Category: U.K.

Global Hunger Needs Urgent Attention

A study commissioned by the UK government called for urgent attention into food security to avert global hunger. The Foresight Report on Food and Farming Futures said the current system had to be redesigned to address to end global hunger immediately. The study involved 400 experts from 35 countries, BBC reported. The study provides compelling evidence for the governments to act now.

The report stressed changes to farming were required in order to see that the464 increasing yields might not disturb sustainability of the agriculture sector. It recommended curbing of the resource-intensive food types and minimizing waste in food production. In next 20 years, the world population will reach 8.3 billion and 65-70 percent of the population will be living in urban areas. Increasing prosperity and population will increase food consumption, the report said.

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Abused Iraqis Denied Justice in British Court

A British High Court denied claims for a public inquiry by more than 200 Iraqi civilians. The Iraqis demanded public inquiry into the mistreatment by British troops in Iraq. They alleged that the British troops subjected them to sexual, physical and psychological abuse when they were arrested for allegedly having links to militants. The lawyer for the Iraqis said the victims wereyoukilledmyfather bitterly disappointed with the verdict.

Two judges upheld Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s refusal to order a wide-ranging investigation, but said one could be "required in due course". Mr Fox contended that the abuse was not systemic and was only carried out by a few bad apples. The Ministry of Defence has set up a dedicated Iraq historic allegations team to look into claims of abuse by British soldiers.

The lead claimant, Ali Zaki Mousa, alleges he endured months of beatings and other abuse in the custody of British soldiers in 2006-07. He told the BBC World Service in 2006-07 he had been blindfolded and beaten by UK troops after being arrested in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on suspicion of being affiliated with militias.

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British Government Plans Bankers’ Meet to Curb Bonuses

British government has planned to meet bank bosses in a bid to scale down bonuses payable toOsborne and Vince Cable bank executives for Christmas. The meeting planned on Monday is not happening, as the ministers are away and not able to reach London in time due to unprecedented cold weather.

Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable hope executives would agree to pay less themselves and lend more. It is not clear what action will follow if bankers reject government’s proposals. Mr Cable said the action would be robust but did not specify any action. The prime minister and the chancellor have emphasised the importance of banking to the British economy amid threats that some institutions could move their operations overseas.

The Labour government had passed legislation, backed by the Tories and Lib Dems, forcing banks to disclose bonuses of more than £1m but the coalition had so far refused to implement it. Labour criticized the government is not serious and the meeting is just a hot air to save their faces in the background of student strikes against tuition fee hike. Labour said their temporary tax on bonuses raised 3.5 billion pounds and there was large potential to tax bank bonuses for covering fiscal deficit.

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After Germany, the UK Targets Reduction of Immigration

After a German furore over workers’ immigration, it is now the turn of the UK to come upon immigrants. The UK government is worried that the net immigration is going up year after year. It argues that the student visas are being abused, saying the people are choosing student visas a route to come for working instead of learning.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an estimated 580,000 arrived in the UK in the year up to March 2010 and 364,000 people left the UK during the same period. The net immigration shows at 216,000. The UK ministers want to reduce this figure to tens of thousands by 2015.

The UK previously revealed a plan to reduce immigration. The plan involves cutting the number of visas available for skilled workers. It aims to reduce the immigration from outside the European Economic Community (EU and a handful of other countries). Some say it is difficult to cut immigration of skilled workers.

German Chancellor also said that Germany had to allow skilled workers to immigrate along with blocking those who come to utilize the benefits.

UK Targets Deposits in Tax Havens

After the US, the UK seems to be targeting the unaccounted money in offshore deposits. The UK government intends to impose taxes on new deposits offshore. The authorities are expecting to raise at least 10 billion pounds (approx. $16 billion) over next five years up to 2015.

UK Chancellor George OsborneDiscussions are on with Switzerland, famous for its bank secrecy laws, to impose tax on new deposits. BBC reported the UK government is in talks with three such tax havens which are not identified yet. Though Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man have denied that they are approached by the British treasury, the UK has already signed agreements in August 2009 with these countries including British Virgin Islands to exchange information of British citizens’ deposits in their banks.

Britain’s HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) signed agreement with Liechtenstein in the same month, another most favorite country for tax evaders. It was expected that at least 5,000 British investors (not ordinary citizens) had deposits in Liechtenstein worth 3 billion pounds (approx. $4.84 billion)

According the agreement reached with Liechtenstein, the investors will be allowed a chance to reveal details of their deposits, which will be taxed at 10% over the past 10 years. If the investors do not come forward they will lose their deposits in their accounts. Those who reveal, it seems they do not have alternatives except shifting their accounts to other tax havens, will have to pay interest also on the evaded tax over the past 10 years.

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Google in ‘significant breach’ of UK data laws

BBC News | 3 November 2010 | 14:10 GMT

There was a "significant breach" of the Data Protection Act when Google collected personal data via its Street View cars, the UK’s Information Commissioner has ruled. But Google will not face a fine or any punishment, Christopher Graham added. Instead, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will audit Google’s data protection practices.

Bavaria street viewThe move marks a U-turn for the ICO which originally ruled that no data breach had occurred. Last week the ICO vowed to look again at the evidence, after the Canadian data agency found the search giant in breach of its law. Its decision was welcomed by MP Robert Halfon, who has been critical of the ICO and of Google, which he recently accused of deliberately collecting the data for commercial gain.

However, he said that action had come too late. "The ICO failed to act when it should have done, despite the fact that Google staged a significant infringement of privacy and civil liberties, by harvesting millions of e-mails, wi-fi addresses, and passwords. Furthermore, the ICO has already proved that it lacks the technical expertise to audit Google’s activity. What confidence can we have in their audit now? People feel powerless."

The ICO said it "strongly refutes" Mr Halfon’s suggestion that it did not have "the necessary expertise to audit" Google. "We have a team of experienced and qualified auditors who regularly check organisations compliance with data protection requirements." Mr Graham said Google must delete the data – collected from unsecured wi-fi networks – "as soon as it is legally cleared to do so". Google has apologized for collecting the data, which it said had been done by mistake.

‘Profoundly sorry’

Google has been the subject of scrutiny from data protection agencies around the world, following news that software in its Street View cars collected personal information. This was revealed following a request from the German data commissioner to audit all the data being collected by Street View cars. Google discovered that, along with legitimate data about the location of wi-fi hotspots, the cars were also hovering up personal details from unsecured networks, known as payload data.

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British Version of Abu Ghraib in Iraq

Article first published as British Version of Abu Ghraib in Iraq on Technorati.

More than 200 Iraqi civilians were subjected to inhuman torture and abuse inside the British controlled detention facilities, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) group claimed on its website. The incidents occurred during the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion from 2003 to 2008, came to light in PIL’s investigations. PIL sought all cases to be treated as a single case instead of dealing them on piecemeal basis, which would deprive many Iraqis of justice.

Mounting Claimstorture_02

Mazin Younis, advisor for the PIL said, “Since my first trip to Basra in 2004 to meet a handful of Iraqis claiming to have been abused by British soldiers, the list of claimants has shot up dramatically. …At this very movement, more than 60 new cases have flooded in from southern Iraq; we don’t know yet what kinds of abuse they will be revealing.”

While the PIL announced 142 Iraqi detainee abuse cases reached High Court, Younis added fresh 60 cases that have not yet been produced. The PIL is appealing for a judicial review of a denial by Ministry of Defense (MoD) to order wider public inquiry into allegations of widespread abuse and torture. MoD says the allegations are unproven and a dedicated team had been set up to investigate.

Dedicated Team

PIL alleges the so-called dedicated team, Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), lacked necessary independence to carry out the inquiry. Similar powerless inquiry, Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry, was launched by the British government into the circumstances that led the UK into the war, which carried no statutory powers to prosecute and punish the people responsible for British participation in Iraq invasion.

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