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Issue #1532      25 January 2012

Culture & Life

The rich get richer, and the world gets scarier

Early last year, British pressure group Compass, with backing from the charitable Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (remember Rowntree chocolates?) established the High Pay Commission to investigate persistent claims that boardroom pay had become excessive.

After a year-long enquiry, the study concluded that the pay of top FTSE executives had risen on average by more than 4,000 percent over the last 30 years. In contrast, average wages in the UK today are just three times higher than in 1980.

The study noted that the salary of former Barclay’s chief executive John Varley was 169 times more than the wage of the average worker in Britain today. In 1980, the top pay at Barclay’s was just 13 times the average British wage.

Like the old adage says, the rich get richer and the poor get screwed.

One aspect that was not dealt with in the report but was picked up by various commentators is that top executives vote themselves these obscenely high salaries regardless of how well the company is actually doing. It amounts to a form of asset stripping: whether the company succeeds or fails, no one is going to ask for the money to be paid back. They’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Meanwhile, at the end of November, Britain’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove, showed his keen grasp of the fundamentals of music education by announcing – more or less simultaneously – that he was sending a copy of the King James Bible to all British schools and that he was cutting a program that sought to teach children from deprived backgrounds to play a musical instrument.

The music program is based on Venezuela’s El Sistema plan, which has produced youth orchestra’s that have amazed music lovers all over the world. John Summers, managing director of the Hallé orchestra in Manchester, said of Gove’s cuts: “There is a 20 percent reduction between now and 2014 without even factoring in inflation. That’s massive.” But they will have a Bible with which to console themselves.

Still in Britain, the giant union Unite has taken up the case of the Reverend Mark Sharpe who has been driven out of his Worcester parish by a campaign of harassment that included slashing his tyres and poisoning his dog. (No, I don’t know why, but someone clearly had it in for him.) The union’s attempts to take his employer, the Church of England, to court over the matter have been met by a denial by the Church’s lawyers that they are his employers. The church’s lawyers maintain that God is his employer.

The clergy apparently are just “office holders” and are not subject to the laws that protect other workers.

While still on the subject of religion, did you see at the end of last year where the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist (yes, the Papacy has such a thing) has condemned the Harry Potter books and films and yoga as “evil”.

Don Gabriele Amorth has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and has carried out more than 70,000 exorcisms. Really, the mind boggles!

Don Gabriele Amorth the Vatican’s chief exorcist.

Speaking in Umbria, Father Amorth said that “Practising Yoga brings evil, as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil.”

This medieval fool has a position of authority in the Roman Catholic Church, and yet he believes that “Yoga is the Devil’s work. You think you are doing it for stretching your mind and body but it leads to Hinduism [gasp!]. All these oriental religions are based on the false belief of reincarnation.”

Just in case you didn’t get the message he went on to say: “Yoga turns devotees towards Hinduism. Satan is always hidden and the thing he desires more than anything is for people to believe he does not exist. He studies each and every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil and then he tempts us.”

What a ghastly collage of inhumane and paranoid superstitions he must carry around with him as he goes about exorcising evil spirits!

If he wants to see real evil, he should look at the USA’s so-called “Missile Defence System” which is being deployed across Europe, with all its missiles aimed straight at Russia. Despite the hideous cost of such a hi-tech arms race, Russia has no choice but to respond. The Russian military has established of a new generation of over-the-horizon missile warning radar stations. One has been set up in the Kaliningrad region, monitoring all of Europe including Britain. A second is located in the Krasnodar region of Southern Russia and a third will be operational in the Irkutsk region of Siberia some time this year.

Developed by the Moscow Research Institute of Long Distance Radio Communication, this new generation of Voronezh-DM stations will be able to detect all missile launches anywhere and monitor airspace from the North Pole to the Southern hemisphere. The new stations consume 40 percent less power than their predecessors and can be redeployed quickly if necessary (in other words, they’re mobile).

Cuba, on the other hand, with the likely effects of global warming in mind, has developed rice crops with increased resistance to drought and salinity, as well as a genetically modified corn for animal food that is resistant to sand flies (a scourge of corn in Cuba itself). Cuban scientists are also developing veterinary vaccines against swine fever and cattle ticks, while taking every precaution to guarantee human and animal safety and to take into account the toxicological and environmental implications of genetic research.  

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