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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Road Trip From Hell

Google's Chinese Traffic Jam
Just imagine, you're driving cross-country for the weekend, a simple journey of 100km on a multi-lane highway.

You've packed some fruit and crisps, some fizzy drink and charged up the iPod, ready for the road ahead.

But as you hit the heavy traffic, you wonder whether you made a mistake. By the time you are ensnarled in a long tail of non-budging traffic, your thoughts are on escape.

At this point, many of you might want to turn around and head back. But in the case of these thousands of Chinese drivers, turning around is NOT an option - they have been stuck on the highway for more than nine days. Read the full story here: China's 100km long traffic jam

They have been caught up in a traffic jam since 14th August and it is expected to last until the END OF SEPTEMBER.

Of this such Hollywood movies are made. And insanity. And a fervent, pathological hatred of fruit, crisps, fizzy drink, your iPod and the stinking, sweaty friends you were travelling with.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Barclays Bank - Payrolling the Burmese Junta

Augn San Suu Kyi

So it seems the unethical bank hasn't just been providing financing for Mugabe in Zimbabwe - it has been helping to line the pockets of the people who are keeping freedom fighter (and democratically elected president) Aung San Suu Kyi locked up under house arrest.

Now, it has been discovered that Barclays Bank has been providing money to government officials and businesses. In embarrassment and as quietly as possible, it has agreed to pay £190m fines for breaching US sanctions against Burma.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'It's a disgrace that Barclays has been violating US sanctions and doing business in Burma. Foreign financial services are helping Burmese generals to loot the country's natural wealth and to fund a military accused of committing horrendous crimes against humanity.'

General Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions in Burma (FTUB) Maung Maung said: 'My country is the worst place in the world to be a worker. The regime uses slave labour, rape, and torture to stay in power. Unions are banned and the jails are overflowing with those who have dared to speak out.

'With sham elections happening in November, the military looks like being there for decades to come - especially if foreign financial institutions are keeping them afloat.'

This scandal must be a wake-up call for the UK Government. We already know that insurance syndicates within Lloyds of London have been doing business in Burma, and now Barclays. What else has the City of London been up to? Why is the UK government allowing its already fat cat bankers to get away with such appalling breaches of human rights?

The bank had been charged with breaking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act between 1995 and 2006.

Well, there was another multi-national corporation doing dodgy things in other countries, which also had an eagle for its logo:

The Nazis

Barclays Bank

Monday, August 09, 2010

Loose Change: Halifax backs up my earlier post

Well folks, you mocked me for my "how to save £264 a year" post earlier this year, but it is clear from this press release from The Halifax that yours truly is not so silly after all.

£42.9million down the back of Britain's Sofas
New research from Halifax reveals that Brits are not looking after the pennies when it comes to making the most of loose change. Two thirds of Brits (65%) regularly find loose change in a variety of places which could be put to better use.

With the average Brit thinking they have £1.61 in loose change down the back of the sofa, we could literally be sitting on £42.9million across the nation*.

Loose Change League Table

Unsurprisingly, pockets top the loose change league table with two fifths (39%) of Brits regularly finding loose change in them. This is closely followed by loose change lurking at the bottom of a bag (36%), in the car (27%) and down the back of the sofa (23%). (See table 1)

The research revealed that the highest value of loose change is likely to be found in a desk drawer (£3.59), closely followed by pockets (£3.38) and in the car (£2.44).

Brits also estimate they have an average total of £17.69 floating around in these places. This amount falls to £15.43 for women but rises to £21.03 for men.

Bend it like Britain

When it comes to picking up money in the street, the average minimum amount Brits would pick up is 50p (£0.54) However, this rises to 61p for men, where as women will stop to pick up an average of 47p.

Younger generations will only stoop for higher amounts compared to older generations. For example, those aged 25-34 years would bend down for a minimum of 87p compared to those over 65 years who would stop to pick up an average minimum of 24p.

Out in the regions, stooping snobbery comes in to play with residents in Yorkshire and the Humber bending for an average minimum of 94p compared to their neighbours in the North East, who will pick up a minimum average of 24p.

However, two thirds of Brits (66%) said if they saw a penny lying in the street, they would pick it up for good luck. This rises to three quarters of women (73%) but falls to three fifths of men (58%). Residents in Wales are most likely to pick up a penny (78%) with those in London most likely to leave it lying in the street (53%).

Jam it in a Jar

It does still appear that Brits like to save their coins with three quarters (74%) keeping their loose change in a set place, such as a jar. For half (47%) of hoarders, the coins are mainly coppers, with a fifth (17%) storing mainly silver coins and just 5% reserving it for £1 or £2 coins. A third (30%) said they save any coins.

Flavia Palacios Umana, Head of Products, Halifax Savings, said: "These figures prove that we should no longer ignore our loose change but manage these small sums more wisely. The old saying 'take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves' continues to be firmly the case. We need to recognise this, instead of leaving our loose change languishing down the back of the sofa."