Thursday, 23 February 2012

MEP arrested on suspicion of European parliament fraud conspiracy

Posted On 23:45 by El NACHO 0 comments

MEP has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the European parliament. West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire, 43, was arrested along with three of her staff on Wednesday, according to another MEP for the West Midlands, Mike Nattrass of Ukip. West Midlands police confirmed a 43-year-old woman was arrested at a police station in Birmingham along with three other people on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the European parliament. Two women aged 55 and 39 and a 19-year-old man were arrested at addresses in Solihull, Worcester and Birmingham and were taken to a police station for questioning on Wednesday. Searches were carried out at the addresses of the four people by officers investigating an allegation made in 2010 regarding allowances and expenses, a police spokeswoman said. All four were later released on police bail, she added. On her Twitter account, a spokesman for Sinclaire said the MEP attended the police station in Birmingham voluntarily and co-operated fully with the police. "This is particularly frustrating to Ms Sinclaire who is eager to clear her name and has nothing to hide," said another tweet. The MEP "disputes all allegations put towards her or her staff" the tweets said. Sinclaire and her office would continue to "fully co-operate with the police on this matter". In a statement, Ukip said Sinclaire, who formerly represented the party in the seat, ceased to be an MEP for the party in 2010. "It would be inappropriate for the party to make any comment during the process of an ongoing police inquiry," Ukip's statement said.

Oscars warn Baron Cohen against red carpet stunt

Posted On 23:31 by El NACHO 0 comments


Oscars organizers have warned flamboyant British actor-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen not to try to pull a stunt at this weekend's Academy Awards show, but said he is not banned from attending. The Hollywood Reporter cited sources as saying the star has told Paramount, the studio behind his latest movie "The Dictator," that he plans to turn up on the Oscars red carpet in full bearded, uniformed character Sunday. Reports suggested that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had banned the "Ali G," "Borat" and "Bruno" star altogether, but a spokeswoman denied this Thursday. "The Academy would love to have Sacha at the show. We've let him know how we feel about using the red carpet for a movie stunt and we're waiting to hear from him," she told AFP. Baron Cohen, who is in Martin Scorsese's 11-times Oscar-nominated movie "Hugo," has a history of colorful stunts: in 2006 he turned up at the Toronto film festival in a cart pulled by a "peasant woman" to promote Borat. At the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, he descended from the ceiling on a harness dressed as an angel, eventually crashing into Eminem's lap, his buttocks in the rapper's face. Eminem voiced outrage, although it later emerged that the two men had organized the stunt in advance. In "The Dictator," due out in May in the United States, Baron Cohen plays the lead role in "the heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed." A representative for Baron Cohen did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the story.

Murdoch slashes price for new Sunday tabloid

Posted On 23:23 by El NACHO 0 comments


Rupert Murdoch on Thursday fired the opening shot in his battle to reclaim Britain's Sunday newspaper market by announcing his newly launched publication would be half the price of his previous title. The 80-year-old tycoon took to microblogging website Twitter to reveal: "Regular Sunday price for The Sun only 50p -- and Saturday's Sun going down to 50p too! Great news for readers and the economy." Murdoch's News of the World -- the Sunday tabloid which shut seven months ago over the phone-hacking scandal -- cost one pound ($1.57, 1.18 euros), the same cover price as rivals the Sunday Mirror and The People. The 50 percent price cut announced for The Sun on Sunday, which will hit the stands this weekend, signals the Australian-born businessman's hunger to once again own the top-selling Sunday newspaper. The News of the World dominated the country's Sunday market with sales averaging 2.67 million when Murdoch took the decision to close it in July last year. Publisher News International said the US-based mogul would be in London to oversee the launch this Sunday and confirmed that the editor of the weekday paper, Dominic Mohan, would also edit the Sun on Sunday. Murdoch flew in to Britain last week to announce the creation of the new paper and to promise demoralised staff he would stand by them despite the arrest of senior Sun journalists over bribery allegations.

Labour suspends MP Eric Joyce after Commons 'assault'

Posted On 19:45 by El NACHO 0 comments


Labour MP Eric Joyce has been suspended from the party after he was arrested over allegations of an assault in a House of Commons bar. Police were called after reports of a disturbance on Wednesday night. Mr Joyce, 51, remains MP for Falkirk but cannot take the Labour whip until the police investigation ends. Speaker John Bercow has said he takes the matter "very seriously". The Conservative MP for Pudsey Stuart Andrew has alleged he was assaulted. The BBC understands officers involved in the investigation returned to the Commons on Thursday evening. The disturbance is believed to have happened in the Strangers Bar, which is reserved for MPs and their guests. Mr Andrew was in the bar following a Commons event organised by his Conservative colleague Andrew Percy, for the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament. 'Extremely serious' A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We were called at approximately 10.50pm last night to reports of a disturbance at a bar within the House of Commons. "A man aged in his 50s was arrested by officers on suspicion of assault. He remains in custody in a central London police station. Inquiries are continuing." A Labour Party spokesman said: "This is an extremely serious incident. We have suspended Eric Joyce pending the results of the police investigation." In the Commons, Speaker John Bercow said: "Members will be aware of reports of a serious incident in the House last night. I have been informed by the Serjeant at Arms that the honourable member for Falkirk has been detained in police custody. "The matter is being investigated. I take this matter very seriously, as do the House authorities." Mr Joyce was elected in a by-election in December 2000 and has served as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to a number of government ministers since 2003. He was PPS to the then defence secretary Bob Ainsworth until 2009, and prior to that had been a parliamentary aide to John Hutton, Mike O'Brien and Margaret Hodge.

A4e boss Emma Harrison to step down from government role

Posted On 19:41 by El NACHO 0 comments


Emma Harrison, David Cameron's "families tsar", is to stand aside from the role in the wake of revelations that former employees of her firm A4e are subject to police investigations over alleged frauds. She has written to the prime minister saying she believes she should stand aside. Number 10 had been signalling for more than 48 hours that it was extremely concerned by the allegations and would ask her to stand aside from the role. "I have asked to step aside from my voluntary role as Family Champion as I do not want the current media environment to distract from the very important work with troubled families," she said. "I remain passionate about helping troubled families and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute in an area where I have been active for many years." Her role has always seemed more titular than real with the bulk of the efforts on troubled families now being taken over by Louise Casey at the communities department. Harrison's A4e volunteered details of two investigations as it tried to counter claims that it was involved in "systemic" abuse of taxpayer-funded contracts. The government has said the bulk of the inquiries covered problems with the previous government's back-to-work programmes. The Department for Work and Pensions revealed it had launched nine fraud investigations into the firm in recent years. The prime minister appointed Harrison in 2010 to help get 120,000 "problem families" into work. A4e earned £180m from state contracts last year, when Harrison paid herself a dividend of £8.6m, despite the firm's failure to meet government targets on finding jobs for the unemployed.

Barclays clocks up 1,500 complaints a day

Posted On 19:35 by El NACHO 0 comments


Barclays has been clocking up over 1,500 complaints a day as its staff share £2.5billion bonuses. The bank had 281,484 customer gripes between July and December – up 12% on the first half of 2011. It blamed the surge on claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance. An ­Independent Banking ­Advisory Service spokesman said: “It’s coming back to bite them – although not quickly enough in our view.” All banks have to report complaints data for the second half of 2011 to the City watchdog the Financial Services Authority by the end of February. Barclays, which published its figures in advance, said PPI complaints hit nearly 123,000 between July and December - up by 67% from the first six months and double the number for the second half of 2010. Excluding PPI, total complaints dropped by 11% to 158,492 in the second half, or 336,363 for 2011 as a whole. Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays Retail, said: “We can and will do more to improve service and go further and faster to drive down complaints. “We are aiming for further reductions in underlying complaints in the first half of 2012 as we continue on our journey to get it right first time, every time.” Eddy Weatherill, of the Independent Banking Advisory Service, said: “Barclays made a lot of profit from selling PPI and now it’s coming back to bite them. although not quickly enough in our view. “But I don’t think any of the banks are doing well on the complaints front, particularly when it comes to small businesses. “They have tried to ring every penny out of customers but, because of a lack of competition, people haven’t got decent choice when it comes to moving account.”

France reporter Edith Bouvier asks for Syria evacuation

Posted On 16:11 by El NACHO 0 comments


The French journalist who was wounded in an attack on the Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday has asked to be evacuated from Syria quickly, saying she needs urgent medical attention. Edith Bouvier was injured in the attack that killed journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in the Baba Amr suburb. In a video posted online by opposition activists, Ms Bouvier says she has a broken femur and urgently needs an operation. She asks to be evacuated to Lebanon. There is growing pressure on Damascus to give access to civilians trapped by the onslaught. 'Very difficult' In the video, Ms Bouvier praises the doctors who have been treating her and says they are doing what they can. Photojournalist William Daniels, who is also French, appears alongside her and says she has not lost her smile. He was also caught up in the attack but says he was not injured. William Daniels says he was fortunate not to be injured Mr Daniels appeals to the French authorities to help them as soon as possible, as conditions "are very difficult". There is no electricity and not much to eat, he says, adding that they need to get out as quickly as possible using medically equipped transportation. The US, Europe and Arab countries plan to challenge President Bashar al-Assad to provide humanitarian access within days to the worst affected areas. They plan to present their ultimatum at Friday's international conference on Syria in Tunisia. Russia and China have said they will not attend the conference. The two countries have faced Western and Arab criticism for blocking a UN Security Council resolution that would have backed an Arab League peace plan for Syria. Meanwhile, a United Nations panel has drawn up a confidential list of Syrian military officials - believed to include President Assad - who could face investigation for crimes against humanity. It says these include shooting unarmed women and children, shelling civilian areas and torturing the wounded.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Violent gangs are deeply entrenched in Spanish Town, just west of Kingston, and in some residential sections of the northwestern parish of St. James, which includes the resort city of Montego Bay.

Posted On 16:22 by El NACHO 0 comments


 Fighting between the gangs for control of drug trafficking and extortion rackets has long been blamed for the majority of Jamaica’s homicides. Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said at a news conference with Bunting that much of the security forces’ resources are now focused on trying to contain 42 active gang conflicts. Ellington told reporters that the Shower Posse gang, which was controlled by convicted drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke from his slum stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, has been significantly hobbled since his capture in June 2010 but remains an active gang in West Kingston. Bunting said Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s nearly two-month-old government intends to fast-track anti-gang legislation and is crafting a new security policy meant to reduce crime to “First World levels” by 2017, when he hopes to have a maximum of just 321 killings. A U.N. study on the Caribbean released earlier this month said Jamaica has had the world’s third-highest murder rate over the past decade, with about 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Jamaica loses some $529 million a year due to crime, according to the report. Last year, Jamaica had 1,125 slayings, a roughly 22 percent drop from the 1,442 killings in 2010. A record 1,683 people were killed in 2009. Bunting said a major goal is to target gang kingpins and facilitators for organized criminal networks, not the people lower down the chain. Many of those arrested in previous years have been underlings who had little connection to gang leadership. Such workers are easily replaced. “We don’t always want to be chasing out the symptoms, we want to get to the infection,” he told reporters at the prime minister’s offices. Bunting intends to create a task force to identify and arrest crime facilitators, such as accountants, real estate brokers, lawyers and corrupt public officials. He also hopes to give courts greater power to seize their assets. He also said Jamaican society must undergo “mental reconditioning” to encourage more people to report crimes. Those who live in Jamaica’s slums are deeply distrustful of the police and authorities, and an anti-informant culture is widespread.

Bolivian minibus gang murdered up to 69 people on their way to work

Posted On 16:18 by El NACHO 0 comments


Police in Bolivia are blaming a gang for a spate of early morning murders in Bolivia where people have been strangled on minibuses while heading into work. Up to 69 people have been killed and dozens more were left for dead in El Alto, a working class city of one million people on an arid plateau above Bolivia's capital, La Paz. "This kind of assault came about because people, by necessity, take whatever transport they can get," said Felix Rocha, chief of Bolivia's police. Gang members would ride the buses posing as passengers, police said. After their victims had boarded, they were strangled with a rope or scarf and stripped of valuables that often amounted to little more than a mobile phone and the clothes on their backs. A 64-year-old man who said he survived an attack by the gang, recounted leaving his house at 4am on 5 February on his way to the bank where he collects his monthly pension. He said he boarded what he thought was a public transit minibus and as usual, his 25-cent fare was collected by "a cholita," or indigenous woman. "They had me sit in the front and suddenly I felt a scarf tightening around my neck. I fought back but they hit me in the ribs and face and I fell unconscious," said the man, who asked to be identified only by first name, Macario, because he fears for his safety. "I woke up later in a dumpster," Macario added. Gone was his mobile phone and the equivalent of £35 in the local currency. Police last week announced the arrest of eight alleged members of the gang, ranging in age from 30 to 45 and including a woman, Yuli Gutierrez Jimenez. Rocha said police seized four 14-seat minibuses used by the gang. Most of the killings occurred between 4am and 6am, when public transport is relatively scarce and only 400 police are on duty in the entire city, which is mostly unpaved and where many neighbourhoods lack running water and electricity. The gang is believed to have killed 69 people whose bodies have been found over the past 13 months, said Rocha, though prosecutor Santos Valencia said investigators are still trying to determine if the group was responsible for all those deaths. More than 70 people told police they had survived attacks after recognising gang members in local media reports, Rocha said. Other such gangs are known to exist, but the minibus gang seems to have been the best organised and most methodical, he added. Its alleged leader, Julio Edwin Valdez, 33, was arrested last week. Also captured was Galo Mamani, the bus's driver. Prosecutors said the two face murder charges but offered few other details. Valencia told reporters that police found wallets and the clothes of victims in the homes of those detained. Authorities did not say how they tracked down the alleged criminals. Rocha said police were investigating whether the group was also involved in the recent murders of several taxi drivers whose vehicles were stolen after the drivers were strangled.

Syrian troops kill 27 in village raids

Posted On 10:24 by El NACHO 0 comments


Syrian troops and militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad captured and then shot dead 27 young men in northern villages and two foreign journalists were killed in shelling of the besieged city of Homs, activists said on Wednesday. The two Western journalists were killed on Wednesday when shells hit the house they were staying in, activists and witnesses said. They were named as Marie Colvin, an American working for Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik. A witness told Reuters by phone that shells hit the house where the journalists were staying and a rocket hit them as they were escaping. Violence continued to spread. Several YouTube videos taken by local activists in Idlib, which could not be independently confirmed, showed bodies of young men with bullet wounds and hands tied lying dead in streets. The men, all civilians, were mostly shot in the head or chest on Tuesday in their homes or in streets in the villages of Idita, Iblin and Balshon in Idlib province near the border with Turkey, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said. "Military forces chased civilians in these villages, arrested them and killed them without hesitation. They concentrated on male youths and whoever did not manage to escape was to be killed," the organization said in a statement. "Responsibility for this massacre lies with the general commander of the military and armed forces, Bashar al-Assad," the statement said, adding that only one youth survived the shootings. One video shows the body of three youths, one visibly shot in the chest, on the floor of a house in Balshon. "This is martyr Hassan Abdel Qadi al-Saeed, his brother Hussein and (their relative) Bashir Mohammad al-Saeed. They were liquidated by Assad's forces in the February 21 massacre," a voice of a man showing the bodies says, with the sound of women wailing in the background. The raids came as the United States appeared to open the door to eventually arming the Syrian opposition, saying that if a political solution to the crisis was impossible it might have to consider other options. The comments, made by officials at both the White House and the U.S. State Department on Tuesday, marked a shift in emphasis by Washington, which so far has stressed a policy of not arming the opposition and has said little about alternatives. "We still believe that a political solution is what's needed in Syria," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "We don't want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria, because that could take the country down a dangerous path. But we don't rule out additional measures." Asked if the United States was shifting its stance on arming the rebels, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington did not want to see the violence increase and was concentrating on political efforts to halt the bloodshed. "That said ... if we can't get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures," she said, declining to elaborate. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet representatives of some 70 countries and organizations in Tunis on Friday for the first "Friends of Syria" meeting to coordinate the international community's next steps in response to the nearly year-long uprising against Assad. The United States and its allies hope the Tunis conference will allow them to begin drawing up a plan for Syria after Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed Arab League peace plan at the U.N. Security Council. With both Russia and Iran firmly backing Assad's government, political analysts say tacit U.S. support for arming rebel fighters could be risky given Syria's complex ethnic and religious make-up and strategically important position.

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