Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spain's Unemployed Speak Out on Budget Cuts

Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips speaks to two of the country's approximately five million unemployed about what they think of the latest round of cuts.

Related video »
Spain Unveils Deep Budget Cuts

Spain's government has announced $36 billion of tax rises and spending cuts as it tries to avoid a bailout.

Mega Millions $640 Million Lottery Jackpot Shared between Three Tickets

THE GUARDIAN: Winning tickets purchased in Illinois, Kansas and at 7-Eleven store in Maryland that stands to receive $100,000 bonus

The largest lottery jackpot in history – $640m (£400m) – has been shared in the US by at least three ticket holders.

Winning tickets were purchased in Maryland, Illinois and Kansas, according to officials and media reports. The Maryland winner bought the ticket in a 7-Eleven store, a lottery official said.

"It was a quick pick and only one ticket was purchased [by the winner]", the Maryland official said. "We don't know who this person is."

The owners of the 7-Eleven store receive a $100,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket. If no-one else comes forward each of the three winners would net more than $213m. » | Damien Pearse and agencies | Saturday, March 31, 2012

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Mega Millions $640 Million Lottery Jackpot Won by Maryland Ticket Holder

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: The largest lottery jackpot in history, $640 million (£400 million), has been won by a ticket holder in Maryland, and officials were waiting early on Saturday to see if there are other winning tickets.

Maryland lottery officials announced that a winning ticket was purchased at a store in Baltimore County, though they had not identified the winner yet.

"This is truly remarkable and historic," said Maryland lottery director Stephen Martino. The country was engulfed by lottery mania as the clock ticked down to the drawing of the numbers for the Mega Millions in Atlanta on Friday.

The jackpot had mushroomed into the largest lottery in world history after the previous drawing three days earlier failed to produce a winner.

The odds of winning – at 176 million-to-one, the average American was more likely to be struck by lightning twice or killed by a falling vending machine – did nothing to deter the mania. Read on and comment » | Philip Sherwell | New York | Saturday, March 31, 2012

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Friday, 30 March 2012

Mega Millions Jackpot Increases to $640 million as US Lines Up for Tickets

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Odds of 1 in 176 million have not deterred pundits as lottery ticket lines across the US swelled with players drawn by a record $640 million (£400 million) Mega Millions jackpot.

In Arizona, a café worker reported selling $2,600 worth of tickets to one buyer. In Wisconsin, a retired soldier doubled his regular weekly ticket spending to $55.

"I feel like a fool throwing that kind of money away," said the soldier, Jesse Carter. "But it's a chance you take in life, with anything you do."

Kimberly Starks, a spokesman for the Georgia Lottery, said on Friday the jackpot had increased. The jackpot had stood at $540 million before the announcement. The previous record jackpot was $390 million in 2007.

Ticket buyers were converging on stores in 42 states and Washington, DC, where Mega Millions tickets are sold. The drawing was scheduled for late Friday night (4am BST) in Atlanta. » | AP | Friday, March 30, 2012

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Who's Afraid of Islamic Finance?

THE ATLANTIC: While Tunisia's Islamist party tries to downplay the role of Islamic finance, Hong Kong welcomes it with open arms. Why?

Tunisia's newly elected Islamist government said this week that it will preserve the nation's pre-revolutionary secular constitution and financial structures. Far away, in secular and wealthy Hong Kong, the local government is pushing to establish a platform for Islamic finance in hopes of becoming the Dubai of the Far East. What's going on here?

Witness the power of marketing. Tunisia's main source of tourism and exports is Europe, where perennial outcries against Muslim immigrants and sharia have incited violence among Europe's anti-Islamic extremists in recent years. Hong Kong, together with the Greater China Region, is courting the Muslim business world to quench its thirst for natural fuels. As a result, we have an odd juxtaposition: An Islamist regime rejecting Islamic finance while a secular capitalist juggernaut claims to welcome it. » | Massoud Hayoun | Friday, March 30, 2012
Record Mega Millions Jackpot Grows Overnight, Up to $640M

USA TODAY: The world's biggest jackpot is getting even bigger. With much of the nation gripped by Mega Millions fever, hopefuls snapped up $100 million worth of tickets ahead of tonight's Mega Millions drawing, pushing the jackpot to $640 million from $540 million on Thursday.

The 11 p.m. ET drawing could provide a lucky ticket holder with a lump-sum, pretax payoff of $462 million. After taxes, the payout is a still-whopping $324 million.

From Vermont to Louisiana and New York to California, the jackpot has been the wistful talk of TV, social media sites, office water coolers and dreamy high rollers for the past week, electrifying ticket sales with a frenzy likely to amp up even further this afternoon and into the evening.

"We're holding our heads in disbelief,'' says Virginia lottery director Paula Otto, who may deploy some sales officials to assist retailers with today's ticket buying onslaught.

The pot has grown nearly $300 million since Tuesday's Mega Millions drawing failed to draw a top prize winner for the 18th consecutive time since late January.

"It's uncharted territory," says Buddy Roogow, director of the Washington D.C., lottery, which issued a commemorative "I Played The World's Largest Jackpot" ticket this week. A typical Mega Millions drawing sells 250,000 tickets in the nation's capital. "Friday, the real frenzy sets in," says Roogow, who expects ticket sales of 1 million. » | Gary Strauss | USA TODAY | Friday, March 30, 2012

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Fast jeder 13. Schweizer lebt unter Armutsgrenze

Immer mehr Menschen sind auf vergünstigte Lebensmittel angewiesen. In Caritas-Märkten ist der Umsatz seit 2006 stetig gestiegen. Letztes Jahr lag er zum ersten Mal bei über 9 Millionen Franken. In der Schweiz ist arm, wer mit weniger als 2200 Franken im Monat auskommen muss.

Tagesschau vom 29.03.2012
Record Mega Millions Jackpot Creates Ticket-buying Frenzy

Read the article here | CNN Wires Staff | Friday, March 30, 2012

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Thursday, 29 March 2012

UK Is Back in Recession, Says OECD

Britain has plunged back into a recession, as the economy continued to shrink in the first three months of the year, according to a leading global authority.

Read the article and comment here | Emma Rowley | Thursday, March 29, 2012
US Lottery Set for World-record Payout

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: The odds of winning are as infinitesimally small as the prize is astronomically large. But a one in 176 million chance has proved good enough for many Americans, who are frantically buying lottery tickets in the hopes of netting half a billion dollars in the world’s largest-ever lottery jackpot.

The Mega Millions fortune is now worth $500 million (£300 million) after a series of rollovers, blasting through the previous record of $390 million, which was eventually split between two winners in 2007.

If a single winner matches all six numbers on Friday they can opt to take their fortune in a single lump sum or else settle for annual payments of a mere $19 million (£12 million).

Unlike most European lotteries the Mega Millions is subject to tax, so a lump sum winner would only take home $359 million - a figure roughly equivalent the economy of Tonga.

By British standards, the winner would fall a little short of the Queen on the rich list but comfortably ahead of Sir Elton John, Sir Mick Jagger and the Beckhams. Tourists are entitled to buy the tickets, but foreigners cannot purchase them online from overseas. Read on and comment » | Raf Sanchez | Washington | Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Related here and here

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mega Millions Lottery Game at Record $476 Million Jackpot

USA TODAY: ATLANTA (AP) – It's almost unimaginable. No one picked the six correct numbers in the latest multi-state Mega Millions lottery game, sending the jackpot to a record $476 million for the Friday drawing.

Tuesday night's jackpot was $363 million, fed by weeks of drawings without a top winner. The previous record jackpot in the Mega Millions game was $390 million in 2007, split by two winners in New Jersey and Georgia. » | AP | Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Related »

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Stupidity Warning! George Osborne 'Can't Remember' Eating in Greggs amid Ridicule over Pasty Tax

George Osborne has been mocked by MPs over his “pasty tax” after it emerged people could avoid paying VAT on hot baked goods if they wait for them to cool in the shop.

Read the article and comment here | Rowena Mason | Political Correspondent | Tuesday, March 27, 2012,
Mega Millions Lottery Jackpot Soars to $363 Million

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Mega Millions jackpot has climbed to $363 million, and if a winning number is drawn Tuesday night, the lucky ticket holder will be able to choose a cash option payout of $259.8 million, California lottery officials said.

When the drawing occurs at 8 p.m., ticket holders will be vying for the third-largest Mega Millions jackpot of all time, according to KTLA-TV.

The total is rapidly approaching the state record, a $390 million payout won in March 2007. » | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mega Millions »
Royal Mail Refuses to Rule Out £1 First-class Stamp

The price of stamps could continue to rise sharply, with Royal Mail refusing to rule out an eventual £1 charge for a first-class stamp.

Read the article here | James Hall, Consumer Affairs Editor | Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Abu Dhabi Royals Involved in RBS Talks: Sources

REUTERS.COM: Talks to sell a stake in Britain's state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) are being held at the level of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

A source familiar with the matter said Amanda Staveley, a businesswoman notable for her Middle Eastern connections, was advising the emirate's rulers.

"The talks have been going on for six months, and nothing is likely to materialize for the next few months," the source said, adding that Abu Dhabi could end up with a stake of more than a third, though it has not decided which of its entities would hold the stake.

Staveley played a prominent role in Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan's 2008 investment in another British bank, Barclays (BARC.L).

A senior banker told Reuters that the oil-rich emirate's sovereign wealth funds were not involved in talks at this stage.

"It's happening higher up," the banker said, adding that a deal could fall apart on price grounds. Two other banking sources also said that a deal, if it happened, would be struck at a government-to-government level.

"Abu Dhabi is always talking to parties to invest, including RBS. Whether it will materialize or not is too early to say," a source close to the royal family said on condition of anonymity. » | Stanley Carvalho and Mirna Sleiman | ABU DHABI/DUBAI | Tuesday, Mar 27, 2012

About Amanda Staveley, the deal-making queen:

LONDON SPECTATOR: Dealmaking Queen Amanda Staveley Marries Her Prince » | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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Friday, 23 March 2012

Budget 2012: A Slap in the Face for Decent People

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: He has eroded their savings, and now he’s scrapping the age-related allowance – but has George Osborne underestimated the anger of middle-income pensioners with his Budget?

What on earth was the Treasury thinking, as it busily leaked details of the Budget left, right and centre while failing to alert anyone to the biggest revenue-raising measure of all? George Osborne talked about the abolition of age-related allowances, which will cost some pensioners several hundred pounds a year, as a “tax simplification”. Did he think the over-65s would be grateful? Or did he just not think about the position of decent middle-income pensioners at all?

Whatever the truth, it is certainly the case that this “stealth tax” has upset a very important political group. Judging by the emails and phone calls I have already received, there is widespread anger out there.

The Chancellor’s decision to reduce the real value of older people’s personal allowances means they will have to pay more tax than would otherwise be the case. For future pensioners, the impact will be to reduce their income by around £250 a year. This only affects the middle classes – the four and a half million or so older people who did put some money by for their future. Around half of pensioners have incomes below £10,000 a year and aren’t affected, as they pay no tax. The highest income pensioners are also unaffected, as the age allowance is withdrawn once incomes rise above about £24,000 a year.

It is those with incomes between about £10,500 and £24,000 a year – the “squeezed middle” – who have just been squeezed some more. These are people who saved to provide themselves with a decent income in retirement; not a lavish lifestyle, but enough to enable them to look after themselves and their families. So it is from this particular group that the Chancellor intends to take over £1 billion a year in extra tax.

These are the very people who have already been hit by the recent policy of ultra-low interest rates, which took away much of the savings income they had been expecting to live on. And then the Bank of England’s money-printing, gilt-buying spree – called quantitative easing – hurt them again as it led to high inflation and falling annuity rates, as well as hitting people in income drawdown very hard, too. Many of these pensioners feel they have already suffered a series of stealth raids on their incomes and they were outraged that the Chancellor announced so casually yesterday that he was piling on yet more pain. Read on and comment » | Ros Altmann | Thursday, March 22, 2012

My comment:

Excellent article!

George Osborne has shown that he and his cronies have nothing but contempt for all the little people. For this public school cabal, if you are not mega-rich and probably working in the financial sector, you're worthless. The little people be damned; we're going to look after the fat cats.

One of the things that troubles me greatly is the ultra-low interest rates which we now have. For pensioners and those dependent on generating an income from their savings, this is a catastrophe.
These idiots believe that capitalism is about rewarding the high earners with ever more tax breaks and bonuses. They seem to have little understanding that paying interest on accumulated capital in the form of savings belongs every bit as much to capitalism as rewarding risk-takers.

Any responsible government should be rewarding savers. People who save can look after themselves on rainy days and in retirement. Financially-independent people are not going to become a burden on the state. This budget did nothing for savers; in fact, it sent out the message that saving is a worthless pursuit.

The day of reckoning will surely come for this reckless and irresponsible government. And it should be noted that I write as a lifelong Conservative voter. No more!
– © Mark

This comment also appears here

Related »
Granny Tax Backlash: Fury as Full Scale of Chancellor's Raid on Pensioners Emerges

MAIL ONLINE: Around 700,000 people turning 65 next year will be hit the hardest / The tax will take £3.5billion from more than 4.4million pensioners / Senior Tories say the move is the Chancellor's biggest blunder

The full extent of George Osborne’s stealth tax raid on pensioners was laid bare yesterday.

Around 700,000 people turning 65 next year will be hit the hardest – losing £323 annually with the end of age-related income allowances.

In all, the ‘granny tax’ will take £3.5billion from the pockets of more than 4.4million pensioners. Senior Tories have denounced it privately as the Chancellor’s biggest blunder.

The new rules are so arbitrary that some OAPs will lose far more than others born a day before them.

Ros Altmann of Saga said: ‘Middle-class pensioners are outraged. My inbox is full of angry emails from those who did save for their future but are now hit.

‘The message of this Budget is, don’t bother to save for the future and if you’re too old to work any more you don’t count.’ Read on and comment » | Tim Shipman and James Coney | Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Iranian Banks Stopped from Using Swift System

Iran's banks and other institutions have been stopped from using the Swift system to make or receive payments. SWIFT is The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication

Portuguese to Strike over Austerity Measures

Portugal is preparing for a general strike, as trade unions try to rally opposition to the government's austerity measures. The Portuguese economy is mired deep in recession, as many economists predict it will follow Greece and have to ask European partners for a second emergency bailout. A group of activists have made a protest video, in which they say the government's austerity measures are threatening the social gains of the past 35 years. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports from Lisbon.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Budget 2012: Ed Miliband's Response

Labour leader accuses government of unveiling a millionaires' budget and says it marks the end of 'we are all in it together'

Budget 2012: Smokers Hit as Duty on Tobacco Up 37p

The Chancellor George Osborne has revealed that duty on all tobacco products will rise by 5% above inflation - adding 37p on a packet of cigarettes.

My comment:

What a pathetic little man Osborne is. Has he no original thoughts of his own? He knows damn well that raising the cost of cigarettes will not decrease the amount smoked; rather, it will make the poor, poorer. The rich, of course, can continue to smoke till the smoke comes out of their gills – the price increase simply won't affect them.

Smokers fund much of the NHS, and Osborne knows it. Osborne has no interest in prolonging people's lives. He does have an interest in collecting more taxes, though.

Pathetic man, pathetic budgetary move.
– © Mark

This comment also appears here
Budget 'for the Rich', Say Critics

BELFAST TELEGRAPH: The Government has been accused of producing a Budget "of the rich, for the rich", as reaction varied from support for the business measures to outrage from union leaders.

Rail union leader Bob Crow said the tax changes meant that a banker on half a million pounds will receive a "kick back" of £17,500, money "robbed" from public services and the neediest in society.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: "The different treatment of people at either end of the income scale is stark. Ordinary families are losing their tax credits and child allowances and suffering pay freezes while people on top salaries of £150,000 to £1 million a year are getting cash hand outs." » | Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Saudi Arabia Sends Tankers to US with Pledge to Bring Down Oil Price

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Saudi Arabia has pledged to take action to lower the high price of oil, which has risen to around $125 a barrel, with laden supertankers set to arrive in the US in the coming weeks.

Saudi Arabia said yesterday it will work "individually" and with the other petrol-rich Gulf states to return prices to "fair" levels.

The country indicated earlier this year that $100 a barrel was the ideal oil price.
The price of oil slid this morning in London as a result, with Brent crude trading down as much as 1pc at $124.40.

Oil prices have climbed to $127 a barrel this year, just $20 short of their all-time high, as tighter Western sanctions on Iran threaten to choke off the country's exports.

Prices also took a hit this morning after China increased retail fuel prices for the second time in two months, increasing concern that demand in the country - the world's second-largest oil consumer after the US - will decline. » | Telegraph staff and agencies | Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Niall Ferguson: Oil Could Reach $200

Niall Ferguson, historian and author of Civilization, tells Robert Miller that the Middle East political unrest could push the price of oil to $200 a barrel.

Golden Age for Gold Is Behind

RT.COM: Precious metals may loose their lustre as an investment as futures experience the sharpest drop in two months.

Gold shed 0.46% and silver lost 0.92% in Tuesday trade. Gold for April was down $11.90, or 0.7%, at $1,655.70 per ounce in Comex trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Investors’ expectations of further monetary easing around the world along with a sluggish economy growth outlook pushed cash gold prices up 14% earlier this year to near $1,800 per ounce. But positive data from the US showing signs of recovery and a decrease of risk in the euro-zone debt crisis undermined the appeal of gold as an investment destination. » | Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, 19 March 2012

Toll Roads to Cover Britain

DAILY EXPRESS: MOTORISTS face tolls and pay-as-you drive schemes under a radical plan for privately owned roads to be ¬unveiled today by David Cameron.

The Prime Minister will say Britain’s “second-rate” road system desperately needs a huge injection of private-sector investment.

The Treasury can no longer afford to keep funding improvements and repairs to motorways and trunk roads, he will admit.

But the plans are likely to provoke an angry response. They could add hundreds of pounds a year to the cost of motoring at a time when drivers already face soaring petrol and diesel prices and crippling fuel duties and road tax.

Motoring organisations last night warned of a backlash, claiming the move was a return to “19th century turnpikes”. » | Macer Hall | Monday, March 19, 2012

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Wishing all my Irish visitors a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day. May the luck of the Irish be with you!

WIKI: St. Patrick’s Day »
Five Minutes with Sir Richard Branson

Friday, 16 March 2012

Neue Lotterie lockt mit Millionen-Gewinnen

Der EuroJackpot – die neue Lotterie für Europa »

LottoLand »
Egemen Bagis: 'Europe Needs Turkey'

Turkey's chief EU negotiator explains why his country wants to join an EU in the midst of a deepening economic crisis.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Breakingviews: Muppets or clients?

Rob Cox and Breakingviews columnists discuss the implications of a public resignation in the 'New York Times' of a Goldman Sachs banker.

I Quit! Goldman Sachs and Other Famous Resignations - Rough Cuts

The scathing New York Times op-ed by a Goldman Sachs executive about his resignation set the newsroom a buzz this morning. In this edition of Rough Cuts, Reuters’ Jen Rogers shares some of the most memorable moments in calling it quits. (March 14, 2012)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

THE NEW YORK TIMES: TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief. » | Greg Smith* | Wednesday, March 14, 2012

* Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

TELEGRAPH – BLOGS – IAIN MARTIN: A knee in the nuts that means serious trouble for Goldman Sachs: In the New York Times there is an absolutely devastating attack on the culture of Goldman Sachs, by one of its senior executives. He announces that he is resigning today because he has had it with the firm's alleged practices. He criticises the way in which one of the world's largest and most important investment banks now looks after the interests of its clients. ¶ This is what is known as a public relations disaster. » | Iain Martine | Wednesday, March 14, 2012

THE GUARDIAN: Goldman Sachs director quits 'morally bankrupt' Wall Street bank: Greg Smith resigns as executive director of Goldman's European equity derivatives business after devastating attack » | Juliette Garside and Jill Treanor | Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Forbes List: JK Rowling Fortune Under Vanishing Spell

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, has dropped out of the world's exclusive billionaires' club as a result of Britain's high tax regime, the Forbes magazine rich list disclosed on Wednesday

Having been feted as one of the world's richest women in 2011, she saw her fortunes depleted to such an extent that she is no longer a dollar billionaire, meaning she has less than £640 million in the bank.

The decline in the spending power of Britain's rich emerged as the global number of billionaires rose to 1,226, and their combined wealth went up to a record $4.6 trillion (£2.9 trillion), despite the impact of the world economic crisis.

Among them are 37 British billionaires, an increase of five since last year, headed by the Duke of Westminster, who is worth $11 billion (£7 billion).

Forbes, which has produced an annual list of billionaires for the past 25 years, said that Miss Rowling's declining fortune was the result of her charitable giving, which had left a significant dent in her bank balance, along with the heavy taxation burden levied on high earners in Britain. Business leaders have warned for some time of the impact of the 50p top rate of tax on entrepreneurship and wealth creation.

Last year Miss Rowling was estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, with the bulk of her money coming from her books and the Harry Potter film franchise. Read on and comment » | Rosa Prince | New York | Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Brazil ‘Overtakes UK’s Economy’

BBC: Brazil has become the sixth-biggest economy in the world, the country's finance minister has said.

The Latin American nation's economy grew 2.7% last year, official figures show, more than the UK's 0.8% growth.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and other economic forecasters also said that Brazil had now overtaken the UK.

The Brazilian economy is now worth $2.5tn (£1.6tn), according to Finance Minister Guido Mantega. » | Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fracking Could Ruin Ireland Warn Experts

The windswept hills of Ireland are believed to be sitting on a treasure trove of natural gas. One company wants to use a controversial drilling technique - called fracking - to get it out but critics says the process would damage the environment. Al Jazeera's Simon McGregor-Wood reports from Leitrim county in Ireland.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Millions Are Set to Flee Pension Poverty in UK

DAILY EXPRESS: THE pension crisis could force millions of older workers into a “grey flight” out of the UK because they cannot afford to retire at home.

With less than half the 24 million- strong workforce saving for old age, many will be hit by a huge slump in living standards when they stop earning.

They face high inflation, soaring energy bills and falling annuity payments. Many private sector workers have been locked out of generous final salary pensions in the run-up to retirement.

But instead of facing poverty in Britain, they will abandon family and friends and move abroad to make ends meet, pension experts warned yesterday.

Steve Wilkie, retirement specialist at Responsible Equity Release, said: “We are teetering on the edge of a retirement abyss. Forget the brain drain, this is the grey drain. Britain is not a Third World country but tell that to the millions approaching retirement with little or no savings, facing the rest of their lives on a paltry state pension. Read on and comment » | Sarah O’Grady | Saturday, March 03, 2012

Friday, 2 March 2012

Germany's Iron Lady behind the EU Bailout Plan

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has become the most powerful politician in Europe. Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer reports from Berlin.

The 0.01 Per Cent: The Rising Influence of Vested Interests in Australia

THE MONTHLY: The rising influence of vested interests is threatening Australia’s egalitarian social contract.

A decade ago, as I waited for my order outside a Maroochydore fish and chip shop, a tall, barefoot young man strolled past wearing a T-shirt that read: ‘Greed is good. Trample the weak. Hurdle the dead.’ Those brutal lines seemed to encapsulate what was then a growing sense of unease in Australia. The world of my Queensland childhood, governed by its implicit assumptions of equality and mutual care, was being driven from sight by a combination of ruthless individualism and unquestioning materialism. Looking out for number one was not only tolerated but encouraged by a government whose agenda, particularly in industrial relations, seemed very far from the social contract, based on a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work with a decent social safety net for the vulnerable, that had served our nation so well for so long.

Today, when a would-be US president, Mitt Romney, is wealthier than 99.9975% of his fellow Americans, and wealthier than the last eight presidents combined, there’s a global conversation raging about the rich, the poor, the gap between them, and the role of vested interests in the significant widening of that gap in advanced economies over the past three decades.

This is a debate Australia too must be part of. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a nation that’s more equal than most – a place where, if you work hard, you can create a better life for yourself and your family. Our egalitarian spirit is the product of our history and our national character, as well as the institutions and safeguards built up over more than a century. This spirit informed our stimulus response to the global financial crisis, and meant we avoided the kinds of immense social dislocation that occurred elsewhere in the developed world.

But Australia’s fair go is today under threat from a new source. To be blunt, the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy. We see this most obviously in the ferocious and highly misleading campaigns waged in recent years against resource taxation reforms and the pricing of carbon pollution. The infamous billionaires’ protest against the mining tax would have been laughed out of town in the Australia I grew up in, and yet it received a wide and favourable reception two years ago. A handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia’s future to satisfy their own self-interest.

So I write this essay to make a simple point: if we don’t grow together economically, our community will grow apart. Read on and comment » | Wayne Swan | The Monthly | The Monthly Essays | March 2012
Petrol Prices Hit Record High

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Petrol prices have reached a new record level today, hitting 137.44 pence a litre.

The latest increase has seen the price of unleaded rise by just over three pence since the start of the year addding £1.50 to the cost of filling a family car.

This time last year, unleaded was seven pence a litre cheaper and filling up £3.50 less.
The owner of an average family car with a 50-litre tank is now paying £68.72 to fill up; owners of some larger "Chelsea Tractors" will have to find more than £100.

Motorists are likely to face even higher prices within weeks the industry warned, with unleaded bursting past the 142 pence a litre barrier and diesel up to nearly 150 pence.

With the Chancellor set to increase fuel duty in August by around three pence, drivers could be having to find at least another £4 to fill up the tank of a family car by the end of the summer. » | David Millward, Transport Editor | Friday, March 02, 2012

My comment:

This is scandalous! But we shouldn't be surprised. Osborne has already told us that the government is skint; so he's looking for ways to increase the tax burden. He's shameless! I wouldn't trust that man further than I could throw him. – © Mark

This comment appears here, too.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Hollande will höhere Reichensteuer (Tagesschau, 1.3.2012)

Vor wenigen Tagen hat François Hollande für Aufsehen gesorgt: Der Präsidentschaftskandidat der französischen Sozialisten will die Steuern für Reiche auf 75 Prozent anheben. Für seinen Vorschlag erntet er von Konkurrent Sarkozy Häme. Und auch die Reichen sind nicht begeistert, wie die «Tagesschau» zeigt. Sie wandern ab – viele davon in die Schweiz.

Irish Leaving Country to Work Abroad

This year, more people will leave the Ireland to find work than at any time since the 1980s. Al Jazeera's Simon McGregor-Wood reports from County Donegal.

Pawnbrokers Prosper Amid Greece Crisis

As many people across Greece feel the effects of the global economic crisis, pawnbrokers, on the other hand, have been prospering financially in the country. An increasing number of Greeks have been forced to pawn many of their belongings to get by.

Happy St. David’s Day! | Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my Welsh visitors a very Happy St. David’s Day! Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus i chwi gyd!

WIKI: Saint David’s Day »

The Last Welsh Martyr »

GUARDIAN – WORD OF MOUTH BLOG: St David's Day: recipes for a feast »
Ben Bernanke Defends Low Interest Rates

In his semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, defends his strategy to keep interest rates near a record low until 2014. Unemployment rates in the US have gone down from 9.1% in August 2011 to 8.3% in January 2012. Bernanke says the economy has to strengthen to ensure the unemployment rate keeps falling