Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Migrant firewall? Cameron targets welfare benefits for EU migrants

Migrant firewall? Cameron targets welfare benefits for EU migrants

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters / Olivia Harris)

Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a swath of benefit cuts and “free movement” restrictions to EU migrants in a bid to shore up the UK’s social welfare system, as a fresh wave of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants are set to arrive on British soil.
Under the proposed measures introduced late on Tuesday, new migrants would not be eligible for unemployment benefits during their first three months in the country, and unemployment payments would be stopped after six months unless claimants proved they had a “genuine chance of finding a job”.
New migrants would also no longer be able to claim government housing benefits, and those caught begging or sleeping on the streets would be deported with no chance of return for a year.
In a bid to tackle unscrupulous employers, fines would be quadrupled for those found to be paying below the minimum wage.
“We are changing the rules so that no-one can come to this country and expect to get out-of-work benefits immediately," Cameron wrote for the Financial Times.
The Tories' coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, backed the package of restrictions as reasonable.
Writing for the Financial Times, Cameron further said it was time to reevaluate the principle of free movement, a central tenet of the European Union which had triggered “vast population movements".
"We need to face the fact that free movement has become a trigger for vast population movements caused by huge disparities in income. That is extracting talent out of countries that need to retain their best people and placing pressure on communities."
Cameron said he would look to sympathetic EU governments to work on allowing member states to halt the number of arrivals if they exceeded a certain threshold. He also said governments could limit the annual number of EU migrants or withhold the right to full freedom of movement until specific countries achieved a certain per capita Gross Domestic Product.
Cameron said he understood the concerns many in Britain had about the EU’s requirement to lift transitional controls limiting Bulgarian and Romanian workers' access to the UK labor market. The measures, which have been in place since the former Eastern Bloc states joined the EU in 2007, will expire at the end of the year.
The PM chastised the previous government for not restricting access to the UK labor market when Poland and nine other countries joined the EU in 2004. The move resulted in a much larger influx of migrants than expected, with an estimated 1 million people from Central and Eastern Europe now living in the UK.
"In 2004, the Labour government made the decision that the UK should opt out completely of transitional controls on the new EU member states. They had the right to impose a seven-year ban before new citizens could come and work here, but – almost alone in Europe – Labour refused it. That was a monumental mistake," he said.
"The EU of today is very different from the EU of 30 years ago," he continued.
The conservatives are facing a growing threat from the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP), which during the 2013 local election saw the “biggest surge for a fourth party" in British politics since the Second World War, averaging 25 percent of votes in council wards.
UKIP is poised to siphon off votes from the Tories in next year’s European elections and at a national election in 2015. The next election is widely expected to be decided on the effects of Bulgarian and Romanian immigration, prompting Cameron to push for reform.
Cameron has long suggested renegotiating Britain's EU membership to give it more of a say in managing its own affairs. If re-elected in 2015, he has promised to hold a referendum on whether or not to remain within the bloc.

'Unilateral rhetoric' and 'untruths'    

However, Laszlo Andor, the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, told BBC radio that EU rules applied equally to all 28 member states and had been agreed to by the UK.
Andor warned Cameron’s "unilateral rhetoric" was unlikely to present viable proportionate solutions to the problem.
"This is an unfortunate over-reaction. We would need a more accurate presentation of the reality, not under such hysteria which sometimes happens in the UK," he said.
"Unilateral rhetoric ... is not really helpful. It risks presenting the UK as a kind of nasty country. We have to look into the situation collectively and act proportionately."
He further said the British public had not been told the truth regarding immigration, arguing existing rules were already in place to safeguard against ‘benefit tourism.’
"If someone new arrives to the UK or another country, it is the home country which in the first phase needs to cover Job Seeker's Allowance, and not the receiving country," he said.
"If we start to dismantle some of the rules of the single market which should apply to everyone, [other countries] may invent other ideas and proposals and then we end up on a slippery slope," he added. 

Protesters force evacuation of ‘Thai FBI’, aim to invade every ministry

Protesters force evacuation of ‘Thai FBI’, aim to invade every ministry

Anti-government protesters wave Thai national flags as they march toward the Labour Ministry in Bangkok November 27, 2013 (Reuters / Athit Perawongmetha)Anti-government protesters wave Thai national flags as they march toward the Labour Ministry in Bangkok November 27, 2013 (Reuters / Athit Perawongmetha)

Thousands of protesters in Thailand have forced the closure of several government ministries and vowed to take over government offices nationwide in a bid to force embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.
On Wednesday, thousands of flag-waving protesters had amassed around at least half-a-dozen of the government's 19 ministries, though many had left by late afternoon. The protesters have managed to shut down five ministries over the past two days.

Around a thousand demonstrators loyal to protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban entered a sprawling government office complex in northern Bangkok that houses the Department of Special Investigations (DSI), often likened to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“We have ordered the evacuation of the DSI building,"
 Tharit Pengdit told Reuters. "All our employees will be out within half an hour."

The DSI became the target for demonstrators after the agency recently indicted Suthep, a one-time deputy PM for the opposition Democrat Party. Suthep has been implicated for his alleged role in causing the deaths of more than 90 people in a 2010 military crackdown against the so-called ‘red-shirt’ protesters loyal to ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra – brother of the current leader.

The complex housing the DSI and several other government departments in northern Bangkok, including those handling tax, immigration and land as well as the Supreme Court, has been surrounded by nearly 4,000 protesters.

Around 3,000 people gathered at the Energy Ministry, 700 at the Commerce Ministry and 200 at the Industry Ministry, police said. About 1,000 protesters also occupied the Finance Ministry.

"I invite protesters to stay here overnight at the Finance Ministry," Suthep told the crowd. "Our only objective is to rid the country of the Thaksin regime."
Anti-government protesters gather outside Thailand's Labour Ministry in Bangkok November 27, 2013 (Reuters / Athit Perawongmetha)
Anti-government protesters gather outside Thailand's Labour Ministry in Bangkok November 27, 2013 (Reuters / Athit Perawongmetha)

At least six provincial halls in the country’s south were also occupied by protesters on Wednesday who vowed to stay until they received orders from Suthep. The demonstrators, however, did not enter the provincial office buildings or damage any property.
The rallies in the provinces of, Chumphon Phuket, Satun, Songkhla, Surat, Thani and Trang followed Suthep’s televised call from the occupied Finance Ministry for anti-Thaksin protesters in all the country’s 76 provinces in order to shut the government down.
According to police, demonstrators in 10 southern provinces gathered in front of government offices despite calls from Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, who gave governors full authority to “protect” the provincial halls.
The demonstrations, which have been picking up steam over recent weeks, center on Thaksin, who has played a pivotal role in Thai politics for over a decade, despite being ousted in a bloodless 2006 military coup.
The billionaire telecommunications mogul built his political power via a series of populist measures which have ensured the unfaltering allegiance of the rural poor, who twice voted him into office in 2001 and 2005.
His government faced allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, and suppressing the press. Thaksin was personally accused of tax evasion, lese majeste (insulting revered King Bhumibol – a major crime), and selling off assets of Thai companies to international investors.
After briefly returning to Thailand in 2008, he was convicted by a Thai court later that year of corruption and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison over a controversial land deal. 
Anti-government protesters gather outside Thailand's Energy Ministry in Bangkok November 27, 2013 (Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom)
Anti-government protesters gather outside Thailand's Energy Ministry in Bangkok November 27, 2013 (Reuters / Chaiwat Subprasom)

The anti-government campaign, steered by a coterie of rich and powerful conservatives, military brass, bureaucrats and royalists with influence over the country’s urban middle class, kicked off in October after Yingluck's ruling Puea Thai party tried to pass an amnesty bill.

Critics say the bill was designed to clear Thaksin of his corruption conviction, with Suthep, vowing to wipe out the "political machine of Thaksin."
Fearing a similarly violent crackdown could rob her government of legitimacy, Yingluck has vowed not to use force.
“This is not the 'Thaksin regime', this is a democratically elected government," Yingluck told reporters outside parliament, where she has faced a grueling two-day confidence vote.
"We must not regard this as a win-or-lose situation," she continued. "Today no one is winning or losing, only the country is hurting." 

Major US lenders could pay additional $104 bln in legal charges – S&P

Major US lenders could pay additional $104 bln in legal charges – S&P

AFP Photo / Emmanuel Dunand

The eight biggest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan and Bank of America may need to spend an extra $104 billion to settle mortgage-related issues. That’s two thirds of $154.9 billion banks’ reserves that they accumulated to stand the potential legal costs.
The major US banks may have to pay an additional penalty of between $56.5 billion and $104 billion in potential mortgage payouts, according to the rating agency Standard & Poor's. 
"Notably, mortgage-related litigation has recently gotten a second wind and has expanded beyond investor claims," S&P credit analysts led by Stuart Plesser wrote in a report.
However, the lenders under fire have accumulated $154.9 billion in the form of a so-called “safety pillow”, expecting a new wave of indictments from investors wanting compensation for mortgage-backed securities made up of bad loans.
Earlier this month JPMorgan agreed final details of its record $13 billion settlement for selling "bad loans" before the US financial crisis. This is the biggest penalty of a financial firm in U.S. history.
 Meanwhile, a similar $8.5 billion settlement between Bank of America and 22 institutional investors has been under consideration in a New York district court since June 2011, Reuters reports.
The legal expenses have already affected the third-quarter profit of U.S. banks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported that the total net income of its insured banks fell by $1.5 billion to $36 billion in the third quarter, which is the first year-on-year decline since the second quarter of 2009.
JPMorgan was a big contributor in that decline. In October the bank reported its first loss since 2004, following a $7.2 billion penalty for mis-selling mortgage-backed securities. 
The negative impact of legal expenses on bank’s bottom line wont' affect its ratings as the risks are already calculated into the equation.
"Despite the substantial legal costs already incurred and the raft of new legal issues, we currently don't expect legal settlements to result in negative rating actions for the U.S. banks with the largest legal exposure," the S&P report said.

Case closed: Giant trunk ousted from Red Square following public outrage

Case closed: Giant trunk ousted from Red Square following public outrage

The pavilion shaped like a Louis Vuitton bag on Moscow's Red Square (Reuters / Maxim Blinov)The pavilion shaped like a Louis Vuitton bag on Moscow's Red Square (Reuters / Maxim Blinov)

A controversial temporary exhibition hall decorated as a luxury Louis Vuitton trunk is being removed from Moscow’s Red Square. It follows a string of angry comments that filled Russian media after the installation was revealed to the public.
The trunk, which was supposed to host a six-week exhibition, drew criticism, because people saw it as grossly inappropriate in a place considered sacred by many Russians. Following the publicity backlash, the Moscow Mayor’s office said Wednesday it ordered the installation removal, which commenced shortly afterwards.
Earlier an anonymous source in the Kremlin told Interfax that the presidential administration was displeased with the situation and demanded that the construction be demolished.
A similar request was voiced by GUM, the luxury shopping mall located just next to the Red Square, the 120th anniversary of which the Louis Vuitton exhibition was meant to mark.
The exhibition found support from fashion model and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova. Her Naked Heart foundation, which helps disadvantaged children in Russia, was the designated recipient of the entire revenue received from selling expo tickets.
Failure to open the exhibition would hurt both those who would be denied a chance “for an inspiring journey into history and beauty,” and the foundation, which would not receive the charity money, Vodianova wrote on her Facebook page.
“I hope that the exhibition will not be canceled, but simply moved to another location,” she said.
A spoof online auction offers the LV trunk for almost 10 million rubles. "URGENT. No wear. Good state. Suitable as a coffee table, garage or hangar for a Tu-154 aircraft. Selling because it didn't suit the decor. Pick up in central Moscow. Price negotiable."
A spoof online auction offers the LV trunk for almost 10 million rubles. "URGENT. No wear. Good state. Suitable as a coffee table, garage or hangar for a Tu-154 aircraft. Selling because it didn't suit the decor. Pick up in central Moscow. Price negotiable."

So far several locations, including such prominent sites as the Gorky Park and the All-Russia Exhibition Centre (VDNKh), were named as possible substitution for the Red Square.
As passions over the giant trunk seem to be calming down, many ask how the situation may have arisen in the first place. It’s not clear who gave the permission to construct the showy installation on Red Square.
Both the presidential administration and the mayor’s office deny any prior knowledge of the installation and issuing a permit for it.
A popular internet rumor put the blame on the Federal Protective Service, Russia’s counterpart for the Secret Service in the US, which provides personal security for top officials and guards sensitive locations. The service’s tight control over Red Square received much public attention several years ago when it issued a ban on taking photographs there. It took the intervention of then-President Dmitry Medvedev to overrule it.
The latest jurisdictional confusion did not go unnoticed.
“It certainly looks strange, to say the least. It’s unfeasible that something unsanctioned was happening for the last week. The construction was being done on a large scale, and it’s clear that [Louis Vuitton] would not do it just like that. Where was everybody then?” wondered Anastasia Zalogina, president of the Naked Heart foundation.

Latvia PM resigns over supermarket roof collapse that killed 54

Latvia PM resigns over supermarket roof collapse that killed 54

A supermarket collapse killed 54 in the capital Riga (RIA Novosti)

Latvia’s prime minister has announced his resignation over a Riga supermarket collapse that killed more than 50 people last week.
"I announce resigning from the post of prime minister, taking political responsibility for ... the tragedy,"Valdis Dombrovskis told journalists, according to local news agency BNS. 
Dombrovskis has headed the country’s government since March 2009, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Latvia's history.  
"I wish to thank Latvia's society for support during the trying period when the country was battling the economic and financial crisis to return to the path of growth. I also apologize for all that we have failed to achieve," the PM said. 
Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (C) (Reuters)
Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (C) (Reuters)

It is now for President Andris Berzins to either accept or reject the resignation. If he accepts it, Berzins will nominate an acting prime minister, who will be tasked with forming a new cabinet.  

"I wish to ask every person looking ahead to evaluate their responsibility and act accordingly,"
 said President Berzins.  He has called on the National Security Council's meeting for December 4 to review matters concerning the disaster in Zolitude. 
Prime minister's resignation also ends the mandate of his government, which faced criticism following the collapse. 
The move also comes amid economic changes in Latvia - the country is due to join the eurozone in January, becoming the second Baltic nation to join the united currency club. 
Fifty-four people have been killed and dozens injured after the roof of a large store collapsed in Latvia’s capital. 
Following the tragedy Latvian President Andris Bеrzins called for an immediate investigation into what he called the “murder of unprotected people.”
Some 500 square meters of roof caved in at the store’s building on Thursday night. 
The initial collapse in Riga’s densely populated area was followed by a second cave-in just as the first responders at the scene were helping the victims. 
Three rescuers and firefighters were killed by the second collapse. 
Berzins lashed out at the construction firm that was building a residential compound that included the store, saying that it was already trying to shun all responsibility for the collapse. 
Firefighters clear the debris outside the Maxima shopping mall in Riga (RIA Novosti)
Firefighters clear the debris outside the Maxima shopping mall in Riga (RIA Novosti)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Syria peace talks 'will not stop FSA rebels'

Syria peace talks 'will not stop FSA rebels'

Syrian rebel fighters in Aleppo (18 November 2013)

Gen Idris is thought to have little control over FSA-aligned rebel brigades
The leader of the Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army has said that forces aligned to him will not join the peace conference in Geneva in January.
Gen Salim Idris, head of the FSA's Supreme Military Council, told al-Jazeera that they would continue to try to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
He warned Mr Assad would use the talks to buy time and continue to wage war.
Iran, which is closely allied to the Syrian government, said it would attend if it was invited.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country would make an "important contribution to the resolution of the problem".
'Conditions not suitable'

Start Quote

Salim Idris (August 2013)
We will not stop combat at all during the Geneva conference or after it, and what concerns us is getting needed weapons for our fighters”
Gen Salim IdrisSupreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army
The UN, US and Russia have been trying for several months to persuade the Syrian government and opposition to attend the peace talks, the first in the 32-month conflict.
On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that an international conference to discuss a political solution, known as "Geneva II", would be convened on 22 January.
"The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused," he warned.
But in his interview with al-Jazeera on Tuesday, Gen Idris said: "Conditions are not suitable for running the Geneva II talks at the given date and we, as a military and revolutionary force, will not participate."
"We will not stop combat at all during the Geneva conference or after it, and what concerns us is getting needed weapons for our fighters."
Gen Idris said any opposition delegation would have to include "influential and significant figures from inside Syrian territory", and that any agreement would have to meet several conditions.
The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says assembling an opposition delegation that is credible and can deliver was one of the main obstacles which held up agreement on a date for the Geneva II talks for months.
General Idris's statement pouring cold water on the conference makes it clear there is still a long way to go, our correspondent adds.
Many rebel brigades are loosely aligned to Gen Idris and the Supreme Military Council, but he is thought to have little operational control.
His influence has been reduced in recent months by powerful Islamist rebel groups who have formed their own alliances and are strongly against negotiations.
UN officials welcomed news of the talks and urged Syrians to "seize this opportunity"
Our correspondent says that puts the main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, in a difficult position.
It has said it will attend the talks, but it insists that President Assad and his associates must be absolutely excluded from the proposed transitional government and from the country's political future.
Its other preconditions include a demand for the government to free all detainees - particularly women and children - and allow aid agencies to access rebel-held areas under siege.
"We did not make a final decision yet on our participation in the Geneva conference," the National Coalition's president, Ahmed Jarba, told reporters in Cairo on Tuesday. "We think that the Syrian regime is the one which doesn't want to go to Geneva II, but the Russians are putting pressure on them to attend."
The government itself has always said it is ready for talks without preconditions.
On the ground in Syria on Tuesday, at least 15 people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a bus station in the western Soumariya district of the capital, Damascus, state media and activists said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine civilians, including two children, were among the dead.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization confirmed new cases of polio in two more areas of Syria, one in Damascus Countryside province and one in Aleppo province.
Syria had been free of polio for 14 years, but at least 13 children are now known to have been paralysed in Deir al-Zour province, and hundreds of thousands more are thought to be at risk because vaccination rates have dropped sharply since the war began.

Net names .bike and .guru available

Net names .bike and .guru availableWeb address domain names

New names are expected to be released at a rate of 10 a week
Nine new web address suffixes, including .bike, .clothing, .singles and .guru, have been made available as the net names system undergoes a radical shake-up.
The new names, formally known as generic top level domains (gTLDs) are currently open only to those with registered trademarks.
They will be open to the general public at the end of January 2014.
New names are expected to be released at a rate of about 10 a week.

The new domain names

  • .guru
  • .ventures
  • .camera
  • .clothing
  • .lighting
  • .singles
  • .voyage
  • .holdings
  • .equipment
Last month four new domains were launched: شبكة, the Arabic word for "web"; 游戏, the Chinese word for "game"; and the Russian words for "online" and "web site", онлайн and сайт.
Approximately 1,400 new gTLDs are expected to come online in the next few years.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) believes that the new set of names will transform the way business is done online.
"From fashion brands and dating agencies, to spiritual healers and cycle advocates, the launch of these new domains mean consumers can easily find specific content within each extension, while businesses will benefit from a stronger and more relevant online proposition," said Jan Corstens, project director of Icann's Trademark Clearinghouse.
Icann has invited companies to submit applications for names they would like to register.
Firms have come forward to request almost 2,000 new names including the likes of .porn, .ninja, and .ferrari. The BBC has expressed an interest in .bbc.
As well as domain names set aside for brands there will be around 700 more generic names, such as .shop, .hotel and .site.
But not everyone thinks that the shake-up is necessary. The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse estimates that companies will need to spend thousands of pounds to ensure their brands are not hijacked by others.

Beatrice Mtetwa: Zimbabwe lawyer acquitted

Beatrice Mtetwa: Zimbabwe lawyer acquittedBeatrice Mtetwa (April 2008)

Beatrice Mtetwa's arrest has been condemned by international lawyers
A Zimbabwe magistrate has freed top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who was charged with obstructing justice and being unruly to the police.
The charges refer to a raid in March at the offices of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ruled that there was "no evidence" that Ms Mtetwa had interfered with police duties.
Ms Mtetwa, a strong critic of Mr Mugabe, had pleaded not guilty.
Ms Mtetwa was put on trial in June after she was arrested on charges of using abusive language toward officers who were searching for an official from Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.
During the trial, the state had alleged that she shouted ``at the top of her voice,'' saying what the police were doing was "unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful," which the court found did not warrant the charges against her.
A police officer who was present during the raid had testified that Ms Mtetwa insulted detectives searching the premier's staff offices by calling them "Mugabe's dogs".
But the court on Tuesday ruled that Ms Mtetwa's presence had not prevented the police from doing their job.
"She is therefore discharged," the magistrate said.
Ms Mtetwa's arrest and detention had sparked widespread condemnation.
"I feel vindicated. This was a set-up and obviously the court has seen through it. The contradictions were many and varying," she said outside court.

US house prices rose at a slower pace in September

US house prices rose at a slower pace in September

The pace of US house price rises slowed in September, as higher mortgage rates and concern about a government shutdown weighed on the market.
The closely-watched S&P/Case Shiller index saw a 0.7% price rise, against a 1.3% gain from July-to-August.
Case Shiller measures single-family home prices in 20 cities. Rises slowed in 19 cities, while one saw a fall.
Construction workers pass bricks to each other in Phoenix, ArizonaThe pace of price rises slowed in 19 of the 20 US cities surveyed
Despite the slowdown, prices are still 13.3% up on September 2012, the fastest gain for more than seven years.
Prices rose 1.3% in Las Vegas, compared with a 2.9% month-on-month gain in August. Home prices rose just 0.2% in Tampa, Florida, after a 1.8% gain in August. Charlotte, in North Carolina, was the only city to see a price fall.
Meanwhile, US developers received approval in October to build apartments at the fastest pace in five years, according to data from the Commerce Department.
Permits to build houses and apartments were approved at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.034 million, a 6.2% rise on the September rate of 974,000 and the fastest since June 2008.
Nearly all of the increase was for multi-family homes, a sector of residential construction popular in the rentals market.
Permits for single-family houses, which make up roughly two-thirds of the market, rose 0.8% to 620,000. That was slightly below the August pace of 627,000.
Confidence in the housing market slowed in the run-up to the partial US government shutdown in October, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders.
Rising home loan rates have also led to caution among buyers. Fixed mortgage rates have risen almost a full percentage point since late May, when borrowing costs were near record lows.

Saatchi accused Nigella Lawson of drug-taking, court hears

Saatchi accused Nigella Lawson of drug-taking, court hears

Charles Saatchi accused his ex-wife Nigella Lawson and her daughter of being "so off your heads on drugs" that she allowed staff to spend "whatever they liked", a court has heard.
Sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo are set to go on trial at Isleworth Crown Court in west London.
They are accused of committing fraud while working as personal assistants to the couple.
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson at Scotts restaurant in Mayfair, June 2008Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi were granted divorce in July
Judge Robin Johnson read out an email sent from Saatchi to his former wife.
"Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you (and) Mimi were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and yes I believe every word they have said," the email read.
It formed part of legal arguments ahead of the trial.

Start Quote

On reflection, I was simply speculating that the sisters would use this information to defend themselves”
Statement by Charles Saatchi
TV chef Lawson is expected to give evidence during the trial of the Italians Francesca Grillo, 35, and Elisabetta Grillo, 41, which is expected to last at least two weeks.
'Playful tiff'
The allegations by Saatchi were some of the many communications since the "unhappy events surrounding the witnesses' divorce this summer", Judge Johnson said.
The pair broke up after pictures were published in a newspaper in June showing the millionaire art dealer holding his wife by the throat.
The incident on the terrace of Scott's restaurant in Mayfair, central London, was dismissed by Saatchi as nothing more than "a playful tiff" but he later accepted a police caution for assault.
Saatchi later told the Mail on Sunday that the pictures gave a "wholly different and incorrect implication".
It is alleged that between January 1 2008 and December 31 2012, the defendants committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs by using a company credit card for personal gain.
Elisabetta, 41, and Francesca, 35, both of Bayswater, west London, deny the charges.

Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan says he spied for Israel

Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan says he spied for IsraelArnon Milchan appeared in Los Angeles, California, on 18 September 2008

Arnon Milchan, shown in a September 2008 file photo, said he had long had to beat back Hollywood rumours he was an arms dealer
A Hollywood producer behind hit films such as Pretty Woman and Fight Club has said he spied for Israel in support of its nuclear programme.
Arnon Milchan, who was born in what is now Israel, gave an account to Israeli investigative programme Uvda.
Mr Milchan said he performed dozens of clandestine missions on behalf of Israel after he was recruited by Shimon Peres, now Israel's president.
"I did it for my country and I'm proud of it," he said.
'Risked my life'

Start Quote

Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I'm not an arms dealer”
Arnon MilchanHollywood producer
Mr Milchan, 68, said he was recruited to Israel's Bureau of Scientific Relations, a secretive organisation founded to supply the nation's nuclear programme, in the 1960s by Mr Peres.
Then the owner of a successful fertiliser company, Mr Milchan said he aided the bureau in obtaining scientific and technical information for confidential defence programmes.
At one point, Uvda alleges, Mr Milchan was operating 30 companies in 17 countries on behalf of Israel.
His activities continued after became a high-profile Hollywood producer, rising to chairman of film company New Regency.
He produced such hits as Mr and Mrs Smith and LA Confidential, and worked with famed directors including Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Oliver Stone.
During the interview, which aired on Monday, Mr Milchan also said Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack helped in covert acquisitions of sensitive military equipment.
Pollack died in 2008.
Mr Milchan told Uvda that rumours of his own involvement with Israel had swirled around Hollywood for years and he wished he had addressed them head on.
"In Hollywood, they don't like working with an arms dealer, ideologically... with someone who lives off selling machine guns and killing," he said. "Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I'm not an arms dealer.
"I'm not an arms dealer, I don't sell guns, I don't sell rockets," he added. "If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country."

'Earliest shrine' uncovered at Buddha's birthplace

'Earliest shrine' uncovered at Buddha's birthplaceArchaeologists Robin Coningham (left) and Kosh Prasad Acharya direct excavations within the Maya Devi Temple, while Thai monks meditate

The remains lay buried beneath the present day Maya Devi Temple
Archaeologists digging at Buddha's birthplace have uncovered remains of the "earliest ever Buddhist shrine".
They unearthed a 6th Century BC timber structure buried within the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini in Nepal.
The shrine appears to have housed a tree. This links to the Buddha nativity story - his mother gave birth to him while holding on to a tree branch.
Its discovery may settle the dispute over the birth date of the Buddha, the team reports in the journal Antiquity.
Every year thousands of Buddhists make a holy pilgrimage to Lumbini - long identified as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha.


  • Located in the south-western Nepali plains 300km from Kathmandu and very close to India's border
  • Birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, who later become the Buddha
  • Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997
  • Surrounded by large zone in which only monasteries can be built and no commercial premises
  • The site has a number of ancient ruins of monasteries, a sacred Bo Tree and a bathing pool
Yet despite the many texts chronicling his life and teachings, it is still uncertain when he lived.
Estimates for his birth stretch as far back as 623 BC, but many scholars believed 390-340 BC a more realistic timeframe.
Until now, the earliest evidence of Buddhist structures at Lumbini dated no earlier than the 3rd Century BC, in the era of the emperor Ashoka.
To investigate, archaeologists began excavating at the heart of the temple - alongside meditating monks, nuns and pilgrims.
They unearthed a wooden structure with a central void which had no roof. Brick temples built later above the timber were also arranged around this central space.
To date the buildings, fragments of charcoal and grains of sand were tested using a combination of radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence techniques.
"Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the 6th century BC," said archaeologist Prof Robin Coningham of Durham University, who co-led the international team, supported by the National Geographic Society.
Thai monks inside the Maya Devi Temple meditate over the remains of the oldest Buddhist shrine in the worldThe holy site remained open for meditation while archaeologists excavated
"This is the earliest evidence of a Buddhist shrine anywhere in the world.
"It sheds light on a very long debate, which has led to differences in teachings and traditions of Buddhism.
"The narrative of Lumbini's establishment as a pilgrimage site under Ashokan patronage must be modified since it is clear that the site had already undergone embellishment for centuries."
The dig also detected signs of ancient tree roots in the wooden building's central void - suggesting it was a tree shrine.
Tradition records that Queen Maya Devi gave birth to the Buddha while grasping the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden.
The discovery could aid conservation efforts at the holy site - which has been neglected despite its Unesco World Heritage status.
"These discoveries are very important to better understand the birthplace of the Buddha," said Ram Kumar Shrestha, Nepal's minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation.
"The government of Nepal will spare no effort to preserve this significant site."
Monks within the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini in NepalArchaeologists hope their discovery will aid conservation efforts at the site