Saturday, September 02, 2006

[economy] deep in debt but still saving

Debt consultants One Advice report that almost two million people in the UK owe more than £10,000 on credit cards, overdrafts or other unsecured loans. About 500,000 owe more than £20,000. About half of those owing £10,000 had taken out loans, about 350,000 had used credit cards, and 83,000 overdrafts. Others owed family and friends money.

Most personal borrowing in the UK is in the form of mortgages, where the loan is secured on the property. But this survey found many people are running up big unsecured debts too. People aged between 35 and 44 were most likely to have run up significant debts, with around 650,000 people in this age group owing more than £10,000.

Chris Holmes, chief executive of One Advice. But more than 200,000 18 to 24-year-olds also owed at least £10,000 - about one out of 20 people in that age group. "With many unsecured borrowing products having high interest rates, many people are entrapped in debt, often only paying off the interest accrued every month as opposed to the capital they have borrowed," said Chris Holmes, chief executive of One Advice. "Those caught in this situation need to take action otherwise it is likely that they will fall further into debt."

Last year, about 70,000 people in England and Wales became insolvent - for most, this means being declared bankrupt which can make it difficult to borrow money in future. However, an increasing number of people are reaching deals with their creditors called individual voluntary arrangements, which involves a partial repayment.

Earlier this month, the government announced it was providing £45m to employ 500 independent debt advisers over the next two years. The money will be used to help people in England and Wales gain personal advice on how to cope with their debts. Through the government's Financial Inclusion Fund, it is being channelled to a number of organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureaux.

The good news is that regular savings are on the increase. Average monthly savings were 87.85 pounds in the three months to end-July, up 8 percent on the year. This savings rate -- equal to 6.8 percent of average income -- is second only to a high of 89.11 pounds recorded in autumn last year. Around 54 percent of the population put money away each month. They are saving 174.50 pounds a month -- a 10.3 percent increase on this time last year.

[health] canadian breakthrough on birth defects

New research shows that ensuring an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals by taking a single, cheap pill on a daily basis sharply cuts the likelihood of a wide range of severe birth defects, including neural-tube defects such as spina bifida, brain-damaging hydrocephalus, heart malformations, truncated or missing limbs, urinary-tract abnormalities and cleft palate.

"The data are really very striking. It seems almost too good to be true that a prenatal multivitamin can have such an impact. But it is true," Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, said in an interview.

Based on the study, he said all women of childbearing age should be taking a prenatal vitamin daily. Dr. Koren said the recommendation should apply to all women but he stressed that they should take a specific prenatal multivitamin. These differ from standard multivitamins in three important respects: More folic acid, more iron and less vitamin A -- high levels of which can harm the fetus.

This results in a:

# 48 per cent reduction in neural-tube defects;

# 39 per cent drop in cardiovascular defects;

# 47 per cent lower rate of limb deformities;

# 58 per cent reduction in cases of cleft palate;

# 52 per cent decrease in urinary-tract defects;

# 63 per cent drop in hydrocephalus (a dangerous accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain).

The research did not show any decrease in the number of cases of Down syndrome, pyloric stenosis (which causes chronic vomiting), undescended testis or hypospadias (a malformation of the penis).

summary of the article by Andre Picard, Globe and Mail

[muslim anger] howard refuses to apologize

John Howard has done it again by refusing to back down on his call for some sections of Australia's Muslim community to conform to Australian values by learning English and by treating women with respect.

The chairman of the Government's Islamic advisory committee has warned of more Cronulla-style riots unless the Prime Minister tones down his rhetoric on Muslim migrants. Dr Ameer Ali warned of trouble unless the Prime Minister backed down.

'When you antagonise the younger [Muslim] generation, the younger group, they are bound to react,' Dr Ali told Macquarie Radio. 'They're bound not to like these comments. Then you're going to have trouble.'

But Mr Howard today stood by his comments.

'I don't apologise,' he told reporters. 'I think they are missing the point and the point is that there's a small section of the Islamic population which is unwilling to integrate and I have said generally all migrants ... they have to integrate.

They must integrate and that means speaking English as quickly as possible, it means embracing Australian values and it also means making sure that no matter what the culture of the country from which they come might have been, Australia requires women to be treated fairly and equally and in the same fashion as men.

And if any migrants that come into this country have a different view, they better get rid of that view very quickly. I don't retreat in any way from that. It doesn't involve singling out a group.'

[interview] samantha brett and the city

Did you catch the e-interview with Samantha Brett?

Economist, journalist, television presenter, blogger, agony aunt, heart-throb?

You decide.

Friday, September 01, 2006

[proche-orient] l’ue veut éviter des sanctions contre l’iran

Iranians hold capsules of uranium aloft to demonstrate their peaceful purposes

Regrettant le rejet iranien de l'ultimatum des Nations unies, les Européens souhaitent tout de même poursuivre les discussions avec Téhéran. Mais Washington prône la fermeté.

L'Union européenne (UE) veut encore croire à la solution diplomatique dans le dossier nucléaire iranien. Bien que Téhéran ait de nouveau refusé jeudi de suspendre ses activités d'enrichissement d'uranium, le chef de la diplomatie européenne, Javier Solana, a estimé qu'il n'était « pas raisonnable d'avancer » vers des sanctions alors que les discussions se poursuivent.

Commentaire d' un anglais au sujet du Iran: prévisible, arrogant, fanatique, déplacé, avec un ordre évident

le figaro

[blogwatch] clive davis, melanie phillips, black quill

Clive Davis quotes Rod Liddle on Michael Vestey:

The BBC had very few right-wing journalists when I joined it in 1989. It has scarcely more now. I have no objection to left-wing points of view and still consider myself of the Left, sort of; but it is that suffocating, moronic, politically-correct, anti-liberal leftism at the BBC which both revolted Michael and, in the end, did for him.

The standpoint which insists not that alternative views may be mistaken, even though held in good faith, but are clearly, objectively wrong — no argument — and therefore cannot possibly be countenanced.

Melanie Phillips comments on the rebirth of truth:

While western ‘liberals’ become ever more morally degenerate in their approach to the Middle East and Islamic terror, signs of frankness and honesty are starting to emerge from even the most unlikely quarters within the Arab and Muslim world.

What has happened to Black Quill? I seriously think Abe has got to him.

[economy] for and against the free market [2]

If you read my rant about free marketeers, you’d be au fait with the arguments. Though I believed in what I wrote, still, it needed to be bounced off an economist or two and so I sent the link to two of the best going just now, mentally preparing to be torn into strips. One replied and as he says:

There are several things to quibble with. I'll pick three:

1 Do free markets really tend towards monopoly? I'm not sure. They do, if increasing returns to scale are widespread. But in practice, monopolies often get lazy and inefficient, or fail to attend to niche markets, thus providing opportunties for smaller firms. Or monopolies can disappear with technical change; Polaroid had a monopoly on instant photography, that got wiped out with the growth of digital cameras.
And how bad are monopolies anyway? If there's the threat of competition, a monopoly can be kept efficient. Everyone talks about Wal-Mart - but this is an exception.

2. You say "I still support a market society for the reason that I can’t see the obligation to help those who won’t help themselves." This is a different thing. You can have free markets with redistribution, as long as the redistribution doesn't affect prices. The economists' ideal here is lump-sum taxation. And you can have no redistribution but no free markets - think of feudalism.

3. "The market becomes a goal in itself, replacing spirituality as the summum bonum." I'll grant this has happened in many places. But it's an argument against the crass materialism of much of human nature (which politicians encourage). It's no argument against the market. The market is just a tool for allocating goods. How much we use that tool is up to us. In theory, markets can coincide with spirituality - imagine monasteries trading with each other.

Interestingly, Chris Dillow is also running a piece on the Beeb just now.

[women] just the cash please

This in Reuters today merely adds statistical weight to what we already knew anyway.

It’s perhaps a little unfair to the ladies - society raises them to find good partners and to be acquisitive and then when they do, we turn around and accuse them of gold-digging. No wonder many women today are going out and doing it for themselves.

Women regard healthy finances as more important than good looks in a man, according to a London survey published on Friday. Almost half (45 percent) said a healthy bank balance is more significant than physical attractiveness in a potential partner, according to National Savings & Investments' (NS&I) latest quarterly savings survey.

Just 22 percent of men, however, rate finances above looks in women. A salary of almost 50,000 pounds a year is required before women consider a man successful and wealthy. More than one in 10 women would only consider a partner to be successful if they were earning 100,000 pounds or more.

Women expect their men to have an average of 24,281 pounds in savings, while men are happy with savings of 15,143 pounds among women.

Dax Harkins, senior savings strategist at NS&I, said: "Maybe people do believe they can buy happiness after all."

Kate Maycock, from Relate, said: "Feeling financially insecure will put some strains on a relationship. These latest figures bear out that two people are unlikely to exactly agree on what is a healthy nest-egg and what is a financial crisis."

I’m interested in the 22% of men [above]. I don’t know about you but I’ve never ever looked at how much money a woman’s got. Surely we’re the main providers?

[colour schemes] the culture of blue

A natural color, from the blue of the sky, blue is a universal color. The cool, calming effect of blue makes time pass more quickly and it can help you sleep. Blue is a good color for bedrooms.

However, too much blue could dampen spirits. In many diverse cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to keep the bad spirits away.

Blue conveys importance and confidence without being somber or sinister, hence the blue power suit of the corporate world and the blue uniforms of police officers. Long considered a corporate color, blue, especially darker blue, is associated with intelligence, stability, unity, and conservatism.

Just as seeing red alludes to the strong emotions invoked by the color red, feeling blue or getting the blues represents the extremes of the calm feelings associated with blue, i.e. sadness or depression, lack of strong (violent) emotion. Dark blue is sometimes seen as staid or stodgy — old-fashioned.

In Iran, blue is the color of mourning while in the West the something blue bridal tradition represents love.

A deep royal blue or azure conveys richness and perhaps even a touch of superiority. Navy blue is almost black and is a bit warmer than lighter blues. Combine a light and dark blue to convey trust and truthfulness — banker's colors.

Although blue is a year-round color, pastel blues, especially along with pinks and pale yellows suggest Springtime while deep blue is a colder weather color. Create a conservative but sophisticated look with subtle contrast by combining light and dark shades of blue.

Mix the color of blue with green for a natural, watery palette. Add gray for understated elegance. Sky blue and robin's egg blue, especially when combined with neutral light brown, tans, or beige are environmentally friendly color combinations. Throw in a dash of blue to cool down a hot red or orange scheme. Grab attention with the contrast of blue and yellow.

Dark blue with white is fresh, crisp, and nautical. Red, white, and blue is a patriotic color trio for many countries, including the United States. Use dark blue with metallic silver accents for an elegantly rich appearance.

From About

[modern living] are we becoming less patient

This situation happened to me some years back and then, some days later, I read this article in the newspaper. As it was before the time of this blog, I didn't keep the paper and can't attribute but it's too good not to run. Anyone know who wrote it?

At a pedestrian crossing near Victoria Station in London, a man and a woman, walking towards each other on the footpath, did that old urban dance of both dodging to the right, then to the left, in an effort to avoid one another.

I was crossing the road at the same time and heard them. Normally people laugh it off and say "sorry". Not this time.

The man, well-dressed and holding a briefcase, scowled. He tutted. And then he swore: "Oh for God's sake! Get out of the *%^&$* way!" It was not even as though he was hurrying for a train - he was walking away from the rail terminus.

Anger bubbles just below the surface in modern British life. We have become peevish, testy, edgy. You see it on the roads, at the supermarket, and, as I discovered, even on the street in the middle of a sunny morning.

People are fractious. Strangers simmer, motorists thump their steering wheels and Tube passengers groan as yet another goon steps into an already crowded carriage.

Research commissioned by the BBC suggests that tempers are fraying as never before. So what is happening?

Full text here.