China Daily Mail

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was denied his day in court on Wednesday after dozens of police officers barricaded first his home in Beijing and then the court house itself.

Mr Ai, 54, claims that Beijing’s tax bureau breached Chinese law when it fined him 15 million yuan (£1.5 million) in unpaid back taxes and fines last year.

He claims the tax demand was politically motivated – a punishment for his criticism of the government – and won the right to contest the case in court.

However, the artist said he had been told by police he would not be able to attend the hearing personally.

“I asked them why, and they said: ‘You know why’. They never give me a clear explanation,” he complained. “I said they were interfering with a legal process. They said they could only tell me I was unable to go”.

Mr Ai’s wife, Lu…

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Good video.

Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

DSCN6723Colorado gets around 300 sunny days a year and this summer could be a scorcher. After skipping springtime we have leapt into mid-July weather. Boulder is one mile high in elevation and with the altitude comes thinner and drier air. It can be a very good thing (my hair and humidity hate on each other), until it gets hot and by hot I mean blast furnace heat. I don’t mind working up a sweat, but man, playing tennis in 100 degree blistering heat can be miserable.

I try to ignore the threat of being literally cooked on the courts by looking on the bright side. That is what I do best.

Here is my top ten list of reasons why I love playing tennis under the sizzling summer sun when it hits 100 degrees.

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Bailout Ahoy

MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).

News from the G20 Summit in Mexicois that Spainand Italyare set to be bailed out to the tune of £600 billion. We’ve splashed on it, saying it represents a substantial shift in policy for Angela Merkel. Of course, nothing is decided yet.

The summit is turning into a test of wills between the Americans and the EU specifically Germany. José Manuel Barroso‘s outburst against Anglo-Saxon capitalism added to the tensions. Our leader column has called this delusional and said that resolving the crisis will be “be nigh on impossible if Mr Barroso and his colleagues insist on burying their heads so firmly in the sand.”

Once again we will go through the ritual of waiting to see what the markets say a bit later, knowing that by lunchtime it could be judged insufficient.

The FT’s splash focuses on the fact that this is a bid to cut the cost of euro borrowing, reporting that Ms Merkel had subsequent conversations on the sidelines of the summit – something that has led her interlocutors to believe she may be willing to do more.

But it’s the action on the sidelines that has really caught the overnight attention. Papers full of DC’s confrontation with Kirchner. I like the detail that she spoke too fast for her interpreter to keep up. Pictures too. Mr Cameron will win points for both confronting Mrs Kirchner, and avoiding any traps.

The summit also produced the increasingly comic dispute between Mr Cameron and France. Francois Hollande has reacted coolly to Dave’s cheeky taunt that new French tax policies would drive rich French people to London. Mr Hollande said: “Everyone should take responsibility for what he says. I do. At a time when European solidarity should be strong, I will do nothing to breach it.”

But my favourite snippet this morning is the Times report of the ding-dong between the travelling Lobby and Craig Oliver. He took exception to the hacks sneaking pics of the view behind his carefully placed backdrop, so took pics of them by the pool and threatened to release them.

And since Dave is far away, William Hague will be taking to the dispatch box at PMQs today. Nick Clegg isn’t available – he’s at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development.

CIVIL TO THE SERVICE?

As the Guardian’s Simon Hoggart says, yesterday’s civil service plans can be summed up as:”there’ll be fewer of you, you’ll have to work harder, and if you don’t you’ll be fired”. Mr Maude said the service needs “continuous improvement” – something Quentin Letts mocks in the Mail , as “permanent revolution” for those in power long enough to enforce such ‘improvement’. “Elected politicians are here today, gone tomorrow.”

The proposed reforms will do more than simply cut numbers though. They’ll require civil servants at the very highest levels to have a broader range of skills. They will also be made accountable for devising and implementing policy. Ministers will be freer to take outside advice – although there is no suggestion that senior civil servants will become political appointments as they are in the US.

The Times’ leader column says this is all well and good, but the real problem is how slow the civil service is to innovate, saying that more outside assistance is needed in the tougher task of administering austerity. It concludes that it’s “a shame the Government did not see fit to go farther.”

The FT’s leader column is a bit tamer, saying: “the system has been designed to blend politics with good administration. Ministers who wage war on their civil servants rarely run the most successful departments. They would do better to work with officials rather than against them.”

PAYING THE DUTY

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that the Treasury are fighting off calls from the PM to ditch the 3p fuel price rise planned for August.

Senior ministers have voiced concerns that failure to axe the tax rise will damage support for the Tories from poorer voters. And to make matters worse, leading businessmen such as the boss of Asda are demanding the tax gets cancelled.

LORDING IT

The Independent has stepped up its Lords business interests coverage. It reports that Lord Plumb, the former president of the European Parliament, has been an adviser to a European lobbying firm for five years without declaring it to Parliament. The report also highlights the undeclared interests of Lord Boateng and Lord St John of Bletso.

This is an interesting time for this to emerge – could make it easier for the Coalition to make the case for Lords reform?

WINNING FOR ED

Things are looking up for Labour though. David Miliband is quoted in Guardian making an enthusiastic endorsement of his brother’s electoral prospects, saying the next election was “up for grabs”. This gives the sense that Labour Blairite old guard are rallying behind the leader, which should concern CCHQ and No 10.

Kevin Maguire is not as charmed though. He has a column in today’s Mirror titled: “Don’t be misled Ed: the job’s not done yet,” warning against complacency.

CARR FOR TAX AVOIDERS

It’s also worth noting that Danny Alexander has spoken out against tax avoiders following yesterday’s Times story on celebrities like Jimmy Carr avoiding tax. He’s quoted in the Sun, saying: “People who dodge tax are the moral equivalent of benefit cheats.”

MISS DORRIES

And finally, the fun never ends for Nadine Dorries. The Mail reports Ms Dorries’ daughter – who it emerged yesterday earns up to £40,000 working part-time for her mum – is dating Tory MP Chris Kelly, the son of a multi-millionaire.

The article points out that Mr Kelly is unlikely to have any qualms about his girlfriend’s well-remunerated part-time job with her mother, because he tops up his £65,000-a-year MP’s salary by earning up to £4,000 a month working for his father’s company. Last year, he earned more than £25,000 with Keltruck for just 16 hours a month.

TWEETS AND TWITS

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams greets us:

“@Debbie_abrahams: Beeeautiful day in London town tweetie pies”

POLL WATCH

Latest YouGov/The Sun results: Conservatives 34%, Labour 44%, Lib Dems 7%, UKIP 6%

Overall government approval rating: -34

TOP COMMENT

In The Telegraph

Benedict Brogan: The wind of change will give Tories something to cheer

Geoffrey Lean: The Rio Earth Summit: is it destined to fail the world?

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Gitta Sereny: women are not afraid to look evil in the eye

Leader: Regional pay plans scuppered by politics

Best of the rest

David Aaronovitch in the Times: Pay tax according to conscience, not the law

Matthew Norman in the Independent: Let Jimmy Carr’s hypocrisy be a timely lesson to the Chancellors

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times: A bitter fallout from a hasty union

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: The eurozone’s people are like prisoners in Colditz

THE AGENDA

Today: David Cameron talks with Mexican Government. Mexico City

Today: Nick Clegg and Caroline Spelman will attend the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development

Today: Andrew Lansley will give a speech to the annual NHS Confederation conference

9.30am: Latest unemployment figures published by the ONS.

10.30am: Andy Burnham MP and Jamie Reed MP will hold a press conference for the publication of Labour’s first NHS Check Report – a new monthly snapshot of what is happening on the ground in the NHS. The Labour Party, One Brewer’s Green

10.30am: Sarah Teather appears before the Education Select Committee

11.30am: Scotland Questions

12pm: William Hague at PMQs

1.30pm: Opposition Day (2nd allotted day)

12.30pm: Vince Cable publishes his report on pay reforms. Vince Cable making a statement to the House of Commons announcing a package of measures to reform the governance of directors’ pay.

7pm: Compass host a debate whether the ‘Can the Tories ever win again?’ debate. Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett and editor of the ConservativeHome blog Tim Montgomerie will be on the panel.. Committee Room 11,Palace ofWestminster,London,UK

Russia and China recognise the dangers of Syrian civil war, says Obama

International efforts to halt the violence are deadlocked because Russia and China, which wield vetoes in the UN Security Council, have blocked tougher action against Assad. They say the solution must come through political dialogue, an approach most of the Syrian opposition rejects.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Putin had shifted his view of Assad during talks with Obama and other world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and that discussions were now focused on a transition of power in Syria.

But Putin immediately seemed to contradict that notion, telling reporters at the end of the summit: “We believe that nobody has the right to decide for other nations who should be brought to power, who should be removed from power.”

Russia has been the staunchest backer of Assad and his military crackdown against militants and protesters in Syria, including supplying arms to the Syrian government.

Read more….

Hosni Mubarak ‘close to death’ after suffering stroke in prison

The country’s state news agency declared him “clinically dead” after attempts to revive him failed and though this was later denied by his lawyer and a close adviser he was being kept alive only on life support in a Cairo military hospital.

Even as the country he led for three decades was grappling with the latest in a succession of constitutional crises triggered by the uprising which ousted him last year, Mubarak had earlier fallen seriously ill in Tora Prison hospital.

Prison officials summoned medical officers, who attempted to revive him with a defibrillator. They then ordered his transfer to the Maadi Military Hospital in south Cairo where further efforts to restart his heart failed.

Reports that he was clinically dead were later denied the lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, who represented him at his trial for complicity in murder, for which he received a life sentence on June 2. His former friend and close policy adviser, Mustafa al-Fiki, also told The Daily Telegraph: “He didn’t die – this news is not confirmed.”

Read more….