Tagged: google

General Election 2015: ‘The control exerted over regional press has been alarming’

No reporter expects a warm welcome from politicians on the prowl for votes.

Especially not during this election, when the polls are so close that the phrase “squeaky bum time” doesn’t come close to describing the anxiety gnawing away at the heart of most candidates.

That said, the control exerted over the regional press during this time has been alarming.

The North East isn’t exactly the eye of the storm. It is home to some of Labour’s safest seats and that isn’t likely to change after tomorrow’s election.

The party machines calculate, perhaps understandably, it is only worth sending their high-profile folk to marginal constituencies, like Berwick Upon Tweed and Stockton South, where showing a well-known face could make a difference.

It is a state of affairs which has seen not one party leader venture into Tyne and Wear or County Durham since the dissolution of Parliament, bar Ed Miliband reportedly jumping off a train for a quick coffee in Newcastle Central Station.

But here’s an example of what it is like to cover the visit of a big hitter when they do grace us with their presence. On Tuesday, Baileys Cafe, in Alnwick, hosted one George Osborne for tea and cake as the senior Tory sought to drum up support for Berwick candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

A press officer asked me what questions I want to ask. I said I didn’t know (a white lie, told after an experience with the Prime Minister’s PR, which I’ll come to later).

Mr Osborne arrived to the sound of cameras furiously clicking, ordered food and spent 20 minutes dining with a select group of local businessmen, all of whom appeared to be Conservative supporters. I don’t know this for certain, mind, but deduced as much from snippets of the conversation, which included “hopefully with Anne-Marie in Parliament” and lots of warm smiles.

Journalists were invited take pictures of Mr Osborne’s supposedly impromptu encountering of the public, after which he would take our questions.

The Chancellor disappeared for a huddle with his press team while myself and two other local journalists were told to wait at a table – a bit like being sat outside the headmaster’s office when you are caught chewing gum.

When Mr Osborne re-emerged, his press officer barked: “One question each.”

I was last in the go-round so pushed my luck by asking a second question, as did one other reporter, much to the annoyance of his press officer.

Note that these are questions without a follow-up, so in reality you are afforded nothing but the stock party line and little opportunity to get under the skin of what information you get. If I wanted to read a manifesto, I would have stayed in the office and used Google.

Disappointing, to say the least. The press officer said she understood, jotted down her email and told me to send her additional questions, a phone interview having been ruled out, for some reason. This email was not acknowledged until 11.35pm, almost 12 hours after the interview and well past our newspapers’ deadlines.

Another example, in April, David Cameron visited the Icon Plastics factory, in Eaglescliffe, to support Stockton South Tory James Wharton. I was asked to email six questions the night before, then on the day was put in a pool of six reporters and given just two questions. No follow-ups.

I was, again, told to email additional questions. Press officers assured me a week later they were “still trying” to get answers. I gave up.

All parties are guilty of this kind of behaviour, though it has to be said Labour’s Ed Balls and the Lib Dems’ Tim Farron found time to give us a phone interview when they visited.

This treatment of the press isn’t unfair on journalists. We’re used to no-one liking us all that much.

It is unfair on the people who read and watch our content; the same people, incidentally, whose vote decides whether or not these rather evasive politicians have this kind of power.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  06 May 2015

You Have To Feel Sorry For The Super-Rich…

> It’s a bit early for an April Fool, otherwise I’d have discounted this as a joke…

A billionaire has compared the treatment of the wealthy to that of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Venture capitalist Thomas Perkins wrote an eybrow-raising letter to the editors at the Wall Street Journal, comparing the plight of the rich to the mass murder by the Nazis, called “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?”… and the WSJ published it.

“I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,'” Perkins writes.

Thomas Perkins, one of the founders of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, was comparing taxes on the super rich to the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust.

“From the Occupy movement to the demonisation of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent,” Perkins continues.

“There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these ‘techno geeks’ can pay.”

Perkins ends his very questionable rant with: “This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”

Obviously, there has been a rather furious backlash to the letter. “It certainly proves you can get rich without being very thoughtful, perceptive, or intelligent,”  as one perceptive person wrote in reply.

> Loonies to the left of us, loonies to the right…and scariest of all, loonies with lots of money in positions of power… but perhaps there’s some clue to the motivation of certain home-grown loonies, like our own dear Iain Duncan Smith and his unfathomable hatred of “the poor”.

Source- Huffington Post, 26 Jan 2014

Tory Priorities Writ Large

On the same day that the government announced it was scrapping the £180-million-a-year Social Fund for the destitute, a new survey showed that the big US internet companies operating in Britain have increased their UK sales last year by 18 per cent but paid even less tax to the Treasury than the year before.

Apple UK made £1 billion this country in 2011, but paid only £15.7m in tax. Last year its UK turnover rose £1.2bn, but its tax payments vanished to almost nothing – £1.7m, or precisely 0.1 per cent of turnover.

Facebook made £20m in the UK in 2011 and paid an almost invisible £200,000 in tax.

Last year its turnover nearly doubled to £35m, but its tax payments to Britain shrivelled to nothing at all.

Taking all the seven companies together – Apple UK, Google, Microsoft, eBay, Yahoo UK, Facebook UK and Amazon UK – their turnover in the UK last year was just under £3bn, but their tax payments totalled just £51m, or 1.7 per cent of turnover.

At the other end of the scale the Social Fund is being wound up by the Tories – something even Thatcher refused to do.

The Social Fund is the last helpline for the poorest families in extreme distress, often brought on by an unexpected financial crisis.

This last-resort lifebelt has been in place for the hardest-hit ever since 1948 and its removal will devastate families, often including children, leaving them literally destitute.

The Tories will no doubt argue that it’s part of the drive to make savings to reduce the budget deficit.

That claim won’t pass muster for two reasons. First, the deficit last year was £111bn, so cutting £180m will save 0.16 per cent – an enormously painful and destructive cut for an utterly minuscule saving.

Second, tackling the corporate tax cheats would be far fairer and produce vastly more money.

So why doesn’t the government get serious about industrial-scale tax avoidance?

Partly because HMRC has been significantly scaled back – and it started under Blair and Brown – as a result of industrial lobbying.

And partly because the Tories get half their annual income each year from the finance sector, so Cameron, Osborne and co aren’t going to touch the biggest tax crooks of all with a bargepole.

Of course the companies will come up with their usual plaintive mantra that they’re complying with the tax laws.

What they mean is they devise the most artificial contrivances they can think of to circumvent the weak and inadequate tax regulations that exist, knowing perfectly well that their practices are aggressively anti-social and contravene the national interest, but as long as they don’t actually fall foul of the letter of the law they have no interest in Britain whatever and will go on feathering their own nests – as well as, of course, the Tories’.

Source – BS News,  09 Jan 2014

Workers Of The World Relax, Universal Automation Hits Google Store

the void

Universal-Automation1-appIain Duncan Smith’s plans to force claimants to spend 35 hours a week endlessly applying for unsuitable jobs via the DWP’s shoddy jobsearch website have suffered another humiliating blow.

Universal Automation, which was recently released as a trial version, has now been launched in google’s Chrome store and is free to download.  The app automatically applies for jobs on Universal Jobmatch, the Jobcentre website that claimants are often forced to use as a condition of claiming benefits*.

According to the developers the latest version has several new features:

  • You can now set all Universal Jobmatch search parameters in the extension options. We added distance, posting date and job type.
  • The extension will apply for jobs on all pages of search results, not just the first one. To control that, you can set the maximum number of jobs the extension will apply for in a single session.
  • When the extension…

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