Issue 76: 2016 10 20: Contents

 20 October 2016: Issue 76
Modern youth runs his online business wth his thumb on a smart phone

Modern youth runs his online business wth his thumb on a smart phone

Week in Brief





Broad Kilts by J.R.Thomas

The SNP on the march.

The Brexit Debate by John Watson

Should we have one?

A Tale Of Two Cities by Neil Tidmarsh

land-roverThe battle for Mosul and the battle for Aleppo; significant differences.

The Inflation Genie Emerges by Frank O’Nomics

How serious could UK inflation get and what can we do about it?


Ambidextrocity – Nature’s Scourge by Chin Chin

Have computers rendered the second hand unnecessary?

Fading Icons: No More A’Roving? by J R Thomas

A lament for the Landy.


The Red Barn


See Chin Chin

a play by David Hare at the Lyttelton, the National Theatre

reviewed by Adam McCormack


a film by Tom Howard

reviewed by Adam McCormack.


“Early England”.

Solution to the last crossword “South America”.

Earlier EditionsLarge 600x271 stamp prompting the reader to join the subscription list

Issue 72: 22 September 2016

Issue 73: 29 September October 2016

Issue 74: 06 October 2016

Issue 75: 13 October 2016

Issue 77: Crossword – Varied Entertainment

27 October 2016

Crossword by Boffles


Varied Entertainment


To see a printable version of this crossword


Issue 77: Crossword – Varied Entertainment – printable

27 October 2016

Crossword by Boffles


Varied Entertainment


7 Where to go for a spin with one wheel or another (6)
8 Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s favourite paige (6)
9 What they do in 4dn’s programme (4)
10 This one word is common parlance for a programme featuring balls (8)
11 Victor Meldrew had this appendage in the grave (3,4)
13 Eponymous character in Gershwin opera (5)
15 Unconventional term for a bohemian like Holly Golightly (4)
16 Gallery the exhibits of which sometimes challenge you not to laugh (3,4)
18 Star of the first talkie (2,6)
19 Lady known as the Queen of Jazz (4)
21 Fair to say ‘lurve’ is that of romcoms (5)
22 A Clockwork one was controversial (6)
1 Small Star Wars Jedi Master (4)
2 Dynastic fantasy series, not a royal tournament (4,2,7)
3 The big ballet company (7)
4 Culinary Queen Mary (5)
5 The one for football fans (5,2,3,3)
6 Movies for whiling away the airborne hours (2,6)
12 A class featured in ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ and the like (8)
14 Ghost star of Lloyd Webber musical (7)
17 …. and Diamonds or the trophy contested at Lords and other grounds (5)
20 Plastic bricks that give many great pleasure (4)

Issue 77: 2016 10 27: Touching Up (Chin Chin)

27 October 2017

Touching Up

And where it leads to.

By Chin Chin

Chin chin junior and friends

Chin chin junior and friends

Yes, that’s how it always starts. The innocent little improvement here or there which leads inevitably to a quagmire of illusion and deception.  This time the improvement is made to little Jamie.  No, no, not surgery.  Not the removal of that unfortunate wart, not the injection of more badly-needed brain cells.  No, not things which would really improve him per se.   No, it is much more important than that.  The change is to his image, to his on-line persona; to be more specific, it is to the school photograph.  Nowadays the more enterprising photographers are prepared to make small changes to school photographs for a modest fee.

It sounds fair enough on the face of it. You forgot to brush his hair when you sent him out that morning and as a result there are tufts sticking up behind his ears. No doubt that is fashionable amongst parakeets but it isn’t the right look at his smart preparatory school.  It is a shame really, and he doesn’t normally look like that, so what harm is there in making the photograph a little more realistic by a bit of on-screen hairdressing? Yes, that would be much better and truer to him as a person if you think about it.

Actually it isn’t the hair that is the main problem. Why did he have to stand next to that awful spotty boy, the one with the reputation for being a member of UKIP? Wouldn’t it be better if the chap next to him were a bit more, well, Hampsteady, if you know what I mean. Jamie is a sensitive, intelligent child, he takes after his parents as it happens, and is likely to spend his life amongst aesthetes. It could blight his career were it known that his best friend at school was the sort of chap whose parents supported Brexit. No, let’s airbrush him and have someone who reflects the friends that Jamie will make later in life.  Maybe someone coloured to reflect the family’s tradition of tolerance? Someone like the young Barack Obama for example, and, on the other side – to illustrate that although he is a gentle and true he is no pushover – a sort of modern young Henry V.

Of course the system will work best if it is only your copy of the photograph that gets changed. Otherwise all the parents will start sending in their requirements and you will no sooner have replaced the pimply UKIP supporter with young Barack than the rather vulgar parents of that nasty child on the other side will oust little Jamie in favour of some ghastly Jock from the football team.  That’s what comes of letting people from south of the river into a school.

Of course if your photographer was really enterprising, he would set up a market so that if a child was to be moved for a fee, his parents would have the opportunity to counter-bid.  There would have to be auctions too of younger versions of famous people to sit next to the child. In fact that would be the only way of keeping control. After all, it would look a bit odd if a juvenile version of Prince Harry appeared six times in the same photo.

No, that is all getting much too complicated. The answer must be a separate photograph for the parents of each child with amendments ordered and paid for by those parents.  That keeps things clear and honest and straightforward. Then everyone can have a picture of their own little Jamie surrounded by friends of whom they approve and with his hair perfectly ordered.

Actually, there is no need to limit this to school photographs.  Suppose that you want a selfie with a great actor, for example. The convention is that you stand miserably by the actor’s door of the theatre in the rain and hope that he or she will stop to be photographed with you.  What is the point of that?  You can just as easily import your target into the photograph artificially and tell people that it was a selfie. What is more,with a little dexterity, you can probably get the actor to laugh at your joke, to look admiringly at you or, according to taste, to put his or her hands around your throat. That is a much better image than you would ever get by just standing outside a theatre.

The awful thing about all of this is that people do it already but I suppose that they always did.  If Henry VIII commissioned his portrait, I do not suppose that Holbein was above making His Majesty a little bit slimmer, ignoring the warts and all the rest of it.  Court painters who did not romanticise a bit did not get clients. Middle Age burghers of Florence appear as minor characters in pictures of the birth of Christ. If it has always been a perfectly respectable thing to do in oils, is there any reason why photography should not follow suit?

Aha, you say, photography is supposed to be a record, but that is not really true either. How many actors always insist on being photographed on their “good” side?  How many big game hunters were photographed with a foot on a carcass which had really been shot by someone else?  Photography is about presentation, so why should we care if the dishonesty is a little bit more or a little bit less?

There is one area, however, where the touching up of photographs does real damage. When I was at school the annual photograph was taken by arranging 600 boys in a large arc and then using a camera which travelled from one end of the arc to the other. If you were quick enough, it was possible to jump out of your place on one side of the arc, rush round the back and reappear somewhere on the other side, just in time to catch the camera again. It was never very popular with the authorities but it certainly went down well with your friends and in a sense it was a fine athletic achievement. Nowadays, of course, some photographer will airbrush out your second appearance and substitute someone suitable (the young Barack Obama perhaps) instead. That is technically easy to do but at a deeper level it is a deplorable example of bureaucratic power being exerted to change history without the participants’ consent.  Worse than that, it is unsporting.


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Issue77:2016 10 27:We need a financial health service(Frank O’Nomics)

27 October 2016

We need a Financial Health Service

Financial advice should be as accessible as healthcare

by Frank O’Nomics

If you are ill, you have the right to visit a doctor, taking advantage of an NHS which is free at the point of delivery.  This is a right which, despite the claims of those who think the government is trying to undermine it, is generally unquestioned. However, if you are struggling to organize your financial affairs, whether that be the selection of the right mortgage product, the right savings plan or the best course of action with respect to your pension, there is no easily accessible source of unbiased advice. Why should we be able to get help for our physical and mental well being and yet not have the same recourse when it come to our financial health? It may even be that issues with the latter – where we suffer stress and illness as result of financial malaise – may save us having to call on the former. The bigger question here is not just cost, it is about why people are not engaged with the financial community, regardless of whether they can afford to pay. This needs to be examined as, without adequate financial planning, we will be left with an ageing society that is becoming steadily more impoverished.

The first step is to ask how people know whether they need advice? There is a mantra that comes out of the older generations along the lines of: spend less, save more, insure the breadwinner, make a will. All of this may make sense to those of a certain age, but does not necessarily mean anything to a younger generation, more likely to prioritise their social life and their ability to buy the latest iphone.  Such an approach was acceptable when people had jobs with defined benefit pension schemes which would give them a comfortable retirement, but it is not suitable for the new defined contribution era.  Auto enrollment schemes go some way to helping, but the sums generated are pitifully small. The combination of company and individual contributions here typically does not get above 8% of income, when the amount needed to ensure a comfortable retirement is generally a percentage that is around half of the age at which you start the scheme (so 12.5% if you are 25, but 20% if you start at 40).  8%  does not compare favourably with those on a defined benefits scheme.  To rival them you would have had to have put  20% of income into your pension fund. We are left with a problem where no one is advising those newly involved in defined contribution schemes how much they should save, or pointing them in the direction of those who can help.

The financial services industry has a lot to answer for.  Firstly, they have not covered themselves in glory when it comes to levels of trust. There is a long history of unscrupulous advisers introducing clients to products that are not compatible with their needs, but generate high fees for the adviser. This was the case in the 70’s and 80’s with life insurance products, but there are many recent examples; there were allegations last week that some companies were selling inappropriate annuity products to clients with short life expectancies. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that only 36% of the UK population trusts the financial service sector, ranking itbelow the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Russia. There are ways in which that high level of mistrust can be repaired.  Firstly, there is still a great need for transparency in the fees relating to financial products. Saying that annual fund charges are, say, 1%, often ignores a multitude of additional charges relating to dealing costs, custody, etc.  The Transparency Task force, under Andy Agathangelou is doing a lot to lobby the industry to change, but there is a long way to go.  Greater transparency would engender greater trust and the greater use of savings products. There also has to be more effort into demonstrating that both the financial services firm, and the individuals working for it, are fit for purpose. FCA registration helps, but there is a need to show that higher standards are being upheld. The use of a kite mark should be something that potential investors recognize and understand, and such a thing does exist for personal financial planners in the form of ISO22222, which defines the financial planning process, with the ethical behaviour, competencies and experience all required. However, very few financial services firms have taken advantage of this facility (less than 100), which leaves us asking; just what are the rest trying to hide?

The reason why most financial advisors are not engaging with the general public is that they really don’t see the point.  Fixed charges related to setting up and running a client account means that most firms are content to only chase high net worth individuals. The rest are just too expensive, and time consuming (smaller savers are less savvy) to cover. There has been significant progress in giving small investors access to cheap execution facilities – the platform operated by Hargreaves Lansdown has been especially successful – but this is not the same as giving clients appropriate advice.  The advent of robo-advice is a supposed solution, but the capabilities remain very basic and are not the same as speaking to someone who understands your particular needs.  Going back to the original statement, would people be prepared to accept robo-advice when it comes to healthcare matters? In general the answer will be no.

There are solutions. Firstly, the government can do much more to educate on financial wellbeing within schools. There is a small part of the curriculum for this, but there is a very low level of both knowledge and trust of financial services among sixteen year olds. Public service broadcasting is an underutilized resource, but recent ads for pensions freedom and auto enrollment could be extended further. Similarly, there is a need to help to encourage financial advisers to engage with a lower income cohort. It may be that the lifetime ISA is a start, but it has been interesting to see that some major firms have been reluctant to participate in this at the outset. That may be a fear of future miss-selling cases, or a sense that this will not be profitable business.  Encouragement to give pro bono financial advice is also long overdue. There are firms and individuals who do this, but making this a key area of the CSR activities of large firms could make it widespread. It is not something that we can necessarily expect from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

One could argue that financial insurance, or adequate retirement planning, should be as compulsory as car insurance.  Otherwise the burden on the state will be just too great.  Financial advisers are not, and should not be seen as, social workers. They exist to make a profit, but they need to be regulated so that there is a return to a high level of trust, and there are strong arguments for supporting those who are prepared to look after clients with smaller sums to invest, and potentially give some pro bono advice where it is most needed.  The Treasury is preparing a paper on the redefinition of financial advice, and will take responses up until 8th November. There will be no shortage of suggestions from the industry, let us hope that they produce something more practicable than exists currently.


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Issue 77: 2016 10 27: The Baleful Role of the SPAD (John Watson)

27 October 2017

The Baleful Role Of The SPAD

An accelerant we cannot afford.

By John Watson

Watson,-John_640c480 head shotThere has always been a tension between the needs of politics and the needs of good government. Faced with even the best plan, politicians will seek to make political capital and if that means having to choose between supporting a sensible proposal or criticising it to enhance their own position, the enhancement of the position generally comes through as the winner. Bad administration is one of the prices which we pay for democracy.

It isn’t difficult to find examples of this. No further than the positioning over Brexit, as it happens. Now the government has been much criticised for its reticence over its negotiating stance, but it has come out with one technical proposal which seems really solid.  A Great Repeal Act will provide that at the moment of separation from the EU all the existing European legislation is frozen into English law. After that Parliament can change that law by repealing it or modifying it as it sees fit. That certainly seems to be the sensible approach. There will be no areas where suddenly no laws at all apply.  There will be no need to try to disentangle the existing UK rules from EU rules. The judges can simply look at what the law was and whether it has been changed. Certainty will have been achieved for everyone and, whether you are a Brexiteer or a Remainer, it is hard to think of a better route for achieving separation. Who could possibly be against it?

Well, Grant Shapps, the MP for Welwyn Hatfield , that’s who.  He is uncomfortable at the prospect of old EU rules remaining in force so he wants them to automatically cease to be part of English law five years later. The trouble with that proposal is that it doesn’t work.  EU rules are now so embedded in English law that in practice it would be impossible to carve them out. Also if part of our legal system disappeared overnight there would be gigantic holes – areas where there was no longer any law at all. No doubt Mr Shapps would say that it was up to Parliament to fill them but it would hardly be practical to do that in the course of five years.

The interesting point here is not that the idea is a silly one but the way in which the proposal exposes the conflict between politics and administration. There was a political point to be made and Mr Shapps made it without giving much thought to the chaos which his proposal would cause if adopted.  Still, MPs are busy people so perhaps Mr Shapps can be excused on the basis that he didn’t have the time to think it through. No similar excuse can be offered for those behind section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

This is an example of government at its slimiest. It clearly would not have done in a democracy to force newspapers to register with “approved” regulators. No, that is the sort of thing which used to happen on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.  So a way had to be found to get them to register “voluntarily” and the tool used was to make them responsible for the costs of people who sued them in libel unless the approved regulator would have sorted out the position. Yes, you read that right. I didn’t say “if they lost the case”. They would have to pay the costs of every nutter who claimed against them subject to the flimsiest of safeguards.

Back in the Downing Street bunker they must have laughed at this one.  I expect they gave the dark glasses a special polish before crawling out into the sunlight. You see the joke was that newspapers which did not register with the approved regulator would risk being ruined.  So they would have to register. But the government could say it was voluntary and we still had freedom of the press. Brilliant!

Luckily the government came to their senses at the last moment and the section is not to be implemented. Still, one has to ask the question. Who on earth thought that a provision as oppressive as this was in any possible way appropriate?  Yes, there may have been political mileage but surely anyone could see that the price in terms of freedom was too high.

The same question can be asked in relation to the government’s consultative document on tax avoidance.  Following Mrs Hodge’s work on the Public Accounts Committee, tax avoidance is a matter of national concern and no political speech is complete without reference to raising more money by eliminating it. The trouble is that the proposals put forward include penalising those who advise where the boundaries of the tax law actually lie.  If the advice is seen as relating to tax avoidance and the sums are large they could be put out of business.  Here we see the two sides of the balance emerging again. On one side there is the cheap political point, attacking a public mischief which in truth has probably already been eliminated. On the other there is the administrative damage which the proposals will do.  Businessmen unable to get advice on whether the structure of their investment is legal or not. Foreign investors put off by the fact that there is no longer certainty in the UK. Jobs lost. City institutions moving to Germany.

Fortunately the idea is still in consultation (and if you would like to read the Shaw Sheet’s analysis follow the link) and hopefully the new Treasury team will have the wit to put the proposal where it belongs.

Still, it is the pattern we are looking at here. The putting forward of proposals that do not make administrative sense but sound politically fashionable. All right, section 40 is not being implemented and hopefully the proposal to put advisers in jeopardy will not be implemented either, but how did either proposal gets so far? Why were they not weeded out by the civil servants? You do not have to be a fan of “yes Minister” to know that it is the function of the civil service to tell the politicians when their proposals are not wise. Is this something which they are ceasing to do?

Slip across then to Westminster and look at the people with the closest access to MPs and ministers. In the past the advice would all have come from civil servants but now there is an army of special advisers, some of them interested in good government no doubt, but many of them trying to build political careers of their own. They act as an accelerator to the deterioration of government because if the minister comes out with an idea (and ministers after all are only human) which is politically attractive but not very sensible it is in his special adviser’s interest to encourage it. Their career is boosted by the minister’s political success. It is not going to hurt them much if the administration goes wrong. They are the political equivalent of the bankers who encouraged clients to take the wrong financial products because they would earn the commission.

We know little about Mrs May’s administration as yet but like her or not I would not have thought she was the sort of woman who was susceptible to over-politicised advice. Let’s hope that her new ministers are not either.


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Issue 77:2016 10 27: Oil (Adam McCormack)

27 October 2016


Almeida Theatre

Reviewed by Adam McCormack

Theatre is at its best when an ambitious project comes off.  There is no doubt that Ella Hickson’s Oil at the Almeida Theatre is ambitious, reaching across two centuries and five different environments.  The good news is that the Almeida has once again delivered a compelling and thought-provoking production that is original, and superbly executed by director Carrie Cracknell.

The drama takes us from impoverished Cornwall in the 1880’s, through Iraq in 1908, Hampstead in the 1970s, back to the Middle East in the near future and finally full circle to the same farm in Cornwall in the distant future.  Ostensibly the binding factor for all of this is oil, with the farmers tempted by a high price to sell their land for kerosene storage, followed by the British exploitation of the resource in Iraq, the Libyans reclaiming their birth right, the next Gulf war and ultimately a reliance on a new fuel source after all endeavour has been made redundant.  However, at its heart this play is about the changing position of women in our society and the nature of the evolution of a mother-daughter relationship.  We follow the 5 ages of May (Anne-Marie Duff) stretched across two centuries, first as a disempowered pregnant farmer’s wife who has to escape, then as a young mother struggling to make a living and avoid the attentions of predatory and pathetic men, moving to a high powered business woman with an unruly teenager, a career politician with a moralistic daughter (Yolanda Kettle) trying to right the wrongs of western involvement in the Middle East, and ultimately the old lady relying on her middle-aged daughter for company and solace.

For many this may all seem too much to fit into an average length play, with so many issues raised: our dependence on fossil fuel; the extent to which the fight for this resource has been the cause of so many of the ills in our society;and the difficulties of being a single mother, which have not got any easier over time.  However, it works here for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, the play is driven by a dialogue that crackles with wit and pathos, so that we are eager to catch every line. The scene in which May dismisses the qualities of daughter Amy’s teenage boyfriend Nate (Sam Swann), is worthy of note-taking by frustrated parents.  Secondly, the set is a triumph.  The passage through time is helped by poignant photos images and the set evolution is seemless.  The dream sequence, in which the nineteenth century farmer-husband returns to the late twentieth century only to slip from May’s grasp is so well done that I wont give it a spoiler here.  The use of music is also very effective and Sam Swann has a fine voice.  Finally, there is the strength of the acting.  Anne Marie Duff is exceptional as May, capturing all of the qualities of a mother who will do everything to protect her daughter at every point in her life, and Yolande Kettle brilliantly plays Amy, making us barely aware that the same person is playing the idealistic adult and the young girl.

This is a play that will undoubtedly stay with you for some time. I implore you to try to get a ticket, and if you have a daughter – take her too.


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Issue 77: 2016 10 27: Week in Brief: UK

27 October 2016

Week in Brief: UK

Union Jack flapping in wind from the right

Britain and Europe

BREXIT: As pressure builds up on the government to reveal its objectives in the Brexit negotiations, with Parliamentary debates promised before the Christmas recess, other parts of the UK take differing views. Wales (which backed leave) is, according to the first Minister, unwilling to accept free movement of people but also wants to have free access to the single market.  Scotland and Northern Ireland were for Remain with Nicola Sturgeon prepared to accept free movement in return for Scottish participation in the market.  In Northern Ireland the main concern is to keep the border open and fluid.

Conservative MP Grant Shapps has criticised the proposal for a Great Repeal Bill under which the law would be frozen at the time when Britain leaves the union and changes thereafter will have to be imposed by the UK Parliament, suggesting that all EU-made laws should cease to have effect five years after Brexit. See comment The Baleful Role Of The SPAD.

According to the think tank Civitas, the tariffs which would result from a Hard Brexit would  cost British companies £5.2 billion and continental countries £13 billion.

The French lead negotiator Michel Barnier has suggested that the Brexit negotiations should be held in French. Angela Merkel has suggested that everyone should use their own language.

FRANKENSTEIN FOODS: One effect of Brexit is that the UK will no longer be bound by EU rules on the growing of genetically modified crops.  Scientists have long argued that there is no reason to oppose the development of such crops but political opposition across the EU has meant that only a single product has been licensed since 1998.

CALAIS: As Britain takes further children from the Jungle, local authorities are complaining that they are not being given sufficient funds to look after them.  Although younger children can be placed with foster families at the cost of some £50,000 each, the cost of placing an older child in a residential care home is around £133,000 a year.  The Home Office are currently making a contribution of £40,000 per child a year. It is understood that Britain will be taking 650 unaccompanied children from the Jungle over the next three weeks and has taken 200 to date.

Militant anarchists from Britain are among those confronting the French police and demolition workers who are removing the Calais jungle. A number of the occupants are thought to have escaped into the neighbourhood so that they can continue their efforts to enter the UK.


HEATHROW: Following government approval of the third runway, the focus has moved to the detail of the £17 billion project. On the physical side, concerns that putting the M25 through a tunnel under the runway would lead to unacceptable traffic disruption have led to a suggestion that the runway pass over the road, one end of it being some 8 metres higher than the other.

On the political side, legal challenges are being mounted by abutting local authorities and Zac Goldsmith the MP for Richmond has resigned his seat. The Conservatives will not oppose the re-election of Mr Goldsmith who might otherwise be vulnerable to a challenge from the Liberal Democrats because of his Brexit stance. Opposition from Boris Johnson and Justine Greening, both high-profile opponents of the scheme who have been given freedom to restate their views, has been muted.

Householders whose properties are required to make space for the new runway will be compensated at 25% above market value. The premium is necessary because of the blight which the prospective airport has put on prices in the area.

CHILD SEX ABUSE ENQUIRY: Mrs May has admitted that she knew about concerns regarding the leadership of the enquiry by Dame Lowell Goddard but said that as Home Secretary she could not intervene in a public enquiry without being officially aware of the issues. Once the Home Office became aware it did take action.

PRESS FREEDOM: Plans to implement section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act have been dropped. The section would have forced newspapers to pay the costs of libel actions even if they defended them successfully.  It would have put a large number of newspapers out of business. See comment The Baleful Role Of The SPAD.


DRUGS ENQUIRY: Following revelations that pharmaceutical firms have been buying the rights to old drugs and then changing their name in order to avoid the profit cap, the Competition and Markets Authority has opened an enquiry into whether their activities amounted to anti-competitive conduct. The increases in the price of the drugs is said to have cost the National Health Service over £250 million a year. The regulator has power to impose fines equal to 10% of global turnover. Quite apart from the enquiry, legislation is being introduced in order to prevent profiteering by buying rights to patent expired drugs.

POINTLESS TREATMENTS: The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges estimates that £2 billion a year is wasted on useless treatment, as doctors tried to prescribe something which might help their patients.  The Academy stressed the importance of explaining to the patient what will happen if they do nothing at all, often a course which could avoid pain and side-effects.


GLOBE DEPARTURE: Emma Rice, the avant-garde director of the Globe Theatre, is to depart in 2018. Her approach, which included the use of microphones and artificial lighting, has been much criticised as have a number of her productions. She has, however, presided over a strong box office.


OPERATION MIDLAND: Harvey Proctor, who left Parliament in 1987 following a conviction for gross indecency, has called for the prosecution of Nick, the complainant who made accusations, now discredited, of child murder and a Westminster VIP paedophile ring, for wasting police time or attempting to perverted the course of justice.

RUSSIAN WARSHIP: Russia’s only aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, together with escorts, passed through the Channel on its way to the Mediterranean where it is expected to support the Syrian government. The Russian fleet was tracked by the RAF.

GAY PARDONS: Justice Minister Sam Gyimah has talked out a bill which would pardon living and dead gay men convicted of offences which are no longer extant. The Ministry has said that it will only give pardons to dead men, allowing living men to fight to have the convictions quashed.

CS GAS: A cylinder of CS gas was accidentally discharged at London City Airport, causing it to be evacuated for three hours.  Incoming flights were diverted to other airports and an apology was made to passengers.

EDSTONE: the Labour Party has been fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to deliver a complete return of expenses in relation to the last General Collection. Among payments omitted were the £7600 cost of the Ed Stone, the 8’6” marble slab engraved with political platitudes.

LIVING WILLS: Sir James Mumby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, has directed that although the Mental Capacity Act 2005 gave legal effect to living wills under which people could instruct doctors to withdraw treatment under certain circumstances, such cases should come to that Family Division so that the instruction in the living will could be endorsed by the Court.

CLOCKS: Readers of the Shaw Sheet are reminded that clocks go back on Sunday.


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Issue77:2016 10 27:Week in Brief International

27 October 2016

Week in Brief: International

UN Flag to denote International news


FRANCE: The authorities have cleared the ‘jungle’ – the unofficial migrant camp outside Calais.  Migrants have been registered and moved to official centres around France.

ITALY: Some Italian naval officers are under investigation for suspected culpable homicide over an incident in 2013 in which 268 migrants drowned when their ship sank in Maltese territorial waters.  Italian navy ships have rescued more migrants than all the other European navies put together.

MALTA: A plane crash at Malta International airport killed five people.

MONTENEGRO: Milo Djukanovic’s governing Democratic Party of Socialists won last week’s elections, but without a majority (36 seats out of 81).  His party is pro-Western and wants to join EU and Nato. Other parties are pro-Russia.

RUSSIA: Details of Russia’s upgraded intercontinental ballistic missile were published.  The new Sarmat RS-28 missile will replace the R-36 missile.  Moscow claims it can carry up to 16 warheads and overcome any missile defence system.

Two nuclear-capable Russian warships are heading unannounced through the North Sea to the Baltic.

SPAIN: The constitutional court overturned the ban on bullfighting in Catalonia.  The Catalan regional parliament voted to abolish bullfighting in 2010.  The issue reflects the conflict between Madrid and Catalan separatists.

The way is clear for the Popular Party to form a minority government, after the Socialist party voted to abstain from votes of no confidence, thus avoiding a third general election in one year.

The regional parliaments of the Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Menorca and Majorca) are voting not to put the clocks back this year, but to remain with summertime, to make the most of the hours of sunlight.

Middle East and Africa

BURUNDI: Burundi has withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the first country to do so.

EGYPT: A shortage of basic foods such as sugar is highlighting the dire state of Egypt’s economy. The tourist industry has collapsed, inflation is at a seven-year high, and the government is cutting subsidies and introducing austerity measures to secure a $12 billion loan from the IMF.

IRAQ: The advance on Mosul continues, with Iraqi and Kurdish forces (supported by western warplanes and special forces) taking nearby towns such as Bartella and Badhiqa.  Isis is retaliating with suicide attacks, mortar-fire and booby-trapped explosive devices (IEDs).  Isis has set sulphur stocks alight at the al-Mishraq chemical plant south of Mosul.  There are reports that Isis leaders are fleeing the city.

Isis launched a suicide assault on the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk.

Parliament passed new law banning the import, production and sale of alcoholic drinks.  Christian MPs protested.

LIBYA: There are reports that coastguards in west Libya have attacked migrants and European rescue ships. The coastguards are made up of different groups operating under the Government of National Accord.

NIGERIA: An attack, thought to be by Boko Haram, on an army base near the Niger border resulted in many soldiers missing, wounded and killed.  Anonymous military sources said the soldiers were too ill-equipped to fight, and that 83 are missing.

SAUDI ARABIA: The civil service minister warned that the country would be bankrupt in three or four years time without further austerity measures.

SOMALIA: 26 merchant seamen, captured by Somali pirates almost five years ago, were released.  They were the last of the seamen kidnapped during the Somali pirate crisis of 2005-12 to be released. See comment All At Sea.

SOUTH AFRICA: The ANC government has withdrawn South Africa from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, following Burundi’s lead.

SYRIA: There is a lull in air attacks by Russian and Syrian planes while regime ground troops begin an advance in Aleppo by attacking along four fronts, following last week’s eight-hour ceasefire.

Clashes between the Arabic FSA (Free Syrian Army) and the Kurdish SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), both backed by the West in the struggle against Assad and Isis, resulted in Turkish airstrikes against the SDF which killed dozens of Kurdish soldiers.

Rebels surrendered Moadamiya, an enclave outside Damascus.

YEMEN: The 72 hour ceasefire, to enable humanitarian aid, was followed by the resumption of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

There are reports that Iran has significantly increased the supply of weapons and military aid to the Houthi rebels.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN: Opium production has soared, with this year’s harvest seeing an increase of 43%, according to the UN.  The Taliban encourages and profits from its cultivation.

CHINA: The campaign against high-ranking corruption continues with Wei Pengyuan, an official found with £25 million in bank notes hidden under his bed, given a suspended death sentence.

INDIA: The zoo in New Delhi has been closed, following an outbreak of bird-flu there.

PAKISTAN: Three heavily-armed militants attacked the Balochistan police college in Quetta, near the Afghan border, and took hundreds of cadets hostage.  A four-hour battle with special forces troops resulted in 61 deaths and 120 wounded.  Two of the militants blew themselves up, the third was shot dead.  Isis and the group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed joint responsibility.

PHILIPPINES: President Duterte threatened to cancel the EDCA, the agreement which gives the USA military access to naval bases in the Philippines.  His comments preceded a visit to Japan where he is to meet Emperor Akihito and prime minister Shinzo Abe.


ARGENTINA: The rape and murder of a 16 year old girl in Mar del Plata has prompted tens of thousands of demonstrators across South America to march in protest against violence towards women.

BRAZIL: Eduardo Cunha, who was behind the impeachment of President Rousseff when he was speaker of parliament, was arrested on charges of bribery and corruption, as part of Operation Car Wash, the investigation into the state-controlled oil company Petrobas.

The head of the Senate police services and three officers were arrested and charged with obstructing investigations against certain senators.

USA: In the third and final presidential debate, Hilary Clinton was widely judged to have performed better than Donald Trump. See comment Bad For Business.

VENEZUELA: The recall referendum about President Maduro’s future has been cancelled by a court.  The opposition has questioned the impartiality of the court, claiming that it was influenced by the President’s governing United Socialist Party.

Pope Francis offered to mediate between the government and the opposition, after a meeting with President Maduro at the Vatican.


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