Weekly News Review 16-22 August

22nd August 2020 / United Kingdom
Weekly News Review 16-22 August

The Editors Weekly Poke

Boris de Pfeffelski and his wizard Dom-the-Cummings-and-Goings aren’t doing so well are they? Eight U-Turns in eight months is now a big challenge to the Cameron government for double-dealing incompetence (24 U-Turns) and surpasses even Theresa May’s for wholesale ineptitude. Armed with these world-beating skill sets, the dynamic duo have proved beyond doubt that in terms of persuasive leadership they are thoroughly impotent. It’s as if the stallion put out to stud, having just won the Derby, has sudden onset erectile dysfunction at the first sight of Ms Horsey and her seductively swishing ponytail.

From the spiteful visa surcharges on NHS staff to attempting to force primary school children back in the midst of the pandemic – what defines this government is its moral collapse as it flounders to gain a footing in crisis-hit Britain. The Tories dissolution of decency programme has seen a footballer reversing the awful free school meals decision that would have left hundreds of thousands of kids dependent on food banks for survival rations. It goes hand-in-hand with the failed track-and-trace initiative, air-bridges that didn’t bridge and the debacle over the re-opening of schools. All of these things have elements that bind them – a total lack of human civility, empathy and common sense. We shouldn’t dismiss the undemocratic Rees-Mogg conga and divisive Huaewi U-turn as other examples of peak absurdity.

Covid brought death and destruction to our shores which went on to gorge on the fragility of communities, businesses and the economy. You can argue whose fault it is but keep in mind that Britain’s international reputation has also been trashed along the way and has since become a laughing stock. It is blindingly obvious that the people who are running the country are hopelessly out of their depth.

The handling of everything from the Covid-19 crisis to the A-Level/GCSE fiasco is merely a hint of what is coming next. At the end of October, the furlough scheme will end (or it might not) and when it does (or doesn’t), people’s rage will increase. The inevitability that hundreds of thousands will have lost their only source of income by Christmas as one million have already done is worrying. From there, besides a second Covid wave, the next national emergency is the end of the EU transition arrangement on December 31st. It may (or may not), force a hapless Boris Johnson to temporarily change course (over his dead body of course). Either way, the inevitability of yet another self-induced crisis has the same predictability as sunrise and sunset.

Sure, we’ve had some half-price pizzas and the government has financially supported many people through the pandemic – so far. But it won’t last. Then weigh this up against its total lack of planning, of crisis management or even basic communication along with its toxic mix of useless meandering around public opinion and faith in government is sure to crumble – and it will do so just as we face the new year in just 20 weeks time.

And what of the techno-Stalinist Dominic Cummings. Everything he has turned his hand to has either completely failed or caved-in. Cummings was Michael Gove’s most senior advisor when he was Minister for Education between 2010 and 2014. Last year the education of hundreds of thousands of children was recognised as having been irrevocably damaged by the massive rise of academies and their “failures and misuse of public funds”, a parliamentary watchdog concluded (source).  The only thing Cummings has proved so far is that he is good at swinging referendums and elections, which is a useless skill once you’re in power. And now he is – this government has proven, just like the privatisation scam of the academies – that ‘failure and misuse of public funds’ was in fact, the only thing they were actually world-beating at when they got their hands on the tiller. One thing we can predict (without an algorithm) is that this government is making just about everything worse than it could be.

Given the sheer number of expensive cock-ups, the type that cost lives, ruin families and the future prosperity of not just our youth but all of us – it makes you wonder what it takes for a Tory to actually be accountable.



Inside Downing Street

Wheels within wheels: Dido Harding, head of the failed NHS Covid Test and Trace system is now the new boss of the new National Institute for Health Protection (announced 17th August) that replaces Public Health England. Harding is an ex-employee of McKinsey and Company and so is her husband. McKinsey & Co has just been awarded (announced on 18th August) a £560,000 consulting fee to work out the “vision, purpose and narrative” for the failed Test and Trace initiative (source).

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Dept of Propaganda: Downing Street is pressing ahead with a radical centralisation of communications that will hand unprecedented control to Downing St. Johnson’s team, many of whom are veterans of the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum want to take a firmer grip over the messages emerging from the government. They are looking to fire something like 4,500 communications staff where departmental communications will now be centralised and then headed up by Dominic Cummings. This new department will effectively become the Dept for Propaganda. As they say –  whoever controls the media – controls the mind (source).

Woeful Williamson – is allegedly lying about his knowledge of the impending A-Level fiasco. Williamson was presented with a report by the Education Select Committee more than a month before the exam debacle. The report, warning of unfairness towards low-income students and improving schools was clearly available online. The report, entitled “Getting the grades they’ve earned: Covid-19 – The cancellation of exams and ‘calculated’ grades” was published on 11 July (source – publications parliament). Its key warnings were over fairness and the potential for bias. It warned that 40 per cent of students would be disadvantaged and how the well off would be better able to navigate the appeals process. If anything, it is clear that the government either looked the other way or deliberately set about providing an advantage to youngsters who already have an advantage (source).

Cummings Concerns: Three major political commentators are asking the same question. The Daily Mail, The Guardian and Civil Service World headline with a story that a group of Tory MPs say that without proper scrutiny, Dominic Cummings could drive a “coach and horses” through the UK’s defence policy and architecture as he launches his inquiry into the sector. The MP’s quite rightly want to know what Cummings is up to and what he intends to do. Amazingly, Cummings refused to give evidence to the Defence Select Committee on the issue not once but twice (source).

Lording it over us: The general public is getting tired of reading about the undemocratic nature of the House of Lords. Given that from April 2019 to February 2020, the average hereditary peer also claimed £20,604 for appearing in ten or fewer debates (source) it’s hardly surprising. Even senior Tories are worried the public is starting to turn on them as Britain’s crumbling political system fails to deliver anything but a greater burden for the taxpayer with some influential commentators now asking for this club of cronies to be abolished (source) (source).

Boris Johnson – needs to come clean on the deal that propelled Claire Fox into the House of Lords. There are (we have to say) ‘rumours’ that the Brexit Party agreed to stand down candidates in the 2019 election after peerages were “dangled” in front of them. “Overt corruption in appointments is rare … but this appointment is egregious,” says The Times (source) that thinks Boris Johnson should say if this was the case. Fox, previously a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, supported the IRA’s bombing campaign on mainland Britain and Gary Glitter’s right to download child porn is surely a reflection of Johnson’s lack of morality and judgement. Should such a person be elevated to making laws on democracy, terrorism and paedophilia? (source).

NHS: As Hancock abolishes PHE and blames it for the governments’ poor handling of the pandemic, we should not forget that he personally was in charge of it. The Tories created PHE with the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. It will now be replaced by the same organisation that was there originally but with a different name and of course, a new leader. Tory peer Dido Harding – famed more for the failed Covid Test and Trace scheme is its new boss. She is married to Tory MP John Penrose, who sits on the advisory board of think tank 1828 which calls for “the NHS to be replaced by an insurance system and for Public Health England to be scrapped” (source). Harding is also on the Board of the Jockey Club (remember how the Cheltenham Gold Cup was allowed to proceed just before the March lockdown). British Medical Association Chair Chaand Nagpaul, urges that “the nation’s public health medicine service should be truly public, [and] completely independent of political influence.” The reason for all this – The US/UK trade deal that Boris Johnson is so desperate to sign is dominated by Trump’s demand that the NHS is up for grabs to American healthcare corporations (source). On Tuesday, Hancock heaped praise on private healthcare firms and urged them to “join us” as he announced the new health body (source).

Turncoat: Owen Smith, former Labour MP for Pontypridd 2010-19, sacked by Corbyn as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in March 2018 after he publicly called for a referendum on the final Brexit deal has bagged a job as a lobbyist at the giant US-based pharma corporation Bristol Myers Squibb (Updated Linkedin Profile). The American firm made over $25 billion last year alone. Appointed as an Executive Director this month, there are rumours that he may be well placed to act in the interest of Johnson’s government in selling the benefits of American healthcare to the general public. Bristol Myers Squibb has a dodgy history as it has faced accusations of deceptive advertising campaigns in the USA along with FDA violations (source). BMS has also had to deal with litigation related to two of its diabetes products and was fined £150m for a fraudulent earnings management scheme (source). It was also fined $14M for bribing Chinese hospitals for prescription sales (source). Just as importantly, the company was fined $515million for overcharging the government and inflated price rigging (source). In addition, BMS has received repeated warning letters from the FDA regarding microbial contamination, poor environmental conditions, and substandard testing and sampling procedures at BMS facilities, previously noted in 2005 and 2009 (source). The website drugdangers.com by law firm Seegers Weiss (source) – reports that – “The company is facing a number of personal injury lawsuits and may be subject to more in the future months.



Inside Brexit

Deal or No-Deal – You Choose: An EU official has urged Boris Johnson to take the ‘unique and highly attractive’ offer it has made to the UK which it says has never been offered to any country before. The deal offers quota-free and duty-free access for goods to the single market”. But in the interest of “fair competition,” the UK must accept the level playing field demand and EU Court of Justice for trade disputes as its red-line to tie up loose ends and agree a deal. “For the EU it is not negotiable that the ECJ is the only institution that is allowed to interpret EU law.” Brexit hard-liners won’t accept this even though it will greatly soften Britain’s economic woes as it heads for the much-reported car-crash no deal come January 1st 2021 (READ MORE).

UK Pressure Pot: Related to the above – EU officials have taken note of recent setbacks in UK trade talks with the USA and Japan, as well as comments from New Zealand’s deputy PM that UK trade negotiators are not “match fit.” “The U.K. desperately needs this deal,” an EU official closely involved in the talks says. “If the clock is ticking, reality will start to sink in, in London … Surely the pandemic and the lack of trade alternatives must lead to some reason in London?”  One thing the EU negotiators can be sure of though is that ‘reason’, logic or common sense is spread quite thin in Westminster these days.

Johnson’s dead body: “There will be no border down the Irish Sea – over my dead body” lied Boris Johnson, yet again. It was in May this year when Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told Parliament there would be additional controls on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland once the Brexit transition period ends this year (source). To that end – the Government has insisted a £355 million package to help Northern Ireland’s businesses navigate Brexit red tape is not an admission of an Irish Sea border – which it is (source). In May this year – the UK government confirmed it will construct three border posts at Northern Irish ports. This is known to every country on planet earth as … a border (source).

Bannon and Brexit: The US Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to investigate Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump confidant, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Steve Bannon advised Nigel Farage (source), Boris Johnson (source), Vote Leave (source) along with tactics and strategies for Brexit (source). The UK’s Russia Report was a whitewash when it came to reporting on Brexit as MI5 decided it wasn’t important enough to bother (source) (READ MORE).

Food prices: The Grocer Magazine is concerned about the inevitability of rising food prices as a direct result of Brexit. It rightly asks the basic question – how are billions in additional tariffs, taxes and administration costs going to be paid for if, in the end, it’s not the consumer? “It’s very concerning that with less than five months to go there are still so few discussions between retailers and suppliers on how the burden of customs and tariffs will be shared? (source). Customs bills alone are expected to cost £7bn each year with reduced access to cheap European labour and increased transport costs also needing to be factored in. Price hikes are the harsh reality of leaving the EU” the trade body complained (source). Just for info – 7 billion divided by the number of households in Britain puts another £300 a year on the average food bill.

Science Reversal: Nobel prize-winning scientist, Sir Paul Nurse lays out a dire future for Brexit Britain in the specialist but important scientific arena. “I meet scientific colleagues around the world and they just think that the UK has turned away from collaborative science by looking back on an imperial history that no longer exists. It’s just very sentimental. And we’ve taken a leap several decades into the past” (READ MORE).

Big mouth BJ: Yes, it’s Johnson’s big mouth again that means trade deals in Africa have basically ended up being a non-starter. Having played down slavery and recommended a new form of colonialism for the continent, Johnson wrote in the Spectator (source) that: “The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.” The other fact that has not gone unnoticed in Africa is that since the funeral of Nelson Mandela in 2013, there has been just one visit by a UK prime minister to sub-Saharan Africa – and that was a cursory trip by Theresa May in 2018. In the meantime, Africa’s main trade partner in goods is … the EU. That trade deal runs an almost zero trade deficit, is well balanced for both parties and worth 300 billion Euros per year (source).



Inside the Economy

Fake Jobs: Jobseekers face exploitation as online recruitment is riddled with fake news. On LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional network, a trend is intensifying – that of influencers sharing fake stories about hiring people. The influencers who share these often plagiarised stories – complete with hashtags are scamming jobseekers for their attention. For wannabe influencers, branding yourself as an altruistic employer might be the fastest way to grow a platform in a pandemic. Directing viewers to bogus job sites who are prompted for their personal data is profitable (READ MORE).

White-Collar Crisis: The UK now faces a white-collar crisis as the pandemic ends decades of job security. Thousands in middle management and professional roles are set to be hit after the initial blue-collar cuts we are all reading about. Tej Parikh, an economist at the Institute of Directors, warned that office-based professions are facing the worst jobs crisis since the early 1990s recession. “I am seeing no business coming in at all,” said Jonathan Planner, a professional headhunter. “Senior creatives, board members, strategic planners — it’s across the board. Everyone you can think of is contacting me,” he said. “If you’ve rent to pay or a mortgage, you’re worried” (READ MORE).

Redundancy Laws: The government passed new regulations at the end of July to ensure that employees who are made redundant after being on furlough are not disadvantaged. The regulations require employers to calculate redundancy pay based on an employee’s normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate (READ MORE).

Furlough Dilemma: Thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that 3 million workers will still be financially reliant on the government’s furlough programme when it ends in October. The Institute says that while 1 million jobs are already permanently lost, the remainder could be saved in the long run by adopting a successor to the furlough scheme focused on viable jobs in the hospitality, entertainment and construction sectors (source). As at 18th August, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has continued to argue against extending the furlough scheme saying it is ‘unhealthy to be away from work’ and that we should ’embrace change’ (source).

Household Savings Dive: In a blow to hopes for a sustained recovery following government moves to ease the lockdown, the IHS Markit UK household finance index, which measures households’ overall perceptions of financial wellbeing, fell from 41.5 in July to 40.8 in August. A figure above 50 indicates an improvement in household finances. What this does is feed into a recession on the basis that everyone is now tightening their belts in expectation of … a recession (source).



Inside the Media

Facebook’s Animal trafficking: Here’s just another good reason why Facebook should be fully regulated and its senior managers face prosecution like any other business that perpetuates illegality. Recently, Facebook has been forced to crack down on the sale and trafficking of wild animals on its platform (source), and it’s revealed a booming market (source) that thus far has largely flown under the radar (because they didn’t bother to look). The World Wildlife Fund did some serious digging through Facebook’s illegal animal trade and found over 2,000 posts of wild animals for sale across nearly 100 species, and that was just from one country (READ MORE).

High standard sackings: Evening Standard journalists were left reeling last Friday as owner Evgeny Lebedev celebrated his ascension into the House of Lords by firing many of the staff at the paper that allowed him to get cosy with Boris Johnson in the first place. As staff finished sending the last Standard of the week to print, they joined an “all hands” Zoom meeting led by new chief executive Charles Yardley, whom few of them had met. With little ado he announced a third of them would lose their jobs (source).

Cognitive Hacking: As readers of TruePublica will know, the use of social media to influence the public can have dangerous real-world consequences. Radicalizing just one per cent of the population could be enough to destabilise a democracy, a goal that could be “dangerously easy” to reach with today’s social media platforms. TikTok is an especially powerful tool to influence thousands of people because of the way it uses “artificial intelligence to hook its users” (source). Paul Dabrowa, an artificial intelligence and social media expert, told FT Alphaville that TikTok’s artificial intelligence uses a similar method as dog trainers, encouraging users to act in certain ways. This kind of tool in the hands of a foreign power willing to influence a foreign population could have devastating ramifications for democracies (READ MORE).

Political adverts: In an attempt to cut down on misinformation, the British government has announced plans to force all online political campaign materials to carry a ‘digital imprint’ showing who’s behind them. Political advertising on social media is largely unregulated so new digital imprints would apply to all types of campaign content, regardless of the country it’s being promoted from, and across all digital platforms. They would be required at all times, rather than just during election campaigns. The imprint should ideally be displayed as part of the digital content, or at least be easily available via a link. It’s a set up just ripe for blatant abuse. If you email Dom – he’ll tell you how. (READ MORE).

Market domination: Two people now control more than two-thirds of the UK’s print newspaper market. Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which owns the Mail, Metro and i titles has 38% share of the UK national print newspaper market across its four titles, followed by Murdoch’s News UK, which owns the Sun and Times titles (source). The Britsh press is considered the most right-wing in Europe (source).

LinkedIn Spoofing: An interesting story about how Financial Times journalists have been receiving strange connection requests on LinkedIn from supposed colleagues domiciled in China where they have no offices. So, after a deep-dive they think, although not fully sure what to make of it all, that deep fakes and other forms of quotes, copying and so on will come of it. The warning here being, LinkedIn is just another social media platform and is now being solidly infected by those with nefarious intent (READ MORE).

QAnon and Conspiracies: The QAnon community, with its scattershot “predictions” and conspiracy theories, is one which could only have come from social media. Its spread is inherently digital, building through social networks and message-board “leaks,” to the point where an internal Facebook investigation has revealed thousands of Groups and Pages, many of them private, on the platform, with millions of accounts contained therein. This article – recommended reading by fake news debunker ‘First Draft’ prizes open the conspiracy theories being banded around (READ MORE).




Facebook – danger to public health: While medical professionals continue to raise the alarm of the dangers of inaccurate information on social networks, a new report (source) estimates health misinformation distributed through Facebook has generated 3.8 billion views last year. The top offenders had almost four times as many views as leading health institutions such as the World Health Organisation (source).

Daily Mail Turns: When the Daily Mail decides to attack a Tory government you know they are in trouble. Under its new editor, the DM seems to be creating some distance between itself and this government and says that the public has lost respect for No 10. “They are not fools and know a rudderless ship when they see one,” says former Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Sumpton in his article for the DM. He went on to say – “they’ve turned a crisis into a calamity, prolonging and magnifying it” (source). There have been a number of negative headlines in the DM about this government in recent weeks.

Lawsuits: The Covid-19 crisis has been handled by the government so badly that dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements have opened way for corporations and investors to demand compensation for lockdowns. The UK taxpayer, already financially overburdened by poor government stewardship over the last two decades – now faces a wave of lawsuits from foreign companies who complain that their profits have been hit by the pandemic (source).

Desperation: Companies are receiving thousands of applications for jobs which would only have attracted a handful of applicants before the coronavirus pandemic, research has found. The most popular role was an entry-level position as a paralegal which received 4,228 applications. Some 3,333 people applied for a job as a human resources assistant and 3,272 for a trainee accountancy job, according to jobs website CV-Library. An advert for a job as a warehouse worker in Northumberland received 2,932 applications, 2,653 applied for a factory job in Sunderland and 2,154 for an administrator role in Coventry (source).

Gov’t plea for Guinea Pigs: August 17th sees a government press release asking for volunteers to get in line for a Covid jab to test a mass vaccination programme. Within two days over 100,000 had signed up. However, UK researchers urge more volunteers across all groups to sign-up, especially the over 65s and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (source gov.uk).

UK SME’s – are at risk of 65,000 cybersecurity attacks daily, with around 4,500 of these being successful, and the figure could be much higher since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. The findings come from a new report by global recruiter Robert Walters and data provider Vacancysoft, which claims that the cost of data breaches to UK companies is around £2.48 million per instance (source).

Covid Loans: British banks’ lending to businesses under government-backed COVID-19 loan schemes neared 53 billion pounds as of last weekend, weekly finance ministry figures showed on Tuesday (source).

SME’s Survival Rate: Four in five (81%) UK SME’s are confident they will recover from Covid, according to research from digital bank Starling and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA). Nearly two in five (39%) firms have changed their line of business to survive the impact of the pandemic. Of this group, many have shifted their business model by going online, prioritising digital products and setting up delivery services. The research also shows that many business owners have had to make tough decisions during the crisis, with a third (30%) using their own money to keep the business afloat and a similar number (33%) being forced to furlough staff. More than a fifth (21%) are not confident they can pay their bills each month but still think their businesses will survive (source).



Smelly stuff

Daily Mail – As The Daily Mail screams across its front pages “GET BACK TO WORK!” and its columnists decry the wearing of facemask as nothing more than ‘muzzles’ and everything else is a conspiracy theory, one should not forget that empty trains and city centre newsagents is very bad for the newspaper business.

Carrie on Boris – If anyone believes Boris and Carrie are camping in Scotland – they are smokin too much. Carrie Symonds likes nothing less than a luxury yacht or villa in the sun and Boris can’t cook –  so says Petronella Wyatt, who had a four-year affair with the prime minister. And no doubt both require the assistance of nanny to help with 3-month old Willie Johnson (who in their right mind would call their Johnson ‘Willie’?)

Peer Pay: Increase in public money spent on Peers’ allowances and expenses last year was up 27 per cent per Peer. Average pay increase for a new NHS nurse between 2010 and 2020 has increased by 24 per cent. Inflation average over 10 years 2.07 per cent per year, just about wiping out all gains for nurses.

Spaffing Cash: The latest spaffing of taxpayers cash goes to Public First, a small research firm with links to Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove. It has been awarded £956,000 worth of government contracts which as you would expect were not put out to tender. The firm is run by James Frayne, who has worked with Cummings on several projects in the past, and Rachel Wolf, who co-wrote the 2019 Tory manifesto (source).



Could it get any worse…

Uni’s legal fears: Universities have had to call in lawyers “to assess their obligations to 55,000 pupils who missed out on their first choices last week and have signed up to other universities, but may now have good enough grades to be accepted,” the Times reports. (source). Another 80,000 pupils who were planning to appeal their grades are also now hunting for university places. “The government will need to step up and support universities through the challenges created by this late policy change,” Universities UK Chief Executive Alistair Jarvis said. “We are seeking urgent clarification and advice from government on a number of crucial issues.” In plain English – parents, some of them wealthy enough to do so are planning to sue if their children are not given the places they were promised.

Assange: Declassified has published 6 investigations into legal irregularities and conflicts of interest in the Assange US extradition case. It alleges that the husband of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate overseeing WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US, has financial links to the British military establishment, including institutions and individuals exposed by WikiLeaks. Who’d have guessed that the ‘establishment’ was involved in the incarceration Assange? (READ MORE).

Free Assange: Some 169 lawyers and legal groups have joined calls for Julian Assange’s extradition to halt. In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Home Secretary Priti Patel, 169 individuals and international legal organisations called for the Government to intervene. If extradited, campaigners said the 49-year-old will face a “show trial” in the US. They added he has been subject to surveillance in the UK which violates his right to a fair trial. In June, more than 200 doctors from 33 countries signed a letter accusing UK and American officials of “intensifying Julian Assange’s psychological torture” in The Lancet. In July, dozens of press freedom, human rights and privacy rights organisations co-signed an open letter to the UK Government calling for Assange’s immediate release. The government has not responded to these requests demonstrating to the world that the rule of law in Britain has been revoked (source). The mainstream media who benefitted so much from Assange at the time of the now famous collateral damage’ leaks have made representation at all.

Energy Debt: British energy suppliers are fearing a surge in bad debts in the autumn as the UK government’s job retention scheme draws to an end. Several large energy suppliers, including Centrica and Bulb, have expressed concerns over a rise in households defaulting on their electricity and gas bills in the second half of the year as unemployment suddenly climbs and the government’s furlough scheme ends in October (source). What they are really worried about is that they-ve paid out so much money in dividends to shareholders that there’s not so much cash on hand to absorb of rapidly rising unemployment (source).



Fact File

  • UK A Level grading – 720,000 results. 39% – or 280,000 – downgraded (source).
  • The number of families with children claiming Universal Credit increased by a third as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic took hold, new government figures reveal (source)
  • More than three million UK households are now in serious financial difficulty due directly to Covid-19 (source).
  • When asked to identify which issue they felt was the single most important being faced by Great Britain today, 37% of adults said the coronavirus pandemic and 23% said the economy (source).
  • 75% of Britons – including 69% of Conservative voters – think the UK government have handled the situation regarding pupils’ exam results badly (source)
  • Elizabeth Denham CBE is the UK’s Information Commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Cheshire. She lives and works in Canada (Freedom of Info Doc pdf)
  • 25,000 people have lost their jobs from major UK employers within the last month – the equivalent to the population of Staines, Newton Abbot or Fleetwood (source).


Tech File

  • Like the banks in the 2008 financial crisis, Facebook and other tech giants are now “too big to fail”, according to research from Oxford University and they now carry inherent social risks if they collapse (source)
  • Your guide to every major social media company’s misinformation policies on vital topics from COVID-19 to voting (READ MORE)
  • Rolls-Royce resumes testing on revolutionary low-emissions aero engine technology at Derby (source)
  • Build to Rent technology is going full on smart. Its Internet of Things (IoT) multi-sensor will be installed throughout Moda’s residential communities and will measure humidity, temperature, CO2, light, noise, motion and occupancy – creating a wellness score (source).
  • Apple is accused of making ‘aggressive moves’ to ‘intercept’ news publishers’ traffic by creating a ‘walled garden.’ Publishers are concerned that a technical change to Apple’s software will lead to traffic being diverted from their websites to Apple News+. The tech giant launched Apple News+ – a premium version of the free Apple News app that costs $9.99 a month in the US or £9.99 a month in the UK – last year (source).
  • The average data breach costs UK companies £2.48m per instance. To make matters worse, 44 per cent of the public would not use the same brand again if their data was breached/lost. A whopping 48 per cent of UK companies do not have adequate cybersecurity to support homeworking and leave themselves open to cybersecurity attacks (source).



Quotes of the Week

  • Gavin Williamson’s ruining of the life chances of thousands of young people has parallels with Brexit. The lack of exams this year was known months ago. The problems were clear and obvious. Yet the solution was sloppy and half-hearted and caused more damage than it prevented” (source Edwin Hayward author).
  • “This year it will be possible to mount a judicial review of A level results. By next year the government wants to take that right away. They want the right to impose their social engineering project without any accountability. Is this the sort of government you really wanted?” (source Richard Murphy Tax Research UK)
  • “The fact that the wealthiest in the UK live 8 years longer than the poorest, and have 20 more years of disease-free living, is as shocking as any Covid statistic. It’s also one of the main reasons our Covid outcomes are so poor. Covid accelerates existing inequalities.” Dr Phil Hammond Private Eye MD and author (source).
  • “The fact Matt Hancock’s pal Dido Harding was chosen by him to head up the new health institute despite having no expertise and having failed on track and trace will be of great interest to the PM’s Anti-Corruption Champion who is – *checks notes* – Dido Harding’s husband.” David Sneider – actor, writer, director (source)



Recommended Weekend Reading

Belarus and Putin – what you don’t know: There is a misperception in western media that Lukashenko is Putin’s man. That is not true; Putin views him as an exasperating and rather dim legacy. There is also a misperception in the west that Lukashenko really lost the recent election. That is not true either. A former British ambassador has some enlightening words about the wheels of power (READ MORE).

The House of Lords – is a cosy club for the privileged few. It’s a private members’ club – it is one which has real powers over the law of the land. We’re basically alone in Europe for having a fully-unelected revising chamber. And no other country in the democratic world has a second chamber bigger than ours. Globally, only Communist China has a bigger body, and they merely meet to rubberstamp government policies. France manages on 348 members. Spain with 257. India, with over a billion people, has just 245 and Japan 242. It’s time to abolish the bloated House of Lords and create a new chamber to revise our legislation – one where the public picks the members and can hold them accountable. The oldest political campaigner in the world, the Electoral Reform Society has some interesting facts and figures for you (READ MORE).

Climate Crisis: “Stop pretending and recognise the brutal facts about what has been going on for the last 30 years and why it has been such an abject failure. It is realism, not spin and fake optimism about progress and costs, that we need.” These are words of a prof. Dieter Helm at Oxford University who makes a compelling argument as to what we really have to do to save ourselves from the coming catastrophe. He rails against people fooling themselves. Those who think China is leading the way towards a green future are seriously mistaken. Activists who prophesy the end of coal and other fossil fuels are deluded (READ MORE).

Britain’s Last Gasp: The likelihood is that Britain will inextricably tie itself to a form of Atlantasism that will do irreversible harm to the British way of life. This is the ultimate desire of American born Boris Johnson and the shadowy and largely undisclosed free-market fundamentalists that support him. And as each day counts down and the dawn of 2021 approaches many will wonder how Britain ended up sacrificing itself to a dying financial doctrine and become a de facto playground for wealthy foreign asset strippers (READ MORE).



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