Saturday, September 27, 2008

Teenager stabbed 'in £20 debt row' is 27th killed in London this year

By Chris Irvine and Richard Edwards Last Updated: 5:15PM BST 26 Sep 2008

A 19-year-old man has been stabbed to death after an alleged row about a £20 debt - taking teenage killings in London this year to a record level.
Craig Marshall staggered into a nearby police station after he was attacked in Acton Photo: PA One in four murder victims in the capital this year have been teenagers, as police struggle to cope with a surge in youth and gang violence.
The toll reached 27 with the death of Craig Marshall, who staggered into a nearby police station after he was attacked in Acton. Two men, aged 20 and 21 and believed to be Sri Lankan, were arrested and are being questioned by police.

Nine-year-old Midlands girl rescued from forced marriage

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent Last Updated: 1:57AM BST 28 Sep 2008

British children as young as nine are being forced into marriage by their families, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The disclosure comes as official figures show that nearly 60 children aged 15 or under have been rescued by the Government's Forced Marriage Unit in the past four years.
The cases are feared to be the tip of the iceberg. They will fuel concerns, first raised earlier this year, that large numbers of children are disappearing from British schools to be forced into wedlock overseas.

North London terror arrests linked to controversial Muslim book

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter Last Updated: 8:48PM BST 27 Sep 2008

Four people were arrested in London yesterday over an alleged terror attack on the publisher of a controversial book on the prophet Muhammad.
The arrests are connected to a fire at a property in Islington, north London, which is used as the home and office of Martin Rynja, a publisher.
His company, Gibson Square, recently bought the rights to a novel which is considered by some to be more controversial than Salman Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses. The new book, about the prophet Muhammad and his child bride, is entitled The Jewel of Medina.
The blaze yesterday, which led to people being evacuated from the house, may have been started by a petrol bomb pushed through the letter box.
Initially, three men, aged 22, 30 and 40, were detained at around 2.25am yesterday after a fire broke out at a property in Lonsdale Square, Islington. Two were stopped by armed officers in Lonsdale Square, and the third was seized when a car was stopped by armed police near Angel underground station.

Financial crisis: Bradford & Bingley likely to be nationalised by Treasury

By Edmund Conway and Katherine Griffiths Last Updated: 2:17AM BST 28 Sep 2008

Taxpayers face a multi-billion-pound bill as part of a plan to rescue the stricken mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley, it has emerged.
The biggest buy-to-let operator is on the verge of being nationalised by the Government as time runs out on attempts to find a private buyer.
B&B’s shares will be suspended when the stock market opens on Monday. By that point, the Government will either nationalise the bank or announce a deal to sell it.
Senior Treasury officials are working on a plan to take B&B into public ownership. That could be followed by a swift sale to a bank, with Santander of Spain – which also owns Abbey – seen as the favourite.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Financial crisis: Stamp duty threshold has little impact on housing market, say Rightmove

By Myra Butterworth, Personal Finance Correspondent Last Updated: 12:26am BST 22/09/2008

Gordon Brown’s stamp duty initiative is appears to have had little impact on the housing market as new figures shows it is on its knees.
The latest gloomy property market survey reveals that house prices are continuing their down ward spiral, with the average asking price falling 1 per cent to £227,438 during the five weeks to September 13, according to property website Rightmove.
It brings further misery to home owners who are set to see the cost of mortgages soar following the deepening of the banking crisis last week and the increase in Libor – the rate at which banks lend to one another.

Labour conference: Gordon Brown given nine months to save his job by Cabinet loyalists

By Andrew Porter, Political Editor Last Updated: 6:02AM BST 22 Sep 2008

Gordon Brown has been given until next June by senior Cabinet ministers to prove himself capable of saving Labour from a general election meltdown or face being unseated.
For the first time those loyal to Mr Brown have put a time limit on the Prime Minister's survival.
Mr Brown pleaded for more time to turn around Labour's problems but admitted he had made mistakes. "I will do better," he said.
In Manchester for the Labour party conference, the Prime Minister refused to entertain the idea of stepping down in an attempt to revitalise the party under a new leader. He said he would be letting down the British people if he decided to "bail out."
But one Cabinet minister told the Telegraph he has nine months to improve Labour's standing in the polls.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Channel Tunnel reopens, but where are the passengers?

From Times OnlineSeptember 13, 2008

Restricted services to France and Belgium have begun, but many travellers appear to have made alternative arrangements.
The Channel Tunnel reopened to passenger trains this morning with the first Eurostar train leaving St Pancras station just before 7am.
Eurostar staff said a reduced timetable was running, but because many passengers due to travel today had not shown up they were hopeful most who did would get a train.
One group of holidaymakers heading for Lake Garda in Italy were told to check in early, only to discover they would be travelling around 45 minutes after their original scheduled time.

Nick Clegg faces conference tax rebellion by Liberal Democrat MPs

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent Last Updated: 3:56PM BST 13 Sep 2008

Nick Clegg is facing a conference rebellion by left-wing Liberal Democrat MPs and activists trying to block his plans to commit the party to tax cuts.
Mr Clegg wants the Lib Dems to fight the next election promising to cut Government spending by £20 billion.
A senior left-wing Lib Dem MP has openly urged party delegates to reject the cornerstone of Mr Clegg's new economic policy in a vote on Monday.
Mr Clegg wants the Lib Dems to fight the next election promising to cut Government spending by £20 billion and use some of the savings to reduce taxes for poorer families.
The tax plan is part of a shift to the right to defend against David Cameron's Tories. It will be debated at the Lib Dem annual conference on Monday in Bournemouth, with delegates given the final say.

XL holiday firm collapse: Stranded tourists tell of relief at coming home

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter Last Updated: 2:32PM BST 13 Sep 2008

Holidaymakers stranded abroad by the collapse of XL Leisure Group have told of their relief at finally arriving home.
Holidaymakers stranded abroad are beginning to make their way home. A massive airlift was under way to bring some of the 85,000 tourists who were caught out by the shut-down of Britain's third largest tour operator.

This morning, passengers flew into Gatwick Airport on a specially-chartered Monarch Airlines flight from Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, and spoke of their joy at getting home. Alison Hill, 37, said she was left in tears as she worried she would not be able to find a flight back to the UK.

Labour MPs Joan Ryan and Janet Anderson join open revolt against Gordon Brown

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter Last Updated: 4:00PM BST 13 Sep 2008

Gordon Brown is facing a growing revolt from Labour MPs who want to force a leadership election.
Gordon Brown could be facing a coup. An alliance of Labour MPs, including former Ministers, are thought to be seeking a leadership election. At least five more MPs joined the growing clamour against the Prime Minister by calling for a debate and a vote on whether he should continue as party leader.
Joan Ryan, the Labour MP for Enfield North, a vice chair of the party and a former minister, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there should be a "multiplicity" of challengers to compete for the leadership. "I have written to the party and asked for nomination papers to be issued," she said.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Compulsory fasting for all

The Times 1 September 2008

Tower Hamlets has asked non-Muslims to observe aspects of Ramadan

Stephen Pollard

Later this month it's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It's one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, so I'd be obliged, please, if you'd all stay at home, turn off the TV and refrain from your usual activities. Ten days after that it's Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews fast and spend the day in synagogue. So I've also asked my Times colleagues not to work then. And I will be mightily offended if I learn afterwards that any of them have been eating.
You might not think I am being serious. But if I was Head of Democratic Services at Tower Hamlets Council in East London, I would be. Last week John Williams e-mailed each of the borough's 51 councillors with a similar instruction.
For the duration of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, they are, he told them - every one of them, Muslim, Catholic, Jew or atheist - to behave during council meetings as strict Muslims. They are not to eat or drink; they are to break for Muslim prayers; they are to do as they are ordered by the Muslim religion.
Strict Muslims do not eat or drink between sunrise or sunset during Ramadan. Because sunset will fall during the meetings, there will be 45-minute adjournments so that councillors can break their fast and pray. And to make things easier, there will only be seven council meetings during the month.
This is, let me remind you, happening not on Karachi borough council but in Tower Hamlets in London. As far as I am aware, the United Kingdom has not yet been absorbed into the Caliphate. The last time I checked, we allow citizens to practise all religions and none. If I wish to stuff my face with chocolate during the fasting hours of Ramadan, I will. And if you wish to go out for a slap-up lunch on Yom Kippur, you can feel free.
Yet Mr Williams - he's the man with the “democratic services” label, a title so Orwellian that his existence simply had to involve promoting the opposite of democracy and service - appears to have concluded that Islamic practices must take precedence over any other practices. Instead of individual councillors being allowed to decide for themselves how they wish to behave during Ramadan, he is deciding for them.
It should come as no surprise that it is not the borough's Muslim councillors who are demanding that their non-Muslim colleagues obey Islam. As almost always, it is a caricature liberal-left non-Muslim idiot who thinks he is being racially aware who does the real harm to race relations. Respect for religious practice can only be given voluntarily. Mr Williams's prescription leads only to anger.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tony McNulty: 'blindingly obvious' that crime and extremism could rise in recession

The Times 1 September 2008

Siobhan Kennedy and Nico Hines

Ministers today said it was "blindingly obvious" that violent crime, burglaries and far-right extremism could rise in Britain as the effects of the economic downturn took their toll.
Tony McNulty, the Home Office Minister, said that the contents of a leaked document by Jacqui Smith [Home Secretary], containing the warnings about ramifications of such a slowdown, showed that the economic decline would have a profound social and criminal impact.
The leaked document, not cleared for release by the Home Secretary, sets out a series of warnings. She writes that Britain also faces a “significant increase” in alcohol and tobacco smuggling, hostility towards migrants and even a potential rise in the number of people joining terrorist groups.
He added: “This really is a statement of the blindingly obvious - people would be astonished if the Home Office weren’t looking at how the relationship between crime and the criminal justice system and the economy interact and relate with each other. . . What the letter also says, albeit a draft, is that we are better placed now than we were with equivalent problems in the ’70s and ’90s to tackle them.”
Ms Smith's briefing note tells Gordon Brown that violent crime is set to grow at a rate of 19 per cent while theft and burglaries could rise by up to 7 per cent this year and 2 per cent in 2009.
The report reveals that the Home Office has allocated £300 million for security for the 2012 Olympics and that there could also be a rise in people turning to extremist groups and racism because of “a real or perceived sense of disadvantage held by individuals. . . Grievances based on experiencing racism is one of the factors that can lead to people becoming terrorists." The report highlights Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities as those most vulnerable to such effects because of low employment rates and having the highest percentage of children living in households with income 60 per cent below the average.
A tightening in the economy is also expected to bring a significant rise in fuel, alcohol and tobacco smuggling and illegal-working migrant numbers could swell as job opportunities fall.