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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government is selling vintage French wine at around 5,000 pounds a bottle ($ 7,500) in a bid to make its wine cellar self-funding as part of a national austerity drive and clamp-down on extravagant expenditure.
The government wine cellar, located in the basement of Lancaster House near Buckingham Palace, is used to provide wine for foreign VIP guests ranging from royalty to heads of state and prime ministers at 200 or more events a year.
The cellar contains 38,090 bottles of wine and spirits with an estimated market value of 2.95 million pounds ($ 4.47 million), according to an annual report on the cellar released last month.
But figures show that a government review from 2010 recommending the cellar become self-funding rather than a drain on taxpayers had not worked out with sales of 44,000 pounds last year but purchases of about 49,000 pounds.
Auction house Christie’s said the government was selling six lots of wine, a total of 54 bottles, on March 21 with the sale expected to raise up to 65,000 pounds ($ 98,000).
A spokeswoman said this was “the first time that wine from the Government Hospitality Cellar has gone to auction” with previous sales conducted privately.
“This is part of the process for making the cellar self-funding for the lifetime of the current parliament,” said a statement from Mark Simmonds, a junior minister in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Austerity has been the watchword for finance minister George Osborne since his Conservative-led coalition came to power in 2010 but last week Britain suffered its first ever sovereign ratings downgrade when Moody’s cut its rating to Aa1 from Aaa, citing weak prospects for British economic growth.
Christie’s said six bottles of the highly sought after 1961 vintage of Chateau Latour were leading the auction, with each of these estimated to raise up to 5,000 pounds a bottle.
The sale also includes six bottles of 1978 Petrus and cases of 1986 Chateau Mouton Rothschild and 1988 Lafite Rothschild.
“Many of the wines included in this sale have been served across the decades to kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers,” the Christie’s spokeswoman said.
The sale comes at a time when affluent drinkers in China and the United States are spending more on expensive wines with growing demand for better quality vintages, according to a study released at the Vinexpo wine trade show in January.
China has become the biggest importer of Bordeaux wines with consumption soaring by 110 percent in 2011.
The government wine cellar was set up in 1922 to provide hospitality for high-level overseas government guests.
Christie’s said the cellar was an “exemplar of professional cellar management”, with wines bought young and held in ideal conditions until fully mature and ready to drink.
The wines are bought on the recommendation of a committee that is made up of five people who select on blind tastings.
Details in the annual statement on the government wine cellar for 2011-12 showed that 4,651 bottles worth 55,679 pounds were drunk from the store between April 2011 and March 2012.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)
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BERLIN (Reuters) – A minister in Angela Merkel’s government has sparked a pre-Christmas row among Germany’s ruling parties by suggesting God be referred to with the neutral article “das” instead of the masculine “der”.
Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God.
“The article is not important,” she responded, adding that it was fine to use “das” instead of the traditional “der” when referring to God.
The remarks were immediately denounced by members of Schroeder’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
“This intellectualized nonsense leaves me speechless,” Christine Haderthauer, Bavarian social minister, told top-selling daily Bild.
Stefan Mueller, a CSU lawmaker, said he was “bewildered” by Schroeder’s “inappropriate” comments.
When pressed on the matter at a government news conference on Friday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert backed Schroeder.
“If you believe in God, the article is not important,” he said. “If you speak to God in a different way, the prayers are still heard.”
(Reporting by Noah Barkin. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)
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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Foreign Office spent 10,000 pounds ($ 16,100) to re-stuff the corpse of a giant 120-year-old snake, at a time when government departments are being told to rein in spending.
In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from political blog Guido Fawkes, the Foreign Office said the 20 foot anaconda – called Albert – had been in poor condition and required “essential maintenance”.
“Albert the anaconda was allegedly presented by a Bishop, in what is now Guyana, to the Colonial Secretary in the 19th century”, the Foreign Office said.
The huge reptile hangs in a Foreign Office library and is regarded as a departmental asset in a country whose former empire once ruled over vast swathes of the planet.
“Austerity, what austerity?”, asked the blog in red below the response.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office recoiled at the suggestion that reviving Albert’s looks might not be essential work for a government whose prime minister warned voters just last month to brace for “painful decisions” on the economy.
“It is quite a bit of money, but he is a very big snake. We will not be constricted, nor will we scale back, in our dedication to preserve this historic national treasure”.
($ 1 = 0.6196 British pounds)
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by Paul Casciato)
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To any logical person, the assertion of the federal government that cannabis has no medical value is ludicrous at best. Millions of people use marijuana every day to medicate in one way or another.
Now a giant in the field of science is urging the federal government to let science be their guide when it comes to medical cannabis. The details come from a press release from the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.
Washington, D.C. — Taking his first public political stance, John Schwarz, co-founder of ‘Superstring Theory’ and a Theoretical Physics professor at California Institute of Technology, published a commentary piece today in the Huffington Post, urging the federal government to put aside the politics surrounding medical marijuana and pay attention to the abundance of scientific evidence. Schwarz has also invited his fellow scientists to join him in co-signing an open letter to President Obama at ScienceInPolicy.com, calling on him to uphold his promises to put science before politics.
Schwarz points to President Obama’s emphasis on what he called, “free and open scientific inquiry,” and asks “Why hasn’t the long-running controversy over medical marijuana been resolved using science?” In 2009, as one of the hallmark actions of his administration, Obama issued a memorandum to all executive departments and agencies, explaining that “Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health…”
Recognizes that Obama “has improved the role of science in the decision-making process in many areas of government,” Schwarz writes that his administration “is ignoring scientists’ voices on medical marijuana policy.” Schwarz admits that a Romney Administration would “probably undo” what progress Obama has made in improving the role of science in policy decisions, but Schwarz laments that, “the federal government ignores scientific facts accepted around the globe – not to mention the will of the American people – to cling to outdated ideological policies and restrict marijuana research.”
President Obama’s March 2009 memorandum was followed up with another “Scientific Integrity” memorandum, issued on December 17, 2010 by John P. Holdren, the White House Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The memorandum stated that, “Successful application of science in public policy depends on the integrity of the scientific process both to ensure the validity of the information itself and to engender public trust in Government.” The memorandum directed government agencies to: “1. Ensure a culture of scientific integrity;” “2. Strengthen the actual and perceived credibility of Government research;” “3. Facilitate the free flow of scientific and technological information;” and “4. Establish principles for conveying scientific and technological information to the public.” These tenets were subsequently adopted by numerous federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for reviewing the scientific evidence on medical marijuana.
Instead of adhering to these principles, however, the Obama Administration has blocked research into the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and upheld the federal government’s standing position that marijuana should remain a Schedule I substance. Unique and prohibitively high standards in the U.S., required of no other Schedule I substance, has severely hindered medical marijuana research compared to other countries around the world. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the gatekeeper for the supply of research-grade marijuana and has a bias for studies that investigate the supposed negative effects of marijuana. Scientists trying to study medical marijuana claim that NIDA and other federal agencies have rigged the research application process.
The Schwarz op-ed and open letter for scientists comes as the federal government is being sued over its current classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medical value. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a case that is asking the court — based on overwhelming scientific evidence — to order the federal government to reclassify marijuana for medical use, in either Schedule III, IV or V. A ruling in the case is expected sometime next year.
Federal opposition to medical marijuana has nothing to do with science, of course, and has everything to do with the millions flowing into political campaign coffers from Big Pharma, private prisons and others. Marijuana prohibition is big business, and big business tends to protect its interests.
But the tide is turning. Truth cannot be contained forever, no matter how much money is spent to keep it in the dark.
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