THE POLICE announced last week that it is to use 'taser' stun guns across London. If you think this will stop them killing so many people, think again. The gun shoots two darts that can send up to 50,000 volts into the body, overpowering the central nervous system.
There have been no meaningful independent studies into the effects of being hit by a stun gun. But the guns are used by over 850 police forces in the US. After the US police 'tasered' a pregnant woman she miscarried seven days later. David Flores died 15 minutes after he was tasered.
One study of 16 people who died after being tasered found that police used the weapon on people 'hugging and kissing a lamp-post', 'lying in the gutter with feet and hands flailing' and 'walking erratically and blowing a whistle'. Before Los Angeles police brutally beat black man Rodney King in 1991 they tasered him.
Tasers are also used extensively in US prisons to repress inmates. At the Red Onion prison in Virginia inmates reported being shot with tasers when confined to their cells. One prisoner was shot after showing reluctance to strip in the presence of female staff.
Lawrence Frazier, a diabetic prisoner, died five days after he was repeatedly shocked in another Virginia prison last year. Taser International, the company that makes the guns, made a record $1.54 million in the second quarter of this year.
Three different government departments banned the gun's export from Britain in 1997 because it was classified as 'equipment used for torture'.
TOMMY Sheridan, the Scottish Socialist Party member of the Scottish Parliament, got a shock last week. He was included in the Scottish edition of Burke's Landed Gentry.
'I am worried about my reputation when people find out I am listed next to these pompous people,' said Sheridan. 'If I get my way, there will no need to update the book again because there will not be such a thing as the landed gentry in the future.'
BURGER giant McDonald's aims to be the 'best employer in each community in the world'. Tell that to ten schoolchildren who work in McDonald's restaurants in Camberly in Surrey, one of Britain's wealthiest areas.
A court fined the franchise that runs the restaurants £12,400 for 20 offences of illegally employing schoolchildren. Child employment officers found that one schoolgirl worked 16 hours on a Saturday and another worked until 2am on a school night.
KEN LIVINGSTONE, London's mayor, launched the London Development Agency in July. The agency is supposed to spearhead Livingstone's plans for the poor of London. To celebrate the agency's launch a lunch reception was organised at the cost of £280 a head for the 500 guests invited.
Livingstone also ran up a £3,690.80 taxi bill in the year up to April. Trevor Philips, the deputy mayor, ran up a cab bill of £2,500.40. The 26 members of the Greater London Authority (GLA) ran up £20,000 worth of taxi bills. When actress Helen Mirren interviewed Ken Livingstone for a free GLA newssheet, she left a taxi with its meter running outside the GLA headquarters. It cost £103.
YORKSHIRE Water, one of the privatised water companies, is giving itself a huge celebratory pat on the back. It has put up adverts across Yorkshire celebrating its new sewage treatment facilities.
'Since testing began in May, the Environment Agency has reported excellent results at such popular holiday destinations as Scarborough and Bridlington,' say the adverts. But the adverts have not been very well received in the Yorkshire Dales, where Yorkshire Water is applying to dump sewage into the River Ure at Masham.
THE Labour Party is £2 million in debt. It has been forced to increase its overdraft, pay off a number of regional workers, and is planning to move its headquarters.
But this hasn't stopped Labour leaders deciding to hand over £400,000 a year to Downing Street. The extra money will see Anji Hunter, head of the government relations unit, get around £50,000 a year extra.
Robbins gets the picture
US ACTOR Tim Robbins is sick of getting flack for voting for anti-corporate activist Ralph Nader in last year's US election. Robbins is proud to have voted for Nader and recently gave an inspiring speech spelling out exactly why he did:
'A new movement is slowly taking hold on college campuses, among left wing groups in Europe and human rights groups throughout the world. This is a movement in its infancy that I believe is as morally compelling as the early abolitionists fighting to end slavery in the 18th century. The young people who have helped launch a quest for an alternative party, one that will not compromise this planet's future for campaign donations from corporate sugar daddies, believe that the Democratic and Republican parties are united on the major issues of our time. I don't respect armchair activists. I respect the kids outside the Gap who don't compromise. It is grassroots movements that create real change. Real change won't happen at Washington cocktail parties or in the Lincoln bedroom. This movement is in its infancy, but it is alive and it's not going away. Its door is wide open to you. It's a frightening threshold to cross, but an essential one.'
Things they say
'FAILURE could certainly condemn us to a long period of irrelevance.'
MIKE MOORE, director general of the World Trade Organisation, on its meeting in Qatar in November
'IF YOU look at what I say on Sunday and wonder which party best reflects that, it would be the Scottish Socialist Party. If Jesus was alive, I think he would have so many good things to say about them.'
FATHER STEVE GILHOOLEY, Catholic priest who has just joined the Scottish Socialist Party
'SCENERY should be free to look at.'
HILLEBRAND CALL, an 82 year old Australian who flew to Norway to see the North Cape plateau but went home when he found it cost £13.50
'I KNOW it was in better shape when I left than when I joined, and it is that knowledge that lets me sleep at night.'
Former Railtrack boss GERALD CORBETT defending his £1.4 million payoff
'POSITIVE or love based values.'
RICHARD BARRETT, head of the 'spirituality consultants' Royal Mail is employing to improve industrial relations, on what he hopes to offer postal workers
'ALL WE want to do is more business.'
TONY BLAIR on his tour of Latin America last week
'BUSINESS IS just not liked.'
HENRI LACHMAN, boss of Schneider Electric
'TODAY'S public schoolboys happily inhabit the same haunts as football millionaires, page three girls and pop stars-they are friends.'
Tatler editor GEORDIE GREIG on the increasing connections between 'Cool Britannia' stars and the aristocracy
'WHAT'S the White House like?'
Seven year old in Hackney when US president George W Bush visited his school
GEORGE W BUSH's answer