Potemkin’s R Us

Fake businesses are to be used to lessen the impact of the recession on high streets in North Tyneside. With 140 empty shops in the borough, council bosses think they have come up with a unique way of ensuring shopping areas remain as vibrant as possible. The first empty shop unit to be given a makeover with a “flat pack” shop front is in Whitley Bay. North Tyneside Council said the move was cost-effective and would help to attract new investment.

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Go: Cards Profit Off The Poor

This is a slick marketing operation to make money off the poorest people, disgusting. Given how much the govt. bailed out the banks and in fact own one they could have put into place regulations that mean people on benefits get free banking, of course they didn’t which tells its own story (even as neoliberalism is being proven not to work).(ht2 The Socialist Way)

People in some of the poorest parts of the country are having benefits paid onto pre-paid cards, but many are not aware of the costs involved. An internal e-mail from the Department for Work and Pensions expresses concern at the lack of customer awareness. One benefit office has received requests to pay benefits for almost 100 people directly onto these pre-paid cards, which incur charges.

The card providers say the cards promote financial inclusion. However when staff at the Clyde and Fife Benefits Delivery Centre contacted customers before processing the requests, they found that the majority of customers were not aware of the charges.

One of the companies mentioned in the e-mail sent 46 applications to the benefit office requesting benefits to be paid on to a GO: Card. The forms were accompanied by a letter from Go Money Solutions sales director, Steve Tobin. In the letter Mr Tobin says the forms were obtained “through face to face marketing” in the local area.

A GO: Card costs £10 to buy and a £7.50 annual management fee is charged after the first month. It costs a minimum of £1.25 and a maximum of £2.50 to have each benefit loaded on to the card and the same charges apply for each cash withdrawal.

It’s Almost Like Arms Manufacturers Are Evil Or Something

Via Richard Murphy

FIVE of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers have based multi-billion-euro companies in Ireland in order to avoid tax. Despite the size of these Irish-based operations, which in 2008 alone had a total of €6.34bn on their books, they have just two employees registered in Ireland.

A Sunday Tribune investigation has found that in the same year the companies had a combined turnover of €724.7m with profits amounting to €387m, but paid less than €375,000 to the Irish state, an effective tax rate of 0.09%. Ireland’s low tax regime, which charges just 12.5% in corporation tax, has made this country the ideal location for many multinationals to base themselves in order to maximise profits.

The eight Irish subsidiaries identified are shared between Boeing, BAE Systems, Thales, Raytheon and United Technologies Corporation (UTC), all major players in global weapons production. Between them they produce some of the most feared and deadly armaments available including nuclear submarines, fighter jets, helicopters, missile systems and other modern weaponry.

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Another Colombian Death Squad Gets Away With It

Via IKN, Colombia is the nation the US and UK ally with in Latin America, now some may put that all down to geopolitics of capital, sphere of influence or whatever but just as with Pinochet I think in some measure it is because they are doing what some of our elite wish they could do, exterminate leftist opposition, the unemployed and the poor. It’s because a large part of our establishment are also crypto fascist militarists, they love a ‘strong man’ in power to partner with, democracy is a word they use in order to get votes and the concept travels no further than that. Don’t think of this horror being an unconnected manifestation of something uniquely Colombian in a fuzzy nationalist/racist manner, it’s a matter of degrees and we can certainly see this from where we currently stand. See here for Justice for Colombia and campaigns to cease UK aiding and abetting this regime.

It is with revulsion that we learn of a Colombian court’s decision yesterday to release 17 Colombian Army personnel for the 2008 Soacha murder case.

The officers and soldiers were awaiting trial for conspiring to kidnap and kill unemployed young men in a slum on Bogotá’s outskirts, only to present their bodies hundreds of miles away as those of armed-group members killed in combat. By raising their “body count” through this unconscionable scheme, the soldiers qualified for a schedule of rewards, as established by Defense Ministry orders. This so-called “False Positives” scandal now involves hundreds of cases since 2002 under official investigation all over Colombia, with over 1,000 potential victims.

Because of its high-profile nature — it forced the resignation of Army chief Gen. Mario Montoya — the Soacha case is a key test of whether Colombia would be able to investigate and punish these crimes.

Colombia is failing that test. Yesterday, 17 alleged perpetrators were released because a judge decided that prosecutors’ time had run out. This issue had come up before, in October. At the time, a judge avoided letting the soldiers go free, giving prosecutors a 90-day extension. He agreed that most of the delay was the fault of the soldiers’ defense lawyers, who were clearly trying to “run out the clock” by throwing up a series of procedural roadblocks, including demands that the murders be tried in Colombia’s military justice system instead of the civilian courts.

It appears that the delaying tactics have worked. The message this sends about impunity for human rights abuse — even in the most egregious cases, like Soacha — could hardly be more poisonous. It is also a huge slap in the face to the Soacha victims’ grieving relatives, who had already been receiving threats..

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Spot The Class War

Iceland!

The people of Iceland have not finished with their outrage at what they were suckered into, they are absolutely right to refuse to impoverish themselves in order to honour criminal banks’ debts. Of course the threats are coming thick and fast and expect the media to be full of negative stories of Icleandic evil but what they are doing is actually good for all of us, the free insurance we provide for banks, (keep your profits while we pay your losses) is nothing but theft. The full weight of global capital will be brought to bear on Iceland, if one country gets uppity and gets away with it the whole system might not seem so assured of its hegemony. It will not be easy and great economic violence will be done to Iceland if they hold firm and yes UK creditors will suffer (but all could be saved if instead of bailouts we had investment in the public commons) but if we let them be attacked it simply means our supine, submissive status to our own financial institutions will become even more entrenched, we may as well just open up a vein and offer them their fill. Michael Hudson has covered this over the last year, much better reading than the UK media manage, their unexamined nationalism and deference to orthodox neoliberal religion does not make for good journalism-

The Real Issue is Iceland’s Economic Independence Will Iceland be Handed Over to a New Gang of Kleptocrats?

Make Iceland Pay for Incompetent British Bank Deregulation! Gordon Brown Spills the Beans on the IMF

The Specter of Debt Revolt Is Haunting Europe Why Iceland and Latvia Won’t (and Can’t) Pay for the Kleptocrats’ Ripoffs

Well Duh

NHS walk-in centres near railway stations are not popular with commuters and are a waste of money, say University of Sheffield researchers.

…a study has found they are seeing as few as 30 patients a day and cost twice as much as other GP surgeries.

While they are paid for by the NHS, they are actually run by private health firms.

The Department of Health-funded evaluation found that the clinics were seeing between 33 and 101 patients a day, despite having capacity for 150 to 180 patients.

Four of the centres were in a poor location away from the beaten track, the study – reported in the British Journal of General Practice – concluded.

It was estimated that the price per attendance at the clinics was £33 compared with an estimated £13 for walk-in centres provided by the NHS.

At some centres, the cost per patient was as high as £62.

Study leader Dr Alicia O’Cathain said the results showed that walk-in centres should be provided by the NHS, rather than private companies.

And she added that they needed to be placed near where people work, rather than at train stations. “One of the problems was location, so one for example was near the train station but wasn’t on the commuter track and there were very few people who went through that way. At the start and end of the day people are in a rush, but the way that people use walk-in centres is to go in their lunchtime.”

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