Keep Counting…..

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‘I vaguely remember hearing psychologists say that there was a preponderance of psychopaths at the top of the corporate and political worlds, could that really be true?’

  • Jon Ronson ‘The Psychopath test’

Question: How many wars has America engaged in during the twentieth century and the twenty-first century and why is this relevant to the current situation in Syria? It isn’t, but lets list the number of militarised punch ups they’ve been engaged in anyway.

  1. The Occupation of Nicaragua.
    (1912–1933)
  2. Occupation of Haiti.
    (1915–1934)
  3. Occupation of the Dominican Republic
    (1916–1924)
  4. World War I
    (1917–1918)
  5. Russian Civil War
    (1918–1920)
  6. World War II
    (1941–1945)
  7. Korean War
    (1950–1953)
  8. Lebanon Crisis
    (1958)
  9. Bay of Pigs Invasion
    (1961)
  10. Simba Rebellion
  11. (1964)
  12. Dominican Civil War
    (1965–1966)
  13. Vietnam War
    (1965–1973[a], 1975[b])
  14. Multinational Force in Lebanon
    (1982-1984)
  15. Invasion of Grenada
    (1983)
  16. Tanker War
    (1987–1988)
  17. Invasion of Panama
    (1989–1990)
  18. Gulf War
    (1990–1991)
  19. Iraqi No-Fly Zones
    (1991–2003)
  20. Somali Civil War
    (1992–1995)
  21. Intervention in Haiti
    (1994–1995)
  22. Bosnian War
    (1994–1995)
  23. Kosovo War
    (1998–1999)
  24. War in Afghanistan
    (2001–2014)
  25. War in Afghanistan
    (2015–present)

The list is as impressive and as notable as the many accolades psychopathic gang leaders award themselves. Because lets face it, when human beings within an ordered society pick fights, the way America as a military power picks its fights, our reaction as law abiding citizens is to call the police. We only look on in awe if we aspire to be like the psychopathic thug who prefers to beat his victims to a pulp, rather than choosing to engage in some intelligent peaceful discourse.

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Folks who consider self-control to be an indication of character, intelligence and moral integrity don’t get excited at the notion of engaging in any social interaction with folks who don’t. The bottom line? I choose like most folks not to court the association of the blood thirsty, the amoral and the plain psychopathic. Would that the government I did not vote for would choose the same.

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Granted Americans are an intelligent people and an intelligent nation, but other equally intelligent nations like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have been left literally in pieces after America has finished waging their wars in them. As for the morality of extensive capitalising on the destruction of other nation states, by bringing in American companies to rebuild the infrastructure, if this was happening in Africa we would cry Kalebule (corruption) very loudly.

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But the whole point of these wars some would say, is to keep America safe. Well then, have all these conflicts created this result? Will the conflict in Syria create this result? The French are finding that there’s a personal cost associated with their involvement in the war in Syria that neither they nor anyone else could have anticipated. Will the Americans who inadvertently created ISIS and the British Prime Minister who wishes to partake of the ‘fun’ find any different?

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The Syrian Tragedy Versus Oil & Petroleum

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The Syrian oil industry took off in 1968, when the Karatchok oil field began production after a pipeline connecting it to the Homs refinery was completed, although Syria did not begin exporting oil until the mid-1980s. Although Syria is not a major oil exporter by Middle Eastern standards, according to the International Monetary Fund, oil sales for 2010 were projected to generate $3.2 billion for the Syrian government and account for 25.1% of the state’s revenue. 

Before the civil war the two main pillars of the economy were agriculture and oil, but since the civil war? Syria is heavily dependent upon the revenue it gets from its oil which is a pity. Particularly given the fact that ISIS now controls a third of Syrian territory, and as a consequence most of its oil and gas production. 

The Syrian government used to have business links to Anglo-Dutch Shell, the French oil and gas company Total, and the British oil and petroleum company Gulf Sands Petroleum. It also did oil and petroleum business with the American and Egyptian co-owned company Improved Petroleum Recovery (IPR).

Alas, President Assad’s brutal mistreatment of his people has put paid to these links for the time being.

Though not  to his business ties with Russia’s Stroytransgas and Soyuzneftegaz. 

In fact in July 2014 Tass, the Russian news agency reported that Stroytransgas had signed a $264 million deal with a Syrian state company for the first stage of a $2 billion project to irrigate farmland in the country’s north-east. The first stage of the project to comprise the construction of a pumping station near the country’s border with Turkey and Iraq. All this whilst President Assad battles ISIS and sundry other opposition groups for control of the country. impressive. 

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Now you may have noticed that although the focus of this post appears to be oil and petroleum production, the only images so far are of the same dead body. But I digress, so let the blog post continue! The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth and Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz signed an deal on oil and gas offshore exploration in the Syrian capital of Damascus on December 25, 2013. So, Soyuzneftegaz became the first foreign and Russian company which was granted the right for oil exploration, development and production at Block-2 in Syrian territorial waters.

The company believes that oil exploration in Block-2 will take no less than five years, Shafranik said in an interview with British news agency Reuters. Upon results of oil exploration the company will make a conclusion whether commercial oil production is expedient there.

“If there is no possibility of normalising the situation throughout the country at once, the situation should be stabilised gradually in regions where it is possible to conclude an agreement,” Reuters quoted Shafranik as saying.And once the situation in ‘patches’ of Syria has been achieved?

“Then humanitarian aid should be provided, and then we should move on to energy projects, removing obstacles to them including any sanctions slowing down the country’s economic recovery,” he added. Shafranik also dwelt on plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria. Shafranik sounds all heart to me (for a businessman) for once he’s accessed the oil he & his company are prepared to contemplate salving the wounds of Syria’s remaining populace. 

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Don’t you get the impression that although France, the United Kingdom, Egypt & America have lost out on oil and petroleum profits, as a consequence of the Syrian conflict, the Russians as ever, are sitting pretty? That state of affairs must really grate with the Americans, the French and the British. Particularly when one considers the situation in the Ukraine, with Russia’s Gazprom supplying over half of the Ukraine’s gas and 30% of Europe’s gas each year.There’s Chevron, Shell and Exxon Mobil all set to go shale gas exploring (that’s fracking to me and you) in Western Ukraine, when Russia invades the Crimea thereby throwing a spanner in the works. And now it would seem that Russia intends to further consolidate its presence in Syria.

Last week the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth cited Western diplomatic sources saying that Russia was on the verge of deploying “thousands” of troops to Syria to establish an airbase from which the Russian air force would fly combat sorties against Isil.

Those details appear to be backed by satellite images of a Russian base under construction near Latakia, according to anonymous intelligence officials quoted by several American newspapers. Moscow increasingly justifies its support for the Assad regime by pointing to the rise of violent jihadists in Syria. That’s right, just like the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Vladimir Putin is mightily concerned about the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. So much so that he has ‘put boots on the ground’ to protect the well-being of President Basher Al-Assad and the Syrian people, naturally.

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And whilst I’m at it, for the sake of decency I should include the Syrian casualty stats; 191,369,000 Syrians are estimated by the UN to have died up to and including August 2014, at least 5,000 of those deaths will have been children. Those who have so far drowned in the Mediterranean? They number 2,600 but the talk amongst nations is not truly about these casualties and it should be.

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Instead, the conversation is all about the oil and petroleum centred, geopolitical manoeuvrings of the self-same nations (America, the United Kingdom, France) who are supposed to be enthusiastically embracing sustainable energy and the impending Paris World Climate Summit. Cold war politics are firmly back on the menu, and next to that nothing, not the Syrian people, not even the eventual fate of the world counts.

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People Who Live Near Fracking Sites Suffer Higher Rates of Heart Conditions and Neurological Illnesses, Says Research

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People who live in fracking zones appear to suffer a higher rate of heart conditions and neurological illnesses, according to new research.

Although the US study was unable to determine a specific reason, it suggests there may be a link between drilling and ill health, scientists said.

Residents in high-density areas of fracking made 27 per cent more hospital visits for treatment for heart conditions than those from locations where no fracking took place, according to a new study of drilling in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2011.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within counties with higher well densities,” said Reynold Panettieri, professor of medicine at Penn University.

“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalisations.”

The findings revealed that cardiology and neurological in-patient prevalence rates were significantly higher in areas closer to active wells. Hospitalisations for skin conditions, cancer and urological problems also increased with proximity to wells.

Prof Panettieri cautioned that the study did not prove that fracking actually caused the health problems and said more research was needed to determine exactly what effect any pollution associated with the technique may be contributing to heart conditions or neurological illnesses.

But the significant increase in hospital visits observed relatively quickly after fracking began in an area “suggests that healthcare costs of hydraulic fracturing must be factored into the economic benefits of unconventional gas and drilling”, said the report, which is published in the journal PLOS One and also involved Columbia University in New York.

The highly controversial technique of fracking, that releases oil or gas from shale by blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into rock, is yet to be employed in the UK on a commercial scale. It is widespread in the US, however, where it has frequently been linked to groundwater and air pollution.

Yet a series of reports in the UK have concluded that the problems arising from fracking in the US are down to weak regulations and poor techniques. Advocates say that any fracking in the UK would be done safely, meaning residents will be shielded from the difficulties experienced by locals in the US.

But opponents of fracking – including the Scottish and Welsh Governments – argue that still far too little is known about the effects of the technique, and say more research needs to be done before it is deployed in the UK.

This latest report will be seen as further evidence that more research needs to be conducted before fracking is allowed in the UK – even though it does not get to the bottom of the causes of the health problems.

 

EU pays jobless migrants to come to Britain

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Unemployed migrants are being given thousands of pounds to find work in Britain under an EU scheme, The Telegraph can disclose.

It has emerged that the UK has taken a third of the young migrants involved in the “Your First EURES Job” programme.

Some 1,178 unemployed young people from the Continent have been found jobs, training or apprenticeships in Britain under the “jobs mobility” programme since it was set up in 2012.

That accounted for 34.7 per cent of the 3,387 jobs handed out so far, much higher than second place Germany, which has provided 659 placements. At the same time, just 25 Britons under 30 have found work under the scheme, less than 1 per cent of the total.

The scheme offers up to €5,000 (£3,500) in relocation expenses and course fees per participant. The average cost per head of the scheme was €1,818, according to official figures.

A report into the scheme acknowledged that it was moving people from economies of high unemployment to Britain.

“The high number of placements in the UK could be due to the dynamics of the UK labour market,” it said. “A high share of outgoing job finders in certain countries (Italy and Spain) mirrors the situation of the EU labour market, as these countries have high youth unemployment rates.

“Similarly to previous quarters, the UK remains the main country of destination.”

EU sources said British public bodies did not take part in the scheme, meaning there was a low uptake among the unemployed in this country.

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Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, claimed that the Government “has a grip” on the migration crisis in Calais. Downing Street defended David Cameron, who is on holiday within the UK, saying that he was due back at his desk on Thursday.

Mr Hammond said 100 additional guards would be on duty at the terminal in Calais while UK Border Force officials were due to start working inside theEurotunnel control room Monday night. “I think we have got a grip on the crisis. We saw a peak last week, since when the number of illegal migrants has tailed off,” he said.

“We have taken a number of measures in collaboration with the French authorities and Eurotunnel which are already having an effect and over the next day or two I would expect to have an even greater effect.”

The EU work scheme contains a generous programme of grants and reimbursements to encourage people to move.

They include travel allowances of up to €350 for distances of more than 500 miles, plus subsistence funds of up to €50 a day while undergoing interviews.

Participants can also claim up to €1,060 in relocation expenses to move to the UK, €1,270 for language training and €1,000 to have their qualifications recognised in a new country.

Jobseekers with special “socio-economic” or “geographical” needs can claim a further €500 in reimbursements.

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British businesses that employ people through the scheme can claim up to €1,060 in training and language allowances. In total, it means a single jobseeker could, in theory, cost the taxpayer more than €5,000 in handouts.

Jane Collins, the Ukip MEP who uncovered the figures, said the scheme was a poor deal for Britain. “It is a slap in the face to the young people all over the UK who are looking for work and whose taxes have been spent making their chances of employment less likely.”

Britain is facing increasing pressure from Brussels to take more immigrants and show “solidarity” with the rest of the EU.

Mina Andreeva, a European Commission spokesman, said the Calais crisis underlines why all EU member states should take part in a scheme that sought to resettle 40,000 migrants across the continent to ease the pressure on Italy and Greece. Britain has so far opted out of the scheme.

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Phil Woolas, a Labour immigration minister between 2008 and 2010, said the “mess” in Calais was “down to years of soft-minded liberalism and utter naivety”. He said that when in office, he was “frustrated” by how the Human Rights Act, introduced by his party, made it difficult to remove migrants to came to the UK.

Mr Woolas also blamed similar liberalism within the coalition government and by the French and said a detention centre should replace the camps at Calais to “send a signal”.

“If migrants knew they’d be locked up and deported when they got to Calais, they wouldn’t go,” he said.

The Government announced a series of measures over the weekend to tackle the problem, including tougher penalties for landlords who fail to check the immigration status of tenants.

John Keefe, public affairs director for Eurotunnel, welcomed the efforts by the Government to make the UK less attractive for migrants, but warned that they would not solve the immediate issue. He said there was a “major problem” now with the “5,000 or so migrants living and moving around the Calais area at will”.

New powers will also be made available to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants if they are in the country illegally, following a successful trial in the West Midlands.

But the effectiveness of the Government’s proposals was immediately disputed after Greg Clark, the Communities Secretary, could not say how many evicted illegal immigrants had been deported.

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association, said the policy could lead to illegal immigrants “barricading themselves in” and “defending themselves with all the force they can muster”.

“It could put people in potential danger. We need to think through the consequences of the kind of systems we are putting in to place,” he said.

All About The Benjamins: Coal, Pollution & Mine Inspectors In Appalachia

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In June 2013, mine operator and Kentucky state representative Keith Hall went to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet with a complaint.

Kelly Shortridge, a mine inspector with the Division of Mine Enforcement and Reclamation in Pikeville, had been soliciting Hall for bribes to ignore violations on Hall’s Pike County surface mines.

Hall told two cabinet officials that he had already paid Shortridge “a small fortune,” and that the mine inspector “liked the Benjamins.” A report was drawn up, forwarded to the cabinet’s investigator general and Secretary Len Peters, and went nowhere.

The FBI began investigating the matter when the Lexington Herald-Leader published Hall’s complaint report through an open records request. In June, Hall was found guilty of bribing Shortridge to ignore Hall’s safety and environmental violations.

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During the trial, the bureau submitted evidence that strongly suggests Keith Hall was not the only operator paying Kelly Shortridge. Shortridge himself has admitted to taking bribes from other Pike County operators.

So how deep does the conspiracy go? That’s the question many are asking in the wake of Hall’s trial. The Herald-Leader published a recent editorial that pointed out the familiar territory here:

This is not the first time questions have arisen about the Pikeville office of the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement where Shortridge, an inspector for 24 years, worked.

Other Pikeville-based inspectors allowed a surface mine (not owned by Hall) to operate without a permit for 18 months, until July 2010, when rain dislodged the unreclaimed mountain and flooded out about 80 families. One of the inspectors retired a month later.

Remember, too, that the division went years without penalizing coal companies for filing bogus water pollution reports by copying and pasting the same data, month after month.

This falsified water pollution data was only discovered after a coalition of environmental and citizen groups including Appalachian Voices discovered water monitoring reports that the department had neglected to review for over three years. The fact that the FBI had to find out about Hall’s allegations by reading the newspaper – and not through the cabinet itself – reveals a similar pattern of negligence.

How committed is the cabinet to enforcing Kentucky’s environmental and safety regulations around mining? The answer may lie in the phenomenally small salary that the state was paying Shortridge at the time of his 2014 resignation: $45,160 a year.

This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it speaks volumes about how our regulatory systems function, what they prioritize, and what motivates the individuals who operate within them. Shortridge was using his small salary, in addition to the bribes he was taking from Hall and others, to pay for his wife’s medical bills. It’s impossible to speculate about his personal character, but it does seem clear that he was responding to a specific set of material conditions in a way that most individuals on that kind of salary – and in that kind of position – very likely would.

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Without much incentive to enforce existing regulations, and knowing that it pays more to cozy up to the industry than to fight it, we really must ask: how many other Kelly Shortridges are out there? This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question to ask of a regulatory system that, at best, lacks the political capital and material resources to enforce violations, and, at worst, is overseen by the very mine operators it’s supposed to be regulating. (Before being voted out of office in 2014, Keith Hall was the vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.)

Finally, Keith Hall’s remark that Kelly Shortridge “liked the Benjamins” – an incredibly condescending statement from a man who once appropriated his own county’s coal severance tax to the benefit of one of his companies – is revelatory. It hints that there are boundaries to what is and what isn’t acceptable within relationships between the coal industry and the state: Shortridge was getting ambitious; his greed was somehow different than Hall’s. Keep in mind that this was confessed to two cabinet officials, mob-style, as if Shortridge was breaking a set of established rules. Hall needed Shortridge until he didn’t, and then sold him down the river when he became an annoyance.

Now that they’re both paying for breaking the rules, will Governor Steve Beshear’s administration adequately investigate further possible corruption? It unfortunately doesn’t look likely.

As the Herald-Leader editorial notes, “This should be a moment of truth, but history tells us not to expect an aggressive self-examination of the state agency’s love affair with the coal industry.”

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– See more at: http://appvoices.org/2015/07/30/a-moment-of-truth-for-kentuckys-coal-regulators/#sthash.oVZYbSbu.dpuf

Calais crisis: Screw British holidaymakers. What about the real victims?

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Frazzled British holidaymakers “desperately” trying to reach France for your annual sojourn, have no fear! Café Rouge in Canterbury is here. The chain is offering those stuck in Operation Stack on the M20 a free tea and slice of cake if they happen to be diverted towards Canterbury – you know because of all that unfortunate nonsense going on at Calais. Little ones eat free! And if the family phone still has battery after hours of “hell” on the motorway, you can tweet about the experience using the special hashtag #RouteRouge.

Pass the sick bucket.

I’m not making this up. And while I do have sympathy for anyone stuck in the traffic jam that’s cost UK industry millions, I’m reserving my compassion for a group who really could murder a slice of cake.

Just 21 miles from Britain there is a jungle. Or to give it its full name: Jungle Camp. This is where hundreds of displaced people from all over the world live in some of the most wretched conditions. Stuck in a no-man’s land in Calais, they are living in temporary cardboard structures and surviving on porridge made out of milk and soggy bread. Not that you will probably have paid them much attention over the last week.

calaisqueue The “Calais crisis” as it’s being referred to, is mostly being reported as a transport or business story. Actually, it’s a humanitarian timebomb. On Tuesday, one man died trying to get through the Channel Tunnel. We don’t know his name. He is the ninth this summer.

Among all the discussion of “secure fencing” and “delayed journeys”, our human compassion has deserted us. We have it in spades when we are reminded of suffering that doesn’t interfere with our holidays or freight:remember the collective horror earlier this year when desperate migrants had to be saved by gunboats in the Mediterranean? Where is it now?

Even the language that’s being used to describe the mostly male Eritreans, Ethiopians, Afghans and Sudanese trying to live in Europe is mechanical at best, and dehumanising at worst. Emergency government meetings are being held to ensure there is “upstream management of illegal migratory flows”. Excuse me? These are real people, with hearts, families and lest we forget it, human rights. What if they were children instead of young men? Would we feel differently?

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Moreover, we have very little idea if they are asylum seekers or economic migrants – because guess what? No one is engaging with them. Even a brilliant and emotional BBC Newsnight film filmed inside Jungle Campfailed to achieve full clarity when speaking to inmates.

We must also face the facts. The UK isn’t a soft touch when it comes to “letting everyone and anyone in”. According to the UN Refugee Agency, at the end of 2014, the population of refugees, pending asylum cases and stateless people made up just 0.24 per cent of the UK population. That’s 117,161 refugees, 36,383 pending asylum cases and 16 stateless people.We take fewer asylum seekers than many other countries. Turkey has the highest number at 1.6m, followed by Pakistan at 1.5m.

This country has a proud history when it comes to taking in the needy. Let’s not let ourselves down because we’re impatient for a holiday or a booze cruise. It’s time to see the bigger picture and stop the lamentable narrowing of our horizons. An island nation we might be, but that doesn’t have to mean our mentality must follow suit.

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Peter Sutherland – former chairman of corporate giant Goldman Sachs International, thinks the government’s reaction to Calais migrants is wrong

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Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General’s special representative on international migration and occasional strategic adviser to Goldman Sachs International (also former chairman he retired in June 2015), said the British reaction to the Calais crisis was “grossly excessive”.

In 2013, University College Dublin law school was renamed the Sutherland School of Law in his honour, following his financial contribution to the newly completed law teaching facility, the gentleman is clearly as respected as he is esteemed.

The great majority of migrants heading to Europe are genuine refugees, he said, and Britain receives far fewer applications for sanctuary than other European countries.

He said calls to stop economic migrants entering the UK are “a xenophobic response to the issue of free movement”.

He told the BBC: “In my opinion, the debate in the UK is grossly excessive in terms of Calais. We are talking here about a number of people – a relatively small number in the context of what other countries are having to do – who are in terrible conditions and have to be dealt with by France and/or Britain.”

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Thousands making the perilous boat voyage across the Mediterranean to reach southern Europe are “in the main” genuine refugees fleeing violence and persecution, he said.

Britain also receives far fewer asylum applications that other European countries, he said.

“Germany last year received 175,000 asylum applications. Britain received 24,000,” said Mr Sutherland.

David Cameron has faced criticism for referring to the thousands of migrants who are camped in Calais trying to get across the Channel as a “swarm”.

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Mr Sutherland said: “I think it is most unfortunate to create an image of hordes of people, when in reality the highest figure I have seen for the actual numbers in the so-called ‘jungle’ around Calais – the place where these unfortunate people are living – is 10,000.”

Kevin Hurley, police and crime commissioner for Surrey, earlier this week called for the 2nd Bn Royal Gurkha Rifles based just outside Hythe, Kent, to be deployed to make sure Britain’s border is secure.

Mr Sutherland said: “The first thing we have to do collectively is to deal with their conditions. Instead of talking about sending Gurkhas or building fences, we should be thinking of the humanitarian crisis.”

Mr Sutherland urged the UK to join the common European approach to the migrant issue, warning: “Anybody who thinks that by erecting borders or fences in some way a particular state can be protected from alleged ‘floods’ – which are anything but floods – of migrants is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

Mr Sutherland delivered his thoughts on this subject with an astounding gentleness, considering the decidedly aggressive approach he adopted, when establishing the World Trade Organisation in 1993.

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Perhaps his approach has softened with age, the gentleman who elevated the role of the World Trade Organisation, so that it dealt personally with presidents and prime ministers as opposed to just ministers, now chooses to walk gently over eggshells when discussing the subject of migration with those same presidents and prime ministers.

The same gentleman was also a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, until he was kindly ask to leave the board by the British government, who took over the bank as it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy.

Peter Sutherland is also on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group and was a vice-chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists ( an organisation highly focused on improving considerably, business competitiveness within Europe).

He would appear to be a gentleman whose concerns centre (in the main) around the more intimate co-operation of nations across the world, on matters economic and political. He is a creature of the coporatocracy, one who also heads the International Catholic Migration Commission, which has been active in Afghanistan, Indonesia (after the Tsunami in 2004 and is now hard at work in Syria.

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One wonders what has motivated him to comment on England’s xenophobia in relation to the Calais migrants. Mercy & compassion? Or cold blooded, clear eyed business sense?

In the words of Pietro Reichlin, economics professor at Rome’s Luiss university,

“When wages go down, there is more incentive to move towards the black economy (an economy fuelled by illegal migrant labour). It is almost a form of insurance, a way out” and he went on to say “Without the shadow economy, some economies would collapse. It’s the only part of the economy that keeps the economy thriving”. A black economy fuelled by migrant labour, as has become the case in parts of Italy (see Prato ) and Spain. Xenophobia aside, this doesn’t bode well for the migrants.