Monday, April 30, 2012

I Got All My Wishes

Julian Trevelyan

Yesterday was the long-awaited Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

As soon as it started, it became very clear that Manchester United had 'parked' a bus in front of their goal and were doing everything they could to prevent Manchester City from playing football.

Everything that Manchester City tried failed; Manchester United really tried to control the game by playing defensive football.

What did seem strange; was that the Manchester United players did not seem to be actually playing any football.

What they did do, was devise all sorts of tricks whereby they could get the opposition to tackle them badly and then dive and get the other player sent off.

Sadly for them none of their plans worked, and in the last moment before half-time Vincent Company, the Manchester city captain scored a magnificent goal.

It was hilarious to see the expressions of disbelief, on the faces of Manchester United it was wonderful to see, they were shocked that the unimaginable   could possibly happen to them.

After half-time it seemed for the first five maybe 10 minutes that Manchester United were finally playing football.

Sadly this did not seem to happen, and for most of the rest of the game all the action was down in front of the Manchester United goal, where Manchester city had a lot of chances.

Miraculously at the end of the game, despite there being no injury time, 5 minutes extra time was added, I would love to know how Alex Ferguson always manages to get this.

At every game when Manchester United has not scored a goal, suddenly there's always extra time when they usually manage to get their goal.

Yesterday again they got extra time, but this time no matter how they tried, they did not manage to get a goal.

Manchester City won the game with one goal; it now looks like they will win the Premier league, and not Manchester United who usually win.

I'm very happy, I got all my wishes, Chelsea won against Barcelona, Bayern Munchen beat Real Madrid, and now my third wish that Manchester City win against Manchester United has also happened which is wonderful.                              

Sunday, 29 April,2012. It's anyone's guess who will win.

Felix Nussbaum 

Last night we watched Match of the Day on BBC TV, the signs are that the end of the season has become extremely nerve wracking.

For some supporters it has been very upsetting, as their clubs have either gone down already or are in danger of being relegated.

Wolverhampton football club have already been relegated to the Championship, however it was wonderful to see them put in a brilliant effort.

At one point Swansea had three goals and Wolves had none, that soon changed and the game ended with a draw, four goals each.

Wonderful to see the Wolves team play so well, I'm really glad they had such a good last game in the Premiership.

It means that they can start life in the Championship with their heads held high and who knows maybe they'll be back very soon.

I also saw a sad sight yesterday, Alex McLeish, the manager of Aston Villa was almost looking like he might cry, as his team are also in the danger zone.

Then I was cheered up even more when I watched Chelsea play Queens Park Rangers, the final score was Chelsea 6 Queens Park Rangers 1.

What made me laugh was the thought of Queens Park Rangers going down to the Championship, while Fulham will be happily playing in the premiership.

Mark Hughes, the manager of Queens Park Rangers, was briefly the manager of Fulham football club, he left saying that they had no ambition.

He needed a football club have plenty of ambition, sadly it seems that he may have made the wrong choice as it looks like Queens Park Rangers are in trouble now.

Tomorrow there will be excitement of watching Roberto Mancini's Manchester City taking on Alex Ferguson's Manchester United.

Of course I'm hoping that the apple cart will be upset and Manchester city will win, that really would be excellent.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game and the last games next weekend, which will be very exciting.
Then on 19 May, is the final of the Champions League, between Bayern Munchen and Chelsea,
t's anyone's guess who will win.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Might Even Win.


Recently I was getting myself worried about some paperwork that I felt I wouldn’t get done on time.

Then yesterday I realised that I did not need to panic as I would get the tasks completed on time.

It amused me when I discovered that I was getting in a right flap about very little, typically I was getting myself worked up for nothing.

I need to get our tax returns in, at the moment I'm waiting for a couple of documents that I have to include.

What made me even more cheerful, was finding out that I could use my tax return from last year as a template for this year's.

Most of the items are the same, just some numbers have to be changed, there was me getting all upset.

The other thing that really relieved the pressure was hearing from our acquaintance, an accountant who does our tax for us, that I have until the second week in May to hand in the documents to him.

On Wednesday I had a visit from two friends, Cecile and Anne, which was really good as it turned out.

 I mentioned that I was really concerned that would not be able to attend my appeal against the council refusing me the air conditioning.

Saying I didn't think that our friend Anja reading out a letter from me describing all the problems I have when it gets warm in the summer would not be effective.

Cecile said immediately that if I prepared my statement then she would come round before the hearing and film me in bed.

That way the court will be able to see exactly what my situation is, and perhaps that might persuade them to overturn the Council’s decision.

While I have absolutely no belief in the justice system, nevertheless I shall give it a good shot, and who knows I might even win, that would be excellent.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wrong Choices


Yesterday in the Dutch newspapers, there was an article about a poem that was causing uproar.

Apparently there had been a national school competition, to write a poem about what the Second World War and its consequences meant to the schoolchildren.

A young lad of 15, Auke Siebbe Dirk won the competition, he wrote a poem about his great uncle Dirk Siebe, who he was named after.

The boy’s uncle had been lured away from his poverty stricken background to fight for the wrong side, for the Germans, with the Waffen SS.

The poem was all about making the wrong choices and the consequences of such actions; it did not condone his uncle’s decision.

It was a beautifully written honest bit of prose, describing the sadness of the boy about his great uncle choosing to fight for the Germans, which took him away from his family.

It describes how his uncle Dirk Siebbe ended up fighting on the Russian front, and regretting his decision which meant he could never go home again.

But sadly because of all the arguments surrounding this issue, the organising committee of the commemoration of the dead from the Second World War decided to give in and withdraw the poem.

Real shame I think, because it was very thought-provoking and raised all sorts of questions which would have been good to have finally been discussed.

As far as I can make out regardless of which side they were on, they were all victims of a terrible war.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Looking Forward


On Tuesday night when Chelsea had successfully won against Barcelona, we both thought that it would be brilliant if Bayern München were to win against Real Madrid the next night.

Then Chelsea would have to play Bayern Munchen in the final, quite an excellent idea, we thought.

We didn't see all of the game the next night, by the time we'd switch to it, Ronaldo had scored twice for Madrid, it seemed like they were going to win.

There were no goals in  the second half, so the competition went to extra time and when that was over, it went to penalties.

And then there was the hilarious sight of Real Madrid best players missing their penalties, Ronaldo was the first, followed by Kaka.

So funny seeing the Madrid fans faces, as it dawned on them that they might not be winning, something that doesn't often happen to them.

But it was to get even better when the last German player, Sebastian Schweinsteiger stepped forward and took his penalty and won it.

Just before that happened there was a quite sad sight of the Real Madrid manager Moriniho’s down on his knees seeming to pray.

Sadly for him, skill not superstition won the game, at the end of which he disappeared down the tunnel.

The last picture we saw was a very happy Bayern Munchen players and ecstatic fans, it was a lovely sight, I'm looking forward now to 19 May and the final.                                      

Cameron Family Fortune Made InTax Havens.

Revealed: David Cameron's father built up legal offshore funds in Panama and Geneva

The Jersey, Panama and Geneva connection
Ian Cameron's will

David Cameron's father set up offshore investment funds which explicitly boasted of their ability to remain outside UK tax jurisdiction. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA
David Cameron's father ran a network of offshore investment funds to help build the family fortune that paid for the prime minister's inheritance, the Guardian can reveal.
Though entirely legal, the funds were set up in tax havens such as Panama City and Geneva, and explicitly boasted of their ability to remain outside UK tax jurisdiction.
At the time of his death in late 2010, Ian Cameron left a fortune of £2.74m in his will, from which David Cameron received the sum of £300,000.
Cameron and other cabinet members have recently suggested that they would be willing to disclose their personal tax filings amid growing scrutiny following the budget, but this would only shed light on annual sources of income rather than accumulated wealth or inheritance.
The structure employed by Cameron senior is now commonplace among modern hedge funds, which argue that offshore status can help attract international investors. UK residents would ordinarily have to pay tax on any profits they repatriated, and there is nothing to suggest the Camerons did not.
Nevertheless, the dramatic growth of such offshore financial activity has raised concerns that national tax authorities are struggling to pin down the world's super-rich.
Ian Cameron took advantage of a new climate of investment after all capital controls were abolished in 1979, making it legal to take any sum of money out of the country without it being taxed or controlled by the UK government.
Not long after the change, brought in by Margaret Thatcher after her first month in power, Ian Cameron began setting up and directing investment funds in tax havens around the world.
Leaving his full-time role as a City stockbroker, Ian Cameron went on to act as chairman of Close International Asset management, a multimillion-pound investment fund based in Jersey; as a senior director of Blairmore Holdings Inc, registered in Panama City and currently worth £25m; and he was also a shareholder in Blairmore Asset Management based in Geneva.
However, the family will – a public document seen by the Guardian – only details the assets of Ian Cameron's estate in England and Wales. Offshore investments would only be listed in submissions to HMRC for inheritance tax purposes. It is unclear what those assets – if any – are worth and which family member owns them.
In 2009 the compilers of the Sunday Times Rich List estimated Ian Cameron's wealth at £10m.
He was survived by his wife, Mary Fleur Cameron, who as his spouse would not have had to pay inheritance tax on sums transferred between them.
In 2006 Ian's eldest son, Alexander, became the sole owner of the family's £2.5m house in Newbury, Berkshire, where David had been brought up.
Another family home in Kensington, London, worth £1m, passed to his two daughters in equal share.
Cameron's father was "instrumental" in setting up the Panamanian company, Blairmore Holdings, in 1982, which was exempt from UK tax, when David was a pupil at Eton aged 16.
The fund shares its name with the family's ancestral home in Aberdeenshire, Blairmore House, in which Ian Cameron was born in 1932 but which the family no longer owns.
A lengthy prospectus for Blairmore Holdings written in 2006 and meant to attract high net worth "sophisticated" investors, with at least $100,000 to buy shares, is explicit about how the fund sought to avoid UK tax. At the time more than half of the fund's 11 directors were UK nationals.
Under Panamanian law the fund was excluded from taxation derived from other parts of the world.
"The fund is not liable to taxation on its income or capital gains as long as such income or capital gains are not derived from sources allocated within the territory of the Republic of Panama," the 2006 prospectus reads.
"The Directors intend that the affairs on the Fund should be managed and conducted so that it does not become resident in the United Kingdom for UK taxation purposes. Accordingly ... the Fund will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits," the prospectus continues.
The investor document also credits Ian Cameron as a founder member of Blairmore Holdings and states that as an adviser he would be paid $20,000 a year – the highest paid director – whatever profits were realised.
In fact, the long-term Panamanian investment fund performed above market rate over many years averaging a 116% return from 2002-2007. Today many of the fund's largest holdings are in blue-chip stocks such as Apple, Unilever and Coca Cola.
Before his death, aged 77, Ian Cameron was also chairman and shareholder of Close International Equity Growth Fund Ltd, registered in Jersey and worth £9m according to papers filed in 2005. In that year just under half of the fund's holdings were in UK listed stocks.
A third fund set up in Geneva, Switzerland, had a shorter life span and finally dissolved in 2007 but had many of the same registered shareholders as the Panamanian outfit. These included a number of former employees of Panmure Gordon, the stockbroking firm where Ian Cameron spent much of his career and those from Smith and Williamson investment management where Cameron senior was a consultant.
One notable investor into the Panama fund was a charity established by Tory peer Lord Vinson. Accounts from 2009 show that a charitable trust set up under his own name invested £82,000 into the fund – almost one quarter of its investments in shares.
Vinson's trust that year went on to donate tens of thousands of pounds to rightwing think tanks including the Institute of Economic Affairs and Civitas.
David Cameron has recently remarked on companies who have taken advantage of offshoring to legally avoid tax. Speaking at the start of the year to small business leaders in Maidenhead, he said: "With the large companies, that have the fancy corporate lawyers and the rest of it, I think we need a tougher approach.
"One of the things that we are going to be looking at this year is whether there should be a general anti-avoidance power that HMRC can use, particularly with very wealthy individuals and with the bigger companies, to make sure they pay their fair share."
The row also comes as the top rate of tax was lowered in last month's budget from 50p to 45p and the rate of corporation tax continue to drop to achieve the chancellor's ambition of giving the UK one of the lowest rates of corporation tax in the G7.
Responding to opposition criticisms over the lowering of the top tax rate, Cameron said: "The cut in the 50p tax rate is going to be paid five times over by the richest people in our country."
Downing Street said it did not want to comment on what was a private matter for the Cameron family.
A spokesperson added: "The government's tax reforms are about making sure that some of the richest people in the country pay a decent share of income tax."
The investment managers Smith and Williamson, for whom Ian Cameron worked, chose not to comment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life is full of Surprises


Last night was really great fun; we watched the Champions League game between Barcelona Football club and Chelsea Football club on the TV.

One week ago we watched the first leg of the tournament, when Barcelona played Chelsea in England at Stamford Bridge.

Then it was amusing to see the dismay on the Barcelona player’s faces when Didier Drogba scored a goal for Chelsea and the team prevented Barcelona from equalising.

This was an important away game for Barcelona, as every away goal counts for two on aggregate, but they didn't manage even one goal.

Barcelona had not expected this; their attitude always seems to be that they think that just by turning up they are automatically going to win.

Because they have been the best team in Europe for quite some time, they believe that they will always win.

Quite often they do win, as they are a very good team, the only drawback is that Barcelona sadly always cheat, shame really as they're all such good players.

What made last night brilliant, was that Barcelona got two goals and it looked like they would win.

Then John Terry, the captain of the team, was penalised for fouling a Barcelona player, he got a red card and was instantly sent off.

This meant Chelsea were now without their captain, and their best defender, so all they could do was just try to stop Barcelona playing football.

Which they managed very well, with only 10 players and no defenders, then Ramares gave Chelsea a new chance to get back into the game by scoring a brilliant goal.

This really rattled the Barcelona team, who started giving the opposing side kicks and nudges, as well as diving at every opportunity they could, in their attempts to get a penalty.

They got a penalty which Lionel Messi, took and missed much to the delight of all the Chelsea fans in the stadium.

It was funny to see Lionel Messi, who is considered the best football player in the world, not only not getting a goal, and constantly hitting the bar, but that out of frustration he also kicked a Chelsea player.

Then Chelsea manager Roberto de Matteo decided to take Didier Drogba off, because he was very tired after putting in a brilliant performance.

The manager brought on Fernando Torres who much to everybody's delight, apart from Barcelona fans and players scored a wonderful goal, which meant Chelsea had won the game.

So now they go on to the final where they were either play Real Madrid or Bayern Munchen, I think it would be hilarious if Bayern Munchen were to win.

A perfect finale of the Champions League; I think it would be hilarious if Bayern Munchen would beat Real Madrid tonight, which they did.

Nothing better than the apple cart being upset, Barcelona and Madrid were obviously hoping that they would be playing against each other in the final.

Life really is full of surprises.

Dial M For Murdoch by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman-review

Will the phone-hacking scandal be bigger than Watergate? This is a gobsmacking account of the problems engulfing News Internation

Empire of the Sun … Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, whose employees are facing allegations of phone hacking.
Even if you are familiar with the News of the World phone-hacking saga, you will be gobsmacked by this account. It is a tale of stupidity, incompetence, fear, intimidation, lying, downright wickedness and corruption in high places. It is constructed like a thriller, with cliffhanging chapter endings and a final section entitled "Darker and darker". Men and women fear for their lives and their families, remove batteries from their mobiles, keep their blinds down and curtains closed, check their homes for bugging devices, see sinister vehicles in rear-view mirrors, and vary their routes to work each day. Vivid characters hop on and off stage, one of them a former policeman running a private detective agency called Silent Shadow. There's even a murder. The improbable hero, doggedly pursuing his quarry, is the portly Labour MP Tom Watson – "the tub of lard", Rupert Murdoch's papers called him, in the charming way they have with people they don't like. Rather confusingly, he's also (with an Independent journalist) the co-author, but referred to throughout in the third person.
  1. Dial M for Murdoch
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The book opens with a quote from Carl Bernstein, one of the Washington Post journalists who unearthed Watergate, comparing phone-hacking to that celebrated scandal. The parallels are indeed close, right down to the allegation that News International (NI) eventually bugged Rebekah Brooks, its own chief executive, just as Richard Nixon bugged his own White House office. In both scandals, dirty work was done by low-level operatives. Paper (or electronic) trails couldn't establish conclusively that they acted on orders from above. But in phone hacking, as in the Watergate burglary, top people (we still don't know how near the top the trail will lead) implicated themselves through a systematic cover-up. With a bit of stretch, you could argue that hacking may yet turn out to be bigger than Watergate. Nixon may have been leader of the world's most powerful nation but he was, so to speak, just a rogue president. The products of Murdoch's global media corporation, on the other hand, are consumed annually by a billion people, and the hacking cover-up appears to have encompassed not just one political leader but the entire British political establishment, to say nothing of the police, the legal services and much of the media.
What stands out from this book is the lengths to which NI went to bury the hacking scandal and how, before the revelations in July 2011 that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked, the company nearly got away with it. Clive Goodman, the NoW's royal reporter, was jailed in January 2007, along with the private detective Glenn Mulcaire. The police had evidence that Mulcaire's targets went well beyond the royal family and that, almost certainly, many reporters other than Goodman were involved. Yet no proper investigation followed, and no more arrests until 2011. The police deployed, on different occasions, a range of implausible excuses: they were too busy investigating terrorism; Mulcaire had actually hacked only "a handful" of the phone numbers he held; the law allowed prosecution only where a voice message was intercepted before the owner heard it.
Perhaps they were just frightened. When police raided the NoW offices in the wake of Goodman's arrest, they faced a hostile, unco-operative and (some thought) potentially violent response. In effect, they were sent packing, and didn't dare return. As revelations grew, NI's response was, first, to deny them, second, to put pressure on newspapers and MPs to drop their investigations (pressure that was complemented by the advice of senior police officers) and third, to take further steps to cover its tracks.
In November 2009, NI agreed a policy of deleting "unhelpful" emails from its internal computer system. "How are we doing with the email deletion policy?" asked an anxious senior executive nearly a year later. Around the same time, the company was smashing up reporters' computers during "a routine technical upgrade". In January 2011, an email chain to James Murdoch, then chief executive of News Corp Europe and Asia, regarding Gordon Taylor, the footballers' union official who was paid £645,000 to keep the hacking of his phone out of the public domain, was deleted as part of a "stabilisation and modernisation programme". Emails were still being deleted up to the NoW's closure in July 2011, as a technology firm used by NI testified to the home affairs select committee. No wonder a judge in January this year, rejecting a request to halt a search of computers belonging to former NoW employees, said the company should be treated as "deliberate destroyers of evidence".
All the while, the Murdoch papers and their allies were pooh-poohing hacking stories published by the Guardian and other papers. Roger Alton, executive editor of the Times and a former Observer and Independent editor, compared the NoW's offences to parking in a resident's bay; Kelvin MacKenzie, the former Sun editor, to stealing tools from a garden shed. Boris Johnson, mayor of London, described Guardian allegations as "a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour party" and in April 2011 his aide Kit Malthouse was still pressing Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan police commissioner, to ignore "political media hysteria", in Stephenson's phrase.
NI had allies and clients in the right places. When the Guardian's Nick Davies published the first stories in 2009 suggesting that NoW hacking was on an industrial scale, both Labour and the Tories were anxiously seeking Murdoch's backing in the 2010 general election. The NoW had 10 former employees in Scotland Yard's public affairs department. It had its former editor Andy Coulson in David Cameron's office. Actors, who were among the main victims of hacking, are biddable people at the best of times and would hesitate to challenge publicly the owner of a Hollywood film studio. As for the fearless seekers of truth in the fourth estate, few wanted to kill for ever their chances of employment on Murdoch's numerous papers and broadcast news stations in Britain and the US. Whistleblowers? When a former NoW employee spilled the beans to the New York Times, the police interviewed him under caution (by contrast, Coulson was initially questioned only as "a witness"). The whistleblower later died of drink-related disease.
If all else failed, Murdoch's papers possessed the ultimate deterrent: the threat to investigate and publish details of the private lives of anybody who crossed them. Even those whose cupboards were empty of skeletons feared their families might be vulnerable. That is what gives a dominant media company its unique power: in effect, it can, tacitly if not explicitly, blackmail almost anybody, and it's no use going to the police because, if they're not actually being paid by the press, they're scared too. The fear probably outstrips the reality, but not many risked it. One hostile biography of Rupert Murdoch, published in 2008, was followed by a Murdoch-owned US tabloid exposing the author's extramarital affair. Neville Thurlbeck, the former NoW chief reporter, told Watson that an editor instructed staff to "find out every single thing you can about every single member" of the Commons media select committee of which Watson was a member. The paper hired Silent Shadow to follow Watson's every move, and later used the same firm to put lawyers acting for hacking victims under surveillance. Both Andy Hayman and John Yates, the senior Met officers who chose not to challenge NI's denials of mass criminality at the NoW, are said to have had controversial personal relationships, and both had their phones hacked (though they explicitly denied that fear influenced their decisions).
The saga is nowhere near its end. No sooner does NI settle with one group of hacking victims than more emerge. The prime minister's loss of Coulson has been followed by a threat to his culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Police inquiries have extended to computer hacking, illegal acquisition of private data and corruption of police and other public officials. The number of arrests is closing on the half-century mark. It seems likely that Murdoch and his family will be forced to sell all their British papers, probably their interests in BSkyB and possibly even News Corporation itself. Nothing is forever, not even Murdoch. But nobody can be confident that he won't bounce back. Many twists in the plot are still to come. This book covers just the first, enthralling instalment. The sequels could be even more dramatic.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's Amazing How Time Flies By.

Karel Teige 

It's amazing how time flies by, it did seem like it was 15.00 1 min and the next it was 17.25, so Richie has taken the dogs for an hours play in the Rembrandts park.

They were very excited and it was awfully difficult for Richie to get their collars and leads on them, because they were jumping around barking for the joy of going out.

I'm sure right now, the dogs are running around having a brilliant time and soon they'll be back demanding their dinner, it's their favourite tonight, tripe.

Amazingly now it's 18. 31 the sun has come out and it looks very nice outside in a total contrast to the rest of the day.

The last two nights I've gone to sleep relatively easy, only to be woken on both nights by loud noises.

On Saturday it was Cyril, who started barking, Richie reckons it was a bad dream as he was still fast asleep while he was barking.

Last night it was a couple people outside, at 03.30 in the morning they, had to have a shouted conversation right outside our bedroom window.

Both nights I could not get back to sleep again, so regretfully I had to wake Richie and ask him for some THC vapour to help me sleep once again.

Both times it worked excellently and before I could count any more sheep I was asleep again.

I slept through very well, and was only woken many hours later when my arms were suddenly both very tightly folded on my chest.

And to make it worse my fingernails were stuck into the palms of my hands, this happens every day as soon as I begin to wake up.

Sadly there's nothing I can do about it, apart from trying to relax and hope that that will have an effect, eventually the tension eases, and my day can begin.


Museums on alert as organised crime looks for new sources of rhino horn

Traffickers adopt new tactics as demand remains strong and live animals grow scarce.

A rhino horn can fetch up to $260,000 on the black market. Photograph: Tim Davis/Corbis
Tonight, just like every night since last autumn, Brigitte, Dalila and Easy Boy, the three old rhinoceroses at Thoiry safari park, west of Paris, will sleep undercover in a guarded enclosure. Paul de La Panouse, the founder of the park, knows that "arrests have been made and others are imminent", but he doesn't want to leave his animals vulnerable to the "rhino mafia".
"I've seen a lot of things in my life," De La Panouse explains. "But I still find it amazing that people should be stupid enough to believe that rhino horn, which is made of keratin, like human nails or hair, could have medicinal or aphrodisiac properties."
But however stupid it may seem, organised crime groups are smuggling horn to Asia, primarily to China and Vietnam. Trade in a parts from animals protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is banned. But demand is soaring, particularly since a Vietnamese politician claimed in 2009 that rhino horn cured his cancer.
According to Europol, the European police agency, one gang has committed at least 58 thefts in 16 EU countries – including France, the UK, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. The US has also been targeted and every source is at risk: museums, auction rooms, taxidermists and private collections. "Even zoos," says Gerald Dick, head of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "That's why we decided to alert our entire network, which has so far prevented any animals from being killed."
The thefts appear to have stopped since the new year, after the police were alerted to the thieves' distinctive "English accents", which witnesses noticed. The first arrests, in Ireland last summer, were a gang of Irish travellers. The group was also allegedly involved in drug trafficking, counterfeit goods and money laundering. But they were not the only gang involved in the rhino-horn trade.
On 23 February Operation Crash struck simultaneously in several US cities, netting seven traffickers. At the suspects' homes, police found black rhino horns, $1m in cash, gold bars and luxury watches. In early March arrests followed in Germany and Austria.
In France officers from the National Agency for Combating Environmental and Public Health Crime (Oclaesp) led the investigation, assisted by agents from the National Agency for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS) and customs officers.
While reluctant to say too much with "international arrest warrants still pending", Michel Horn, the senior customs officer at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, cites two seizures, the first in July 2011, at the airport clearance centre. "A parcel was due to depart for Asia. The waybill indicated a bronze statue, a gift of little value," he says. "We x-rayed it and found two rhino horns worth an estimated €325,000 [$423,000]." The second arrest came last autumn, near Dax in south-west France. "A spot-check stopped a four-wheel drive vehicle registered in the UK, on its way from Spain to Switzerland. Hidden in a cavity under the boot we found two horns," he adds.
There is no doubt that organised crime is behind these cases, according to Michel Quillé, deputy-head of Europol. "It's impossible to operate all over Europe without that level of organisation," he says. "First, they need to select where to strike, how to carry out the theft, then storage and transport of the goods, refining and sale through various circuits in Asia. Lastly they have to launder the proceeds."
As well as the Irish travellers, there are allegedly Polish and Lithuanian suspects. "They are highly skilled and versatile, with people of several nationalities. They work on a commission basis, demand in Asia is so high. Depending on its rarity value, a horn can fetch between €25,000 and €200,000," Quillé explains.
Hubert Géant, head of policing at ONCFS, is astounded by the scale of the trafficking operation. "Usually we're up against people trafficking living species – insects, snakes, spiders – with collectors driving demand," he says. "But this is the first time I've come across fraud on this scale for 'dead' material like rhino horn. The number of live rhinos in Africa has been seriously reduced by poachers. So organised crime is switching to other available sources."
All the investigators agree that this trade reflects a switch from conventional rackets (extortion, narcotics, armed robbery) to environmental crime. "If sometime I decide to join the opposition," one officer jokes "I wouldn't hold up banks, I'd start flogging [endangered] species or pesticides, earning just as much money, with much less danger and the risk of a shorter sentence." Stealing rhino horns is a misdemeanour, trafficking drugs is a felony in France.
Meanwhile countermeasures are being rolled out. Auctions of hunting trophies, often a throwback to the colonial era, have been banned in France. Museums are hiding or disguising horns. In February the Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland, sawed off the horns of six of its rhinos, replacing them with very obvious wooden fakes.
This article originally appeared in Le Monde.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Weekend of Excitement and Tension.

Toni del Renzio 

It's been a pleasant weekend, with lots of excitement and tension surrounding the final games of the football season 2011-2012.

There have been some sad results already, Wolves football club have already been relegated, after they lost to Manchester City yesterday.

A shame this has happened, as Wolverhampton football club have been kept in the Premier league for the last three years by their excellent ex-manager Mick McCarthy.

The decision by the owner of the club, to sack him so close to the end of the season was very short sighted, and has resulted in them going down to the Championship.

The owner decided that they wanted a better manager, they even started interviewing people and there were several prospective new managers.

People like Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce, both with proven track records as football managers, and both were very interested in the job.                                 

Then Wolves decided they would stop the interviews and gave the job to McCarthy's assistant Terry O'Connor.

A strange decision seeing as they wanted a better manager than Mick McCarthy, hopefully they won’t sack Terry O’Connor and will give him a chance next season.

Next weekend it will become clear which other clubs will be going down and which ones will be going up, but the tension will go on until the last games are played.

Then we have the European football Championship to look forward to, then that is the end of football for the summer, until the next season starts in August.

Before that there is summer to look forward to, and there are two visits from two very good friends to anticipate.

Something we both need, as we spend a lot of time with just the two of us, we do like each other's company we always have, but it's also good for both        of us to see other people.

I can hardly wait to see Jaya; she will be here at the beginning of May for three wonderful days.

Another good friend, Angela will be coming to visit in August, knowing that these two lovely friends will be visiting has given me a huge boost.

It will be brilliant to see these two friends again, nice to have such good friends coming to spend some time with us.

I'm so looking forward to socialising with our dear friends, its going to be excellent to have friends spending time with us here.


Stephen Lawrence: Thersa May Considering New Public Inquiry

Stephen Lawrence murder: Theresa May considering new public inquiry
Home secretary motivated by allegations that police corruption may have shielded the gang that murdered Stephen Lawrence.
Stephen Lawrence was fatally stabbed in a racist attack that took place 19 years ago to the day. Photograph: PA
The home secretary is considering ordering a new public inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Guardian has learned.
The prospect of a new Macpherson-style inquiry – the original report published in 1999 made landmark findings against the police – has been triggered by allegations that police corruption may have shielded the gang that murdered Lawrence in a racist attack.
Theresa May sees the allegations as being of the "utmost importance" which must be investigated thoroughly to avoid undermining confidence in the police .
Doreen Lawrence has called on the home secretary to order a second public inquiry into the police investigation of the murder of her son, who was killed by a racist gang 19 years ago, on April 22, 1993.
The call for a "Macpherson 2" comes as the Metropolitan police says it has been unable, after a month of investigating, to establish whether it passed potentially crucial files detailing investigations by its anti-corruption command to the public inquiry into Lawrence's death, which was held in 1998.
Home Office officials have pressed the Met over a report in the Guardian last month revealing that a secret Scotland Yard report detailing questions about the conduct and integrity of a police chief involved in the Stephen Lawrence case was not given to the inquiry.
Former Met commander Ray Adams was questioned at the Macpherson inquiry about corruption. But neither the Lawrence family nor the inquiry panel were given a report by Scotland Yard containing the intelligence and findings of an investigation by its anti-corruption command.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Russell, raised questions about Adams's conduct in the years before the Lawrence case, informed sources say, while finding insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges. Adams insists it exonerates him and told the Guardian he denies any wrongdoing.
The Met's investigation into Adams began in April 1987, by which time he had risen to become the Met's head of criminal intelligence, in charge of gathering information about major criminals and criminal networks. It ended with no criminal or misconduct charges being brought against Adams but lists concerns about him, in one instance describing his conduct as highly questionable and unprofessional.
The investigation was carried out by the Met's complaints investigation bureau. It was triggered by allegations that Adams had taken bribes from criminals and had improper relationships with criminal informants, which he strenuously denied. Some of the allegations against Adams centred on his relationship with the subsequently convicted murderer Kenneth Noye.
At the Macpherson inquiry the Lawrence lawyers claimed Noye had a criminal associate, Clifford Norris, whose son, David Norris, was a prime suspect in the murder of Lawrence. David Norris – along with Gary Dobson – was finally convicted in January this year of the murder.
Macpherson found no evidence of wrongdoing against Adams, but Mrs Lawrence says the claims that potentially crucial material was kept from the inquiry means that finding must be revisited.
Mrs Lawrence said: "The revelations in the Guardian throw Macpherson's conclusions about corruption completely into doubt and justify my longstanding suspicions.
"This gives further impetus to my demand to the home secretary for a public inquiry into corruption. I cannot see how Theresa May can now refuse. Not only must a new public inquiry look at whether corruption existed in the police investigation but why it was that such critical information was kept from us – Stephen's family".
In the five weeks since the article was published the Met has been unable to say if it passed the files to Macpherson. The Met said it has started its own inquiry: "The Deputy Commissioner is overseeing enquiries to establish paperwork relating to investigations into corruption that have been linked to the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation. Should any new information arise it would be seriously considered."
Mrs Lawrence called on the Met to come clean: "The new commissioner has a choice to make; he can be open and transparent, or be tarred by the same brush of the past. We want to know what is in the file, and what other material the Met has about officers whom we suspected at the Macpherson inquiry."
Several MPs as well as London mayor Boris Johnson have supported calls for a new inquiry into corruption.
Within weeks of the murder convictions earlier this year, the issue of corruption in the Lawrence case surfaced when the Independent made allegations about a detective in the Lawrence case, former detective sergeant John Davidson. The allegations about Davidson and the Lawrence case were also previously made in the Guardian in 2002 and by the BBC in 2006. Davidson denies any wrongdoing.
An IPCC investigation in 2007 found no evidence to substantiate allegations that a supergrass passed information about Davidson's alleged corruption in the Lawrence case to Scotland Yard, who then buried it.
The concerns around former commander Adams and whether the Met passed information to the Macpherson inquiry about its investigations into him, may be the more likely of the two sets of allegations to increase the pressure on the home secretary to act.
Factors against May ordering a new public inquiry include cost, and whether it would be the best forum to explore such issues. Factors in favour of an inquiry include the seriousness of the allegations and the fact they have not gone away, plus the fact a threshold for a public inquiry is relatively low. The Inquiries Act 2005 states that an inquiry should be held if "particular events have caused, or are capable of causing, public concern".

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's The Tense Time of the Football Season.

Toni del Renzio 

Today has been a very pleasant relaxing time; we were very late waking up again.

That's because we were up until about 02.00 AM this morning, as we watched Match of the Day on BBC1 TV, followed by the Football League Show.

It is very exciting seeing that this is the end of the Football Season, so it's in very nerve wracking for all the teams involved.

We watched a tense game between Manchester United and Everton; it ended with a score line of 4-4, which was excellent for David Moyes, the Everton manager.

This is the time of year that Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United calls squeaky bum time, when everybody is either trying to win or trying to avoid relegation.

It really is a tense time, especially when the club that you follow is in the relegation zone.

Arsenal, the club I follow; because I used to live in North London while I was doing my Criminology degrees, and went to some of the games, is doing very well.

Right now they are number three, in the Premier League which means that they will have an automatic place in the Champions League football next season.

Next Sunday is the end of the football season, the big game while playing for is between Manchester city and Manchester United.

Uzbekistan's dictator is forcing doctors to cut out women's uteruses without their knowledge or consent to control birth rates. - The World in Action Dear friends,

Uzbekistan's dictator is forcing doctors to cut out women's uteruses without their knowledge or consent to control birth rates. It’s a hideous and brutal attack on women by a US-backed dictator. Call on US Secretary of State Clinton, a champion for women's rights, to immediately cut off her support to the dictator. Click below to sign:

Sign the petitionUzbekistan's President is forcing doctors to cut out women's uteruses without their knowledge or consent to promote "birth control" across the country. It’s a vile and bloody crime against women being orchestrated by an odious dictator, and now is the time for it to end.

Uzbekistan's Karimov is one of the world’s worst dictators, he’s even boiled opposition activists alive. Yet he’s propped up by millions of dollars from the US government who pay him for military transport across the country. This latest round of brutality, this time against his country’s women, has turned the global spotlight on this monster. Let’s use this awful moment to persuade his biggest backer to ditch him.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can cut him off . She has already publicly condemned Karimov for human rights abuses and this most recent assault on women's rights - a topic she champions - only ups the stakes. Sign the petition below calling on Clinton to end Karimov's reign and stop the brutal attack on women:

Activists estimate tens or even hundreds of thousands of women were sterilised secretly when they went into the hospital for a routine procedure or to give birth -- waking up with no idea that their uterus has just been removed. One Uzbek gynecologist admitted, 'Every doctor is many women are to be sterilised ... my quota is four women a month' . The use of arbitrary arrest and torture is so widespread that women don’t speak out for fear of reprisals, and foreign journalists and human rights activists are routinely thrown out of the country.

It doesn’t have to be like this -- the US could play hardball with Karimov, who relies on the steady flow of money from transit to Afghanistan to fund his lavish lifestyle . The human rights horror show in Uzbekistan has gone under the radar for years -- but we have a real chance to break the silence now, using the explosive BBC report that details forced sterilisations, and stand with the brave Uzbek women who have dared to tell their stories in the face of stunning oppression.

The human rights horror show in Uzbekistan has gone under the radar for years -- but we have a real chance to break the silence now, using the explosive BBC report, and stand with the brave Uzbek women who have dared to tell their stories in the face of stunning oppression.

Join the call for a first victory for the good guys in the war on women -- sign the petition to Clinton and forward to everyone:

Time and again, Avaaz members have stood up for the rights of women around the world. Let’s join together now and remind the US that opting for human rights or national interest is a false choice -- and that we’ll continue the fight for women's rights wherever they are threatened.

With hope and determination,

Stephanie, Pedro, Morgan, David, Emma, Dennis, Lisa, Wissam and the rest of the Avaaz team


Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilising women, BBC:

Doctors in Uzbekistan Say Government Forcibly Sterilizing Women, PRI:

Uzbek crackdown on activists widens:

U.S. Suspends Ban On Military Assistance To Uzbekistan

Clinton criticizes Uzbekistan's human rights record, CNN:

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