Patrick Ward

Money versus sense in Knightsbridge

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One Hyde Park, the new apartment block in Knightsbridge, will offer London some much needed new housing stock.

There may be only 86 flats available, but there is no need to rush there now with a deposit - a penthouse room can cost up to £140 million. At around £6,000 per square foot, this could be the most expensive property in the world.

No DSS, please.

New enclosures

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Government plans to sell Britain's forests have run up against massive opposition from the public.

According to an online YouGov poll, 84 percent of people believe that woods and forests should be kept in public hands, with only 2 percent wanting their sell-off.

Coalition minister for environment, food and rural affairs Jim Paice told a select committee last November, "We wish to proceed with very substantial disposal of public forest estate, which could go to the extent of all of it."

Actor, faker, copper, spy

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Last month brought the revelation that at least four undercover police officers had been operating within the environmental and anti-capitalist movements in Britain for several years.

It began when it was revealed that Mark "Flash" Stone (played by PC Mark Kennedy) had not only infiltrated the movement to disrupt operations at E.ON UK's Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottingham, but had been a key organiser of the protest. This was followed by "peace activist" Lynn Watson ("Officer A"), who lasted five years in the role, and then Mark Jacobs ("Officer B"), who played a heavy-drinking Brighton anarchist. The final character to lose his role was Jim "The Van" Sutton, who drove for Reclaim the Streets and was played by Jim "The Cop" Boyling.

The War You Don't See

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Director: John Pilger, Release date: out now

"Light 'em all up," comes the voice on the radio as we see footage from an Apache gunship over Baghdad in 2007. A group of men are then mown down by machine gun fire. "Nice," continues the voice, impressed at the carnage. This footage was never before shown on TV.

This is the war we don't see - the daily violence of the "war on terror". Instead we are served a diet of false stories about weapons of mass destruction and imminent terrorist attacks, repeated on loop 24 hours a day and awarded an unquestioning reverence.

Full force of hypocrisy

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"Things got out of hand and we'd had a few drinks," said David Cameron back in 1986, speaking about his time in Oxford. "We smashed the place up and Boris set fire to the toilets."

Just as well for him that the "full force of the law" didn't come down on him, as he demanded it did on students who smashed things up to save education from the Tory cuts.

Unhealthy profits

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The sickness of the economy has done little to dent the healthy profits of private hospitals.

There was a drop of 30,000 patients with private medical insurance seeking treatment in the private sector between 2007 and 2009, and a fall of 45,000 patients paying directly. Yet private hospitals raked in £3.76 billion in 2009 - an increase of 7.5 percent.

Self-server

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"When companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won't injure others, it's a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere."

This statement from Amazon came soon after it removed the Wikileaks data from its servers. The message also denies claims that Amazon broke under pressure from the US state to remove the material (but we probably won't know the validity of the statement until we see a leaked cable confirming it).

Amazon's actions led to an (unsuccessful) attack on its servers by hackers and many people are now boycotting the company.

Doobie do or doobie don't?

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During last month's midterm elections in the US Californian voters narrowly rejected a proposal to legalise cannabis. But what does this mean for the policy of prohibition?

As voters across the US went to the polls last month for the midterm elections, Californians voted on whether cannabis should be made legal to buy, sell and grow in the state.

While the Proposition 19 vote failed, it was significant. Overall, 46 percent of voters called for legalisation, with 54 percent against. This was despite both the Democratic and Republican contenders for Congress opposing legalisation, and warnings that ending prohibition would be legally problematic as it would have clashed uncomfortably with federal law.

Surface Detail

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Iain M Banks, Orbit, £18.99

Lededje Y'breq was murdered by the man who owned her as a slave - but the fact that she died isn't going to stop her getting revenge. Neither is the fact that Joiler Veppers, her assassin, is the richest and most powerful man on the planet.

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