Friday, October 14, 2016


This blog is a layman's view of what's wrong with the world economy and, perhaps, how to correct them. Included in this blog will be renewables, green, sustainability and other such topics. I hope some of these will be "good news".

I hope my readers will also share their views of both the problems and their solutions, and offer their examples of sustainability and 'good news'..

Thursday, September 8, 2016

US and China ratify Pris Climate agreement

The United States has joined China to formally ratify the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions, the world's two biggest economies said on Saturday, which could help put the pact into force before the end of the year.
US president Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping submitted their plan to join the agreement to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in China to witness the announcement.
Senior Obama adviser Brian Deese said the joint declaration should push other countries to formally join the agreement.
"The signal of the two large emitters taking this step together and taking it early, far earlier than people had anticipated a year ago, should give confidence to the global communities and to other countries that are working on their climate change plans, that they too can move quickly and will be part of a global effort," Deese told reporters on Friday.
India is also poised to join the agreement this year, Deese said, adding that Obama was expected to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 nations meeting in Hangzhou, China, this weekend.
Obama and Xi committed to cooperate on two other global environmental agreements this year - an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down air-conditioning refrigerants and on a market-based measure to reduce carbon emissions from aviation.
"Today's announcement is the strongest signal yet that what we agreed in Paris will soon be the law of the land," said Mattlan Zackhras, minister-in-assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands.
"With the two biggest emitters ready to lead, the transition to a low-emissions, climate-resilient global economy is now irreversible."
Saturday's joint statement could spur further ratifications by the likes of Brazil and Canada.
"We expect a surge of ratifications around the U.N. Climate week later in September," said Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics.  
In Paris last December, nearly 200 countries agreed on a binding global compact to slash greenhouse gases and keep global temperature increases to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius.
Experts have said the temperature target is already in danger of being breached, with the U.N.'s weather agency saying 2016 is on course to be the warmest year since records began.
While 180 countries have now signed the agreement, 55 nations - covering at least 55 percent of global emissions - need to formally ratify the treaty to put it into legal effect.
Before China and the United States, 23 nations had ratified - including North Korea - but they collectively accounted for just 1.08 percent of global emissions, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.      
China represents just over 20 percent of global emissions while the United States accounting for 17.9 percent, Russia 7.5 percent and India 4.1 percent.
The announcement is a major diplomatic achievement for the U.S. president, who ends his term in January.
But the ability of the United States to achieve its Paris targets could be affected by the outcome of a federal court hearing this month, in which 27 U.S. states are trying to block the federal Clean Power Plan that slashes CO2 from power plants, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. Republican Party Platform has also questioned the legality of the executive order used to ratify the Paris deal, saying it will need the consent of the Senate before it becomes binding.
Li Shuo, a climate adviser with Greenpeace, said both China and the United States were determined to put the treaty into force as soon as possible in order to avoid the risk that any new Republican administration would reject it.
"It now looks like the Paris agreement will enter into force before the end of the year and that will really be light speed compared to almost all other international agreements," he said. 
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is a strong supporter of the accord, but her Republican counterpart Donald Trump has dismissed man-made climate change as a hoax and says he will abandon the Paris agreement if elected.
Countries that ratify the deal will have to wait for three years after it has gone into legal force before they can begin the process of withdrawing from it, according to the agreement signed in Paris.
Ratification, however, does not mean the work is over.
Alden Meyer, international director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the Paris agreement's detailed rules will likely take another year or two to finalize.
"All countries will need to raise the ambition of their commitments under the agreement if we're to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and reach a goal of net zero global warming emissions by mid-century," Meyer said.

"But this is an important step forward that reinforces the U.S. and China's continued leadership in building a robust, durable international climate framework." 

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Regardless of the assurances, I am concerned that we have started down a very slippery slope and in a generation or two we will have personless factories and maybe personless offices.  When that happens where will humans be earning salaries and hence, are going to be buying the stuff the factories will be churning out and who will pay for the offices; and - indeed - what will be done in those offices?

Is anyone in government, whether Chinese, Swedish, Japanese or American, putting their minds to this frightening future?

"A new generation of machines is gradually transforming this electronics factory in China’s manufacturing hub.Inside the sprawling factory, owned by Jabil Circuit Inc.—the world’s third-largest contract manufacturer for companies such as Apple Inc. and Electrolux SA—robotic arms assemble circuit boards as driverless components-laden carts glide nearby. Machines also are starting to replace workers in checking circuit-board assemblies for errors.
“This is the past,” said David Choonseng Tan, an operations director at Jabil, pointing to a line of workers hunched over the assembly line. “And this,” he said, gesturing to a line of machines next to them, “is the future.”
Rapidly changing product models make it challenging for electronics companies like Jabil to automate all aspects of the assembly process, according to John Dulchinos, a vice president at the company. Still, Jabil has increasingly embraced automation and advanced technology, a shift encouraged by the Chinese government as the world’s second-largest economy grapples with labor shortages and high costs that are making neighboring countries like Vietnam increasingly competitive for mass production.
Manufacturers elsewhere in the world are also investing in automation and robotics in an effort to wean themselves off “chasing the needle”—moving to ever-lower-cost countries in pursuit of cheap labor.
In Stockholm, Sweden, roughly 8,000 miles away from China, fuel-cell maker myFC has built a 2,000 square-foot smart factory that will eventually have five robots doing the work of 20 full-time humans. The robots assemble power cards used for portable electronic devices while 3D printers churn out prototypes of new designs.
“We are building one cell, then we can export that to any country, any customer,” says Bjorn Westerholm, chief executive of myFC.
Jabil says that it’s hoping that a key piece of its automation—a boxy white platform it calls Flexi-Auto Cell—can also be redeployed at factories elsewhere in the world. The idea, according to Jabil, is for technology to be able to emulate the worker’s flexibility in switching from one task to another.
Jabil’s vision of manufacturing, however, isn’t one in which machines will replace workers completely, but rather one in which they’re freed up to focus on less-tedious tasks.
“We are not going for a lights-off factory,” says KC Ong, a senior vice president of operations for Jabil. In the factory of the future, “we’ll still have a lot of people.”"

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sleep walking into a future where humans are irrelevant

We know that robots are increasingly taking on the tasks of manual workers; we hear about the increasing probability of driver-less cars (and buses and trains and trams etc). In future years, there will be no manual job left for humans.

Now comes a book titled: The Future of the Professions: How technology will transform the work of human experts by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, which argues that machines will soon do the work of lawyers, doctor and others. 

If this book is correct in its predictions, in future years, there will be few professional jobs left for humans.

In all probability, even jobs designing automata will be carried out by automata.

We are then left with the imponderable, what will humans be doing?  What will be the reason to continue feeding, clothing, housing them?  Why not get rid of them altogether ina automata-only 'heaven'?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Philanthropists give millions to charity, but not the Revenue


HM Queen Elizabeth II and musician Gary Barlow on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert

When David Cameron defended Gary Barlow by highlighting how much the singer did for charity, the Prime Minister tapped into a wider tendency among the super rich to chose philanthropy over the taxman.
Mr Cameron applauded Barlow’s participation in Children in Need, which raised more than £6 million in 2009. However, a year later Barlow and his Take That band mates Howard Donald and Mark Owen, along with their manager, Jonathan Wild, invested the first chunk of £66 million into the Icebreaker tax scheme.
Dozens of billionaires and multimillionaires minimise the amount of tax that they pay to their governments at the same time as donating hugely to good causes. Sir Philip Green, the Top Shop fashion mogul, saved about £285 million in capital gains tax when his company, Arcadia, paid out a £1.3 billion dividend tax-free to his Monaco-based wife, Tina.
Yet Sir Philip has given millions of pounds to charity, including recently pledging £100,000 to help London’s poorest people. In 2012 he estimated his contribution in direct and indirect tax at £2 billion.
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, billionaire owners of the Telegraph newspaper group and high-end hotels, are residents of Monaco, a tax haven. They have donated £16 million to children’s hospitals and were knighted for their support for medical research.
Sir Frederick has said that the brothers left the UK for health reasons 23 years ago and continued to pay personal tax in this country for 18 of those years. “[Our]charitable donations far outweigh what we would have paid in tax if we had remained residents of the UK,” he said.
Philanthropy experts said that many super-rich people believe in a “smaller government” but still want to give something back.
“Some believe they know how to spend their money better,” said Beth Breeze, a director at the University of Kent’s Centre for Philanthropy. “When you pay tax, you feel out of control. You don’t have a say beyond the broad colour of the government. But donors can give their last penny to dogs, if they like, rather than cats. It’s about exercising personal choice.”
Dr Breeze pointed out that some billionaires, such as Warren Buffett, have called for higher taxes on the super-rich. “Some philanthropists feel cross about waste in the public sector,” she said. “But most people don’t like paying tax, whether they are rich or not.”
Theresa Lloyd, the author of the book Why Rich People Give, said there was no evidence that philanthropists avoided taxes more than anyone else. “On the contrary, the people I interviewed are good community citizens,” she said. “Having said that, seeing the difference that their money can make is undoubtedly for some very satisfying. It’s a sense that ‘I’m more effective and could make things happen more quickly’.”
Albert Gubay, the Welsh founder of the discount chain Kwik Save, whose wealth is close to £1 billion, has lived on the Isle of Man since 1971. In 2010 the devout Roman Catholic passed his companies into the hands of a trust, pledging to donate all bar £10 million to good causes.
Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru’s leader, has questioned whether Mr Gubay’s wealth might have done more good had he remained resident on the British mainland. “By becoming a tax exile on the Isle of Man, Mr Gubay has boosted his personal fortune at the expense of the state,” she said in 2011. According to a profile in the Daily Express, Mr Gubay’s business mantra is: “Every penny wasted in business is a penny lost for the charity pot.”
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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Amazon's UK tax bill 10 million pounds on $7 billion sales


A parcel travels along a conveyer belt at Amazon's new distribution centre in Brieselang, near Berlin November 28, 2013. ''  REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz
A parcel travels along a conveyer belt at Amazon's new distribution centre in Brieselang, near Berlin November 28, 2013. ''
CREDIT: REUTERS/TOBIAS SCHWARZ Inc filed accounts on Friday showing a UK tax bill of 10 million pounds despite $7.3 billion sales in Britain, because the company reports most of its European profit in a tax-exempt Luxembourg partnership. Ltd reported a 56 percent rise in profit to 17 million pounds during 2013 on a 13 percent rise in UK revenues, which one academic said could mean the company came under pressure from the UK tax authority to change its tax arrangements.
Corporate tax avoidance has become a hot topic in Europe following revelations in the past couple of years about how companies like Apple and Google pay little tax in many of their main markets.
Amazon said it follows all the tax rules in every country where it operates. Apple and Google also say they pay all the tax they should. HMRC declined comment.
All Amazon customers in Europe contract directly with and pay Luxembourg based Amazon companies for the goods and services they buy. These companies reduce their taxable income by paying fees to a tax exempt partnership, also based in the Grand Duchy. is funded by its Luxembourg-based affiliates. The rates of such inter-company remuneration are usually agreed with the UK tax authority. In 2013, intercompany fees paid to Ltd rose 40 percent to 449 million pounds.
The result was that Amazon's current tax bill for 2013 was its biggest ever.
"It's possible Amazon may have come under pressure from HMRC (the UK tax authority) to adjust their inter-company agreements," Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at Essex University said.
The amount of money Inc reports through the tax-exempt partnership that sits atop its European corporate structure has dropped sharply in the past two years, after the U.S. tax authority tightened rules it felt were being abused to shift profits.
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Take That stars face the music after tax ruling


Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen among investors likely to face hefty tax bills after tribunal decision
barlow take that tax tribunal ruling
Gary Barlow is among investors who may face hefty tax bills following the ruling. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA
Around 1,000 wealthy investors including Take That's Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen could face hefty tax bills after a tax tribunal on Friday ruled that a partnership in which they invested was a tax avoidance scheme.
Barlow's Larkdale LLP is just one of 51 so-called "Icebreaker partnerships", affected by the decision of Judge Colin Bishopp in a landmark victory for HM Revenue and Customs. Investors could now face substantial tax bills as a result of the decision.
Bishopp ruled: "The underlying, and fundamental, conclusion we have reached is that the Icebreaker scheme is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax avoidance scheme."
He accepted the partnerships were carrying on the trade of the exploitation of intellectual property rights, often in the creative industries, but said their main aim was to secure tax relief for members. Icebreaker partnership investments included aspiring pop acts, publishing ventures and the sale of "personal alarms".
In evidence, some unnamed Icebreaker partners had earlier told Bishopp they had a genuine interest in the exploitation of rights, that they took an active role in the partnerships, and that they were aiming to make a profit from these ventures. They claimed: "Tax advantages were incidental to and not the principal reason for their having decided to join a partnership."
The judge did not agree. "We are, indeed, quite satisfied that no serious and even moderately sophisticated investor, or one with a competent adviser, genuinely seeking a profit, even one willing to engage in a high-risk venture, but 20 unmindful of any possible tax advantage, would rationally have chosen an Icebreaker partnership."
Through the partnerships, wealthy investors were claiming lucrative tax losses. In some cases Icebreaker scheme partners were attempting to claim tax relief on losses of up to five times more than they invested in the partnerships.
Take That manager Jonathan Wild was also a member of the Larkdale partnership. Other band members, Jason Orange and Robbie Williams, were not Icebreaker investors.
Details of the scheme emerged in 2012 in a Times investigation. At the time Take That's lawyers insisted the bandmates believed the investments were legitimate enterprises and not schemes designed to avoid tax, and that all four named paid "significant tax". There has been no suggestion of any illegality.
Last night HMRC said: "We have put in place generous reliefs to support genuine business investment and our tax reliefs for the creative industries work well, enabling the UK's world-class film, television and video production companies to compete on the global stage.
"But we will not tolerate abuse of the system by people trying to dodge their tax obligations."
It is not clear whether the judgment will be appealed.
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