Op-ed; When Khalid Masood began his deadly journey across Westminster Bridge last Wednesday the first people he hit were an American couple visiting the UK for an anniversary celebration and to meet up with Melissa Cochran's parents.
Kurt Cochran, 54, from Utah was knocked from the bridge to a parapet below and killed. His wife Melissa, 46, sustained injuries including a broken leg and rib.
The couple were on the last day of their vacation in the UK; the trip to London was to celebrate the couple's 25th wedding anniversary. They arrived in Britain March 3 visiting Scotland, Ireland and parts of Europe.
Masood killed three other people and injured others some sustaining what was described as catastrophic injuries.
His victims were young and old and from many nationalities.
He had a history of violence.
The Cochrans however were by all accounts a lovely couple who will be sorely missed by their loved ones and friends.
Monday family members, of Melissa and Kurt, who are in London have spoken about the couple.
Their words are an inspiration.
They are not opting for hate but rather hope. Clint Payne, Mr Cochran's brother-in-law, said;
This has been a humbling and difficult experience but we have felt the love of so many people during these past several days.
A beautiful life snuffed out by a person who was never a positive force for anything good.
Thoughts with all of those involved.
Thirteen members of Mr Cochran's family attended a press conference at Scotland Yard [Monday] to speak in public for the first time about the attack.
Breaking news Wednesday 2.30pm GMT London
There has been an attack near to the Houses of Parliament London.
Parliament is now in lockdown and has been suspended for the rest of today.
PM Theresa May was whisked away by security personnel.
Wednesday lunchtime is PMQs and the Houses of Parliament are usually full.
A car was driven across Westminster bridge before mounting the pavement and striking down several people.
One police officer has reportedly been stabbed by a gunman. That attacker has now been shot.
CNBC report "Police in London said they were called to Westminster Bridge at 2:14 p.m. local time "for an incident," and that is is now being treated as a "firearm incident and officers are on the scene and dealing with this." Multiple ambulance crews were en route to the scene as armed police entered Parliament, some of them carrying shields, Reuters reported."
ITV news has just rounded up today's events with what is known at this time;
Some people have sustained injuries but details remain sketchy.
The incident is being treat as a terrorist incident until there is confirmation one way or another.
The situation remains fluid and the story is still unfolding.
As members of the public, tourists and reporters are in the area a variety of images are being shared and some are graphic.
Parliament is being searched and police are unable to confirm at this time whether at least one attacker is still at large.
Wednesday evening update;
At least four people have died including the police officer who was stabbed and his suspected attacker.
Social media buzzed with the alleged name and images of the attacker; later Channel 4 retracted a report as that man is reportedly still in jail.
Twitter accounts had already shared his name, footage and more. One person had actually updated a wikipedia page on the man adding today as his date of death.
This is the latest information from the Metropolitan Police Force http://news.met.police.uk/news/latest-on-westminster-incident-229843?hootPostID=771543ff5a7c584b366b8b3a360e403d
Op-ed;The great food swindle
In January 2017 the Guardian and others reported inflation had hit a two-year high of 1.6% but Tuesday worse figures have been released with some calling it the BRexit effect kicking in.
Inflation in the UK jumped to 2.3% in February, pushing the pound higher.
The news may have pushed the pound higher but that will not help families struggling with the increased food and petrol prices which are responsible for the latest inflation hike.
It has never been more important to be a savvy shopper. Yes we know that food labelling is not always trustworthy but it is important to check labels, all the same.
The horsemeat scandal proved there are incidences of false food labelling, when horse and pork were part of meat products labelled as 100% beef but that said remember to read the labels and pack sizes in order to check value for money.
As the BRexit effect economic downturn continues to bite manufacturers look at ways to increase profits or just break even.
A good way is increasing pack size but reducing contents; for example, you may buy a huge packet of breakfast cereal but if there are fewer contents than smaller packs you are not a price savvy shopper getting value for money.
Products such as crisps and cereals are also good examples. As products that are light in weight already a reduction in contents could easily be missed unless you check the pack details for the actual weight.
Which the British consumer group checked facts and figures previously and found some shocking results. In 2013;
What "Which" discovered is that most manufacturers prefer to opt to reduce contents rather than increase the price on the label.
Prices did increase in some cases but were kept to a minimum by reducing sizes.
The problem is that no person or organisation can state if shrinkage and prices are comparable. For all consumers know they could be paying a higher price for less product and actually taking a bigger hit than believed.
As times get tough consumers will need to price aware to stay one step ahead of advertisers and retailers. They have many means available to persuade you to buy.
Clever packaging tricks can easily deceive you unless you stay alert.
British supermarket wars continue and as they all fight it out for your custom they will use each and every trick in the book.
Many consumers would rather pay a higher price than buy less contents or be tricked but in truth some are experiencing both; that is higher prices and less contents. Then there is still the matter of what the contents actually are!
This practise is now long standing but if you become a savvy shopper you can outfox the fiddlers.
So the next time you look at a product and think "I'm sure that used to be bigger" you could be right.
In January there were reports of Apple tech price hikes blamed on BRexit.
Now it is essential items.
"Subway is owned and operated by Doctor's Associates. The company doesn't own a single location, but collects 8% of revenue from each franchise. Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from family friend Peter Buck, to open his first sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn. in 1965. Today there are 44,000 stores in 110 countries. DeLuca oversaw day-to-day operations of the company until he died in September 2015. Buck and DeLuca's heirs each own 50% of the company."
In 2016 media sources reported a dip in Subway profits which in the USA resulted in the closure of a number of its outlets.
This franchise fast food company has outlets in many UK cities and in 2016 Forbes reported;
So why would such a huge company employ an "apprentice Sandwich artist" for a pittance of pay"?
Notice the fancy job title!
There was a time when an apprenticeship led to a job for life but previous Tory governments slashed apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships have made a comeback but are they anything more than cheap labour?
Look at the job advert above. There are eight positions up for grabs at £3.40 an hour and to include weekend working.
Is there anything in that job description that really needs an apprenticeship?
Most of the work could be learned on the job shadowing staff or as some used to call it "sitting with Nellie."
But the odds are there are few real staff members available to carry out the training.
Employing as part of the apprenticeship scheme Subway are able to legally offer a pathetic wage. £119 a week is a small wage but if you have a benefit sanction in place it is one option.
Before people assume young workers will still be sitting pretty at home making £119 a week an affordable wage think again.
Some kids have no surviving parents, are from broken marriages, are forced to leave home for many reasons or may even already be a parent themselves.
Subway is a big money making venture.
If franchisees cannot afford to pay a liveable wage should they really be running such an establishment?
The Metro reports this is not the first time Subway has been taken to task adding some social media responses;
"Keri Warbis wrote: ‘£3.40 per hr for a 14 month (yep 14!) ‘apprenticeship’ making sarnies. (The smell of a Subway has ensured I’ve never entered one, tbh).’"
Another user Ethan Mills added: ‘How are subway offering a “sandwich artist” apprenticeship, paying £3.40 p/h that’s acc criminal.’
The Healty Pins Twitter was also unhappy and wrote: ‘TIL Subway has a “sandwich artist” apprenticeship in the U.K. as an excuse to pay £3.50 an hour. #todayilearned #til
A spokesperson for Subway said: ‘The franchisee of this store was unaware of this advert which was posted by a recruitment agency. ‘Together we are working to have this advert removed immediately. ‘Subway requires that all franchisees comply with employment law when recruiting and contracting, and in all dealings with, employees.’
That sounds like they were caught but may continue abusing the apprenticeship scheme.
It also sounds like they are using a recruitment agency. Such agencies get rich out of YOUR work. The employee may earn little in part because of the recruitment agencies cut.
The UK government claims that the jobless total continues to fall but is the work found a so-called "real job"?
Conservative Party fined £70,000 following investigation into election campaign expenses
Published: 16 Mar 2017
The Conservative Party have been fined a total of £70,000 following the conclusion of the Electoral Commission’s investigation into the party’s campaign spending. The investigation concluded that there were significant failures by the Party to report accurately on how much it spent on campaigning at three by-elections in 2014 and at the 2015 UK Parliamentary general election.
The Conservative Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary general election spending return was missing payments worth at least £104,765.
Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the Commission or were incorrectly reported by the party. A portion of this amount should have been included in the Party’s return but wasn’t. Another portion was put into the Party’s return when it was candidate spending in a number of constituencies where the Party spent money promoting individual candidates.
In addition, the Party did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments to the value of £52,924.
Finally, the Party failed to maintain records explaining the amounts it invoiced to candidates in three 2014 by-elections, for work on their campaigns. Therefore the accuracy of the amounts could not be verified.
Commenting on the outcome of the investigation, Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission said:
“Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced Party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the Party’s spending was reported correctly. The rules established by Parliament for political parties and their finances are there to ensure transparency and accountability. Where the rules are not followed, it undermines voters’ confidence in our democratic processes, which is why political parties need to take their responsibilities under the legislation seriously.”
Sir John Holmes continued;
“This is the third investigation we have recently concluded where the largest political parties have failed to report up to six figure sums following major elections, and have been fined as a result. There is a risk that some political parties might come to view the payment of these fines as a cost of doing business; the Commission therefore needs to be able to impose sanctions that are proportionate to the levels of spending now routinely handled by parties and campaigners.”
Background to the Conservative Party investigation
Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) it is the responsibility of a political party’s registered treasurer to ensure that an accurate and complete campaign spending return is submitted to the Electoral Commission by the statutory deadline following national elections.
Following the publication of the Conservative Party’s 2015 UK Parliamentary general election spending return on 20 January 2016, Channel 4 News raised concerns – which fed into the Commission’s own investigations – that the Conservative Party’s spending return may have been incomplete. Their allegations also indicated that the Party’s spending return for the 2014 European Parliamentary elections also may not have been complete.
Following initial enquiries with the Party, the Commission opened an investigation on 15 February 2016.
Scope of the Commission’s investigation
In summary, the Commission’s investigation considered the following:
- Whether campaign costs incurred by the Party in the South Thanet constituency during the 2015 general election campaign were correctly reported by the Party.
- Whether campaign costs incurred by the transport of activists by the Party to a number of constituencies across the UK during the 2015 general election campaign were correctly reported by the Party.
- Whether any further payments were omitted from the Party return
- Whether there were any required invoices or receipts missing from the Party return.
Conclusions of the investigation
The investigation has now ended and concluded that Mr Simon Day, the registered treasurer of the party until April 2016, committed three contraventions under section 41 and two offences under section 82(4)(b) of PPERA.
The Conservative Party has been fined £70,000 under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums (Civil Sanctions) Order 2010. The Party has until 13 April 2017 to pay the fine.
Summary of findings:
The Commission found that:
For more information please contact Megan Phillips in the Electoral Commission press office.
Notes to editors:
Op-ed: The long running but underreported saga of allegations that the Conservative Party broke election spending rules rolls on but there is some news.
Thursday there are reports that the Tory Party has been fined a record £70,000 by the Electoral Commission. That is a five figure sum fine for a six figure sum accounting error.
The electoral commission wants to be able to issue fines in the hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than tens but is not allowed to. That may now change.
Currently the maximum fine in each case is £20,000. An electoral commission spokesperson said at least one of the incidents the Tory party have been fined for warranted a much higher fine.
The Tory party has until April 13 to pay the fines and has said it will comply.
It will now be down to police investigating the allegations to determine if auditing errors were accidental or deliberate.
Last week unelected PM Theresa May and her government were allegedly worried about the investigation.
Will the fines have alleviated Tory worries?
Breaking electoral commission spending rules can result in jail time!
It can also in effect steal elections.
It's difficult to believe that the supposedly fiscally competent Tory Party could accidentally make such errors. They are hardly a new political party getting to grips with electoral rules and regulations.
Inaccurate expense recording by the Tory party was found in three 2014 by-elections and during the 2015 general election campaign; a general election that they won against the odds.
That leaves people questioning whether the Tory party won the 2015 general election by fair or foul means.
Certainly news that the electoral commission says the Tory party was uncooperative with the investigation rings alarm bells.
Why were they to quote, guilty of unreasonably uncooperative conduct?
Thursday ITV news reports;
The investigation found:
Are there some deliberate auditing errors now classed as part of the campaign to win an election and worth the risk?
Other parties have faced lesser fines for errors but the Tory party appears to have carried out widespread election misspending since 2014.
Updates as available.
Full Electoral Commission announcement and background to allegations
Full ITV report here
Op-ed: The mainstream media in the UK is concentrating on Chancellor Hammond's rapid back pedalling with regards to an increase in National Insurance for the self-employed but for many the big story is allegations of Tory Party misspending during the 2015 General Election.
Or as some call it allegation of Tory election fraud.
The Conservative Party surprised itself when it won the 2015 General Election helped along by the rise of the SNP in Scotland, doubts over Ed Miliband's leadership qualities spread by the media and the promise of an EU in or out referendum.
Wednesday media sources are reporting that the Crown Prosecution Service has received files from 12 police forces across the UK relating to Tory Party misspending allegations.
For many viewers it will be brand new news but for many of us it is the continuation of a story that broke over one-year ago.
Channel 4 journalists notably Michael Crick have been questioning whether election spending rules were broken in 2015 and they have done so for some time.
It even led to suspicions that was why the then PM David Cameron wanted to sell off Channel 4!
But Channel 4 reporters kept the pressure up.
This woman has written about the allegations on numerous occasions but it is probably fair to say that for many people it is breaking news Wednesday.
Actually hearing it mentioned on Sky News as Kay Burley questioned former Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont was satisfying.
It means that finally the British electorate will get some mainstream news reporting on allegations of Tory election misspending.
Will there be a whitewash with allegations swept under the carpet amid promises not to do it again?
There are strict election spending rules in the UK; so strict that even not accounting for a postage stamp could in theory result in jail time.
So who will take the wrap? Will there be by-elections in affected constituencies? Could the Tory Party's slim majority be slashed?
Will any person be jailed?
Police forces were given additional time to investigate the allegations but the deadline is now May 9 and the clock is ticking.
The Guardian reports "it emerged on Tuesday that Kent police had interviewed Craig Mackinlay, the Tory MP for South Thanet, under caution over his spending returns relating to his campaign against the then Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, in 2015." That investigation is ongoing.
Mackinlay was interviewed under police caution.
"Earlier on Wednesday, Will Quince, the Tory MP for Colchester, also revealed he had been interviewed under caution over allegations about overspending in the last general election. He said police told him there would be no further action against him after the interview, which took place in January."
Our earlier reports include;
Note: The Electoral Commission issues clear guidelines on spending. These state that: There are two types of spending by or on behalf of parties at elections.
Party campaign spending on campaigning to promote the party and its policies generally. For example, national newspaper adverts for the party, or leaflets explaining party policy. It also includes spending on promoting candidates at elections where the party nominates a list of candidates for a region, instead of individual candidates for local areas.
Candidate spending on campaigning to promote a particular candidate or candidates in their local area. For example, leaflets or websites that focus on one or more candidates and their views.
Different rules apply to the two types of spending.
Op-ed: Monday a #FakeNews or is that non-news story has flooded mainstream and social media.
It centres around, surprise surprise, Jeremy Corbyn. Look for negative fake news and you are bound to find Mr Corbyn features.
Who really knows why?
It could be because those that "have" and some, fear a Corbyn government becoming reality or it could be that such stories get eyeballs on them and so generate revenue or it could be that many mainstream media owners have their feet firmly placed in Tory politics or it could be other reasons but it is certainly not their quest for the truth.
So thanks to Rachael Williams on Facebook who opted Monday to share a reminder of what Mr Corbyn stands for; his ten main pledges and those of his parliamentary supporters:
We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the United Nations, end support for aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis. British foreign policy has long failed to be either truly independent or internationally co-operative, making the country less safe and reducing our diplomatic and moral authority. We will build human rights and social justice into trade policy, honour our international treaty obligations on nuclear disarmament and encourage others to do the same.
How many times has that been shared by the mainstream media?
My guess is never.
Corbyn published his tax return ahead of this week's budget. He is trying to push for Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond to do the same. Instead the mainstream media and some on social media, including the right-wing of the Labour Party namely the regressive group Progress, prefer Monday to accuse Corbyn of not paying his full tax liability.
They have ended up with egg on their fat chins as it turns out Corbyn's tax bill was paid in full.
There are even claims he did not take a pay rise and it is that which led to the confusion.
Some were so keen to chew over his tax return they did a half ass job or was it they chose to find fault.
One thing this blogger knows is the country needs a Labour government enacting those ten pledges and more and it needs it soon.
Will there be a public apology for the tax fake news story?
Probably not but either way many voters will already have been duped once again.
Op-ed: This British blogger was born in 1952. That means she has experienced health care via the NHS all of her life. Will she still be able to make that proud claim in another 10 or even five years assuming she is still alive and kicking?
From being born in an NHS maternity hospital to a tonsillectomy in 1958, an appendectomy in 1975, various minor procedures, dental treatments, cataract surgery around 10 years ago and so much more the NHS has been a big part of her life.
Working in clerical roles at NHS hospitals for around 13 years pre-retirement highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly side of the NHS but reinforced a belief that the NHS is a valuable asset which must remain nationalised.
Do not let this Tory government squander our NHS.
The dripping leak of services into the private sector needs halting; our NHS needs some work but it does not need a government that is looking to help it fail in order to make privatisation the only way forward.
The Tory government sees health care as money-making nothing more nor less, and look close to the government for who may make the most money out a failing National Health Service.
Little wonder that Saturday's NHS Day of Action in London was well supported.
According to BBC News:
Tens of thousands of people - including NHS workers, campaigners and union representatives - have marched in London to protest against "yet more austerity" in the health service.
Remember many people who were unable to travel to London also support Saturday's protest and rally.
People need to wake up to the potential threats the NHS is facing and act before it is too late.
If you believe the NHS is safe is Tory hands you are in this person's opinion at best misinformed or at worst deluded.
This is not the first national demonstration to save the NHS but in 2017 the situation has become critical.