Thursday, 18 December 2014

Religon and Football?

Shooting For Supreme Joy

In 2009, the footballing authorities in many South American countries such as Brazil and Columbia received a stern telling off from FIFA, which administers soccer worldwide, because South American players have a habit of proclaiming their religious faith in very spectacular ways. South American players of a Pentecostal or evangelical background like to display their faith by pointing upwards to heaven after a goal, kneeling to give thanks after being victorious in a match, or, as Falcao famously did in 2007 and often thereafter, stripping down to an under-shirt which proclaimed "With Jesus you'll never be alone".... However, FIFA reminded football players by reminding them about the rule which states that " the basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements". FIFA clarified that they are not banning religion altogether as players are still allowed to knell to pray. 
Anyway, it seems to be that the government body expects to keep one of humanity's strongest connections, religion, entirely separate from one of its favourite activities, Football. It is a known fact that religion has helped to find many of Europe's greatest football sides. While Brazilian players have injected Europe with Christianity, Footballers whose roots are in Algeria, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia are adamant in refusing to abandon their Muslim obligations for the sake of an earthly prize. Devout soccer players utilise social-media accounts so that they can proclaim their faith to the world. Brazilian international and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) centre back Thiago Silva claimed on twitter that he sees a link between his Christian faith and his recovery from the disease tuberculosis (TB).
For Muslims, training and even matches have been organised around their need to fast and pray. Muslim players are often unhappy about appearing naked in front of their team mates and prefer to wear under-garments in the shower, some non Muslim players also copy this habit. In an intensive and expensive market for football talent, managers and head coaches have an interest in accommodating players with certain religious needs as pragmatically as possible. The fact that PSG is controlled by PSG is controlled by Qatari companies has not stopped it being an accommodating places for Christian Brazilians, such as David Luiz and Lucas.
Even FIFA have become more pragmatic as it has now laid down that women football players should be allowed to wear headscarf's, and have denied the French football federation from maintaining a ban.
But football's diversity does have its awkward side. Both those devout Brazilians from PSG caused a storm by voicing their opinion to homosexuality on French television at a time when German footballer Tomas Hitzlsperger had just become the first football player in Europe to come out and say he was gay. The PSG Qataris probably did not have a problem with the players stance, but in some parts of Europe it was seen as taking steps backwards to old prejudices. Many people recall the tragedy of Justin Fashanu,  a Black British football player who hanged himself after being accused of having consensual gay sex. 
The football pitch, like everywhere in the world, is struggling to get a grim of extraordinary range of value systems and cultural norms. Back in the day, sporting rivalries mirrored religious disparities between groups. For example, In Scotland, Glasgow comprised of two footballing giants, Celtic who were Catholic and Rangers who were Protestant. These days, people of widely differing believes and value systems find themselves on the same team and in the same changing room. 

We are still working out how to manage that in football, but banning religion does not seem to be a realistic answer.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

America's Police On Trial: The United States needs to overhaul its law-enforcement system.

Criminal Justice

John Crawford was standing in a Walmart in Ohio holding a toy rifle he picked off a shelf and was presumably planning to buy. He was pointing it at the floor while talking on his phone and browsing other goods. The children playing near him did not consider him a threat; nor did their mother, who was standing a few feet away. The police responded to a caller who said that a black man with a gun was threatening people. The police broke down the shop door and shot him dead. The children’s mother died of a heart attack in the ensuing panic. In September a grand jury declined to bring a formal accusation against the officers who shot Mr Crawford...
Most people have probably never heard this story, for such tragedies are disturbingly common: America’s police shoot dead more than one person a day (nobody knows the exact number as not all deaths are reported). But two recent cases have sparked nationwide protests. First Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, just after he robbed a shop, and then Eric Garner, a harmless middle-aged black man guilty only of selling single cigarettes on the streets of New York, was choked to death by a policeman while five cops watched—and this time the event was filmed by a bystander.

It seems to be that the police are using excessive violence enforced by the state. Americans simply do not realise how violent their law enforcement system is compared with those of other 'core' countries. It could be changed in ways that would make America safer, and fairer to both black and whites. So far much of the debate within America has focused on race.

That is not unreasonable; the victims were all black, and most of the policemen involved were white. American blacks feel that the criminal-justice system works against them, rather than for them. Some 59% of white Americans have confidence in the police, but only 37% of blacks do. If any racial group looses trust in enforcers of the law, it erodes social relationships. It also hurts America’s moral standing in the world (not aided by revelations about the CIA’s use of torture). But racial division, rooted as it is in America’s past, is not easily mitigated.

Don’t shoot:
Bits of America’s criminal-justice system can be justified such as New York’s cops but overall the country is an outlier for all the wrong reasons. It jails nearly 1% of its adult population, more than five times the rich-country average. A black American man has, by one estimate, a one in three chance of spending time behind bars. Sentences are harsh. While other nations have focused on community policing, some American police have become militant, equipping themselves with grenade launchers and armoured cars. 

Fewer armoured cars, more body cameras:
One reason why so many American police shoot first is that so many American civilians are armed. This year 46 policemen were shot dead; last year 52,000 were assaulted. When a policeman is called out to interrupt a robbery, he knows that one mistake could mean he never makes it to retirement. The vastly differing rate at which policemen shoot young black men is not simply a matter of prejudice. Roughly 29% of Americans shot by the police are black, but so are about 42% of cop killers whose race is known.

If America did not have 300m guns in circulation, much of this would change. That, sadly, is not going to happen soon. But there are other ways to make the police less violent.

Ways to tackle the problem:
Every police force should report how many people it kills to the federal government. And if communities want to buy gadgets, they should give their police body cameras. These devices deter bad behaviour on both sides and make investigations easier. Had the officer who shot Mr Brown worn one, everyone would know how it happened.

The second is accountability. It must be easier to sack bad cops. If an officer is accused of a crime, the decision as to whether to him may rest with a local prosecutor who works closely with the local police, attends events with them and depends on the support of the police union if he or she wants to be re-elected. 

The third, and hardest, is reversing the militarisation of the police. Too many see their job as to waging war on criminals; too many poor neighbourhoods see the police as an occupying army. The police need more training and less weaponry.

In many ways America remains a model for other countries. Its economic growth has roared back to expected levels.Yet its criminal-justice system, the backbone of any society, is DEEPLY flawed. Changing it will be hard; but change is needed and much overdue.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Britain's Autumn Statement: So what difference did it really make?

On December 3rd 2014, The Chancellor George Osborne delivered the autumn statement which is the countries annual mini-budget. A short summary of how the statement affected groups within the economy is seen below.

There was good news for all workers in the sense that the £100 increase in the personal tax allowance was also extended to higher-rate taxpayers. But otherwise various groups will have less to cheer.
Older people with savings and no plans to move home will benefit the most. But Londoners planning to buy expensive properties will be cursing the Chancellor most loudly.
Many of our groups will suffer – or benefit – roughly the same.
But most have been promised more in the future in what was clearly a vote-grabbing Autumn Statement for the conservative party.

Single person:
It was pleasing news for all workers that income tax personal allowances will rise to £10,600 from April. The plan was to raise it to £10,500 but the Chancellor – presumably in a pre-election fever – managed to find a little extra cash to add to the fiscal budget.
The headline-grabbing stamp duty reforms will make it cheaper for a single person to get on the property ladder. Those at the lower end of the market will feel the benefits the most. Properties under £125,000 are still exempt from stamp duty.
However, if you get benefits then you may find times get even tougher in the future as the Chancellor has frozen working-age benefits as part of his welfare cap.
National insurance for apprenticeships are being frozen which should improve access to work and training.

Poor family:
George Osborne gave with one hand but potentially took away with another if you’re a hard-up family with a couple of kids.
The good news is that working families on low incomes will benefit from an increase in the personal allowance from next April.
It had been planned that the allowance would rise to £10,500 but a further £100 will be added to increase it to £10,600. The Chancellor also promised that the personal allowance would rise to £12,500 if the Tories win the general election. That would mean that no one on the minimum wage would pay income tax, he claims.

However, families getting workplace benefits will have less to cheer about. As part of a further £1bn in welfare savings, working-age benefits will be frozen for a further two years. Tax credits would be reduced where it was considered that payments are likely to be “certain”.

Middle-wage family
The annual summer holiday is going to get a cheaper. Air passenger tax was already set to be abolished for children under 12 from next May. However, from March 2016 children under 16 will also be exempt.
As for income tax, the first rise for a few years in the personal allowance for those paying the higher 40 per cent rate will introduced.
The amount that can be earned before 40 per cent becomes payable will rise from £41,865 to £42,385. On top of that, the Chancellor also signalled that after the election he wanted to see the 40 per cent income tax threshold rise to £50,000 by 2020.

Single parents:
Working single parents will be able to earn more from April before they are liable for income tax as the income tax threshold will rise to £10,600.
Those parents on benefits will be in for a harder time as a further £1bn is decreased off the nation’s welfare bill. As a result, working-age benefits will be frozen for two years.

Well-off family:
There was good news for your savings and holidays in the Chancellor’s statement, but potentially bad news if you’re planning to move home soon, depending on the value of your property.
The good news? You can transfer any saving you have in a tax-free Isa between partners and retain the tax-free status. The Chancellor also scrapped the 55 per cent “death tax” that currently applies when you pass an unused pension pot on to your loved ones, which could mean a substantial saving in the future.
But if you’re moving home any time soon, you will pay more stamp duty.

The Chancellor’s main hand-out was aimed at older people. The most significant move which should help the most was the scrapping of the 55 per cent “death tax” on unused pensions.
But the new rule which allows Isa savings to be transferred to partners and retain their tax-free status will be of great benefit to those with a nest-egg.

All in all, has Mr Osboune's Economic plan be on course for prosperity in Britain or is Mr Osborne’s vote-grabbing Autumn Statement a ploy for the Tories to increase their votes five
months prior to the general election?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Economics : The Social Science behind “Everything in moderation”

Dear All

Apologies for the length of these posts - just follow links for local news! My unique pun of a friedmanite tourniquet, which no-one gets, makes a brief appearance at the bottom of the page

From another Blog  - written by a world famous SOCIOLOGIST & POLITICS Student

Jason Beerjeraz, in Manchester, where Liam Glennon went to study Development Economics and Fr Tim set up a foodbank:

"I want to take a look at an issue some refer to as the ‘poverty cycle’, arguably faced by 13 million people in the UK alone. A cycle which once started is extremely difficult to escape. And with it I will focus on one of the many possible elements, transport.
In London we have our oyster cards with subsidised fares, we have train and bus routes running from early morning to early morning! We have the good old London underground and according to Boris Johnson we’ll have the Crossrail 2 by 2030. Fares can be less than £1 on some routes, result!
So, what exactly is the problem? Well, I needn’t look any further than my university window here in Manchester. Unemployment has risen greatly, in areas that already faced high levels of unemployment. Beneath the cheering that Manchester is London’s hot rival and the UK’s second city, you start to see a bleaker picture.

 Roughly 50% of the children living a 10 minute walk away from me are living in poverty.

 This is a fact (indirectly) shared with me by a previous member of staff at St Ignatius College, Fr Tim Byron, who helps runs the local food bank. What does poverty have to do with transport? Well, quite a lot actually! If nearly 50% of families are struggling to raise their children above the poverty line, struggling to afford necessities thus relying on schemes like food banks. How on earth are people expected to afford daily travel costs? I hear cries of ‘get a job’ or ‘what about welfare benefits?’ Adults looking for employment, on Job Seekers Allowance, are having to make choices between heating their homes and eating. Without sufficient transport infrastructure they face minimal geographical mobility. Without sufficient funds they cannot afford the high fares during those crucial weeks of job interviews and tests. Without employment opportunities in the local area, where are they to find employment? Only 36% of those on JSA have access to a car. 

They need public transport to be cheap, regular and to be well linked. Without it, job search activity can become hopeless. The job searching itself becomes their job, which still leaves them on the poverty line. It is crucial for public transport to be accessible and affordable. Without these conditions people are left in an endless search for opportunities that are beyond their grasp. There is a skilled and willing workforce out there looking for employment, but inadequate transport along with many other factors leave them in an endless cycle of poverty. So much for Manchester’s privatised bus system; the profit motive is doing a great job at raising efficiency and economic welfare. 

Why not privatise the NHS while we’re at it, oh wait…

 It is important to remember that inequality is not a ‘foreign’ issue, it is closer to home than you may think. If I can present a feasible case in the UK, just imagine what the case could look like when you make comparisons to many other cities across the world. To those of you easily persuaded by my opening praise of London transport, look no further than my meeting of a dad of two, when running a work club in Edmonton Green Library; he had just got a job, but could not afford to travel there for his first week of work and pay his rent and no longer qualified for JSA.

This piece is based on statistical facts and does only represent one interpretation. However, you have to question, in a world where the richest 1% of the population own 65 times that of 3.5 billion people in the world, where do we begin with the fight against inequality?"

Useful Links:

The science behind “Everything in moderation” | maketheworldworkbetter:

Looks a lot like a supply curve to us economists

'via Blog this'

Synthetic Biology : The Future of Everything - Newsnight meets E.O.Wilson - YouTube

The Future of Everything - Newsnight meets E.O.Wilson - YouTube:

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