Number 86 – january 2010 NEWS ITEMS OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD
Nigerian extremist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (22) attempted to detonate a homemade bomb aboard North West Flight 253 as it started its descent over the Great Lakes towards Detroit’s international airport on Christmas Day. His bomb failed to explode. If it had, 290 passengers and crew would have been killed. What the attack did do was to give notice that al-Qaeda had embarked on a new and terrifying campaign of
terror using bombs which are practically invisible to normal airport security devices. To complicate matters, they are now planning the attacks from hidden places in inaccessible countries such as Yemen and Somalia.
The Chinese Government authorised the execution of a British citizen who had been charged and found guilty of drug smuggling. Londoner Akmal Shaikh, who was a victim of mental illness (bi-polar), was killed by lethal injection. A statement issued by the Chinese authorities said he had tried to smuggle 9 lb of heroin into the country – enough to cause the deaths of 26,800 people. The Chinese Government also stated that, in future, all executions will be carried out by lethal injection instead of using a firing squad.
05/01/10: WORLD’S TALLEST AND MOST EXPENSIVE BUILDING OFFICIALLY OPENED: The world’s highest building was formally opened in Dubai. Known as Burj Dubai, it is 828 metres high and cost £1.5 billion to build.
METEOROLOGICAL OFFICE INFORMATION On 8th January, the lowest temperature recorded in Scotland was minus 22.3 degrees. This was only 2 degrees warmer than Antartica.
Guess Who ?
5/01/10: THE BIG FREEZE: Millions of families faced some of the worst driving conditions in years as a “perfect storm” of snow, ice and heavy traffic hit the Christmas getaway over a 5-day period. Heavy snow across Britain made some roads impassable while others became ice rinks as snow fell on ice and temperatures plummeted to below zero. The AA and RAC reported the highest number of breakdowns for a decade. The bad weather continued into January and conditions were the worst Scotland had experienced in more than 50 years. Temperatures slumped to -20 degrees in the Highlands on several occasions with an average of around -6 to -8 degrees for much of January. Traffic was brought to a standstill with road accidents creating havoc on the country’s motorways. Hospitals too saw a rise in the number of patients suffering from broken bones and concussion. Page 1
6/01/10: THE COLD WAR: Britain warned Iceland that it would be frozen out of the European Union after its President abruptly vetoed the repayment of a £3.6 billion loan. This money was loaned to Iceland by Britain and the Netherlands at the height of last year’s financial crisis. It meant that 400,000 savers with deposits in Icelandic banks did not lose their money. However, President Olafur Grimsson (right) stunned the world’s financial community by refusing to sign the repayment schedule saying the matter would be decided in a referendum among Iceland’s 243,000 voters.
7/01/10: BID MADE TO REMOVE THE PRIME MINISTER: An attempt to oust Gordon Brown as Labour leader damaged his premiership and seriously set back the Party’s campaign to stay in power. The attempt came from former Cabinet colleagues Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt but they failed to gain sufficient backing from Labour MPs. While the attempt was greeted with glee by the Conservative Party, it sparked ill-feeling among Labour MPs, who described Mr Hoon and Mrs Hewitt as “traitors”, “cowards” and “joke figures”. John McFall, the Labour MP for West Dunbartonshire, denounced their challenge as a “death wish”, while fellow backbencher Ronnie Campbell said it would cost the Party votes in the forthcoming election (see Page 2, Item 1). However, it was later revealed that other Cabinet members had openly supported the plot to remove Mr Brown including Jack Straw, Harriet Harmon, Douglas Alexander and David Miliband. ZIMBABWE’S ECONOMIC CRISIS
Inflation in Zimbabwe currently stands at 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent – that is 65 followed by 107 zeros ! Prices seem to double every 24 hours and shops have simply stopped accepting Zimbabwean currency (ZWD). The cost of a double cheeseburger in Harare is around 50 billion ZWDs. If you order a full meal with fries and a Coke, it costs 80 billion ZWDs. The Ten Million dollar bank note pictured above is worth only £2. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Zimbabwean dollar is the least valued currency in the world.
10/01/10: BRITISH TROOPS MAY BE REDEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN: The UK Government is considering withdrawing troops from Helmand Province in Afghanistan and asking the USA to deploy troops in the area. It is becoming clear that British forces lack the necessary manpower and materials to defeat the Taliban. 11/01/10: CAMERON WARNS ON RISING POPULATION: Conservative Party leader David Cameron called for the population of the UK to be kept below 70 million (it currently stands at 60 million). He said it was not unrealistic to reduce immigration to levels recorded in the 1990s and that the current trends were too much. His statement echoed the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury who had called for immigration to be limited to about 40,000 a year, partly to protect Britain’s Christian ethos. 1
1/01/12: AL QAEDA OFFERED DEAL: The President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said that he was willing to strike a deal with al-Qaeda amid warnings that some of its operatives, including Saudis and Egyptians, were travelling to the country to join fighters in the lawless tribal lands in central and south Yemen. Page 2
12/01/10: POLL SHOWS FAILED BID TO GET RID OF PM HIT THE LABOUR PARTY HARD: Labour’s support fell to its lowest level since September 2009 as the Party paid the price for disunity after a third attempt to ditch Gordon Brown. A Populus poll for The Times newspaper showed Labour’s support fell by 2 points while the Conservatives gained 3 giving them the largest lead for months.
15/01/10: MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE HITS HAITI:
he Caribbean island of Haiti was struck by a massive earthquake which devastated the island and is thought to have caused an estimated 200,000 lives. Humanitarian aid was slow to reach survivors in a country which, as a result, lapsed into anarchy. Gangs of looters roamed the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince stealing anything of value and local police were unable to restore order. Bodies remained unburied increasing the risk of disease and doctors were amputating children’s limbs continuously to limit gangrene. On 20th January, scores of troops landed on the lawn of Haiti’s shattered presidential palace amid cheers from the earthquake victims as the United Nations announced it would throw more police and soldiers into the global aid effort. The forces aim to control looting and violence that have slowed distribution of aid to the beleaguered islanders. Within days, the Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontieres set up makeshift hospitals to treat the thousands of injured. By 21st, the last remaining survivors were dug out of the rubble ending their ordeal. 2
0/01/10:KRAFT BUYS CADBURY: Kraft, the American food company made a successful take-over bid for the British company, Cadbury. Kraft already owns Kenco, Toblerone, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Oreo, Ritz Biscuits, Philadelphia Cheese, Dairylea, Maxwell House Coffee and Milka Alpine Milk. This latest buy-out adds other well-known brands to the Kraft collection – Dairy Milk, Wispa, Flake, Roses Chocolates, Milk Tray, Heroes, Drinking Chocolate, Trident Chewing Gum, Green and Black’s Chocolate, Bassetts, Maynards and Trebor. In 2008, Cadbury’s revenue was £5.38 billion. Kraft, that same year earned £42 billion. Cadbury’s workforce now faces the threat of thousands of job losses.
AFGHANISTAN Two more soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this month bringing the total number of British deaths since the war began in 2001 to 251.
21/01/10: OBESE PASSENGERS TO PAY FOR TWO SEATS ON PLANE: Air France-KLM is to charge overweight passengers for two seats. Passengers who are unable to squeeze into a single seat will have to pay for the one next to them at a 25% discount. Page 3 2
2/01/10: OBAMA DECLARES WAR ON WALL STREET: US President Barack Obama declared war on Wall Street (US Stock Exchange) as he unveiled a sweeping series of measures aimed at checking the behaviour of banks and clamping down on risky deals. The proposals, regarded as the biggest regulatory crackdown on banks since the 1930s, would limit the size of institutions and bar them from irresponsible trading practices. 2 TONY BLAIR QUESTIONED AT IRAQ INQUIRY Tony Blair gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on Friday 29th January. There had been mounting pressure for the former Prime Minister to appear before the panel in advance of the May 2010 election. (Details in next month’s review)
2/01/10: ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL: A wide-ranging Bill which would allow terminally ill patients or severely disabled patients as young as 16 to seek assistance to end their lives, has been published by Margo MacDonald, the independent MSP who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. If her Bill became law, it would mean that Scotland would become the first country in the UK to legalise assisted suicide.
25/01/10: END RETIREMENT AGE: Allowing people to work longer would add £15 billion to the UK economy, according to a survey which found that a quarter of men aged over 50 said they wanted to work beyond 65. 25/01/10: ARMY FACES ANOTHER 5 YEARS IN HELMAND: British troops will have to fight the Taleban for another 5 years, according to the London Conference on Afghanistan. Those countries with troops in Afghanistan agreed to bribes totalling hundreds of millions of pounds which will be paid to the leading Taleban rebels in the hope that they will stop fighting. This controversial plan is likely to anger relatives of British soldiers killed by the Taleban in Helmand Province which came only hours before the Ministry of Defence reported that the number of dead British soldiers had risen to 251. 26/01/10: BIG BOOST FOR DAVID CAMERON: Conservative Party leader David Cameron received a big boost in his quest for power with more people across the UK admitting they identified with the Conservatives rather than Labour for the first time in 20 years. The latest British Social Attitudes Survey revealed the shift in outlook occurred in 2008 – after the first year of Gordon Brown’s premiership.
26/01/10: CHAOS FEAR OVER SCOTTISH QUALIFICATIONS CHANGES: Teachers’ leaders and parents attacked the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce new secondary school qualifications (A Curriculum for Excellence) claiming the proposals would lead to “timetable chaos”. The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) said the proposals would not fit into the school day and could lead to pupils dropping subjects. A Curriculum for Excellence will replace Standard Grades with phased implementation scheduled to begin in August 2010. (See also next story)
Page 4 2 TESCO’S ‘PRODDY’ BAND The management of the new Tesco supermarket which opened in November 2009 in Bellshill can be forgiven for their wee mistake because they were English and unacquainted with Scottish sectarianism. They had booked the Bellshill Imperial Flute Band (see photo opposite) for the opening of their new store. Unfortunately, the band was from the local Orange Lodge and its 20 musicians all turned up sporting uniforms with the Red Hand of Ulster emblazoned upon them! Fortunately, the management was able to cancel the booking before the Bellshill Imperials had blown a note. 7/01/10: CONCERN OVER RISING SCHOOL VIOLENCE: The SSTA are also concerned about the rising tide of violence in Scottish schools. Recently, a female teacher while attempting to stop a fight between two male pupils was punched in the mouth and required £2,500 of dental work as a result, the cost of which the local authority refused to pay. The union has published a leaflet advising teachers on what action to take should they witness fights between pupils.
27/01/10: UK IS EMERGING FROM RECESSION: The UK economy appears to be leaving the economic recession behind after figures show the economy grew by 0.1% in the last three months of 2009.
THE IRAQ WAR INQUIRY
When Sir Michael Wood, the senior legal adviser to former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, appeared before the Chilcot Inquiry, he revealed that the advice of Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith (that military action against Iraq would be unlawful) was ignored by Mr Straw. However, Lord Goldsmith relented and gave his approval for the invasion only days before it took place. It is widely believed he did so because he had come under pressure from Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior ministers to reverse his original decision.
THE WORLD’S UGLIEST FISH – THE BLOBFISH
27/01/10: RISE IN EXCLUSIONS FOR ASSAULTS WITH WEAPONS: The number of pupils excluded from Scottish schools for assaults with weapons rose sharply last year, at a time when other problems fell significantly. Official figures show a 10% increase in the number of pupils suspended or expelled for weapon attacks compared to 2008, from 366 to 404.