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Friday, May 31, 2013

Tory MP Resigns From Party For Failing to Declare Payments in Lobbying Sting

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, who once referred to British Prime Minister David Cameron as a “despicable creature” and “an arse”, resigned from the party on Friday afternoon after a BBC investigative programme, Panorama, showed that he had broken lobbying rules. Mercer, a former army major with tours in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, was approached by an undercover reporter earlier this year who said he was representing a client who wanted to setup an all-party group and wanted him to ask pro-Fiji questions in the House of Commons. He was paid £4,000 by the operation, but failed to declare half of the money, a violation of internal rules. As part of the agreement he tabled a motion asking for end to Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth and also submitted questions about Fiji. “Panorama are planning to broadcast a programme alleging that I have broken parliamentary rules. I am taking legal advice about these allegations and I have referred myself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards. In the meantime, to save my party embarrassment, I have resigned the Conservative whip and have so informed chief whip Sir George Young. I have also decided not to stand at the next general election”, Mercer said in a statement.

Syrian President Vows to Respond to Any Israeli Aggression

A new section of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s interview with the Lebanese Al-Manar TV channel, owned by the militant group Hezbollah, has been divulged in which the Syrian leader vows to respond to any Israeli airstrikes aimed at his forces. “We have informed all the parties who have contacted us that we will respond to any Israeli aggression next time. There is clear popular pressure to open a new front of resistance in the Golan”, he said. The Golan Heights were occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, being annexed in 1981. Israel had threatened earlier in the week to strike the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, to be delivered by Russia, because it did not want any weapons to fall in the hands of Hezbollah. There are suggestions that Cyprus, who also has taken delivery of an S-300 system and has posted it on the Greek island of Crete, may give Israel’s air force a chance to test its abilities during maneuvres over the Mediterranean Sea.

Eurozone Unemployment Hits New Record High, Inflation Rises

The 17 members of the eurozone hit another record combined unemployment rate in April, pushing the figure to 12.2 percent. It is the highest number recorded since the creation of the euro in 1999 according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union (EU). The figures show that unemployment in the eurozone rose by 95,000 to 19.4 million people without a job. The wider European Union, which includes those countries not members of the monetary union such as the UK and Poland, registered an unemployment rate of 11 percent, marginally higher than the one registered in March. The highest unemployment rates were registered in Greece, with 27 percent unemployment, and Spain, with 26.8 percent unemployment. The country with the lowest jobless rate was Austria, with 4.9 percent. Separately, Eurostat data showed that inflation rose to 1.4 percent in April, driven upwards by food, alcohol and tobacco prices.

Russian Winter Olympics ‘A Monstrous Scam’

Russian opposition figures have claimed that as much as £20 billion were stolen in preparations for next year’s Winter Olympic Games, to be held in the Russian resort town of Sochi. Calling it a “monstrous scam”, Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, and Leonid Martynyuk, a member of the Solidarity movement, have released a report indicating that the games, the most costly in history at £50 billion, have only benefited businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Their six-month analysis of Olympic-related data showed that the final cost of the Sochi Olympics could be as much as four times higher than the original price tag of US$12 billion quoted by Putin. The authors have also said they would ask Russian prosecutors to open an investigation into their claims. “In spite of envious people, the Russian Winter Olympic Games will be held in the southern capital – subtropical Sochi”, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.

Weekend Read: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Britain’s Poorest City

A chronicle of Nottingham, the city with lowest household disposable income in the UK, where a loan shark is everybody’s friend. In BBC News.

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