After calls for a crackdown on the influence of Russia’s “dirty money,” allegedly via ‘Putin’s cronies,’ it appears the UK is comfortable with Saudi state finances circulating through the City of London. Especially when a tidy £1.5 trillion ($2 trillion) is at stake.
Following the Skripal poisoning case, there was a clamor from politicians to respond to what they saw as Russian state aggression, with clear red lines – politicians such as foreign affairs select committee chair and Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who remarked at the time: “We can no longer allow ‘business as usual.’”
So far, there has been no sign of the jingoistic rhetoric from politicians and mainstream political commentators towards a country with a whole range of human rights abuses to its name, following the announcement from the FCA.
The financial regulator has said that from July 1, its “premium” listing proposes to exempt state-owned corporations from rules that are applicable to privately-held companies.
The relaxing of rules will mean that companies like Saudi Aramco, worth £1.5trn, will cease having to operate at arm’s length from its biggest investor, the Saudi government. It’s all part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to free up the economy to international investors.
The decision made by the FCA has been met with fierce criticism from industry groups such as the Institute of Directors (IoD), whose director general, Stephen Martin, has said, “The FCA fails to provide a convincing justification” as to why rules should be relaxed for “premium category issuers.”
In a statement he said that the “decision has been made despite opposition from across the governance spectrum and without providing evidence as to the necessity for the reduction in standards.”
Martin goes on to claim that “The FCA fails to provide a convincing justification for why listing rules relating to premium category issuers should be waived or removed in cases where the issuer has a controlling sovereign shareholder.
“If anything, we believe that listing rules should be strengthened for this category of issuer given its distinctive governance challenges and risks.”
The FCA’s chief executive, Andrew Bailey, said: “These rules mean when a sovereign controlled company lists here, investors can benefit from the protections offered by a premium listing.
“This raises standards. This package recognises that the previous regime did not always work for these companies or their investors. These rules encourage more companies to adopt the UK’s high governance standards.”
Aramco has yet to decide when and where it plans to float, causing a scramble in countries across the world to attract the extremely lucrative venture.
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Too few women and people from ethnic minority groups cycle in London and more must be done to promote diversity among a largely white, male and middle class biking community, the city’s walking and cycling commissioner has said.
Grand schemes, such as the Cycle Superhighway network of partially-segregated routes linking the suburbs with the centre, are too often perceived as simply a way of getting “middle-aged men cycling faster around the city”, Will Norman acknowledged.
He said he was considering setting diversity targets for London’s cycling population to ensure progress was achieved.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups account for about 15 per cent of the city’s cycle trips – around two-thirds less than Transport for London estimates it could be.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Norman, whose job it is to deliver on Sadiq Khan’s pledge to make walking and cycling safer and easier in the capital, said: “There is a problem with cycling and the way it is perceived of getting middle-aged men cycling faster around the city, which is not the objective at all.
“It touches on something which is a real challenge for London cycling, which is diversity.”
Mr Norman, the capital’s first cycling commissioner, said he wanted to tackle the “gender divide” among cyclists that had spawned the term middle-aged men in lycra – or Mamils.
He added: “Even when we have seen the growth in the number of cyclists, we haven’t seen that diversity.
“There are a number of reasons for that. One is that safety is paramount for getting different people from different walks of life cycling: older people, younger people, those from different backgrounds.”
The mayor’s office has unveiled a number of projects it says will begin to address a lack of diversity, including cycle training courses, grants for community groups who do not typically cycle and promoting electric bikes, as well as expanded cycle routes. On Quietway 1, a new route linking Waterloo with Greenwich, the proportion of women has risen from 29 per cent to 35 per cent.
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Rhyhiem Ainsworth Barton, 17, was fatally shot on Warham Street, south London on Saturday. The attack took place in daylight, just after 6pm, and police are appealing for information.
The following day, a 15 year old was shot in the head with shotgun pellets in Wealdstone, north-west London, Harrow Police said. Another teenager, aged 13, was found with a wound to the head on the same street minutes later. He had been walking with his parents at the time of the attack, and has since been discharged from hospital. A man was arrested on Sunday in connection with the two Harrow attacks and has been released “under investigation.”
“It would appear that the first victim was approached by two male suspects, one in possession of a shotgun – and shots were fired, injuring him and an entirely innocent member of the public,” Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Rose said.
Also on Sunday, a 22-year-old man was found with gunshot wounds in New Cross Road, south-east London. He was taken to hospital and his condition is not believed to be life-threatening.
Meanwhile, a 43-year-old man was stabbed in Perivale on Sunday, and two men in their 20s were injured in a suspected acid attack in Shacklewell Lane, Hackney.
“The violence used has rightly caused concern and we are doing all we can to address this,” DCS Simon Messinger said of the spate of attacks. “Over the Bank Holiday weekend, additional officers are on the streets across the capital, working hard to keep London safe. They are using highly visible local patrols supported by armed response, traffic motorcycles, dog units, and air support – alongside plain clothes intelligence-led operations.”
There have been more than 60 alleged murders in London so far this year, and homicides have jumped by 38 percent since 2014, the Sunday Times reports.
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North London’s latest rising star, 19-year-old, Ama Lou conceived her debut EP DDD as an ambitious concept record. The abbreviation stands for Dawn, Day and Dusk; a triptych of songs that unfold like an Ulyssian day-in-the-life. It tells the story of an imagined runner in a Los Angeles crime ring. If that wasn’t ambitious enough, the classically trained singer also wrote a treatment for a film to accompany the EP which she will shoot with her older sister, Mahalia John, a director of photography.
Ama Lou first came to everyone’s attention with 2016’s “TBC,” on the heels of the Black Lives Movement. It had an easy Nineties R&B vibe evoking TLC and SWV but its somber lyrics included the words of Eric Garner, politicizing the song and bringing more attention to the movement at the time it was released. She followed that with “Not Always” tackling issues of gender as she collaborated with Brooklyn duo, Like Minds whose biography includes working with Kanye West, Wu-Tang Clan and Avril Lavigne.
DDD continues to show strides with the smooth vocals of “Tried Love” afloat over soundscapes, menacing and moody. In the second track “Wrong Lesson” her vocals throw more gangsta bite with cutting lyrics and a bit of Nineties G-Funk effects. To suit its dusky theme, “Wire” is accompanied by a wailing saxophone and her voice seem more harangued and cracking purposefully in parts, like a vinyl record nearing its end.
Currently, on tour with Jorja Smith, Ama Lou will open for Smith tonight at the Regency Ballroom, in San Francisco. She speaks to AXS about staying true to her ‘personal legend’ and how she hopes to continue making music with her own formula in the future.
AXS: You’re good friends with Jorja Smith, how did you guys end up on tour together?
Ama Lou: Back in Christmas last year, we were talking about the possibility of me going on this tour with her and how great it would be to actually travel together, instead of just doing a couple of shows out of London. Our music is completely different so we were also excited about our audiences getting two very different shows.
AXS: You’re both part of that North London scene, could you give us an idea of what that scene is like?
AL: Ha! I don’t know if I come from the same scene. I’m a bit of a recluse. Jorja has like loads of friends. I only have like three friends so I’m pretty much a loner. (laughs) I know the inside of my house better than the scene. Making music is a lot of work so I feel like I’m just in a dungeon the whole time but I do love it. I know a lot of people in that North London friend group who are really supportive of each other, and it’s always nice to hear when someone does well, and from near where you’re from. It’s a great scene from that respect even if you’re not really involved with how they make music.
AXS: Your EP is only three songs but you’ve conceived it like an epic, concept record. Could you tell me a little about the ideas behind this?
AL: That project basically was the first time that I was given the resources to produce myself – to fill in all the sonic blanks that I had. I was actually like ok, I know what should be in there. I was somewhat dictating and being extremely specific about all the sounds and landscapes I was putting into my music. So I spent a very long time working out my formula and with all these amazing session musicians – to replicate the exact sounds in my head and make it a reality. It was the most perfect situation. While doing that, I started conceptualizing a film – that’s going to come out in a couple of weeks – in line with the EP I just dropped. Then I started writing a film and conceptualizing a story and its themes. And while I was producing all this, I started writing it, like it was a score – a landscape of sounds like “Tried Up” has mornings songs; birds chirping, synths, hawks in the desert. The night time is dark with extremely dramatic music and key changes. It’s been my most intense project so far and now I realize what I’m comfortable with and how I want to produce my music from hereon.
AXS: Did you also help come up with the beats and some of the production for “Tried Up?” I know you’re into DIY but are you also quite self-taught?
AL: No. So I’m like ‘head producing.’ I only have a basic knowledge of Logic –the music program – I can play instruments, and I understand musical structure so I can instruct people who are highly skilled. I can hear the notes being played and I can sing the sounds, exactly the sounds; and sometimes I literally sound insane, completely insane. I’ll say ‘no, no, I need a note like ‘arhhhh’ (makes a gnarling sound) and more gritty.’ And they’ll play it and a chord will be wrong. And I I’ll be like ‘no, it’s a minor chord and go like this arhhhh…’ (makes the sound again) And they’ll be like ‘these are not chords that you find on the piano! They’re vocal chords.’ And I’m like ‘that’s why I need you to play them for me on the piano.’ I know it’s not what is done normally. It’s like my mom, she says since I was little she knows not to mess with me. I was always going to be able to get what I want. And with my music, I realize that I just know what I want it to sound like. And I’m not going to let anyone tell me otherwise. That’s not to say that I don’t respect other people’s musical knowledge; I highly respect other people’s musical aesthetic and I like to collaborate but when I know what I want, I just have that gut feeling, and even if it doesn’t work, I need to at least have tried it. I will go to the end length, I do not care. If it doesn’t sit well in my stomach, I can’t put it out. I have to fulfill my personal legend.
AXS: It’s not always easy being a young woman in the studio, especially when you don’t have the knob-twiddling knowledge.
AL: I think when I’m in a studio, in terms of being a young woman, a human or whatever – I think of it as just doing what’s best for the product. How we get there is the important thing, especially if you know how you need something to be. It’s not about I need to make someone else happy. Or being kind in the studio. No, it’s not about that. It’s about what’s best for the product and whatever it takes to get that.
AXS: I particularly like “Wrong Lesson” that line “If I wasn’t true, that I think I would be a faker” that feels like you’re making a bigger statement about the social media-fake news cycle, the times that we now live in? How did that song come about?
AL: Hmmm… I’m trying to think back cause sometimes when I’m writing, I completely black out. That line is probably from the stomach feeling – that I can’t be inauthentic to myself. And I’ve learnt to never suppress that feeling, doesn’t matter how many people I might rub up the wrong way. It’s always proven to be the right decision for me and my music.
Ama Lou Tour (Opening for Jorja Smith)
Apr. 24 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom (For tickets, please click here)
Apr. 26 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
Apr. 27 – Seattle, WA – Neumos (For tickets, please click here)
Apr 28 – Vancouver, BC – Baltimore Cabaret
May 1 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
May 2 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
May 4 – Detroit, MI – El Club
May 5/6 – Toronto, ON – The Opera House
May 8 – Montreal, QC – L’Astral
May 9 – Allston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
May 11 – Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry
May 12 – New York, NY – Brooklyn Steel (For tickets, please click here)
May 13 – Washington, DC – Union Stage
The UK’s narrative in the Skripal case is a “story woven with lies,” with London continuously trying to “deceive” the international community, Russia’s OPCW envoy said, highlighting eight examples of such misinformation.
“We’ve tried to show that everything our British colleagues produce is a story woven with lies,” Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Aleksandr Shulgin told reporters on Wednesday, following the organization’s meeting on the Skripal case.
“And, unlike the British, who aren’t used to taking responsibility for their words and unfounded accusations, we showed specific facts why we believe our British partners, to put it mildly, are ‘deceiving’ everyone.” The official provided eight examples of UK-pushed misinformation, surrounding the March 4 events, when the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the town of Salisbury
#1. Russia refuses to answer UK ‘questions’
“In reality, they’ve asked us only two ‘questions’… And both were worded in such way that the existence of an undocumented arsenal of chemical weaponry at Russia’s disposal was presented as an established fact, beyond any doubt.”
It was effectively an ultimatum, pressing Moscow to either confess that it “attacked the UK with chemical weapons,” or to admit that it had “lost control over the chemical warfare arsenal.”
Moscow answered both of these ‘questions’ immediately, stating that it had nothing to do with the Salisbury incident. Apart from that, the official emphasized, it is an established fact that Russia destroyed all its chemical weaponry stockpile ahead of schedule last year.
#2. UK abides by Chemical Weapons Convention rulebook
The OPCW procedures clearly state that if one member state has issues with another, it should send an official request, and thus the other party would be obliged to respond within 10 days, Shulgin said. However, instead, the UK allegedly “instigated by their colleagues from across the pond,” disregarded the established mechanism and came up with a dubious “independent verification” scheme, which violates those very OPCW rules.
#3. Russia refuses to cooperate
While the UK and a number of its allies accuse Russia of “refusing to cooperate to establish the truth,” the situation is exactly the opposite, Shulgin insists. Moscow is interested in a thorough investigation of the incident – especially since the victims are Russian citizens. Moscow repeatedly insisted on a joint probe and urged London to release data on the Skripal case, but all efforts were in vain. Many requests went unanswered by the UK, while others received only a formal reply.
#4. Russia invents versions to distract attention
Despite numerous speculations and allegations by questionable sources, cited by the UK’s own domestic media, it was Moscow that was eventually accused of coming up with some “30 versions” of the Salisbury events, allegedly to “disrupt the investigation,” Shulgin said.
“In reality, the picture is different. In fact, it’s the British tabloids, the so-called independent media, which is multiplying those versions,” the official stated, recalling some of the narratives, most of which entirely contradict each other.
#5. Exterminating traitors is Russia’s official state policy
“They claim that the Russian leadership has, on multiple occasions, stated that extermination of traitors abroad is a state policy of Russia,” Shulgin said. “This is slander, of course. The British cannot produce a single example of such statements, since the Russian leadership has never said anything of the kind.”
#6. Experts pin the blame on Russia
The head of the OPCW mission has clearly said that it was impossible to determine in which country the toxic substance used in Salisbury had originated. Yet the OPCW findings were once again used by the UK officials to claim Moscow was “highly likely” responsible. “Look, the head said it was impossible and they, abandoning all common sense, said ‘They’ve confirmed our evaluations that it was Russia.’ How else can you evaluate this but as a lie?” Shulgin wondered.
#7. ‘Novichok’ is a Soviet invention, so it has to be Russia
The development of the so-called Novichok family of toxic agents more than 30 years ago in the Soviet Union was one of the main cornerstones in the UK narrative, pinning blame for the Skripal incident on Russia. Publicly available sources, however, indicate that “the West has been and still is conducting research and development into such substances,” Shulgin said, giving a fresh example of such activities.
“Not long ago, namely on 1 December 2015, the US Patent and Trademark Office filed a request to its Russian colleagues asking to check patentability … of a chemical weaponry-filled bullet, which could be equipped with Tabun, Sarin or the Novichok family of agents,” the official stated.
#8. Yulia Skripal avoids contact with relatives & refuses Russian consular support
While such a statement was indeed produced by the UK authorities “on behalf” of Yulia, Moscow believes it to be false. According to Shulgin, the situation with Yulia is starting to look like a Russian citizen is effectively being “held hostage” by the UK authorities.
Dave Bohon–Despite a near total ban on guns within its borders, London continues to suffer from violence and crime, with its murder rate recently shooting past that of New York City. Thus, with London’s thugs and assorted criminals using knives and other sharp objects as their trade tool of choice, it is only natural that the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, would move to disarm anyone — law-abiding or not — carrying a knife.
Khan announced that he is deploying several hundred London police in an effort to put a stop to a nasty spate of stabbings across the city. “What you will see over the course of the next few weeks and months … is stop and search based on suspicion of carrying an offensive weapon going up,” he told London’s media, with “more arrests as a consequence of this intelligence-led stop-and-search going up and hopefully our city becoming safer.”
Over the past two months London has seen its murder rate topping NYC’s, with 15 murders in February to New York’s 14, and 22 in March compared to 21 in the Big Apple. And because 31 of London’s 2018 murders have been knifings, Kahn is convinced that taking knives away from everyone is the ticket to a safer London, this despite the fact that fact that knives are already severely restricted across the United Kingdom. U.K. law makes it illegal to sell knives to individuals under 18, and everyone else is prohibited from carrying one “without good reason” — except for Boy Scout-style pocket knives with blades under three inches.
Warning all U.K. residents of the crackdown, Kahn recently tweeted: “No excuses: there is never a reason to carry a knife. Anyone who does will be caught, and they will feel the full force of the law.”
In addition to Kahn’s crackdown, Britain’s Home Secretary said it will step up its knife control nationally. As reported by the U.K.’s Sky News, that is expected to include beefed-up “stop and search” powers for law enforcement to confiscate both knives and acid (acid attacks are also on the increase across the U.K.), as well as limiting knife purchases online and banning them from being shipped to residential addresses, along with prohibiting knife possession on “further education premises.”
It is interesting to recall that as a candidate for mayor in 2015, Kahn was openly critical of “stop and search tactics,” saying that they allowed police to unfairly target minorities. “Overuse of stop and search can have a dramatic effect on communities,” said mayoral candidate Kahn. “It undermines public confidence in our police if Londoners are being stopped and searched for no good reason.”
Kahn’s tweet’s on confiscating knives from all Londoners indicates that his views have evolved, and he is no longer concerned about targeting minorities — or anyone else.
David Lammy, a lawmaker for the north London district of Tottenham, one of the areas most heavily hit by violence, noted to the BBC that gangs’ drugs and turf wars are among the contributing factors to the violence — which includes firearms deaths, despite the U.K.’s stringent gun-control laws. “What drives the gangs and the turf wars is an 11 billion pound cocaine drugs market,” Lammy told the BBC. “Drugs are prolific. They’re as prolific as ordering a pizza. You can get them on Snapchat, WhatsApp. That, in the end, is driving the turf war; and it’s driving the culture of violence.”
Commenting on the culture of violence that seems to be overtaking London, as it has other major cities, the National Rifle Association pointed out in an editorial: “With all of the talk of further restrictions, harsher enforcement strategies, and additional funding to combat crime in the already heavily regulated and surveilled London, few appear willing to acknowledge that there might just be a limit to the government’s ability to control human behavior.”