General News

MoD: Operational troops routinely receive 30 minutes of free talk time each week from the Ministry of Defence, which can be used to make phone calls.  Troops also have unlimited access to the internet and are able to email home. This year during the festive period, troops will receive an additional 30 minutes free talk time from both the MOD & communications company Paradigm, meaning that they will be able to chat to family & friends for an extra hour over the festive period (defined as 22 Dec –2 Jan inclusive).
The MoD minutes will be added to the Paradigm account cards on Sunday 20 December 2009 and the Paradigm minutes will be added on Sunday 27 December 2009.
Press release ~ WelComE service
ScotGovRobert Burns' Cottage was re-opened yesterday following a £1m renovation of the historic site, which features a new Education Pavillion where people can learn more about the National Bard. The cottage is a key part of the National Trust for Scotland's £21m Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Project, which is due for completion in 2010 and was the starting point for this year's Homecoming celebrations.
Burns Cottage was built in 1757 by Robert Burns' father, William Burnes. Scotland's national bard was born in the Alloway cottage on January 25, 1759.  The 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth inspired Scotland's Homecoming 2009 celebrations, which concluded on St Andrew's Day.
Press release ~ Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Project ~ Homecoming Scotland

OFT: The Office of Fair Trading is warning the public to beware of fake lottery scams. With a promise of cash winnings and visions of a millionaire lifestyle, receiving a letter, email or telephone call about a supposed lottery win can seem like a dream come true.  But for many it can be the start of a scam nightmare, leaving people out of pocket or at risk of identity theft. 1 in 3 people has received a fake lottery win notification, research shows and lottery scams cost the British public an estimated £260m a year.
Often masquerading as legitimate lottery operators such as the Spanish El Gordo or our own National Lottery, people receive information about their win out of the blue, telling them that they have won a major cash prize in a lottery or sweepstake. The scam unfolds as the company asks for 'administration fees' to handle the win, or for the 'winner' to send personal details to confirm their identity to receive the prize.  The winnings do not exist and are never received.
Press release ~ Fake Prize Draws and Lottery Scams
NE: We all love the feasts & open fires, but winter can also be a great time to get out & about in the countryside and enjoy an exhilarating breath of fresh air. One of the best ways of experiencing England’s fantastic countryside in winter is along England’s network of National Trails.  Enjoyed by walkers, cyclists, runners & riders alike, they provide memorable routes for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Everyone in England lives within 50 miles of a National Trail and the NT website is packed with information to help you plan your trip. But as well as being a great way of taking exercise and enjoying beautiful scenery, NT give access to some of England’s finest wildlife
National Trails are as good for short walks & gentle strolls as they are for long-distance walking and NE have identified walks across the country.  Most are perfect for a half-day walk with family & friends followed by a picnic or pub lunch, but if you are looking for longer walks NT has these too.
Press release ~ National Trails ~ Pennine Bridleway - circular walk along the world-famous Settle Loop ~ Pennine Way - six recommended circular walks ~ Explore the North York Moors and Coast - a great circular walk from Ravenscar ~ Yorkshire Wolds Way - three circular walks ~ The South West Coast Path National Trail - South West Coast Path website ~ Plymouth Waterfront walk ~ Thames Path - Walks within a few minutes of a First Great Western train station ~ The Ridgeway National Trail - two new circular walks ~ Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail ~ Norfolk Coast Path National Trail by bus ~ North Downs Way - Choose to walk a linear section of the Trail or sample one of the new circular walks ~ South Downs Way - possible day or circular walks ~ The Cotswold Way National Trail ~ Offa’s Dyke National Trail ~ Natural England
VOA: A telephone scam that targets council tax payers, falsely claiming they have won a council tax rebate, has been exposed by the Valuation Office Agency. Many households across the country have received calls from crooks claiming to be VOA or council officials who tell their victims that they are eligible for thousands of pounds in council tax rebate. The ‘lucky’ people are asked to send the caller their credit card or bank account details so the money can be refunded.  Other scams ask for a one-off administration fee to process the refund.
Press release ~ VOA ~ Consumer Direct - Scams
ScotGov: A volunteer team of Scottish doctors, nurses and other NHS clinicians are heading to Afghanistan to treat wounded service personnel. The 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (Volunteers) (based in Glasgow) will be deployed to Afghanistan in the New Year.  The team are all Territorial Army volunteers whose main jobs are or were in the NHS in Scotland. Using their skills & experience from Scottish hospitals & health centres, the team will treat wounded service personnel and local people in Afghanistan during a 3-month tour.
Press release ~ 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (Volunteers)
DWP: Top Premier League clubs are set to provide hundreds of unique training opportunities to boost the confidence of jobseekers and prepare them for the workplace. Premier League into Work is being delivered at Chelsea, Everton, Sunderland and Portsmouth football clubs.  They are working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and local employers to give jobseekers the skills & abilities they need to find work, while improving their fitness levels and football skills.
The courses will help develop interviewing skills, job search techniques, CV preparation, health & fitness and football training, led by award-winning coaches. Each course will last 10 weeks and each participant will undertake a 2-week work placement.
Press release ~ Premier League into Work ~ Support Employment programme – Scotland ~ The New Football Pools – Charitable works ~ Premier League’s Creating Chances report ~ Creating Chances website
SE: A group which has brought new sporting opportunities to over 6,000 young people in the South West has been awarded the 2009 BBC Power of Sport Award, supported by Sport EnglandFence Cornwall (developed by Truro Fencing Club) is using the power of sport to improve the lives of young people in the South West and engage them in new, non-mainstream sports by bringing free fencing taster session to clubs & schools.  Thanks to the project, thousands of children have experienced the fun of fencing.
In addition, a group which has brought sport to over 3,500 disadvantaged people in the North East was also awarded a 2009 BBC Power of Sport AwardSport Universities of North East England (SUNEE) is using the power of sport to improve the lives of homeless people, vulnerable women, looked after children and those suffering from drug & alcohol addictions.  Thanks to the project, thousands of people now have sport as a part of their daily lives.
SUNEE offers a range of sports, including football, badminton & both codes of rugby, to disadvantaged groups across the North East.  It uses university students as coaches & volunteers to offer open sports sessions & match days for over 16s who are not in education, employment or training (NEETS).  It also offers closed sessions specifically targeted at people referred by agencies such as the Princes Trust and the probation service.
Press release ~ Related press release ~ Fence Cornwall ~ Truro Fencing Club ~ Sport Universities North East England (SUNEE)
Newswire – TSA: Ever wondered if you are getting a fair deal from your landlord or how your landlord compares to others in the area?  Well, help is at hand, as the national social housing regulator, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), has released a new free web portal, which will enable all tenants, by simply entering their postcode, to compare the performance of housing associations in their area. The portal will be a valuable source of information for tenants & prospective tenants, LAs, housing associations, councillors & MPs.
Press release ~ Tenant Services Authority (TSA) ~ Find & compare landlords ~ 2009 performance indicator (PI) results
EHRC: The Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced that it intends to conduct a formal inquiry into disability related harassment in England & Wales and how public authorities are protecting disabled people’s human rights to live free from violence & abuse.  The Commission plans to use its legal powers to investigate the extent of disability-related harassment and take appropriate action based on the evidence uncovered.
The announcement came on the United Nations ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’.  The Commission is the UN accredited human rights body for Great Britain with specific responsibilities to promote & monitor implementation of the recently ratified Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
A report on the safety & security of disabled people published by the Commission earlier in 2009 found that disabled people are 4 times more likely to be the victim of a crime than other people and are twice as likely to be the victim of a violent attack.
Press release ~ Promoting the Safety and Security of Disabled People ~ United Nations ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ ~ Guidance to help public authorities ~ Making the MDGs Inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world ~ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has launched a new database that will help with the identification & prioritisation of future cancer research across Europe. The Database of Cancer Uncertainties (DoCU) has been developed through the Coordination of Cancer Clinical Practice Guidelines in Europe (CoCanCPG) initiative, which is a consortium of 16 institutional partners from 11 countries and is funded by the European Commission.
Press release ~ CoCanCPG Database of Cancer Uncertainties (DoCU) ~ Coordination of Cancer Clinical Practice Guidelines in Europe (CoCanCPG) initiative ~ UK’s Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments – DUETs
MoDHMS Dauntless - the second of 6 new air defence warships - was handed over to the Ministry Of Defence at a ceremony in Portsmouth last week.  She follows HMS Daring – the Royal Navy’s first Type 45 destroyer – which arrived in Portsmouth in January 2009. The prime role of the Type 45 destroyer will be air defence – protecting UK national and allied & coalition forces against enemy aircraft & missiles.
Press release ~ Type 45 Destroyer ~ A video tour of the Royal Navy's first Type 45 Destroyer - DARING ~ Video: Building Royal Navy T45 destroyer
HMRC: As many full-time students prepare to find temporary work over the Christmas period, they may find that they are in line for tax free income. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is reminding them that they may not need to pay income tax on their earnings, if these are below their Personal Allowance for the year.
The good news for many full-time students who are intending to work over the festive season is that - providing they expect to earn less than £6,475 in the tax year to 5 April 2010 and complete a form P38(S) at the beginning of employment - they will be entitled to receive their money tax free.
Press release ~ Directgov – Tax advice for students ~ HMRC: Student Tax Checker
MoD: Two Royal Engineers, who walked away unscathed when their armoured diggers hit roadside bombs in Afghanistan, met the people who built the vehicles last week. Army Sappers Craig Cook and Daniel Boden were both operating Caterpillar armoured diggers when they drove over improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in two separate incidents while performing construction roles on the frontline during 2009.
Press release
Defra: A new interactive microsite to teach children about the importance of hedgerows has been launched by Hedgelink UK on their website, funded by Defra, Natural England and the National Hedgelaying Society. Hedgerows can be found in all areas of our countryside & towns and 112 rare species of birds, insects & animals call them home or use hedgerows for food. 
Aimed at children aged 7- 11, the microsite gives children the chance to explore online the importance of hedgerows and includes fun interactive games to help them learn about hedgerows & the wildlife they support.  There’s also a chance for children to get outside and take part in a hedgerow survey which will contribute to building a picture of the state of hedgerows.
Press release ~ Hedgelink UK ~ Learning & Teaching Resource ~ National Hedgelaying Society ~ Defra: Hedgerows ~ UK Hedgerows Habitat Action Plan
DH: Health Ministers from around the world met last week to discuss the ongoing threat to public health from the current H1N1 pandemic, maintaining effective responses globally and looking ahead to how the pandemic could develop. The 10th ministerial meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI), hosted in London by the Department of Health, was attended by representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, UK, the US, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.
The Initiative, formed in 2001, aims to protect health on a global scale & enhance our ability to deal with international chemical, biological and radio-nuclear threats to health, as well as pandemic influenza.
Press release ~ Full Communiqué ~ Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI)
FSABoutinot has recalled the NOVAS Winemaker's Selection White 2006 brand of Chardonnay Marsanne Viognier wine, because it contains the preservative sulphur dioxide, which is not mentioned on the product label. The Food Standards Agency has issued an Allergy Alert advising anyone with a sensitivity to sulphites not to drink this wine. No other Boutinot or NOVAS Winemaker's Selection products are known to be affected.
Press release ~ Boutinot Ltd recalls the NOVAS Winemaker’s Selection White 2006 brand of Chardonnay Marsanne Viognier wine ~  Allergy UK ~  Anaphylaxis Campaign ~ Boutinot Ltd

DH:  A new mobile phone application that helps people to keep track of their drinking during the festive period has been launched by Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron. 

Available from iTunes and, it helps people to:
* Work out how many alcoholic units there are in a glass of wine or pint of beer for example

* See how much alcohol they have consumed over a set period, such as a week or month

* Get personalised feedback on their drinking habits

* Find local NHS clinics & advice centres

Press release ~ NHS Drinks Tracker ~ Additional Details ~ Drinkaware ~ Know your Units

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