Nearly 3,000 children placed in care were repeatedly running away last year, with one able to go missing a total of 67 times in twelve months, figures released today reveal. The news raises fears about the vulnerability of children to child sex grooming gangs preying on the care system, such as those which operated in Rotherham and Rochdale.
According to the NSPCC, which collected the data under the Freedom of Information Act, police forces in England and Wales recorded more than 28,000 individual incidents involving children who are recorded as having absconded more than once.
The charity found that 7,885 children in total went missing, including those who only absconded once. Most were aged 13-17 years old and the youngest was only six. Read more
Kevin Rawlinson | The Independent | 24th April 2013
This is a sorry story which encapsulates all that has gone wrong with modern democracy and how taxpayers’ money is being scandalously wasted. It involves a quango squandering our money, a pugilistic MP and an extraordinarily large bill from lawyers. All over a £23.90 train ticket.
The saga started after a Labour MP launched a legal challenge against the Commons expenses watchdog because it rejected his claim for reimbursement of the fare for an 80-mile rail journey.
What makes the story all the more farcical is that the watchdog — which ran up a £27,000 legal bill — was set up in 2009 in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal specifically to save money for the taxpayer. Read more
Zoe Brennan | The Daily Mail | 25th April 2013
I was told something would happen at Tate Modern on Monday, but not exactly what. In the event, had you wandered through the London museum mid-afternoon, you would probably have missed the three activists winding their way through the galleries, whispering chunks of the transcript of the BP Deepwater Horizon trial into phone-sized cameras.
Last year, Liberate Tate, the group founded three years ago with the aim of ending the sponsorship of Tate by BP, delivered a wind turbine blade to the gallery. The year before, a naked man covered in oil curled up in a foetal position on the floor. By contrast this week’s “performance”, timed to coincide with the third anniversary of the notorious oil spill, is low-key. Read more
Susanna Rustin | The Guardian | 24th April 2013
It may not have been his most hostile confrontation of the day but it was probably the loudest. David Cameron emerged from Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday to be bearded in Downing Street by foghorn-voiced actor Brian Blessed.
The larger-than-life star, 76, was at No 10 to deliver a petition calling on Mr Cameron to end the secrecy surrounding testing on animals for research.
It was signed by a host of celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Twiggy and Prunella Scales. The Government is consulting on a review of the regulations which exempt such tests from Freedom of Information rules. Read more
The Daily Mail | 25th April 2013
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stepped up its enforcement activities, by issuing double the number of data breach fines in 2012-2013 as it did in the previous 12 months. This is according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by digital comms vendor ViaSat.
The ICO issued 20 monetary penalties in 2012-2013 totalling £2.6 million, according to the figures. During the previous year, the organisation fined just nine organisations generating £791,000 in the process. Read more
Caroline Donnelly | IT PRO | 24th April 2013
Reporters Without Borders representatives yesterday attended hearings in two trials in Silivri, 60 km northwest of Istanbul, that have major implications for freedom of information in Turkey.
One is the trial of Kurdish journalists who are accused of being members of an alleged “media committee” created by the outlawedUnion of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). The other is a trial of alleged members of the Ergenekon ultranationalist conspiracy.
“We are here to yet again demonstrate our support for those who have been jailed because of their work as journalists and to point out that Turkey currently holds the world record in this category,” Reporters Without Borders said. Read more
Reporters without Borders | 23rd April 2013
Washington: In the late 1970s, Central Intelligence Agency had information that China might have provided a fairly comprehensive package of proven nuclear weapons design information to Pakistan, a recently declassified document has revealed.
According to recently declassified CIA data, obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA had evidence suggesting close Pakistan-China nuclear cooperation, to the point of facilitating a nuclear weapons capability, although the intelligence community saw this as possibly a special case based on an alliance that had existed since 1963.
“This allegation has come up before, for example in a State Department document and in major news stories but this is the first time the CIA has released some of its own information,” according to the set of two documents obtained by the National Security Archive. Read more
IBN Live | 24th April
In the wake of the beating of a Farmington Hills family last year that left a man dead and two others severely injured, a state lawmaker is trying to limit the release of 911 recordings requested under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, said he wants to strike a balance between the public’s right to the information and the need to be sensitive after potentially horrifying emergencies.
“It seems to shock the conscience,” Heise said of making 911 tapes immediately accessible to the public. “What we’re trying to do is at least create a cooling off period to investigate these matters properly and also have some respect for victims or those who may know the victims.” Read more
Lansing State Journal | 23rd April 2013
Academies face funding clawback
A funding error has left around 100 academies facing the prospect of paying back almost £15 million, it has emerged.
In some cases, it is thought the repayments will equate to almost 10% of an affected school’s budget, which could force them to make cutbacks and redundancies.
According to data released through a Freedom of Information request, 128 academies have been handed too much public money, with each now having to pay back an average of almost £118,000 by the end of the school year.
The Press Association | 5th May 2012
Previously unreleased photographs show impact of BP oil on endangered sea turtles
Previously unreleased photographs from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show boxes and bags full of oil-covered and dead endangered sea turtles and a group of sperm whales swimming through an oil sheen.
John Hocevar, Greenpeace’s director of ocean campaigns, said the photographs paint a more dire picture of the effects of the spilled oil on endangered species than federal agencies presented during the disaster.
Brian Vastag | Washington Post |7th May 2012
Significant cuts to IT headcount at some of UK’s biggest spending councils
A number of the UK’s largest councils have significantly cut their IT workforce in recent years, according to local government figures.
According to figures published in response to freedom of information requests by Guardian Government Computing by some of the highest spending local authorities on IT in the UK, several councils have seen double digit falls in their IT headcount.
West Sussex county council recorded the biggest dip with a 90% drop in IT staff between 2008-09 and January 2012. ICT employees working directly for the council fell from 138 to 12 over the period as staff were part of a two phase TUPE transfer in 2010 and 2011 that saw employees being transferred to an outsourcing company.
Sade Laja | The Guardian | 4th May 2012
It’s a scandal that big hospital contracts are being awarded in private
Politicians are keeping us in the dark over how public money is being used by private health providers such as Circle
Once upon a time in England, NHS health authorities and hospitals would publish annual accounts to show income and detailed expenditure on staff, services, maintenance, supplies and administration. Scotland and Wales still do, having eschewed the market; Scottish health boards are also now required to itemise all commercial contracts over £25,000. In England, routine information on expenditure is increasingly concealed by freedom of information exemptions under the veil of commercial confidentiality. Meanwhile, public money is diverted to for-profit healthcare companies such as Virgin, UnitedHealth, Netcare, Serco and Circle.
In November 2011, the government announced that Circle Healthcare would run Hinchingbrooke hospital for 10 years – the first NHS hospital to have its management taken over by a private business. Circle Healthcare chief executive is the former Goldman Sachs executive Ali Parsa. The recent revelation in a letter from health minister Earl Howe to Lord Haskel that Circle shareholders will have first call of £2m annually on any surpluses raises serious questions about the terms of the contract. How exactly is Circle going to square the circle of shareholder demands and patient needs against Hinchingbrooke’s recurrent annual deficit of £38m?
Allyson Pollock | The Guardian | 4th May 2012
US Environment Protection Agency e-mails on anti-pollution rules reveal agency’s frustration with White House
Sometimes the Obama administration operates like a well-oiled machine when it issues pronouncements on how its proposed regulations will affect the nation.
An Aug. 30, 2011, e-mail exchange among Environmental Protection Agency officials, obtained by the Center for Progressive Reform under the Freedom of Information Act, provides a glimpse into how agency officials thought the White House failed to adequately capture their work on anti-pollution rules opposed by Republicans and industry officials.
In responding to an inquiry from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) about which regulations proposed by his administration would cost more than $1 billion, President Obama sent a letter that — in EPA officials’ view — not only caught them by surprise but also misstated the cost of one of their rules and failed to highlight the potential benefits of others.
Juliet Eilperin | Washington Post | 3rd May 2012
New details on DHS monitoring of Occupy movement
The [US] Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released another batch of documents Thursday morning in response to Truthout’s wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request pertaining to the agency’s role in monitoring the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest movement.
The materials show that DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies under DHS’s control received and disseminated numerous internal intelligence reports and threat bulletins about OWS’s activities and monitoring of the group was widespread.
The heavily redacted documents total 335 pages (28 pages were released in full). The letter DHS sent to this reporter detailing the exemptions the agency applied in justifying the redactions can be read here.
Press TV | 4th May 2012