International figures keywords:
PRIVATISED ENERGY giant British Gas has dropped its charm offensive of lower prices to customers with a 7% rise in gas and electricity bills this winter. The increase comes into effect on 10 December. Back in 2008 Jake Ulrich, the managing director of Centrica, which owns British Gas, advised hard-pressed customers facing a 15% price hike to wear an extra jumper!
The latest move by British Gas follows recent gas-price increases of 9% by Scottish and Southern Energy. Other gas companies are expected to follow suit.
Ann Robinson of price comparison website Uswitch commented on the increase: "Unfortunately for consumers, the 8% or £99 reduction seen over the last two years failed miserably to reverse the impact of the 42% or £381 increase seen in 2008. And now, whatever small benefit was seen is about to be wiped back out again."
She said the average household bill for a dual-fuel British Gas customer would now go up from £1,157 to £1,239.
In July, British Gas made operating profits of £585 million for the first half of 2010, up 98% on the same period last year. Centrica, also saw a big increase in profits, up 65% to £1.56 billion.
Torturer in chief
FORMER US president George W Bush has gained much publicity for his memoir, Decision Points, with the justification for his authorisation of the torture technique known as 'waterboarding'. Bush maintains that waterboarding, which simulates drowning, is not torture.
Interviewed on the BBC World Service, Bush said 'the ends justified the means' as it prevented further terrorist attacks and, anyway, a White House lawyer told him it was legal.
However, Bush didn't provide any concrete evidence of particular terrorist attacks being thwarted and obviously the US president wouldn't have had any difficulty in finding a lawyer to say waterboarding was legal - in much the same way as the British attorney general Lord Goldsmith (on the eve of war) told Blair what he wanted to hear, ie that invading Iraq in March 2003 was legal.
Back in 2005 Bush responded to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas by saying "we do not torture". Presumably he was only referring to waterboarding and not the widely reported other methods of bestial torture practised by US forces at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to name just three prison camps.
THE SOVIET union collapsed in the early 1990s but it seems that Stalin's secret police - the KGB - survived the transition to capitalism.
Referring to a double agent who has defected to the USA, a Russian official is quoted in the Kommersant newspaper as saying: "We know who he is and where he is. Do not doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already."
Ramon Mercader was the Stalinist agent who murdered the exiled socialist revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940.
16 Feb No fudge with the right wing
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