Iraq

The Independent claims it has an Exclusive on the Chilcot inquiry:.

After six years and nearly £9m, the report of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war remains unpublished – and, we were told this week, will not be published this side of the general election. Will the British public ever be told the truth about a conflict that millions of them opposed, whose lethal fallout can still be felt across the world today?

In the absence of an official account, this series of articles – based on evidence given to the inquiry and other accounts that are already in the public domain – is an attempt to set down in writing, as objectively as possible, the known facts and unresolved questions of one of the most bitterly controversial episodes in recent British history.

Follow the link to read on… September 11 and the road to the Iraq War

Blair and Libya

The Guardian reports on how Blair colluded with Gaddafi regime in secret

Tony Blair wrote to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to thank him for the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries’ counter-terrorism agencies following a period during which the UK and Libya worked together to arrange for Libyan dissidents to be kidnapped and flown to Tripoli, along with their families.

The letter, written in 2007, followed a period in which the dictator’s intelligence officers were permitted to operate in the UK, approaching and intimidating Libyan refugees in an attempt to persuade them to work as informants for both countries’ agencies. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar” and signed “Best wishes yours ever, Tony”, the letter was among hundreds of pages of documents recovered from Libyan government offices following the 2011 revolution and pieced together by a team of London lawyers.

Private Pensions

The Telegraph reports on a Pensions scandal: Firms’ hidden errors costing savers thousands

Savers are being left thousands of pounds out of pocket in retirement because of basic calculation errors made by insurance companies, The Telegraph can disclose.

An investigation has established that one insurer gave the incorrect amount of money to 3,000 customers over the course of several decades. Four in 10 of the Friends Life customers whose policies were reviewed, or 1,200 people, were paid too little and will receive compensation.

At least one other firm is understood to have been affected by similar problems with annuities, the irreversible contracts that turn a pension pot into a lifetime income.

Greece

The Independent reports on the last stand of Greece’s ruling elite

As the campaigning for Greece’s parliamentary elections enters its final hours ahead of the vote tomorrow, the last shots are being fired across the bows. Last night, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of the ruling New Democracy party – behind the upstart radical-left Syriza party in the polls – made his last stand at the party’s final campaign rally with a plea to resist the advances of the would-be victors.

In the Athens seaside suburb of Palaio Faliro, party officials were welcomed by cheering crowds in a former Olympic stadium, youth groups building up the atmosphere by waving Greek flags, beating drums, singing slogans and setting orange flares off in anticipation of the arrival of the embattled Mr Samaras.

He declared that he would not allow Syriza and its leader, Alexis Tsipras – more than 20 years his junior – to take Greece “back to the past” with its anti-austerity platform and threats to renegotiate a European bailout on Greece’s debts, after his party had worked to keep the country “standing”.

Radio 4’s John Humphrys write for the Mail on Greece with Is Greece opening the door to a new economic hell? After spending this week in his beloved Athens, JOHN HUMPHRYS is haunted by a terrible fear of what tomorrow’s general election may bring

…I feared the worst when I made my latest visit this week — not least because the hardship has grown immeasurably since those early days of protest. Half of all young people in Greece have no job and no prospect of getting one.

Those lucky enough still to have a job have seen their salaries fall by a third, or even a half. Christopher’s orchestra stopped paying the musicians entirely. Many could no longer afford the Metro fares to get to rehearsals. Old people saw their pensions — unbelievably generous under the old system — hacked to almost nothing.

Savage new taxes were imposed, and those who could not pay had their electricity supply cut off. Surely there was a limit to how much people would take before society started to fracture?

Saudi King half-mast Flags

The Telegraph tells us that Ruth Davidson attacks flag tribute for Saudi king

A rift has opened up between Ruth Davidson and David Cameron after she condemned as a “steaming pile of nonsense” the lowering of flags on UK Government buildings as a mark of respect for the death of the Saudi king. The Scottish Tory leader said the decision to put Union flags at half mast over Downing Street and other Whitehall departments was a “stupid act on its own and a stupid precedent to set”.

But her outspoken criticism came as Mr Cameron and the Prince of Wales prepared to fly to Saudi Arabia to join international figures paying tribute to King Abdullah, who was seen as a crucial Western ally despite his human rights record. The Prime Minister said that he was “deeply saddened” and that the ruler would be “remembered for his long years of service to the kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths”.

The Guardian also reports on this story.

ISIS Code of Conduct

The Daily Mail reports on a code of conduct issued by ISIS to those unfortunate enough to live within its control:

Islamic State has published a list of punishments ranging from 80 lashes for drinking alcohol and losing a hand for theft, to death for committing blasphemy. The Sharia code of conduct will be enforced in areas under its control which now covers large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Those who commit adultery will be stoned to death if the adulterer was married and lashed 100 times and exiled if he or she was unmarried. Those engaged in sodomy (homosexuality) will be sentenced to death, along with those who ‘spy for the unbelievers’. Those who steal ‘as part of banditry’ will have their right hand and left leg cut off, and the punishment for terrorising people is exile.

Charlie Winter, a researcher for the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, said the document appeared to be authentic.

Foreign Aid

The Express reports the words of Lord Lawson: Foreign aid law ‘won’t help poor nations’

TORY grandee Lord Lawson yesterday condemned plans to make all future Governments gold plate Britain’s annual foreign aid budget, insisting the pledge would not help people in poor countries. The former chancellor hit out at proposals to enshrine in law the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on international development.

He said the commitment would “deprive future Governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances” and “wrongly prioritises the amount spent rather than the results achieved”. The UK last year spent £11.4billion or 0.72 per cent of GDP on foreign aid.The budget has been ring-fenced and is forecast to rise to £12.4billion this year.

TV Debates

The Guardian also reports on the results of an ICM poll where voters think ‘Cameron is running scared of TV debates

Britain’s voters are determined that the pre-election leaders’ debates should go ahead – and would favour serious consequences for leaders who duck out of them. That is the message of an ICM poll commissioned by the Guardian as part of its joint bid, with YouTube and the Telegraph, to stage one of the debates.

The research comes as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky announced revised proposals for TV election debates and said they would “empty chair” party leaders who refused to take part. The survey was conducted after Ofcom’s suggestion that the Greens did not constitute a major party prompted David Cameron to suggest he would not take part unless they were given a place, sparking a controversy that has had broadcasters scrambling to come up with revised arrangements and smaller parties issuing competing demands about the format.

Legal System

The Independent reports on a leading ex-Tory MP Barrister in this story: ‘Incompetent’ Grayling condemned by ex-Tory MP as ‘off his trolley’

Chris Grayling is a disgraceful incompetent who should be sacked as Justice Secretary because he is undermining the legal system, a former Tory MP has claimed. In a vitriolic personal attack, the barrister Jerry Hayes denounced the minister as “off his trolley” and as a “s*** which will have to be flushed” from office after the election.

Mr Hayes’s onslaught came as Mr Grayling’s controversial reforms to judicial review are now set to become law. The Justice Secretary argues the moves are essential to stop campaigners from resorting to judicial reviews to stymie building projects and disrupt the work of government. But Mr Hayes, who has resumed a career as a criminal law barrister after losing his Commons seat, delivered a scathing verdict on the minister’s handling of the issue.

Scotland and the UK

Iain Martin of The Telegraph claims that The SNP is only interested in fostering grievance and destroying the UK

There is a great Scottish phrase that springs to mind when one studies the comments of Scotland’s First Minister on the latest proposals for more devolution. That phrase is: “he/she/they would rather have the grievance.” This means that the complainant does not, despite what they say, want their gripe dealt with. They enjoy complaining too much and would rather have the grievance than any resolution.

It was in this spirit that Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the unveiling of substantial new powers on taxation and welfare for the Scottish parliament yesterday. Actually, no, she didn’t welcome it. Of course she didn’t. She attacked it and accused the Westminster parties of betrayal.

Ah, the betrayal narrative on which so much narrow nationalism rests. Apparently, the Westminster parties have watered down the Smith Commission (although they haven’t) because any Scottish government adjusting benefits will need to, y’know, talk to the government in the UK about any changes. Such discussions are what happens in any federal set-up in a country that has not voted to split itself apart. No, this is a “veto,” says Sturgeon. Disgrace, shout the Nationalists, who lost the referendum (did I mention that?).

The City and the EU

The Guardian has a report: “Britain must remain in Europe, says Goldman Sachs president

The head of one of the world’s leading investment banks has said Britain should remain in the EU, describing London as “a great financial capital of the world”. Goldman Sachs’ president and chief operating officer Gary Cohn said it is the best thing “for all of us” that the financial services industry stays in London.

Mr Cohn told the BBC: “I think for the UK it’s imperative to keep the financial services industry in London. “We all want to stay in London – it is our European headquarters. I think that having a great financial capital of the world staying in the UK and having the UK be part of Europe is the best thing for all of us.”

Death Taxes

The Express beats the drum on one of its favourite topics “Taxman rakes in £3.7 billion death taxes

Soaring house prices meant annual Government receipts from the death duty increased by £400million from 2013. The rise shows that tens of thousands of middle income families are being dragged into paying a levy once intended for the wealthy. The shock figures from the Office for National Statistics are a vindication of the Daily Express’s hugely popular crusade to scrap the tax.

Yesterday calls for the IHT threshold to be lifted for the first time since 2009 gained momentum. Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to reveal a Tory manifesto pledge to cut the tax and Chancellor George Osborne has already hinted as much, saying IHT should be paid only “by the rich”.

Health

The Mirror reports on a Game-changing anti-obesity jab could be available on the NHS within months.

Liraglutide was authorised by the European Medicines Agency yesterday (FRIDAY) for use as a weight management treatment for adults. An anti-obesity jab that has been described as a “game changer” by doctors could be available on the NHS within months after being approved by watchdogs.

Overweight people are said to lose a stone more than they would by simply dieting and exercising. It is expected the makers will now apply for it to be made available on the NHS. But fears have been raised that Nice – who approve and ration medicines in the UK – will make the product too expensive for regular use.

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