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All today’s papers lead on the devastation in Haiti, with the Guardian and Sun reporting fears that up to 100,000 people have been killed in Tuesday’s earthquake. The Times describes “scenes of Armageddon” in Port-au-Prince, the Mail says “bloodstained bodies piled up in the streets”, the Independent reports locals scouring the Haitian capital in a “vain search for survivors” and the Mirror talks of the quake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, “toppling a range of buildings from shacks to United Nations buildings and the presidential palace”; the Standard looks at Britain’s pledge of assistance for Haiti, and the Telegraph reports US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s remarks that the disaster was “as bad as the Asian tsunami”.
As Left Foot Forward reported yesterday, there are many ways readers can help, many organisations to which one can donate: the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which supports all the main aid agencies; Oxfam, who will provide clean water, shelter and sanitation; UNICEF, who aim to help children affected by the earthquake; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose teams on the ground report “significant damage to its medical facilities, injuries to patients and staff and an influx of wounded”, mobile phone networks down and road access hampered; and Mercy Corps, who help survivors “meet their immediate needs and recover what they’ve lost”. The Huffington Post has links to more sites, including the Red Cross, Save The Children and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Domestically, the Independent has an exclusive in which it claims the Prime Minister will attempt to invoke the “spirit of 1997” with the “return of pledge cards”. The five points Labour will focus on, reports the paper, are “jobs, health, personal care, antisocial behaviour and tackling the recession”, while accusing the Conservatives of planning to “cut schools funding, scrap the cancer promise, preside over a social care ‘lottery’, reduce police numbers and axe Sure Start schemes”. The Tories, however, have accused the Government of “raiding taxpayers’ money” to fund its election campaign, reports the Telegraph. They say spending on advertising by the Central Office of Information is up 39 per cent to £232 million.
The Indy also reports MPs’ calls for a high pay commission, demanding curbs not just on the pay and perks of City workers, but on all top earners. More than 100 MPs have signed the Commons motion, which aims to go further than the supertax on bankers’ bonuses that many claim has failed. The MPs say the proposals enjoy “widespread support”. “People on median incomes have seen their pay increase at less than the average while the super-rich, including chief executive officers, have seen their pay increase to 76 times that of the average worker,” explains the report.
And The Times warns of chaos at the election if ballot fraud isn’t curbed, citing the latest Electoral Commission report. It says 48 cases of electoral fraud were investigated by police after last year’s European and local elections, leading to two prosecutions, with 17 cases yet to conclude. The biggest scope for fraud lies in postal ballots, adds the report. Presently only one in five postal votes is cross-checked against signatures and dates of birth – the Electoral Commission believes this is not tough enough, and are lobbying the Ministry of Justice to ensure 100 per cent of postal votes are fully checked at the next election.
• The Fabian Society New Year Conference takes place at Imperial College this Saturday, featuring 50 top speakers including a keynote speaker – a Senior Cabinet Minister. Tickets can be purchased online.
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