UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from Photographers' Blog:

A town of grief

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The coffins of six British soldiers killed in Afghanistan are driven though the streets of Wootton Bassett in southwest England November 10, 2009. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Since the early 2000's, the bodies of fallen servicemen and women from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places have been repatriated to RAF Lyneham. They pass through the town of Wootton Bassett on their way to the coroner in Oxford. This has led to family members, friends, locals and mourners from further afield assembling along the route of the funeral cortege. It is an emotionally charged event that garners wide media coverage every time.

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A man cries as the hearses carrying the coffins of five British soldiers are driven through the streets of Wootton Bassett, southern England March 11, 2010. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

This was the second time that I had covered this story, the first being just a few weeks ago. Then again yesterday as five servicemen were repatriated. Standing on stepladders to facilitate a clear view over the hearses sounds conspicuous at such an event. And it is. There is no getting away from it. In order to document what is happening, we need to be able to see it.

Jeremy Hunt unveils Tory technology platform

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Jeremy HuntAs the three main UK political parties vie for positioning ahead of a general election to be held by June, the Conservatives unveiled their “Technology Manifesto” on Thursday in London outlining the key issues they would address if they form the next government.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude presented ideas on everything from improving broadband speeds to making government data accessible online.

from Global News Journal:

Should Norway bail out Iceland?

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icesaveWhile not exactly pocket change, Iceland’s $5.5 billion Icesave debt to Britain and the Netherlands amounts to just 1.2 percent of the value of Norway’s offshore wealth fund. For Iceland, it's more than $15,000 per citizen.

Given the two countries’ close historic links -- Norwegian Vikings discovered the Atlantic island where people still speak a version of “old Norwegian” -- speculation about Oslo coming to the rescue has Reykjavik licking its lips.

Hung parliament haunts Conservatives

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David_cameron       A once unthinkable prospect is striking fear into the hearts of the Conservative Party faithful as they gather for their last conference before the British election — that the party could fall short of winning a parliamentary majority.

After months of big opinion poll leads, the opposition Conservatives looked set fair to win the election, expected in May, ending Labour’s 13-year grip on power.

from MacroScope:

Britain heading for rude awakening?

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There is a divisive election ahead for Britain, the threat of a ratings downgrade on its sovereign debt and a deficit that has ballooned into the largest by percentage of any major economy.  UK stocks, bonds and sterling, however, are trundling along as if all were well. What gives?

For a fuller discussion on the issue click here, but the gist is that all three asset classes  are being support by factors that may be masking the danger of a broad reversal. UK equities have been driven higher by the improving global economy, bonds held up by the Bank of England's huge buying programme and sterling by valuation and the distress of others.

from FaithWorld:

Did Jesus headline Glastonbury before Springsteen?

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glastonburyJesus Christ may have visited an English town now renowned for a raucous modern-day music festival to meet ancient druids, a new film argues.  "And Did Those Feet" explores the theory that Jesus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea on a visit to the area around the southern English town of Glastonbury. (Photo: At the end of Glastonbury Festival 2009, 29 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)

The Glastonbury Festival held on a farm near the town draws some of the 21st century's biggest music stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Neil Young and U2 to the world's largest open air music and arts festival.

Drawing the line against the Taliban

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afghan1Fight them there or fight them here?

Former Foreign Office minister Kim Howells poses the question in the Guardian in a piece made grimly relevant by Wednesday’s shooting dead of  five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman.

Howells says troops should be brought back from Afghanistan and that the billions of pounds saved should be used to beef up homeland security in Britain – drawing the front line against al Qaeda around the UK rather than thousands of miles away in Helmand province.

from FaithWorld:

Climate change debate spurs warm feelings in London

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china-climateIt is rare that religion and science find agreement, but that is what happened when Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke at a meeting on saving the earth from climate change.

"The great Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson published a book in 2007 called "Creation", subtitled An Appeal to Save Life on Earth," Sacks told leaders of all the major faiths meeting at Lambeth Palace in London on Thursday.

from The Great Debate UK:

Will politicians come clean on tax hikes?

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As political parties step up their campaigning ahead of a general election due by June 2010, voters need to know exactly how politicians plan to tackle a projected deficit of 175 billion pounds, says Stephen Herring, senior tax partner at accountancy firm BDO LLP.

In a report titled "Time to Break the Silence" BDO suggests there will not only be cuts in public spending, but substantial business tax increases.

from FaithWorld:

Will Queen Elizabeth give the pope a warm welcome next year?

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queenOne can guess what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say to Pope Benedict when the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion travels to the Vatican later this year. The more interesting question might be what  Queen Elizabeth is likely to say when she hosts the pope next year. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth, 13 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)

The timing of the trips couldn't be more intriguing, especially the second one. The pope is due to visit Britain in September 2010 and is expected to preside there over the beatification of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous 19th-century convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

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