Prime Minister Gordon Brown warns of global oil ‘shock’

Related video: The Energy Non-Crisis by Lindsay Williams

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Wednesday that the world faced an era-defining oil “shock” that required urgent action, as European leaders struggled to contain growing protests over soaring fuel prices.

“It is now understood that a global shock on this scale requires global solutions,” Brown wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

Record oil prices of around 135 dollars a barrel have contributed to protests worldwide over the rise in fuel and food costs, with fishermen and truck drivers taking the lead in Europe, blocking ports and road access to oil depots.

“However much we might wish otherwise, there is no easy answer to the global oil problem without a comprehensive international strategy,” Brown said, adding that the problem should be made a “top priority” at the EU summit next month and the gathering of G8 leaders in July.

“The way we confront these issues will define our era,” he said.

Brown’s warning came a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged a Europe-wide cut in consumer taxes on fuel and Portugal’s economy minister Manuel Pinho called on the Slovenian head of the European Union to hold an urgent debate on the crisis.

Read morePrime Minister Gordon Brown warns of global oil ‘shock’

Tories plan boot camps for jobless youths

A future Conservative government will bring in “boot camps” for unemployed young people aged between 18 and 21 who refuse to take a job, Chris Grayling, the party’s welfare spokesman, will say tomorrow.

In a significant hardening of Conservative policy towards welfare claimants, he will announce the abolition of benefit payments for any able-bodied person under 21 who is out of work for more than three months and who refuses to go on a compulsory community service programme or a “boot camp” training course aimed at improving their work discipline and giving them basic skills to get a job.

Grayling plans to ask private sector companies and voluntary organisations to run the intensive training centres – with the £5,000 it costs to support a single person on the dole being offered to the company or voluntary group once the person has been in work for one year. Individuals will be expected to report to the centre every day for an intensive training programme.

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Why the police now have to ask teenage muggers: ‘Do you eat chips?’

Imagine a country where strangers have the right to ask intrusive questions and store the answers on a database.

Where everyone from police officers to leisure-centre staff can demand: “Tell me who you feel close to?”

They will also have been trained to ask questions about sexual behaviour, family life, religion, secret fears, weight and “sleeping arrangements” at home.

Incredibly, thousands of Government and council apparatchiks in Britain became entitled on April 1 to ask such questions of anyone under 19.

This horrifying invasion of privacy has begun, almost unnoticed, because the Government has cleverly presented it as being in the interests of “child protection”.


Far too PC: Police officers say having to question youngsters about their diet is ‘insane’

The new questionnaire, known as the Common Assessment Framework (CAF), is part of a £20million programme called Every Child Matters (ECM), ostensibly set up to ensure youngsters are safe and leading positive lives.

Professionals – such as police officers, teachers and doctors – and volunteers are now under orders to subject children to a questionnaire if they consider them “at risk”: a definition so broad that many decent parents could find themselves labelled as potential abusers.

The questions don’t need a parent’s consent since any child over 12 is deemed responsible enough to grant permission for an interview.

Any child not achieving the Government’s five “outcomes” – being healthy, staying safe, enjoying life, “making a positive contribution”, and achieving ” economic well-being” – is now defined as having “additional needs”.

Read moreWhy the police now have to ask teenage muggers: ‘Do you eat chips?’

Soldiers need loans to eat, report reveals

A highly sensitive internal report into the state of the British Army has revealed that many soldiers are living in poverty. Some are so poor that they are unable to eat and are forced to rely on emergency food voucher schemes set up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Some of Britain’s most senior military figures reacted angrily yesterday to the revelations in the report, criticising the Government’s treatment of its fighting forces.

The disturbing findings outlined in the briefing team report written for Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, include an admission that many junior officers are being forced to leave the Army because they simply cannot afford to stay on.

Pressure from an undermanned army is “having a serious impact on retention in infantry battalions”, with nearly half of all soldiers unable to take all their annual leave as they try to cover the gaps.

The analysis, described by General Dannatt as “a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the views and concerns of the Army at large”, states: “More and more single-income soldiers in the UK are now close to the UK government definition of poverty.” It reveals that “a number of soldiers were not eating properly because they had run out of money by the end of the month”. Commanders are attempting to tackle the problem through “Hungry Soldier” schemes, under which destitute soldiers are given loans to enable them to eat.

The scheme symbolises a change from the tradition of soldiers getting three square meals a day for free. Now hard-up soldiers have to fill out a form which entitles them to a voucher. The cost is deducted from their future wages, adding to the problems of soldiers on low pay.

Read moreSoldiers need loans to eat, report reveals

Supermarket Bans Aspartame From Own-Label Products

A food fight is brewing


Help your customers and be sued. (Photos.com)

It might be corny and a bit naive, but I recommend that eating a diet found as close as possible to what is found in nature makes good sense. This means, of course, avoiding, when we can, substances not to be found naturally in the food chain. Perhaps rather predictably, science supports this notion. For instance, the much-reviled but naturally-occurring saturated fat found in red meat and eggs has no strong links with disease, while industrially produced trans fats do.

So, when the food industry introduces a novel food or food ingredient into our diet I admit I generally come at it from a skeptical perspective. This is the case when all the ingredient is doing is making a food a bit bluer or redder or extending its shelf life or palatability. However, I become even more suspicious when claims are made that some new-fangled foodstuff is better for us than, perhaps, something that we’ve had in our diet forever.

Let us not forget, for instance, that the partially hydrogenated fats from which industrially produced trans fats are derived were originally sold to us as a healthy alternative to saturated fat (and what a load of rubbish that turned out to be).

Another example of where we have been sold a bit of a dummy by the food industry concerns artificial sweeteners. In the past I have attempted to highlight the science that shows that artificial sweeteners have considerable potential to cause harm, and at the same time, do not appear to have any obvious benefits for health.

These particular posts have focused mainly on the potential hazards of the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet, Canderel, Equal). One of the reasons I’ve focused so much on aspartame is that most of the published research on artificial sweeteners has focused on this particular substance.

Read moreSupermarket Bans Aspartame From Own-Label Products

Foreign criminals work at airports unchecked

Thousands of foreigners are being allowed to work in high security parts of Britain’s airports without passing proper criminal record checks, it was disclosed last night.

Despite warnings that terrorists would try to recruit people working “airside” in terminals – with direct access to aircraft and baggage – no attempt has been made to check whether foreign workers have committed any offences abroad.

The vetting process checks only for crimes committed in Britain. Foreign workers – arriving from inside or outside the European Union – are not checked in their country of origin.

This means that someone with a conviction for firearms or explosives offences committed abroad could, for example, take a job loading bags on to aircraft at Heathrow, Gatwick or any other airport, provided they had committed no crimes here.

The security lapse was called “absolutely astonishing” by David Davis, the shadow home secretary, who demanded “full and immediate checks”.

Read moreForeign criminals work at airports unchecked

Rationing of rice hits Britain’s Chinese and curry restaurants

Rice is being rationed in Britain as shopkeepers limit supplies to their customers to prevent hoarding. Restrictions on sales in Asian neighbourhoods are reported as emergency measures are taken by governments worldwide to combat the soaring cost of rice and prevent outbreaks of food rioting.

Tilda, the biggest importer of basmati rice, said that its buyers had resorted to restricting their customers to two bags per person.

“It is happening in the cash and carries,” said Jona-than Calland, of Tilda.

“It’s to stop people from hoarding. I heard from our salesforce that one lady went into a cash and carry and tried to buy eight 20kg bags.”

Read moreRationing of rice hits Britain’s Chinese and curry restaurants

Face scans for air passengers to begin in UK this summer

Officials say automatic screening more accurate than checks by humans.

A face recognition system will scan faces and match them to biometric chips on passports. Photograph: Image Source/Getty

Airline passengers are to be screened with facial recognition technology rather than checks by passport officers, in an attempt to improve security and ease congestion, the Guardian can reveal.

From summer, unmanned clearance gates will be phased in to scan passengers’ faces and match the image to the record on the computer chip in their biometric passports.

Border security officials believe the machines can do a better job than humans of screening passports and preventing identity fraud. The pilot project will be open to UK and EU citizens holding new biometric passports.

But there is concern that passengers will react badly to being rejected by an automated gate. To ensure no one on a police watch list is incorrectly let through, the technology will err on the side of caution and is likely to generate a small number of “false negatives” – innocent passengers rejected because the machines cannot match their appearance to the records.

Read moreFace scans for air passengers to begin in UK this summer

Chertoff Says Fingerprints Aren’t ‘Personal Data’

Our guest blogger, Peter Swire, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and served as the Clinton Administration’s Chief Counselor for Privacy.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has badly stumbled in discussing the Bush administration’s push to create stricter identity systems. Chertoff was recently in Canada discussing, among other topics, the so-called “Server in the Sky” program to share fingerprint databases among the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia.

In a recent briefing with Canadian press (which has yet to be picked up in the U.S.), Chertoff made the startling statement that fingerprints are “not particularly private”:

QUESTION: Some are raising that the privacy aspects of this thing, you know, sharing of that kind of data, very personal data, among four countries is quite a scary thing.

SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Well, first of all, a fingerprint is hardly personal data because you leave it on glasses and silverware and articles all over the world, they’re like footprints. They’re not particularly private.

Many of us should rightfully be surprised that our fingerprints aren’t considered “personal data” by the head of DHS. Even more importantly, DHS itself disagrees. In its definition of “personally identifiable information” — the information that triggers a Privacy Impact Assessment when used by government — the Department specifically lists: “biometric identifiers (e.g., fingerprints).”

Chertoff’s comments have drawn sharp criticism from Jennifer Stoddart, the Canadian official in charge of privacy issues. “Fingerprints constitute extremely personal information for which there is clearly a high expectation of privacy,” Stoddart said.

There are compelling reasons to treat fingerprints as “extremely personal information.” The strongest reason is that fingerprints, if not used carefully, will become the biggest source of identity theft. Fingerprints shared in databases all over the world won’t stay secret for long, and identity thieves will take advantage.

A quick web search on “fake fingerprints” turns up cheap and easy methods for do-it-at-home fake fingerprints. As discussed by noted security expert Bruce Schneier, one technique is available for under $10. It was tried “against eleven commercially available fingerprint biometric systems, and was able to reliably fool all of them.” Secretary Chertoff either doesn’t know about these clear results or chooses to ignore them. He said in Canada: “It’s very difficult to fake a fingerprint.”

Chertoff’s argument about leaving fingerprints lying around on “glasses and silverware” is also beside the point. Today, we leave our Social Security numbers lying around with every employer and numerous others. Yet the fact that SSNs (or fingerprints) are widely known exposes us to risk.

There have been numerous questions raised about how this Administration is treating our personal information. Secretary Chertoff’s comments show a new reason to worry — they don’t think it’s “personal” at all.

Peter Swire

Source: thinkprogress.org

104 products on shelves already contain toxic ‘grey goo’ by stealth, say Friends of the Earth

Some skin creams use nano particles but many are now concerned about the use of the technology in foods
Potentially toxic chemicals are being incorporated into food, packaging, health supplements and other products by stealth, it is claimed.

Manufacturers boast that nanoparticles can deliver drugs or vitamins more effectively, kill harmful bugs in food or create self-cleaning windows.

But scientists, consumer groups and green campaigners fear the technology is being introduced into the diet, body and environment without proper safety checks.

Nanoparticles are 80,000 times thinner than a human hair – so small they can cross membranes protecting the brain or a baby in the womb.

Critics say it is not known how such tiny particles will interact with the body and organs in the long term, whether they are toxic or how long they will persist in the body.

Doom-mongers have warned that nanoparticles could mutate and reproduce out of control, consuming all life on earth, a scenario often referred to as “grey goo”.

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Some skin creams use nano particles but many are now concerned about the use of the technology in foods

Read more104 products on shelves already contain toxic ‘grey goo’ by stealth, say Friends of the Earth