1990s >> 1999 >> no-1135-march-1999

Voice from the Back

Knowledge is power
“Evolution,” says the message from the Alabama State board of education, “is a controversial theory some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things such as plants, animals and humans . . .” New York Times, 24 November.

The promise—
Mr Raynsford, MP for Greenwich, said that begging was the most disgraceful indictment of the present [Conservative] government’s policies. “Our task has got to be to eliminate begging in London and create a memory of how bad life was in the late 80s and early 90s.” Camden New Journal, 7 July 1994.

—The reality
Beggars who exploit youngsters to raise money face having their children taken into care, the [Labour] Government is warning. Ministers [including Nick Raynsford, Minister for London] are worried about the huge upsurge in street beggars using their offspring in an effort to extract cash from passers-by. Police and local social services departments are being told to intervene in such cases. Sunday Telegraph, 3 January 1999.

Strategic class war
Midland-based engineering giants Rolls-Royce today warned it could move production to America if Britain introduces costly new labour laws . . . Speaking at a business lunch in Sydney, Australia, Sir Ralph [Robins] said that social costs made it 30 percent more expensive to manufacture in Europe. “The last thing we want is the on-costs associated with the social costs of Europe,” he said. “But I don’t see any signs of it happening and the current government is not going down that path. But we will progressively move work to the United States if we find ourselves disadvantaged by those sort of social costs,” he said. Birmingham Evening Mail, 25 November.

How wealth divides the world
Here are some pretty amazing facts from the United Nations Human Development Report of 1998: The world consumed more than $24 trillion in goods and services last year, six times the figure for 1975. Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, 4.4 billion live in developing countries, the rest in rich industrial or transition countries. The three richest people in the world own assets that exceed the combined gross products of the world’s poorest 48 countries. Among the 4.4 billion people who live in developing countries, three-fifths have no access to basic sanitation; almost one-third are without safe drinking water; one-quarter lack adequate housing; one-fifth live beyond reach of modern health services; one fifth of the children do not get as far as grade five in school and one fifth are undernourished. Basic education for all would cost $6 billion a year—$8 billion is spent annually for cosmetics in the United States alone. Installation of water and sanitation for all would cost $9 billion plus some annual costs–$11 billion is spent annually on ice cream in Europe. Reproductive health services for women would cost $12 billion a year—$12 billion a year is spent on perfumes in Europe and the United States. Basic health care and nutrition would cost $13 billion—$17 billion a year is spent on pet food in Europe and the United States. $35 billion is spent on business entertainment in Japan; $50 billion on cigarettes in Europe; $400 billion on narcotic drugs around the world; and $780 billion on the world’s militaries. Washington Post, 2 December.

New Labour, old capitalism
On Monday, the new president of the Confederation of British Industry told his members that the greatest threat to British business was red tape. “Excessive regulation,” he said, would “suffocate the golden goose.” He singled out trade union recognition, the minimum wage and the Working Time Directive as measures which would “darken the business horizon” . . . but one speaker went further than most. We need, he told the conference, to hooting applause, “greater labour market flexibility” and “increasing capital market liberalisation”. The government must create “the most business friendly environment in the world”. Even bankruptcy should cease to be stigmatised. The speaker was the [then] Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Peter Mandelson, Guardian, 5 November.

Pollution and profits
British Steel last night urged the Chancellor to exempt it from the proposed carbon energy tax designed to meet the Kyoto target of reducing greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent by 2012. It said the tax would undermine its competitiveness, putting plants and jobs at risk. Guardian, 28 January.

How could they!
Companies will be warned this week that they could be subjected to devastating computer hacking attacks from disgruntled employees who face the sack as part of cost-cutting programmes. Experts say that employees with only limited knowledge of computers are now able to download hacking programmes from thousands of illicit Internet sites around the world and use them to wreak havoc on their employers’ computer networks. In one recent case, an employee who feared he would lose his job used a hacking program to wipe his employer’s central computer database after his name was erased from the payroll list. Times, 26 October.

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