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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2009

Fast news

My Lords, Ladies and cash dispenser

DIGBY JONES, life peer, is stepping down from his post as the government's business minister.

In a parting shot, Jones called for half of public servants to be sacked: "Frankly the job could be done with half as many, it could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer."

This is rich, coming from a member of the House of Lords where falling asleep on a red leather bench qualifies you for a daily attendance allowance of 77 to cover meals and 154.50 for overnight accommodation or a second home allowance of about 100 a day. Office expenses of 67 a day can also be claimed along with cash to cover any travel expenses to and from Westminster.

Most civil servants are low paid. Currently their PCS union is fighting pay cuts. In addition, some 80,000 posts, many in front-line services, have been axed by this government.

Jones was only a minister for a year but he retains his life peerage. Now that's value for money!

Offshore torture

AS BARACK Obama dithers over his election pledge to close down the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Susan Crawford - a top Pentagon official responsible for convening military tribunals at the camp - has disclosed to the Washington Post that interrogators at Guantanamo tortured Mohamed al-Qahtari, the alleged 20th 9/11 hijacker.

George Bush claimed in 2006 following the revelations of torture at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, that: "The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values."

However, Crawford - a lifelong Republican - said that Qahtani was subject to 18-20 hours of interrogation a day for 48 days out of a 54-day period in 2002/03. This included sleep deprivation, being threatened with dogs, prolonged exposure to cold, being made to wear women's underwear, and being attached to a lead and forced to perform dog tricks.

Less is more

UK ENERGY companies have cashed in on the feud between Russia's state-owned Gazprom and Ukraine, which led to Russia's gas supplies being halted to the rest of Europe. As a result of the liberalised gas market in the UK, the energy companies, by switching from importing to exporting gas to continental Europe, have pushed up the wholesale price in Britain. The net result is higher profits for these companies and the likelihood that gas bills for UK domestic customers will not fall as previously anticipated.

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In The Socialist 21 January 2009:

No more bailouts for bosses!

Fast news: My Lords, Ladies and cash dispenser

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