Interesting News Items

Driver must pay Insurance wants money back for porsche 23 Feb 2001 BACK

The Court of Appeal ruled that Richard Hayward, a property developer, repay £76,600 to Norwich Union after he left the keys in his Porsche fitted with an immobiliser while he paid for petrol, and it was stolen. The court said that he had moved too far to stop a theft.













"Virus" Charge BACK

Amsterdam :
Police said a 20 year old Dutchman, charged with spreading an e-mail-cloging virus, did not know what he was doing when he unleashed the Anna Kournikova bug. He could be fined or jailed for up to four years, and was released after being charged. (AP)
















Death of Privacy on the net by Nigel Powell BACK
In June 1999, buried among all the sound and fury of the internet boom, the Government released a consultation paper entitled Interception of Communications in the United Kingdom. This paper marked the first stage in what is now widely considered to be one of the most controversial acts of legislation so far introduced by the present Government the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill or RIP. Widely con- demned as "misconceived in appropriate" and even hysteri cal", the legislation has been the target of a large number of attacks from both inside and outside the computer industry including Amnesty Internation- al, the National Union of Jour- nalists and Professor Ian Ang- eli of the LSE. On one side stand the Govern­ment and law enforoement agencies, who insist that the Bill - which provides for the right to intercept and decode internet communications - Will simply update exisfing powers to tap telephone calls in the fight against crime. In the opposing corner are the civil libertarians, worried about individual privacy   issues, and the internet service industry, a nascent market that is being forced to bear the brunt of compliance. Even the general business popu­lation is expected to be brought into the firing line~ The Bill's opponents cite many examples of the dangers inherent in allowing police forc­es to demand compliance in the way envisaged. Businesses who rely on encrypted data transnus­sion, such as hanks and other fi­nancial institutions, face- the prospect of. crinnnal prosecu­tion if they fail to hand over en cryption keys on demand, a fact which could drive many of the more susceptible compames to operate offshore where no such legislation exists. In addition, ISPs are expect­ed to have to pay for the moni­toring of their own services, an enterprise which is likely to prove very expensive."It's quite a complicated Bill and there are a lot of issues which still need to he clarified completely before we can he sure that this is not going to cause the industry and country unnecessary harm," says Nicholas Lansman, secretary-general of the Internet Service Providers' Association..   "There are many grey - areas that need answers, and the end result could be that the Govern-­ment undermines the UK's role as an international e-commerce player instead of enhancing it as they-claim to want to do." The ISPA and other industry. hodies are engaged in continu­ing discussions with the Home Office and Government to try tQ ensure that the issues are irQned out, not least because the timelines call for implementation of the first stages of inter­ception before the end of this year. An.added complication is the concern that the Bill may conflict directly with the Hu­man Rights Act and the Data Protection Act, both of which have provisions designed specif­ically to protect the -individual's right to privacy, again potential­ly placing an unreasonable bur­den of compliance firmly on the shoulders of the ISP. "All leg;slation is a question of compromise," says lans­man. "Right now we can't say for sure that we have that kind of balance in place, which is def­initely a matter of concern to all of us involved."






Fools rush in online BACK
In a special report on taking advantage of the web, Tony Dawe advises caution The number of companies committed to, or taking initial steps towards, e-commerce has doubled in the past year, according to a National Computing Centre survey The majority decide to go on- line because it is trendy and customers and suppliers arc doing so. According to the NCC, they should recognise that the net offers other opportunities to expand their business. "The entrepreneurial spirit is a great thing but small and medium-size enterprises with a stable business should not just leap online without serious planning and consideration," says Hugo Kirby, the managing director of Digital Exchange. 'There is a lot of research and analysis needed before moving an internet strategy from the drawing board to the boardroom."   Neil Holloway, managing director of Garner Holloway business consultants, says: 'The same entrepreneurial spirit needed to launch a new business is required when you put it on the net. Too many people see the role of the internet as replicating their existing business but it is a new marketplace and requires fresh thought." Holloway also says it is a mistake for a business to put its new website entirely in the bands of design consultants. "If you are opening a high street store, you don't rely on the shop window fitter. It's your business and you must make the decisions about what you stock, pricing policy and marketing." Tom Hadfield resisted the temptation that overcomes most young site designers when, at the age of 13, four years ago, he launched Soccer.   'The internet is a new market place and it requires fresh thought' net. He forsook the "bells and whistles" beloved by some creative youngsters in favour of an easy to-access results and reports service. "All the gimmicks do is distract the reader from what you are trying to communicate," says Greg Hadfield, Tom's father, who helped to launch the site. They have since sold Soccer. net and Greg is now chairman and editor of the expanding site. with Tom a part-time consultant in between college work. "It is very tempting to do everything on a site and lose track of the real aims," Greg adds. 'The saying goes that you should be providing a resource an inch wide and two miles deep'. Any new site should also have unique elements and pro~ - vide a resource that is not already in existence."


Bosses given right to spy on e-mails By Steve Bird BACK
EMPLOYERS will be free to spy on staff's e-mails and telephone calls after a government decision yesterday to give industry greater powers to monitor staff. From October 24, firms will 1) allowed "routine access" to any business ~mails and phone calls to see whether they are related to work. The move represents a climbdown by ministers, who initially insisted that employers would need their workers' permission before trawling through their business e-mail accounts or recording telephone calls.   The unions rounded on the ruling last night, claiming that it would give bosses carte blanche to snoop on communications made at work, and are looking to use the Human lights Act to counter the decision. But Patricia Hewitt, the e-commerce minister, denied that the riles would allow companies to invade workplace privacy. She said: "There are limits they must not go over, such as intercepting personal calls for unjustified scurrilous interest.   "These draft regulations need to strike the right balance between protecting the privacy of individuals and enabling industry and business to get the maximum benefit from new communications technology." Nigel Hickson, the head of e-business at the Confederation of British Industry, said: "The changes are a big step forward. It is disappointing that this government did not consult business earlier, as we would have liked to avoid unnecessary conflict."






Boy must pay back stocks fraud cash From Adam Jones in New Yorkt 23 September 2000 BACK
A TEENAGER has to return nearly $300,000 (£213,000) he made from an intricate stock market scam. Jonathan Lebed, 15. of Cedar Grove. New Jersey, is the first child to he charged by Wall Street regulators. He is thought to have started trading stocks legitimately when he was 12, using about $8,000 of birthday money. From August 1999 to February this year, however, he bought shares in thinly traded companies and posted false   data about their prospects on Internet message hoards, primarily on the Yahoo!. finance service He would issue bas~ less predictions about the companies using pseudonyms. saying in one instance that the stock was about to "gain 1,000 per cent".Even as he talked up the price, he was preparing to dump his shares on unsuspecting buyers, making up to $74,000 a trade. A spokesman for the   Securities and Exchange Commission the US stock market regulator, said no one was suspected of helping him. "We think he was the mastermind. His parents did not know he was committing fraud." lebbd has agreed to pay back $285,000 without admitting the fraud findings. They can keep the machines even if they leave the company, but they are responsible for the tax on the gift.















Staff to get cut-price computers By Elizabeth Judge 23 September 2000 BACK
BRITISH employees of Bertelsman, the German media company, will benefit from subsidised home computers to improve their Internet skills. A] the firm's permanent staff - 70,000 worldwide - can choose either a computer with Internet access and a printer or a laptop.The only instruction is:   "Immerse your- self in the world of the Inter- net! Enjoy the experience." Thomas Middelhoff, chairman of Bertelsmann, said: "Our goal is to give all employees access to the advantage to be found in this resource." Bertelsmann staff in Britain will receive their computers before the end of the year.   They will pay £1 for a basic model or £240 for a more powerful one. They can pay the larger amount in six instalment. They can keep the ma­chines even if they leave the company, but they are responsible for the tax on the gift.















Four-month low for FTSE By Nick Hasell and Janet Bush BACK
LONDON shares fell to their lowest level for four months as investors again took fright at strong oil prices and a string of profit warnings from the US and Europe The FTSE 100, which was expected to test new highs earlier this month, tumbled 129 points before closing 80.7 points weaker at 6,199.2. The index has fallen in 12 of the past 13 trading sessions and lost nearly 600 points in three weeks. Hiram Chador, UK equity strategist at Merrill Lynch, the US investment bank, said: "The combination of a strong oil price and a weak pound against the dollar is potentially inflationary,

and the market is concerned that UK interest rates will have to go up again.A hard landing for the economy is now the main concern." Yesterday's selling focused on telecom stocks, where investors are worried that their assumptions of future earnings growth may prove unrealistic. But City brokers have yet to trim their year end forecasts for the FTSE 100. Morgan

Stanley Dean Witter tops its rivals with a prediction of 7,500, although the US broker concedes it may trim that figure if the oil price maintains its strength.

Merrill Lynch comes in at the bottom of the range with a 6,500 forecast, against an analysts' consensus of 6,940.Shares fell despite upbeat news from the Confederation of British Industry, which reported a modest recovery in manufacturing in September, helped by healthier exports. In the CBI survey. which was carried out before last week's petrol blockades, manufacturers said order books were improving but that they were planning to cut prices at the fastest rate in four months, a sign of intense competition.














Exercise beats the blues By Mark Henderson 22 September 2000 BACK
Science Correspondent REGULAR exercise is more effective than drugs in treating depression, according to a new study published today. A programme of three, brisk, half hour sessions a week both treats and protects against depression more effectively than anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac,   scientists from Duke University in North Carolina have found. The study, which is reported in the journal Pscyhosomatic Medicine, involved 156 middle-aged patients diagnosed with serious depression whose condition had previously been shown to improve after 16 weeks of exercise.   Ater a further six months, 8 per cent of those in the exercise group saw their depression return, compared with 38 per cent of those who only took the drug. Patients who combined exercise with the drug treatment were much more likely to become depressed again than those who took only exercise.
















Investors told to sit out the fuel crisis Kathryn Cooper - Sunday Times 17 september 2000 BACK

INVESTORS are being advised to sit tight during the fuel crisis, but if oil prices continue to rise it could trigger a stock-market slump.

Over the past fortnight, the stock market has suffered as fuel protests have crippled economies across Europe. However, the London stock market climbed sharply on Thursday after oil tankers started making deliveries.

The price of crude oil has soared from $19 a barrel 18 months ago to $36 today. In The 197O's, when oil prices recorded similar rises, the stock Market was hammered and recorded its worst decade.

But Industry is now less reliant on oil so the effect on share prices is subdued. However, experts say that a problem may arise if oil reaches $40




a barrel, which it could in the winter as demand for fuel escalates. If it reached $50 a barrel it would probably precipitate a stock-market crash.Graham Secker, UK strategist at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, an investment bank, said: "If prices do go as high as $40 and stay there, this would probably cause a global economic slowdown next year, which would be bad news for the stock market. But private investors should sit tight for now and keep an eye on oil prices as well as other economic indicators like global interest rates." However, most experts believe the price of oil will continue climbing for a few months, before falling to $22 early next year.

Jeremy Batstone of Nat West Stockbrokers says: "The ultimate way to protect your investments from the effect of high oil prices is to buy oil stocks.


However, they are not good value in relation to the rest of the market." Oil company shares dipped last week - shares in Shell are 595½p, down 14p, and shares in BP Amoco are 640p, down 12½p.Some industries would be particularly badly hit in a full scale oil crisis. Batstone advises investors not to hold many shares in old-economy companies such as engineering firms and chemical companies, whose profits are squeezed when oil prices are high. Secker suggests that investors who see signs of a slowdown should consider moving into defensive stocks such as food and beverages.

Aerospace and defence stocks, such as BAE Systems, are also doing well. This is because their main customers are countries such as Saudi Arabia which reap the profits of high oil prices.
















Beware traps in health policies - Kathryn Cooper - Sunday Times 17 september 2000 BACK

CONSUMERS are being urged to check the small print of their critical illness insurance cover, because companies have started excluding claims for common ailments. The policies, which are strongly recommended by the government, are taken out with a mortgage and pay off the loan if you fall seriously ill and are unable to work.

But Timothy Greenhill, 52, is one of the victims of the small print. Greenhill, a deputy head teacher from Sussex, had to give up his job earlier this year when he was told he had a brain tumour. He had an operation and will soon start a course of radiotherapy. He also needs hormonal treatment and the condition has left him too ill to work
However, Scottish Provident has failed to pay out under Greennill's critical illness



insurance and he is now being forced to sell his home. The company says that all benign pituitary gland tumours are excluded under its cover. He said: "I am bitterly disappointed. I thought that if I got ill, my insurance would mean I would at least keep bricks and mortar over my head that is the whole point. But now I face having to sell my property and I will never own my own home. I wonder how ill you have to be before the insurer will pay out."A spokesman for Scottish Provident said: "We have not yet declined Mr Greenhill. The problem is that his policy did not cover benign tumours. Benign pituitary gland tumours are excluded because they are not treated as critical and are normally operable."

Critical-illness cover is becoming increasingly common. Sales have increased by 68% in the past five years and


independent financial advisers are actively pushing the policies to offset the commission they are losing because of plummeting endowment and pension sales

However, many policyholders face a frustrating wrangle to claim. The cover is also not cheap. A male non-smoker aged 30 taking out a £75,000 repayment mortgage over 25 years would pay £12.97 a month for critical-illness cover. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has issued industry guidelines so that homeowners are not caught out by critical illness insurance. These state that exclusions should be as prominent in the policy document as the conditions that are covered.

Susinne Moore of the ABI says: s 'You should check the detail of these policies carefully because they are not going to cover you for every single eventuality."















Rage against the PC
Tony Dawe discovers that a weekend with the inlaws is more popular than a day in the company of a sick computer

Valuable time is wasted by office workers every week because of computer and other IT problems, according to a new survey. The report confirms what many people already believe: that despite their advantages, computers are bad for us.

Frustrated staff find problems with their PCs more stressful than being stuck on public transport and far worse than the regular irritations of everyday life such as queuing in a bank or at a busy bar. A majority would even prefer a weekend with the in-laws rather than having a day without their PC, although living with a computer fault was more popular than looking after a small child for the day. Psychologists agree that the data overload created by the communications revolution can damage people's health. But there is hope for workaholics addicted to their screens because some medical research suggests that the stress helps to prevent other ailments from developing. The new survey, commissioned by ICL, the e-business services company,


found that one worker in four wastes between 30 minutes and an hour every day because of slow and unreliable technology. A significant proportion - three out of ten - wait more than two hours for IT problems to be fixed, while two out of ten wait for 30 minutes to an hour. Dave Chapman, an ICL manager, says that the research also found that "the loss of internet access and e-mail viruses are not regarded as the end of the world for most office workers, but are becoming an increasing worry". Only 17 per cent of IT users have been caused great stress by computer viruses at work but nearly half are convinced that future viruses will cause disruption.

ICL's "IT Day From Hell" research identified PC and office network faults as the most stressful, followed by printer, e-mail and internet access problems. Workers in the service and manufacturing industries made up half of those inter­viewed by Benchmark Re­search for the survey, with the rest coming from a variety of businesses.


ICL's purpose in commissioning the research was to drive home the message to e-businesses that they need a pro-active IT management programme to prevent problems from occurring and a database of information and support staff to assist workers to overcome faults.

The research adds fuel, however, to the warnings of Professor Cary Cooper, a leading occupational psychologist, who says that e-mails and voice­mail messages, data from the web and junk faxes pose a serious health hazard. Many people spend all day at their desks to sort it all, and when they do go out are harassed by their pagers and mobile phones.

Stress builds up and illness can occur. A study carried out at Plymouth University earlier this summer came up with contrary findings. When students there were set demanding computer-based tasks, their body's immunity was given a temporary boost, suggesting that the body is still able to fight off infections during times of stress.

















Grab chance to hit back at taxman
Robert Winnett - Sunday Times 17 september 2000

IF you are sick of sky-high fuel taxes, fear not: it is payback time. It has just become easier to claw back other taxes and reduce the amount you pay the chancellor. A website aimed at people who need to work from home at least one day a week provides a simple way to claim previously obscure allowances. It asks a series of questions and then works out how much you have spent on heating, lighting, even the cost of storage space - all of which can be offset against your income-tax bill. The program then prints out a letter, complete with supporting documents,


to send to your tax office. Claims can be backdated for up to six years. David Kitley, managing director of Instant Tax Refund, which runs the service, said: "Hundreds of thousands of people are legitimately entitled to these allow­ances. You do not even have to fill in a self-assessment form and the refunds can be huge." Laurence Halliwell, a sales manager from Taunton, is one of the first people to use the scheme. He received a refund of £307 plus a reduction of £50 off his tax bill for the next two years.


The service costs £39.95. The next fortnight is critical for taxpayers who have to fill in a self-assessment return. People who want the Inland Revenue to calculate their tax bill have two weeks to return forms. How­ever, the Revenue is only aiming to get three in four calcula­tions correct. So you should check your final bill thoroughly.