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Posts Tagged ‘World News’

An open letter to Britain and the Netherlands

Inspired by McSweeney’s and an economic situation in world news which has irked me so, I decided to write the following:

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Dear Britain and the Netherlands,

On Saturday 6th, I read here that Iceland would be having a referendum vote. The vote would assess public opinion as to whether the Icelandic people should be responsible for paying back 3.8 bn euros (£3.4 bn) following the collapse of the Icesave Online bank. 340,000 British and Dutch clients were compensated, following the collapse, and now their respective countries want their money back; a ‘repayment scheme’ was the outcome of this. The scheme, however, would mean that every Icelandic citizen would need to contribute 99 euros a month for eight years at an interest rate of 5.5% expected to kick in on the eighth year of the scheme.

The reason I am writing is that I wanted to share a recent news story that I encountered on March 3rd. The Daily Express broke the story, ‘Ticket Tyrants even target flooded cars’. The River Ouse in York had broken its banks and overflown into the city centre, causing cars to move from their original parking places. When the flood had subsided, local council parking attendants had ‘awarded’ these sodden cars with tickets. Interviewed about the tickets, a council spokesperson claimed to be unaware of the flood, and suggested that affected drivers would need to give proof that their car had been moved by the river in order for the council to rebuke the fines. The council have been criticised for not having more “compassion”.

Anyone who has had a ticket will know – and I don’t because I cannot drive, but am assured – that appealing ticket fines is often a fruitless endeavour involving far too much effort with no guarantee of appeal. Moreover, if your appeal IS declined – and chances suggest it WOULD be – appealees must then pay the full fine rather than the reduced fee for having paid in a speedy manner. The outcome of this is that often, people end up paying the fee just to make life easier and because they feel that they have no other option.

So, what is the relevance of my mentioning this story?

Whilst I don’t blame the Icelandic government for suggesting such a radical payment scheme to you – I’m sure they considered it the ONLY solution they had to restore their reputation and thus raise their economic status at this time – I don’t agree with the way you have gone about coming to this conclusion, nor indeed the conclusion itself. You have forced the hand of Iceland by blocking their EU application, and worst still, immorally used the anti-terrorism act in order to block Iceland’s bank activity. And thus the relevancy is revealed: Yes. In this instance, you are to Iceland as the ticket attendant is to the owners of those cars, moved out of no fault of their own. The Icelandic people should NOT have to personally foot the bill following the decline of a bank that HAPPENED to be working out of their country. A rise in tax by 99 euros a month is a sharp increase that the people ARE going to miss, particularly with the world in this global economic crisis. You would be asking citizens for money they cannot spare, particularly those made redundant. From a personal point of view, if the foot were on the other shoe and Britain were expected to pay £89.65 (99 euros based on the current euro to pound conversion rate), I wouldn’t be able to afford my study, would go into debt and not be able to live comfortably. Whichever way you look at it, these deductions are unfair.

At this time, I wish to implore you to consider a more compassionate alternative that doesn’t penalise the Icelandic people.

Yours Concernedly,

Sophia Ho Chee

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Disaster… Again…

On Saturday 27th February, 03:34 local time, Chile experienced an 8.8 magnitude earthquake followed by tsunami warnings. There have been 723 confirmed deaths thus far. To follow the humanitarian responses, and to perhaps give what you can to the Chilean people, follow this link or Google ‘Chile earthquake donate’.

Only a month prior, the world suffered a Haitian blow when a 7.0 Mw earthquake struck the small island, causing devastation. Even at work, the unions were imploring staff to give what they could, including poster input from myself as Comms Officer (minus icons and previously inserted email addresses): 2010 Haiti Earthquake Poster

At this point, I am thinking of creating a black poster with the white font words, ‘For God’s sake, do something!’ I read newspapers and troll news sites online and I am sad to say that I am somewhat desensitised to all the horrible things that happen to the world, and I am not the only one. People just like me roam the streets, ignoring the homeless, switching over the news to sweeter things and on the other side of the world, humans are being crushed under their houses. Ah, the great injustices of the world. However, now is a time for giving to those who need it. I’ll be donating. Will you?

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Alec Baldwin: Put a major oil company out of business

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alec-baldwin/put-a-major-oil-company-o_b_421021.html

So, as you might have guessed from my twitter, I have just recently discovered Alec Baldwin has his own blog via The Huffington Post, and so I am gorging on this currently.

Alec mentions (see the above link) his disappointment that the American Government are pushing for a health reform far more than other pressing issues and I wanted to discuss this here as it’s something that cannot be conveyed sufficiently via the medium of a 140 character twitter.

So, YES, the government are of course pushing for a health reform. It’s far more likely they will affect change and get support in that one area (in the short term) than support for energy changes (which involves far more work). Ideally, the Government SHOULD be chipping away at all key areas that need change, and who says they aren’t, but to think Obama and his minions are all Supermen – and women – capable of taking America out of the hole it has created for itself and making everything better in just four years is simply foolish. I imagine the Government figure that it’s better to tackle health first when it’s something that is comparatively ‘easily’ remedied leaving time and resources to work on the harder issues, rather than to put all their focus into one pot, marked ‘energy’. The unfortunate reality is that it will probably take a major and quantifiable shortage of oil before oil lobbies and executives change their ways, let alone allow alternatives onto the market other than themselves, and even then not without a fight. There is just too much demand and they are making too much money out of it currently. I mean, look at the electric car situation. Apparently, the technology is out there (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F) but alternatives are being shot down by organisations that monopolise the energy and trasportation market. So imagine Obama’s plight to encourage these same organisations to stop making so much money out of oil, and instead invest in wind, biomass or nucleur energy. Much like an addiction, America can’t even see they have an oil problem despite being the world’s biggest oil guzzlers. So, how do you encourage people to do what’s best for a country when they are too blinded by money that they assumed they WERE doing it already by way of supply and demand? If only we could put America into Rehab and cut them off cold turkey. It is, unfortunately, never that simple. Particularly so because it’s not simply the actions of oil companies who are to blame for America’s abuse of oil. It’s the food markets who import from halfway across the world when they could use products from their own country, it’s companies who use oils to create packaging and it’s the public who choose to be oil dependent.

That’s not to say that the energy issue is a hopeless one, or indeed that Obama et al are wasting their time by pursuing a better health care system. On the contrary. They have to get this right, and right now. Health is one of those issues where both parties can see the negative effect that not having an adequate system in place is bringing unto the voters in their constituencies. And if they don’t, I am sure they receive plenty letters to inform them as such to the tune of ‘I have cancer but can’t afford treatment’.

In summation, my assessment is that writing a Huffington post about changes that need to happen with regards to energy is like preaching to the converted. Bear in mind the people that read the Huffington Post are liberals who are quite aware of the issues and are probably anti-war, probably cycle, take the bus, eat less meat, etc, all for the cause of reducing the CO2 footprint and using less energy. The people that need to be reached are the ‘Average Joes’, with their four-by-fours, driving a block to get their one-litre bottles of Mountain Dew and the parents that allow their children to go to unnecessary wars. If you garner support from these people, then you should have the support of the masses. And what reaches these people, far more than public service announcements, advertisements and pie charts? Famous-actor centric comedy shows and soaps of course! Scrubs, for instance, have made such light work of breaching the health insurance issue. Every other episode touches on a patient without health insurance and people take it seriously because by making it into an episode, using likeable characters of every age, gender and race, Scrubs have put a face to the issue and made it incredibly personal. So, how about Baldwin making an appearance in such shows as General Hospital or The Bold and the Beautiful discussing energy issues in a way that would get through to people… Or we could bring back Hank Hill for one episode looking at how the lack of propane gas has affected him, his family and pals… Or someone could make an Independence Day-style film, set in a world where humans have consumed every last drop and the Average Joe is fighting with their neighbour because they have to WALK to the nearest store, only to find they’ve run out of soda with no view to getting anymore, ever, probably starring Will Smith, Willie Nelson, Tina Fey, Jake Gyllenhaal and Miley Cyrus…

Baldwin, get writing!

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This Week in the News: Week Beginning 11/01/2010

On Wednesday, I picked up The Telegraph and was met with the front page title, ‘Immunity for MPs who repay expenses‘. The article informed me that the Government had made secret Parliamentary deals to protect MP identities involved in the ‘expense fraud’ shenanigans from being divulged to the public; MPs involved would be expected to pay back any inappropriately requested expenses and privately apologise to the Committee of Standards and Privileges.

Whilst I agree that this method is apt where, as John Lyon of the Committee reported in the above article, “there was no clear evidence that the breach [of Commons rules] was intentional and it was at the less serious end of the spectrum”, I also believe that MPs, as with other public services, have a responsibility to their constituencies to act in a transparent way where public funding is concerned.

I am not alone in this assertion. Apparently, Gordon Brown thinks so too – at least in the name of garnering allies in the populace. Regardless, back in April of 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Commons leader, Harriet Harman announced plans to reform the expenses rules and allowances in exchange of a more simple and less generous system in a bid to return trust to the public and portray an image of openness. The proposals can be viewed respectively, here and here. As result of these proposals, MPs are required to publicise their financial allowances on the Parliament website and future breaches of expense rules promise imposed fines, prison time and penalties. This was a positive move by the Government towards good practice and learning their lessons, but if this breaking news of immunity is the case, it threatens to undo the positive progress made and to undermine our democracy.

In other news, disaster struck the Republic of Haiti on Tuesday 12th when a 7.0 Mw earthquake hit before 17:00 (local time) along with six recorded aftershocks. This has caused major damage to many buildings – including the National Palace and local infrastructure – and numerous deaths. The full scope of the disaster is unknown at this time with regards to the death toll. This is being assessed by authorities and volunteer aid. Unfortunately, it looks to be anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 people dead.

Children are without parents, local prisons have collapsed increasing danger to the vulnerable and many are still trapped under buildings. Those who have survived the ordeal walk and sleep in the streets of Haiti, fearing loss of building structure following the disaster. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and so the disaster has also meant a substantial blow to their economy. The nation are currently relying heavily on Humanitarian efforts such as donations from other countries and assistance in the form of volunteers to deliver supplies and to move building debris to recover survivors. Many of the main roads are also blocked by the debris, and so food, water, medicinal and shelter materials are slow to filter through to those who need it, not helped by looters who have reportedly been carjacking the supplies which have been able to make their way through to survivors. Troops from around the world are being deployed to Haiti to ensure the country maintains order.

With that in mind, to donate towards the Haitian “relief assistance”, you can follow one of the links located on the lower half of the Haiti ‘Earthquake Information and Emergency Response’ page, here, through Americares, DEC, Oxfam, MercyCorpsThe Salvation Army, Care, Doctors Without Borders, IOCC, UNICEF, PIH or via Google (thanks to NY Times, Haiti officials and Google for providing this comprehensive list of contributors). Alternatively, if you would like to use your love of things to benefit those in need, you can now buy items on Etsy from participating sellers and have the proceeds donated towards the Haiti disaster – at last, Capitalism without the guilt! Seriously though, please do help if you can.