Fossil Fuels Subsidised by $10m a Minute, says IMF

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Courtesy of Damien Carrington @ The Guardian:

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

US taxpayers subsidising world’s biggest fossil fuel companies
Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, said: “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

Lord Stern said that even the IMF’s vast subsidy figure was a significant underestimate: “A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.”

The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. That would be a giant step towards taming global warming, an issue on which the world has made little progress to date. Continue reading

Is This the Most Dangerous Queen’s Speech in Living Memory?

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The talk of coming out of the ECHR is all hot air because rights are natural and inalienable, it would therefore mean that these rights are not rights but privileges. Looking to the etymological origins of the word privilege, privi is private and leg is law, thus privileges are private laws which can and will be taken away. Courtesy of Mary Riddell @ The Telegraph:

Ten years ago this summer, I rode a motorbike through the eight countries newly welcomed into the European Union. As I travelled the 1250 miles from Estonia to Slovenia, a flourish of a British passport took me through frontiers closed for half a century by the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. New motorways were replacing farm tracks, and it seemed that hope had triumphed over repression.

A decade on, the European dream has soured so fast, for some at least, that Britain stands on the road marked EU exit. With an In/Out referendum enshrined in this week’s Queen’s Speech, our relationship with Europe will be one of the defining issues of this Parliament and this century. On a separate front, the Government is toying with another rupture.

The pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, even if delayed for a year, is intended to break the “formal link” with the European Court of Human Rights and make our Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter. Though the Strasbourg court is independent of the EU, many Tories view it as a mechanism for European meddling in British justice.

It is possible that, by the end of this Parliament, Britain will not only be gone from the EU but will also have renounced the European Convention on Human Rights designed to bind together, in a universal code of decency, nations shattered by the Second World War. Two such momentous issues require a deft government and a valiant opposition. Britain can rely on neither.

Mr Cameron’s referendum campaign began badly, and possibly fatally, with evidence that France and Germany have made a deal for further eurozone integration without the need to re-open treaties. Our Prime Minister can only achieve his more ambitious aims, such as a Commons veto over EU legislation, through treaty changes which now look less likely than ever. Continue reading

Lord Janner Criticised Justice System for Excusing Alleged Nazi War Criminal Who Had Dementia

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Does as I say not do as I do and courtesy of Lamiat Sabin @ The Independent:

Lord Janner, the Labour peer who escaped charges over alleged child sex abuse because he suffers from dementia had in the past criticised the justice system for excusing a suspected Nazi war criminal for the same reason.

Greville Janner has criticised the Old Bailey jury system for allowing an 86-year-old man to escape being questioned in 1997 over Nazi atrocities that had taken place in 1941 and 1942.

Szymon Serafinowicz, a retired carpenter from Surrey, was arrested in 1995 as the first British person under the War Crimes Act in connection with murders of three Jewish people during the Second World War.

He had denied the allegations but could not answer questions and put forth his case during a trial due to having dementia.

Lord Janner, a former Leicester MP and chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust had said: “I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand. War criminals have managed to evade prosecution under our system of justice for decades.

“There were absolutely no reasons why he should have escaped charges for ever.”

“I don’t care what bloody age they are,” he said in 2012, according to The Jewish Chronicle. “These criminals should have been dealt with years ago.”

Lord Janner, who is also 86-years-old, was excused by the Crown Prosecution Service from being questioned over “some of the most serious sexual crimes imaginable” due to the “severity” of his dementia. He has also been suspended by the Labour Party.

He would have been charged with 14 indecent assaults on a male under 16 between 1969 and 1988; two indecent assaults between 1984 and 1988; four counts of buggery of a male under 16 between 1972 and 1987; and two counts of buggery between 1977 and 1988. Continue reading

Election 2015: What difference would proportional representation have made?

Courtesy of the BBC:

UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens would have benefited from proportional representation
“The time has come for real, genuine, radical political reform,” Nigel Farage said after losing his bid to take Thanet South from the Conservatives.

The UKIP leader had increased his party’s share of the vote in the seat by 27%, and nationally UKIP’s vote share was up by 10 percentage points to a total of 3.9 million.

Still, the party won just one constituency under the UK’s first-past-the-post voting system.

The Greens’ ambitions were similarly thwarted: they won more than a million votes but just one seat.

The Electoral Reform Society, a campaign group, has modelled what would have happened under a proportional voting system that makes use of the D’Hondt method of converting votes to seats.

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The Conservatives would have won 75 fewer seats but would still have been the largest party in the Commons. Labour too would have taken fewer seats. Continue reading

UK Government Quietly Rewrites Hacking Laws to Give GCHQ Immunity

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GCHQ’s main building in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
GCHQ/Crown Copyright

If you can be held to account by a ‘law’, well just change the ‘law’ and hey presto it’s ‘legal’ though statutes are not lawful but the actions of psychopaths entrenching in for the long haul. Expect more ‘laws’ to give legitimacy to unlawful acts committed by the government against the citizenry but we are far from the nadir of where totalitarianism will take us.

Courtesy of Sebastian Anthony @ Ars technica UK:

The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ’s hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act. Continue reading

UK PM David Cameron Proclaims: It’s Not Enough To Follow The Law, You Must Love Big Brother

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Courtesy of Mike Krieger @ Liberty Blitzkrieg:

It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain. For example, in a post published today, the UK Independent describes the quote below as “the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

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This statement, and others like it, are a huge deal. This isn’t how the leader of a major civilized Western so-called “democracy” speaks to the citizenry. It is how a master talks to his slaves. How a ruler addresses his subjects. I think the following tweet by Glenn Greenwald earlier today sums up David Cameron’s attitude perfectly well: Continue reading

Crippling PFI Deals Leave Britain £222bn in Debt

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Courtesy of

Every man, woman and child in Britain is more than £3,400 in debt – without knowing it and without borrowing a single penny – thanks to the proliferation of controversial deals used to pay for infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

The UK owes more than £222bn to banks and businesses as a result of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) – “buy now, pay later” agreements between the government and private companies on major projects. The startling figure – described by experts as a “financial disaster” – has been calculated as part of an Independent on Sunday analysis of Treasury data on more than 720 PFIs. The analysis has been verified by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The headline debt is based on “unitary charges” which start this month and will continue for 35 years. They include fees for services rendered, such as maintenance and cleaning, as well as the repayment of loans underwritten by banks and investment companies.

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The situation is expected to worsen as PFI projects spread across the world (Getty)

Basically, a PFI is like a mortgage that the government takes out on behalf of the public. The average annual cost of meeting the terms of the UK’s PFI contracts will be more than £10bn over the next decade.

And the cost of servicing PFIs is growing. Last year, it rose by £5bn. It could rise further, with inflation. The upward creep is the price taxpayers’ pay for a financing system which allows private firms to profit from investing in infrastructure.

An NAO briefing, released last month, says: “In the short term using private finance will reduce reported public spending and government debt figures.” But, longer term, “additional public spending will be required to repay the debt and interest of the original investment”.

A case in point is Britain’s biggest health trust, Barts Health NHS Trust in London, which was placed in special measures last month. It is £93m in debt – struggling under the weight of a 43-year PFI contract under which it will pay back more than £7bn on contracts valued at a fraction of that sum (£1.1bn) Continue reading

Democracy v Psychology: Why People Keep Electing Idiots

The 2015 election campaigns are under way, and it’s clear that doing or saying unintelligent things is no barrier to political success. Unfortunately, there are several psychological mechanisms that lead to apparent idiots being elected into powerful positions.

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Clegg being interviewed by Joey Essex has been seen as blatant “dumbing down” of politics, but it’s been going on for quite some time now. Photograph: @nick_clegg/PA

Courtesy of Dean Burnett @ The Guardian:

Politicians. Their reputation is very poor. In fairness, this is largely their own fault, but it would be foolish to assume every politician is like this. If they were, the whole infrastructure would collapse before you could say “can I claim this on expenses?” Still, everyone assumes they’re despicable, so always assume the worst.

Politician enacts a bad policy? They’re a terrible person. They change their mind and reverse it? They’re weak and not fit to lead. Politicians promise improvements (cut taxes, increase spending)? They’re obviously lying. Politicians promise to do something unpopular (raise taxes, cut spending)? A cast-iron guarantee it will happen. It’s a lose-lose situation, so why do they bother? Many politicians are clearly in it for themselves, but there surely are plenty who really do want the best and just put up with the negative opinions they get.

So, for the record, not all politicians are idiots (although your definition of idiot may vary). But plenty are. The US seem particularly afflicted with them; Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, these people were/are contenders for the presidency. And the archetype George W Bush WAS the president. For 8 YEARS. The man whose idiotic musings managed to sustain businesses had a nuclear arsenal at his command.

Not that the UK can feel smug, with the amount of demonstrable idiocy in our own system. Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Grant Shapps, Jeremy Hunt, David Tredinnick, a ridiculous Labour party (complete with mugs), the rise of UKIP, and the beloved bumbling mayor Boris Johnson. Continue reading