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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

Miley Cyrus’s father approves of pole dance at Teen Choice Awards

Billy Ray Cyrus, the father of Miley Cyrus, who plays Hannah Montana, has defended her pole-dancing act at the Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles.

Miley Cyrus’s raunchy dance routine at the Teen Choice Awards raised a few eyebrows but her father Billy Ray says he approves of her behaviour.

The 16-year-old Hannah Montana star cavorted around a stripper pole during a performance of her song Party In The USA earlier this month.

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus defended his daughter saying her moves were all good, clean fun.

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Filed under: Portfolio, UK News, ,

French game of boules hailed by Buddhist master

The French game of boules has been hailed as a tool of meditation by a Buddhist master, Maître Kaisen.

Maître Kaisen, 56, a Buddhist master born to a family of Polish immigrants in northern France, says playing pétanque – boules – increases your ability to ignore outside distractions.

And he has written a book to share his theory. His book, L’Esprit de la Pétanque (The Spirit of Pétanque), is based on 35 years of pétanque practice.

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Filed under: Portfolio, UK News,

Millions spent on NHS management consultants with Labour links

The Department of Health has spent almost £500 million on management consultants, including deals with firms which have hired senior Labour figures and high ranking civil servants, an investigation has revealed.

The disclosure of more than 100 contracts worth a total of £470 million last night engulfed the Government in accusations of “cronyism”.

Among those recruited by the favoured firms are a former health minister, an ex-adviser to the health secretary and a senior Whitehall official responsible for encouraging private sector involvement in the NHS.

Doctors’ and nurses’ leaders expressed concern over the use of resources which could have paid for more than 60,000 hip operations, or the annual salary of 22,000 nurses.

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Filed under: Portfolio, UK News,

A-levels: Row over maths standards

A fresh row over A-level standards broke out as it was disclosed that a third of A grade mathematics students failed the Cambridge University entrance exam.

By Amy Willis and Graeme Paton
Published: 10:00PM BST 21 Aug 2009, The Daily Telegraph (front page)

Hundreds of top students with offers to study the subject were rejected after failing the maths test set by the university to identify the brightest candidates.

Geoff Parks, head of admissions, suggested that it was difficult to pick out the most able sixth-formers based on A-levels alone.

The disclosure comes just days after students celebrated another round of record results. The number of passes increased for the 27th year in a row while more than a quarter of entries was graded an A.

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Sixth case of Legionnaires’ disease investigated

A sixth case of Legionnaires’ disease is being investigated by health officials after another patient was admitted to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashton.

By Amy Willis
Published: 7:00AM BST 19 Aug 2009, The Daily Telegraph

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed they are now leading an inquiry into six cases of legionella infection in East Kent. This latest case is a man in his 60s who is said to be in a serious but stable condition.

Three of the cases, one of whom was an inpatient, have been linked to the William Harvey Hospital although no links have been found with the latest case.

Two weeks ago Kevin Carroll, 50, from Dover, died from the disease after being admitted to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital which is also run by the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust. The HPA has said he was suffering from a separate strain of the disease.

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Filed under: Portfolio, UK News

Left in the dark

As Britain moves closer to the rebirth of the nuclear power industry, a special investigation by Amy Willis reveals that schools – only a matter of miles away from British nuclear power stations – are without stockpiles of anti-radiation drugs and information about what to do in a nuclear emergency.

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Filed under: UK News

David Cameron warns UK must move away from an economy based on debt

By Amy Willis

David Cameron gave further indication today as to why he believes the UK may be heading towards a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Following a statement before Christmas where he said he thought the UK was heading towards a bailout from the IMF, Mr Cameron has given further details, emphasising the need for the Government to move away from an economy based on debt, to an economy based on savings.

“[The UK] is in an extraordinary situation. Every child in Britain is born owing £17,000 and paying the interest on the debt the Government is accumulating will cost every child over £67,000 in taxes over his or her lifetime,” he said.

David CameronNational debt is scheduled to reach a higher level than when Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey went to the IMF in 1976, he said. This means the UK is in a much weaker position than other countries and leaves the Government with less room for manoeuvre.

“Public spending is continuing to grow at an affordable rate, which will do real damage to jobs and prosperity in Britain,” he said.

He made calls for a change from a country and government that has lived beyond its means to one that lives within its means.

“I want to see resources for public services like the NHS and schools continue to grow, but we need to make sure that government as a whole doesn’t grow more quickly than the growth of the economy,” he said.

Mr Cameron said there were three key immediate changes he would make to the financial system:

1)    Changes to the Government’s recapitalisation scheme (including cuts in the coupon on the Government’s preference shares)

2)    A National Loan Guarantee Scheme to get money flowing to business

3)    Measures to ensure more liquidity for new business lending with new liquidity support for the Bank of England

He would also want to see Council Tax rates frozen for two years and Income Tax on savings for basic rate taxpayers, abolished.

He said: “We need to act now to set our public finances on a more sustainable path. Otherwise the burden of taxation becomes too great for businesses and families, acting as a drag anchor on recovery and harming the economy for the longer term.

“These changes would help the victims of the recession today, but in a way that builds our economy for the decades to come.”

Filed under: Portfolio, UK News

Former Thatcher advisor says Government may be heading towards IMF bail-out

By Amy Willis

Indicators are emerging showing the UK government may be heading towards a bail-out from the International Monetary Fund, Lord Christopher Monckton, policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher for four years, has warned.

The sudden increased value of UK credit default swaps could indicate the government is taking a turn for the worst, he explains.

Credit default swaps (CDS) offer credit protection for bondholders to cover losses if loan repayments default – similar to an insurance policy. Before the global financial crisis UK bonds were seen as relatively risk free and CDS spreads were generally stable at a rate of about 2bp. In the last few months this price has risen sharply to 120bp, almost double that of French, German, US and Japanese spreads but better than Italian spreads which are 166bp. Lord Monckton says this indicates investors may be wondering if the government is able to keep up with its debt repayments.

Lord Christopher Monckton

Lord Christopher Monckton

He says, if the UK is to avoid going to the IMF, enhancing investor confidence in the security of sovereign bonds is essential. The government needs to cut public expenditure and avoid the public sector ‘crowding out’ the private sector. This would mean introducing a range of unpopular policies which may include freezing civil service recruitment and addressing the index-linked pension time bomb.

Lord Monckton said: “However unpopular it is, we have to cut public expenditure down to size and live within our means. The private sector is collapsing under the weight of overtaxation and overregulation.

“As unemployment begins to rise there will be additional social security costs. Taxation revenues will plummet, which means less money coming in and more money going out. On top of that you have pre-existing debt on an unimaginable scale. When the government can no longer borrow money and is not making enough on its current account, they will go under. At that point they have to go and queue up at the IMF and request assistance.”
David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, who has been criticised in recent weeks for failing to say how he would help investor confidence, agrees the UK government could be heading in this direction. When asked if the UK was heading towards bankruptcy he said: “The simple answer is yes.”

cdsA Treasury spokesman released this statement: “The government is committed to taking real action now and in the months ahead to lead the UK economy to recovery as we confront the global downturn. The actions we have taken to improve stability in the financial sector and our work to stimulate the economy through the cut to VAT, support for business, and major investments in infrastructure will make a significant difference.

“In the Pre Budget Report the Chancellor clearly outlined how public finances will be managed through the downturn and made it clear that the government will pursue a policy of reducing debt as a proportion of GDP every year once economic growth returns. The Treasury is confident that the UK is not headed to bankruptcy or a bail-out.”

Filed under: Portfolio, UK News, , , , , ,

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