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In the papers today - 6th June 2008

Diplomas being introduced as an alternative to A-levels are a 'disaster waiting to happen' leading academics say in a report today...

...The courses - combining traditional classroom study with work-based training - will erode standards and fail to prepare teenagers for university, they claim - The Daily Telegraph

Britain is to be left out of Europe's high-speed rail revolution because the government has decided that 200mph trains are bad for the environment. In a letter, rail minister Tom Harris said, "The argument that high-speed rail travel is a 'green option' does not necessarily stand up to close inspection. Increasing the maximum speed of a train from 200kmh to 350kmh leads to a 90% increase in energy consumption." - The Times

Severn Trent saw its profits slump 40pc last year as the summer's severe flooding and a multi-million pound fine from water regulator Ofwat took their toll on Britain's second largest water company. However, the company said it had now put its "legacy issues" behind it and pointed to a 16% increase in underlying profits as evidence that it was back on track - The Daily Telegraph

Rail passengers face up to six more years of weekend disruption because of engineering works, it was disclosed yesterday, as regulators admitted that they could not say when the goal of a "seven-day railway" would be reached. Passengers have voiced frustration at the service offered on Saturdays and Sundays when hours can be added to journeys - The Daily Telegraph

Britain's rural economy is being held back by Government neglect and red tape, Gordon Brown's adviser on the countryside has said. A report to the Prime Minister by Stuart Burgess, the Government's Rural Advocate, recommends new help for businesses in the countryside - The Daily Telegraph

World leaders last night ended a summit on the global food crisis without an agreement on biofuels, leaving unadopted a plan to ensure the crops are not produced as the expense of the world's 850 million hungry. A joint declaration warned that "food prices will remain high in the years to come" and called for "urgent and coordinated action" to alleviate the impact on the poor - The Guardian

The world's largest solar photovoltaic farm, generating electricity straight from sunlight, is taking shape near Moura, a small town in a thinly populated and impoverished region which boasts the most sunshine per square metre a year in Europe. When fully commissioned later this year, the £250m farm set on abandoned state-owned land will be twice the size of any other similiar project in Europe - The Guardian

Network Rail and its regulator are at loggerheads over proposed caps on the level of funding the company believes it needs to maintain and expand Britain's railways. In a draft determination yesterday, the Office of Rail Regulation said it believed Network Rail needed revenues of £26.5bn over the five years from next April - some £2.6bn less than the company argues that it will require - The Guardian

Pressure on Willie Walsh, British Airways' beleaguered chief executive, eased yesterday after a much-delayed transfer of additional long-haul flights to Heathrow's Terminal 5 began without any of the chaos that greeted the terminal's opening - Financial Times

A £5bn drive to improve adults' maths and English skills is struggling because millions of workers are "scared" of sums, a report warned today - Financial Times

The sovereign ratings of Middle Eastern states could be hit by the political and economic risks caused by soaring inflation across the region, Moody's ratings agency said yesterday. Rising food prices, oil-driven liquidity, fixed exchange rates and infrastructure bottlenecks have combined to force up inflation, which reached an average of 10.4% in 2007, with prices expected to rise further this year - Financial Times

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, raised the spectre of emergency water rationing throughout the state for the first time in its 160 year history amid a severe drought that some are blaming on global warming. Scientists have long claimed that a big fall in the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains caused by rising temperatures could leave parts of the state – including Los Angeles – uninhabitable by the end of the century. Schwarzenegger is using the drought to promote a £6bn bond issue that would fund new dam projects - The Times

The Indian Government has raised petrol prices by 11% to stem losses running at $50M a day suffered by the state owned petrol companies. The price of diesel was increased by 9% and cooking gas 17%. Economists said the move could derail economic growth in the region, stoke inflation and influence Indian elections - The Times

Bristol City Council has been accused of robbing the poor to give to the rich by digging up more than 30 ornate Victorian-style street lamps to move them to more upmarket areas. Cast iron lampposts have illuminated the streets of St Andrews since the 1920s but were removed without warning this week. The old lampposts are likely to end up in the cities conservation areas - The Times

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