Politics & Society

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Our Societies are confronted by horrendous issues:
o The problems underlying the financial crisis of 2007-8
o The recurrent religious seeking for domination continues
o Technological change is out of democratic control

“It’s the economy, stupid” is a slight variation of the phrase “The economy, stupid”, which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H.

Most of us are confused by complexities of what is called Economics. Many of us are incensed by some of the practices of the those who manipulate its transactions.

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Contents:
o Free Speech
o Austerity 1
o Austerity 2
o Attitudes in Business
o German Economics
o Employment
o Energy Tariffs
o NHS
o Immigration
o The Sunni Shia War. – A 1500 year old grudge
o East European Jews
o Conscience
o The Islamist
o Law-n-order
o Brexit
o Brexit – its origins
o Unintended consequences
o Female Genital Mutilation


Female Genital Mutilation

From “Golden Lion” by Wilbur Smith

Scene: Slave Market in Zanzibar – she was bent double and fully exposed.

“She has not been cut, look at her lips and her bud still intact – so she still feels pleasure”

“It is shameful when they scream and moan, but women like that are desperate for a man”

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Unintended Consequences – by Stephen Pollard editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

Last week, the European Commission voted to ban three pesticides which are said to harm bees. Everyone loves bees, so perhaps we should all be rejoicing? However, when governments act they almost always forget the golden rule of public policy: the Law of Unintended Consequences.
And guess what? Just a few days after the vote, scientists are pointing out that the ban will mean farmers using older chemicals that are even more harmful to bees. For good measure, the alternative pesticides are more expensive to use and not as good at protecting crops.

Most of the time, governments do not set out to do harm. Politicians and bureaucrats think that, with the stroke of a pen or the passing of a bill, they can change the world for the better. But the Law of Unintended Consequences means that the opposite usually happens.

Take ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements for lawyers. Introduced to make the legal system accessible to those who couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer upfront, it did just that, but in a way no one in government expected. More than a thousand people a day now hire a ‘no win, no fee’ lawyer and claim compensation for whiplash from a car accident. Since everyone else does — pushing up insurance premiums by 80 per cent in the past five years — the rational response to a crash is indeed to make a claim. That’s certainly opening up the legal system to everyone.

The most obvious recent example of the Law of Unintended Consequences is the 50p tax rate. Introduced by Gordon Brown in 2010 to cheers from those keen to make ‘the rich’ pay more tax, its effect was to send nearly two thirds of the nation’s highest earners — that is, biggest taxpayers — out of the country or deeper into the arms of the tax avoidance industry. In 2009-10, more than 16,000 people declared more than £1 million in income. After the 50p rate was introduced the number fell to 6,000. You can, of course learn from the Law and act accordingly. Once the announcement that the top rate would be cut to 45p, the number of people declaring an annual income of more than £1 million has risen to 10,000.

As for tax avoidance itself, how do you think it arises? The tax code has so many one-off tax breaks, introduced with the well-intentioned aim of pushing investment towards one under-performing area or another, that accountants can easily construct mechanisms to avoid tax liability, which often serve to undermine the intention of the original tax breaks.

Welfare policy is another manifestation of the Law. The welfare state was meant to look after those too poor or ill to look after themselves. Who would not support that? But the Law of Unintended Consequences means that it has given rise to a dependency culture which at one point had more than six million people on out-of-work benefit, many of them with parents and grandparents who had never done a day’s paid work. And because of the structure of the benefits system, many were effectively trapped on welfare. If you think the Universal Credit will not itself have unintended consequences, you haven’t been paying attention.

But perhaps the starkest impact of the Law of Unintended Consequences was the abolition of grammar and direct grant schools. Many of those behind the comprehensive revolution had noble aims. They believed that too much working-class talent was being squandered. But their prescription turned a flawed system into a catastrophe, destroying opportunities for the children they sought to help and wasting far more talent than the system they ripped up. The system of direct grant schools — self-governing but state-funded in return for taking scholarship pupils from state primary schools — opened up many public schools to ability rather than wealth. When it was abolished by the 1974-79 Labour government on the altar of equal opportunity, all that happened was that the schools were closed to pupils whose parents could not afford the fees, widening the divide that the reform was supposed to close.

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Brexit – its Origins!

Whether Thatcher was good or bad is of course a matter of opinion; it is a verdict writ in water, I suppose, and will change countless times before, eventually, she is forgotten. But her eminence now, her importance, her significance: these are things which are unarguable, surely. I was working for the shadow cabinet when Thatcher was at the height of her pomp: ‘Christ, she is a magnificent bitch,’ my boss, a front-bench Labour MP, would say to me, time and again, as he returned from the chamber, sweating battered and forlorn and awestruck. The emphasis was on ‘magnificent’, not ‘bitch’. I think ‘bitch’ was there as a sort of get-out.

But still. She was, we keep being told, a polarising politician. So here are, briefly, my polarities. I find her close to faultless when it came to foreign affairs the Falklands, the USSR, the European Union, even South Africa. The instinct and indeed the familiar stridency seemed to me both commendable and right. I do not remember her swinging her handbag; I remember instead a refusal to compromise on a point of principle. She lacked utterly the messianic naivety of a much lesser politician who later wished to emulate her, Tony Blair; for Thatcher, the welfare of Britain and of British people was always paramount. I don’t think that even figured at all for Blair.

But at home? How much of the catastrophe is her fault is up for question, I sup¬pose. But one way or another the market became fetishised in a manner which led to a sort of foul, grasping anarchy. It is at least partly a consequence of Thatcher that, for a long while, we eschewed innovation and manufacturing and put our faith in the spivvery of deregulated ‘financial services’. Ironically, while steadfast in her defence of Britain abroad, she lost sight of what it was that constituted Britain at home; that sense of community and society, the old idea that we were ‘in this together’. Instead we were left with an atomised society and the repugnant principle that the devil take the hindmost.

Millions were hurt. There are plenty of towns in the north of England, and in Scotland and Wales, which are still trying to cope with the recession of the early 1980s; the UK is a country divided both economically and geographically by a primitive and anti-social ideology which was largely of Thatcher’s making, even if its genesis lay in some arid university in the American Midwest. I do not think that she would have applauded the vaulting greed and acquisitiveness which resulted from this consumer-driven boom and which remains hung around our necks.

The sense of entitlement we rightly bemoan is a consequence of Thatcher every bit as much as it is of the left. Perhaps she would also have cavilled at the notion that a house is not a home but mere collateral, to be traded ever upwards. Cavil she might, but that is what she left us with. I would go so far as to suggest that prime ministers who think there is no such thing as society should not be prime ministers if that is the case, then what, after all, are you presiding over?

Sunni Shia War

From Armageddon Awaits by Douglas Murray

السلام عليكم

(Note

The Caliphate – Soon after the death of Mohamed:

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The Middle East is not simply falling apart – it is taking a different shape, along very clear lines – far older ones than those the western powers rudely imposed on the region nearly a century ago.

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But while that happens the region’s two most ambitious centres of power – the House of Saud and the Ayatollahs in Iran – find them-selves fighting each other not just for influence but even, perhaps, for survival. (The Saddam Hussein regime was Sunni and it had used WMD against Iran, as well as the Kurds and Shias in the south of Iraq).

The way in which what is going on in the Middle East has become a religious war has long been obvious – See here

Just take this radio exchange, caught at the ground level earlier this month, between two foreign fighters in Syria, the first from Al-Qa’eda’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Levant) – ISIS/ISIL, the second from the Free Syrian army (FSA):

‘You apostate infidels,’ says the first. ‘We’ve declared you to be “apostates”, you heretics. You don’t know Allah or His Prophet, you creature. What kind of Islam do you follow?’

To which the FSA fighter responds, ‘Why did you come here? Go fight Israel, brother.’ Only to be told, ‘Fighting apostates like you people takes precedence over fighting the Jews and the Christians – All Imams concur on that.’

(Apostate: someone whose beliefs have changed and who no longer belongs to a religious or political group)

(These foreign fighters are by ISIS into National Groups. Two possible explanations for this are:
* To minimise language problems
* To provide them with a network of Jihadists when they return “home”- estimated at more than 500 from the UK alone)

(The original split between Sunnis and Shiites occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 632. There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession Click)

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Shia believe that leadership should stay within the family of the prophet.

Sunnis believe that leadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community. And it was fundamentally that political division that began the Sunni-Shia split.

The Sunnis prevailed and chose a successor to be the first caliph.

It’s not known precisely how many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Shiites. The Shiites are a minority, making up between 10 percent and 15 percent of the Muslim population — certainly fewer than 250 million, all told. The Shiites are concentrated in Iran, southern Iraq and southern Lebanon. But there are significant Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well.

Although the origins of the Sunni-Shiite split were violent, over the centuries Shiites and Sunnis lived peacefully together for long periods of time. But that appears to be giving way to a new period of spreading conflict in the Middle East between Shiites and Sunnis).

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The Shia militia of Hezbollah were sent by their masters in Iran to fight on the side of Iran’s ally Bashar al-Assad. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia last year declared that Hezbollah is in fact not the ‘army of God’, as its name almost suggests, but rather the ‘army of Satan.’

Fallujah was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Iraq war, where 10,000 British and American troops fought to depose the Islamists. It is now back under Jihadi control – and the West does not want to know. Although there are Syrian cities also now under Al-Qa’eda control, the US and its allies remain unmoved over acting in that country either.

With America soon predicted to attain energy independence, why should the country continue to involve itself deeply in a region which has cost it so much in blood, treasure and international reputation? Why should the US 5th Fleet continue to attempt to maintain regional security in a continent whose regional resources are increasingly rewarding nobody so much as the Communist Party of China?

For the UK and other lesser western powers, declining involvement in the region is neither a moral nor an interest-based decision – we no longer have either the cash or the commitment to effect any decent outcome in the region.

The mullahs in Tehran will do everything they can to protect their own interests that they even put up with protests at home from people starved of basic supplies complaining about their own government pouring millions into Syria’s civil war.

Saudi is now supporting groups as close to Al-Qa’eda-linked forces as to make little difference. Desperate measures, certainly. But for the Saudi leadership these are desperate times. Though it is a battle that has been brewing for decades.

There are those who think that the region as a whole may be starting to go through something similar to what Europe went through in the early 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestant and Catholic states battled it out. This is a conflict which is not only bigger than Al-Qa’eda and similar groups, but far bigger than any of us. It is one which will re-align not only the Middle East, but the religion of Islam.

There is a need for a Treaty of Westphalia-style solution – a redrawing of boundaries in a region where boundaries have been bursting for decades.

One of Saudi Arabia’s most important figures, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said on a recent visit to London, ‘Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the birthplace of Islam. As such, it is the eminent leader of the wider Muslim world.

Iran portrays itself as the leader of not just the minority Shiite world, but of all Muslim revolutionaries interested in standing up to the West.

Prince Turki decried Iran’s ‘meddling’ and its ‘destabilising efforts in the countries with Shia majorities – Iraq and Bahrain – as well as in those countries with significant minority Shia communities such as Kuwait, Lebanon and Yemen.’

The P5+1 countries (The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) have eased sanctions on Iran after arriving at an interim deal in Geneva – Saudi saw its greatest fear — a nuclear Iran – grow more likely (The UK is resuming full Diplomatic contact with Iran). There are rumours that the Saudis would buy nuclear bombs “off the shelf” from their friends in Pakistan.

The war between Saudi and Iran has already reached America’s shores. It has been devastatingly fought out across Syria’s wasted land (& is now back in Iraq). In fact the only place where it has yet to strike meaningfully is on the soil of the main protagonists.

(Peace, tolerance and a re-defining of boundaries is required – but the zealousness of the foreign Jihadist intruders will be a barrier to re-conciliation)


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East European Judaism

From “The 13th Tribe” by Arthur Koestler

Judaism emerged long before Christianity and Islam. However a major Jewish happening took place much later in the lands on the northern shores of the Black Sea.
About the time when Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West, the eastern confines of Europe between the Caucasus and the Volga were ruled by a Jewish state known as the Khazar Empire.

Within a few years of the death of Muhammad (AD 632) the armies of the Caliphate, sweeping northwards reached the great mountain barrier of the Caucasus.

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At the Caucasus the Arabs met the forces of an organised military power which effectively prevented them from extending their conquests in this direction. The wars of the Arabs and the Khazars, which lasted more than a hundred years. But for the existence of the Khazars in the region north of the Caucasus, Byzantium, the bulwark of European civilization in the east, would have found itself outflanked by the Arabs, and the history of Christendom and Islam might well have been very different.

Ironically, the last battle in the war ended in a Khazar defeat. But by that time the impetus of the Muslim Holy War was spent, the Caliphate was rocked by internal dissensions. A few years later, probably AD 740, the King, his court and the military ruling class embraced the Jewish faith, and Judaism became the state religion of the Khazars.

The sources are scant, but various late mediaeval Khazar settlements are mentioned in the Crimea, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania. Some historians have conjectured that a substantial part of world Jewry – may be of Khazar and not of Semitic origin.


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Conscience

Many bravely objected to conflict – they should be remembered – from Bob Holman is the author of Keir Hardie: Labour’s Greatest Hero, Lion Hudson, 2010

The First World War was certainly welcomed in much of Britain. All but a few MPs backed it. Most major newspapers were heavily biased in favour.

Yet there was opposition. As Adam Hochschild explains in his superb book To End All Wars (Pan Books, 2010) – The working class showed less zeal than the better-off, volunteering for the army at a noticeably lower rate than professionals and white collar workers.

Few places were more working class than Glasgow. And none had a more working class leader than Keir Hardie. As a poverty-stricken boy, he worked in the docks. He helped form the Scottish Labour Party and ran his paper The Labour Leader in the city.

By 1892, he was an MP and a strong opponent of wars. In August, 1914, he was cheered by a vast crowd in Trafalgar Square when he warned war would enrich the arms dealers and slaughter the poor. But, when Germany invaded Belgium, war was inevitable. Bravely, he continued to address anti-war meetings and was attacked in the streets.

A Christian socialist, he despairingly cried: “I understand what Christ suffered in Gethsemane as well as any man living.” He died aged 59, on September 26,1915.

Also on September 26, at Loos in Belgium, about 10,000 British troops in 10 columns walked towards the enemy line. German machine gun nests remained undisturbed in bunkers behind barbed wire. As soon as the British were a close target, the guns slaughtered them. It was this kind of needless massacre which broke Hardies’ heart.

He was not the only critic in Glasgow. James Maxton was a conscientious objector who was tried for sedition with James MacDougall in 1916. They went to the primitive Calton Jail in Edinburgh where initially they slept on boards, sewed mail bags and had inadequate food. MacDougall suffered a mental breakdown. Maxton’s health was undermined but he became a Glasgow hero and an MP.

John Maclean, a pacifist and Marxist, was tried for sedition leading to one year in jail. In 1918 he got five years (reduced after the war). Willie Gallacher (later a Communist MP) and John Muir strongly opposed the Munitions of War Act which forbade engineers leaving their jobs. They too were imprisoned.

The famous Glasgow Rent Strike against private landlords hiking rents in wartime was led by Mary Barbour, later Glasgow’s first woman councillor. She, along with Helen Crawfurd, Agnes Dolan and others, formed the Women’s Peace Crusade, with one rally on Glasgow Green drawing 12 to 14,000.

During the war, more than 20,000 men refused to enter the military. More than 6000 were imprisoned.

The press dismissed them as cowards. On the contrary, they displayed enormous courage. They were badly treated in prisons.

In 1916, 34 men were taken to Boulogne to await trial and execution. Waiting entailed being trussed crucifixion style and left in the cold over night. The news leaked out and the government was lobbied. Frederick Meyer, a well-known Baptist minister, rushed out. He was a keen supporter of the war and his grandson was killed at the front. Yet he also believed people should have the option not to fight. He saw every prisoner and addressed the top officers. The men were sentenced to death then, after a long pause, their sentences were commuted to 10 years hard labour. Many died in jail but they stuck to their principles.

A group linked to the Jimmy Reid Foundation is not opposed to the tributes to those who died as soldiers. Yet it also wants Glasgow City Council to erect a small plaque to those who stood for peace. Two meetings with the council have proved disheartening: no way that a plaque could go in George Square: if allowed, the group would have to pay for it themselves.

Fortunately, Councillor Matt Kerr (Labour) has been helpful and a cross-party motion will be put to the council on April 3. We hope those who campaigned for peace will also be officially remembered.


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The Islamist

From “The Islamist” by Ed Hussein

“My years of Islamist ranting now seemed so hollow, meaningless, and destructive. It was God, I read in the Koran, who bestowed political leadership, mulk, and it was God who withdrew it. To me God was no longer a legislator but an existence that breathed life into the deepest vessels of my heart. ‘God moves between a person and his heart,’ I recited. In another verse: ‘I am closer to you than your jugular vein.’

God was no longer beyond human reach, in need of governmental endorsement. God was around us, in us, for us.

Repeatedly the Koran called for reflection, meditation, and contemplation on the world. It offered parables to trigger our remembrance of God. The Koran desired yusr, or ease, and not hardship in adherence to faith. There was an elasticity, nuance, and plurality in the message of the Koran that Islamists had somehow overlooked, in the process reducing our noble faith to terrorism, anger, and conflict”.

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FREE SPEECH

From Mark Steyn “The slow death of free speech” – Must we celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity?

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In California a chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declare that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as the former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.

In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.

In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three-and-a-quarter centuries.

In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott. Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’

We all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’ …which all sounds terribly reasonable. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all!

The examples above are ever-shrinking Dantean circles of Tolerance: at Galway, the dissenting opinion was silenced by grunting thugs screaming four-letter words. At Mozilla, the chairwoman is far more housetrained: she issued a nice press release all about striking a balance between freedom of speech and ‘equality’, and how the best way to ‘support’ a ‘culture’ of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ is by firing anyone who dissents from the mandatory group-think.

At the House of Commons they’re moving to the next stage: in an ‘inclusive culture’ ever more comfortable with narrower bounds of public discourse, it seems entirely natural that the next step should be for dissenting voices to require state permission to speak.

Only four and a half decades after the censor’s departure, British liberals are panting for the re-imposition of censorship under a new ‘royal charter’.

But once you get a taste for shutting people up, it’s hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it’s easier to close it down?

Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.

As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the ‘safe space’ is where cultures go to die!

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GERMANY

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From The Week

How well is Germany doing?

It seems to belong in a different continent. Last week unemployment in the 17 nations of the Euro-zone hit 10.7% – an all time high. In Germany it was 6.7%, a 20-year low. While countries all around it wonder how to become more competitive and export more of their goods, German’s problem is what to do with a large trade surplus it ran up last year. The rest of the continent wonders can possibly pay its debts. In Germany, investors are so keen to buy government bonds in January that they signed up to negative interest rates – in effect they paid the state to take their money. This has never happened before.

Does it benefit from the weak euro?
In part, yes. The euro has fallen 15% against the dollar since 2008. That has made all European exports cheaper, but Germany has been especially well placed to take advantage: unusually for such a developed economy, exports are up around 50% of its GDP (compared to about 25% in the UK. Yet Germany wouldn’t be in its current position had it not also, ten years ago, implemented major reforms to revitalise its economy. While the rest of the EU spent the boom years designing regulations and generous labour laws (France’s 35-hour week, for example), Germany marched smartly in the other direction.

Why did Germany behave differently?
Because then, as now, it was out of sync. In 2002, 12 years after unification, the country was “the sick man of Europe”. As the rest of the continent grew steadily more prosperous, Germany had a stagnant economy and rising unemployment. In 2003, the jobless rate in Britain was 4.9%; in Germany it was 10.5%. In need of new ideas, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder asked Peter Hartz, head of human resources at Volkswagen, to investigate the country’s labour market. Hartz concluded that German work practices belonged to another age – when single earners supported households with nine to five jobs and there were generous unemployment benefits. In its place, he proposed radical benefit cuts and a form of flexible, temporary employment that he called mini-jobs”. Within five years of Hartz’s Agenda 2010 reforms, around ten million Germans had a mini-job, with seven million people relying on them as their only source of income.

What’s the idea behind mini-jobs?
To provide as much flexibility as possible for employers and workers, normally part-time, or made up of shifts, mini-jobs pay up to €400 a month. Employers must chip in rather €100 to the state for social-security benefits. As long as the €400 limit is not breached, workers pay no tax, don’t have to fill in complicated employment forms, and can do as many mini-jobs as they like. The posts designed to be picked up and dropped at short notice, and to suit everyone from teenagers to pensioners to mothers on maternity leave.

And did they prove a success?
Along with other measures designed to introduce greater flexibility for the German labour market, they were a major reason why the country did not experience mass lay-offs during the recession of 2009. Back then, Berlin implemented a programme known as Kurzarbeit, under which employers could cut the hours their staff worked, and the government would subsidise the rest of their pay. Kurzarbeit cost the German government around $16bn, but obviated the much higher costs of redundancies, welfare bills and re-hiring.

So should Britain adopt mini-jobs?
Spain and Portugal both plan to introduce them; President Sarkozy cites the reforms in his campaign for re-election; in the UK, they are being championed by the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs, led by Elizabeth Truss. But there’s a major drawback to the German employment miracle: it’s not that popular in Germany. Back in 2005, a triumphant Chancellor Schroder declared: “We have built up one of the best low-wage sectors in Europe.” Seven years later, critics of mini-jobs say that the creation of Germany’s low-wage sector has led to a widening divide in the country’s labour market, and a new phenomenon: the working poor.

How wide is that divide in Germany?
After the US and South Korea, Germany now has one of the most unequal labour markets in the developed world. A mini-job as a security guard or a hairdresser typically brings in around €4 an hour – but as there are no set hours for a mini-job, and no minimum wage, some on mini-jobs earn less than €1 an hour. Not long ago, most wages were set by collective bargaining agreements, but these now cover no more than 50% of the labour market. The rest of the market, mostly made up of mini-jobs, is a free-for-all, in which wages are falling. Between 2000 and 2010, average salaries rose, but low incomes (those below €960 a month) fell by 10%. Almost 1.5 million people with mini-jobs now rely on the state for benefits, including 358,000 who work full time but can’t live off their pay.

Are mini-jobs election winners?
In next year’s re-election campaign, Chancellor Angela Merkel will make much of keeping unemployment under control. But it doesn’t disguise unease about increasing inequality: for the first time, Merkel’s conservative CDU has begun to talk about the possibility of a German minimum wage. Elsewhere in Europe, meanwhile, economists insist that Germany’s low wages, along with its long-term demographic challenge (see box), must be tackled if it is to start consuming products at the same rate as it makes them, and so help the rest of the continent on its way to recovery. By exporting its flexible, low- wage labour market, Germany could end up doing no one a favour. As Ekkehard Ernst of the International Labour Organization says: “If everyone is doing the same thing, there won’t be anyone left to export to.”

Not enough Raven Mothers
The elephant in the room when talking of Germany’s impressive economy is its ageing, shrinking population. Developed countries around the world have gone through the “demographic transition” from large to small families, and seen their population growth slow as a result. But Germany was one of the first to do so, and is now one of the few countries, along with Japan, to face the prospect of a noticeable reduction in its population within a generation. German women stopped having an average of 2.1 babies, the replacement rate, in 1971. By 2010, the average was 1.38, and 190,000 more Germans died than were born. The Federal Statistics Office predicts that today’s population of 82 million will fall by 17 million in the next 50 years, with the labour force contracting by up to 30% and some rural areas emptying completely. So the government has launched a range of incentives – generous maternity/ paternity leave, a new nursery-building programme – to try to boost the fertility rate. That in turn crosses a minefield of cultural sensitivities: from anxiety over state-led attempts to increase population (redolent of Nazism), to traditional German disdain for working mothers: so-called Rabenmutters or Raven Mothers.


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Law-n-Order – Conrad Black

There is fierce competition between US and district attorneys for headlines, and thus acceleration up the political ladder or into the highest echelons of the private sector bar.

The United States has five per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of its (legally?) incarcerated people and 50 per cent of the world’s lawyers.

The legal profession takes about 10 per cent of the country’s GDP, approximately $1.5 trillion, a sum close to the entire GDP, depending on exchange rates, of Russia, India or Canada.

US criminal justice is based on the almost completely corrupt manipulation of the plea bargain, in which suspects, or alleged suspects, are interviewed and advised that they can have immunity in exchange for miraculous revenances (one that returns after a lengthy absence) of memory that incriminate the prime targets – failing which, however flimsy or nonexistent the evidence, they too will be charged.

Only about 10 per cent of US criminal cases are tried, so proficient is the prosecution at intimidating its targets, and running all but the wealthiest of them out of resources.

United States has six to 12 times as many people in prison per capita as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK – the most closely comparable jurisdictions.


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AUSTERITY 2

Professor Steve Keen: “You can’t think about the economy like a child might think of a household budget”
As reported by Greg Russell – Herald”

An award-winning economist has attacked the austerity policies adopted by Labour and the Tories as “naive” and likened them to a kindergarten understanding of economics. At the same time Professor Steve Keen – one of the few economists to have predicted the financial meltdown – praised the SNP and the Greens.

In a recorded interview with the financial website every investor.co.uk, Keen claimed that failing to invest in growth would not generate a sustainable recovery due to high levels of private debt. Public debt, he said, was more a symptom than a cause of economic problems.
He joins other leading economic voices who have spoken out against the irresponsibility of austerity.

In recent weeks Business for Scotland and the leading Scottish economic think tank N-56 have called for an end to austerity to create economic growth. Nobel prize-winner Paul Krugman called the case for cuts “a lie”.

Keen said that the “most positive thing” he could say about the Labour and Tory view of austerity politics was: “It’s naive and childish”.
He said: “When you look at the way that they [Tories and Labour] talk about the government having to run a surplus … you can’t think about the economy and the government’s role in the economy like a child might think about a household budget, which is all that’s being sold by politicians of both sides.”

Keen, who is head of the school of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University in London, went on to explain how cutting public-sector spending to balance the books actually harmed growth and took money out of people’s bank accounts.

He said: “Draw a rectangle, call that the entire economy and divide it in half, with one half the government the other the public.
“If the government is going to run a surplus, which is what both Labour and the Conservatives are saying is their objective, that means the taxes the government is imposing on the public have to be greater than the spending.

O what you’ve got therefore is the flow of money has to be going from the ‘public’ box to the government. For the government to run a surplus they’ve got to be taking money out of your bank accounts.

“That’s the opposite of what people think. If the government’s going to run a surplus it has to tax the people more than it spends on the people.”

Keen added that if government ran a surplus for a sustained pe¬riod, it would be forced to borrow money from the banks. “What it means is that you’re going to have rising public debt, with a rela¬tively constant GDP, rising private servicing pressure as well,” he said.
“At some point the public’s going to stop borrowing money from the banks and you’ll go into a downturn.”
“It’s a recipe for a future economic crisis.”

“That, in a nutshell is why Greece and Spain and ltaly and France are in the state they’re in right now,” added the economist.
“And both political parties are saying ‘we think it’s a good idea’. It’s kindergarten thinking about the economy.”

Keen went on to say that Conservative austerity or Labour austerity light would both lead to economic stagnation.

And he praised the SNP, saying: “The only ones who are close to a sensible policy are the Greens and the SNP, because they at least are talking about the dangers of the private banking sector”.

“They’re seeing the banking sector as the cause of the problems, rather than a potential solu-tion – which is still the way the Conservatives look at the bank¬ing sector and Labour in effect lean towards banking light rather than banking heavy.”

Keen’s rationale is that the Westminster-focussed parties have underestimated the vital impact of public-sector investment into the economy that would enhance growth by creating jobs and new revenues.

His remarks have been wel¬comed by Gordon Maclntyre-Kemp, founder and director of Business for Scotland.

He said: “Westminster’s ill- considered austerity consensus represents full financial irresponsibility.”


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Austerity 1

By Nan Spowart

Austerity cuts planned by Tories and Labour after the election will seriously damage the economy, says one of the world’s top economists.
In terms of Money:

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As a percentage of GDP:
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US academic Paul Krugman on 29Apr15 poured scorn on the UK for sticking to austerity when the rest of the Western world has abandoned it as a failed policy.
As research supporting the cuts is now discredited, he said the reasons the UK still stuck to the policy were purely ideological.

“Conservatives like to use the alleged dangers of debt and deficits as clubs with which to beat the welfare state and justify cuts in benefits; suggestions that higher spending might actually be beneficial are definitely not welcome,” he said.

“Scare-talk about debt and deficits is often used as a cover for a very different agenda, namely an attempt to reduce the overall size of government and especially spending on social insurance.

“The ‘primary purpose’ of austerity austerity, the Telegraph admitted in 2013, ‘is to shrink the size of government spending’ – or, as Cameron put it in a speech later that year, to make the state ‘leaner … not just now, but permanently’.”

And Krugman professed astonishment that Labour is prepared to carry on the agenda.
“Why are the US’s Austerians on the run, while Britain’s still rule the debate?” he asked. “It has been astonishing, from a US perspective, to witness the limp¬ness of Labour’s response to the austerity push.

“Britain’s opposition has been amazingly willing to accept claims that budget deficits are the biggest economic issue facing the nation, and has made hardly any effort to challenge the extremely dubious proposition that fiscal policy under Blair and Brown was deeply irresponsible – or even the nonsensical proposition that this supposed fiscal irresponsibility caused the crisis of 2008- 2009.

“Why this weakness? In part it may reflect the fact that the crisis occurred on Labour’s watch.”

To back his views that it doesn’t work, Krugman pointed out that since the global turn to austerity in 2010, every country that introduced the policy has seen its economy suffer, with the depth of the suffering aligned to the severity of the austerity.

Few people now believe austerity works, says Krugman:

“George Osborne and David Cameron boast that their policies saved Britain from a Greek-style crisis of soaring interest rates, apparently oblivious to the fact that interest rates are at historic lows all across the western world.”

Greece is now seen as it should have been in the beginning according to Krugman, which a unique case with few lessons for the rest of us”.

Krugman pointed out the small recovery the UK has experienced recently is because tightening was quietly loosened halfway through the present government’s term. That is now jeopardised by the promise of after the election.

He said: “Cameron is campaigning largely on a spurious claim to have ‘rescued’ the British economy – and promising substantial cuts in the ahead. Labour, sad to say echoing that position. So are in effect promising a round of austerity that might hold back a recovery that so far, come nowhere near made up the ground lost.”


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Attitudes in Business

 Time is money
 Organise balance social and business – avoid working longer to compensate
 for over-ambitious planning
 Get paid for your efforts
 Cultivate confidence and decisiveness
 Give yourself timeout during working sessions – can lead to breakthroughs
 Give time for lateral thinking
 Give time for planning what you have to do
 Deal with all aspects of your business, seek help for “unpalatable” parts
 Show appreciation of and cultivate friendly business associates
 Minimise social contact with business associates
 Do not release information that you do not need to
 Do not disclose background information about yourself
 In particular do not disclose any weaknesses
 Exaggerate only when you cannot be contradicted
 Be enthusiastic and brief, listen more and prompt/respond
 Have a readily accessible list of “to dos” with priorities and deadlines
 Make notes on all relevant topics, catalogue and on computer for ease retrieval
 Develop sales techniques – the customer/client if serious will want to be persuaded – when “hot” clinch the deal
 Cost jobs to give reasonable profits, cost each stage, and get staged payments
 For services such as electrical and plumbing, take responsibility once or twice to learn the ropes.
 Be wary of others, particularly the charmers, test them out if possible – don’t commit or release information until trust or otherwise is established
 Don’t reveal prejudices – portray yourself as principled but tolerant

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Choosing an Energy Tariff

• The post code is only relevant in indicating that “here there be no gas”.
• Lowest tariffs are identical for UK urban areas.
• The same tariffs apply for all levels of useage.
• Electricity (& Gas)lone tariffs are higher.
• Different suppliers for gas and electricity are more expensive.
• Standing charges, typically £25-100, affect the low user most.
• Contracts for a fixed period (12 – 18 months) are increasingly available.
• Prices are very likely continue to rise.

To calculate costs for gas, generally given for kWh units, to the meter reading in Cu metres -multiply the meter reading by 11.4. This is for a calorific value of around 40 – a complex value which, on your Bill, they claim to be accurate for your area (how does your gas pressure vary?).

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GERMAN ECONOMICS

From The Week

How well is Germany doing?

It seems to belong in a different continent. Last week unemployment in the 17 nations of the Euro-zone hit 10.7% – an all time high. In Germany it was 6.7%, a 20-year low. While countries all around it wonder how to become more competitive and export more of their goods, German’s problem is what to do with a large trade surplus it ran up last year. The rest of the continent wonders can possibly pay its debts. In Germany, investors are so keen to buy government bonds in January that they signed up to negative interest rates – in effect they paid the state to take their money. This has never happened before.

Does it benefit from the weak euro?
In part, yes. The euro has fallen 15% against the dollar since 2008. That has made all European exports cheaper, but Germany has been especially well placed to take advantage: unusually for such a developed economy, exports are up around 50% of its GDP (compared to about 25% in the UK. Yet Germany wouldn’t be in its current position had it not also, ten years ago, implemented major reforms to revitalise its economy. While the rest of the EU spent the boom years designing regulations and generous labour laws (France’s 35-hour week, for example), Germany marched smartly in the other direction.

Why did Germany behave differently?
Because then, as now, it was out of sync. In 2002, 12 years after unification, the country was “the sick man of Europe”. As the rest of the continent grew steadily more prosperous, Germany had a stagnant economy and rising unemployment. In 2003, the jobless rate in Britain was 4.9%; in Germany it was 10.5%. In need of new ideas, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder asked Peter Hartz, head of human resources at Volkswagen, to investigate the country’s labour market. Hartz concluded that German work practices belonged to another age – when single earners supported households with nine to five jobs and there were generous unemployment benefits. In its place, he proposed radical benefit cuts and a form of flexible, temporary employment that he called mini-jobs”. Within five years of Hartz’s Agenda 2010 reforms, around ten million Germans had a mini-job, with seven million people relying on them as their only source of income.

What’s the idea behind mini-jobs?
To provide as much flexibility as possible for employers and workers, normally part-time, or made up of shifts, mini-jobs pay up to €400 a month. Employers must chip in rather €100 to the state for social-security benefits. As long as the €400 limit is not breached, workers pay no tax, don’t have to fill in complicated employment forms, and can do as many mini-jobs as they like. The posts designed to be picked up and dropped at short notice, and to suit everyone from teenagers to pensioners to mothers on maternity leave.

And did they prove a success?
Along with other measures designed to introduce greater flexibility for the German labour market, they were a major reason why the country did not experience mass lay-offs during the recession of 2009. Back then, Berlin implemented a programme known as Kurzarbeit, under which employers could cut the hours their staff worked, and the government would subsidise the rest of their pay. Kurzarbeit cost the German government around $16bn, but obviated the much higher costs of redundancies, welfare bills and re-hiring.

So should Britain adopt mini-jobs?
Spain and Portugal both plan to introduce them; President Sarkozy cites the reforms in his campaign for re-election; in the UK, they are being championed by the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs, led by Elizabeth Truss. But there’s a major drawback to the German employment miracle: it’s not that popular in Germany. Back in 2005, a triumphant Chancellor Schroder declared: “We have built up one of the best low-wage sectors in Europe.” Seven years later, critics of mini-jobs say that the creation of Germany’s low-wage sector has led to a widening divide in the country’s labour market, and a new phenomenon: the working poor.

How wide is that divide in Germany?
After the US and South Korea, Germany now has one of the most unequal labour markets in the developed world. A mini-job as a security guard or a hairdresser typically brings in around €4 an hour – but as there are no set hours for a mini-job, and no minimum wage, some on mini-jobs earn less than €1 an hour. Not long ago, most wages were set by collective bargaining agreements, but these now cover no more than 50% of the labour market. The rest of the market, mostly made up of mini-jobs, is a free-for-all, in which wages are falling. Between 2000 and 2010, average salaries rose, but low incomes (those below €960 a month) fell by 10%. Almost 1.5 million people with mini-jobs now rely on the state for benefits, including 358,000 who work full time but can’t live off their pay.

Are mini-jobs election winners?
In next year’s re-election campaign, Chancellor Angela Merkel will make much of keeping unemployment under control. But it doesn’t disguise unease about increasing inequality: for the first time, Merkel’s conservative CDU has begun to talk about the possibility of a German minimum wage. Elsewhere in Europe, meanwhile, economists insist that Germany’s low wages, along with its long-term demographic challenge (see box), must be tackled if it is to start consuming products at the same rate as it makes them, and so help the rest of the continent on its way to recovery. By exporting its flexible, low- wage labour market, Germany could end up doing no one a favour. As Ekkehard Ernst of the International Labour Organization says: “If everyone is doing the same thing, there won’t be anyone left to export to.”

Not enough Raven Mothers
The elephant in the room when talking of Germany’s impressive economy is its ageing, shrinking population. Developed countries around the world have gone through the “demographic transition” from large to small families, and seen their population growth slow as a result. But Germany was one of the first to do so, and is now one of the few countries, along with Japan, to face the prospect of a noticeable reduction in its population within a generation. German women stopped having an average of 2.1 babies, the replacement rate, in 1971. By 2010, the average was 1.38, and 190,000 more Germans died than were born. The Federal Statistics Office predicts that today’s population of 82 million will fall by 17 million in the next 50 years, with the labour force contracting by up to 30% and some rural areas emptying completely. So the government has launched a range of incentives – generous maternity/ paternity leave, a new nursery-building programme – to try to boost the fertility rate. That in turn crosses a minefield of cultural sensitivities: from anxiety over state-led attempts to increase population (redolent of Nazism), to traditional German disdain for working mothers: so-called Rabenmutters or Raven Mothers.


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Employment

From Office of National Statistics: Half of the UK big Firms are using zero-hours contracts. These involve 1.4 million “employees”. See the section on Germany!

Comment: The Chancellor recently announced a pledge to seek full employment.


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NHS

From an article in the Spectator by J. Meirion Thomas – a professor of surgery and a consultant surgeon in the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is a decent and well-meaning man. He’s genuinely excited about the new, radical reforms planned for the NHS.

If implemented as announced, these plans will be both expensive and ineffective. We’ve been here before. NHS Connect cost the taxpayer £13 billion before it was abandoned as unworkable and technically impossible.

The trouble with GPs is that they work in group practices, geographically and professionally isolated from the mainstream of hospital medicine. Over the past few decades, modern medicine has been revolutionised by technology, little of which has filtered down into general practice.

There is no incentive in general practice to improve performance or efficiency.
No wonder, then, that patients with acute problems prefer to go to A&E. To cope with the increasing workload in hospitals and to improve services to patients’, clinical nurse specialists and advanced nurse practitioners have been appointed and have transformed the scene. They are highly qualified and skilled professionals and would be ideal in general practice to run screening and immunisation programmes, child development, care of the elderly and many other services.

In addition, the role of GPs must change. They must train and work differently. They could adopt a hybrid role working mostly in A&E and benefiting from the nourishing environment of mainstream hospital medicine. This template would prevent de-skilling and would maintain professional and academic acumen. It would transform primary care. It would also solve two of the biggest manpower problems in the NHS.

Hunt understands that the answer to better clinical care is not more management. Clinical standards can only be improved by better training and inspired clinical leadership.

Currently it is rare to find clinicians at the heart of any hospital management structure. Mr Hunt’s intention to recruit more clinicians into management is groundbreaking. Clinicians in management will focus attention on patient care and away from esoteric managerial matters — and surely that’s something everyone can applaud. Now let’s get on with the rest.

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Immigration

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Comments:

1 Theresa May – Conservative Home Secretary since May2010 – promise to reduce to tens of thousands.
2 Following the Brexit result the promise to reduce immigration is being played down.

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Brexit: The Scottish Government Leader sets out key Scottish interests that “must be protected” – Posted 25Jul16:

Democratic interests – “the need to make sure Scotland’s voice is heard and our wishes respected.”
Economic interests – “safeguarding free movement of labour, access to a single market of 500 million people and the funding that our farmers and universities depend on”.
Social protection – “ensuring the continued protection of workers’ and wider human rights”.
Solidarity – “the ability of independent nations to come together for the common good of all our citizens, to tackle crime and terrorism and deal with global challenges like climate change”.
Having influence – “making sure that we don’t just have to abide by the rules of the single market but also have a say in shaping them.”

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ppp

In Preparation

Bad Brexit

Theresa May will signal an era of greater state intervention in the economy as she launches her industrial strategy with a promise of “sector deals”, a new system of technical education and better infrastructure.The prime minister will publish the…
New system of technical education and better infrastructure.

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Eleven countries agreed on Saturday to cut their oil output, teaming up with the OPEC cartel in an exceptional bid to end the world’s glut of crude and reverse a dramatic fall in income.Russia and 10 other non-OPEC states will reduce their product… 11 December 2016 http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlp6Jj?a=0&m=EN-GB

There have been five US multinationals caught up in “sweetheart tax deal” inquiries launched by competition officials in Brussels over the last two and a half years: Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, Fiat Chrysler and McDonald’s.All angrily denied receivi… The Guardian – 09 December 2016 http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlknQx?a=0&m=EN-GB

A leaked memo detailing a meeting between Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator and the City of London Corporation has given some incredible insight into how the UK is being represented in talks with the EU.The memo, circulated within the City and lea…
09 December 2016. http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlkEZt?a=0&m=EN-GB

UK’s oil major BP will double its production in the North Sea to 200,000 barrels of oil per day, chief executive Bob Dudley said in an interview with Energy Voice in Aberdeen on Wednesday.“You will see portfolio changes for us in the North Sea, bu…
10 December 2016 http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlmA0W?a=0&m=EN-GB

Davis ignoring hard Brexit

Banks leaving Uk

SEO Test

James & AA

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887 Brexit
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72 black-eyed virgins: Muslim debate on the rewards of martyrs

http://www.albatrus.org/english/religions/islam/72virgins_and_boys.htm

http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=565 72 Vs

http://www.religioustolerance.org/isl_para.htm

https://islamqa.info/en/608

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https://www.aeaweb.org/resources/students/what-is-economics

http://understandingthemarket.com/

http://www.investopedia.com/university/stocks/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_market

http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/World+Market

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/author/bfsgordon/

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/author/bfsgordon/

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A new investigation has uncovered the tricks that retailers including Amazon, JustFab, and River Island are using on their mobile sites to pressure shoppers into spending.With consumers tipped to splurge over £2.6 billion this weekend on flash sal…
Mirror – 17 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlEV5g?a=0&m=EN-GB

Drugs companies are facing renewed questions about the prices they charge the NHS for life-saving medicines after a firm was accused of marking up a tablet by more than 12,000%.A week after US giant Pfizer was slapped with a record fine of £84.2m…
The Guardian – 17 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlD2K4?a=0&m=EN-GB

Britain will be hit by a £50billion fee for leaving the EU, Brussels negotiators have confirmed.The huge sum includes the UK’s final two years of EU budget payments plus pensions liabilities and other commitments we have previously agreed to.PM Th…
Mirror – 16 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlCsag?a=0&m=EN-GB

Japanese banks are preparing to move operations out of London in the next six months, unless they are given more clarity about Britain’s Brexit ambitions, according to a report from the Financial Times on Friday.The FT reports that in a meeting he…
Business Insider UK – 16 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlDgdQ?a=0&m=EN-GB

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.The risk with referendums, as Margaret Thatcher used to say, is that they become a device for dem…
The Financial Times – 16 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAlBR9R?a=0&m=EN-GB

The shortfall in productivity compared with other developed economies has long been Britain’s economic achilles heel. It is a problem that Conservative and Labour chancellors have been grappling with for decades.Productivity is a guide to how good…
The Guardian – 26 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/BBxysCc?a=0&m=EN-GB

The boss of John Lewis and Waitrose has said the introduction of the “national living wage” could already be boosting productivity in Britain, despite criticism of the policy by senior retail figures.Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewi…
The Guardian – 25 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/BBxyt0V?a=0&m=EN-GB

All you need to know about Brexit
All about Brexit

2017 economic predictions: What’s on the menu? – BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38403196

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A group of influential MPs have launched an inquiry into whether the Bank of England’s interest rate policies have helped to pump up house prices and damaged the sustainability of savings incomes in the wake of the financial crisis.The Treasury Se…
The Telegraph – 22 December 2016
http://a.msn.com/r/2/BBxrOyi?a=0&m=EN-GB

Coming back to your car and seeing a ticket slapped on the windscreen is something that can anger even the calmest of souls – especially if it’s unfair.The good news is that you don’t have to take it lying down. Not only can you appeal, but the ma…
Mirror – 26 January 2017
http://a.msn.com/r/2/AAmgsmw?a=0&m=en-gb

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/fraud-warning-issued-as-security-flaw-in-contactless-payment-cards-revealed-10409240.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9711211/Antifragile-by-Nassim-Taleb-review.html