Monday, March 31, 2008
In 2006-07, just 14% of school-leavers from secondaries in the lowest participation areas for higher education went to university compared to 19% in 2002-03. Over the same period, the proportion of pupils from the schools which enjoy the highest rates of progression to higher education has fallen only slightly, from 31% to 29%.
One of the aspirations of the government expansion of higher education in the mid-1980s, and then again in 1992, was to allow wider participation, but the main beneficiaries have been the "middle" classes.
John McClelland, chairman of the Scottish Funding Council said more should be done to address inequalities of opportunity.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is unacceptable that an educational gap between advantaged and disadvantaged people opens up early in a child's life and continues throughout."
Yet another failure of well-meaning palliatives .
Socialist Courier also wonders if the UK will follow the growing trend in the American student loan market where banks including HSBC, have pulled out . In the US, many undergraduates take out a federal guaranteed loan and top up their financial needs with a private loan from lenders such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citi-group. In the academic year 2005-06, $17 billion in private student loans was used to finance higher education. Banks have become reluctant to offer private student loans because worsening credit conditions have meant that they cannot package up the loans and sell them on. The brightest students who win places at America’s rich Ivy League universities will be affected less because of generous bursaries - which do not have to be repaid – less able students applying to other institutions are expected to face difficulty in securing private loans to fund their study. At one end of the field is Harvard University, with $34 billion of endowments, and at the other are many community colleges and low-tier universities with limited resources.
"...those students with poor credit scores or without the rich uncle co-signers [loan guarantor] may have real problems funding themselves.” The Consumer Bankers’ Association, said
Sunday, March 30, 2008
As we all have read Northern Rock collapsed and bad management was a factor in this bank's demise . So is this a capitalism's reward for failure ?
Many of us facing attacks on our final salary pension schemes will also be wondering why we have to work longer for less while the rich can dip into a retirement pot of gold .
Friday, March 28, 2008
A town hall "rich list" revealed that 818 local authority bosses now earn more than £100,000. In 2005-06 it was 645.
The average pay package for those on the list was more than £120,000 - nearly five times the starting wage of a police constable. Fourteen earned more than the prime minister's £188,000 annual salary, while six received more than £200,000 from the public purse.
Despite Gordon Brown's demand for an inflation-guarding 2% cap on public sector wage settlements, top council bosses enjoyed an average rise of 4.6% - more than double that of last year.
"Too often, council executives are rewarded handsomely even when they fail," said the chief executive of the pressure group TaxPayers' Alliance .
The top 10 best-paid council officials, 2006-07
1. Northamptonshire: Peter Gould, chief executive, £215,000
2. City of Kingston-upon-Hull: Kim Ryley, chief executive, £213,162
3. Kensington and Chelsea: Derek Myers, town clerk and chief executive, £205,000
4. Northampton: Mairi Mclean, chief executive, £205,000
5. Bexley: Nick Johnson, chief executive, £203,000
6. Hertfordshire: Caroline Tapster, chief executive, £201,485
7. Ealing: Darra Singh, chief executive, £195,456
8. Surrey: Dr Richard Shaw, chief executive, £195,330
9. Cambridgeshire: Ian Stewart, chief executive, £195,000
10. Westminster: Peter Rogers, chief executive, £195,000
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Diamond achieved the bonus even though Barclays took a £1.6bn hit from the sub-prime crisis in the US and despite ongoing financial woes which have seen billions wiped off share values worldwide. The bank's profits in 2007 were £7bn, the same as 2006, and its share price has suffered.
The report published yesterday also exposed the pay to bankers working on takeovers. Barclays paid one former director £600,000 a month during the bank's ill-fated bid for Dutch rival ABN Amro. Naguib Kheraj received the sum, plus £14,178 a month in benefits, from May to December 2007 for a "corporate finance advisory role". The £4.9m he received was in addition to the £657,000 he was paid to the end of April while he helped his successor settle in.
The use of detention centres – especially to lock up children, pregnant women and torture victims – was condemned, as was the often brutal handling of removals, and the use of destitution as a tool to drive claimants out of the country.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
This is the hope of the Fine Violins Fund, a syndicate set up by the renowned violin restorer and trader Florian Leonhard, which is hoping to attract investment for about 50 pre-19th century Italian violins. The project aims to loan the instruments to up-and- coming performers – old violins are worth more when they are in use, and being linked to the career of a musical star can also increase their value. The cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, the historian and philosopher Theodore Zeldin and the principal of the Royal Academy of Music, Professor Sir Curtis Price, all sit on the advisory board of the investment vehicle, the first fund investing in fine violins, with a target of €60m (£46m) in commitments. The fund has already attracted pledged investment of €25m and hopes to be running by the early summer. The violin fund can achieve a net return of from 12 to 15 per cent.
What about wine investment ?
In recent years there have been several vintage wine harvests, making it a good time for investors. The Wine Investment Fund, set up by Peter Lunzer, holds and sells for maximum returns, based on the principle that certain fine wines in limited supply increase in quick, short bursts over time.
Or perhps stamps ?
Leading dealer Stanley Gibbons offers an investment service, based on its 150 years experience of philately. Salomon Brothers rated stamps among the top four investments of the 20th century, giving an average annual return of 10 per cent. Autographs and rare coins also offer investment opportunities.
Maybe cars ?
Cars are not usually a good investment but vintage cars can make money, particularly if they are rare and have low mileage.
But , of course , in the end , the real source of wealth is always the workers labour and the surplus value they produce .
The report highlights the gulf between children brought up with their families – who are increasingly staying at home until well into their twenties – and those who are in care.Although Scottish Government policy dictates that children should leave at 18, six times as many are leaving at 16, often coerced by social services.The report found that children with "challenging behaviour" are those under most pressure to leave. More than one in 10 reported episodes of homelessness. Some were sent to bed-and-breakfasts - at least one youngster had to share accommodation with a convicted murderer. Senior social work sources said 16-year-olds were being squeezed out to make way for an army of needy children
Author of the report ,Ms Marshall, said: "In many cases children and young people in care are seen as a troublesome burden rather than a vulnerable person to be nurtured. At 16 - the time they need help to cope - many are all but completely abandoned with little, if any aftercare."
The report states that the level of 15- to 18-year-olds who are homeless "represents a shocking failure in corporate parenting".It claims authorities are either failing to keep under-18s within the care system, or not supporting them afterwards in accordance with the legal duty that extends to the age of 19. Although the laws and the policy in place supported the children and prioritised their interests, there was a gulf between that and practice.
Tam Baillie, the assistant director of Policy and Influencing at Barnardo's Scotland, said: "Nowadays, most young people stay at home well into their twenties, yet most looked-after young people leave care aged 16 or 17. We need to ask ourselves why our most vulnerable young people are expected to be fully independent at such a young age, often in very difficult circumstances..."
Elsewhere , we read more than a quarter of drug addicts due to receive treatment have been waiting for more than a year .
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The evidence for an increased cancer risk is so compelling that, in December, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, declared that shift work is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
*Night-shift workers have a 40% to 50% increased risk of heart disease compared with day workers, various studies have found.
* People who get five hours of sleep, common among night-shift workers, are 50% more likely to be obese than normal sleepers, Columbia University researchers have found. Several dozen other studies have tied sleep loss to weight gain as well.
* Women night-shift workers have higher rates of miscarriage, pre-term birth and low birth-weight babies.
* Night-shift workers show increased rates of breast (by 50%) and colon (by 35%) cancer in numerous, independent studies. And animal studies have shown that exposure to dim light during the night-time can substantially increase tumor development.
Dozens of bankers at Goldman Sachs, for example, were awarded bonuses of at least £5m each at Christmas, with one lucky trader pocketing more than £10m in cash and shares. The average bonus at Goldman Sachs last year, one of the more extravagant payers, was £300,000. Staff are thought to be dreading the possibility that the average this year will be a mere £200,000 – And , of course , that is all on top of salaries and other emoluments.
Professor Stigliz said "Even if they lose their jobs, they walk away with large sums..."
Professor Stiglitz, a former chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, under Bill Clinton explained ."...When things turned out well, they walked away with huge bonuses. When things turn out badly – as now – they do not share in the losses...The system was designed to encourage risk taking – but it encouraged excessive risk taking. In effect, it paid them to gamble...It is one thing to gamble with one's own money – but these bankers were gambling with other people's money – and with the government backstopping any losses. This is unconscionable."
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
In a previous article here in the Socialist Courier, the advantages of being an MP were, you decide what MPs need and vote it through parliament, this part of the article shows further advantages over the rest of us.
Is this money taxed?
"The first £30,000 of a redundancy payout is free from tax and National Insurance, provided it is genuinely compensation for redundancy. Above this amount, payments are added to your earnings for that year and taxed at your highest marginal rate. To qualify for £30,000 tax exemption you must be made redundant. Gardening leave, for example, is not redundancy, and neither is three months' salary in lieu of notice.PricewaterhouseCoopers' tax partner Valerie Smart said:
"The (HM Customs &] Revenue can also be very difficult about contractual payments. So, for example, if you have a contract which says you must be paid so much if the employer asks you to leave early, they view this as a contractual payment not redundancy."Even more worrying, the taxman is increasingly scrutinising redundancy payments made to people in their 50s. Smart adds: "If you are made redundant in your 50s and never work again, is that redundancy or pre-retirement? If you don't work again, they are beginning to try to argue that it is a retirement lump sum and should be taxed."The exception to this rule is MPs who enjoy a special privilege, extended in the recent Budget to members of the Greater London Council, and London mayor Ken Livingstone.If MPs lose an election or decide to leave they can apply for a resettlement grant which can pay half of their £61,000 salary if they have been in the house for less than 10 years, rising to 100% over 15 years at certain age groups. MPs enjoy the first £30,000 of their resettlement grant tax-free, even though they would not be entitled to under the rules which apply to the rest of us."
On February 27, HBOS hiked its dividend by 18% to 48.9p meaning the bank offers a yield of 6.9%. It also lowered the targets under which directors would receive payouts on its executive incentive schemes. Previously directors only received bonuses under the scheme should the bank's shares outperform a basket of UK banks by 3%. Under the new rules, HBOS only needs to be 1.5% above rivals to trigger pay-outs.
Colin McLean, chief executive of SVM Asset Management said: "It just seems wrong that bankers are looking for support and essentially public money at a time when both dividends and executive pay are not only high but have also just been raised."
As we previously reported annual reports from RBS and HBOS show that Sir Fred Goodwin's remuneration totalled £4.19 million in 2007. Hornby's package climbed 22.5% to £1.93 million.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The report urged the government to tackle the commercialisation of culture head-on.
Research author Maurice Galeton said: "It is particularly acute where people are living in violent neighbourhoods. ..Very young parents in violent and deprived neighbourhoods without the network of support that others get ... have a huge level of stress in their lives."
Schools indeed reflect society in general .
Friday, March 21, 2008
"John McCain's family is of Scottish-Irish descent and related to the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, on his mother's side".
And also "in direct descent" from Emperor Charlemagne.
Asked by the Guardian to investigate McCain's family history, genealogists and medieval historians described the link to Robert the Bruce as "wonderful fiction" and "baloney".
"What wonderful fiction," Dr Katie Stevenson, a lecturer in medieval studies at the University of St Andrews said. "Mary Louise Earle's claims to descent from Robert the Bruce are likely to be fantasy. Earle is not a Scottish name. I think it is incredibly unlikely that name would be related to Robert the Bruce. Charlemagne and Robert the Bruce were not connected - that's ludicrous."
Robert I was believed to have had up to a dozen children - several illegitimately. Basic calculations suggested there could be as many as 200 million people distantly related to him.
"In that sense McCain probably is descended from Bruce. So am I. So are you. So is everyone." Dr Bruce Durie, academic manager, genealogical studies at the University of Strathclyde said .
But you never know .
Dr Durie added that despite his romantic reputation, Robert the Bruce was "an absolute scoundrel".
"... he was a self-serving, vainglorious opportunist ..." he said.
A bit like McCain himself .
Performance related bonus ? A fall in profits ? Johnston Press reported a 6.3% decline in pre-tax profits .
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Friday 21 March 10:30–17:30. Saturday 22 March 11:00–16:30.
1904 - 2008 Over a century of socialist activity.
About us - Our Principles
What is Socialism ? - F.A.Q. - What is Capitalism?
journal: socialist standard
Visitors welcome at all Socialist Party meetings.
Homeowners and those hoping to step onto the property ladder have both been dealt a blow after a senior Bank of England policymaker warned that house prices will fall but the impact of the credit crunch means affordability won't improve.
The global economic environment has become tougher, forcing lenders to become more cautious about extending mortgages to borrowers . First-time buyers in particular are being forced to accumulate bigger desposits, making it more difficult for them to benefit from a long-anticipated drop in house prices.
"We may see prices fall this year, but because of credit conditions, affordability will probably not improve at all," Miss Barker said. She added: "Finding deposits has become more difficult because of the credit crunch..."
British banks have raised the cost of borrowing for homebuyers with the smallest deposits to a seven-year high and have declined to pass on two Bank of England interest rate cuts. Central bank figures show that the average rate offered by lenders on loans for 95 per cent of the price of a property, fixed for two years, is 6.55 per cent - the highest since September 2000. In January, mortgage approvals were close to the lowest in nine years.
The UK housing market has slumped to the worst since the eve of the nation's last recession in 1990, a survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors showed last month.
Too few homes are being built to meet Britain's housing needs, and that the number of new houses built would probably fall this year.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
(BBC News, 13 March) RD
The Consumer Credit Counselling Service said that while steep rises in energy and mortgage costs had hit the oldest and poorest hardest, the increases had been so dramatic that even the professional classes were struggling. Experts said that the figures marked a more serious era in the country’s battle with debt because they showed that the problem had extended from borrowers with credit cards and personal loans to all households, irrespective of how much they had borrowed or what they earned.
Rises in mortgage costs have had a disproportionate impact on higherincome earners because they spend more of their disposable incomes on property, the counselling service said. It found that this group now spends 44 per cent of their net salary on their rent or mortgage, up from 34 per cent five years ago; households below the poverty line spend 8 per cent.
The figures came after Citizens Advice Bureaux reported a 35 per cent increase in inquiries from homeowners worried about paying the mortgage.
Experian, the credit reference agency, published a debt map of Britain yesterday, giving a breakdown of how much towns and cities owe. Residents of Chester-le-Street have borrowed the most on credit cards and loans, with an average amount outstanding of £5,248. Borrowers in Northern Ireland owe the least, with an average of £2,291. Experian said that mortgage balances had grown the most in areas that had experienced the highest house price growth in the past 12 months, such as Northern Ireland, Kensington & Chelsea and Wandsworth.
The average fuel bill has reached more than £1,000 a year after recent price rises by energy companies, while the average home loan went up by almost £9,000 between 2006 and 2007, from £118,536 to £127,039, the Council of Mortgage Lenders said.
Credit Action, another debt charity, said that second-home owners and older people who had taken out equity from their homes to help to fund their retirement were at particularly high risk from rising living costs, because of their exposure to the downturn in the property market as well as more expensive mortgage rates on these deals.
The counselling service said that the profile of those asking for help was becoming “older and poorer”. For the first time it found that customers over the age of 60 had the highest level of debt, at £29,642. The inflation rate for people over 75 is now 3.4 per cent, compared with an official inflation rate of 2.5 per cent, according to Alliance Trust, the investment group.
Other research showed that an increasing number of desperate homeowners are resorting to dangerous measures to get out of debt. In the past three years 6.5 million mortgage borrowers have lumped separate credit card and personal loan debts into one, according to Moneyexpert.com
The director of Credit Action, said: “This is a new era for the UK’s debt crisis. Previously, debt problems were confined to people with credit cards and loans. Now, everyone is struggling with essentials, such as utility bills and mortgages.”
Mike Fisher, who has gone to manage Royal Bank's portion of the ABN Amro business took home £2.4m in pay and bonuses, up 24% on 2006. Finance director Guy Whittaker who benefited last year from major pay-outs to compensate him for his move from Citigroup in 2006. In 2007, he received £3.35m in pay. Larry Fish, who ran the bank's US subsidiary Citizens Financial, also fell back in the pay stakes. He netted £6.6m in 2006 but in 20007 had to make do with around £2m in pay and bonuses.
In these times of financial troubles and credit crunch , isn't it good to see how those bankers are suffering hardship and sharing the woes with all us who are facing increased debt and higher bills .
For a socialist analysis of the present American capitialist crisis see Bubble Trouble
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Glasgow - Edinburgh Day School
THE 21st CENTURY
Why Capitalism Can't Go Green.
Another Century of Wars?
The Tyrany of Copyright.
304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow.
Fresh tea, coffee and light refreshments will be available all afternoon.
Each speaker will speak for up to 30 minutes, the rest of the session will be taken up by questions and discussions.
Why Capitalism can't go green.
1.00 till 2.15 pmCapitalism is simply unable to run on green lines, as its motive force is expansion and domination, with no thought for the consequences for the people or the environment. In this talk Paul Bennett, Manchester Branch,will argue that capitalism is unable to cope with the ecological challenges that lie ahead, from global warming,to depletion of resources.
Some writing on this subject
Pepper Standard Bennet Eco-Socialism
Another Century of War
3.45 till 5.00 pm
The new century opened with the promise of a "peace dividend".Tensions between the Super-powers had relaxed and the risk of interstate war seemed to have receeded only to be replaced by an increasing number of wars within states.Wars in which 90% of the casualties are civilians and 80% of those are women and children. Of the 50 major conflicts fought during the 1990's small arms were the weapons of choice in 46 of them..
Gwynn Thomas, South London Branch, will argue that these are wars on the cheap
Some writing on war
Orwell Thomas BBC
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
"More and more Israelis are avoiding mandatory military service— something long viewed in this country as a proud rite of passage. "In the past, it is true that not serving in the military was considered the exception," said Dr. Rueven Gal , author of "A Portrait of the Israeli Soldier" and former chief psychologist for the Israeli military. "In more recent years it became more tolerable and more acceptable to people." In 1997, according to army statistics, less than one in 10 Israeli men avoided their mandatory three-year military service. These days, it's closer to three in 10. Women, too, are opting out at a faster pace: Over the last decade, the number of women avoiding military duty rose from 37 percent to 44 percent." (Yahoo News, 2 March) RD
"After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and sceptical of the faith that they preach. In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives. “I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.” Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”
(New York Times, 4 March) RD
Thursday, March 13, 2008
John McDonnell , Labour Party MP , on the budget :-
" In 1999 the Government said it would halve child poverty by 2010 - taking 1.7m children out of poverty. To date it has missed its targets and only removed 600,000 children from poverty. In the pre-budget briefings pouring out of Number 10 and the Treasury we were all led to believe that the Chancellor would make a major announcement today to get the Government back on course to meet its target.Instead, the Chancellor has admitted defeat in the war against child poverty and has confirmed that the Government will not meet its 2010 target - and will leave over 2.5m children still living in poverty in the fifth richest countries in the world. The measures announced today will only remove at most a further 250,000 children from poverty by 2010.
In calculating child poverty the Government has massaged the figures by removing housing costs from the calculation. If these costs are put back the real assessment of child poverty confirms that in fact 3.5 million children will remain in poverty in our society.
If after eleven years in office, a Labour Government cannot meet such a basic aim of lifting our children out of poverty, many will judge this period of government as the greatest missed opportunity in the history of the Labour party."
Real soicialists have been saying since the formation of the Labour Party its members and supporters have always been deluded in the mistaken belief that Labour puts the poor before profits .
The gap in life expectancy for women in the most deprived areas compared with the average was 2% wider in 2004-06 than in 1995-97. And the gap for women is now 11% wider. The difference in the infant mortality rate has been falling in recent years after a 2002 high, it is still significantly higher than it was a decade ago. For babies whose fathers have a "routine or manual occupation", the mortality rate in 2004-06 was 17% higher than that for the general population, compared to 13% in 1997-99.
Professor Danny Dorling, an expert in human geography at Sheffield University, said the inequalities were now at "unprecedented levels".
"This is the first Labour or Liberal government to see this gap widen. I can see why the government thought that just giving it time and spending money on it would work. But it worries me that there will be more excuses rather than an admission of failure."
David Sinclair, head of policy at Help the Aged said :
"It remains the case that those who are wealthier can afford to stay active and healthy, those in poverty cannot. "
"Youngsters from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have more limited opportunities in life than youngsters from better off backgrounds. It's simply a fact. I am not saying that youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot get something from a career in the military.The Army has created a better life for some youngsters, but there are other youngsters who join up because they have little or no choice."
It is not gender ideas that cause war it is capitalism. Is Yacoobi not aware that Israel had a woman leader during much of their wars, that Pakistan had a woman leader in their conflicts with India and that Mrs Thatcher was the UK prime minister during the war in the Falklands RD
Andy Hornby, HBOS's chief executive, took home a £1.9 million pay packet for the year, including an annual bonus of £449,000.
Peter Cummings, chief executive of HBOS's corporate business, was paid £2.6 million, after picking up a £300,000 bonus from the executive bonus scheme and a further £1.3 million from a separate bonus plan run by the corporate division.
Benny Higgins, who was ousted last year as head of HBOS's retail banking business, was paid £2.3 million, including his full annual salary and benefits of £900,000 and the same amount again as a payout.
Dennis Stevenson, the chairman, was paid £821,000, including £113,000 in benefits. Jo Dawson and Dan Watkins, the new joint heads of the retail business, were paid £1 million and £329,000 respectively.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
No - the tax-man is planning to to make life harder for the 2,000 British millionaires who call Monaco, the tax haven , home. The Guardian reports :-
Until now, tax rules that allow "non-residents" 90 days a year in Britain have contained a crucial loophole: the taxman has not counted "travel days" entering and leaving the country, allowing businesspeople to commute in on a Monday, leave on Wednesday, and claim to have spent just one day in the UK.It has in effect allowed Britons to spend most of the year - up to 270 days - working in Britain, while claiming to be residents of tax havens such as Monaco and to avoid paying tax. That will change under a stricter enforcement of the rules to be unveiled today which has unnerved tax lawyers serving Britons in several tax havens.
The change - likely to count travel days or overnight stays in the residency total - will particularly affect the so-called "Monaco mob", millionaire City workers whose commute entails a seven-minute helicopter ride from Monaco to Nice for a connecting flight to London, often by private jet, before a swift return to the Riviera.
"It's not just tax - it's about lifestyle. The streets are immaculate, there's no crime. You can have breakfast on your terrace, go skiing in the morning, and be back to the beach for the afternoon. I don't know a single person going back. They'll change their lifestyles - it's a nuisance - but they'll get round it."
The night for many "in-crowd" expatriates begins at the Bar Américain, with its Bentleys and Rolls Royces parked outside. The same faces dine in one of the two Michelin-starred restaurants in the Hôtel de Paris, and end the night in Jimmy'z, a nightclub where two shots cost €40 (£30)Another feature of the local nightlife is the well-dressed prostitutes with forced smiles who, more than one British resident admitted, are what "some of us spend our money on".
Roger Munns, who runs two property businesses for Monaco multimillionaires said "These people are quick thinkers. They can move quicker than the government" Those unwilling to change their commuting patterns, he said, were restructuring their companies to funnel money into their spouses' Monaco bank accounts.
A group of City bankers, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed they would "play the rules" to find a way to continue spending time at their desks in London while maintaining non-residency status and paying zero income tax.
"Most of these people running businesses and living in Monaco had got the whole system worked out - and it worked just fine," said Damian, a middle-aged "retiring accountant" and long-time Monaco resident. "And now the Treasury has moved the goalposts. It's not on."
It is an injustice , it is , isn't it ?
Michael Darrington said commodity traders were more to blame for spiralling food price inflation than poor harvests or farmland given over to biofuels.
“There are stocks of wheat and grain in the world, and crops are growing at the moment but funds are being set up as speculators see an opportunity to make some short-term money and someone has to pay for it. It's really sad for people in the developing world where food can account for 70 per cent of the family budget. Wheat is predominantly grown in America, Australia, Europe - the wealthier areas - and people in under-developed nations are hurting the most.” He added “I suppose that's just capitalism but it's jolly disappointing. If society looked down on these funds then perhaps it would make a difference.”
Can't pay - Can't have - So starve .
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
In a speech he will argue that "more millionaires" are needed, calling freedom to get rich "a good thing".
Families are paying record prices for food after costs soared in the year to February, with a rate increase exceeded only by fuel costs.
Annual food product inflation has reached 8.4% - the highest since records began in 1986 - according to the Office for National Statistics . Meat prices were the main culprit of spiralling costs as fresh and preserved meat prices rose 5.5% from January to February.
Food manufacturers such as Hovis bread maker Premier Foods have been labouring under rising wheat costs. Imported cereal product prices are up more than 6% over the month and surging by almost 47% in the year to February.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
They will be offering flip-flops to women who cannot stand in their high heels and giving support to couples who have had disagreements. The group will also pray with those who ask and check bridges for anyone considering jumping in.
Chairman of the Perth Street Pastors said:
"We're just going to go alongside the people coming out of the nightclubs and coming out of the pubs and we're just going to make their lives a bit happier and friendlier...We've been learning anger management, we've been learning about psychology...Some people will want us to pray with them and we'll do that..."
We believe it will take a lot more than a few sanctimonious words and a few prayers from religious do-gooders to make the lives of the working class a bit happier and friendlier .
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Almost one million people find it difficult to cover their monthly repayments and other debts .
Researchers also found 18% reported having to rely on credit cards or loans to pay for daily essentials like food.
Head of personal insolvency for the accountancy firm KPMG in Scotland, Andrew Kennedy, said: "Those people who have been robbing Peter to pay Paul, transferring balances from card to card, remortgaging and taking equity out of their property to pay off spiralling debt are fast running out of options."
KPMG said the global credit crunch meant payment troubles could worsen over the coming months ,people who previously had access to competitive mortgage deals, despite being late with a couple of payments, are going to find it very difficult to find a deal , and that the credit crunch is already seeing credit card companies reducing credit limits and increasing their rejection rates for new customers.
“Debt is the slavery of the free" - a Roman , 1st century B.C.
" A man in debt is so far a slave" - an American , 19th century AD
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
These cars will have access to a network of dedicated lanes, which will be closed to other traffic for up to two months. Up to 3,000 sets of traffic lights will also be adjusted to ensure that the IOC’s fleet has fast access to all venues.
The IOC insists it need these cars, and in addition the 110 IOC members, 400 presidents and secretary-generals from the Olympic committees of the 200 competing nations and 450 senior executives from corporate sponsors will also receive free access to public transport .
None of the 10,500 athletes will have access to the 3,145 cars and will instead travel on a dedicated fleet of coaches. Apart from a small number of disabled parking spaces there will be no car parking available for the general public at the venues .
Dee Doocey, the assembly member who chairs the committee scrutinising the Olympics, said:
“You can’t tell Londoners to travel by public transport, yet at the same time kick them off their roads so that VIPs can be whisked around in chauffeur-driven limousines. This is one rule for the haves, and another for the have-nots.”
Tariffs for prepayment meters, used typically by pensioners and the less well-off, are up to 45 per cent higher than for internet customers. The industry watchdog branded the practice a £400 million rip-off. The gap between the tariffs has grown after a round of inflation-beating price rises across the sector . Figures compiled by Energy-watch, the watchdog, show that on average prepayment customers are charged £255 a year more than online customers for power, compared with £190 before Christmas. E.ON’s prepayment charge is an average of £1,097 – 45 per cent higher than its internet tariff of £769. British Gas charges its prepayment customers 30 per cent more.
Graham Kerr, of Energywatch, said:
“We have hard evidence of £400 million of excess profits being taken off the poorest members of society just at a time when fuel poverty is continuing to rise. Instead of taking from the rich to give to the poor, it seems that energy companies are taking from the poor to give to the rich.”
More than 4.5 million people are in fuel poverty – spending more than 10 per cent of income on heating their home. One in five prepayment customers is classified as fuel-poor. A third of single parents with dependent children use gas prepayment meters.
The union Unite said that a proposed extension of staff hours would see employees working an extra three weeks a year without pay.Workers are also opposed to plans to downgrade 40 posts across Shelter's UK services, including four at Shelter Scotland, and to make up to five staff redundant. Unite said the walkout, following the breakdown of earlier talks, would be repeated on Monday unless management was prepared to negotiate a new offer. The prospect of a resolution looked unlikely, however, as Shelter's UK head warned that if the current offer was refused, up to 200 of its 850 staff UK-wide could lose their jobs.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
BP chief executive makes do with bonus of £1.26 million .
The Herald has revealed that Hayward, who became chief executive in May 2007, was awarded a bonus of £1.26m for 2007 which does not include his base salary of £877,000 . Lord Browne of Madingley, the former chief executive of BP, earned more than £3 million before he resigned last year.
A reward for success ? The company last month reported that 2007 net profit fell 5.5% to $20.8bn, despite a 6.2% rise in revenue to $291.4bn and lay-offs of 5000 workers . In contrast, two of BP's main competitors reported a surge in earnings. Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, reported a 23% rise in full-year earnings to a record $31.3bn, while Exxon Mobil posted the largest annual profit yet by a US company with net earnings of $40.6bn.
BP's top five directors, including Hayward, missed out on share awards worth a potential £10.7m because of the company's poor performance. The five were granted no shares at all from a possible 2.2 million under the group's 2005-2007 share incentive scheme - even so i am sure a bonus of a million and a quarter pounds for failure would not go amiss to readers of this blog.
Jake Molloy, general secretary of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, the union for offshore rig workers, said: “To make these redundancies and cutbacks and to award themselves payments of this nature is hypocrisy beyond belief. It's sickening.”