Wednesday, 16 June 2010

More news from nowhere

The Deepwater Horizon spillage in the Gulf of Mexico continues to dominate the UK media, with President Obama having moved to suggest that the catastrophe will forevermore change the way people think about the environment.

In accordance with such significance, the US government has this week raised demands that BP ring-fence a sum of $20,000,000,000, in order to clean-up wildlife and compensate victims of the disaster. It has also been suggested that BP compensate workers on other offshore oil rigs, who have been made redundant by the Obama administration's six-month drilling moratorium. The US Treasury, with a debt in excess of $13,000,000,000,000, are refusing to rule-out the possibility of levying such demands against other foreign corporations, in efforts at regaining a handle on their own deficit obligations.

BP, their share-price now half what it was on the day of the explosion, have railed against such claims upon their culpability, and are said to be enlisting the services of the UK anti-Bullying Alliance. Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, left a press conference in tears having taken great pains to highlight that the Deepwater Horizon rig was jointly owned by BP alongside US firms, Halliburton, and the world's largest oil-rig contractor, Transocean. Hayward and the BP top brass are said to be losing hope of a Bhopal-style settlement, invoking the precedent of the 1984 disaster in Madyah Pradesh, India, where at least twenty thousand people lost their lives after an explosion at the factory of US chemicals company, Union Carbide. Compensation paid-out in lieu of the Bhopal disaster to-date represents approximately 32pence per fatality, an amount that BP said they were prepared to treble in compensation for the eleven lives lost in the initial blast upon Deepwater Horizon. Shareholders were thought to have been happy with the £10.56 proposed settlement.

Following the US administration's throwing-out of such an offer as 'deeply insensitive to the lives effected by the tragedy', market analysts have been moved to suggest that BP might curtail their own financial catastrophe by rebranding themselves as American Petroleum, or considering a sale of all operations to US operators, with both Chevron and Exxon rumoured to be interested. The Obama administration acknowledged that such an arrangement "may prove satisfactory".

Back in England, the coalition government have not remained silent concerning the future of one of the FTSEs much-vaunted, 'blue-chip' corporations. Prime Minister David Cameron released the following statement three and a half weeks after the first explosion.

"Whilst we recognise the massive damage being caused by incidents in the Gulf of Mexico, we must recognise the value of BP to the British economy, and recognise the need stand firmly behind this well-recognised company of ours. Whilst we recognise the value of BP to the British economy, we must also recognise the value of this country's special relationship with the United States, which has given many young British men and women the opportunity to see parts of the Middle-East and Hindu Kush that they could never have otherwise hoped to experience. Recognising both of these facts, I rest my case".

Returning from Afghanistan, new Tory Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has caused insult to the government and people of Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, by suggesting that the country was reminiscent of the feudal age. Fox referred to Afghanistan as a "broken, medieval state from the thirteenth-century", comments which led Karzai to brand the remarks as evidence that Britain remains a "colonial, orientalist and racist country". Apologising for any offence caused, Fox revealed that his presence in Afghanistan formed part of a research trip on behalf of the new coalition government, the purpose being to investigate ways in which Britain could be strengthened in the model of a feudal state from the thirteenth century. With no offence intended, Fox stressed his great admiration for what Karzai, the Taliban and NATO forces are presiding over in Afghanistan, and looks-forward to the day that such a social model can be rolled-out by Westminster.

The future of the UK economy may well be illustrated by events currently unfolding in Greece. In the first good news to hit the beleaguered state for some time, Chinese delegates are this week present in Athens to sign export deals and contracts for infrastructure ownership. Although export of olive oil to China has been heralded as central to the deal, more telling seem to be the sale of rights to develop shopping-centres and airports in traditionally popular tourist destinations such as Crete. These concessions augment existing Chinese ownership of cargo management in the major shipping port of Piraeus, a contract rumoured to be worth approximately a billion Euros to the Greeks. Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, who presides over a budget deficit of 12% of GDP (the Greek budget deficit is only 9.3%), is said to be keeping a close eye on developments, and is rumoured to be considering an offer to the Chinese of as many amenities and services as they will buy, plus all the cheddar cheese they can eat.

In lighter news, and showing brave resistance to any talk of economic gloom, London is currently whispering about the prospect that the as-yet unbuilt olympic stadium may have to be demolised after the games have been completed. The 2012 Olympics, dubbed 'The Sustainable Games' are yet to find a new owner for the £525million stadium, a quandry that presents either the need for demolition, or taxpayer-funded upkeep of the stadium once its Olympic use is over. Although low-lying football team, Leyton Orient, have expressed an interest in taking-on the venue as their own stadium, Olympic organisers, who have always championed the "legacy of the games" in a deprived, East London district, envisage a venue that retains facilities for athletics events. Prime Minister Cameron hailed the half-billion pound uncertainty as resounding evidence that the British economy remained buoyant and the British taxpayer possessed of boundless wealth.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

It's getting strange in here.- News from the Island

Spring is turning summery in London, and with temperatures starting to rise, the wider climate is getting curiouser and curiouser.

Leading the headlines this week has been the resignation of Liberal Democrat MP, David Laws, from his Treasury position in charge of spending cuts. Laws, a continuing multimillionaire and former banker with JP Morgan, has stepped-down from his cabinet post amid revelations by the Daily Telegraph that he gave his boyfriend £40,000 of taxpayer's money for sharing his London home whilst attending Parliament. Laws, who was so determined to keep his sexuality secret he felt compelled to give £40,000 of taxpayer's money to his boyfriend, seems to be in quite a spot of personal bother about the issue, stating that he is now going to miss-out on vital budgetary works that he feels "his entire life has prepared him for".

Laws is not the only one upset about the whole affair, David Cameron having grudgingly accepted the resignation of this "good and honourable man", and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, getting all flush in stating that it was as if Laws had been "put on earth" to do his job at the Treasury. The praise did not stop there, with another minister stating that "David Laws has a capacity to consume information and process it in a logical way that very few people have" ... Asked what would happen next at the Treasury, the minister scratched his head and asked for the question to be repeated.

Perhaps more telling than the loss of what seems to have been Westminster's only intelligent MP, have been revelations that Laws was previously claiming £200 a month for his utilities costs, an amount that fell to just £37 once it became mandatory that MPs submit receipts for such expenses. This begs the question as to why a multimillionaire would ever bother wasting half an hour of his time to lodge the paperwork for claiming thirty-seven quid.

British Petroleum are currently faced with the loss of far less trifling sums of money, their share-price having plummeted by around £15billion on account of the leaking oil well, Deepwater Horizon, off the Louisianna coast. Last week, in a failed attempt to make less of a mess of the ocean, the oil giant implemented a bizarre policy of dumping tons of mud and golf balls and used tyres onto the seabed, all in the hope of stopping the pollution. It would appear that having since tried to block the rupture with some old garden furniture, a large VHS collection, two used mattresses, and a microwave that Lord Brown no longer had use for, BP have abandoned what was being called a "top-kill" strategy, and are hoping instead merely to contain the growing disaster.

Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, whose wife again denied allegations that her husband is crying himself to sleep each night, has tabled one possible solution involving bananas. Hayward revealed to reporters that in his kitchen he has a fruit bowl with an elevated hook that holds bananas above other fruits. This design is intended to separate bananas from the other fruits, because bananas contain an active enzyme that facilitates decomposition in other matter. Hayward has thus tabled the idea of dropping ten million bananas into the Gulf of Mexico, in order to facilitate the decomposition of the gathering oil. A spokesman for Chiquita welcomed the proposal.

The finances of the royal family are looking murkier than a bayou these days, with the Queen herself facing increasing hardship, and forced into the ignoble position of pleading with parliament for a £6million rise in her pocket-money. The royal family, which costs the taxpayer in excess of £40million each year, is said to be at the end of a dwindling reserve-fund that has been paying for the upkeep of palaces and the throwing of garden parties. A Royal spokesman said that the impending crisis, befitting of tough fiscal times, showed just how in-touch the monarchy are with the situation faced by the everyday man and woman of Britain, who are also going about the process of imminenet belt-tightening. Unless the government can provide the extra cash, the Queen has remarked tearfully that "she just doesn't know what she'll do".

One area of spending not yet feeling the pinch is cycling provisions, and Transport for London (TfL) this month announced commencement of a scheme of Cycle Superhighways. The Superhighways, which will cost the taxpayer £116million, and are part-sponsored by the good people at Barclay's Capital, will take cyclists along a direct route, painted in blue, from outer-London areas and into the city itself.

The project is proving controversial on the basis of cost, with advocacy groups pointing to the existence of a network of predominantly smooth, black surfaces that are rumoured to connect every home, amenity, railway station and workplace on the entire Island. An average 7metres across, it has been argued that these sprawling, mythical beasts, known only as Roads, might actually be wide enough for cars and bicycles to use concurrently. Transport for London has promised to set-up a commission to investigate the proposal, but with London mayor, Boris Johnson, known to be a supporter of the Cycle Superhighways, it is doubtful that the proposals will be reversed. Johnson, partially autistic, is known to hold fond visions of a fleet of new, red buses driving alongside new, blue superhighways.

An aide at the Mayor's Office, responding to questions about the cost-effectiveness of the scheme, said that "although cycling offers excellent value for money as a means of transport with few infrastructure requirements, the Mayor and TfL feel that there is nevertheless potential to make cycling policy as expensive and convoluted as possible. Only then can the bicycle fulfil its role in the London transport mix".

In breaking news, disgruntled taxi driver, Derrick Bird, yesterday drove (in his taxi) to eleven different locations around Cumbria, proceeded to shoot-dead twelve people, and then himself, in a killing-spree that has left dozens injured (though rumours are circulating that a Daily Telegraph reporter was responsible for shooting the 24th and final victim... "dozens" undeniably sounding much better than "23"). The news has delighted the media, who have arrived en masse to document the minutiae of an episode with less national relevance than anything else that occurred this week. Also out in force are the Cumbria police, who showed themselves to be amongst the best in the world for showing-up in a host of vehicles and securing roads with blue-and-white tape shortly after events of any magnitude have already taken place. With the taxi driver having driven to an array of different locations, this has left the police with their work cut-out, and over 100 detectives are covering a 150km area to conduct 33 separate investigations at the site of each shooting.

In preliminary press conferences, the point has been raised that Britain does not use kilometres as a unit of measurement, and that many people were clueless as to the actual distance that 150km represents. A police spokeswoman replied that 150km was chosen as a more imposing total than 92.3miles, and one that was therefore more representative of the tragedy at hand. It was regrettable, she continued, that Mr Bird had not driven a further 7.8miles before taking his own life. Asked whether the police were treating the number 7.8 as in any way suspicious, it was said that no possibilities were being excluded at this stage. Although detectives were eager to stress that the 193 separate investigations were in their infancy, initial findings seem to suggest that a taxi driver drove, in his taxi, between eleven different locations, shot-dead twelve people, and then took his own life in wooded areas. The investigation continues.

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