current Doctor, David Tennant, is set to depart from his role in the BBC1 sci-fi series late next year. According to William Hill, Ejiofor is currently second favourite behind Paterson Joseph. If either takes the part, it will be the first time a black actor has done so.

More TV speculation in the Sun which reports that

STRICTLY Come Dancing stars Rachel Stevens and Lisa Snowdon take on actor Tom Chambers in tonight’s telly final — vowing: “It’s every girl for herself.”
The talented trio go head-to-head in the BBC1 ballroom hit’s closest-ever climax.
But with backstage anger lingering over last week’s voting fiasco, Rachel and Lisa are said to be determined to defeat Holby City hunk Tom, the bookies’ favourite