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Friday, October 18, 2013

‘Chronically Lonely’ a National Shame, Says Health Secretary

UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has told the National Children and Adults Service (NCAS) conference in Harrogate that it is a “national shame” that over 800,000 people in England are “chronically lonely”. He says society has failed to confront the “problem of loneliness” and that as many as 5m people say that “television is their main form of company”. He also said English families should follow the Asian example of caring directly for older relations instead of placing them in residential care. Despite the secretary’s strong words, the Daily Telegraph says that one suggestion made by government ministers in July was that the elderly should be given tablets to alleviate their loneliness. “Systems are now available which use lightweight touchscreen tablets enabled with wi-fi and broadband to allow users to send and receive email and text messages, share photos and video conference with family, friends, care providers and health professionals via a universal messaging system”, suggested the government.

Snowden Says It Is ‘Impossible’ That Russia Has Seen His Data

US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has told the New York Times that he did not take any NSA documents to Russia with him after leaving Hong Kong, saying that he gave all files to journalists he met in the Chinese territory and did not keep anything with himself “because it would not serve the public interest”, he said. “What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of the materials onward?”, he asked, before adding that there was no chance “the Russians or the Chinese have received any documents”. He said bringing the documents to light was the only way to criticise the NSA’s extensive surveillance efforts, given that trying to do it from inside the agency would “buried” his efforts. He also said that he did not control what the journalists who had his documents decided to write about and that he wanted his bias “divorced from the decision-making of publication”.

Technology Firms Want UK Debate on Surveillance

Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Twitter published a joint memo on Friday saying that the UK should have a debate on the scale of digital surveillance carried out by the government and that it should allow them to be more transparent when they receive requests for users’ data. “Each of our companies already publishes a transparency report and, as public concern grows around the world about the scale of digital surveillance, we believe that greater transparency is important in encouraging a full public debate and maintaining confidence that powers are not being abused”, says the memo. Their request comes one day after Parliament launched an inquiry into the surveillance undertaken by GCHQ. “There is a balance to be found between our individual right to privacy and our collective right to security”, said the chairman of the intelligence and security committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Part of the inquiry will be held in public, a change from the committee’s usually secretive nature.

‘Wear Jumpers’ to Keep Energy Bills Down, Says Government

A day after British Gas announced it was raising energy prices by 9.2 percent for its nearly 8 million UK customers, a Downing Street spokesman said that “people may wish to consider” wearing jumpers to lower their energy bills after it was disclosed that Energy Secretary Ed Davey followed exactly such advice to keep his own bills down. “I’m sure people wear jumpers, I wear jumpers at home”, he said during an interview on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. Another spokesman later discredited the first spokesman, saying he had used “loose” language, and that Prime Minister David Cameron would “not advise people what they should wear”. “Any suggestion to the contrary is mischief making”, he continued. Labour leader Ed Miliband criticised the government’s comments. “Their crime policy used to be ‘hug a hoodie’. Now their energy policy appears to be ‘wear a hoodie’.These responses to the energy price rises show how little Mr Cameron and his government stand up for the interests of hard working people”, he said.

Weekend Read: The Tea Party As A Religion

“Obama is a symbol of change people cannot understand, are frightened by, and seek refuge from. (…) What the understandably beleaguered citizens of this new modern order want is a pristine variety of America that feels like the one they grew up in. (…) They want their presidents white and their budget balanced now.” In The Dish.

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