Inside the system
Interference on the telly
THE BBC came under attack in May this year by Jeff Randall in Sunday Business. "Running through the corporation, from top to bottom like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock, is a liberal agenda set by patronising, middle class, guilt-ridden do-gooders who dominate its corridors," he wrote.
"The worst examples can be heard daily on Radio 4. If this were your only source of information you would inevitably conclude that happily married, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual, law-abiding taxpayers are a dying breed on these islands. Radio 4's programming displays an obsessive obsequiousness to the interests and concerns of social and ethnic minorities, the unemployed and those who enjoy denigrating conventional values. Business is rarely covered unless it is a story about a beastly multinational making workers redundant or fat cat directors collecting outrageous salaries."
You might have thought this crazed outburst would be robustly denounced by the people who lead the BBC. Far from it-BBC director general Greg Dyke has now hired Randall as a new business editor. He will get �225,000 a year. Randall's employers at Sunday Business are some of the fattest cats around. They are the billionaire Barclay brothers, who avoid paying taxes by basing their empire in the Channel Islands.
AMONGST the coverage of the US elections you might have missed a great reform achieved in Alabama. Citizens voted to repeal a state law which outlaws marriage between black and white people. Nobody could accuse the state government of rushing things, could they?
MINERS AND ex-miners rejoiced when the newly-elected Labour government promised to give compensation to workers suffering from dust diseases like emphysema. But the government revealed last week it had only paid out �350 million instead of the �3 billion it promised. Some 6,000 miners have died before their compensation claims have been processed.
Energy minister Helen Liddell announced that it would take a further ten to 15 years before all the claimants are paid, even with the courts' full cooperation. Miners have to undergo tortuous medical tests, often hooked up to oxygen machines, to prove their case before they even get to court.
TOP MARKS for utter cheek go to First Great Western rail bosses. They have suspended the cheaper price Apex and Super Advance tickets because they say it is impossible to book in advance on a chaotic rail service. So the standard rate between London and Exeter is �98. An Apex ticket would have cost just �24.
This means the company can run a quarter of the trains it used to but still make roughly the same amount of revenue.
THERE ARE "huge discrepancies" between what companies say in social audits about their activities and what they actually do, according to a New Economics Foundation report. Barclays Bank's review in 1999 claimed, "We have the skills, resources and determination to make a positive and lasting contribution to the communities in which we operate."
A few months later the bank closed 172 branches. BP's chief executive Sir John Browne said, "Our goals are simply stated-no accidents, no harm to people and no damage to the environment." BP is about to become one of the top three producers of fuels that add to global warming.
A PROPOSAL by pharmaceutical companies to cut the cost of Aids drugs to Africa has been condemned as "cynical and hypocritical" by Dr Mohammed Abdullah, chair of Kenya's Aids control council.
Even if the cost of HIV and Aids drugs was reduced by 85 percent, as is proposed, this would just bring the price down to European levels. Kenya could make its own Aids drugs more cheaply but the companies will not give up their patents.
Around 25 percent of Kenyans are HIV positive. The cost of treating them all at the drug firms' prices would exceed the total Kenyan national budget.
THE Home Office has scrapped its snatch squad tracking down "illegal asylum seekers" because it fears its agents would be beaten up by the general public. The eight-person squad is based at the Immigration Service's enforcement HQ in south London. It was supposed to wade into people's homes and drag them off. But a Home Office source told reporters last week that it will be disbanded because "it could spark public disorder on the streets if the squad tries to arrest someone."
Is it a bird?
BRITISH SCIENTISTS have been sent to the Falkland Islands to investigate the falling penguin phenomenon. Apparently the birds always look up at military helicopters flying overhead and follow them all the way, until the unfortunate penguins keel over backwards. Penguins are clearly the most exciting thing about the islands.
The latest edition of the Falkland Islands newsletter has a front page picture of two penguins, an article featuring penguins on page nine, a piece about counting penguins on page ten, a picture of a penguin laying an egg on page 11, two penguin pics on page 12, and two more penguin snaps on page 24.
Things they say
"IT SOUNDS like the now happily bygone days of some tinpot Latin American regime from the 1970s."
- FINANCIAL TIMES on the US election
"IT DOESN'T really affect us at all. Regardless of who actually ends up as president, most people will feel this is very much more of the same we've had from this Congress and this president over the last four years."
- JAMES TREACY, US boss, speaking to the Financial Times
"IT'S NOT Catholic. It completely forgets the holiness of food."
- Italian Catholic newspaper AVVENIRE joins the protests against McDonald's fast food in Italy
"IT'S A journey and you never arrive at your destination."
- GERALD CORBETT, boss of Railtrack, making a gaffe about rail safety at the Paddington inquiry
"IF IT'S successful it will recoup a significant part of the cost, and could even make money. In principle it is sensible to have a serious millennium project if it is financially deliverable and will stand the test of time. The alternative is to do nothing at all."
- TONY BLAIR insisting the Dome went ahead in leaked cabinet minutes
"WE MUST decide what's going to be in it. There's a tight programme but it's possible to deliver it."
- JOHN PRESCOTT falls into line
"IF IT is successful, the money will come back. The politics now will be to scrap it, but the politics of two and a half years time suggests very differently."
- CHRIS SMITH, culture secretary
"IF TONY has made a decision, we'll all have to support it."
- ROBIN COOK