Left-wing EU parliament candidates debate in Cardiff

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cardiff, Wales —Labour, Plaid Cymru, and No2EU candidates for the Wales seats in the European Parliament met at Cardiff‘s Sandringham Hotel last night for the second of two pre-election hustings debates hosted by Cardiff Trades Union Congress. Cardiff TUC president Katrine Williams moderated as Derek Vaughan of the Labour Party, Jill Evans MEP of Plaid Cymru, and Rob Griffiths of the No2EU coalition, the tops of their respective lists, took questions from an audience of 22 composed largely of socialist activists and trade union members.

Candidates from the Tories, Liberal Democrats, and Green Party were not invited to the evening debate, although the Liberal Democrats did take part in the TUC’s debate earlier in the day. Ms Williams explained that the Liberal Democrats and Tories had been excluded because “we wanted to have candidates more representative of trade unions” but that not inviting the Greens had been “an oversight” due to the less prominent tradition of green politics in Wales. The BNP, UKIP and some minor parties also did not take part.

In opening statements, the three candidates discussed their records and their goals for the European Parliament. Mr Vaughan, leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, asserted the pro-organised labour credentials of the Labour Party, which has been under fire for several years from the left, and noted that Labour, which currently controls two of Wales’s four seats in the EU Parliament, has brought £1.5 billion to Wales, with a comparable amount to come in the future. Calling the BNP “Nazis” and comparing the British political situation to that in Germany in the 1930s, Vaughan called for the parties of the left to rally behind Labour in order to ensure that the BNP did not obtain any seats in Wales; but he expressed resignation to the likelihood that the BNP would earn a seat in North West England.

Ms Evans, meanwhile, who has been an MEP for ten years, announced her opposition to the pro-privatisation current in the EU and pledged that Plaid would support a new program of public investment and pro-organised labour revisions of EU directives, particularly the Posted Workers Directive.

Mr Griffiths, meanwhile, who is General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, took a position urging radical reform of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty, which he characterised as a re-branding of the European Constitution, would, he argued, enshrine neo-liberal policies in Europe and impose them on its member states in a way that was irreversible — “at least by any constitutional means”. Calling for a “social Europe” as opposed to a “United States of Europe“, Griffiths suggested that the creation of a European Defence Agency and the actions of the European Court of Justice were being used to turn the European Union into a capitalist “empire” akin to the United States.

Discussion of the ongoing UK parliamentary expenses scandal and its implications for MEPs, who draw salaries and expenses considerably higher than Westminster MPs do, dominated the early discussion. The Labour candidate expressed the position that the problems in accountability leading to the scandal had been fixed; his opponents noted that of the parties currently representing Britain in Brussels, only Labour has not yet disclosed their expenses (although Mr Vaughan states that the party will begin to do so soon) and Mr Griffiths furthermore declared that the scandal was part of a wider problem: the corruption of the political system by big business.

On the subject of a common European defence policy the three candidates supported widely differing views. The No2EU candidate stated plainly that he considers Europe not to be threatened, and said that a European defence force would be used for foreign adventures in Afghanistan, Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world while at the same time building up the armaments industry in Europe. Ms Evans, meanwhile, argued that the proper role of a common EU force would be as a “civil force” supporting conflict prevention and conflict resolution operations, and also called for the abolition of NATO. Mr Vaughan finished the second round of questioning arguing that a common European armed force should be an alternative to the “US-dominated” NATO, but also stated the importance of bilateral alliances in building up a common European defence force, citing the Franco-German Brigade of the Eurocorps as an example.

Debate ended on the contentious question of MEP salaries, with one member of the audience challenging the three candidates to pledge to accept a wage, if they won, equal to the average wage of their constituents. Ms Evans agreed that the set wage, currently £63,000 rising to £73,000 in 2010, was “too high”, but would not commit to a so-called “worker’s wage”, under heavy criticism from the audience. Mr Vaughan, following, called it “not fair” to ask MEPs to take such a pledge but asserted “I have never been motivated by money” and finished his part in the debate with a call to elect more left-wing socialist MEPs. Mr Griffiths, whose No2EU coalition has made a worker’s wage for MEPs part of their election manifesto, readily pledged to hold to a living wage, albeit not necessarily one equal to the average wage of his constituents, and described some of the difficulties associated with refusing an EU salary, noting that initially No2EU had proposed that its MEPs should draw no salary and claim no expenses from Europe but the coalition’s legal advisors had said that to do so would endanger the status of any of its members as MEPs.

Voting for the European Parliament elections in the United Kingdom takes place June 4.

South African ‘Lion Man’ killed by his lions

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Leon van Biljon, owner of Mahala View Lion Lodge near Pretoria, South Africa, was killed by his lions on Tuesday. Van Biljon, reportedly often referred to as “The Lion Man”, had been in the lions’ area attempting to mend a fence at the time, according to local news media.

Mahala View Lion Lodge formerly billed itself as home to three lions: Rambo, Katryn and Nakita. It is one of over two hundred lion lodges in South Africa, which collectively house and breed more than six thousand lions, scientists report, a population larger than that of wild lions in South Africa.

Connie Moganedi, a spokeswoman for the police department of nearby Cullinan, told CNN, neighbors from other lodges nearby attempted, but were unable, to save van Biljon. In the wake of van Biljon’s death, Connie Moganedi said, the lions were killed. Van Biljon was seventy years old.

British man involved in deal to drill for oil in Darfur

Friday, June 10, 2005

The British TV station Channel 4 has discovered that the Sudanese government has signed a deal for a contract to drill for oil in southern Sudan, and that the key man in securing the deal is British.

Friedhelm Eronat, who until two years ago was an American citizen, secured the largest stake made in a consortium that won the drilling contract in 2003. Oil was discovered in April of this year.

Geologists have long suspected the presence of oil in the south of the Sudan. Clivenden Sudan, which Eronat personally owned in 2003, had a high level of expertise in the country’s geology.

The twenty five year deal secured by Clivenden Sudan will see it pay the Sudanese government $8m in the event oil is produced. The government will also receive 70% of the profits from the oil.

In a statement to Channel 4 News, Eronat said that he is not a shareholder or officer of Cliveden Sudan, that he does not work for or financially benefit from Cliveden Sudan, and that Cliveden Sudan is not the operator of the concession, only a shareholder.

Cliveden Sudan itself said “there has been no commercial oil find in Block C [the area being explored for oil].”

Villages in Darfur 180km from the Clivenden Sudan wells have been attacked by Sudanese troops and aircraft.

Eronat became involved in the deal through Lebanese businessman Eli Calil, who has been accused of funding a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea last year (allegations denied by Calil). Calil and Eronat live near each other in the London suburb of Chelsea.

At least one rebel group in Darfur is certain the search for oil will inflame the conflict in Darfur. The Justice and Equality Movement wants exploration to stop until peace is established.

A member of the JEM, Ahmad Hussein, told Channel 4 News: “So when they say they discover oil in Darfur, who is going to benefit from that? Are they the people of Darfur? Of course not. Absolutely not, the only beneficiaries is the ruling elite and ruling minority of the regime.”

Eronat changed his nationality from American to British in October 2003, shortly before the deal was signed. Under US law, he could have faced up to ten years imprisonment and/or fines of $500,000, due to US sanctions on Sudan.

The UK government has been at the forefront of efforts to try and halt the crisis, with international development minister Hilary Benn making a statement to the house of commons yesterday after a visit to the region. He said: “I visited the Kalma camp in South Darfur and the El Meshtel and Abu Shouk camps in North Darfur where tens of thousands of people are facing a precarious existence. I spoke to men and women whose homes have been destroyed, villages burned, and whose communities have been the victims of killings, looting and rape.

“We are in a race against time in Darfur, and the UK remains committed to doing all that it can to help those affected and to work for a just and lasting peace for its people.”

GM and Chrysler receive Canadian loans amid US restructuring ultimata

Friday, April 3, 2009

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler will receive bridge loans from the government of Canada and the provincial government of Ontario, however no more will be forthcoming from either Canadian or US governments unless the companies can reinvent themselves.

“This is a regrettable but necessary step to protect the Canadian economy. We are doing this on the assumption that we obviously cannot afford either in the United States or Canada a catastrophic short-term collapse.” said Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.

“We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is, like no other, an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success,” said Barack Obama, President of the United States. “These companies – and this industry – must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.”File:Sinsheim quer.jpg

Chrysler will receive CA$1 billion and may in fact be eligible for as much as CA$4 billion. If Chrysler succeeds in the next 30 days with a restructuring plan it would be eligible for a US$6 billion loan. A part of Chrysler’s restructuring plan must include a partnership with Fiat within 30 days to appease the US administration. Fiat is a supplier of smaller fuel-efficient vehicles, and the merger will help Chrysler to be viable in the North American market. A Chrysler court bankruptcy would inevitably lead to it being sold off.

As a part of Chrysler’s restructuring plans, Tom LaSorda, the president of Chrysler announced that Canadian operations would fold if it does not receive both the US commitment of $2.3 billion of aid and a new Canadian Auto Workers CAW contract to reduce all-in costs by CA$19 per hour. As a result of this announcement Chrysler’s auto sales volume in Canada dropped 23% compared to March of 2008.

GM has until the end of May to restructure its company to receive up to CA$7.5 billion. As part of the companies restructuring, General Motor’s chief executive Rick Wagoner was replaced Sunday with Fritz Henderson, the current chief operating officer. Henderson spoke out on Tuesday that GM has submitted a restructuring plan which would close five plants, and this may be increased to meet the requirements for financial aid. He is in full compliance with Obama’s auto task force to seek bankruptcy if GM cannot negotiate with their unions, bondholders and others.

GM recently brought forward the “GM Total Confidence” program providing consumer purchase protection for customers who lose their job for economic reasons within the first two years from purchase. As a result of Chrysler’s restructuring announcement in Canada, GM’s Canadian vehicle sales volume fell only 17.3% compared to 2008, an increase from the previous month.

GM must reduce some of its legacy costs which include its pensions and union health care costs. A part of GM’s ailments arose from investing in supplying truck and SUVs during an economy of high gas prices when consumers were demanding fuel efficient vehicles.

Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Industry, is hoping that the CAW will support the restructuring process and re-negotiate their agreement. Whereas a United Auto Workers negotiator has said, “I don’t see how the UAW will do anything until they see what the bondholders will give up.”

The Obama administration is looking toward bankruptcy proceedings for the automakers, “as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger. [It will] quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down. What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require creditors to recognise that they cannot hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts.” said Obama.

The auto parts suppliers and IT software exporters in India have already been affected by the declining auto sales. GM and Chrysler software contracts provide US$300 to 350 million a year to vendors in India. As well these two major automakers usually award US$1 billion contracts to auto parts suppliers. “We are worried and closely watching the developments in the US to gauge the impact. The decline in auto sales in the US has already hit the order books of Indian suppliers,” said a Delhi auto parts supplier.

“Going forward, the industry will undoubtedly be smaller, but if our efforts are successful it will be viable and it will support good jobs for Canadians,” said Clements.

Betty Sutton, Ohio’s Congresswoman put forward the CARS act which provides a US$3,000 to 5,000 incentive for those who trade in their vehicle for a fuel-efficient car. “It clearly stimulates the economy, and it gets the consumer into the showroom and gets them buying again. But importantly — and this is what I particularly like about it — it really helps the environment quite a bit in two respects.” said William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company has not come forward with requests for assistance.

Since December GM and Chrysler have received US$17.4 billion government loans.

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UN Secretary-General expresses concern about crises in Chad, Kenya, Sudan

Thursday, February 7, 2008

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about crises in Chad, Kenya, and the Sudan. The U.N. chief is recently back from Africa where he attended the African Union summit in Ethiopia and met with leaders in Kenya.

On rebel efforts to overthrow the government in Chad in recent days, the secretary-general welcomed an African Union initiative to have the leaders of Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo mediate the crisis. He says the United Nations will do its utmost to help resolve the crisis, urging the Security Council to act swiftly to help bring an end to the violence.

“It has devastating consequences not only for the people of Chad and Darfurian refugees seeking shelter there, but also for Darfur itself,” said Ban.

Mr. Ban told reporters the situation in the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan is no less troubling. He says the deployment of the AU-U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, must be sped up and urged member states to properly equip the troops.

“UNAMID still lacks required aviation and ground transportation – chiefly helicopters. Additional troops will not make up for this shortfall,” said Ban. “Those countries that called for intervention in Darfur are under special obligation to deliver on their promises.”

While at the AU summit, Mr. Ban says he discussed some of the outstanding issues affecting the deployment with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and he expects the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to be signed this week. But Mr. Ban remained vague on whether some of the agreement’s sticking points – such as night flights, land agreements, and advance notice of U.N. movements – had been settled.

On Kenya, Mr. Ban says he has been deeply engaged in the post-election crisis and told political leaders during his visit there that they bear particular responsibility for the future of Kenya.

“I stressed to all the Kenyan leaders the need to stop the unacceptable violence and killings, and to resolve their differences through dialogue and democratic process. I also appealed to all the political leaders to think beyond their individual interests or party lines and to look to the future of Kenya as one country,” he said.

Mr. Ban also met in Nairobi with his U.N. predecessor, Kofi Annan, who is leading the panel of eminent Africans trying to mediate the crisis, and said they discussed his roadmap for the talks.

Security of U.N. personnel in Africa and elsewhere has been high on the secretary-general’s agenda, especially in the wake of the December bombing in Algeria that killed 17 staff members. Mr. Ban announced that he is naming diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi to chair an independent panel on safety and security of U.N. personnel and premises. Brahimi is an Algerian, but Mr. Ban says he has no concerns about his fairness or objectivity in heading up the panel.

Concorde crash trial begins

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A French court Tuesday launched the trial of five men and a US airline over the Concorde disaster. 113 people were killed when the supersonic jet struck a hotel near Paris in 2000.

The prosecution case agrees with the facts set out in the final accident report, which, by international law, was written from an entirely different investigation and thus cannot be introduced in court. It alleges that improper maintenance of an American airliner and failure to detect design flaws with the Concorde were responsible for the Air France jet’s crash, to an extent that makes the six defendants guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Both official investigations found that a Continental Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had taken off five minutes before Concorde with an improvised repair. A metal strip had been machined by mechanics instead of using a certified part. This strip dropped off the aircraft, leaving a 43cm (17in) piece of titanium on the runway.

Prosecutors and investigators concluded that as Concorde struck the part on takeoff a tyre burst and ripped apart, sending chunks of rubber flying. A large piece slammed into the underside of the wing hard enough to trigger a pressure wave that ruptured the fuel tank. Damaged wiring is believed to have been responsible for igniting this, creating a trailing fireball as the aircraft took off bound for New York.

Concorde’s pilots attempted to circle round for an emergency landing back at Charles de Gaulle Airport, but instead struck a hotel approximately three kilometres (two miles) from the airport. All 109 passengers and crew were on board, as well as four people in the hotel, were killed. The majority of victims were Germans heading to meet up with a cruise liner for a Caribbean holiday, the remainder of the 100 passengers were from Austria.

John Taylor, the Continental mechanic who is alleged to have built and fitted the nonstandard part, and his boss Stanley Ford, have been targeted for prosecution. Both individuals and their employer deny responsibility. Also charged are two members of the UK-French firm behind Concorde – Aérospatiale, who have since merged into Airbus parent EADS. Henri Perrier was head of testing for Concorde and the aircraft’s chief engineer was Jacques Herubel; both have been charged for a perceived failure to locate and rectify design flaws with Concorde. The former chief of civil aviation, Claude Frantzen, is facing charges on the same basis.

Each individual can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to €50,900 (US$71,000. Continental face a fine of up to €375,000 (US$520,000). The airline’s defence claims the part on the runway had no role to play in the accident. TV channel Canal+ previously suggested the investigations and prosecution were a coverup of more serious issues with Concorde.

Nothing was allowed to disturb Air France […] orders came from very high in the administration

The broadcast alleged Concorde erupted into flames long before getting as far down the runway as the strip. Continental’s lawyers say they can call 28 witnesses to give similar evidence and told the Le Parisien that they would seek a dismissal of the charges today. The case opened with judge Dominique Andreassier reading out every one of the 113 names of the deceased, followed by the charges against the six, in the court in Pontoise.

There are 80,000 pages of documents to be presented at trial, and 543 items are to be presented as evidence. The case is split into 90 volumes and is expected to take four months. The judge cautioned against losing touch with the human aspect of what is anticipated to be a very technical trial. The estimated cost is expected to be in excess of 3 million Euro (US$4.2 million).

The investigation found some contributory causes that can be linked to Air France. Four days before the crash an important tyre spacer was left off the Concorde by mechanics, and the plane was overloaded. The airport itself was also criticised for having cancelled a scheduled sweep of the runway. Air France lawyer Fernand Garnault, an aviation specialist, was adamant that Continental did play the main role in the accident; “[i]t is clear that a piece from a Continental plane fell on the runway. It is clear that the origin of the accident was this. This is my personal conviction and of course that of Air France.”

Few families are represented at the trial, because all the passengers struck a deal with Air France to accept compensation in exchange for waiving their right to take legal action, leaving only those killed in the hotel and the crew. However, French group Fenvac are representing the families, and spokesman Stephane Gicquel said that the families would be observing keenly, that “[t]his tragedy is part of their personal history and of their family history.”

Captain Christian Marty’s family’s lawyer, Roland Rappaport, said outside court today that, “[t]his accident should have been avoided. The weaknesses of the Concorde had been known for twenty years,” while Air France’s lawyers stated the inquiries had not located any evidence to suggest that Concorde had indeed encountered problems before reaching the metal debris.

Daniel Soulez Larivière, who represents Frantzen, said, “this accident was unforeseeable,” and the original investigations should have agreed. Concorde suffered a string of similar incidents in the 1970s including one in Washington that came close to triggering a fire. “They [the authorities] wanted to protect Concorde, the image of France that it projected. They should have stopped service then [1979],” said Olivier Metzner, representing Continental. The plane was not grounded until after the accident, although it returned to service before being retired in 2003.

Metzner told the court that former French air accident investigator Michel Bourgeois was to be a key witness. Bourgeois recently alleged that authorities were indeed hiding flaws with the airliner, saying “[n]othing was allowed to disturb Air France […] orders came from very high in the administration,” and that investigations into Concorde’s safety were shut down by the government.

Portuguese military land in East Timor

Sunday, June 4, 2006

120 soldiers of the Portuguese Republican National Guard (GNR) landed this Sunday morning in Baucau, the second-largest city in East Timor, after their departure to East Timor had been delayed twice due to difficulties in arranging adequate air transportation. The soldiers were received by the Portuguese ambassador to East Timor, local representatives and hundreds of locals.

After the landing of the aircraft that transported the Portuguese soldiers at approximately 7 a.m. local time (2200 Saturday, UTC), hundreds of people started to enter the runway with flags of East Timor and Portugal. In addition to the hundreds of locals that were expecting the GNR soldiers, the Portuguese ambassador, João Ramos Pinto, and other local authorities received the soldiers.

Both the population and the authorities believe that the presence of the GNR troops, many of whom have also served in Iraq, may be essential to allow the inhabitants of Dili to return to their homes.

A Portuguese military column then left at the beginning of the afternoon, from Baucau to Dili, transporting the 120 soldiers and an medical team of Portugal’s National Medical Emergency Institute, INEM. Now in Dili, the Portuguese contingent’s main objectives will be to provide security in the city and its suburbs, and to train Dili’s police force.

The destruction of many public buildings in the last days forced a move of the Portuguese headquarters from a Dili police station to the Dili Hotel 2001, a touristy complex just outside the East Timor’s capital. The hotel’s gymnasium will be converted to a command post. Some of the other hotel divisions have already a infirmary, set by a INEM team, and a communications center, set by a Portugal Telecom technical team, working.

An Antonov An-124 airplane is expected to leave Lisbon next Tuesday with the rest of equipment for the Portuguese force, mainly vehicles, six vans of public order, five jeeps, three pickup trucks, and six armoured vehicles, like those used in Iraq by the Republican National Guard.

Unlike the troops from New Zealand and Malaysia, who are under the direct command of the Australians, Portugal refused to put its troops under Australian command. This decision was announced by Portugal’s Foreign Minister, Diogo Freitas do Amaral, during a news conference in Lisbon this Friday. Freitas do Amaral added that early that day a meeting was held between him, an Australian General, and a second unidentified person.

The Australian mission “was expressly sent from London to Lisbon to ask for clarifications” to a agreement that was signed last Thursday (June 1) in Dili, between Portugal and East Timor, reaffirming that the GNR group has its own operational command.

José Ramos Horta told Lusa News Agency that the soldiers of the GNR “have to start acting with autonomy and hardness” in the entire city, Dili, to reestablish the law and order. The Foreign Minister also told the Agency that he “respects” the decision of the Portuguese government to put the GNR force out of the Australian command of the international force, affirming that is essential to reach an agreement this Monday, so that the Portuguese Republican National Guard “can be operational.”

Ramos Horta added that this would be the position that he will defend in a meeting this Thursday morning with the diplomats of Australia, Portugal, New Zealand and Malaysia. This meeting will define the way that the forces of the four countries will work on the country, having the troops of Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia working under a single Australian command, and the Portuguese force working in an “autonomous” way and reporting directly to President Xanana Gusmão.

The East Timorese Minister, guarded by Australian elite soldiers, and travelling in a civilian car, heard complaints about the lack of protection given by the 1.300 Australian soldiers already at the city, while saying “that is obvious that there’s a arousing frustration of the population before the apparent impunity with those groups that continue to destroy”.

The Portuguese military are in East Timor in response to a request of help made by the East Timor authorities to Australia, Portugal, New Zealand, and Malaysia. This is the second time that the special operations team of the GNR has been to this former Portuguese colony, after being in East Timor between February, 2000 and June, 2002.

Million Dollar Homepage is close to achieving million-dollar goal

Friday, December 30, 2005

Alex Tew, a student in England, has almost reached his target of one million dollars on his website: Million Dollar Homepage. He came up with the idea after jotting down ideas before he went to bed on how to become a millionaire before he went to university. Then he came up with the million-dollar idea: selling pixels at USD $1 each on a web page. Alex currently believes he can make his goal by the end of 31st December, 2005.

Advertising companies especially appreciate the website, as they wish to “make Internet history” on the Million Dollar Homepage. In fact as of writing, he has already made USD $999,000. The student says advertisers get to keep their ads for a period of five years from purchase and he says he will use the money he has made to guarantee it. Alex has said he has already got numerous job offers from companies aiming to secure his money making talent.

Tew is undergoing a business management course at Nottingham and needed GBP £7000 a year to complete his studies. He is understandably overwhelmed by the success he has achieved: “It’s just nuts. I’m in a state of disbelief. It’s like Monopoly money but then I look at my bank account and there’s a lot of cash in it.” The British National Union of Students claim that 90% of students are in debt. However, what only worries him is how he’s going to spend his money. He has already spent some of his money on a car for himself, as he thinks of what to do with his new fortune.

His website’s method is simple; his website is made up of one page divided into 10,000 boxes, each 100 pixels in size. Companies can buy one or more boxes for USD $100 each and cover it with a logo, which, when clicked on, transports web users to the customers’ own site.The figures add up with the site now carrying over 240 advertisements and has 30,000 hits a day. Even the actor Jack Black, star of “School of Rock” and “Shallow Hal“, is using the site to advertise his band Tenacious D.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer makes 2005 Budget speech

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right Honourable Gordon Brown PC MP, in a speech to the British House of Commons today presented his ninth Budget, what is very likely to be his last Budget before the next UK General Election. This opened the parliamentary debate on the 2005 Finance Bill, and was followed by responses from the opposition parties.

In a 48 minute long speech, the Chancellor presented a Budget of “tax cuts that are reasonable, spending that is affordable, and [economic] stability that is paramount”, that was “the prudent course for Britain”. There were few surprises that had not already been indicated in his 2004 pre-Budget report. The increase in the threshold on stamp duty was greater than that forecast by commentators, as was the amount of the Council Tax rebate to households with pensioners.

Contents

  • 1 The Budget in detail
    • 1.1 Duty
    • 1.2 Taxes
    • 1.3 Benefits
    • 1.4 Business
    • 1.5 Employment
    • 1.6 Savings
    • 1.7 Spending
    • 1.8 Memorials
  • 2 Responses from opposition parties
    • 2.1 Conservative
    • 2.2 Liberal Democrat
  • 3 Sources

SLM shareholders led by Martin Garbus sue Spider-Man creator Stan Lee and Marvel for $750m

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Martin Garbus, Esq. filed a shareholder derivative suit Monday against Marvel Entertainment and its Chief Executive Officer Isaac Perlmutter, as well as Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel superhero characters, and Lee’s wife and former Marvel Studios head, Avi Arad. The suit is for more than US$750 million (£528M) — about half of the estimated proceeds from Marvel’s movies.

Plaintiff Stan Lee Media (SLM) has four shareholders who live in Florida, California and Canada, and include Jose Abadin and Nelson Thall. The company is suing for recovery of civil damages representing one-half of film and book earnings from such blockbuster films as Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, Hulk, and Fantastic Four franchises.

Defendants are accused of copyright violations over both the Marvel superhero characters and intellectual properties created by Stan Lee. Spider-Man’s three cinematic outings, starring Tobey Maguire, earned more than $1bn (£702m). “Most of Marvel’s financial success, including from the films, comes out of assets created by Stan Lee that are the subject of this suit,” the complaint states.

Lee, 86, has denied the allegations and has previously filed his own $50 million counter lawsuit against SLM, claiming the company has destroyed his name and reputation and prevented his effort to develop such properties as “The Accuser” and “The Drifter” and others via his first-look deals with Disney and Virgin Comics. Lee also co-created Daredevil, Doctor Strange and Thor.

Former dot-com company STM further alleges that it has agreed to pay Lee a $250,000 annual salary plus $100 million in company stock in exchange for the rights to the superhero characters. “That money should have gone to the corporation,” said Garbus. Lee’s counsel, Mark Williams, replied: “We look forward to a positive resolution for Stan Lee and his family.” Marvel has said the court pleadings, which were filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, are filled with “ridiculous claims”.

SLM ran out of operating capital during the dot-com meltdown in December 2000, closing operations entirely by December 19 of that year. The company was placed into Chapter 11 Reorganization in Bankruptcy by Stan Lee in 2001. During the insolvency proceedings, Lee assigned the major character franchises he had created to his new public company, POW! Entertainment, without the bankruptcy court’s approval.

Two multi-billion dollar lawsuits for damages were filed against Lee, his new company, his new partner Arthur Lieberman and Marvel Entertainment for cybersquatting and failure to disclose the existence and value of the Rights Assignment Lee made to the company when he founded it.

The company remained under bankruptcy protection until the US Trustee for the Central District of California moved to dismiss the bankruptcy proceedings for failure of the company as debtor in possession to comply with basic requirements of filing monthly reports and paying quarterly fees to the Trustee. SLM was taken back by the shareholders after its dismissal from bankruptcy and hired a legal and accounting forensic consultant to review all transactions that occurred during bankruptcy.

By November 2006, all of the officers and directors of the company had resigned or abandoned their positions and the company’s lawyers for the debtors in possession attempted to obtain court authorization to destroy or dispose of the company’s books and records. This initiated a long-running legal battle between shareholders and the company’s founder, Lee.

The plaintiffs in this most recent suit contend that Lee, Perlmutter, Arthur Lieberman and Avi Arad conspired in bad faith to conceal and misappropriate financial interests in Lee’s creations assigned to Stan Lee Media in 1998. SLM’s meltdown involved its former President Peter F. Paul fleeing to Brazil, contributions made to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Paul’s extradition and more. In 2007, SLM filed a $5 billion lawsuit in which it claimed co-ownership of all of Stan Lee’s creations for Marvel.