A couple of stories that I have picked up on from the latest issue of Private Eye (no.1212) that I think are worthy of sharing. First off, more revelations about the Boris Johnson debacle in London. Hot on the heels of Johnson's attempts to recruit former members of Shirley Porter's administration, Johnson has now added Steve Norris to the board of Transport for London. So far, so what. However, Norris has a rather chequered history in relation to transport.
Steve Norris was a director of Jarvis from 2000, and had a seat on the board at the time of the Potters Bar rail crash. Jarvis had a contract to ensure the maintenance of the line and, as a result of the crash, admitted liability for the crash after initially refusing responsibility and suggested that if the accident was a result of wear and tear, it would have been detected and fixed. After the revelation that the incident was not down to sabotage, Jarvis formally accepted "legally justified claims" and provided a provision of £3m. The company eventually wrote letters to relatives and passengers apologising for the "hurt and anger" it caused by blaming sabotage for the crash.
But it doesn't end there. According to PE, Norris sits on the board of a company called AMT-Sybex, alongside one William Hague. AMT-Sybex was a leading subcontractor to Metronet, the consortium running half of the tube PPP. In 2005, it sold Metronet a £15m computer system to list all the firm's assets. As a result of the privatisation, no-one really knew what had actualy been handed over, so a register would help to produce a schedule that would identify which parts of the rail and cabling would need fixing.
In 2006, the Tube regulator found that Metronet's costs were rising, in part due to the extra costs of the AMT-Sybex system. Despite this system, Metronet failed to get a grip on its assets and, due to problems with prices and schedules, eventually collapsed. The system was an unmitigated disaster.
As a result of Steve Norris' record regarding transport, it seems a little odd that Boris Johnson would want to put him in such an influential role in London, particularly as we are supposed to be witnessing the birth of the 'New' Conservatives. Guess they ain't so different after all. Corporations and shareholders first, general public a very distant last. [Much of the above is copied verbatim from Private Eye, who do not actually publish stories to the net yet - as far as I am aware. If you want to find out more, I suggest you seek out the latest issue.]
One other interesting story involved this headline and picture from the Daily Mail:
A story to strike fear into the minds of any discerning Mail reader (does such a thing exist). However, it appears this story is not what it seems:
A piece of concept art of a decimated Washington, D.C. from Bethesda Softworks post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, 360) has been circulated through a handful of news publications, reported as terrorist propaganda after an intelligence contractor said the image was used in al Qaeda-related videos.
The artwork was released as part of Bethesda's early promotional campaigns for Fallout 3, which takes place in and around the Washington, D.C. area decades after a nuclear catastrophe. The image appeared on the Daily Mail's website under the headline "Al-Qaeda's terrifying vision of a devastated America in the wake of a nuclear attack."
"This is the apocalyptic scene terrorists hope to create if they ever get their hands on a nuclear bomb... posted on an Islamic extremists' website yesterday," wrote the Mail's Barry Wigmore.
The image also appeared on the Australian news outlet News.com.au, citing terror watchdog organization SITE Intel as having released the image "which reportedly appeared on an Islamist forum."
Though several members of the press have since pointed out the gaffe, neither the Daily Mail nor News.com.au have updated their stories with corrections or retractions of the claim.
Interestingly, according to Private Eye, if you try pointing this out in the comments thread on the Mail website, they will refuse to publish it. Still, I guess they made their point and scared enough people (conveniently just a few days before the 42 days vote, hmmm).