Monday, July 27, 2009


It was reported yesterday that more than half of Zimbabwe’s population, suffering under an economic and political crisis as well as a crippling cholera outbreak (pictured above),- need emergency food aid. The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Thursday that 7 million people will need assistance in February and March. So far cholera has killed nearly 3,100 people and infected 58,993 across the country – the worst death toll in Africa from an outbreak of the normally preventable disease in 15 years. Now it’s interesting that in the UK we’ve had great arguments recently about whether TV stations should show appeal videos about Gaza – in the face of strong pressure some stations have said no on the grounds that it might be construed as taking sides in the Israeli-Hamas conflict. But for some reason the same politically correct alliance of left-wingers, Muslim activists, middle-class Guardian readers, touchy-feely media darlings and naive undergraduates who are pressing for the Gaza appeal to be shown aren’t taking to the streets demanding that appeals for Zimbabwe be broadcast. But then again, maybe criticising Robert Mugabe isn’t anti-semitic enough for their gentle sensibilities and well developed social consciences.


OPEC members need an oil price above $50 a barrel to make exports worthwhile, the head of the cartel said yesterday, adding that more production cuts were possible this year. “We are not happy with $40 or even $50 a barrel,” Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC Secretary-General, told a panel discussing energy security at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Even $50 did not guarantee a “decent income for our countries”, he said, adding: “I hope that the price will pick up … a $50 price will not permit us to invest.” Mr Tony Hayward, the chief executive of British Petroleum (BP), told the panel that OPEC countries needed a price of about $60-$80 per barrel to balance their budgets and invest in social programmes. “A price somewhere between $60-$80 would be appropriate,” he said. Strange, but I don’t recall Mr Hayward expressing this same view on the desirablity of a price range of $60-$80 last year when oil was approaching $150 a barrel !


In the UK city of Birmingham a significant move has been made to modify the English language . In previous years, road signs have always included an apostrophe where necessary. But rather than read up on how to correctly use the apostrophe, the city has chosen to remove the possessive punctuation mark from its road and street signs altogether (example above). The decision follows years of debate about whether the possessive punctuation mark should be restored to place names such as Kings Norton, Acocks Green and Druids Heath, which were historically spelt with an apostrophe. To be honest though, as far as Birmingham’s concerned the whole issue is probably academic – a large proportion of the population don’t use English – and a large proportion of those that do can’t read anyway.


In the UK broadband users could end up paying for a new body to tackle music and film piracy (above) under Government plans announced yesterday. Communications Minister Lord Carter (yet ANOTHER unelected New Labour Lord) publishws his Digital Britain report, which outlines plans to boost the internet and communications industries. The sector contributes more than £50 billion to the UK economy and the Government believes it will be the backbone of the nation’s recovery in the future. The problem of people illegally copying and sharing music and films online is expected to be an important strand of the report. Lord Carter has proposed creating a body to mediate between internet service providers (ISP’s) and music and film companies which would provide information about people who repeatedly infringe copyright by copying and sharing files, and be paid for by a levy on ISPs, the paper said. Such a charge could (in other words, WILL) be passed on to broadband customers. Just what we need – another bloated taxpayer funded public body which will oversee chaos, inefficiency and make a mess as usual. Why not just prosecute the offenders ?


Ah the good old £1 coin (pictured above) . The mainstay of our British. But record numbers of fake £1 coins are being pumped into the economy threatening to undermine confidence in the money supply. Criminal gangs using specialised machinery are believed to be behind the dramatic surge of the fake coins in circulation in the past year. The rising number of counterfeit £1 coins means that one in every 40 is now worthless. The total amount of fake £1 coins has hit £37.5 million – the highest amount since the coin was introduced in 1983 – and a rise of 26% since 2007, when 30 million coins were found to be fakes. Mind you, the way things are going economically, the forgeries might end up being worth more than the real ones – and we can always pay our EU “global warming” fines with the forgeries as well !