Profit and Education Don't Mix Britain should learn a lesson from the US

For The Observer/Guardian UK
The daring escape of three very expensive headmasters from the schools to which they were confined, prompted a flummoxed Education Secretary David Blunkett to do what he does best at times of crisis: issue a press release announcing a new programme to expand the privatisation of state schools. This desperate wheeze was for so-called city academies, which will operate outside the control of local education authorities and free of the Government’s own curriculum and employment controls.

Postcards From The de-Valuation Carnival

For The Observer/Guardian UK
As Fat Tuesday nears, the political chit-chat above the carnival drums is about the minimum wage, which the nation’s Constitution effectively sets at US$100 per month. With currency devaluation and massive inflation of basic necessities (electricity is up 250%), the minimum should rise automatically to at least 170 REALS from 130.
Regarding this relief for the low-paid, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Latin America’s carrier of the Third Way torch, remains inscrutably befuddled. But his ministers, the chambers of commerce and their academics have filled newspaper columns with arguments for eliminating the Constitution’s ‘inflexibility.’

Utility Bill Plugs the Supply of Leaks

For The Observer/Guardian UK
I SPENT my last night on the Observer ‘s expense account at the Groucho Club killing a £30 bottle of claret. I had convinced the editor I needed a wad of dosh to maintain my cover as a grasping yuppie. But my mark, a young New Labour lobbyist, was in no mood for good vintage. ‘It’s appalling,’ he moaned, head in hands. He was horrified that competitors, former aides of Messrs Blair, Brown and Mandelson, had passed confidential Government information to me and to their clients, US power companies.

In the Land of the Free, the Legal Eagle is King

For The Observer/Guardian UK
There are 200 million guns in civilian hands in the United States. That works out at 200 per lawyer. Wade through the foaming websites of the anti-semites, weekend militiamen and Republicans, and it becomes clear that many among America’s well-armed citizenry have performed the same calculation. Because if there is any hope of the ceasefire that they fear, it will come out of the barrel of a law suit.
First, the score. Gunshot deaths in the US are way down – to only 88 a day. Around 87,000 lucky Americans were treated for bullet wounds last year; 32,436 unlucky ones died, including a dozen policemen by their own weapons. In one typical case, a young man, Steven Fox, described feeling pieces of his brain fly from his skull after a mugger shot him. He is permanently paralysed.
But, hey, that’s business for you. And what a business it is. Guns, ammo and accessories are a $6bn-a-year honey pot for several corporations: Browning, Smith & Wesson, Colt and others.
Britain loves stories of gun lust in the US. It is an opportunity for snooty comparisons with America’s crude and lawless society. This drives Elisa Barnes crazy.
Barnes is the lawyer who recently brought a groundbreaking law suit against handgun manufacturers, which were found negligent in the shooting of Fox. “You [European] guys are so smug. Glock, Browning, Beretta have these refined European owners. Smith & Wesson is the number one seller of killer guns – and it’s owned by Tomkins plc, of England.”

Big Macs, Small Horizons America isn't Beautiful – and that's Thanks Largely to an Avaricious Clown who is the Spirit of the New Millennium

For The Observer/Guardian UK
My mother was a hypnotist for McDonald’s. In 1970 one of the chain’s biggest franchisees, moving millions of burgers in Hollywood, feared for their managers, who worked 15-hour shifts scattered over nights and days for little more than £2 an hour.

How George Dubya Won The Lottery Game For GTech It's Rollover Time for the Lottery Fixers roll over again

For The Observer/Guardian UK
Governor George W Bush was a fighter pilot during the war in Vietnam – not in the US Air Force, where one could be seriously hurt or injured – but in the Texas air force, known as the Air Guard. Membership excused these weekend warriors from the draft. Young George W tested at 25 out of 100, one point above ‘too dumb to fly’ status, yet leapt ahead of hundreds of applicants to get in.
Baby Bush’s good fortune 30 years ago is connected in a strange and edifying manner to the victory by GTech Corporation and its Camelot partners in beating Richard Branson for the new contract to operate the National Lottery, starting in 2002.

Gates on the Ropes Microsoft will be Forced Back to the Negotiating Table after US Judge Rules that Software Giant 'Harmed Consumers'

By Ed Vulliamy in Seattle, Emily Bell and Jamie Doward for The Observer/Guardian UK
It’s official. Microsoft is a monopoly. But those hoping to see the break-up of Bill Gates’s empire are likely to be disappointed. The 207-page judgment delivered by US district court judge Thomas Penfield Jackson on Friday found in favor of the US Justice Department’s anti-trust team, lead by Joel Klein.

Inside Corporate America The Few Cyberati Dial Handouts from the Many

For The Observer/Guardian UK
It’s 2022 and my grandchildren ask, ‘Grandpa, when did the communications counter-revolution begin?’ As we huddle round the cyberfire, they guess it all went wrong in October 1999. That was when MCI WorldCom paid $115 billion for Sprint Corporation which, once it had merged with AT&T in 2002, gave the telephony behemoth 80 per cent of America’s long-distance market.

Jack Straw's Plan to Keep it Zipped

For The Observer/Guardian UK
I am convinced the only person in Britain with a true understanding of the consequences of Freedom of Information is Jack Straw. The home secretary’s critics claim his resistance to FoI is rooted in some pathological distrust of open democracy. That’s quite unfair. His concerns are rational indeed. This government has some very specific information – records of meetings,phone calls, deals – it would hope to keep very un-free.

UK Fat Cats? Mere Kittens

For The Observer/Guardian UK
It’s that time of year again, when executive pay league tables hit the headlines and set off a chorus of union leaders, professors of ethics and the plain jealous who yowl about fat cat pay.
The Monks Partnership issues the most-watched listing and has given The Observer a sneak preview. This year, the finger-waggers won’t be disappointed. The bosses’ pay is up by an average 9 per cent over last year’s 546,000, excluding share options. Take away inflation and that’s three-and-a-half times the percentage pay hike for the average British employee.

Bank Appoints Controversial TV Evangelist

The Bank of Scotland has appointed the controversial American TV evangelist Dr Pat Robertson as chairman of its US retail banking holding company. The fundamentalist minister is known in America as founder and president of the 1.2-million member far-right Christian Coalition and for his statements attacking feminists, homosexuals, Democrats and Hindus.