September 7, 2005

UK petrol prices climbing

Link: UK petrol prices climbing

Filed under: General by brian_turner


UK petrol and diesel prices are still increasing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to industry body Catalist, the average price of petrol is now 95.1 pence a litre, compared with 94.6p on Monday.

Average diesel prices have increased to 97.6p, from 97.3p on Monday, and super-unleaded fuel exceeded £1 for the first time at 100.36p.

Prices are still increasing despite a fall in oil prices. US light crude fell 46 cents to $65.50 a barrel on Wednesday, following a fall of $1.61 on Tuesday. London Brent crude fell 30 cents to $64.37 a barrel.

Prices have now fallen by over $5.00, or 7%, from $70.85 on Tuesday - a record high. They are now almost back to levels seen before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico.

Nine refineries closed down by the hurricane have resumed normal operations, and two others are expected to restart operations later this week.

Analysts expect no major drop in oil prices in the near future, as eastern Florida is again being threatened by a tropical storm. The Gulf of Mexico hurricane season lasts until the end of November.

September 2, 2005

Motorists warned of rising petrol prices

Link: Motorists warned of rising petrol prices

Filed under: General by brian_turner


Experts have warned UK motorists to expect an increase in already high petrol spices, due to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

The damage caused by the hurricane to oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and refineries in the southern US states, has raised fears of petrol shortages in the US. Many US motorists are now paying a record $3 a gallon, and petrol prices in the UK are above 90p a litre for the first time. Some forecourts in London and remote parts of Scotland are charging £1 a litre.

The high petrol prices are mainly due to the soaring cost of oil, which reached a record $70.85 a barrel earlier this week, and security fears in the Middle East, which are causing concern about the safety of oil supplies. The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina is adding further pressure to petrol prices.

According to Akber Ali of research group Catalist, the average price of a litre of unleaded petrol in the UK was 92.3p on Thursday. Petrol prices were highest in south west England, at 92.74p, while the cheapest average petrol price – 91.9p – was in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Separately, Catalist found that of the large operators, Shell petrol stations were the cheapest, with petrol at only 91p litre on Thursday, while BP was the most expensive, with petrol at 93p a litre.

High petrol prices have affected the wider UK economy. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that price inflation increased to 2.3% in July from 2% in June, due to increased transport costs.

July 18, 2005

IMF suggests leaving G8 debt relief plan

Link: IMF suggests leaving G8 debt relief plan

Filed under: General by brian_turner


A document leaked to the activist group, Jubilee Debt Campaign, suggests that a number of European governments are having second thoughts about the proposals for debt relief agreed at last week’s G8 summit.

The document quotes Belgian IMF representative Willy Kierkens as telling the IMF executive board that “rather than giving full, irrevocable and unconditional debt relief… countries would receive grants”.

This would mean that the IMF could withdraw the grants if countries failed to meet certain IMF conditions, including implementing the Poverty Growth Reduction Strategy, which is a pre-requisite for receiving debt relief.

The head of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, Stephen Rand, says: “These proposals are in direct contradiction to what millions of campaigners and poor people were told by the G8.”

The three African directors representing sub-Saharan Africa say any change to the G8 debt deal “would delay benefits”. They argue that it would be inappropriate for conditions to be attached to debt cancellation.

According to a UK spokeswoman, Britain is also against changing the terms of the deal agreed at Gleneagles, which aims to foster good governance and identify corruption among governments receiving aid.

The IMF had been expected to approve its part of the agreement at its annual meeting in Washington in September.

June 29, 2005

MPs force ID cards rethink

Link: MPs force ID cards rethink

Filed under: General by brian_turner


Prime Minister Tony Blair said that he will listen to concerns about plans for identity cards after his Commons majority was reduced from 67 to 31 on the issue.

Twenty Labour MPs rejected the ID card plans on Tuesday night. Senior MPs advise that changes will be needed to get the plans through Parliament.

The vote on ID cards was the first proper test of a key policy area in the Commons since Labour was returned on a reduced majority. The bill secured a second reading by 314 votes to 283.

Mr Blair advised critics to recognise that secure ID cards could benefit citizens by helping to combat organised crime, terrorism and illegal immigration. Much of the work towards the ID card system will be necessary for biometric passports being taken up by other countries.

Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that many part of the plan gave cause for concern.

John Denham, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee in the last Parliament, said he thought that the government would have to make a number of changes to be sure of getting the bill through. He said the aims of the ID card needed to be more clearly defined and there should be greater controls over access to the information by police and other authorities.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said ID cards would help counter, not create, a “big brother society”.

June 21, 2005

EU to suggest new car tax regulations

Link: EU to suggest new car tax regulations

Filed under: General by brian_turner


Radical new plans to create uniform regulations across Europe on linking car taxes to emissions, are to be formally presented to the finance ministers of member nations, after the July 1 transfer of the EU presidency to Britain.

The changes have been under consideration by the European Commission since 2002. Aims of the changes include making cars more environmentally sound and avoiding double taxation of car owners who move from one member nation to another.

The tax commissioner for the EU, Laszlo Kovacs, has said that he will propose that each nation’s annual car registration tax be abolished and absorbed into each country’s annual car tax within 10 years, and that by 2010 half of the tax on each vehicle be based on how much carbon dioxide a car releases into the air.

At present, car registration taxes are as high as €16,000 ($20,000, £11,000) in some nations, such as Denmark, and nonexistent in other nations.

Approval of the new plan faces an uphill battle, as some finance ministers are opposed on principle to tax proposals from the EU and because the plan would have both short-term and long-term effects on the revenues of each nation within the EU.

June 20, 2005

London is Europe’s most expensive city

Link: London is Europe’s most expensive city

Filed under: General by brian_turner


In an annual world study of 144 cities by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, London was ranked the most expensive city in Europe, due to high housing and transport costs. London was ahead of Glasgow, which was placed 40th and Birmingham in 47th place. The study looked at the cost of housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

New York retained its position as the most expensive city in North America. Four of the world’s costliest cities to live in were in Asia, with Tokyo ranked first, Osaka second, London third, Moscow fourth and Seoul fifth. Sydney remained the most expensive city in Australasia.

Marie-Laurence Sepede of Mercer said “Steep accommodation and transport costs together with the appreciation of the pound against the US dollar have contributed to London’s high ranking”.

May 29, 2005

Blair and Berlusconi agree to increase on aid to Africa

Link: Blair and Berlusconi agree to increase on aid to Africa

Filed under: General by brian_turner


At a meeting in Rome, Prime minister Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, agreed to increase aid to Africa and address climate change.

The meeting was the final stage of talks before the G8 industrialised nations meet at Gleneagles in Scotland, in July. The UK is currently president of the G8 group and will chair the summit.

Mr Blair is also planning to visit the US, Russia, France and Germany and will hold talks via a video link with Canada and Japan.

EU development ministers agreed, this week, to double aid to poorer nations, providing an extra £14bn annually in five years’ time. Some Italian opposition politicians question whether the country’s financial problems will mean its target will be hit.

Mr Berlusconi has assured Mr Blair of his own and his country’s support in favour of Mr Blair’s proposals. Mr Blair said that the new plans combined aid and debt with governance and conflict.

May 25, 2005

Flu vaccine prepared for Third World

Link: Flu vaccine prepared for Third World

Filed under: General by brian_turner


Roche, the Swiss pharmaceuticals group, is currently participating in talks with the World Health Organization for the drug maker to donate up to one million treatments of Tamiflu, its antiviral drug, to be used in less developed countries, primarily in Asia where bird flu has appeared to have started infecting humans.

Health officials believe that a pandemic of flu could kill millions worldwide if it were not stopped early. The concern is to have the
drug in place in places where an outbreak would be likely to start in order to stop it before it spreads widely.

Orders for the drug have doubled in two months, but it is mostly being sold to developed nations. Roche has not commented on the retail price of Tamiflu, but government figures from the UK indicate a price of £13 ($24, €19) for a course of treatment with the drug.

The talks are going on as less developed nations are reporting that they would be hardest hit by an outbreak of flu and would not be able to purchase does of the drug, which is currently the only antiviral that is notably effective against the flu.

Roche has previously donated 120,000 treatments of Tamiflu to the WHO.

May 22, 2005

US to ban space advertising

Link: US to ban space advertising

Filed under: General by brian_turner


The US Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday published a proposed regulation in the Federal Register that would ban US companies from launching billboards into space for advertising purposes.

The agency acted after a company, which was not identified, proposed a plan that would launch such billboards into orbit.

According to the FAA, these billboards would look as large as the moon when seen from earth and would be visible to millions of people all over the world.

Included in the information published by the FAA in the Federal Register was the contention that such billboards could eliminate darkness from the night sky, which would make the work of astronomers impossible

FAA is basing the proposed regulation on an act of Congress that prohibits “obtrusive” space advertising.

Title 49 of the United States Code defines obtrusive space advertising as “advertising in outer space that is capable of being recognized by a human being on the surface of the Earth without the aid of a telescope or other technological device.”

This is the definition that the proposed regulation will adopt. The public has until July 18 to comment on the proposed regulation.

December 31, 2004

Colorado man fools news agencies for ads

Link: Colorado man fools news agencies for ads

Filed under: General by brian_turner

Colorado man, Alek Komarnitsky’s, managed to fool the world’s press agencies, by suggesting that surfers to his website could control the Christmas lights on his home.

The story was initially picked up by local press - including several Colarado TV stations - before being reported online by Slashdot, the New York Times, and even appeared on Google News.

However, Alek Komarnitsky later confessed the story was a fraud, intended to help draw attention to paid advertising for local lighting firms placed on his site.

The story is covered pretty comprehensively b Gary Price at SEW here: Christmas Lights, Hoaxes, and Google Ads.

December 17, 2004

Turkey to join EU?

Link: Turkey to join EU?

Filed under: General by brian_turner

Turkey- a country that is large, poor, and predominantly Muslim - has now been set a date to begin real talks for the joining of the the overwhelmingly richer - and Christian - European Union.

In a process that could take 15 years, and with no guarantees of membership, talks will begin in October 2005.

The US has constantly moved Britain’s hand in Europe to support a country that is otherwise a NATO partner. More than than, Turkey plays an apparently key role in US geopolitics for stabilising the Middle East, by making it an example of how a Muslim country can embrase democracy and the free market, and prosper.

More on that story here at the BBC: Deal struck over Turkey-EU talks. The subject is also covered at the European Finance blog, EuroWatch.

December 16, 2004

Bush to close GPS in emergency

Link: Bush to close GPS in emergency

Filed under: General by brian_turner

Pretty frightening, really:

President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology, the White House said Wednesday.

The gun lobby in America argue that gun ownership is essential to US citizens, to allow them to overthrow despotic governments.

But if those very same despotic governments actually persuaded the majority of US citizens that the despots are actually the good guys…

December 9, 2004

Laptop heat threatens fertility

Link: Laptop heat threatens fertility

Filed under: General by brian_turner

The State University of New York has apparently conducted a study showing that laptops can - at least theoretically - threaten fertility, by raising the temperature of the scrotum.

ZNet covers the story in Study: Laptop heat a threat to fertility.

Still, I guess it has to be more fun than condoms when it comes to contraception. ;)

December 1, 2004

Comments enabled

Link: Comments enabled

Filed under: General by brian_turner

Just a quick note to say apparently I inadvertently crippled the commenting system. However, it’s now live, so Platinax is now open for comments. :)

November 24, 2004

Diamond necklace on Amazon

Link: Diamond necklace on Amazon

Filed under: General, Amazon by brian_turner

You’ve got to hand it to Amazon for their ambition - after all, it’s not everyday you get to see a ��100,000 diamond necklace available to buy online.

In this instance, you can add it to your wish list, but 1-click shopping appears to be disabled…

November 18, 2004

Sacked for blogging pictures

Link: Sacked for blogging pictures

Filed under: General by brian_turner

Ellen Simonetti was a Delta Airlines air stewardess, who happened to take a few “provocative” photos of herself in a Delta plane.

When management discovered that she’d then posted them online at her blog, she was promptly fired.

The big quesiton is - why??

Let’s see how “damaging” those pictures are: here

Whoah! I don’t think it could get any more XXX than that. :)

Oh, yes - top shelf material that.

Point is, Delta have completely over-looked what could have otherwise been a very positive public relations exercise - and instead turned it into coporate high-handedness - by firing an air stewardess who took pictures of herself and blogged them.

When it could have paid them to promote the humanising of its staff, they fire the personality, and leave themselves with what sort of impression?

There’s good publicity, and there’s bad publicity. Good public relations is supposed to be turning the latter into the former. Delta missed a real opportunity here, and looked oppressive in the process.

Discuss this article here:
Air hostess sacked for blog pictures

November 2, 2004


Link: Democracy

Filed under: General by brian_turner

Well, I didn’t know this:

American companies are banned from publishing books by authors in Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

This came up because Shirin Ebadi won the nobel prize for her work on human rights in Iran - yet the book she has written to highlight her actions and fight cannot be published in a country that claims to be the most free and democratic in the world.

It seems as if claims are being weighed against actual actions.

October 20, 2004

Corrupt world sinking

Link: Corrupt world sinking

Filed under: General by brian_turner

A coalition of 17 aid agencies - inlcuding Christian Aid, Oxfam, Greenpeace, and the WorldWide Fund for Nature - today released a report called “Up in Smoke”, which claims that all the supposed “Millenium Targets” - which aimed to halve global poverty by 2015 - cannot be met due to ongoing climate change impoverishing the world’s poor further. Global warming, caused by excessive release for carbon dioxide, is clearly fingered in the report

Aid agencies’ warning on climate

If that wasn’t bad enough, Transparency International - an anti-corruption body - reports that oil production is a prime basis for corruption, especially in developing countries.

Oil wealth ‘can cause corruption’

So I guess that means that oil is officially bad for our species - bad for our health, bad for the world, and ultimately corrupting.

October 19, 2004

Google saves hostage

Link: Google saves hostage

Filed under: General, Google by brian_turner

From the BBC:
Google ’saved’ Australian hostage

An Australian journalist kidnapped in Iraq was freed after his captors checked the popular internet search engine Google to confirm his identity.

John Martinkus was seized in Baghdad on Saturday, the first Australian held hostage in Iraq since the US-led invasion.

But his captors agreed to release him after they were convinced he was not working for the CIA or a US contractor.

October 12, 2004

Don’t forget: Switch off autopilot!

Link: Don’t forget: Switch off autopilot!

Filed under: General by brian_turner

I can really relate to this - making two dumb mistakes in succession, after years of no mistakes.

From Reuters: Autopilot Sinks Absent-Minded Skipper:

A Finnish commuter ferry captain has been suspended after crashing into a pier because he forgot to turn off the autopilot — for the second time in three days.
The captain was given a second chance to prove his seamanship after an accident on Tuesday when two passengers and one crew member were injured after the Suomenlinna II hit the pier at its destination, an island just outside downtown Helsinki.

“He has been on this route for more than 10 years and we discussed carefully that he would be more sharp in the future. He did not manage it,” Jorma Salopelto, head of Suomenlinnan Liikenne which runs the ferry, told Reuters.

Having on Thursday once again forgotten that the autopilot was engaged, the hapless skipper was unable to stop the boat from running ashore, completely demolishing the pier but without causing any personal injuries.

The ferry company said he had not been drinking on either occasion. It is not clear if or when he will return to his job.

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