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News in brief
'DRILL BABY, drill' was the clarion call of oil hungry Republicans during the last US presidential election. But having lost to Barack Obama these Republicans now must be driving around in their SUVs hooping and a hollering with delight after the White House announcement that the president would allow oil drilling along the Atlantic coastline of the US and in large tracts of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.
Obama, like his predecessor George Bush, says he wants to reduce the US's energy dependence on foreign sources. However, US oil reserves are only 2% of the world's total reserves and the Atlantic coastline accounts for only 6% of the 2%.
In reality, Obama is attempting to assuage conservative Democrats and some Republican congressmen so they back his climate bill. He has already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to woo Republicans.
Apart from disillusioning his environmentalist backers, Obama may find that 'appetite grows from eating' and that the Republican appetite for exploiting fossil fuels is insatiable.
IN THE run up to the end of the tax year (Easter Monday), the banks and building societies have been blitzing the TV and newspapers with glossy ads to entice customers to shovel more cash into Isas (individual savings accounts - introduced by Gordon Brown in 1998).
One-third of adults - around 15 million people - own an Isa. However, it seems that the greedy banks are taking savers for a ride. According to Consumer Focus (previously known as the National Consumer Council) Isa savers are being denied interest payments amounting to £1.5 billion-£3 billion each year.
The government and the financial industry have been pushing the tax breaks available on Isas but conveniently downplaying the pitiful rate of interest paid on them. The average cash Isa pays only 0.41% interest despite inflation running at 3%+.
The biggest issuer of Isas is Lloyds banking group (42% owned by the government) that has 12 million such accounts, but its Cheltenham and Gloucester cash Isa only pays 0.05% interest.
Another ruse by banks is the placing of hidden obstacles in the way of customers trying to switch Isas, with 33% of switches taking longer than five weeks.
AS BRITISH Airways cabin crew prepared to take strike action in defence of jobs, pay and working conditions last month, seven BA executives were awarded share options worth almost £3 million. This is despite the airline pleading poverty.
The most highly rewarded director under the scheme is Keith Williams, the chief financial officer, who was awarded share options worth £812,807, on top of his £440,000 basic salary.
In The Socialist 7 April 2010:
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