Legendary Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings died in a car accident
Scottish News: Top stories - Wednesday
Farage: "something unpleasant going on" in Scotland
The leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), Nigel Farage, has said that there is a "problem with democracy" north of the border. The Ukip leader endured a torrid time in Aberdeen where his party has fielded a candidate in the Donside by-election. One meeting he had scheduled was cancelled following alleged threats by an 'anti-fascist' group while another meeting was cancelled after what Ukip claimed was a threat of 'violent' protest. In Scotland Ukip threaten to split the pro-Union vote in elections raising fears that behind the scenes, mainstream UK parties have sanctioned a campaign of vilification against the Ukip leader. Some commentators believe Mr Farage is a distraction from the real dangers faced by citizens from the close relationship between financiers and mainstream political parties arguing that it is hardly 'radical' to target their leader.
‘Fat cat’ salary for Lothian buses boss
A huge pay rise for Lothian Buses boss Ian Craig has prompted an outcry today over “fat cat” salaries, including expressions of concern from the Scottish Green Party. The chief executive of Edinburgh's biggest bus operator saw his pay increase by 26 per cent to £265,000 last year. This includes a basic salary of £183,000 and a 40 percent bonus of £80,000 for supposedly hitting performance targets. However the deal contrasts starkly with the pay rise instead given to the Lothian bus drivers - a two-year deal giving them just a rise of two percent, the same as official inflation figures. Last month, Lothian Buses came under fire for refusing to reveal Mr Craig’s latest pay package after he was promoted from managing director to chief executive of the company in recognition of the additional responsibility of running trams – a city project began in 2008 which has since been marred by delays, construction disputes, and financial controversy.
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Scottish government told ‘culture change’ needed to cut teenage pregnancy rates
Sex education at a younger age and free contraception for people aged 13 are needed to cut teenage pregnancy rates, according to a Holyrood inquiry. The health and sport committee has called for a national strategy to tackle the problem in Scotland. The Scottish government said work to address the issue was ongoing and it would consider the report, as the six-month inquiry called for a culture change to tackle some of the highest teenage pregnancy figures in Western Europe. The teenage pregnancy rate in Holland is only one-fifth as high as that of the UK as a whole – with its abortion rate per teenage head of the population also one of the lowest in Europe. Siebe Heutzepeter, headteacher of De Burght school in Amsterdam said: "The English are embarrassed to talk about sex. They are too squeamish. Here adults and children are better educated. It would be unthinkable for a Dutch parent to withdraw their child from sex education”.
UK crisis: Put economy before politics, SNP urges chancellor
Ahead of Chancellor George osborne's Mansion House speech today, SNP Treasury Spokesman Stewart Hosie MP, has urged the chancellor to put economics before politics when it comes to the future of RBS and Lloyds. UK banks have recently been implicated in multiple scandals relating to defrauding customers such as the Libor-fixing scandal, currency rate fixing, 'mis-selling' of financial products, money-laundering, ISDAfix manipulation and anti-trust activities among other scams. Today's parliamentary commission on banking standards is expected to call for financial crimes to be criminally punished however the commission will likely only target traders and staff rather than senior executives raising fears that the financial elite and the UK political elite are collaborating in conspiracies against UK citizens. Mr Hosie said: "Too many people have paid the price of Westminster’s failure of regulation for the Chancellor to short change the taxpayer or risk economic recovery with another botched job."
‘UK banking bosses should face jail’, but do top execs have get-out-of-jail-free card?
The UK's banking bosses should face jail if their decisions force fresh bailouts, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards will say today. The parliamentary commission, established by George Osborne to reform banking after the Libor scandal, describes the failure of senior financiers to accept blame for their actions as “dismal”. The report also calls for a new licensing regime for bankers, underpinned by strict rules to ensure traders and branch staff who mis-sell financial products are faced with penalties open to Britain’s financial watchdogs. However, while the report blames pay policies and levels for encouraging bad practice, it rejects the EU's plans for a cap on bonuses at 100 percent of basic pay or 200 percent if shareholders approve. Questions are raised however, after the charges faced by city trader Tom Hayes, that it will be the junior traders and bankers who face criminal sanctions as opposed to the senior bankers and regulators in positions of financial power.
Iceland allegedly approached to grant NSA whistleblower asylum
Iceland has allegedly been contacted by an intermediary who stated that NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, wants asylum in the Nordic island-state, Reuters reports. The difficulty however is that he would need to travel to the country. The government of the island confirmed that they got the notification from WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, however, a meeting has so far been declined, according to Iceland Review. Snowden, who has been hiding in Hong Kong after fleeing the US, explained he did not go straight to Iceland because he feared that it would be easier for the American authorities to put pressure on the Icelandic government than on the Chinese. The US authorities have since launched a criminal investigation into Snowden’s actions and he is being sought by both the NSA and CIA, controversially most likely to be charged with treason and face the death penalty.
Award winning journalist Michael Hastings dies aged just 33
Michael Hastings, the award winning journalist whose reporting brought down the career of US General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has reported. He was just 33. Hastings won a Polk award for magazine reporting for his Rolling Stone cover report ‘The Runaway General’. A statement released by Rolling Stone stated that: “Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war”. For Hastings, there was no romance to America's savage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a memorable exchange with Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, Hastings' direct and honest line of questioning angered Reines. "Why do you bother to ask questions you've already decided you know the answers to?" Reines asked. "Why don't you give answers that aren't bullshit for a change?" Hastings replied. He leaves behind his wife, the writer Elise Jordan.
Afghanistan suspends US security talks creating ‘political standoff’
Kabul has suspended talks with Washington on a bilateral security pact setting the conditions for continuing US military presence in Afghanistan. Such a presence could be the basis for a future NATO role in the country. With the US saying it is prepared to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan next year, but the Taliban growing in numbers, Washington and Kabul have been working since November on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Karzai has emphasised he wants to hold one-on-one talks with the Taliban, however those plans were shelved when US and Taliban officials announced they would begin joint talks first, apparently before the Afghan government was consulted. Such events come amid the opening of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar - which is a key regional ally of the US. The recent events hint at a political standoff between Kabul and Washington, as both sides are attempting to exert some sort of control before next year’s US troop withdrawal commences.
General Motors to invest $11bn in China
General Motors is to invest $11bn (£7bn) in China through 2016, executives said today, as the US car giant sealed a deal to produce luxury Cadillacs for the world's biggest auto market. The figure includes four new plants, including the $1.3bn (£0.8bn) Cadillac factory in Shanghai, GM officials told a media briefing. GM is already the largest foreign automaker in China by sales, but it has lagged behind in the luxury car market, in which German companies hold an estimated 80 percent share. Speaking at the briefing, GM CEO Dan Akerson forecast China would eventually become the world's largest luxury car market with sales of 3mn vehicles. China's overall auto market is also predicted to grow 8 to 12 percent over the next four to five years, eventually reaching 30mn vehicles by the end of the decade.
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