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The European Super League is a FTSE for Football – bring it on!

On the telly, the latest Tory housing minister and a Labour MP whose name escapes everyone are lamenting the new European Super League, a new tournament featuring most of the continent’s richest football clubs. The politicians harp on about “grass roots football”, the fans being the game’s true lifeblood and the joy of a less fancied side doing well.

You might roll your eyes. Governments support a made-for-TV Premier League, open football to foreign owners, suck up to repressive regimes, tell fans to sit down and shut up, big up globalisation and then are aghast and outraged that the game develops into a European Super League – a FTSE for football. From bubble matches, to all-seater stadia and the policing of language, governments have tried and tested new methods of control on football supporters.

Football fans are portrayed as race rioters-in-waiting. You can kick racism and sectarianism out of football, wear your rainbow laces and elevate the women’s game, but show me a black editor on a national newspaper title, a border down the Irish Sea and the figures on domestic violence and we’ll see who really matters.

Lead image: Sheffield F.C. (here pictured in 1857, the year of its foundation) is the oldest surviving association football club in the world.

Posted: 19th, April 2021 | In: Arsenal, Chelsea, Key Posts, Liverpool, Manchester City, manchester united, News, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Aggressive police arrest, hog-tie and mock elderly woman with dementia picking wild flowers by roadside

In this video taken by a police bodycam, we see a 73-year-old woman accosted, pushed to the ground and handcuffed. Her offence appears to be picking wild flowers whilst walking. The woman, one Karen Garner, was reportedly suspected of shoplifting from Walmart in Loveland, Colorado. The man behind the bodycam is Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp. Two other officers then join in.

Karen Garner has dementia and sensory aphasia, an inability to understand speech, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on her behalf. The lawsuit alleges the nastiness left her with a dislocated shoulder, a fractured humerus bone and a sprained wrist.

Hopp is now on administrative leave.

As for the alleged shoplifting:

Garner wound up wandering out of the store without paying for Pepsi, a candy bar, a T-shirt, and some stain-removing wipes—worth less than $14 altogether.Walmart employees stopped her and took the items back. They then refused her attempt to pay and called the police, according to the lawsuit…

She was taken to jail and charged with theft of less than $50, obstructing a peace officer, and resisting arrest, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, though the Larimer County District Attorney agreed to dismiss the case in August 2020.

And – yeah – get a load of his hands-free driving.

Posted: 18th, April 2021 | In: News | Comment


Is mass murder best for planet Earth?

The Guardian wants us to know why Genghis Kahn was “good for the planet”. Sure the forces slew around 40 million people. In every captured town, Khan’s forces killed everyone, even the cats and dogs. “But boy, was Genghis green.” Genghis Khan conquered an empire larger than the Roman Empire during the 12th and 13th centuries. The story is from 2011, but it remains a classic, like the end of snow and George W Bush’s plastic turkey.

The Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Energy “has concluded that the 13th-century Mongol leader’s bloody advance, laying waste to vast swaths of territory and wiping out entire civilisations en route, may have scrubbed 700m tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere – roughly the quantity of carbon dioxide generated in a year through global petrol consumption – by allowing previously populated and cultivated land to return to carbon-absorbing forest.”

Green murder

In next week’s news: why Pol Pot ‘s human compost is best for Gaia and how wildlife thrived when the Warsaw Ghetto was liquidated.

Posted: 17th, April 2021 | In: News | Comment


Artist adds smiles to female prisoners and victims of Khmer Rouge genocide

Deeps fakes, fake news and now adding to the list of repurposed media (aka ‘your truth’) are happy victims of genocide and smiling female prisoners. Vice has apologized for its profile of artist Matt Loughrey. Vice failed to note why people in dire straits were apparently smiling for their portraits. (You can see the original photos of female prisoners here).

The Guardian reports:

Cambodia has condemned images published by Vice media group that featured victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide, colourised and with some apparently edited to add smiles to their faces.

The artist Matt Loughrey modified images taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of people were tortured and interrogated before they were sent on to the killing fields of Choeung Ek.

Detailed records were kept by jailers, who took black-and-white photographs of every prisoner. The images were profiled by Vice on Friday, in an article that has since been removed.

File under: before and laughter.

Spotter: BB

Posted: 17th, April 2021 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment


Dread Beat and Blood: Lynton Kwesi Johnson, the Brixton Riots and The Spectator’s ‘Immigrant Swamp’

People had been getting angry. Forty years ago they’d had enough of heavy-handed police tactics and unchecked racism. On April 11, 1981, 13 young black people were killed in a fire at a house party in New Cross, London – an act of suspected arson for which no-one has been arrested. The Metropolitan Police were too busy looking for crime elsewhere to seek justice for the victims. The Met was busy sussing out suspected criminals using a system based on skin colour. Operation Swamp “resulted in a significant number of black youths being stopped and searched”. In 1978 Margaret Thatcher asserted that Britain “might be rather swamped by people of a different culture”.

Brixton in south London, exploded in rage. At around eight o’clock on the Saturday evening of 14 April 1981, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through a window of The George Hotel on the corner of Effra Parade and Railton Road. This was night two of what came to be known as the Brixton riots. In the 1970s The George had been the subject of several local marches. The South London Press wrote that the arson was “undoubtedly an act of revenge for years of racial discrimination”.

The music of Lynton Kwesi Johnson took on a prescience. In 1982, The Spectator noted that Johnson’s poetry written in Jamican patois “wreaked havoc in schools and helped to create a generation of rioters and illiterates”. Slum music for slum people. In 2012, Johnson’s dub poetry won the Golden PEN award for his “distinguished service to literature”. This was music and poetry as forces for understanding and liberation.

“In terms of our country, it would be foolish to say that we haven’t made some progress. Because we have,” he said in 2018. The poet who arrived in the UK from Jamaica when he was 11, went on: “But, right now, we are living through a time of reaction; the rise of Conservative populism. And some things simply won’t go away. I’m sure I’ll be crucified for saying this, but I believe that racism is very much part of the cultural DNA of this country, and most probably has been so from imperial times. And, in spite of the progress that we have made, it’s there. It is something we have to contend with in our everyday lives.”

Posted: 14th, April 2021 | In: Music, News | Comment


Pregnant women, children and cancer patients banned from Caraboa Cup Final

The Caraboa Cup final between Spurs and Manchester City will be watched at Wembley by 4,000 paying fans – half each for each club. But you can only apply for a ticket if you’re over 18, not pregnant and not a cancer patient or ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. Fans who do get a ticket must take a lateral flow coronavirus test at a designated site in the 24 hours before the game on April 25. And they must bring proof of a negative result, either a text or an email. But if you need to be clear of Covid-19 to attend, why is anyone else banned?

The arbitrariness of this ban on some people attending a football match is plain. And what if a teenager, pregnant woman or someone with MS wants to watch the game and does get a ticket? Will they be arrested? A fine? Do you need to prove you are not pregnant, or the state prove that you are? How about carrying an ID card to attend the game, one with your date of birth and medical history on?

Big Brother Watch reported in February that police have issued around 70,000 fixed-penalty notices (FPNs) since March 2020 for alleged lockdown breaches. What was once free and taken for granted is now something we need to ask permission to do. And as with many forms of control, football fans will be the testing ground.

Posted: 13th, April 2021 | In: Manchester City, News, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Police hunt for world’s biggest rabbit

If you get offered a four-foot and 3-inch long rabbit, perhaps in the carpark of a newly opened pub, say ‘Darius’ and see if the bunny reacts. Because Darius, a continental giant rabbit, has gone missing from his hutch in Stoulton, Worcestershire. His owner, Annette Edwards, has offered a £1,000 reward for the return of Darius, ruled to be the world’s longest rabbit in 2010. Police are nt thought to be rounding up the usual suspects:

Posted: 12th, April 2021 | In: News | Comment


Rocky Horror Picture Show plays to empty house for 54 weeks

You can watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night at Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon. But for the past 54 weeks, the cinema’s Covid-enforced closure has meant no-one besides staff has been there to see it Nathan Williams, host of the venue’s weekly Rocky Horror nights, has been hitting the ‘play’ on the VT. The Oregonian:

“I watched it alone. I watched it during the snowstorm,” said Williams, who serves as emcee for the theater’s “Rocky” nights. “I was in a position to keep a flame burning, to keep a torch lit.

“I’m just a guy holding a torch for the city of Portland, for all the weirdos, for all the people who don’t have a safe place to call home, we’re home […]

Since 1987, members of the Clinton Street Cabaret have acted out “Rocky” on a stage below the screen at the Clinton Street Theater, mimicking the film in what’s called a shadow cast.

“‘Rocky’ has always been a place for the weird, quiet kid and the loud extrovert and the person who’s just looking for something fun to do and the theater kids and LGBTQ kids,” said Loren Thompson, the current president of the cabaret. “It’s where all the misfits come to find family.”

The Clinton Street Theater has re-opened.

Posted: 12th, April 2021 | In: Film, News, Strange But True | Comment


The Brains Trust Bandits: Gun Assault criminals caught on CTV refused to wear Covid-19 masks

In America, such the bolshiness in refusing to wear a mask to stop the spread of off Covid-19, that one alleged criminal let his slip from his face. So here he is on CCTV, wearing his mark as a chinstrap. The other two being sought by police in Washington DC, didn’t even bother to go that far.

MPD seeks assistance in identifying suspects in an Assault with a Dangerous Weapon (Gun) & Assault on a Police Officer offense that occurred on 4/8/21 in the 5000 blk of Benning Rd, SE. Have info? Call (202) 727-9099/text 50411 Release: bit.ly/39W0fad

No-one said you had to be bright to be gun-toting criminal.

Posted: 9th, April 2021 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment


The Glorious 12th: Metro tabloid creates contender for worst front-page headline of all time

There’s been rioting in Northern Ireland. But not to worry because you can get some noodles in a cafe on Monday. It’s the ‘Glorious 12th’ in The Metro. Yeah, really. Who writes The Metro’s front page? Who edits the thing? Mind blowing. Surely it’s time to let the paper’s staff have access to the Internet.

For anyone not au fait with what The Glorious 12th is – especially if you hang those words beneath a picture of violence in Northern Ireland – here goes. Wikipedia:

A contender, then, for the worst front-page headline of all time.

PS: If only there were some sort of library open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, where hapless journalists could find stuff out.

Posted: 8th, April 2021 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Oxford-AstraZenaca : Countdown to Fear

Sorry. No Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine for you under-30s. Having been linked to extremely rare blood clots in adults, the advice is to chose a different jab, the Pfizer one, say, or Moderna vaccine. But the UK’s medicine regulator (MHRA) says the AZ vaccine is safe and the benefits of taking it outweigh the risks for the “vast majority of people”. You take it if you like. But would you? You’re never ill until you are, at which point everything changes. So try to avoid catching Covid-19, of course. One dose has made some people feel floored for a few days. Imagine what the full-blown illness is like. Get the jab.

Which one would you pick? The MHRA says under-30s with no underlying health conditions should be offered an alternative vaccine “where available”. Vague? How about this – Mr Hancock says there is “no evidence” of rare blood clots after the second dose of the vaccine. If your first was the AZ treatment, you get offered only the same supplier for the second dose.

Dr June Raine, head of the MHRA, says the link between rare blood clots and the AZ jab is “firming up”. She says more evidence is needed to establish any link.

And then things get arbitrary. Use of the AZ vaccine has been stopped in Denmark; restricted for people 60 and over in Germany, Spain and Italy; and only be given to those aged 55 or over in France. Why the differences? And don’t those differences spread uncertainty and fear?

A good time, then, for clear and concise journalism to serve information to the people. Well…

Daily Express: What Iceberg?

The Guardian : Fear the Fear.

Daily Mail: The Patriotic Thrombosis

The Times: Johnson Knows

The Sun: What Are The Odds (With A Corona Lager Chaser)

The Telegraph: Neil Astles, 59, died. He suffered 10 days of worsening headaches and loss of vision after receiving a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We are still shocked at the loss of our brother… from my own perspective, I sat and watched [England’s deputy chief medical officer] Professor Van Tam yesterday on the news talking about the clot risk and the benefits to population of having the vaccine,” Neil Astles sister Alison told ITV.

“And as I sat there and watched him, it occurred to me that my family and me were in a particularly unique situation to give a very strong public health message about this.

“Because it’s not statistics to us, it’s an actual, loved human being who died.

“At the same time, I still believe that for the vast, vast majority of us the safest way forward is for people to have the vaccine, because that in the end will save the most lives.”

The i: No. That wasn’t what was said.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 8th, April 2021 | In: Broadsheets, News, Tabloids | Comment


Keir Starmer apologies for meeting Christians at Easter

Jesus

Keir Starmer has apologised for spending part of this Easter weekend visiting a church in Brent, London, run by Christians who think homosexuality is a sin. It can be dangerous to literally demonise homosexuality, the right for people to love. Because gay sex is love. But that’s religion for you: it does so like rules and judgement. The Guardian reported: “Keir Starmer criticised over visit to church where pastor opposed same-sex marriage.” Look out for similar headlines with ‘church’ replaced by any other type of orthodox house of worship. Starmer apologised. He removed the video of his visit. “I apologise for the hurt my visit caused,” said Starmer. By which token, where should he visit – and do garden centres all want him there?

Posted: 6th, April 2021 | In: News, Politicians | Comment


Naked woman arrested in Dubai

Dubai is horrible. You can get all kinds of food at any time of day, the sun shines and your holiday cash supports a regime anyone half decent should find revolting. Today, at least 12 women – one Russian; 11 Ukrainian – were arrested for posing naked for a photo on a balcony. Their alleged crime is “public debauchery”. The rich and righteous locals prefer to take their debauchery offshore, either by jet or boat.

Public debauchery carries a sentence of up to six months in prison and a 5,000 dirham fine (£981). Reports in Russia suggest one man has also been pinched. He faces up to 18 months in prison.

“Such unacceptable behaviours do not reflect the values and ethics of Emirati society,” a Dubai police statement said.

Here’s what Amnesty has to say about this morals:

The authorities, particularly the State Security Agency (SSA), subjected detainees, including foreign nationals, to arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and enforced disappearance. The authorities also restricted freedom of expression, imprisoning government critics and holding them in dire conditions. In a positive development in women’s rights, almost 200 women stood in the Federal National Council (FNC) elections in October, more than double the number in the last elections; still, women continued to face discrimination in law and in practice. On migrants’ rights, the authorities removed the job title criteria for sponsorship, which allowed more migrant workers to sponsor family members to live in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, migrant workers remained tied to employers under the kafala (sponsorship) system, which made them vulnerable to labour abuses and exploitation. The UAE continued to deny nationality to thousands of individuals who were born within its borders. While no executions were reported, courts continued to issue death sentences.

The BBC adds:

Rape victims, too, have been prosecuted under the laws against extramarital sex. A BBC Arabic investigation in 2015 found that hundreds of women, including rape victims, were being imprisoned under this law every year – and that domestic servants were particularly vulnerable.

But you can get pie and mash in 90 degree heat at 3am. So, all to the good, eh…

Posted: 5th, April 2021 | In: News | Comment


EU moves to seize production from British built Covid-19 vaccine factory

British money paid for the vaccine centre sited in the EU zone. The Times leads with news in light of the EU’s threat to block four million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at a Dutch factory run by Halix, a subcontractor. The Telegraph:

British taxpayers have invested millions of pounds into a Dutch vaccine factory at the centre of a threatened blockade by the European Commission, The Telegraph can disclose.

The Halix factory in Leiden was equipped to produce doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, approved a major investment last April. The money – reported to be in the region of £21 million

But…

But Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, warned that “zero” jabs would be sent to the UK until AstraZeneca had fulfilled its commitments to Brussels, even after Germany suspended routine use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged below 60 because of fears of rare blood clots.

“If [AstraZeneca] does more, we don’t have any issue, but as long as it doesn’t deliver its commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe,” Mr Breton said. “There is no negotiation.”

How did it come to this? Why did the UK fund a factory in The Netherlands?

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, tells the Times:

“The government has been completely disinterested in building onshore manufacturing capacity for any of the life-sciences products,” he added. “I’m not talking about this government, I’m talking about all governments for the last ten years. And it turns out that manufacturing is a strategic asset for health security when stuff gets tough, which it is now.”

So much for being world leaders in tech.

Posted: 2nd, April 2021 | In: Broadsheets, News | Comment


The neoliberal gym epidemic makes Stalinists blush

Do you see gyms and jogging as fallout from neoliberalism, those market-oriented reform policies which serve to protect private property from external interference. Nicole Karlis has view in Salon. It’s a view that makes you wonder if she ever saw the Communists compete at the Olympics and fascists doing callisthenics in the park:

The last half-century may be considered the age of fitness, and it is no accident that it coincides with the age of neoliberalism,” Martschukat writes. “Rather than a generalizing call to arms, here neoliberalism denotes an epoch that has modeled itself on the market, interprets every situation as a competitive struggle and enjoins people to make productive use of their freedom.”

The timing is about right – neoliberalism was a response to 1970s stagflation. But socialism has been pretty keen on exercise.

Lead image: “All World Records Must Be Ours!”

Posted: 1st, April 2021 | In: Money, News, Sports | Comment


Deliveroo: losing money off nothing

Did you buy shares in Deliveroo, the restaurant food delivery business, perhaps accepting the company’s offer for customers to buy shares via its app? Hard cheese if you did. At one stage, the company’s shares lost 30% of their value on the first day of trading. Boosted by the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing food from restaurants to housebound customers was a good idea. The company lost £244 million last year but revenues soared by 54%. But now that we’re about escape, what’s its unique selling point? And then there is the issue of how Deliveroo treats its workers.

Frances O’Grady, of the Trades Union Congress, got to the root of it:

“There’s nothing stopping Deliveroo from paying their workforce the minimum wage and guaranteeing them basic rights like holiday and sick pay. Plenty of employers are able to provide genuine flexibility and security for their workforce. Deliveroo have no excuse for not following suit. The company’s reluctance to offer benefits now is because they want to dodge wider employment and tax obligations by labelling staff as self-employed.”

And in the US? The FT compares Deliveroo’s debut to that of Doordash, which offers. similar service. Its shares rose over 86% on the first day of trading in New York.

Posted: 31st, March 2021 | In: Money, News | Comment


Uri-Ka! 14 tugs boats witness spoon bender Geller using mind power to move Ever Given from Suez Canal trap

brain crime

We’ve yet to see the state of the cutlery aboard the Ever Given, but Israeli spoon bender Uri Geller says he played a part in moving the massive ship that was blocking the Suez Canal.

“Keep up the good work. Focus every day at 11:11 am and 11:11 pm send your energy to free the ship. Help the tug boats too,” Geller wrote on Twitter. And then it moved. Fourteen tug boats and crew were there to witness the happening.

“This was a mammoth task but with your mind-power and self belief we all together freed the ship!” said Geller to everyone who joined him in the Big Shunt. “Your sheer positive energy also helped the ground crew efforts well done to them too!”

Posted: 29th, March 2021 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment


Guns and weed in America: Adam Vannoy is coming to a town near you


“I can’t stop thinking about this,” says Shannon Watts of self-described firearms enthusiast, Adam Vannoy, 40. “Just days after the Boulder mass shooting, a Denver man was pulled over in Nebraska for driving 120 mph. He tells a trooper his neighbors don’t like him, he had a breakdown, quit his job, left the state in his car. This is where it gets weird…”

Vannoy, of Colorado, was arrested when he tried to buy a big gun at an Iowa gun store. He fancied a semi-automatic rifle. But he failed to get one because he told the shop worker he was surprised his mates didn’t suspect he was the Boulder mass shooter who earlier this month shot dead 10 people, including a police officer, at King Soopers market. The store called the police.

Got it? Now let’s rewind. Get this. A few days earlier, Nebraska State Patrol had stopped Vannoy as he drove at great speed (reportedly up to 120mph) on Interstate 80 in Lancaster County. In his truck, police found: a handgun, an AR-style semi-automatic rifle (loaded) with an illegal silencer, four more firearms, ammunition, a bulletproof blanket, a bulletproof vest, two brown wigs and an Air Force costume. Oh, they also found marijuana.

Off to jail he went. He posted the $5,000 bond. But before leaving jail, reports says he’d busied himself. He threatened to kill a guard, exposed his penis to guards and threw poo from his cell into a common area, according to a federal complaint. He told a trooper that he would use his time in jail to “think about getting even with people.” So they let him go.

And six days later, Vannoy is at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Ankeny, Iowa, trying to buy more weapons. Agents arrested Vannoy on a new federal charge stemming from the Nebraska traffic stop – illegal possession of a firearm as an unlawful user of marijuana.

Because, you know, the weed…

Posted: 28th, March 2021 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment


They are Charlie Hebdo: Batley Grammar school students campaign to save teacher’s job after Mohamed picture debacle

charlie hebdo

Anyone searching for sanity in the Batley Grammar school row can enjoy the news that pupils have rallied to save their teacher’s job. Sir was suspended for showing his class a cartoon of the Prophet Mohamed – the image that in 2015 Islamists took such offence to they murdered 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine that created and published the work. For a brief while lots of politicians chanted “Je Suis Charlie”. Now to show the cartoon to students at a secular school in the UK in an effort to get them thinking and foster debate gets you tossed from a job. The teacher is said to be in hiding.

Lots of people angered that the cartoon was shown protested at the school gates. The West Yorkshire school agreed with the protestors, calling the image “inappropriate”. Headteacher Gary Kibble apologised “unequivocally”. He is “investigating” the teacher.

The students are robust. They have rallied to the teacher’s defence:

“The religious studies teacher was trying to educate students about racism and blasphemy. He warned the students before showing them the images and he had the intent to educate them. He does not deserve such large repercussions. He is not a racist and did not support the Islamophobic cartoons in any manner. This has got out of hand and due to this the students have missed out on lessons.”

As ever, it’s not the open-minded, inquisitive children we should fret about, it’s the adults.

Image: In this Sept.19, 2012 file photo, Charb, the publishing director of the satyric weekly Charlie Hebdo, displays the front page of the newspaper as he poses for photographers in Paris. He was killed.

Posted: 26th, March 2021 | In: News | Comment


Covid: failing EU vows war with US and UK – Ursula von der Leyen ignores German rule breaking

The European Union has been accused of “vaccine nationalism”. It wants to stop vaccines made in the EU zone from leaving for other counties, even if non-EU countries have placed legitimate orders with private companies making the stuff. For the UK, it would mean less of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines reaching us.

Ursula von der Leyen, current head of the European Commission (another bureaucrat EU citizens never voted for) says 77 million vaccines were sent from companies operating in the EU to the UK but she is “not aware” of any vaccines coming the other way. That this is mainly because the EU government failed to get its act together and order enough seems to escaped the posh former German defence minister, who also says AstraZeneca must “catch up” on its promised deliveries to the EU before exporting doses elsewhere – even if the EU ordered it much later than other customers – and said it was potentially sub-standard and should not be used, thus causing further delays. Just 14% of the EU population have received the jab, compared with 47% in the UK.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) tested the drug and said it works and is safe. As a result of the EU crass and craven behaviour, EU countries have been reporting hundreds of thousands of unused doses because of a drop in public confidence in the jab.

The big stuff up is because the EU turned a health emergency into a political opportunity, asking all 27 member states to join a scheme giving the EU central responsibility for buying vaccines. They did. And the EU has let them down.

Under the terms of the EU scheme, member states must not to do deals with any vaccine manufacturer with whom the EU already has an agreement. But lest you do not still realise which country runs the EU, Germany signed its own side-deal with Pfizer for 30 million extra doses in September. The European Commission declined to say whether this had broken the terms of the EU scheme.

The EU is fracturing. Hungary and Slovakia have bought Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. Austria and Denmark are working with Israel to produce second-generation vaccines against mutations of the coronavirus.

“The company (AZ)… has to honour the contract it has with member states,” says von der Leyen. She’s lashing out to cover her failures. She should check the order books and see how far down it the EU is. One former president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, says the EU must end the “stupid vaccine war” with the UK. “This cannot be dealt with in a war atmosphere. We are not in war, and we are not enemies.” He says the row will cause “major reputational damage” to the EU. The UK is out. Other nations will surely agitate to leave the bloc. The war is on. The EU is being hammered.

“I think it is clear that first of all the company has to catch up,” Mrs von der Leyen told a news conference after the virtual leaders summit. “[It] has to honour the contract it has with European member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines. We want to explain to our European citizens that they [can] get their fair share.” She wants to tell them that the inefficient, sluggish EU did not fail and everything will be ok because they will now queue jump and punish the counties that did act quickly. Nice way to behave. The other part of the EU’s attack on decency is French President Emmanuel Macron. He says: “I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don’t respect their commitments with Europeans.” What a load of toffee.

AstraZeneca works with suppliers in 15 counties. It says the UK had not received any vaccines or components from the EU – apart from one “tiny” batch from a plant in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The EU is playing games. It can only lose:

The Pfizer jab is mostly made in Puurs in Belgium, and a manufacturing site has also been set up in the German town of Marburg.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses. The company says these deliveries are on track, but did not comment on whether they could be affected by EU export controls.

In Europe, the Moderna vaccine is produced in Switzerland and put into vials in Spain – the UK has ordered 17 million doses.

The Janssen jab is made in the Netherlands – the UK has ordered 30 million doses.

Vaccines may be produced in one place but “filled and finished” – put into vials and prepared for export – in another.

And some components used in making the vaccine may be made at yet another location. For example, the UK company Croda is supplying a component to Pfizer to make its vaccine.

Brexit. Still think it was a bad idea? And will companies making drugs in the protectionist EU now consider setting up in Mexico, Israel, Turkey or Australia, say? And if not, why not? What does the EU offer? Reuters quotes the EU as demanding the UK exports vaccines “as it does”. It doesn’t. Companies operating in the EU zone do in terms dictated by the EU. The EU makes nothing. Given the EU’s weak behaviour, companies would be excused for rethinking their futures in the zone.

Posted: 25th, March 2021 | In: News, Politicians | Comment


After Horizon : salvation for Postmasters but Post Office gods escape

The Post Office believed the data churned out by Horizon, its flawed computer system, over the statements of more than 900 postmasters who said they had not stolen money. Postmasters were responsible for cashing up and balancing their books with the Horizon system. Any error was the postmaster’s responsibility to correct. And those errors were mounting up.

Discrepancies between the money in the till and the money Horizon said was there began in the pennies. Gary Brown, a former postmaster from Yorkshire, tells the Times what happened when he called the Post Office helpline. He’d ask, “Is this happening only to me?” He says the answer was always “Yes”. Gary and his wife Maureen, who lived over their shop, hired a private auditor who spent five days studying their books. “No one could find a solution. The till’s shortfalls grew to thousands of pounds. They were losing money. But how? They worked longer hours. They sold hot food and decorated cakes. Gary took a loan to cover the cash shortfall. But the losses grew. They remortgaged their home. They borrowed from family and friends. Gary began taking antidepressants. In 2014, Horizon said the till was £32,000 short. Auditors from the Post Office searched their home. “It was stomach-churning. I’ve never stolen in my life. I burst into tears,” says Gary. “I was frightened,” says Maureen. “He was falling to pieces.” Gary tried to take his own life. They say the Post Office “stole our home and stolen our future”.

Postmaster Seema Misra was pregnant when she was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2010 for stealing £74,000 from her branch in West Byfleet. In court she pleaded her innocence. “If I hadn’t been pregnant, I would have killed myself,” she says. “It was so shameful. I trusted the Post Office. I trusted I was working with a good company and this is how I’m treated.” Paying back the Post Office left her family financially destroyed.

The Post Office said computer errors could not be responsible for the missing money. In 2020, the BBC’s Panorama claimed to have seen internal Post Office emails which show its legal department was told about Horizon errors shortly before her trial.

One email from the Post Office Security Team to the Criminal Law Team is about a bug in the Horizon computer system that makes money “simply disappear”. In one case, £30,611 went missing.

The security team tell the legal team they are worried the bug may have “repercussions in any future prosecution cases”.

An attachment to the email says that “any branch encountering the problem will have corrupted accounts”.

The document was printed out by the Post Office legal department just three days before Seema Misra’s trial, but it was never disclosed to her defence.

Postmasters were prosecuted using unreliable evidence.

This year the Post Office agreed not to contest 44 of the first 47 cases referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. hearing at Southwark Crown Court . Oxfordshire sub-postmaster Vipinchandra Patel has had his 18-week prison sentence quashed. He did not steal £75,000. “The past nine years have been hellish and a total nightmare, but today I feel I can start living again. I can look forward and focus on enjoying life,” he says. “I feel euphoric as I have finally been vindicated. This conviction has been a cloud over my life for almost 10 years.”

Not everyone lost. Japanese company Fujitsu, the company that devised horizon, was paid handsomely.

And the boss? Paula Vennells was Chief Executive Officer of the Post Office Limited from 2012 to 2019. In 2019 she became chair of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London. In December 2020 it was announced that she would be leaving this role early, for personal reasons.

Vennells is an Anglican priest. “I hear from my parishioners if the Post Office does something they don’t like,” she told the Times in 2014. “They have no compunction – I’ll roll up one Sunday and somebody will come and say something and I’ll say, ‘Look, would you mind just holding it till the end of the service?’” Vennells said her faith “influences my values and how I approach things”. She’s busy:

She is a Non-Executive Director of Morrisons Plc, a member of the government’s Financial Inclusion Policy Forum and of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group for the Church of England. She’s been a Trustee for the Hymns Ancient and Modern Group and a member of the Future High Street Forum. She served as a Non-Executive Board Member at the Cabinet Office between February 2019 and March 2020.

In the 2019 New Year Honours, Vennells was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) “for services to the Post Office and to charity”.

When she left her role, Post Office chairman Tim Parker said:

“Paula has served the Post Office with great distinction: under her leadership the business has been transformed from an organisation making substantial losses into one that is now fully profitable and on an upwards trajectory… In the course of radically improving the business, Paula has ensured that the Post Office values of care, challenge and commitment are deeply embedded in the business and we have remained true to our underlying mission as a commercial business with a social purpose. I would also like to say on a personal note, that Paula’s decisiveness, approachability and calm disposition have made her an excellent CEO to work with, and have won her many friends right across the business.”

Paul Vennells told the Times she suffers from claustrophobia. Innocent of all and any wrongdoing, she has, of course, never been locked inside a prison cell. Postmasters have. One ended up dead. Her name was Dawn O’Connell.

This is Ben Gordon QC’s statement to the court, via Post Office Central. Read it and weep:

“My Lord, Ms Dawn O’Connell is not here today, having passed away in September of last year. I myself never had the chance to meet Ms O’Connell. Her appeal against her conviction is advanced or continued in her son Matthew’s name. Matthew O’Connell and Dawn’s brother, Mark, as I understand it, my Lord, are present in court today, next door in the overflow court.

My Lord, in the years following her conviction in 2008, and the serving of her suspended sentence, Ms O’Connell’s health, both physical and mental, declined dramatically. According to her family and loved ones, her personality also changed, irrevocably. She became increasingly isolated, ultimately reclusive, as described by her family, and struggled desperately to deal with the stigma of her conviction.

She suffered, my Lord, with severe bouts of depression. She did receive treatment, medication and counseling, but she sunk inexorably into alcoholism. In her latter and final years, my Lord, I understand that Ms O’Connell made repeated attempts upon her own life. In September of last year, her body succumbed to the damage caused by her sustained abuse of alcohol and she died tragically at the age of 57.

My Lord, on behalf of her son, her brother, and all her surviving family members and friends, I feel compelled to tender to the court their sincere regret and deep anguish that Dawn is not here today to hear her case being argued.

My Lord, Mrs O’Connell’s conviction dates back to August of 2008 and Harrow Crown Court, where, upon her own pleas of guilty, she was convicted of five counts of false accounting. One further count alleging theft of approximately £45,470 was ordered to lie on the file on the usual terms and was not proceeded with. A pre-sentence report was ordered and, a month later, in September, Ms O’Connell was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years, with a requirement for the completion of 150 hours of unpaid work.

My Lord, between 2000 and 2008, Ms Dawn O’Connell worked as a branch manager, a Post Office branch manager in Northolt. My Lord, as with many others which are before the court today, and as my learned friend Mr Saxby did, where it is applicable to Mrs O’Connell’s case, if I may, I echo and commend to the court my learned friend Mr Moloney’s submissions. But Mrs O’Connell’s case was one in which the Horizon data was central, central to the prosecution and her conviction. The prosecution arose from an unexplained shortfall, or deficit on the system at her branch. When audited, Mrs O’Connell reported the shortfalls and indicated that she was unable to explain the anomaly. Initially, as she explained, she had hoped that the error would correct itself, but over the ensuing months it grew and accumulated.

Ultimately, my Lord, having admitted falsifying the accounts in an attempt to conceal the deficit in the hope of preserving her job, she pleaded guilty to the offences of false accounting. Throughout the audit, throughout the investigation and throughout the prosecution, Ms O’Connell repeatedly and strenuously denied theft. As I have said, this count was left to lie on the file.

My Lord, as conceded by the respondent in relation to her appeal, there was no evidence of theft or any actual loss at her branch, as opposed to a Horizon generated shortfall. There was no other evidence to corroborate the Horizon data. On the contrary, my Lord, evidence was collected from other employees which attested to Ms O’Connell’s honesty and probity.

As further conceded by the respondent in her case, no attempt was made by the Post Office, as private prosecutor, to obtain or interrogate the ARQ data. There was no investigation into the integrity of the Horizon figures, and it is recognised that the appellant herself was severely limited in her ability to challenge the Horizon evidence and therefore that it was incumbent upon the Post Office to ensure that the reliability of the evidence was properly investigated and, my Lord, this was not done.

The Post Office failed, in my respectful submission, in its duty as a private prosecutor both to investigate properly the reliability of the system by obtaining and examining the data, and to disclose to the appellant or the court the full and accurate position in relation to the reliability of the system. No disclosure was forthcoming in Ms O’Connell’s case, my Lord, in relation to any concern or enquiry raised into the functionality of the system.

Ms O’Connell’s case file demonstrates that the focus of the investigation in her case was on proving how the accounts were falsified, which of course she had admitted, rather than examining the root cause of the shortfall. In fact, as it seems, no effort was made to identify or discover the actual cause of the shortfall or deficit. During the internal audit process, and her interviews under caution, my Lord, Ms O’Connell raised the issues she had encountered with the system and its recurring anomalies. No investigation or disclosure followed.

Notwithstanding, and by reference to the balancing exercise which the court is required to undertake in a submission of this kind, Ms O’Connell was a lady of hitherto good character, about whom people were, it seems, lining up to attest to her honesty and integrity. My Lord, in the papers I have seen, I have counted somewhere in the region of 30 character statements, which I think were obtained on her behalf. My Lord, it is conceded by the respondent that for these reasons it was not possible for Mrs O’Connell’s trial to be a fair one, thereby amounting to first category of abuse of process.

However, as set out, only a short while ago by Mr Moloney on behalf of his clients, and as set out in our skeleton argument, dated 21 January, we would respectfully submit that for the same set of reasons, or in respect of the same failures in the investigative and disclosure exercises, the prosecution against Ms O’Connell was rendered unconscionable, and that bringing it was an affront to the national conscience. Accordingly, my Lord, on her son Matthew’s behalf, we respectfully invite the court to quash her conviction on both grounds, or both limbs of abuse of process. My Lord, unless I can assist you any further, those are my submissions on Ms O’Connell’s behalf.”

What next? And who knew?

Posted: 25th, March 2021 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment


Tory snowflake James Wild MP hunts for Union flags at the BBC – satire takes a bow

James Wild flag

James Wild is the MP for NW Norfolk. He tweets: “Today @CommonsPAC
scrutinised the BBC on its strategy. As well as asking about licence fee, commercial income, and efficiency, I asked about 🇬🇧 as I cldnt spot any in its 268 page Annual Report – maybe this year’s will.”

Wild likes to see the Union flag in brochures and annual reports. You can judge the quality of a document by the number of flag it contains. A flag enthusiast like Wild is expected to keep a photo of Ken Bailey and a copy of Readers’ Flags beneath under his mattress, turning to them in the small hours when reassurance needs a helping hand.

Posted: 23rd, March 2021 | In: News, Politicians | Comment


Save our plastic toys: smug parents trigger Waitrose magazine ban

Waitrose will no longer sell magazines with disposable plastic toys stuck to the front. This is a huge deal for the publishing industry because those plastic toys are useful when it comes to attracting little hands and distracting minds from the mag’s other content, which is routinely rubbish. Waitrose says the toys cannot be recycled and are only useful for a very limited time. Everyone else says,”£4.99 for that!”

The move follows the bans on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. Does anyone think the paper straws do a better job than the plastic ones? Pollution is a problem, but are plastic hairclips on magazines a burning issue?

Of course, this is Waitrose, and the middle-class larder wants to replace “pointless plastic” with “sustainable alternatives”. The “inspiration” behind the Waitrose narrative is a 10-year-old who launched a campaign to persuade publishers to stop giving away the disposable toys in magazines. How Waitrose will react to campaigns by children to buy local, support small retailers and shun chains is moot.

“I’m really pleased so many people have agreed with me and supported my petition – I want to thank everyone who has signed and shared my campaign to ban plastics from comics and magazines,” the child told the BBC. “Thank you to Waitrose for agreeing with us and no longer selling the unwanted plastic tat. I hope all retailers can do the same and then the publishers will realise this is not acceptable anymore. We really like the magazines – we just don’t want or need the plastic packaging or the cheap plastic toys.”

And then the best bit: the ban will not include educational or reusable craft items which are designed to be used multiple times, such as colouring pens and pencils, and collectable models.

So plastic toys have not been banned. The knowing simply want “tat” replaced with worthy stuff that turns home into an extension of school. Now sit back and wait until the knowing find out what they make magazine paper from. Tim-ber!

Posted: 23rd, March 2021 | In: Key Posts, News, The Consumer | Comment


How I got scammed by the Royal Mail postage fee scammers

“I mentioned yesterday that I’d been scammed out of every penny I had,” tweets Emmeline Hartley. “Thought I’d post what happened in case it helps anyone avoid being in the same position. Please save the lectures, I don’t think it’s possible for me to feel any stupider.”

She’s brave for sharing this. It could happen to any one of us. Here’s how the Safe Account scam works:

scam
royal mail

Can’t something be done to stop these scams? These criminals are utter ****s!.

Posted: 22nd, March 2021 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment