Local Time

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Could we face gas rationing? Bills could rise by more than £200 as British reserves could run dry in 36 HOURS

UK gas stores fall to their lowest levels for three years as plunging temperatures force millions of householders to turn up their heating SSE boss warns there is a 'very real risk' of the lights going out in the UK in the next few years


PUBLISHED: 10:20, 22 March 2013 | UPDATED: 11:47, 23 March 2013

Households could see their gas bills rise by more than £200 before next winter as Britain’s gas reserves run low, leaving the country dependent on costly foreign exports. The UK’s gas stores have less than two days’ supplies remaining after plunging temperatures forced millions of householders to turn up their heating. With more snow forecast today and the unseasonable freeze to continue into next week, the UK could be left relying on expensive imports from Norway through an under-sea pipeline.

Short supply: Gas stores were at their lowest level for three years last night

The shortfall is likely to push up the long-term price of gas and could result in household tariffs rising by up to 15 per cent before next winter, analysts warned. The country could even face gas rationing - one energy expert warned yesterday that if the cold snap continues, rationing is ‘inevitable’.


New simpler energy tariffs may lead to up to a million pensioners and low users paying more for their gas and electricity Households warned of new fuel bills squeeze as energy giants predicted to treble profit margins this year Can you get a better deal on your enegry bills? Energy bills: Is it worth switching and which are the best deals?

If this happens, businesses and power stations will be restricted first, but then householders will be ordered to cut down on the amount of gas they use for heating their homes. Gas stores were at their lowest levels for three years last night, sending UK gas prices soaring to near-record highs.

‘There is no other Western economy of our size that uses as much gas as we do but has so little storage,’ said energy analyst Peter Atherton at Liberum Capital. The UK has only 15 days of storage capacity – less than a sixth of its European neighbours. The US, in contrast, has six months’ worth. Meanwhile the boss of Scottish and Southern Energy has warned there is a ‘very real risk’ of the lights going out in the UK as the Government is ‘significantly underestimating the scale of the capacity crunch facing the UK in the next three years’. SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said firms that want to build new power stations are being held back by delays to government legislation. SSE has put back any spending decisions on new plants until 2015 – meaning its fleet of generators will not come online until at least 2018. At the same time, four of its power stations are closing down before the end of 2014. Around 10 per cent of all the UK’s generating capacity will cease producing next month, official figures show.

Price rise: The shortfall is likely to push up the long-term price of gas and could result in household tariffs rising by up to 15 per cent before next winter

Wholesale gas prices surged again to a record high on Friday, after one of its three gas import pipelines shut down unexpectedly. The operator of the UK-Belgium Interconnector pipeline said a technical problem had forced the shutdown, without giving more details. If the pipeline remains shut for a number of days, Britain's grid operator will be forced to trigger all emergency supply options, including reducing demand from contracted users, which will cause an even higher price spike, traders said. Ships bringing desperately needed supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar are still more than two days away, and could be delayed further because of the bad weather. Companies pump gas into stores during summer months when it is cheaper, then draw it down to sell on in winter. British stores were 86 per cent full at the turn of the year, but had less than 20 per cent remaining at the start of the month. Now just 10 per cent is left – not even enough to meet the UK’s needs for two full days. Last night the combined stores across Britain had 491million cubic metres (mcm) of gas, according to official data from Gas Infrastructure Europe. But the average daily use in the UK is 327.1mcm – more than a fifth higher than the average for this time of year. The stores would not hold enough to keep Britain warm for two days if other supplies – such as the Norwegian pipeline – were to develop faults. The Government admitted gas supplies were under pressure, but Downing Street said David Cameron was ‘confident’ that they would not run out. But energy analysts warned that with the freezing conditions set to last into next month the consequences were ‘worrying’. Ann Robinson, analyst for uSwitch, said: ‘If this dreadful weather continues for the next two or three weeks we should be very worried, because if we get into a position where we do run out of gas there is not a lot that can be done in the short term. ‘Rationing would be inevitable, for businesses and domestic users and maybe for gas-powered electricity producers as well, so we might be looking at electricity rationing too.’ She said the Government’s response to the crisis had been ‘very complacent’. ‘The UK gas market has yet again been exposed to its deep-rooted supply problems,’ said City analyst Sabine Schels at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Already Centrica, which owns British Gas, has begun rationing supplies from its own storage facility Rough, off the Yorkshire Coast, which holds around three quarters of the UK’s entire supply. Stocks at the site have been ‘depleting rapidly,’ Mrs Schels said. She warned 11 days ago that, ‘at the maximum withdrawal rate, supply at this facility would run out in 13 days’. Analysts said soaring prices now could mean traders – who set energy prices up to a year ahead – would raise their forecasts for next winter. It would leave energy firms, which buy a lot of their gas in advance, facing rises of up to 15 per cent, which they would pass on in higher tariffs. The average family’s dual-fuel bill has more than doubled over the past nine years, from £522 in 2004 to £1,352 this year. A rise of 15 per cent could add £200 on to that. What is more, in April Norway will reduce the capacity of its pipeline for maintenance work – further increasing pressure on the system. It means the UK may need to cut gas supplies to some big industrial customers, as it did in 2010 at a time of severe gas shortages. The Department of Energy said: ‘Our market has spare import capacity built in. However, we take gas security and the risk of harmful price spikes seriously and monitor price and supply developments working closely with National Grid.’ A Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) spokeswoman added this morning: ‘Protracted cold weather increases demand but the UK gas market is responsive and our gas needs are continuing to be met. ‘Gas storage would never be the sole source of gas meeting our needs, so it is misleading to talk purely about how many days' supply is in storage.’ She said that while half of the nation's gas needs were supplied from the North Sea, there were also pipelines from Norway and elsewhere in Europe, shipments of liquefied natural gas and storage. ‘All can and are providing significant gas to meet the UK's needs,’ the spokeswoman added. ‘Storage levels are low at the moment - as you'd expect towards the end of winter - and the UK gas market is tight. ‘But the market is responding as it is designed to do - gas prices are rising and supply is being maintained accordingly. For example in recent weeks gas has been flowing in from continental Europe in high volumes.' Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s charity director general, highlighted fears for the elderly if the gas shortages become a reality. She said: ‘This continuing bitter weather is a major threat to the health of older people, and older people need to know their gas supplies are guaranteed. Age UK would like the Government and the industry to offer them some public reassurance this weekend that the UK’s gas will continue to flow.’ SSE chief executive Ian Marchant added ministers needed to fast-track payments to companies to incentivise them to build new power stations. A system of fixed payments to companies that run power stations is not due to start until 2018. But Marchant said this was too late and called for them to start next year. ‘Our power stations have to be able to operate economically over the medium term,’ added SSE’s generation director Paul Smith. The government is currently attempting to pass legislation to try and attract £110bn of new money into power generators across the UK. Energy minister John Hayes said: ‘We’re alive to the challenge facing us. The Bill before Parliament will set the conditions for the investment needed to keep Britain’s lights on in the long term.’

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why did the Prophet (peace be upon him) have multiple marriages?

Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

Thank you for your question.

All Prophets (peace and blessings upon them) remain of high status, ethics, and exemplary character, even though people spread hate against them. Our responsibility is to constantly practice and portray the best example of the Prophetic teachings. It is always best to busy oneself with the positive rather than the negative. That being said, some of the answers the scholars have presented to your question, are listed below:

• Marrying multiple wives was a common custom during that era. This is why no Christian, Jew, idolater, agnostic or atheist etc. living at his time, ever objected to his polygamous marriages. In fact most males of all faiths had multiple wives.

• Islam introduced limits. Men of the time have been recorded to have hundreds of wives. Islam restricted the number to four.

• All marriages of Mu ammad (peace and blessings upon him) were commanded by Allah Almighty. Hence he was obeying the command of God.

• First marriage of Mu ammad (peace and blessings upon him) was at the age of 25. All marriages apart from the first were after the age of 50.

• Most of his wives were alive for only two to three years, in marriage with him, as they were aged women.

• All his wives apart from one were widows. He married the widows to support and help them. During his time, marrying a widow, especially with children, would be looked upon as a curse. Hence the Prophet Mu ammad (peace and blessings upon him) broke this inappropriate custom demonstrating that there is no curse by marrying widows.

• By being in polygamous marriages, the wives were able to transfer the Prophetic teachings of domestic life. Many matters of religion are only known to us from the wives. A'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) is amongst those who narrate the most hadiths from the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).

• The numerous marriages of the Prophet Mu ammad (peace and blessings upon him) were a means to establish close ties with the tribes, the wives originated from. These marriage bonds resulted in the tribes becoming extended family. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) was able to reach out to them to convey the message of God to them. Mufti Shafi (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) writes the following concerning this topic:

Polygamy and its currency before Islam, that one man could have more than one wife was something considered permissible in all religions of the world even before the advent of Islam. The custom prevailed in Arabia, India, Iran, Egypt, Babylon and among peoples elsewhere. Its natural validity cannot be denied even to this day. The Europeans of the present age tried to break away from the practice of their predecessors and made multiplicity of marriage impermissible. It resulted in the multiplicity of concubines and girl-friends retained out of wedlock. It was the validity of the natural that there has been a consistent opinion bank in the West (though not so effective) which recognizes the efficacy of plurality of marriage. Davenport, the well-known Christian writer has deduced from the Bible that plurality of wives is not only favourable but is a source of blessing from God. Others such as Father Nixon, John Milton and Isac Taylor have supported this view strongly. Similarly, Vedic teachings permit unlimited number of wives, even in tens and thirteens and twenty sevens, at one time. Shri Krishna, a highly respected deity among Hindus, had hundreds of wives.

The truth of the matter is that a religion or law which aims to establish an infra-structure of chastity and modesty and considers the eradication of adultery as necessary has no way out except that it permits plurality of wives. Apart from being a preventive measure against adultery, it serves as a remedial approach to the problem of comparatively larger female population in some areas as compared to that of men. If such permission was not granted, mistresses and prostitutes will proliferate. This is why nations which do not permit plurality of wives must live in rampant adultery (calling it 'free sex' hardly changes the reality).

Even in our own time, if we look at the state of nations in Europe and America, we will see that they look down on what they call polygamy and put a ban on plurality of wives, but they permit a man to practice adultery with as many women as he can get under the cover of 'friendship', (and unlimited are the euphimisms invented to give it other names, such as, 'relationship', 'affair', 'consenting adults', 'union', 'partner' to get around the ban). Saying no to marriage and yes to adultery is certainly very strange! To be short, we can say that the custom of taking a large number of wives was prevailing before Islam without any imposition of limits.

The history of nations and beliefs shows that no religion or law had drawn a line in this matter, neither the Jews and Christians, nor the Hindus and Aryans or the Zoarastrians.

During the early period of Islam, this custom continued without being limited. As a result, people initially took too many wives to satisfy their greed. Later on they could not do justice to all of them and these wives of theirs lived like prisoners bound in the chains of marriage. Under such conditions, the idea of an equitable treatment of wives was practically non-existant. It was all a matter of personal choice or whim which could make the darling of the day a history of tomorrow. The concern for standing rights was a far cry.

It was the Holy Qur'an which stopped this great injustice prevailing in the human society at large. It restricted the plurality or multiplicity of wives by declaring that keeping more than four women under the bond of marriage was forbidden (haram). In addition to that, stern warning was given against any contravention of the Divine command which emphatically demanded that equality in fulfilling the rights of women taken into the bond of marriage at the same time must be maintained faithfully.” (Ma’arif al Qur’an)

And Allah knows best.

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Badat Hadith of the Day Imam Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto and Director of Mathabah Institute

“Castrate them!” “Burn them!” “Bullet in the head!”

Facebook Israelis react to photo of Palestinian kids SubmittedbyAliAbunimahonFri,03/22/2013-22:01

An image of three Palestinian boys sparked an outpouring of violent and sadistic fantasies after it was reposted to an Israeli Facebook page (Original source and screenshot of context). (Shadi Hatem)

Having regularly documented the horrifying racism and violent fantasies frequently expressed by Israelis on Facebook or Instagram, I thought I had seen everything.

But this may be the worst yet. On Wednesday, the picture above of three Palestinian boys in a tent was posted on a popular Facebook page titled in Hebrew “We are all in favor of death to terrorists.” Under the picture is the following caption:

Arab boys in the illegal Arab outpost established near Maale Adumim. What should the Israeli army do to them?

This is an apparent reference to the peaceful “Bab al-Shams” encampment established by Palestinians near Jerusalem to protest Israel’s plans to seize more land for settlements. The protest was timed to coincide with the visit of US President Barack Obama.

“Run the tent over with a truck/Merkava tank/a bus/ whatever it takes to crush and kill these children,” suggested Facebook user Lidor Swisa.

As of Friday there were almost 200 comments under the post offering suggestions of what the Israeli army should do – the vast majority fantasizing extreme sadistic violence and murder.

What makes this even more than usually disturbing is many of the Israeli commentators appear to be high school students themselves – perhaps only a year or two from mandatory army service when they will be empowered to carry out their fantasies.

Soldiers and adults join in the virtual pogrom

Kfir Brigade sergeant Ohad Halevy believes Palestinian children peacefully protesting should be “slaughtered” (Source).

But others, such as Shlomo Levi, are clearly already army-age adults. His suggestion?

Shlomo Levi thinks Palestinian children should be gassed to death (Source).

“I’d have thrown nerve gas into the tent and closed it and made them breath it until the end”

Kfir Infantry Brigade member David Kozolovski justifies violence against Palestinian children (Source).

David Kozolovski wrote, “To all those comparing Jews to Nazis, Jews did not try to kill German civilians,” thereby justifying the orgy of violent fantasies against the children.

Kozolovski’s profile pictures on Facebook include images of him in his Israeli army uniform bearing the insignia of the Kfir Infantry Brigade.

Ohad Halevy, another soldier in the Kfir Brigade simply wrote “Slaughter them!” of the three children in the photo.

“May you die garbage Arabs, amen!”

This is only a small selection of the representative and typical comments posted under the picture of the three boys in the tent.

“Disgusting. Burn the tent” - Oriel Diller

“Eliminate” - Zevika Gvirz

“Artillery training ‘mistake’ ” - Igor Gonopolskiy

“Burn them” - Yaron Gringauz

“May you die garbage Arabs, amen!” -Shahar Dayan

“Run them over and shoot them. It’s not complicated!” - Elad Sender

“Take the tent with the people in it, put it on a trailer and dump them back where they came from” - Sharon Carmi

“A hand grenade inside the tent!” - Dvir Dagan

“Put a couple of bullets in their heads and we’re done” - Adi Maman

“Set them on fire” - Yosef Porotzky

“Fuck them” - Aria Yehudai

A minority of users objected to these pervasive comments. Lilach Lilush, said, “Excuse me … I disagree… what do you mean ‘eliminate?’ What are we, an arm of Hamas or Hizballah? We are more enlightened. We should just return them safely where they came from.”

Even in her objection Lilush could not but stereotype Arabs as monsters compared to “enlightened” Israelis. But still, hers was a very rare sentiment amid the frenzy of bloodlust that sees the three Palestinian boys in the picture as legitimate targets for extreme violence.

Widespread incitement and racism

Again, I stress as in my previous posts, that this horrifying racism and sadism towards Arabs seems to be pervasive among Israelis who use social media and reflects the much broader phenomenon of escalating racism in Israel against Palestinians and Africans.

Haaretz noted, for instance, in a recent article that racist incitement by Israeli public figures doubled in 2012. It also reported on how the kind of crude and shocking racism seen in these comments is common among Israeli schoolchildren in Jerusalem.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan has also documented in her recent book the pervasive anti-Arab racism and stereotypes that Israeli children are exposed to at school which may contribute to this horrifying phenomenon.

It is also notable that the “We are all in favor of death to terrorists” Facebook group has more than 41,000 “Likes” and images of Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis deemed traitorous “leftists” are frequently posted attracting similarly vile comments.

In his speech in Jerusalem this week, President Obama also observed that “Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.”

The violence is not just virtual

In at least one case we know of, an Israeli soldier, Maxim Vinogradov, announced on Facebook his intention to assist in the “annihilation” of Arabs just days before he went out and shot father of two Ziad Jilani at a checkpoint in Jerusalem for no known reason in 2010.

An example of the Israeli army’s routine brutality against children was on display on the very day Obama landed when dozens of children as young as eight were abused and kidnapped by Israeli soldiers as they were on their way to school in Hebron.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

China Claimed US Was Hacking Military Websites

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army seems to be fighting back at hacking accusations made by the American officials and security companies in February. The Army’s weapon of choice is a range of counter-accusations against the American military.

Press reports confirmed that in a statement posted on China’s Ministry of Defence official website, its representative claimed that the Ministry of Defence website, along with the China Military Online website, have recently suffered serious threats from hacking attacks. In addition, the representative stressed that the number of attacks had increased in recent years.

The Ministry of Defence claimed the websites suffered 144,000 attacks per month last year and attacks from the US accounted for 63% of all attacks in 2012. In addition, the ministry expressed its concerns over plans of the United States to expand cyber warfare capabilities.

The Ministry of Defence also dismissed a recent report by security outfit named Mandiant. The latter claimed to have pinpointed the origin of multiple cyber attacks on the targets of the United States to a 12-story building occupied by a People’s Liberation Army cyber warfare unit. According to spokesperson, the report appeared inaccurate, unprofessional and full of loopholes. Geng Yansheng claimed that Chinese legislation forbids hacking attacks that undermine mutual networking safety behaviour, and the local government has always resolutely fought crime live action. In the meantime, the Chinese army also doesn’t support any hacker activity. 

Microsoft Owes $1 billion in Europe's Taxes

It recently turned out that Steve Ballmer had skimped on paying Danish taxes called Danegeld. The latter is what civilized nations pay to the government in order to make sure that they don’t get invaded by Vikings. They say that the last person in England who avoided paying these taxes was Aethelred the unready, and it didn’t end well for him.

According to the local press, Microsoft owes the Danish Treasury about a billion dollars in what appeared to be its largest tax avoidance case. In the meantime, the country’s government is trying to work out a way of getting its paws on its money without having to pillage New York, like it did plain old York. If Denmark manages to squeeze the cash out of the software giant, it could finance a new super hospital, build the next Silkeborg Motorway or pay salary to 15,000 teachers.

Everything started when the software giant acquired the Danish IT outfit Navision. Microsoft set the price of the rights to the Navision program much lower than the market level and finally let its Irish subsidiary purchase the rights of its Danish subsidiary.

In other words, the value of the Danish company was made too small to be taxed. Indeed, if the software company had its way it would get a refund. The statistics say that Microsoft’s Danish subsidiary previously earned $11 billion, which means the taxes due should be almost $5 billion plus interest of $0.8 billion. But Ireland taxes are much lower than those of Denmark.

In response, Microsoft claims it has obeyed all the rules, but the company received a nasty surprise after it got its tax bill and a following Danish investigation. Apparently, the software giant has done a sterling job to hide its money from the tax authorities for years now and managed to exploit every loophole it could find. Nevertheless, with most European countries short of cash, and other tax payers bled dry, multinational corporations are supposed to finally be told to stop being bludgers. Let’s see if there’s any result.

Bradley Manning Admitted 10 Spying Charges

Bradley Edward Manning, the US army soldier who leaked secret cables to WikiLeaks has finally admitted 10 spying charges. The 25-year-old soldier pleaded guilty to ten charges that he illegally obtained and transferred American government secrets. The lawyers point out that he could serve up to twenty years in jail for these charges.

However, Bradley Manning pleaded not guilty to a dozen of more serious charges, including espionage for aiding the enemy. As a result, his criminal case will continue at a general court-martial in June 2013, and the soldier could spend the rest of his life in prison if these charges stick.

Press reports revealed that the soldier admitted he leaked the video of a helicopter gun battle, State Department cables, an Army field manual and Army documents on Iraq and Afghanistan which contained the military’s patrol reports there. In addition, Manning admitted that he leaked confidential file assessments of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and 5 classified records from an American bombing in the Farah Province of Afghanistan, which resulted in up to 30 civilians’ death.

When being asked repeatedly by the judge, Denise Lind, whether he wanted to go forward with the guilty pleas, Bradley Manning answered “yes”. The soldier pointed out that the Apache team in the video he leaked worried him, because they seemed not to value human life. In his statement, Manning compared the team in the now infamous “Collateral Murder” video to a “child torturing an ant with a magnifying glass”, according to press reports. In the meanwhile, Bradley Manning has so far spent 1,007 days in prison without trial. 

US ISP Will Hijack Subscribers’ Browsers

Since nobody in the United States thought it was a good idea to reign in the entertainment industry, it is currently acceptable for an Internet service provider to hijack a suspect infringer’s browser.

One of the largest American providers, Comcast, has explained how it is going to deal with its subscribers under the new “six-strikes” legislation. After 4 notifications the broadband provider will hijack Internet browsers of suspected serial pirates with annoying pop-ups. As you can understand, this will effectively make it impossible to browse the web, and the pop-up will only go away after the subscriber resolves the problem with a Customer Security Assurance representative.

Like other Internet service providers, Comcast starts out with alerts to inform its users that their account has been used to infringe copyright, sending out emails containing details of the suspected infringement. However, after 4 warnings, the repeated infringers will enter the so-called “mitigation phase”, which means that their service will be interrupted by the ISP.

It is still clear how the subscribers will manage to resolve the problem and what they will have to do. In the meantime, Comcast points out that the infringers won’t lose their account under the copyright alert program – in fact, they just won’t be able to use it. In addition, the ISP assures its subscribers that the browser hijack system has been tested for years, and it is supposed to work smoothly. It seems that the company believes its technology is unsinkable.

It turned out that this technology has been used to alert the users when their computer is infected by a malicious bot. However, it hasn’t been tested against a subscriber who fought against it. The ISP can be asked to hand over IP addresses of serial pirates if they fail to stop infringing. In fact, this move of Comcast will mean an end to the Open Wireless Movement, which has been allowing subscribers to share their access to the Internet with neighbors or complete strangers.

Industry experts admit that this measure is unlikely to be effective. What is more likely to happen is that people will switch to VPN providers and BitTorrent proxies – real infringers know how to avoid detection. Still, the move proves that the owners of automatic weapons have more freedoms in the United States than Internet users.

My Neighbourhood: a Palestinian boy's view of Israeli settlements - video

Which? calls for government action on nuisance phone calls and texts

Consumer rights group Which? blames claims management companies for plaguing people with unwanted communications

Man on phone
Research published by Which? suggests that seven in 10 people received unsolicited calls during the last three months. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
The government must take immediate action to curb the spread of nuisance calls and texts, a leading consumer rights group has urged. Which? blames claims management companies for plaguing consumers with the majority of the UK's unwanted communications.
The organisation says the Information Commissioner's Office, the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading must set up a joint taskforce to stem the problem, with a particular focus on the personal injury and payment protection insurance claims industry.
Research published by Which? suggests that seven in 10 people received unsolicited calls and four in ten received an unwanted text during the last three months.
The watchdog found that one in four of its members who made a claim on their car insurance were contacted by a claims management company within three months. Nearly half of these were contacted in a week, and many were bombarded by repeated calls and texts – 22% received 10 or more texts and 12% received 10 or more calls.
Currently, a number of leading insurers all take fees for referring customers to claims management companies (with customers' permission), including: the AA, Admiral, Direct Line, eSure, Lloyds TSB, Tesco and Zurich.
But from April 2013, new legislation will ban any insurer from receiving payment for passing on customers' details to a claims management company or a legal firm following a personal injury claim, although this doesn't cover non-injury claims such as car repairs.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: "Unwanted calls or texts are not just a nuisance, they can be intrusive and distressing. Many of us have been bombarded with spurious claims of PPI or injury compensation, and people are telling us they are totally fed up with this nuisance and want to see action.
"We want the regulators to work together to properly police and punish those responsible for unwanted calls and texts, using the existing law. If they are unwilling or unable to enforce the rules, the government should step in."
Earlier this year Ofcom monitored a six-month period in 2012 and found that 71% of people with a landline received an unwanted marketing call and 63% encountered a recorded message.
Which? says a new joint taskforce should "proactively and forensically" scrutinise the activities of claims management companies over the next 12 weeks to expose the source of the problem and punish those found breaking regulators' rules with substantial fines and suspension of licences. It also wants to see tougher regulation from the government to clean up the claims management industry.
The organisation advises consumers to never opt in to third party marketing when they take out an insurance policy and to always tell their insurer that they don't want to be contacted by a claims management firm or a legal firm.
Consumers can also register with the Telephone Preference Service (an organisation run by the Direct Marketing Association on behalf of phones regulator Ofcom), which can help cut nuisance calls by a third. If you are registered with the TPS and still receive calls, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office on  0300 123 3000. You can also forward spam texts to your mobile phone network provider

Police issue scratch and sniff CANNABIS cards to help the public spot drugs farms

  • Homes across 13 areas will get one of the police-backed cards in the post
  • When scratched the scent of growing marijuana is released
Cards that release the stench of cannabis when scratched are to be sent to households all over the country to help people sniff out marijuana farms hidden nearby.
Crimestoppers say more must be done to tackle illegal drugs farms, which are up 15 per cent in the past year, so the scented paperwork will be sent in the post to homes across 13 areas.
When scraped the 'scratch and sniff' cards are said to produce the exact smell cannabis plants produce when they are growing, so citizens can call the police if they notice it.
Household help: Homes in the UK will receive this card in the post which produces the smell of growing cannabis when scraped
Household help: Homes in the UK will receive this card in the post which produces the smell of growing cannabis when scraped
Science: Experts believe the pilot, which was first tested on 30,000 homes in Holland, will help police track down the illegal plantations, which are up 15 per cent in a year
Science: Experts believe the pilot, which was first tested on 30,000 homes in Holland, will help police track down the illegal plantations, which are up 15 per cent in a year
The technique has already been used successfully in Holland where the illegal growing of the drug is rife and a mail-out of more than 30,000 similar cards helped track down hundreds of farms.


Avon & Somerset
Greater Manchester
South Yorkshire
West Midlands
West Yorkshire
It will be piloted in 13 areas of England where the number of marijuana plantations have traditionally been highest.
Andy Bliss, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said: 'Many people don't realise that the empty, run-down house or flat on their street with people coming and going late at night may actually be a commercial cannabis farm.
'It's not just the stereotype of the remote rural set or disused industrial estate unit.
'These farms are often run by organised criminals (and) they bring crime and anti-social behaviour into local communities causing real harm and leaving people feeling unsafe.'
West Yorkshire police area say they have had the largest number of farms in the UK - 1,800 in the past two years.
Big business: The news scratch and sniff cards will help police find more cannabis farms, like this one hidden in Croydon, south London
Big business: The news scratch and sniff cards will help police find more cannabis farms, like this one hidden in Croydon, south London
Neighbours South Yorkshire was second with 1,600 farms, followed by London with 1,200, Greater Manchester with 800 and Humberside with 300, all raided between 2010 and 2012.
Roger Critchell, director of operations at Crimestoppers, said: 'We are distributing scratch and sniff cards because not many people know how to recognise the signs of cannabis cultivation happening in their neighbourhood.
'Many are also not familiar with the established links between this crime and serious organised crime.'
Crimestoppers is asking members of the public to pass on any information about cannabis farms anonymously by telephoning  0800 555 111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org 

Palestinians Hold Traditional Wedding at Hizma Checkpoint to Highlight Israel’s Racist Citizenship Law

Published on Monday, 11 March 2013 08:30

The bride, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, the groom, a Palestinian from the West Bank, accompanied by tens of activists approached Hizma checkpoint from its two sides and demanded their right to love and live without racist and separation policies.
Using tear-gas and sound bombs, Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint prevented the bride and the groom from meeting and completing the wedding ceremony, which highlights Israel's apartheid policies, separating between Palestinians from two sides of 67 borders.
Basil Mansour, 36, a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and settlements in Bil'in and the head of Bil'in local council, was arrested while participating in the wedding, along with dozens of Palestinian and international peace activists.
The action launched the Palestinian campaign "Love in the Time of Apartheid" to expose, challenge and put an end to Israeli laws and policies, in particular the so called Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), which prevents the reunification of Palestinian families when one partner holds Israeli citizenship while the other is a resident of the occupied Palestinian territory, and thus depriving these families of their civil, economic, social, health and other rights.
On 11th of January 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court reemphasized (Resolution 466/07) the "constitutionality" of this law, which was described as "racist" by international law experts from several countries around the world.
The Campaign, calls upon the international community and people of conscience around the world, to meet their international legal obligations and hold Israel accountable to its policies, in all regional and international forums in order to force her to revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), end all policies preventing Palestinian family reunifications and adhere to international human rights laws, and to put an end to all forms of racial discrimination towards Palestinians.
The launch of the Palestinian campaign "Love in the Time of Apartheid", comes as part of the events of the 'Israeli Apartheid Week' which more than 200 cities world-wide participated in last year (2012).
The Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events held in cities and campuses across the globe. The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system.
The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) evolved from an earlier "temporary" order. In May 2002, the Israeli cabinet approved The Temporary Suspension Order,[1]renewable for one year, which suspends "temporarily" the procedures of family reunification if one of the spouses holds Israeli citizenship, while the other is a resident of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967 (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). In July 31, 2003 the Israeli Knesset ratified and legitimized this governmental order, turning it into the so called Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order).
On 11 January 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court reemphasized (Resolution 466/07) the "constitutionality" of this law, which was described as "racist" by international law experts from several countries around the world.[2]
This racist law not only deeply affects Palestinian families socially, economically, and psychologically; its continued application causes severe, in some cases irreparable, damage to Palestinian families with spouses from across the Green Line.

Prisoner to Continue Hunger Strike till Israel Ends His Detention

Published on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 08:37

On Monday 18th March, the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS) said that Palestinian prisoner Younis al-Haroub from Hebron, who has been hunger striking for 27 days, said that he will not end his hunger strike until Israel releases him. 
According to PPS, al-Haroub has lost six kilograms since his arrest and that he will not end his strike until Israel ends his administration detention.
Israel arrested al-Haroub on July 9, 2012 and his detention was renewed for six months twice.

An Open Letter To President Obama

Published on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 08:28

By Dr .Daifallah Othman
Dear President Obama:
I will venture this open letter on the eve of your visit to our troubled and war-stricken part of the world. What I want to point out straightforwardly is that we have been waiting for so long for a serious and genuine intervention on your part that embraces all our expectations of your second term in the White House. It has always been held and believed by all of us, Palestinians and Arabs, that a decisive solution to the Middle East problems hinges upon sincere US Administration intervention. I also beg your pardon to say that USA mobilized the whole world against Iraq when he "invaded" Kuwait. The whole story is quite known to everybody. If US momentum, determination and zeal are not exerted to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, then USA is taken to be a real partner in this Israeli occupation and to be practicing a double-standard policy.
Dear Sir:
We have read and heard in the media that you are coming to listen and hear. Shall we take it that you have been through the years of your first term in office oblivious of all the reports of the US delegations about the situation in the occupied territories? What do you want to hear? On our part as Palestinians, we have reiterated many a time that we want real peace; a peaceful solution to our problem in accordance with UN resolutions. We need a peace that we can cherish and generations to come can enjoy and defend. To put it in a nutshell and in public, we need a full Israeli withdrawal from every inch of the occupied West Bank including all of East Jerusalem. We do not accept to have any Israeli colony or military presence on our national soil which was under the rule of the late King Hussein of Jordan before 5 June, 1967. As you know, our leadership has already recognized Israel as a state for the Israeli people as part of the two-state solution which is still pending, but is being jeopardized by Israel. Israel has to reciprocate by recognizing the State of Palestine to be established in the whole of Gaza Strip and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital. In addition, and as a result, all acts of belligerency, incursion or the so-called hot pursuit practiced by Israel against us must stop. All building activities in the Israeli colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must be halted and colonies must eventually be dismantled. All Palestinian prisoners must be released. All Palestinian natural resources must be relinquished by Israel. And foremost, the "Right of Return" must be fulfilled: Palestinian refugees must be entitled to both repatriation and reparation.
Mr. President:
Palestinians cannot nor will not be in any position whatsoever and under pressure whatsoever to make any further compromises regarding the above-mentioned, for they have already made the most crucial historic compromise when they accepted the two-state solution and recognized Israel. Let Israel pull out completely from all THE territories occupied as a result of the 1967 war including East Jerusalem, and she will enjoy an everlasting peace and normal relations, diplomatic and others, with both the State of Palestine on the one hand, and the Arab and Islamic states on the other. What else and what more does Israel need!
One last query, Sir;
Would you as President of the USA -the Free World- declare your recognition of the State of Palestine as sovereign and independent on an equal footing with Israel?
This is indeed ripe time for your even – handedness and for doing justice to the Palestinian people.
It is in this spirit and hopefulness that we welcome you Sir, here in the State of Palestine!


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