U.K. – Police raids safe deposit boxes


Officers believe the boxes were being used to store criminal assets

Six suitcases packed with suspected gold dust and about £30m in cash have been found during searches of safety deposit centres in London, police say.

Detectives also found heroin and cocaine, evidence linked to child sex abuse and forged passports.

The Met Police believe criminals used the centres in Park Lane, Hampstead and Edgware to store criminal assets.

Armed police continue to guard the buildings as specialist officers search the 7,000 safety deposit boxes.

So far only a third of the boxes have been opened and the finds have also included a firearm, counterfeit currency, several works of Renaissance art and a substantial amount of high value jewellery.

I am confident that this operation will have a damaging impact on organised crime in London and around the rest of the country
Commander Allan Gibson

Speaking after the raids Commander Allan Gibson said: “Search teams have been working around the clock to open all the boxes at the location and are progressing well, although we are likely to remain at the locations for some time yet.

“This is a complex and unique investigation that will use all of the expertise within the economic crime command and the findings are within our expectations at this stage.

“I am confident that this operation will have a damaging impact on organised crime in London and around the rest of the country.”

Read moreU.K. – Police raids safe deposit boxes

Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis

Today, we stand on the brink of a longer-term problem. In the words of Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London: ‘We are sleep-walking into a crisis.’
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The phrase ‘nine meals from anarchy’ sounds more like the title of a bad Hollywood movie than any genuine threat.

But that was the expression coined by Lord Cameron of Dillington, a farmer who was the first head of the Countryside Agency – the quango set up by Tony Blair in the days when he pretended to care about the countryside – to describe just how perilous Britain’s food supply actually is.


Crisis: Britain’s food supply is in peril

Long before many others, Cameron saw the potential of a real food crisis striking not just the poor of the Third World, but us, here in Britain, in the 21st Century.

The scenario goes like this. Imagine a sudden shutdown of oil supplies; a sudden collapse in the petrol that streams steadily through the pumps and so into the engines of the lorries which deliver our food around the country, stocking up the supermarket shelves as soon as any item runs out.

If the trucks stopped moving, we’d start to worry and we’d head out to the shops, cking up our larders. By the end of Day One, if there was still no petrol, the shelves would be looking pretty thin. Imagine, then, Day Two: your fourth, fifth and sixth meal. We’d be in a panic. Day three: still no petrol.

What then? With hunger pangs kicking in, and no notion of how long it might take for the supermarkets to restock, how long before those who hadn’t stocked up began stealing from their neighbours? Or looting what they could get their hands on?

Read moreNine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis

UK: Compulsory microchipping of dogs

Related article: CASPIAN RELEASES MICROCHIP CANCER REPORT

The Government is being urged to consider the compulsory microchipping of dogs to reduce the number of strays and help combat irresponsible owners.

If that failed to solve the problems, mandatory licences could be the solution, David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of external affairs, said.

“Why do we still have a stray animal problem? Why do we have an increasing dangerous dog problem? The answer has to come down to education, enforcement of legislation and, in certain cases, microchipping and dog licensing,” he said.

Read moreUK: Compulsory microchipping of dogs

Banks’ credit crisis solutions have echoes of 1929 Depression

As banks look to shore up their balance sheets in the wake of the credit squeeze, Philip Aldrick asks whether it is all short-term trickery


Investors gather in New York’s financial district after the stock market crash of 1929, which heralded the onset of the Great Depression

‘We are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s,” warns the eminent financier George Soros in his latest book, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets. It’s a rather extreme view, but the man who broke the Bank of England is not alone in his dark funk. At a recent event, one banker laced Soros’s sentiment with a little gallows humour, ruefully predicting “10 years of depression followed by a world war”.

Comparisons with the great crash of 1929 are inevitable and the parallels manifold. Then it was an over-inflated stock market that burst before wider economic malaise ushered in the Great Depression.

This time, in the words of Intermediate Capital managing director Tom Attwood, sub-prime was merely “a catalyst” for the inevitable pricking of the credit market bubble as “disciplines were bypassed in favour of loan book growth at almost any cost”. Again the talk is of recession, certainly in the US and possibly in the UK.

Perhaps the most intriguing parallel, though, is the crude attempt at self-preservation made by the investment trusts in 1929 and the banks now.

In the great crash, investment trusts with vast cross-holdings in each other tried to stem their collapse by buying up their own stock in what the economist JK Galbraith in his book, The Great Crash 1929, described as an act of “fiscal self-immolation”. At the time, “support of the stock of one’s own company seemed a bold, imaginative and effective course,” Galbraith wrote, but ultimately the trusts were just “swindling themselves”.

Modern economists have compared the trusts’ actions with what the banks are now doing. “They seem to be just papering over the cracks,” says Brendan Brown, chief economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

Read moreBanks’ credit crisis solutions have echoes of 1929 Depression

Big stores start to ration rice purchases

Supermarket chains have begun rationing rice as the effects of rising prices and disruptions to supply spill over from specialist grocers and suppliers to larger stores.

Netto, the Danish-owned discount store, has been restricting sales of larger bags of rice to one per person in all stores in recent weeks across the UK.

Mike Hinchcliffe, marketing manager for Netto UK, said: “We’re temporarily limiting our larger 10 kg bags of rice to one per customer because, like most other UK supermarkets, we are having to manage and minimise the impact the global rice shortage is having on our suppliers.

“We are experiencing a high demand for rice and have introduced this measure across our 184 UK stores to ensure that all of our customers have a fair opportunity to make their regular rice purchases. Our smaller 1kg packs remain on free sale with no restrictions planned at this time.” It expects the restriction to continue “indefinitely”.

By Lucy Killgren
Published: May 30 2008 23:45 | Last updated: May 30 2008 23:45

Source: Financial Times

Terror law turns thousands of council officials into spies

Relatively junior council officials are giving permission for operations to spy on people
Relatively junior council officials are giving permission for operations to spy on people

Thousands of middle managers in local councils are being authorised to spy on people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.Even junior council officials are being allowed to initiate surveillance operations in what privacy campaigners likened to Eastern bloc police tactics.

The Home Office is expected to be urged by the Commons Home Affairs select committee to issue guidelines to councils on the type of operations in which surveillance can be used.

Amid increasing concern in Parliament that the UK is slowly becoming a surveillance society, the committee has looked at the operation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which some MPs say is being misused to focus on petty crime rather than serious offending.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs select committee, told The Times: “I am personally shocked by the numbers involved in surveillance by the local authorities. It is important we make sure there is proper accountability and transparency in the way this operates.” The committee, which has concluded an investigation into the surveillance society and is to publish its report in eight days’ time, is understood to have been concerned at the lack of guidance from central government to local authorities on how powers under the Act should be used.

Councils are increasingly allowing anyone of a “service manager” grade rather than high-ranking officials with a legal background to authorise surveillance operations. Relatively junior council officials are giving permission for operations to spy on people, their homes, obtain their telephone records and discover who they are e-mailing.

“A lot of councils are making the proactive decision to use these powers more,” a spokesman for Lacors, the central body that oversees local authorities, said.

“They think it’s a fantastic tool. Inevitably, more middle-management staff will be called on to authorise surveillance.”

Read moreTerror law turns thousands of council officials into spies

Depleted Uranium Shells Worse Than Nuclear Weapons

(NaturalNews) The use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the U.S. military may lead to a death toll far higher than that from the nuclear bombs dropped at the end of World War II.

DU is a waste product of uranium enrichment, containing approximately one-third the radioactive isotopes of naturally occurring uranium. Because of its high density, it is used in armor- or tank-piercing ammunition. It has been fired by the U.S. and British militaries in the two Iraq wars and in Afghanistan, as well as by NATO forces in Kosovo and the Israeli military in Lebanon and Palestine.

Inhaled or ingested DU particles are highly toxic, and DU has been classified as an illegal weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority has estimated that 50 tons of DU dust from the first Gulf War could lead to 500,000 cancer deaths by the year 2000. To date, a total of 2,000 tons have been generated in the Middle East.

Read moreDepleted Uranium Shells Worse Than Nuclear Weapons

‘Rude’ police punishing middle classes to hit Home Office targets

Police are targeting the law-abiding middle classes over minor misdemeanours so they can meet government targets, a report claims.

Officers are having to put Home Office targets before serving the public and are becoming increasingly alienated from ordinary people as a result.

Members of the public find officers to be “rude” and accuse them of neglecting their duties and failing to respond to reports of crime.

The report, by the think-tank Civitas, said political interference meant incidents that might previously have been regarded as innocuous were now treated as crimes.

Police performance is measured in “sanction detections” which means officers have detected or cleared a case by charging someone, issuing a penalty notice or giving a caution. Many officers are expected to complete a certain number each month.

Arresting or fining a normally law-abiding person for a trivial offence is a good way of achieving the target and pleasing the Home Office.

Read more‘Rude’ police punishing middle classes to hit Home Office targets

Europe fuel protests spread wider

Flemish fishermen protest in Brussels outside European Parliament
Belgian fishermen have been protesting directly to the EU

Fuel protests triggered by rising oil prices have spread to more countries across Europe, with thousands of fishermen on strike.

Union leaders said Portugal’s entire coastal fleet stayed in port on Friday, while in Spain, 7,000 fishermen held protests at the agriculture ministry.

French fishermen have been protesting for weeks, with Belgian and Italian colleagues also involved.

UK and Dutch lorry drivers held similar protests earlier this week.

The strike reflects anger at the rising cost of fuel, with oil prices above $130 (83.40 euros; £65.80) a barrel.

Trade unions say the cost of diesel has become prohibitively high, after rising 300% over the past five years.

Wholesale fish prices, meanwhile, have been static for 20 years.

Fishermen’s leaders from France, Spain and Italy have been meeting in Paris to co-ordinate strikes and protests over the next three weeks in the run-up to a European Union fisheries ministers’ meeting.

The protesters are calling for direct immediate aid for the fisheries industry, coupled with increased subsidies.

The European Commission said in a statement it was willing to show flexibility towards the industry but it has ruled out subsidies to offset rising fuel costs.

Short-term aid packages were acceptable as long as they were used to address structural deficiencies in the fleets, it said.

‘Ruin for fishermen’

Several thousand fishermen marched on the agriculture ministry in Madrid, where they handed out 20 tonnes of fresh fish to members of the public in an attempt to draw attention to their ailing industry.


Fishermen held protests in Brussels and Madrid

Many blew whistles and klaxons, and let off firecrackers producing red smoke.

The BBC’s Steve Kingstone at the protest said he could see flags from Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia.

Read moreEurope fuel protests spread wider

Are you ready for WW2-style energy rationing?

Analysis: Environment Minister Hilary Benn again rebuffed calls this week for WW2-style energy rationing to return to the UK. He was responding to a Select Committee report urging ministers to issue 45 million Britons with an energy trading “credit card” – a mammoth techno-bureaucratic exercise costing several billions of pounds a year to operate.

What’s interesting is how the normal parliamentary business was turned upside down.

Usually, it’s ministers who propose batty and unworkable legislation, and fail to cost it, while select committees are supposed to scrutinize the proposals: picking apart the logic and bogus cost estimates. But in this case the select committee in question – the “Environmental Audit Committee” – is positively evangelical about a return to rationing. Perhaps not surprisingly, ministers are wary of committing electoral suicide, or at least, not in quite such an obvious fashion.

Benn said his department DEFRA had made its own enquiry, which unlike the watchdog’s investigation, included costs. A rationing scheme would cost between £700m and £2bn to set up, he said, and between £1bn and £2bn a year to operate he said.

“In essence it is ahead of its time,” the minister said Tuesday. “The cost of implementing it would be quite high and there are a lot of practical problems to be overcome.” Front bench Tories are equally wary.

So what are the MPs proposing?

The ration, or “personal carbon allowance” or PCA, is a measure of an individual’s energy usage, either at home or traveling. Such usage is capped, and “further emissions rights will simply not be available,” the Committee says. You may choose between a holiday, and turning on the heating. Points win prizes, however, and frugal individuals would be rewarded financially from the creation of an internal market.

“We could not find or imagine analogues in other fields of human activity for individual carbon trading beyond rationing during and after World War 2,” the authors of the DEFRA-commissioned report “A Rough Guide to Individual Carbon Trading” wrote in 2006.

Read moreAre you ready for WW2-style energy rationing?