EU and Europe

The Telegraph reports on the outcome of an EU-wide poll: “Half of EU voters back David Cameron’s bid to reform Brussels, poll finds

David Cameron’s bid to force major reforms in Brussels has won the backing of half of voters in Europe’s biggest economies, a poll has found. An extensive survey of people in countries including Germany and France by pollsters ComRes found that voters are increasingly concerned about the EU and are demanding change.

The findings will come as a major boost to Mr Cameron, who has pledged to significantly change Britain’s relationship with Brussels before holding an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by 2017.

Other key findings in the poll include almost half of voters in France (49 per cent), Germany (46 per cent) and the Netherlands (49 per cent) saying that the EU should have “less involvement in the affairs of my country”. Of those surveyed in the UK, 64 per cent said the EU should have less involvement in British affairs.

Labour and Miliband

The Telegraph reports that fifteen of Tony Blair’s business backers go cool on Ed Miliband

Fifteen business leaders who endorsed Tony Blair’s Labour party before the 2005 election have moved to distance themselves from Ed Miliband, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. The news demonstrates starkly how some of the businessmen courted by Labour leader Tony Blair in the last decade appear to have fallen out of love with the Labour party.

The Labour leader was widely criticised this week for attacking the tax status of the head of high street chemist Boots for saying that Mr Miliband would be a “catastrophe” for Britain. It came as Labour launched a new proposal to force all business owners to give workers the option of buying any business before it is sold.

It also reports that “Alan Johnson approached to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader months before election

Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, two of the founders of ‘new’ Labour, approached Alan Johnson in the past few months to ask if he wanted to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader. Both Lord Mandelson, the former Business secretary, and Mr Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications, contacted Mr Johnson, a former Labour Cabinet minister, to ask if he wanted to lead the party.

The intervention came weeks after Mr Miliband’s disastrous speech to the Labour party conference when he forgot to mention the economy. At the time rumours were circulating about a possible plot to replace Mr Miliband as leader. At least 40 Labour MPs were understood to have backed backed an abortive coup, which came weeks after the Labour leader’s disastrous conference speech when he forgot to mention the deficit.

Tax Avoidance

The Guardian leads with a rah-rah piece for Miliband though: “Ed Miliband: I won’t back down on tax avoidance

Ed Miliband has said he will demand that Bermuda and other UK tax havens be put on an international blacklist within six months of a Labour government taking office unless they end their system of secrecy and produce a public register of offshore company owners.

After a week in which he has been battered for an alleged anti-business agenda, the Labour leader insisted: “I am not going to back down.” He said: “The time has finally come to put an end to a society in which one group of people can play by different rules to the rest.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Miliband said he wanted to focus attention on the issue of tax. He said: “There is nothing pro-business about defending tax avoidance. Millions of British people and businesses pay their taxes and they are damaged by this behaviour.”

Greece

The Guardian reports that  Greece’s Syriza government vows to fight pressure to stick to bailout terms

Greece’s radical Syriza government has vowed to keep fighting pressure from its eurozone neighbours to stick to the strict terms of its bailout package as battle lines were drawn ahead of crunch debt talks next week.

Eurozone finance ministers have called an emergency meeting for Wednesday night in Brussels to discuss the Greek crisis after a whistlestop tour of Europe by Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister, made little headway.

Germany wants Greece to arrive with a plan on the repayment of €240bn (£180bn) in bailout loans it received from the international community. The special debt meeting will be followed on Thursday by a summit of European leaders, the first with Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister.

NHS

The Guardian reports that NHS investigations into care complaints are ‘appalling’

More than a third of investigations into deaths or avoidable harm at hospitals were found to be “inadequate”, according to an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). Families interviewed for the review complained they felt “belittled” and “misled” by medical staff who failed to listen to their concerns or give them straight answers. Patients’ groups said the findings were “worrying” and suggested the lessons from recent hospital scandals had not been learnt.

Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of the patients group Healthwatch England, said: “The ombudsman’s findings are worrying but sadly not surprising. Our research shows that tens of thousands of people every year are being failed by the NHS and yet never report it because they have no faith the complaints system will make any difference. “Even worse, fewer than half of those that do find the energy and courage to raise their concerns ever hear the words ‘I’m sorry’. What we need is a complete overhaul of the complaints system that ensures every incident is properly investigated and learnt from, and that those affected are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that “NHS boss pocketed £155,000 by retiring for just 24 hours: She quit, cashed in pension, then got her job back!

An NHS chief who tried to gag a whistleblower has claimed an extra £155,000 by ‘retiring’ for just 24 hours. Sue James, 58, used a loophole to bank the tax-free bonus as her Trust declared millions of pounds in losses. She was then rehired a day later to continue earning her salary of almost £200,000 a year.

The executive – who once offered £250,000 of public money to silence a surgeon who spoke out about poor patient care – was last night branded ‘morally reprehensible’. She faces being investigated by watchdogs and could be fired under new laws, if found to have been involved in ‘serious misconduct or mismanagement’. Incredibly, she has refused to apologise or hand back the money, maintaining she is ‘fully entitled’ to the payout.

And the Express tells us that “NHS creates three ‘compensation millionaires’ EACH week

THE NHS is creating three “compensation millionaires” each week through payouts to patients who have suffered life-changing injuries from blunders in their treatment. In the last five years, 783 payouts of more than £1million each were made to patients with injuries for which a hospital or ambulance operator was deemed responsible, official figures revealed yesterday.

The total bill to the NHS dating back to 1997 is a colossal £5billion and the rate at which these payouts are being made is increasing. John O’Connell, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s tragic for the victims and their families when treatments go wrong, causing even more distress than when they entered hospital. Healthcare staff have to take more care and ensure that accidents are kept to a minimum, as the compensation bill continues to spiral out of control.”

Saudi Arabia

The Independent claims that Obama considers release of secret sections of report on Saudi Arabia ties to al Qaeda

The White House may declassify still-secret sections of an official inquiry into the 9/11 terrorist attacks which refer to possible Saudi Arabian support. Questions over the 28-page section of the congressional report have been raised this week following the deposition of imprisoned former al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui in which he claimed major Saudi figures were donors to his group in late 1990s. Saudi officials have denied this.

According to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, US intelligence last year began reevaluating the decision to classify the section following a request from congress, though no timescale for the decision was given. Earnest said: “The United States and Saudi Arabia maintain a strong counterterrorism relationship as a key element of our broad and strategic partnership.”

UKIP and Defence

The Independent has interviewed Mike Hookem, UKIP’s defence spokesman, and as expected tries to belittle what he talks about. “Ukip’s man in khaki: forget Russia, it’s Argentina and Spain we need to fear

The Middle East may be awash with violence while fears of “total war” between Russia and Ukraine persist, but Ukip’s top military man appears to be gearing up to fight older battles.

Defence spokesman Mike Hookem MEP seems more concerned that Argentina might take advantage of Britain’s defence cuts to try something sneaky in the South Atlantic or that Spain could be secretly plotting to retake Gibraltar, 302 years after it was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht.

In an interview with The Independent, ahead of the unveiling of the party’s manifesto, the former corporal in the Army Reserve warned Spain to “back off” and accused France of arming Argentina as it “rattles the sabre” over the Falkland Islands.

Laying out his party’s priorities for Britain’s armed forces, he said Ukip would restrict the military to a “defence of the realm” role, along with protecting British business interests abroad and “defending our protectorates across the globe”.

There is more if you read the article…

ISIS

The Independent reports that militants claim female American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller has been killed by Jordanian air strikes

American officials are desperately trying to confirm the veracity of a claim by Isis which said a female US hostage being held by the militants had been killed by a Jordanian air strike.

In a message posted on social media, Isis claimed that Kayla Jean Mueller died when Jordanian planes struck targets close to Raqqa, the de facto capital of Isis-controlled territory. Ms Mueller, an aid worker from Arizona, was taken hostage in Syria in August 2013. The message from the militants was subsequently published by the SITE Intelligence Group, which track extremists activity.

“The failed Jordanian aircraft killed an American female hostage,” said the message. “No mujahid was injured in the bombardment, and all praise is due to Allah.” The word mujahid means fighter.

Rotherham

The Mail has a piece from Sarah Vine: “Sex abuse in Rotherham and why we British women of ALL faiths must make a stand against the bigots who betray Islam

Feminism, it is now often argued, is an idea that has had its day. In Britain, where women are equal in the eyes of the law, and where girls outperform boys in education, emancipation no longer feels like the fight of our lives.

But this week I realised that we need feminism perhaps more than ever before. We need to empower women, listen to young girls — and challenge the appalling behaviour of certain men whose belief systems would seem to legitimise the idea that women are forever second-class citizens.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the shocking case of the sexual exploitation of an estimated 1,400 girls and young women by overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistani men in Rotherham. Because if their behaviour tells us anything about the culture of certain Muslim men, it tells us how they value females. Which is to say, not very highly. Or not, at least, by the standards of modern Britain.

And they also report Nigel’s entrapment in the UKIP office there: “Nigel Farage TRAPPED in Ukip’s Rotherham office for two hours to avoid breastfeeding protesters outside

Labour and Nuns!

The Express reports that top Labour MP Tristram Hunt forced to say sorry after TV slur on teacher nuns.

A SENIOR Labour MP issued a grovelling apology yesterday to try to quash a row over his “arrogant and sneering” comments about teacher nuns. Catholic education chiefs also waded into the storm over Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt’s comments, which many saw as a blow to his chances of one day leading his party.

The historian, who has presented television programmes, was attacked from all sides over his aggressive challenge on BBC1’s Question Time to fellow panellist Cristina Odone, the journalist and former editor of the Catholic Herald. Mr Hunt leapt in to defend his insistence that all state school teachers should have formal qualifications when Ms Odone said some of her “most inspiring” teachers had “taught real values” even though they had not had formal training.

Provoking growls of protest from the audience, Mr Hunt butted in: “These were all nuns, weren’t they? I know about your religious schooling and there’s a difference, I think, between a state education system having qualified teachers in the classroom.”

Public Libraries

The Mirror reports that Government closes hundreds of libraries as number of visitors falls by millions

Library visits have fallen by 40 million to 282 million as 324 libraries have closed under Coalition cuts, figures show. Of those left, 330 fewer are open 10 hours or more a week and numbers of visits have fallen sharpest – by 21% – in deprived areas. On average the number of people visiting them has fallen by 12% from 322 million visits in 20009/10 to 282 million in 2013/14.

And those which remain open have cut their opening hours, with 330 fewer libraries open for 10 hours or more a week. Some 216 static libraries and eight mobile libraries are a risk of closure, Labour claims.

Education

The Mirror also reports that Teachers’ unions blast Government over insufficient plans to cut red tape

Teachers’ unions have hit out at the Coalition’s attempt to take the red tape out of their workload.  Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan were accused of treating staff with contempt by ignoring their views after massive consultation.

The ministers had hoped to win over teachers in the run-up to the general election with a pledge to ease their workload, but unions said the plans did not go far enough and said a change of government was needed. In the biggest consultation of its kind in a decade, the Department for Education asked for teachers’ views on workload and was bombarded with 44,000 replies, but less than half were considered in detail.

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