Anonymous offshore bank accounts exposed by document leak

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Late last night the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, along with other media organisations like The Guardian, exposed the offshore accounts of hundreds of individuals and companies.

The amount of money thought to be held where the tax-man is unable to see it is likely to be in the trillions. David Leigh said, “a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.” Many of the two million leaked e-mails and documents come from the tax avoidance haven of the British Virgin Islands, “where owners’ identities normally remain secret.

In a sovereign state where over 175,000 companies have offshore directors, the prime minister’s own inheritance came from offshore investment funds in tax havens and one of the top banks had a tax avoidance division, which generated a revenue of over £1 billion a year, we’re clearly not “all in this together“.

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Anxiety drug hope for addicts

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Image courtesy of id-iom

The edges of the children’s finger paintings curl up from the wall. The coloured sugar paper has been faded by the sun but underneath the freshly-revealed pigment glows anew. It’s a building which both looks and smells like a small-town community centre; all watered-down PVA glue and drizzle-damp coats. A small group of people sit in a circle of mismatched chairs; the tall woman in a twinset and tasteful gold jewellery fresh from a charity luncheon, the short woman in the red fur coat and vibrant purple hat from a poetry session for disadvantaged youths. Yet there is a sense of camaraderie, brought about by the vague feeling that for once everyone in this room knows exactly what you’re talking about. Everyone in this room knows someone who is an alcoholic.

According to a 2010 study there are 1.6 million alcoholics in England alone. Alcohol-related illnesses cost the NHS on average £2.7 billion pounds every year. £374 million of that is taken up with treating cirrhosis of the liver; an illness which occurs with heavy, constant drinking. Relapse occurs in 90% of alcoholics in the first 4-years of treatment, the medication currently provided is failing and more research needs to be done into how to help these people.

One drug currently being tested is propranolol. At the moment it is used to treat hypertension in the heart and anxiety disorders. But according to Dr Amy Milton, a behavioural neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, propranolol could be part of the answer in preventing relapse. She claims: “Drug-seeking and drug-taking are learned behaviours, and the likelihood of these behaviours being elicited is increased by the presence of people, places and paraphernalia associated with the drug of abuse.”

Propranolol works by preventing signaling at the receptors which cause memories to be stored. Dr Milton explains: “When a memory is retrieved, for example by seeing cues associated with the drug, it enters an unstable state where it can be disrupted… We hypothesise that erasing the cue-drug memories will therefore stop these cues from influencing behaviour and so reduce the risk of relapse in the long term.”

However Dr James Bell, a consultant in addiction medicine who established the Party Drugs Clinic and has written reports for the World Health Organization, disagrees. He states: “The cause of drug dependence is drugs… For many years people have tried techniques to alter associations – through techniques of cue exposure, for example – but it has been a pretty futile endeavour from a therapeutic standpoint, although it gets lots of papers published.”

Dr Bell’s study on the effects of two drugs currently used to treat addictions, naltrexone and acamprosate, found that neither was any better than placeboes.  Instead he believes that the issue of addiction is more a problem of motivation and reward. He declares: “The attempt to block such association, even if it works in laboratory animals being trained to drink, misses the target in human subjects.”

John Cheese, an internet comedy writer for Cracked.com who has written about his own struggle with alcoholism, didn’t use any medication when quitting alcohol: “Just good, old-fashioned gritting my teeth and shaking until the hell subsided.” He claims he has helped thousands of other addicts through his articles and in person and says: “The most dangerous obstacle they face is their own brain, constantly trying to justify ‘just one drink.’”

Mr Cheese believes that one of the big problems with relapse is the mental issues behind the drinking: “Long after the alcohol has left the system, and the body has adjusted to its physical independence of the substance, we still relapse… Those mental issues are the cause of nearly all falls back into alcoholism.” Yet Dr Bell disagrees: “People treating alcoholics who try to deal with the “underlying issues” generally do more harm than good. For alcoholics, the issue is drinking.”

The next step for propranolol is clinical trials on human subjects however it could be 10-15 years before the drug is available for addicts. But Dr Bell is skeptical, saying: “The brutal truth is that when people realise they have a drinking or drug problem, and they want to stop, they stop. When they realise they have a drug problem but don’t really want to stop, they come for treatment.”

Leeds Fest Final Headliner Announced

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Leeds Festival 2012. Image courtesy of ae.edge

Leeds Festival 2012. Image courtesy of ae.edge

£200 seems a lot to spend on 3 days of camping in a muddy field. But for 75,000 people seeing artists like Eminem, Biffy Clyro and, just announced today, Green Day is worth all the funds and festival toilets.

Started in 1999, as an addendum to the Reading Festival, Leeds Fest attracts tens of thousands of people every year. After both the 2012 and 2011 festivals failed to sell-out the organisers are clearly trying to revitalise the festival with some world-class headliners.

For the full line-up keep checking back to the Leeds Festival website as new acts will continue to be announced.

Leeds politic and its best bloggers

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Leeds Town Hall. Photo courtesy of moniqca

Leeds Town Hall. Photo courtesy of moniqca

The political landscape in Leeds is as fickle as Nick Clegg after an election. The three main parties bump shoulders across the districts; left and right face-off in the east, coalition partners knock elbows to the west and the left occupy the city centre. With such a state of constant governmental flux going on in their backyards, it’s fair to say that Loiners are a political lot.

Protests, occupations and thousands marching through the centre; Leeds residents are opinionated and passionate about their city’s politics. Now many have turned to the world wide web to express their thoughts online; MPs, students and ordinary citizens are using the internet to espouse their perspective on the political situation up north.

One such resident is the Leeds Citizen. Self-described as, “A minor irritant on the flesh of the body politic of Leeds“, the blogging equivalent of Judge Dredd has been exposing wrong-doing and government iniquity since July 2011. The “Citizen” started blogging after deciding that the local press weren’t doing enough to cover Leeds’ politics.

In a post about a new dual carriageway planned for East Leeds the Leeds Citizen shows both bureaucratic savvy and a skill politicians have only just started to understand, that of listening to the community:

Not because of local residents’ disquiet over the scale of the housing development that’s prompting the road’s construction. Not because of the doubts being expressed over whether such roads actually relieve congestion. And not because the road’s already being seen by some as an expression of an overly car-centred approach to transport in the UK’s most congested conurbation.

The Leeds Citizen has taken the fourth estate of the realm into their own hands and used it effectively, something Beyond Guardian Leeds has also accomplished. A volunteer group who donned the mantle of local journalism after Guardian Leeds closed, they blog about the latest events and political goings-on in Leeds. The sheer breadth of issues they cover is staggering, “Leeds today: marathons, running, journalism, stank hall, market, parking, Trinity and newspapers” and their links provide the reader with an aggregate of other bloggers writing about the unofficial capital of the north.

If you’re one of the 200,000 temporary inhabitants living in the biggest undergraduate city north of the Thames and you want to know what your MPs aren’t doing for you, there’s Ben’s Community blog. Ideal for those whom Nick Clegg forgot, Ben addresses the issues that matter to students; council cuts, housing and bus fares, and talks to the students themselves:

We consulted with 479 students and members of staff about the council’s budget priorities with the headline question “which of these areas should the council to prioritise”. We found that of these students and members of staff:

4% chose Highways, Planning and Inward Investment

12.8% chose Culture and Leisure

13.6% chose Waste Management and Environmental Action

13.8% chose Adult Social Care

15.1% chose Housing and Community Safety

40.7% chose Children’s Services and Education

Clearly plenty of Leeds natives are getting involved in the discussion. However it’s not just the constituents who are blogging. Several of Leeds’ MPs are discussing party policy and personal views on the web. The Member of Parliament for Elmet and Rothwell, Alec Shelbrooke, has an especially good offering for the blogosphere. It’s updated regularly and spans a wide-range of topics, (including HS2 trains, the Holocaust and UKIP), as well as forthright and unashamed. You only have to read a few lines to realise that Alec is Conservative with a small and a large c, “a real eye opener to the level of debate that the Left has dragged this country down to.

Other Leeds MPs who are sharing their thoughts on the world wide web are Ed Balls, Hilary Benn and Rachel Reeves. Balls’ blog spends a little more time on national politics than his home constituencies of Morley and Outwood, however he does discuss regional matters including a recent post in February about Morley Train Station.

Hilary Benn’s blog, on the other hand, has a definite local focus. He posts “Hilary’s Look Ahead” every week, letting his constituents know what he’s doing and the issues he’s focusing on. Rachel Reeves takes a similar approach; less personal views, more what’s going on in Leeds and what she’s doing for her constituents.

Along with MPs there are also parties with their own blogs. The Leeds Socialist Party’s blog is unsurprisingly partisan but if your politics have a distinctly left-wing, anti-banker flavour then you’ll enjoy their informative approach, “This years budget plans include closing 8 residential homes across the city, inclreasing council house rents by 5.9%, increasing children’s nursery fees by £2 a day and a further 334 job cuts.

With local news dismissed by London-based hacks it’s essential for people to remain informed of what’s happening in their area. Where newspapers are too busy viewing the big picture, a blog can see the minutiae, and where journalists are too focused on deadlines, bloggers care about their community. In a city like Leeds that will always go to the barricades, it’s easy to find informed citizens who want to spread the word. The internet has turned the public sphere global, but for those with a local viewpoint it still has a lot to offer.

Oscars 2013: Hair and Make-up, Hits and Misses

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Everyone knows that the most important part of awards season is the red carpet. Fashion fantasies and fashion faux-pas brush shoulders as cannon-fodder for the tabloids, magazines and, of course, bloggers like me.

These are the looks I think we should all seek to emulate, and the ones it might be best to give a miss.

Someone who got there Oscars look spot on is Amy Adams. There may be debates about her princess-esque ball gown but the simple but elegant up-do she wisely chose to compliment it cannot be faulted. It’s a stunning look that’s surprisingly easy to do at home, and you can dress it up for an event, or leave it messy and loose for everyday ease.

5/5

Of course there’s always the risk of going too simple like Jennifer Aniston. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with her look per se it’s just so dull. It’s pretty much the same haircut and style that she’s been doing since her career started and it would have been nice to see her try something different. This year’s red carpet has seen a lot of starlets turning away from the typical up-do but although there’s nothing wrong with some luscious loose waves, if that’s your go-to look it’s nice to see something new being tried.

2/5

As I said in a recent post bright lips are a great trend for spring, but they’re not something you see a lot of on the red carpet. Therefore I was really pleased to see Queen Latifah rocking fuschia brights with simple eye make-up, simple hair and an elegant white dress. A look that could otherwise have been too safe is made far more interesting by such an eye-catching colour.

4/5

Jennifer Garner, on the other hand, didn’t take a risk and her make-up ended up looking dull. With such a bright dress it would have been nice to see even a hint of colour on her lips, without it her face becomes a beige smear on top of such a distinctive colour.

1/5

Although I wish she’d gone for a more daring dress, like the gorgeous Valentino at the Grammys, Adele’s hair and make-up cannot be faulted. Retaining her signature vintage eyeliner and beehive, but changing it up with a half-up half-down do kept her looking like herself whilst remaining current.

4/5

Salma Hayek however could have done with taking some lessons from Adele. Ditching her normally polished look left her with a too-large bun and smudged, messy eye make-up. Normally stunning it’s such a shame she didn’t stick without suits her.

2/5

Finally, you’ve got to give props to the boys.

In particular Daniel Day-Lewis, who had the courage to rock a beautiful blue suit.

5/5

And for beauty, Jason Schwartzman, for his fabulously groomed moustache!

4/5

What did you think were the best, and worst, Oscars looks?

Mensch or Man Repeller: Should we dress for ourselves or for men?

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Louise Mensch has moved from politics and started her own fashion blog. Described as, “a lazy girls’ guide to gloss” and “style for tomboys” this self-described feminist is offering advice such as “Stuff your ballet flats, your man wants to see you swing it”.

When a follower tweeted, “Politics to man-pleasing fashion blogging; feminist you are not” Mensch replied, “Well, stuff it. As a straight woman I do want to look attractive for my man”.

This is in stark contrast to another well-known beauty blogger, The Man Repeller. “Man repelling” is, “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex”. In other words, not caring what men think because you wear your clothes and put on your make-up for yourself.

So what do you think? When we put on clothes and do our hair and make-up should we aim to please the men of the world or should we dress how we want?

Trends: Two-Tone Lips

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Two-tone lips: Rimmel in Temptation 166 and Maybelline Moisture Extreme Lipstick in Silver Rose 77/128

Two-tone lips: Rimmel in Temptation 166 and Maybelline Moisture Extreme Lipstick in Silver Rose 77/128

Although the recurrent snow, slush and sheet ice make it hard to believe, winter is over. Spring is bursting into bloom with neon brights on lips and eyes, to light up the 0 degree days.

If you’re brave enough to give neon a whirl the best place is on your lips with fuchsias and tangerines giving a nod to the season of plenty. And to be really on trend you have to give two-tone lips a try. A look that at first glance seems too fashion-forward can be easily brought to the street to give your whole face a bit of spring-style.

For those of you who find even a basic cat-eye complicated, and for anyone having a bad make-up day, this is an easy but impressive look that will get attention. Rather than applying directly from the tube it’s best to do this with a lipstick brush or, for budget beauty queens everywhere, just use your finger.

For the avant-garde adventurers out there, the rainbow’s the limit, choose any two colours you want and go wild. But for those who are a little more reserved the best colours to for are orange and pink. They go beautifully together with enough contrast to be noticeable but not so much that people will stare at you in the street.

To create the look you either want a different colour on each lip, or one colour on the outside of the mouth and one colour on the inside. Again it’s all personal preference and how daring you want to be.

Two-tone lips: Shiseido Perfect Rouge in Gilded Wine RS612 and Glossy Box in Glossy Pink

Two-tone lips: Shiseido Perfect Rouge in Gilded Wine RS612 and Glossy Box in Glossy Pink

The best way to keep this look appropriate for day-to-day life is to leave the rest of your face natural. Simple eyes, no heavy liner or bright eye-shadows, will stop you from looking like a face-painting disaster and keep attention on your luscious lips.

For affordable but eye-catching colours my favourite brand is Barry M. Their Lip Paints are highly-pigmented and come in a wide-range of colours, (including green and blue). They’re also kind to your purse at £4.49 a tube.

At £3.50 a tube an even cheaper option, with an even wider range of colours, is Stargazer. They stock 39 different shades of their lipstick with various blues, greens, pinks, reds and purples to mix and match on your lips.

Now you’re ready to bring in the spring with your high-fashion pout. Just remember not to rub your lips together!

Would you try the two-tone lip trend? What colours do you like to use together?

Kate Moss Face of Kerastase Haircare

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Kate Moss has been chosen as the new face of Kérastase haircare.

The luxury brand, best-known for it’s excellent hair oils, has chosen the iconic supermodel to front its next campaign which will be shown in full in May.

Kérastase have released a sneak-peek, behind-the-scenes video of the campaign shoot showing Kate having her hair done by Kérastase’s artistic diretor, Luigi Murenu, and his team.

Pro:Voke Touch of Silver Twice a Week Brightening Shampoo

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Bottle of Pro:Voke Touch of Silver Twice a Week Brightening Shampoo

Pro:Voke Touch of Silver Twice a Week Brightening Shampoo

£3.09/150ml

Buy Pro:Voke Touch of Silver Twice a Week Brightening Shampoo at Boots

5/5 pretty platinum locks

This product is absolutely ideal for anyone with unnaturally blonde hair. It takes all the brassiness away (that nasty orangey/yellowy hue that appears on fake blonde hair) leaving glowing golden blonde behind. For those with platinum or white hair it will take the last remaining yellow tones out leaving you with a Marilyn-esque mane.

Although it looks initially pretty scary with its dark purple colour it won’t leave your hair violet, (as long as you use it as directed and not every day). It’s based on the colour wheel as purple is the opposite of yellow and therefore the purple pigment neutralises the yellow in your hair. It says to use it twice a week but personally I only wash my hair 2 or 3 times a week as washing it too much can be damaging, so I tend to use it once a week or just whenever I feel like the brassiness is reappearing.

It works from the first time you use it and as you don’t use it every day it lasts for a long time. Not to mention, at £3.09 it’s definitely budget friendly. It has a pleasant smell and a good texture; not too runny and not too thick. Just be careful not to get it on your clothes or wallpaper because it will stain.

It’s much cheaper than going to the hairdressers to get your hair toned and it’s one of the finest over-the-counter hair dyeing products I’ve come across in a long time. The Touch of Silver range is a budget blonde’s best friend and I honestly cannot recommend it enough, an absolute bargain.

ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor

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Bottle of ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor

ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor

£6.65/473ml

Buy ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor from Amazon.co.uk

5/5 protein-enriched, restored tresses

This has been an absolute miracle product for me, I really can’t rate it highly enough. After dyeing my hair since the age of 12, (a full decade), I have fairly fried hair, particularly since my most recent spate of bleaching. I really love my platinum/white hair but keeping it maintained, and at a certain value of healthy, is quite a challenge. This product has done an absolute world of good for my hair. When I first bleached my hair I looked online to see what products people recommended. Again and again across the forums I saw people recommending protein treatments. Most ‘deep-conditioning’, ‘repairing’ masques, conditioners and treatments only restore the outside of the hair follicle. The hair appears healthy and smooth but the damage is still done and it will carry on snapping and splitting until healthy hair replaces it. Unfortunately if you’ve got an addiction to crazy colours and back-combing like me, healthy hair will be a long time coming.  Protein treatments penetrate the hair follicle and start repairing it. This means they’re generally not cheap, but they are worth it if you want your hair back to good condition.

Now I won’t lie and say this will restore your hair back to its former glory. Once it’s damaged there’s only so much you can do. But if your hair is fried and snapping, (anyone whose had the experience of washing their hair and realizing its stretching in their hands will know the true meaning of fried), then I can’t recommend this enough. You can’t use it every day, (too much protein can be even more damaging), and personally I use it once every two weeks and find that works for me. My hair no longer stretches or snaps and it feels so much softer to touch. As you’re only using it every couple of weeks it lasts for ages so although it seems expensive it’s a worthwhile investment.

I would advise anyone with severely damaged hair, whether by dyes or chemicals or heat, to give this a go. It’s worked brilliantly for me and has utterly rescued my hair.