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Pieces Together:

BIG BROTHER IS LISTENING

“Hundreds of benefit fraudsters have been caught out by lie-detector technology. More than 370 people were identified fiddling their benefits in Lambeth, South London. As part of the pilot project, Lambeth Council staff phoned 2,000 residents and used Voice Risk Analysis, which picks up tiny changes in the voice that show a
person is lying. Benefit staff then made further checks to see if claims needed investigation. A total of 638 people were investigated and 377 were caught lying and had their benifits stopped or decreased.” (Times, 21 April)

AN EXPENSIVE TIPLE

“While the global credit crunch has forced many consumers to rein in spending, one Beijing-based billionaire
has splashed out a record $500,000 on 27 bottles of red wine, London based Antique Wine Company said
on Saturday. The anonymous Chinese entrepreneur bought a mix of vintages of Romanee Conti, a Burgundy wine and considered to be among the world’s most exclusive with only 450 cases produced each year. The client bought 12 bottles of Romanee Conti 1978, two bottles of the 1961, 1966, 1996 and 2003 and single bottles of the 1981, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2002. “It is the highest price that has ever been achieved for a single lot,”
Managing Director Stephen Williams of the London-based Antique Wine Company told Reuters on Saturday.
“I don’t think he has bought this as an investment -- he has bought it to drink,” he added. “The fine wine industry is completely immune from the global credit crunch.” (Yahoo News, 19 April)

HEATHROW HOMELESS

“Each night, scores of London’s homeless men and women take advantage of modern travel delays by posing as stranded passengers in order to sleep in a warm, safe place. ... Those contacted included a man sleeping under his coat, another conspicously hiding behind an open newspaper, and a woman clutching a duty free bag, who insisted she was waiting for a flight, only to whisper when police were out of earshot, “I can’t afford electricity. It’s warm here. Please let me stay.” (Times, 21 April)

100 YEARS OF POVERTY

The columnist Richard Morrison on pensions “The old-age pension is 100 years old. When Asquith introduced it
in 1908, it was five shillings a week - a sum that was regarded as shamefully low by progressives in his party. But if even that paltry figure had kept pace with the growth in Britain’s GDP, the state pension should now be £161 a week. The actual figure? £90.70p. Some progress.” (Times, 30 April)