Sunday, 30 December 2007

The Berkhamptstead trials club held their annual 'Frostbite Trial' today in the woods near Great Brickhill - although,as at Blisworth, there wasn't any frost - the weather was very mild. Good turnout. Full gallery - click the thumbnail to see it.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The 82nd Wild and Woolly (the longest-runnings motocross event in the world) went very well today, with a massive attendance probably due to the mild weather. Click the thumbnail to see a complete gallery.

Monday, 17 December 2007

"Norwich Union fined on £3m fraud
Insurance firm Norwich Union has been fined £1.26m by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) after customers lost £3.3m through identity fraud.

The regulator said Norwich Union's controls had been 'particularly poor', leading to a record fine. 'Norwich Union Life let down its customers by not taking reasonable steps to keep their personal and financial information safe and secure,' said the FSA's director of enforcement, Margaret Cole.

I guess it would be too much to expect to be able to sue the government when criminals eventually find the missing CDs containing the records of 25m people that HM Revenue and Customs lost?

BBC NEWS | Business | Norwich Union fined on £3m fraud

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Friday, 14 December 2007

Here's another story, with some video, on the proposed cuts to funding that's going to hit the Open University for something like £30m.

"Cutting their funding seems to be at odds with Government Policy - which is for the country to have a flexible workforce."

Channel 4 - News - Open University to lose £100m

"Climate talks near end amid row
World climate talks in Bali have gone into their last scheduled day amid fierce disagreement over targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. EU ministers have warned they will boycott a US-led climate summit next month unless the Bush administration backs firm targets for emissions cuts. The US favours allowing governments to set voluntary targets.

The Bush Administration has recently said that it "has no intention to cut CO2 emissions" (can't find the relevant news story). It doesn't matter what noises he makes, its obvious that he and his cronies still do not believe that Mankind is to blame for the changing climate.

"Indonesia is trying to broker a compromise that would remove firm targets from the final text."

Well, that's worse still. Why not let the rest of the world - the countries without their heads in the sand - set targets and actually do something? Lame Duck Bush won't be in power much longer; it looks like the majority of the American people are waking up to the fact that the planet is facing a very bleak future and the next President I'm sure (I sure hope) will have a vastly different policy.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Climate talks near end amid row

See also:

"Terror, not climate change, on the mind of US
GEORGE Bush may be a lame duck President, but his presence is hanging heavy over negotiations for a climate change road map — not least over Australia's decision not to push for a carbon emissions target to be included in the Bali declaration.

The equation is pretty simple. The world needs the US — the world's worst polluter
[well, equal biggest - China is up there too] — included in the post-Kyoto treaty. The US under Bush has no intention of agreeing to a binding target of any kind, let alone the UN's proposed 25-40% cut from the developed world by 2020."

Terror, not climate change, on the mind of US - National -

Thursday, 13 December 2007

John Denham MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills wants to cut funding that currently helps mature students carry on their studies, as promoted by the Government's own "Life Long Learning" policy. He visited the OU today to explain his reasoning.

"Removing the second chance
Universities secretary John Denham decided that students with a first degree will not be funded for a course for an equivalent of lower qualification - or ELQ in the jargon.
Removing the second chance | Mortarboard | Guardian Unlimited

"OU's funding cut branded 'short-sighted'
A £31 million hole will be blasted in Open University finances by Government withdrawal of support for part-time students. The OU said it was 'deeply concerned' by a move that could put many graduates off embarking on career-linked courses. City MPs have united to fight the plan to phase out funding for the majority of students in England and Northern Ireland who are studying for a qualification equivalent to – or lower than – one they already hold. The OU said figures from the Higher Education Funding Council showed that for the OU £31.6million of teaching money will be phased out from next year.

OU's funding cut branded 'short-sighted' - Milton Keynes Today

"Ministers accused of burying news on university funding changes
The government was accused of 'sneaking out' £100m a year in cuts in higher education funding earlier this year because they contradicted the Leitch review of skills. The universities' secretary, John Denham, set out new funding arrangements in a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England late on Friday September 7. The letter called for support for people studying for a second degree to be 'phased out' and reduced by £100m a year over the next four years.

Ministers accused of burying news on university funding changes | Higher |

"David Latchman: Want a second degree? It'll certainly cost you...
A few weeks ago, with no warning, the Government announced its intention to axe the funding for people wanting to take a second degree at the same level in a different subject. Until now, universities were funded for both home and EU students taking a second qualification on the same basis as those taking their first. Now this is to be abandoned. Any student wanting to improve their skills in this way will be faced with prohibitively high annual fees of up to four times what they pay now.

This change will affect part-time students and the institutions that teach them particularly seriously. In future, students wanting to improve their skills will be treated the same way as non-EU overseas students, with universities receiving no government funding for teaching them. Institutions that specialise in part-time education, like Birkbeck and the Open University, have a high concentration of these students so will be the worst hit. However, these changes will affect a large number of universities and the effects will be far reaching. All part-time students will suffer, not just those taking a second qualification.

David Latchman: Want a second degree? It'll certainly cost you... - Independent Online Edition > Higher

Monday, 10 December 2007

de Menezes Top Cop Promoted

"Met choose new anti-terror chief
The man who launched the surveillance operation that led to Jean Charles de Menezes's death has been appointed to the UK's top counter-terrorist role. Cdr John McDowall will take over from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke as national co-ordinator of terrorist investigations. He will also lead the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism unit SO15.

Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said the £125,000-a-year job 'was one of the most demanding posts in UK policing'.
" we'll give it to someone who's already made a complete balls-up of one anti-terror operation. Once again - you couldn't make it up, could you?

BBC NEWS | England | London | Met choose new anti-terror chief

Bang goes soldiers' cracker fun

"Bang goes soldiers' cracker fun
Hundreds of crackers due to be sent to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan had to be defused after it was discovered they were classed as explosives. The British Forces Post Office website defines Christmas cracker snaps as explosives, banned on RAF aircraft. There are no such rules for passenger aeroplanes. Large numbers of Christmas crackers are classified as dangerous air cargo and therefore require special handling.

Major Iain Dalziel-Job of the Scots Guards Association told The Sunday Post newspaper: 'Every cracker has got to have the snap taken out of it because the RAF won't fly them with the bit still in.'

You couldn't make it up, could you?

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Edinburgh, East and Fife | Bang goes soldiers' cracker fun

David Willets MPA short notice visit from David Willetts MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills at work today.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Clarkson quizzed over gang ordeal

"Clarkson quizzed over gang ordeal
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has been interviewed by police after he was accused of being abusive towards a teenager who was harassing him. Mr Clarkson explained in his Sunday Times column how he was pestered by youths outside Xscape sports centre in Milton Keynes, on 23 November.

I don't personally like Clarkson, but again this appears to be a case of the police siding with the perpetrators and going after the victim.

BBC NEWS | England | Clarkson quizzed over gang ordeal

Smith plans 42-day terror limit

"Smith plans 42-day terror limit
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced plans to extend the period that terrorism suspects can be held without charge for up to 42 days. In an attempt to win over critics, it is planned to give MPs a role in any decision to let police hold suspects for more than the current 28-day limit.

And what puts MPs in any better place decide this? If the police arn't asking for this extension, and neither are the security services, just why is the Government doing so? To continue their climate of fear. This 42-day number has been simply plucked out of the air. I sincerely hope that this latest attempt to increase the limit - the third try, I believe - will once again be thrown out.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Smith plans 42-day terror limit