North Korea

The Telegraph says Barack Obama says Sony made ‘mistake’ pulling The Interview.

President Barack Obama said a Hollywood studio made a “mistake” in bowing to pressure from North Korea by pulling a controversial film from cinemas. Mr Obama confirmed that North Korea was responsible for a cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and said the studio should have consulted him before cancelling The Interview, a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un.

He said: “That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about. Yes, I think they made a mistake. We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States. I wish they’d spoken to me first. I would have told them ‘Do not get into a pattern where you’re intimidated by these kinds of attacks.'”

Mr Obama said there would be a response against North Korea but did not give details.

The Guardian and The Independent have almost the same story too.

Meat Labelling

The Telegraph reports on Halal and kosher food labelling: shoppers will be told how their meat has been killed.

Shoppers will be told how their meat was killed, with all halal products required to carry labels explaining the method used to slaughter the animal, a minister has suggested. George Eustice, an environment minister, has given the clearest signal yet that the Government will introduce compulsory labelling of halal or kosher products.

There has been growing concern that consumers are unwittingly buying meat that was the result of religious ritual slaughter after it emerged that diners had been unknowingly served halal chicken in Pizza Express and other restaurants.

Early next year, the European Commission is due to report on whether meat sold in the European Union should bear labels detailing how the animal was slaughtered. Mr Eustice appeared to rule out UK products being labelled “halal” or “kosher”, but said meats could in future be sold as “stunned” or “unstunned” – effectively alerting shoppers as to whether their meat was killed according to religious guidelines.

Russell Brand

The Telegraph tells us that the Russell Brand film on RBS bankers is funded by City investors – including former RBS banker

When Russell Brand wanted to film himself confronting bankers about their bonuses, he chose to storm RBS, regarding the bank as the very embodiment of the capitalist system he so despises. But, not for the first time, Brand has left himself open to accusations of hypocrisy after it emerged the film company he set up is largely funded by City investors – including a former RBS banker.

Brand raised almost £1 million by issuing shares in Mayfair Film Partnership Ltd, the production company making his next film, a documentary called Brand which will explore his ideas on the redistribution of wealth. At least 11 of the 21 main investors in the company are current or former employees of banks or other financial institutions, while a 12th is a pension fund.

New Era Estate (London)

The Guardian reports that New Era residents toast Christmas victory after charity buys London estate.

To the sound of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on the jukebox and with open fires crackling in the grates of the Stag pub, the residents of the New Era estate in east London last night toasted a remarkable Christmas victory.

At 2pm on Friday it was confirmed that the 93 families’ battle against eviction by an $11bn US investor had finally been successful. Months of protesting, marching and petitioning had forced the millionaire executives of Westbrook Partners to sell the estate, abandoning plans to evict families and triple rents.

The new owner was announced as the Dolphin Square Foundation, a charity dedicated to providing affordable homes for low and middle income Londoners. It instantly pledged to keep rents at their current low rates not just this Christmas but next Christmas too.

Pakistan

The Guardian reports that Anti-Taliban protesters in Islamabad demand action against pro-militant cleric.

Anti-Taliban protesters marched on a police station in Islamabad on Friday to demand an official investigation into a radical cleric who refused to condemn the killing of 132 schoolboys this week. The second night of remarkably bold action by civil society groups came on a day of escalating military strikes against alleged militants and the first executions of convicted terrorists to be carried out in Pakistan for years.

As hundreds of people shouted anti-Taliban slogans and waved placards, a smaller group of protesters entered Islamabad’s Aabpara police station to file an application for a first investigation report – a formal document that triggers a police investigation – against Abdul Aziz, the head of the capital’s Red Mosque. They were alleging that peaceful protesters outside the mosque had been threatened with violence.

Farage and Smith

The Guardian reports on Nigel’s session with Nick Ferrari on LBC yesterday, saying that Nigel Farage feels sorry for Kerry Smith over racist language.

Nigel Farage has defended a former Ukip parliamentary candidate who stood down after being recorded using derogatory terms about homosexuals and Chinese people. The Ukip leader said Kerry Smith was “not suitable” to stand for election to Parliament for the party, but insisted that Smith’s comments were not made with malice.

He described the Essex councillor as a “rough diamond” and criticised what he called metropolitan snobbery against people from outside the capital using “colloquial” language. But Farage appeared to cast doubt on Smith’s explanation that he had been taking strong painkillers at the time of the comments.

Emirates Cable Car

The Independent reports on the Emirates Air Line: Nobody wants to cross the Thames in a £60m cable car.

It would be “a stunning addition to London’s transport network”, Mayor Boris Johnson declared when he launched a £60m cable car across the Thames in 2012. Called a “much-needed new connection” across the river, the project was added to the Tube map and presented as a creative answer to travel problems rather than just a tourist attraction.

The Emirates Air Line, as it is officially known, is indeed stunning. How “much-needed” it is to commuters, however, is in doubt. New figures show that the number of commuters regularly using the service, which links the Greenwich Peninsula – home of the O2 venue – with Royal Docks has dropped to a new low: zero.

Research by 853blog, a local news website for Greenwich and south-east London, discovered that in October not a single commuter used an Oyster card on the cable car more than five times in a week, the number at which they would gain a regular users discount.

Immigration

The Independent says that UK’s immigration system now in ‘intensive care’, Theresa May is warned.

Britain’s immigration system is now in “intensive care”, MPs have warned, painting a damning picture of multiple blunders by the Home Office. Disclosing that nearly 400,000 immigration cases were unresolved, the Commons home affairs select committee warned that the Government’s broken promise to slash migration levels had undermined public confidence in the system.

It condemned the Home Office’s “inexcusable” failure to deport more foreign prisoners and expressed “serious doubts” over whether it would hit its target to introduce full exit checks at ports and airports by April.

The Home Secretary’s frequent delays in releasing reports by the independent Chief Inspector of Immigration – highlighted by the Independent last month – was also attacked as “unacceptable”. The MPs said the number of missing migrants had reached 89,000 while the Home Office faced a separate backlog of 304,222 visa applications.

NHS and Nurses

The Daily Mail reveals what it believes is The REAL reason so many young Britons can’t get jobs as nurses … even though last year we shipped in more than 7,000 from abroad.

All of this… is because of poor forward-planning by NHS pen-pushers who chose to save their own jobs rather than those of frontline staff…

To understand what has gone wrong it is necessary to turn the clock back to 2009, when 17,571 English-trained nurses joined the register having completed their three-year, state-funded degree courses in this country. The following year that number slumped by almost 2,000, falling further still in the following two years as NHS bureaucrats attempted to balance the books.

‘In 2010, everyone in health was aware that efficiency savings needed to be found,’ explains Mr Catton. We were told they would be made by cutting waste and cutting bureaucracy, but we were very concerned that nursing and staffing posts would be targeted as a way of making efficiency savings — history also tells us that when money is tight in the NHS, training and education is cut.’

Sure enough, nursing posts that became vacant were left unfilled, while money allocated for training nurses was cut with the effect that from 2010 to 2014, almost 10,000 training places would be lost. While reducing trainee nurse numbers across the NHS undoubtedly saved money, it also — unsurprisingly — impacted on the day-to-day care that patients received.

Employment

The Mail also has a report: Left on the scrapheap, over-55s who lose their job: Millions still unfairly left unemployed because employers believe they are ‘past it’.

Millions of over-55s are still being unfairly consigned to the scrapheap by employers who believe they are ‘past it’, ministers warn today. Government figures show that one in four women and one in six men who reach state pension age have not worked since they were 55.

Employment minister Esther McVey said that despite an increasing number of older workers being in jobs, the number out of work was a waste of talent and a missed economic opportunity.  She said that if the 1.2million unemployed over-50s were given support to find a job, it could add £50billion to the economy.

The Government has already outlawed ageism in the workplace and is now planning a series of measures to support older jobseekers.  From April, they will be offered intensive support, including help to improve online skills and build links with smaller firms. New ‘older workers’ champions’ will offer advice and urge businesses to recognise the benefits of hiring over-50s.

Labour and Immigration

The Mail says that Miliband is The Basil Fawlty of politics: From a distinguished voice on the Left, a devastating critique of Ed Miliband and why Labour isn’t trusted on immigration.

Until very recently, the Great Unmentionable for Ed Miliband and his inner circle was immigration. No matter what the circumstances were, they didn’t want to mention it. Traditional Labour supporters — many now lost to Ukip — who expressed anxiety about how communities were being transformed by immigration were routinely dismissed as ‘bigots’, as Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy famously was by Gordon Brown during the 2010 general election campaign.

To the dismay of many of his MPs, who have watched nervously as their party’s poll lead has dwindled in tandem with their leader’s personal ratings (now lower than the hapless Nick Clegg’s), Ed Miliband did not even mention immigration — along with the small matter of the national deficit — in his speech to this year’s Labour Party conference. The speech should have been the occasion on which Miliband demonstrated once and for all — not only to the party faithful but to the wider nation — that he was a prime-minister-in-waiting.

Conservatives and Immigration

The Express has an exclusive interview with David Cameron:  A fair system for immigration that puts Britain first, says David Cameron.

Daily Express readers want an immigration system that is fair and that puts Britain first. That is what I am determined to deliver. Since becoming Prime Minister, I have put in place a longterm plan on immigration – and here I want to set out the progress that has been made.

First, let me be clear how I approach this. I believe immigration has been good for Britain in many ways. I’m proud that this is a country where people can arrive with nothing and make something of their lives through sheer hard work. And enabling some of the brightest from around the world to come here is critical to our economy.

If we simply closed the door to immigration, that would have a damaging impact on British jobs and livelihoods. But, like you, I saw Labour let immigration get out of control. Two-and-a-half million more people came to this country than left. People could easily live here illegally.

It carries on in the same vein. Nothing new here, move along please…

Farage on Friday

Nigel doesn’t have bang the drum on our position on immigration in his regular column Farage on Friday: Cameron is as bad as Blair when it comes to our politicised civil service.

It has become increasingly clear since the Rochester by-election that the party is willing to do away with the rulebook in its quest for power.

Things have changed a lot since 1853, when Prime Minister William Gladstone instructed Sir Stafford Northcote and Charles Trevelyan to established a Civil Service for the United Kingdom based on the following principles: open, competitive recruitment; for hires to be made by the Civil Service, not specific departments; and that recruits were placed into hierarchies.

But arguably the biggest change to the Civil Service has been on point four: that promotion would be based on merit, not on the grounds of preferment, patronage, or purchase. Today, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as politicised civil servants, i.e. taxpayer-funded party activists, take the most senior jobs, and undermine Britain’s public sector with their transience and ideologies.

David Cameron once gloated about being the “heir to Blair”, and the brazen nature his enlistment of publicly-funded staff in election campaigns follows in Blair’s footsteps of stuffing his administration full of Special Advisors (SpAds).

Tax Credits

The Mirror says that George Osborne’s tax credit cuts will hit women the hardest, warn Labour.

Tax credits for low-paid workers hit women disproportionately as they are more likely to work part time and earn less.  Women will be unfairly affected by George Osborne’s new raid on tax credits, research has revealed. They will face four-fifths of the Chancellor’s cuts if the Tories win the next election.

Tax credits for low-paid workers hit women disproportionately as they are more likely to work part time and earn less. Labour said the figures from the House of Commons Library highlights the Tories’ “women problem”.

Labour has branded the cut a “Strivers’ Tax”, aimed at punishing the working poor and those in low-paid employment. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “Four years of Budgets have taken six times more from them than men.”

Conservative Campaign Funds

The Mirror reports that the Tories preparing for TWO General Elections in 2015 amid fears they will not win a majority.

There could be two general elections in 2015 according to Tories planning for not winning a majority in May. The party doesn’t want another coalition and a source admitted: “Extra fundraising is under way.”

Conservatives fear they will again fail to win outright – meaning it will be 23 years since they last secured a majority at a General Election. Meanwhile, it was revealed the Tories accepted a £75,000 donation from tycoon Mike Lynch, who is being probed for alleged fraud against tech giant Hewlett-Packard.

Interestingly, here is the current standing of an instant poll on that article:

Mirror Poll 20 Dec

Print Friendly, PDF & Email