Does the world really need a 500 Euro note (or other very high denomination notes)?

February 13th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

The €500 note, in use throughout the Eurozone, is one of the highest value banknotes in the world. It is worth around £388 or $563.

According to Europol, the European police agency, the €500 note accounts for a third of all the euro notes in circulation, despite their low public profile. About a fifth of all euro banknotes, in denominations from €50 to €500, are not held in Europe, raising suspicions that some of the notes are used by foreign criminals.

Of course, the problem is not just with the Euro note.

In an age of electronic payments and concern about the anonymity cash provides, many experts would like to see the higest-value notes in all major denominations scrapped. This week Peter Sands, the former chief executive of Standard Chartered, called for the abolition of the €500, $100, SFr1,000 and £50 notes, which “play little role in the functioning of the legitimate economy [and] a crucial role in the underground economy”. 

You can learn more about this problem and how it could be tackled in this article.

As an example of how high-value banknotes are exploited by the criminal class, consider when Spanish police raided the warehouse of Chinese businessman Gao Ping. They found €12 million in cash and his gang is accused of laundering €300 million a year. 

You can read more about Mr Gao in this article.

Posted in World current affairs | Comments (0)

A review of the thriller novel “I Am Pilgrim”

February 12th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

This debut novel by screenwriter Terry Hayes is one of the best thrillers that I’ve ever read and it’s going to make a series of cracking films. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

How to have a good job interview

February 12th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Advice on this subject was the first topic in the Life Skills section of my web site. I crafted my recommendations because I kept being asked by young colleagues how they should prepare for an interview for a job. You can check out the advice here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

A review of the novel “The Girl Who Fell From The Sky”

February 11th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

I admired enormously Simon Mawer’s novel “The Glass Room” which I have reviewed here. And a while ago I read his follow-up thriller “The Girl Who Fell From The Sky” which I have reviewed here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

The stark statistics that summarise the appalling tragedy of Syria

February 11th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

  • 470,000 have been killed
  • 1.88 million have been wounded
  • 11.5% of the population has been killed or injured
  • 6.36 million have been displaced internally
  • More than 4 million have been displaced abroad
  • 45% of the population has been displaced overall
  • About 13.8 million have lost their source of livelihood
  • Consumer prices rose 53% last year
  • Poverty increased by 85% in 2015 alone
  • Life expectancy has fallen from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015
  • Overall economic losses are estimated at $255 billion (£176 billion)

These statistics are taken from a new report entitled “Confronting Fragmentation” produced by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR).

My heart bleeds especially for the people of Syria because, just a couple of weeks before the civil war began, we had a holiday in Syria which included time in the currently besieged city of Aleppo.

Posted in World current affairs | Comments (0)

U.S. presidential election (20): still early days (look at the numbers)

February 10th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

For all the excitement of the voting for presidential candidates in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s still very early days.

In the Republican camp, 1,237 delegates are required to win the nomination. So far, seven candidates have picked up delegates. The top four are Donald Trump 17, Ted Cruz 10, Marco Rubio 7 and John Kasich 4.

On the Democratic side, 2,382 delegates are needed to secure the nomination. Ignoring super delegates for now, so far Bernie Sanders has 34 delegates while Hillary Clinton has 32.

It ain’t over yet by a long way …

Posted in American current affairs | Comments (0)

How can the Israeli Government improve the image of the country?

February 9th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Well, one approach is to be found in this news item which explains:

“The Israeli government is offering directors and actors shortlisted for this year’s Oscars a trip to the Holy Land worth $55,000 (£38,000) in the hope of countering recent bad press for the country.

The voucher for a 10-day trip, valid for one year and partly funded by the Israeli government, which is also being offered to the ceremony’s presenters, is the most expensive freebie in the Oscars gift bag, making up a quarter of the bag’s $200,000 value.

The trip, which includes first-class flights for two and accommodation in five-star hotels, is worth roughly twice the average Israeli salary.”

Of course, another approach would be for the Israeli Government to change its policies and seriously negotiate a two-state solution. Meanwhile it could stop supporting illegal settlements in occupied territories and legislating to discriminate against Israeli Arabs.

I’m a (critical) friend of Israel and paid for my own visit to the country.

Posted in World current affairs | Comments (0)

Remembering my mother: Anna Darlington

February 8th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death. She died 17 years ago, just short of reaching age 79. So it was not a short life, but it was a tough one and, for the last decade, a very limited one.

My sister, my brother and I think about her often – especially on a day like today. Naturally I remember her funeral and you can read my oration here.

But I also think of her life and how much I owe her. Some years ago, I wrote a short story inspired by the memory of my mother, but it was much less a story of the life she actually had than perhaps the sort of life I would have liked her to have had. You can read it here.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (0)

A review of the Oscar-contending film “The Revenant”

February 6th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

At this year’s Academy Awards, “The Revenant” will be up for the highest number of awards having been shortlisted in no less than 12 categories.

It is a stunning work which I have now seen. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (2)

How to cope with unemployment

February 5th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

I’ve been very fortunate – I’m retired now and I never had a period of unemployment, But many relatives and friends of mine have experienced unemployment, this situations seems to be affecting more people more often, and so I sought advice from a friend who knows what unemployment is like.

You can find his advice here.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments (0)