Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), ministers' text messages including emails sent from private accounts should be subject to public scrutiny and it is expected that ‘back channels’ used by ministers and advisers to communicate government business may not be exempt from the legislation.
From 2012 changes to pensions law will affect every employer in the UK; these changes will help more people save for retirement. It is said to be the biggest shake-up of pensions for a generation, since up to 10 million people are expected to be imminently enrolled. This will definitely result in millions of workers being pushed into saving money for their retirement for the first time.
This weekend’s Premier League action saw wins for all of last year’s top 5 as the elite are all finding form after the opening skirmishes. Chelsea continue to lead the way as goals from Torres, Lampard, Hazard and Ivanovic marked a ferocious response after falling behind to Grant Holt’s opener. The movement between the likes of Oscar, Hazard and most of all Mata was mesmeric at times. The interplay leading to Lampard’s goal in particular showed that this year’s Chelsea crop have the players to play the intelligent, possession based football that chairman Abramovich has for so long craved. They remain four points clear at the top and are carrying plenty of momentum having so far remained unbeaten this season.
When I joined the Venezuelan Opposition Movement in 2008 (my wife is Venezuelan and we spend some of our time as Venezuelan Citizens), I asked one of the Opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, how long he expected it to take to get rid of Chavez. Lopez answered then that it would take ten years.
Venezuela is readying itself for one of the most important presidential elections in its history and the tightest for over a decade. On Sunday voters will have to decide between incumbent Hugo Chavez and opposition leader Henrique Capriles and the winner will be in power for six years. On one hand you have the longstanding socialist President Chavez, president since 1998 and the self-professed champion of the poor. On the other hand you have former lawyer, Miranda state governor Capriles, representing a coalition of opposition parties. Chavez is likely to win the votes of the poor while Capriles may be the preferred choice of businessmen concerned by Chavez’s economic approach over the last 14 years.
Chavez is certainly a controversial figure, but he has worked on increasing access to healthcare, education and housing for Venezuela’s poorer people. The government says that 150,000 homes were built in 2011 alone, and hopes to have completed three million by 2018. He hopes to deepen his “Bolivarian revolution” and further increase socialism in Venezuela should be re-elected.
However, his spending has not managed to convince business leaders in the country. Expropriations of land and businesses worry investors while currency controls, introduced to stem capital flight, have made imports and exports difficult. Working hours have been reduced while workers’ rights have been strengthened as outsourcing has been banned. His socialism is perceived is making life extremely difficult for businesses to operate efficiently and have also made life difficult for entrepreneurs.
Within the wider region Chavez’s Petrocaribe scheme has allowed countries like Cuba and Nicaragua to benefit from Venezuela’s abundance of oil at preferential rates. He also has strong ties with Aregentina’s Cristian Fernandez de Kirchner. Beyond South America Chavez is a controversial figure, with the USA and Britain particularly wary of him. In the case of the latter, Chavez has supported Argentina in its dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of the Malvinas and the Falkland Islands. He has also controversially supported Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad whom he has called a “humanist” and a “brother” – Venezuela has shipped diesel to the Assad government despite embargoes from other countries.
Capriles has succeeded in unifying the often fractured opposition since winning the candidacy in Februeary. He has been attempting to galvanise support around the country and he has promised to maintain social programmes while also encouraging private enterprise – in effect he is trying to appease business leaders in the country while remaining in touch with the wider population and the fight against poverty in the country.
There are concerns that the election could turn violent. Three supporters of Capriles were shot after they tried to participate in a rally in Barinas, the home state of Chavez. Venezuela has igh murder rates, while kidnappings and robberies are common in cities. Whichever of the two candidates wins, crime, high inflation and an economy reliant on the oil industry will be the major issues at hand. Venezuela is hardly in as great a situation as it could be after over a decade of Chavez rule. Whether the people think change is needed, we shall find out in the next few days.
Over one billion people use Facebook every month, founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed on US television yesterday. The billion users have made 1.13 trillion tikes, uploaded 219 billion photos, checked into a location 17 bullion times, and there are now 600 million users using the stie on Facebook – up from 552 million in June. Facebook users have become friends with each other 140.3 billion times since the companies beginnings in 2004.
You know Radiohead’s lead singer Thom Yorke? He’s the lead singer of the one of the world’s biggest bands so you might have. His falsetto Neil Young inspired singing, cryptic lyrics and Michael Stipe influenced stage presence have become iconic amongst Radiohead fans at least and now that he is doing increasing amounts of solo work, it’s probably quite fair to say he’s done quite well for himself. Now, have you heard of Andy Yorke? Have you heard of his band Unbelievable Truth? You might have but if you have then your musical knowledge is more obscure than most. Andy has been hailed as having a purer voice than Thom – those hailing even include members of Radiohead speaking on rockumentary ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’. But following in those world-famous converse shoes of Radiohead’s Thom, Andy’s been the little brother living in the shadows, who despite having a perhaps better singing voice, falls into obscurity while his brother takes the limelight.
Local star Kei Nishikori has shocked second seeded Tomas Berdych to book his place in the semi-finals. He became the first Japanese player to reach this stage of the draw and he will hope to get to his first final since losing in Basel last year to Roger Federer.
Boris Johnson wants to the deliberation over Heathrow’s future hastened immediately. Describing the current review process as “glacial”, Johnson wants there to be quick consideration of Heathrow and alternatives to the third runway at Heathrow option. Publishing his own thoughts to the government’s strategy review, he believes there are three options other than Heathrow: a new airport to the east of London on one of two potential sites or severely upgrading Stansted. He believes a new airport will cost up to £80bn and would be running only a couple of years after any new runway on Heathrow would be, in 2030.
The second round of group stage fixtures in the Champions League has come and gone and some of the elite clubs in Europe are starting to take control of their groups. Favourites Barcelona, alongside other frequenters of the later stages Man Utd, Real Madrid and Arsenal, all maintained their 100% record, showing their expertise at qualifying from this stage. Man Utd will be happy to ease through their group after last year’s embarrassing group stage exit. Two goals from former Arsenal striker van Persie turned things around away to Cluj to give them a stranglehold of the group. Van Persie’s old team Arsenal, who have qualified from this stage every year for over a decade, eased past the battling Olympiakos while Real Madrid beat Ajax 4-1 thanks to a Christiano Ronaldo hat-trick. Barca won 2-0 away to Benfica.