December 16, 2009 : NEWS IN BRIEF ? WATCHING

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- MPs endorse airport expansion

- City firms paid over £100m for catastrophic 'advice'

- Tesco plans 'massive surge' before proposed restrictions

- Nestlé's fairtrade PR exercise

- Veolia sponsors Wildlife Photographer of the Year

- Targeted ads on your mobile

- FoI laws to be extended to some private companies

MPs endorse airport expansion

The parliamentary Transport Select Committee has published its first report of session 2009-10 on the 'Future of Aviation', which endorses the government's proposal for a third runway and an additional terminal at Heathrow airport, "in view of the economic benefits to the UK." It also recommends a second runway at Gatwick rather than Stansted, as planned. The Transport Select Committee has been described as "a motley crew of aviation industry stooges."

The Committee on Climate Change, an 'independent' body set up under the Climate Change Act, has also published its long-awaited 'Aviation Report', which concluded that Heathrow's expansion is "compatible" with meeting the government's 2050 target for carbon emissions reduction. However, the report adds that the future increase in flying must be limited to 60%, not 200% as projected by the government.


City firms paid over £100m for catastrophic 'advice'

A number of financial firms in the City have scooped £107 million, so far, in fees for 'advising' the Treasury on dealing with the recent banking crisis, the National Audit Office has revealed. The 'catastrophic' advice included the bank bailouts, the nationalisation of crumbling banks and the Asset Protection Scheme. The list of companies includes Slaughter and May (£32.9m); Credit Suisse (£15.4m); PricewaterhouseCoopers (£11.3m); Ernst & Young (£8.7m); KPMG (£7.7m); Blackrock (£7.4m); Deutsche Bank (£5.3m); Citigroup (£5m); BDO Stoy Hayward (£4.9m); Goldman Sachs (£4.5m); Morgan Stanley (£1.5m); and others (£2.5m).


Tesco plans 'massive surge' before proposed restrictions

Tesco, the country's largest retailer, is planning scores of new supermarkets across Britain as ministers discuss proposed new rules that would limit new store openings by locally dominant chains. According to data leaked to The Times, Tesco has 76 outstanding planning applications, from convenience stores to hypermarkets, mostly lodged in the past year. Asda and Sainsbury have submitted around 45 between them. According to a report in The Times, one tactic used by supermarket chains faced with local opposition to new stores is the use of 'trojan horses', or front companies that file planning applications, only to be quietly acquired by the supermarkets later.


Visit Tescopoly's website for more on Tesco dominance in the retail sector:

Nestlé's fairtrade PR exercise

Following the example of confectionery giant Cadbury, Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, has announced that its best-selling chocolate wafer bar in Britain, KitKat, will bear the Fairtrade Foundation logo from mid-January. The bars will use cocoa imported from west Africa, but be manufactured in York. Nestlé has one other fairtrade product, the Partners Blend coffee, amongst its range of 8,500. Increasingly, the Fairtrade mark is being sought by transnational food corporations on a very limited number of their products to improve their image, distracting critiques from their core business which remains squarely in the realm of ecologically and socially devastating practices.


Veolia sponsors Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is being sponsored by Veolia Environmental Services, which is accused by campaigners of profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine (see The international showcase for the "very best" nature photography is owned the Natural History Museum and the BBC Wildlife Magazine. The award is no stranger to controversial sponsorship deals; recent years saw fossil fuel giant, Shell, acting as sponsor.


Targeted ads on your mobile

O2 has launched a mobile advertising scheme that matches information supplied by its users, such as phone usage and location, to commercial data stored by the operator, enabling it to bombard customers with 'personalised adverts'. The new 'service', called O2 More, is the first of its kind and has been welcomed enthusiastically by corporate advertisers. The launch of the service earlier this month saw targeted 'offers' from 50 brands, including Adidas and Cadbury.


FoI laws to be extended to some private companies

The Scottish government is to formally consult on extending Freedom of Information legislation to private prison operators, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and contractors who build schools and hospitals. The Scottish announcement mirrors the claims, made by the Ministry of Justice in July, that the terms of the act may be extended in England.