The Guardian newspaper has just revealed to its credulous readers that EU-wide no fewer than 11 million dwellings stand empty. This apparent news has been endlessly recycled by various well-funded lobbies and think-tanks to suggest there is no housing crisis in the regions that have recently attracted most inward migration. Meanwhile to accommodate 4 million new UK residents, the government has relaxed planning laws to allow the building of 3 million new homes, many on prime agricultural land.
All of sudden the world's media turns its attention to the transition of power in one of Europe’s most mysterious regions extending from Eastern Poland, Slovakia,Moldova and Romania in the West, Belarus to the north and the Russian Federation to the East.
Do you like to indulge in drugs and booze ? Surely only boring losers would abstain from the exciting social life facilitated by binge drinking, cocaine parties and ecstasy-enhanced all-night raves. Maybe you like to gamble or play first-person shooters online with your virtual friends and imaginary foes. And what self-respecting young adult would not watch hardcore horror movies and gory action thrillers? You might even enjoy rapid-fire techno music and gangster rap.
Cycling been very much in the headlines in the UK. In the last fortnight 6 cyclists have been killed on the streets of London and today a young female motorist was fined for boasting on Twitter about how she accidentally knocked over a cyclist and did not bother to stop. To many the rivalry between motorists and cyclists is simply a matter of road safety and traffic management, but these modes of transport hardly compete. A human-powered bicycle could never travel as fast as an automobile, or carry as much weight.
The title is ironic and may be partly true of course as many oft-repeated statements are. The most obvious riposte in defence of small-time Italian and Greek entrepreneurs is neither do large multinationals and awareness-raising charities, pay very much tax, more on that later. The accusation serves a simple purpose, to justify the huge cutbacks in public expenditure enforced by the newly appointed governments of Italy, Greece and, to a lesser extent, Spain, while the UK continues to bankroll one of the world's most generous, intrusive and life-altering welfare bureaucracies.
I sometimes enjoy Peter Hitchens’ antidote to mainstream trendy Neo-Liberal thinking, but fear he is on some subjects in bad company and a tad ill-informed. No rational person could deny volumes of hard evidence showing the exponential rise in humanity’s collective impact on our planet’s delicate ecosystem, both in terms of our numbers (rising from just 750 million at the start of the industrial revolution to 7 billion now) and our per capita consumption.
Many on the left in the UK and elsewhere are celebrating George Galloway's resounding victory in the last Thursday's Bradford West by-election. With a turnout of just over 50%, the former labour stronghold saw a massive swing away from New Labour and the other mainstream parties to the left-leaning Respect coalition. Just ten years ago I would have been over the moon about such a spectacular win for the superficially radical left.
If you want to get away from the adverse effects of mass consumerism, extreme concentration of wealth, social unease and poverty, Cuba is an intriguing destination. Like in many countries your experiences can be filtered both by your cultural prejudices and expectations and by your tour operator. Many tourists just head for the beach resorts of Varadero, Cayo Coco, Guardalavaca, Cayo Largo del Sur or Baconao near Santiago.
What a coincidence! Just days after the US administration agreed to raise their country's debt ceiling and let the global consumption party go on for a few more months or maybe years, In London marauding mobs run riot, loot retail outlets and set commercial and residential buildings on fire. Reportedly it all started in Tottenham Hale, North East, on Saturday evening when demonstration against the police shooting of a minicab driver and alleged drug dealer, Mark Duggan, descended into violence, just four miles from my bedsit.
While some of us may seem very self-absorbed thanks to generations of social atomisation and disconnection from our palaeolithic roots, most of us are wired to adore new life.