News briefs:April 23, 2010


 Correction — August 24, 2015 These briefs incorrectly describe BP as ‘British Petroleum’. In fact, such a company has not existed for many years as BP dropped this name when becoming a multinational company. The initials no longer stand for anything. 
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Four British energy suppliers face investigation into claims of misselling


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the regulator of the electricity and gas markets in Great Britain, has launched an investigation into four of the largest British energy suppliers over suspicions that they not be complying with face-to-face and telephone sales regulations. The four organisations facing scrutiny could be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover if it is found that they are breaking sales regulations. Scottish Power, npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and EDF Energy are all to face questioning by the organisation.

Ofgem has urged customers of the four companies to alert the energy regulator, “if they are concerned about the sales approach any domestic suppliers have taken when selling energy contracts, either face-to-face or by telephone,” according to a statement. “As part of the investigation process Ofgem will examine any evidence of non-compliance and consider whether there are grounds for exercising enforcement powers.”

New regulations on sales tactics by energy suppliers were recently introduced, and, Ofgem has said, energy suppliers must be “proactive in preventing misselling to customers both face to face and over the phone. Also, if suppliers are selling contracts face to face they must provide customers with an estimate before any sales are concluded. In most circumstances customers should also receive a comparison of the supplier’s offer with their current deal.” Only one in five consumers consider energy suppliers to be trustworthy, and 61% of people feel intimidated by doorstep sales people from energy companies. According to the organisation Consumer Focus, “complaints have declined since new rules came into effect this year, but suppliers still seem to be flouting the rules. Some customers are still being given misleading quotes and information, which leave them worse off when they switch provider.”

The newspaper The Guardian has reported that “householders are reporting that sales agents working for the energy suppliers are giving them misleading information and quotes which leave them worse off when they switch supplier.” Consumer Focus has said that if energy companies continue to break the rules, they could be banned from doorstep-selling completely. The report goes on to say that “new figures from helpline Consumer Direct show that while the number of complaints has fallen since last year, about 200 cases of mis-selling are being reported each month.” However, Scottish Power said it insists on “the highest standards possible for all of our sales agents”, and npower told the Financial Times that it was “confident that the processes we have in place mean that we comply with our regulatory obligations”. EDF added that it was “fully compliant with all obligations regarding sales of energy contracts”.

According to the regulator, the obligations are serious and must be followed by energy supplies, or they will face “tougher sanctions than those available under more general consumer protection law.” Ofgem has published a guide advising consumers what they should do should an energy salesperson contact them in person of by telephone. Improper sales tactics are still common in the industry—in 2008 an Ofgem investigation found that 48% of gas customers and 42% of electricity customers were worse off after switching supplier on the doorstep. Npower was fined £1.8 million in 2008 by the organisation, and Ofgem insists that they are “committed to taking action” over improper sales activities by energy companies. “Suppliers have existing obligations to detect and prevent misselling and new licence conditions were brought in following our probe to further increase protection for customers,” said Andrew Wright, a Senior Partner of the regulator. “We expect all suppliers to comply with these tougher obligations but if our investigations find otherwise we will take strong action.”

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What are your experiences with doorstep salespeople? If they persuaded you to change energy providers, were you worse off as a result?
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Head of energy at Consumer Focus, Audrey Gallacher, called the investigation “a welcome step … to address years of customers getting a bad deal on energy prices on their doorstep. While many doorstep sales people will do a good job, the pay and rewards system continues to encourage mis-selling, despite years of regulation and voluntary initiatives. If better advice for customers and enforcement of the tougher rules doesn’t end the flagrant abuse of this form of selling the big question will be whether it should be completely banned.” Christine McGourty, director of Energy UK, which represents the leading gas and electricity companies, said that “the companies involved will collaborate with the Ofgem investigation and are awaiting further details from the regulator. Any sales agent in breach of the code will be struck off the approved energy sales register.” Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, has said he considers the situation “shocking”, saying that the investigation “will do nothing to improve consumer trust in energy suppliers. We’re pleased that Ofgem has promised tough measures against any firms guilty of mis-selling. We hope it uses this opportunity to tighten rules around telesales so they are in line with those for face to face sales.”

SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir MP, however, said that the investigation “does nothing to tackle the real problem of fuel prices which leave many Scots facing great difficulty in heating their homes … Rather than tinkering around the edges Ofgem should be looking at how to reduce prices for vulnerable households.” Gareth Kloet, Head of Utilities at Confused.com, one of the UK’s biggest and most popular price comparison services, also welcomed the inquiry. “It is unacceptable for energy companies to mislead customers like this,” he said, adding that Confused.com has previously “urged energy providers to either stop the practice of doorstep selling or make it very clear to households that better deals are available online. There is no reason why door-to-door salesmen can’t show people online deals and even help households switch to them.”

“Our research reveals customers could end up paying £167 more than they need to as door-to-door salesmen are unable to offer the discounts that are applied online. The changes that have been made to date are a welcome addition to safeguard customers; however this review has been much needed for a long time. Hopefully it will mark the end of customers being overcharged and missold,” Kloet continued. “Our message to energy consumers remains the same: they should shop around online to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible and turn these salesmen away.”

Russian firefighting aircraft starts fires in Portugal


Saturday, July 8, 2006

The Russian Beriev 200 airplane leased to the Portuguese Government suffered an accident last Thursday (July 6) afternoon, after one of its engines was damaged.

The accident occurred after a refueling operation at the dam of Aguieira, near Santa Comba Dão. As the aerial firefighting aircraft took off at the end of the refueling maneuver in the water – designated as ‘scooping’ – its “left wing hit the top of the trees and the aircraft suffered some damage” to its fuselage, said Colonel Anacleto dos Santos, director of the Cabinet of Prevention and Investigation of Accidents with Aircraft (GPIAA), to the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manhã.

While hitting the top of the trees, leaves and some wood entered the left engine, which didn’t blow up, but that had to be turned off and the pilot was forced to release fuel for safety reasons. The release of the fuel started small wildfires across the area, reaching some houses, which were quickly extinguished by firefighters and helitack units of the GNR‘s Intervention, Protection and Rescue Group.

The airplane was able to do an emergency landing at the Monte Real Air Base, where it’s currently operating from, thanks to the flight experience of one of the Russian pilots. When contacted by the Lusa news agency, National Service of Firefighters and Civil Protection, vice-president Lieutenant-Colonel Joaquim Leitão explained that the repairs will be made by the aircraft company and that all the parts necessary to repair the damages will have to come from Russia, by which the solution for the problem will take “some days”.

Lieutenant-Colonel Leitão added that an investigation is in progress to analyse the circumstances under which the accident occurred. And when he was asked if the accident was caused by the limitations of the dam, given the dimensions of the aircraft, he said that the reconnaissance of the area had been performed before the scooping exercises began, and an operation officially kicks off when all the conditions are met.

The final report of the GPIAA will only be concluded in a few weeks but GPIAA director, Colonel Anacleto dos Santos, excluded two of the eventual causes of any aerial accident. “The atmospheric conditions were not adverse and there are no indications of mechanical failure. Everything points to human error.”

On board of the aircraft followed two Russian pilots – one of them still receiving formation – and an Portuguese pilot that was observing the operations.

Two years ago, the Italian authorities tested the Beriev in the same mission type. Having the Portuguese Government sent observers to evaluate the performance of the aircraft. However, some limitations were found in the performing of the Russian aircraft in Italy’s wildfire scenarios. Having the Italian Civil Protection reached the conclusion that the Beriev 200 is not prepared to operate in mountainous terrain.

Rome Cultural Capital Of World (Part Ii)}


Rome – Cultural Capital of World (Part II)

by

omar mahmood

The capital of Italy Illustrating Neoclassicism Architecture

Rome became the capital city of Italy in 1870, during that time a new style of architecture developed in Italy called neoclassicism. It was building style influenced by the Antiquity architecture. Later it influenced Roman architecture predominantly. After being the capital city of Italy several new buildings are constructed to house ministries, embassies and other government agencies, all of them were great example of palaces in neoclassical styles. The Best example of neoclassicism architecture is the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II also known as “Altar of Fatherland” built in memory of around 650,000 Italian soldiers that fell in First World War.

Fascist Architecture

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This style of architecture was an Italian architectural style developed during late 1920’s which was implemented and promoted initially by the Gruppo 7 group. It was characterized through its linkages with ancient Rome architecture. The most significant example of fascist architecture in Rome is the E.U.R. district, built in 1935. It was originally visualized for the 1942 world exhibition, and was called “Esposizione 42”, but eventually that world exhibition never took place because Italy entered the Second World War in 1940. Palazzo Della Farnesina, the actual seat of Italian Foreign Ministry is also an example of Fascist Architecture.

Vatican City

Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state of world is situated inside a circles wall in City of Rome. Vatican City itself is an extraordinary example of architectural beauty. The Buildings such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel which are marvels of Roman architecture are home to some of the most famous and rare artworks in the world includes exclusive works by artists such as Botticelli, Bernini, Raphael and Michel Angelo.

The Centre area of Rome is surrounded by some large greeneries and exclusive ancient villas. Although most of them were completely destroyed by real estate assumption during end of 19th century but some remained untouched and they are surviving till today. That Includes:

1.Villa Borghese that contains a large landscape garden in the naturalistic 19th century English style, number of buildings, museums and other attractions.

2.Villa Ada, which is one of the largest public parks of Rome. It was residence of the Italian royal family from 1872 to 1878 and from 1904 to 1946.

3.Villa Torlonia that was the Roman residence of Benito Mussolini. This is splendid example of Art Nouveau mansion.

Rome is very rich in terms of cultural beauty and heritage. One needs to spend sufficient time in visiting Rome. The best way to experience the marvelous beauty of Rome is to enjoy a complete guided sightseeing tour of the city covering all major portions and heritages.

Open Top Sight Seeing is a company providing excusing tour facility to some most exclusive cities of world like San Francisco, Washington DC, Paris, and Rome. We are unique sightseeing tour providers with luxury buses, and open top double Decker buses for better view of these marvelous cities. For more information please visit: – http://www.opentopsightseeing.com/

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Rome – Cultural Capital of World (Part II)}

Canada’s Don Valley West (Ward 26) city council candidates speak


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Don Valley West (Ward 26). Four candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include Muhammad Alam, Bahar Aminvaziri, Orhan Aybars, Michele Carroll-Smith, Mohamed Dhanani, Abdul Ingar, Geoff Kettel, Debbie Lechter, Natalie Maniates, John Masterson, John Parker, David Thomas, Csaba Vegh, and Fred Williams.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

Contents

  • 1 Geoff Kettel
  • 2 Natalie Maniates
  • 3 John Parker
  • 4 Csaba Vegh

Eva Hassett, VP of Savarino Construction Services Corp. answers questions on Buffalo, N.Y. hotel redesign


Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “120 year-old documents threaten development on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

Monday, February 27, 2006

Buffalo, New York —Wikinews was the first to tell you that the Elmwood Village Hotel development in Buffalo, New York was to undergo “significant changes”.

The Elmwood Village Hotel is a proposed project that would be placed at Elmwood and Forest Aves. in Buffalo. In order for the development to take place, at least five buildings that house both businesses and residents, must be demolished.

To confirm and to get more information about the changes, Wikinews interviewed Eva Hassett, Vice President of Savarino Construction Services Corporation, the development company in charge of building the hotel.

Wikinews: The hotel proposal is being redesigned. Could you comment on that? What changes are being made? Are they significant?

Eva Hassett: The hotel has been resized as a 72-room, four story building. This is 10% smaller in number of rooms and a full story lower. We are also redesigning the facades in a way that will minimize the mass – more of a vertical feeling than horizontal. Different materials, windows, details. The smaller size of the hotel also makes the number of on-site parking spaces more appropriate and hopefully represents less of a challenge to an already difficult parking situation.

WN: Will you still be going before the city’s planning board as scheduled on February 28? Same for the Common Council?

Hassett: We will be on the Planning Board agenda this Tuesday morning but I do not expect that the Board will vote on the item that morning. I think we will be mainly explaining the new design and hearing input/questions.

WN: Will there be anymore public meetings?

Hassett: We would be happy to do one more big public meeting. We will be talking to Forever Elmwood about that on Monday (February 27, 2006). We would like to see if there is support for the new design and we also want to honor the public’s request for another meeting. I am hopeful that meeting can take place the week of March 6th.

WN: Is Savarino considering Mr. Rocco Termini’s design/proposal? If no, do you (Savarino) support/oppose?

Hassett: We are hopeful that we can build the hotel as redesigned. We think it would be a great addition to the Elmwood Ave. area, a good way for out-of-towners to see what Buffalo offers and a big help to the businesses there.

WN: Are you considering more time for the community to make a judgment?

Hassett: As I mentioned above, we expect to have one more meeting to get public reaction to the new design, and I think the Planning Board may want an additional meeting to make their determination. We do however, have constraints that will limit the amount of extra time. We still think it is a great project for the City and Elmwood; and we still want it to be something that the community wants as well.

So far, the City of Buffalo’s City Planning Board is still scheduled to meet at 8:00 a.m. (Eastern) on February 28, 2006 followed by the Common Council meeting at 2:00 p.m. on the same day.

Images of the design are not yet available. “We are working on the renderings this weekend, but I will likely have some early in the week,” stated Hassett.

Personal Loans For People With Bad Credit A Big Mistake?}


Personal Loans for People with Bad Credit – a Big Mistake?

by

Ashley Hamilton-Gray

Lending institutions today, more than ever before, are inundated with requests for personal loans from people with bad credit ratings. Of course, they have money to lend, and wish to lend it. Under the right circumstances this can be both helpful and useful. But for those individuals who have already stacked up credit upon credit, whose debt load is already heavy and burdensome, we must ask the question:

Is this really the answer — or are we all making a very big mistake?It goes without saying that money loans need to be paid back — at least sometime. Banks and other loan companies are in business to make money, not to run charities! The interest they charge is their profit. Now with more and more people defaulting on repayment arrangements, it is a cause of concern that cannot really be tackled other than at its root.Just what lies beneath the current financial mayhem? Even a few decades ago it was understood by both parties to an agreement that loans get repaid — generally on time. Any reneging on the debt itself carried severe penalties. We might even say the approach was puritanical. However today’s topsy-turvy world of financial lending conversely contains more than a dash of the cavalier spirit, and left to run unchecked could end in serious problems.And what of the individual in all of this? How easy has it been to run up debts of 10 K, 30 K, or even 50 K in a matter of a few months? And when the nought percent (0%) offers run out, or the special low rates end abruptly due to one missed payment etc — what then? As the bad credit record begins to show with the first few missed payments lenders start to lose confidence– and are no longer prepared to pour more into the overheated melting pot. Yes — what then?The solution to this itch is definitely not to scratch it with yet another cash advance from some charitable lender (whose over-enthusiastic representative no doubt stands to gain personally (being either on commission or at least some kind of ‘brownie points’ bonuses!). This kind of quick-fix mentality is not going to serve any of us well, as we approach the second decade of the second millennium! Financial lending institutions and individual borrowers alike cannot fail to suffer eventually, unless this attitude is curbed. It has all been too ‘easy come easy go’ with spending other people’s money, and the day of reckoning cannot fail to be far behind!On sober reflection, the only practical solution to this pirouetting catastrophe, before at all falls flat on its face, is for banks and individuals to become more responsible in the lending/borrowing arena. The only hope of recovery lies in re-education — first and foremost of those individuals who are suffering the burden of excessive debt coupled with an inability to repay. There are organisations, (such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Services in the UK), who are there to help with very practical financial advice. In addition to this there is also a growing awareness of the need for more heart-searching education. This involves assisting individuals to change the way they relate to money — right from their very core.Once debt and overspending is seen as a ‘relationship problem’, then as with any other problem in relationship, a close and candid personal examination is called for in order to take personal responsibility for actions and consequences. New ways of thinking, feeling and being will ensue. And from this new centre individuals can begin to behave differently around money, due to the personal changes made. This kind of re-education has been sorely needed in today’s heightened lending market, and attempts made to address this with caring attention to the individual have been much appreciated. The ‘cashflow-problem’ web site bears one such educational light at the end of what’s been, for many people, a very dark tunnel indeed.

To find out more about about how to change a relationship with money visit the ‘Cashflow Problem’ site at: http://www.cashflow-problem.com

Article Source:

Personal Loans for People with Bad Credit – a Big Mistake?}

Overnight battle for Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sri Lanka government forces repulsed an overnight offensive by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern Jaffna peninsula in some of the fiercest fighting since the 2002 truce.

The LTTE attempted an amphibious attack arriving in a flotilla of gunboats. Government troops drove them off, supported by artillery and aerial bombing.

According to a military spokesperson, Major Rajapakse, the army killed at least 98 Tamil Tigers and wounded twice as many. The army suffered 6 killed and 60 wounded.

“The situation has calmed down now after heavy fighting till early this morning,” Rajapakse said.

The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is an ongoing conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils on the island-nation of Sri Lanka. Since the 1983 “Black July” pogrom, there has been on-and-off civil war, mostly between the government and the LTTE who want to create an independent state of called Tamil Eelam in the north and east of the island. It is estimated that the war has left 65,000 people dead since 1983 and caused great harm to the population and economy of the country. A cease-fire was declared in 2002, but hostilities renewed in late 2005 following military operations against Tiger-controlled territory in the east.

Death toll of Bahrain tourist boat capsizing rises to 57


Saturday, April 1, 2006At least 57 people are now known to have died when a boat designed similar to a traditional dhow capsized one mile of the coast of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Seventeen were Indian and a further 13 of the dead are British; people of another six nationalities are also known to have died. The passengers were mostly foreigners from the Nass-Murray and Roberts construction company, and were enjoying an evening dinner cruise in celebration of their completion of part of the Bahrain World Trade Centre towers. Most who died were dining on the lower deck, and were trapped below.

Over 130 people were onboard the boat at the time, although some say the boat was only licensed to carry 120. Others say the limit was 150. Eyewitnesses say the boat was overloaded. The boat capsized in calm seas soon after it left, trapping many below. Helicopters from the US Navy searched for 13 missing persons until Friday morning, when the search was called off. The dhow had been modified to have an extra, higher deck making the vessel less stable. The exact cause is unknown – suggestions from eyewitnesses include the boat suddenly turning left, being hit by a wave, and many of the passengers moving to one side of the boat together. The Bahrain Interior Ministry is to investigate the accident and establish if the boat was seaworthy.

White House diverted $1.6b war funds to border security


Wednesday, June 7, 2006

United Press International (UPI) reports that the Senate took US$1.9b out of the 2006 emergency war supplemental funding to fund border security last month. The White House reportedly called for the transfer that was put into an amendment sponsored by Senators Bill Frist and Judd Gregg. Out of the $1.9b, $1.6b was meant to replace equipment that has been destroyed or worn out after four years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

An unnamed Pentagon budget official told UPI “You can’t tell me that illegal aliens coming across the border pose the same kind of threat to national security as insurgents in Anbar do against Marines.”