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Archive for March, 2019

It’s definitely Springtime now in the Charente. Last year the cherry tree had a lot of blossom but no cherries. I heard from neighbours that many people had a similar experience. I don’t know why. This year, there seems to be even more blossom.

I wonder how many cherries will appear?

Do you remember when I shared a photo of the Tree Peony bud? Here it is again –

Well, just look at it now!

We had two years of no buds on this little tree, then last year, the first flowers appeared. This year there are five buds and the first two opened up in the sunshine today. Look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? These are huge flowers. About the size of dinner plate. And just looked at that abundance of pollen. What an attraction!

Both the cherry tree and the tree peony remind me that life has a seasonal rhythm to it, but that each season is different in its own way. I haven’t done much gardening in my life, but this garden is teaching me loads. One of the biggest lessons is patience. It’s a case of maybe not this year, but maybe next year, sometimes. And when the blooms come, oh, my, goodness, are they worth waiting for? Maybe the second biggest lesson is impermanence. It’s really “seize the day”, or, as I prefer, “savour the day”, when it comes to flowers, fruits and vegetables. They all seem to offer the greatest of pleasures over a pretty short period of time. But when that time’s over I see it now as part of a larger cycle and I know another season will come along next year. And I know it’ll be different.

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I was looking through old photos the other day and came across these ones of windows I’d seen in Japan. I thought I’d use one of them as the starting point for some writing and then found myself immediately unable to choose between them. I love them both.
However, they each present a totally different way of engaging with the world. Somehow, the round window invites the viewer to step through it into the garden. Maybe that’s partly because it goes all the way down to the floor, and, actually, the floor cuts through the circle which suggests that we are almost partly “in” it already. The square window, on the other hand, is like a frame. It looks complete in itself. There’s a symmetry to it which is very Japanese. The two bowls aren’t placed dead centre. The one nearer the middle is shifted to the left, and the other one is well to the left. Yet, somehow, the exact position I took up to make the shot resulted in the tree outside completing the distribution of objects in the frame in an incredibly pleasing way. It’s the symmetry of balance, rather than the symmetry of replication. You see that a lot in Japan. The Greco-Roman symmetries of Europe aren’t like that. In addition, the screens to each side of the square window act as powerful limiters. They substantially frame the view.
It struck me that the feelings associated with these two windows are very different. The circular window engages, opens up, invites. It feels like a moment of connection, not a static connection, but a dynamic connection which pulls you towards it. The square window doesn’t do that. It is somehow much more static. I feel content to stand here and gaze, feasting my eyes on the beauty of the image, frame and all.
But of course, why choose?
Why not prefer “and” to “or”?
So, I did. I chose them both and found that together they gave me a completely different starting point and a totally different flow of thought.
I feel there is an excess of binary thought these days. We are constantly being divided up, separated from each other, according to one simplistic duality. Natives or immigrants. Men or women. White people or People of Colour. “Leavers” or “Remainers”. I want to resist that. I refuse to be reduced to a single category. In fact, I refuse to be reduced to a collection of categories. I know that the data-minded think they can know us by harvesting our “likes” and preferences from Facebook but the uniqueness of a human being can’t be contained within a frame of data.
Maybe I see something of that in the square window. Maybe there’s something there of man-made straight lines and right angles, something which frames, contains, controls and boxes up.
Maybe I see something more natural in the round window. Maybe in that sweeping curve I’m pulled towards it, enticed to dive into it, to explore a world of connections and flow.
But maybe that just says something about me.
The truth is I like them both. If the straight lines and right angles represent science and the circle represents art, then I want both of them.
If the square window divides reality up into pieces, and the round window insists on a view of the whole which expands seamlessly as you step towards it, then I want both. I’m interested in the parts. I like the adventure into the body to discover the cells and their inner workings. And I’m insatiably curious because I know that all knowledge is incomplete. There will always be more to explore, more to discover, more to experience.

This afternoon, after pruning the vine which covers the old stone wall at the side of the garden, I sat down, felt the breeze on my cheeks, the sun on my skin, heard the songs of the little birds sitting amongst the plum blossom, and these thoughts of squares and circles came back to me. Here’s the thought that popped into my head. It surprised me, and it feels like a beginning rather than a conclusion.
Every camera I’ve ever seen has a circular lens. But the photographs it makes are rectangular.
Why is that?
Why do we capture the light with our round lenses, but only record what passes through them onto square, or rectangular sensors, or plates?
When I look out at the grass, the flowers, the fields and vineyards around me, the blue sky and clouds above me, there is no frame. Yes, I know, there are boundaries. I have what we call a “field of vision”. But that field isn’t at all like the field beyond the bottom of the garden. It isn’t bounded by four straight lines, and four right angles. It’s a circle. Or an ellipse.
That’s how we see the world. Through a circular lens and a sphere of sensors which are stimulated by the light which they encounter. There’s no hard edge. More a gradual loss of clarity towards the edges of the field. There’s no fixed frame, neither square nor circular. But there’s an impression of a circle nevertheless.

Before I go…..here are those two images again, but this time with circular or elliptical frames…….

 

 

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Years ago I took this photo in Italy and I’ve just rediscovered it while browsing  old Flickr files. I always loved how this very old glass gave a totally different experience from modern “blemish free” glass. In fact, I don’t see these swirls and waves within the glass as “blemishes” at all. They seem like an enhancement, a feature, even, which adds to the beauty of the glass.

This works for me at two different levels. It draws your attention to the glass itself. You know it’s been created by a human hand (as opposed to having been manufactured in a factory with machines). I suspect the Japanese would call this “wabi sabi”, so-called “imperfections” which hint at the craftsman or woman who created it with their hands. It makes it utterly unique. Like no other pane of glass.

But it also works a bit like the fairground magic mirrors, altering the image which passes through the glass. In fact, this makes the image quite dynamic. Every small movement of your head, or of your position, changes the image of the courtyard outside.

That changing image, altered by each slight shift of perspective reminds me of how all of life is like that, how everything we see, hear, touch, taste or smell is influenced by that ever changing blend of contexts and subject.

We bring our selves to every experience, and, in so doing, reveal certain connections, as well as experiencing something utterly unique.

Here’s another old photo. This time taken in Scotland.

This is Loch Garry, and if you are familiar with the shape of Scotland, you’ll look at this and immediately see the outline shape of the country.

If you aren’t familiar with the shape of Scotland, you wouldn’t notice that connection.

These are things we don’t think about much as we live our everyday lives, but, sometimes, something just really strikes us, and we become aware, for a little while, of the role of our subjectivity, the importance of contexts and environments, and how different perspectives create different experiences.

Both of these images do all of that for me. They give me a moment when I become aware of a bit more of the vast web of interconnectedness of all that exists.

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I heard that word, “fragments”, used by a historian in a podcast recently. He was explaining that history wasn’t fixed, was never “complete”, that in every event, every circumstance involving human beings there are multiple stories to tell, multiple, often entirely contradictory experiences to explore. He used the term fragment, to communicate that. That all of history is fragmentary, and all human stories are too. I liked and disliked the word “fragment” equally at the same time (I don’t think there are any fragments, in the sense that there is nothing which isn’t connected to anything else, but, on the other hand, as it seems impossible to ever know “the whole”, maybe fragments are the very essence of reality), but it’s wormed its way into my mind and I’m turning over this issue of fragments ever since.
Here’s where I’ve got to so far – I see two different kinds of fragments in the world. There are pieces, like pieces of iron, or pottery, or whatever, that archeologists might find. These are pieces which have lost their connections. And it’s the archeologist’s job to piece the pieces together. Like putting together a jigsaw. Once the pieces start to fit together, the connections become clearer. The picture emerges. We can say, oh, I see now! So there’s that kind of fragment.
But there’s another, something more dynamic, more fluid, almost a kind of perceptual fragment. You know like when you go to the movies with a couple of friends and in the conversation afterwards the experiences can be so different that sometimes you even wonder if you all saw the same movie? Well, that kind of fragment.
And that kind of fragment is what every single story is. It’s what every single relationship is. It’s what every event and experience is. No single story is something called “the whole story”. I don’t know if such a thing as “the whole story” exists, but, if it does, I don’t know how any single human being can know it. For instance, it wasn’t unusual for me to find that several months, or even years, into an ongoing therapeutic relationship with a patient, that they would reveal something fundamental about themselves, tell some story which suddenly explained mysteries about them. This would happen with people who I had really convinced myself I had heard and understood. At times, the new story, previously untold story (commonly the patient would say “I’ve never told this to a single person before”), would be nothing short of a moment of enlightenment. With experience, I grew to understand that even these moments were never the final ones, that there never was something called “the whole story”.
I see the Self like that too. Whether that’s the “community of selves” idea (The Scottish Psychologist, Miller Mair, coined this term – “His 1989 book Between Psychology and Psychotherapy was subtitled “a poetics of experience”, and this theme recurs throughout his written and spoken work. He saw therapist and client as reaching towards understanding through conversation and metaphor, through engaging with the “community of selves” of which they were personally constituted, and through striving to “tell stories” that would illuminate the conditions of their lives.”) or the idea of multiple facets, roles or aspects of the same person – differences which are so different that sometimes that we wonder if there can be a ‘thing’ called “THE SELF” – and, I don’t think there is. Whatever a SELF is, it’s not an object, not a thing. It’s a subject, a complex web of woven threads, a continually changing, evolving, dynamic host of energies. And maybe, just maybe, one of those aspects overwhelms the others, at least for a while, but they all exist, all come into being, all ebb and flow….all “interfere” with each other, in the way that waves and ripples “interfere” with each other.
I guess at times some of the threads that make up YOU pull or rub against each other in uncomfortable ways and you think “wouldn’t it be simpler if I had less threads?”
And maybe it would.
But would the tapestry be as beautiful?
Only you know.

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tree blossom

Here in the Charente, March is a month of emergence. Officially, it’s Spring. Well, I’ve read three ways to determine Spring actually – you can go by the appearance of Spring flowers, like the crocus, or you can take the “meteorological Spring” which falls on the 1st of March, or you can wait till the “Spring Equinox”, one of two days in the year where the number of hours of day and night are equal (that’s March 20th in the Charente). Well, in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway (you guys in the Southern Hemisphere have your Autumn Equinox when we, here, have Spring – and vice versa). Oh, and, it’s not exactly equal day and night, but pretty close.
I think of Spring as a time of awakening. The bare branches of the trees begin to bud and flower, and the Spring bulbs push up their green leaves and unfurl their gorgeous petals. It’s a sort of time of beginnings.
Mind you, I also feel that Autumn is a time of beginnings, but that’s because I started University (Edinburgh) in the autumn, and began my first job as a Junior Doctor on the 1st of August (1978). In those days there were two variations of training doctor contracts, six month ones and twelve month ones, so we all started jobs on 1st August, or on 1st February. It’s probably changed since then. However, that rhythm of new academic years and new training posts over a decade has embedded a sense of beginnings for me every Autumn.
Spring, though, feels like a more Nature-attuned time of beginnings.
So, I went off yesterday on a blossom and bud hunt. I took quite a lot of photos. Up top here is the kind of phenomenon I was looking for.
And here’s one of many cherry blossom photos I took. I love the delicate pink colours against the blue sky, and the delicacy of the stamens reaching for the sky!

cherry blossom

Back home I found a tulip which had revealed her red petals since the day before ….

red tulip

and the tree peony has five buds this year. Here’s one of them, just beginning to show a hint of her pink petals.

tree peony bud

The appearance of the cherry blossom is greatly celebrated in Japan, with daily reports on TV and the front pages of newspapers, showing maps which follow its path from the south to the north of the country, and thousands of people setting off to have picnics under the trees, or to stroll around admiring them and photographing the blossoms.

So, here’s what I recommend for the next few weeks. Take a local safari. Go out, on foot, on your bike, or drive around and see if you can spot buds and blossoms. When you do, take some photos. They don’t have to be works of art. It’s just a great delight to focus in on emergence, to get up close and personal to new signs of life, new expressions of Creation, new beginnings.

What you do after that is up to you. My hunch is that kind of experience changes how you feel about the day.

If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, then its time to capture a different phase of change. Here’s a link for Australia. And here’s one for South Africa.

But you tell me……wherever you are in the world, what changes do you notice this week, as we move towards the Equinox?

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IMG_1130

Let’s talk about death.
Because we don’t.
Somehow it’s not acceptable to talk about death, almost as if it’s bad manners, or maybe just that you’re going to make someone uncomfortable by talking about it because death is something we all hope to avoid. Today, anyway! Maybe we think that if we don’t talk about it, don’t even think about it, then it won’t happen. Which is equivalent to a child covering their eyes to hide and thinking nobody can see them.
Death is certain. It’s inevitable, inescapable, unavoidable.
Yes, yes, I know that, but let’s deal with it when it comes along, and, look, it’s not coming any time soon, right?
I don’t have the impression that death is difficult for the dead, but, then, what do I know? I’ve never talked to a dead person. Or, more accurately, no dead people have ever talked to me.
Dying, on the other hand, can be really difficult. I’ve seen difficult deaths, been present through those final weeks, days, minutes of final struggle. Some of those deaths make the moment of death like a release, a final end to suffering.
And death is difficult for the living. It’s loss, emptiness, sadness, distress, grief….It changes the lives of the living permanently. Life is not the same after death.
But life is never the same anyway. Life is a process of constant change. Even in the midst of our most fixed habits and routines, life changes. Relationships are formed, relationships fall apart, new jobs appear, old jobs go, people enter our lives, and they leave, some temporarily, some permanently. Isn’t death just one of those changes? A kind of ultimate experience of transience?
How many deaths have you witnessed?
I’ll never forget the first time I had to certify someone as dead. As a Junior Doctor working in a hospital, one of my responsibilities was to confirm that a patient had died, and initiate the formal recognition of their death, writing in their case file “Time of death” and entering the time I declared it. The first time for me I was called, as on call doctor, at about 3am, to a ward I’d never visited before. An elderly patient there, whose death was expected, had just died. It was my responsibility to examine him for signs of life. I took my time. I didn’t want to get it wrong! I listened to his chest for a long time, but couldn’t hear any heart beats. I tested for various reflexes and got not response. I stared long and hard into his eyes, using a device called an ophthalmoscope, shining a light onto his retinae to look for the signs of death I’d been trained to see. Finally, I was convinced. Looked at my watch, and retired to the little office at the end of the ward to write the formal statement of my examination and the date and time of his death. As I walked back along the empty main corridor I began to think about what I’d just experienced. I wondered whether or not it was true that we each have a soul, and whether or not that soul hovers around the body for a little time after death, before departing. I wondered if the man’s soul had been hovering around behind me, as I checked his body for signs of life. I wondered if his soul might have started to follow me from the bedside to the office, and maybe, now, as I walked down this empty corridor. I started to walk faster and wondered whether or not a soul could keep pace with a living person. My heart started to beat faster and as I turned into the on call rooms corridor to go to bed I flicked on the light switch in the stair well and “bang!” the light bulb flashed on then immediately went out again. Well, that spooked me! I ran up the dark stairs taking two or three steps at a time, fumbled as I tried to get my key into the on call room door, eventually managing, throwing the door open wide, then slamming it hard behind me. As I stood, breathing heavily, with my back to the door, I suddenly thought. “Hey, surely ghosts can walk through walls!” At that point I realised how absurd it was to be imagining such things. Took me a while to settle though!
I’ve seen many deaths since then. I don’t think it ever became routine. I didn’t imagine souls hovering around me any more, but I always found the experience disturbing. Maybe that’s just normal.
For most of us we won’t have experienced many deaths directly. When they happen, they are significant events. They feel like something has gone wrong. Maybe somebody is to blame. Maybe someone has failed. Maybe we even feel the dead person has failed….failed to rage against the dying of the light.
When you talk to people who have had an encounter with death, a near miss, a sudden, or unexpected one, brought on by an accident or an illness, it’s not uncommon that they will say it’s made them realise how precious life is, how fragile, how maybe until that moment they hadn’t really known that. Well, known it as a sort of fact, but not known it as a person. There’s a difference. Maybe they’ll say they’d have a wake up call. A wake up call to what? To the knowledge of the shortness of life. They might say it’s made them realise that if they want to make the most of life, then it might be a good idea to start now.
Or they might have a heightened sense of reality, of the unpredictability of life, or even of the inevitability of its ending.
Thinking about death because you’ve survived a serious accident, recovered from a serious illness, or have just experienced the death of a loved one, a friend, or a colleague, can make you re-evaluate your life.
Re-value your life.
Feel how precious and fragile it is and decide to make some changes, to stop procrastinating, to stop living this way in the hope that one day, in the distant future, you’ll be able to live a different way.
That’s the gift of death. The gift of life.
Do we have to go through such an experience to get there? Can we only wake up, reassess our choices and values by having personal encounters with death? Or can we make such decisions, initiate such changes, by thinking about death, or talking about it?
If you knew you had one year left to live, what would you do differently?
Stephen Levine, who passed away in January, 2016, wrote a best selling book entitled “A Year to Live” where he describes the process of living as if you have only one year left. Many people have followed his programme since.
But the whole idea of thinking about death as a way to a better, or should I say, more considered, life, goes all the way back to Socrates (there are whole schools of thought on this subject from many other cultures too)

In the Phaedo Plato has Socrates claim that in death the soul is released from the impure and contaminated body, and thus becomes able to attain pure knowledge of Truth. In the dialogue Socrates says: “It really has been shown to us that, if we are ever to have pure knowledge, we must escape from the body and observe things in themselves with the soul by itself. It seems likely that we shall, only then, when we are dead, attain that which we desire and of which we claim to be lovers, namely, wisdom…”
Thus according to Plato upon death the philosopher achieves that which he has been striving for his entire life. Because of this Plato has Socrates claim that the practice of philosophy in life is really a dress rehearsal for what comes in death: “…those who practice philosophy in the right way are in training for dying, and they fear death least of all men.”
Since the time of Socrates and Plato philosophy has assisted countless individuals confront their own mortality, and provided consolation in the face of what many consider the greatest of all evils – death.

A related train of thought is wondering what you would do differently if somebody you knew had only a year left to live. What if that somebody was your mum or dad, a brother or sister, a lover, partner or friend?
And what if it wasn’t a year? What if it was five years, or, ten? Would that change anything? Would either of those scenarios lead to different choices?
So, a little contemplation on death from time to time, might have a serious impact on both the way we live, and the way we are with others.
You know, I think there’s an awful lot more we could consider down this road, but maybe that’s enough for now.
Before I finish, though, when I was researching life expectancy figures for the articles I was writing about health, I discovered that a male Scot aged 65 (that’ll be me in a few months time!) has a life expectancy of a further 19. 7 years. When I read that I had mixed feelings. I mean twenty years seems quite a long time, right? But on the other hand, it feels as almost no time at all! But what I realised I was doing with that figure was considering it as an end point. I thought, well I might just see the start of 2040 then! But then I read what “life expectancy” is. It’s a median. That means that in 19.7 years time, 50% of male Scots, aged 65 today, will be have died. But 50% will live beyond that timescale. It’s not an end point. It’s the 50/50 point!
Hey, how human is it to grasp at offer of hope?! (Well, that’s another subject to consider….the importance of hope)
OK, this is like a PPS but I must tell you about the patient I saw one day. I knew her from previous visits, but this day she seemed particularly out of sorts. I asked her what was bothering her and she said “My husband’s been diagnosed with cancer. He’s been told he’s got six months to live”
I sympathised with her and asked how that news had made her feel. Her reply took me completely by surprise.
“I’m angry. Really angry. I mean how come he gets to know how long he’s got and I don’t get to know how long I’ve got?!”
We had an interesting conversation about uncertainty after that!

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sinking boat

This is my last article in this series about health. I started by addressing the needs of health services, then continued with an exploration of how to move towards healthier communities so that more people might expect more years of healthy life. I began with shelter, exploring housing, then, food, education, and the environment.

Finally, I want to address the issue of inequality.

In Scotland, in 2008, life expectancy figures revealed that men living in one part of Glasgow could expect to live 28 years more than those in another part. This was publicised as the plight of “Shettleston man”, named after the area with the poorest male life expectancy. Twenty eight years of difference in two areas a mere 15 minutes away from each other.
Shocking? Of course. This wasn’t the full story. The number and severity of illnesses suffered by the men in poor Shettleston, were far greater than those living in the more affluent, Lenzie.
Since 2008, that picture has changed somewhat, partly because that dramatic figure was a result of high numbers of drug deaths. Ten years later the figures still show huge differences between the richest and the poorest parts of Glasgow. One area has a male life expectancy of 82, whilst in another it’s 66 – still a difference of 16 years.

This huge inequality in health experience and in life expectancy are closely linked to other inequalities, from income, employment, and housing to education.
For many years Richard Wilkinson and his partner, Kate Pickett have produced research evidence for inequality itself being one of the most significant factor in the production of these shocking statistics. It’s not just poverty, it’s inequality.
They’ve recently published more findings which explore the links between mental health, wellbeing and inequality. What they demonstrate is some of the potential mechanisms of the links between inequality and illness, through the psychological impacts which are part of the daily lives of the poorest communities.
We don’t live in isolation.
We can’t just exhort people to eat more healthily, smoke and drink less, and move more and expect the population to suddenly become healthier. We have to address the conditions in which people live. Unless we tackle inequality it’s going to be hard to bring better health to the majority of the population.
Many reports have shown how inequality around the world is on the increase. This article, in The New Yorker neatly summarises the findings of the French economist Thomas Piketty on this issue.

The famous “elephant graph” (so called because of its shape) shows what’s happened over the last four decades.

elephant graph

Is this inevitable?
Surely not. It wasn’t always the case, and it’s actually changing. If we want to change it in a different direction we’ll need to get to grips with ways in which the richest manage to grab and hoard their wealth.

A recent story reported that, in the US, Amazon, despite making a profit of $11.2 billion, they’ll not only be paying zero Federal tax, but will actually receive a tax rebate of $126 million.

It’s not only the richest corporations who work hardest to pay as little tax as they can. Individuals do too. The CEO of Ineos, the UK’s richest man, is moving to Monaco to save £4 billion in tax. His two wealthiest executives are following suit.

The “Panama Papers”, leaked from the offshore law firm, Mossad Fonesca, revealed, amongst other things

“the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens. A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin’s daughter Katerina got married. Among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.”

 

The “Paradise Papers” are another big data leak related to a separate company showed many, many, similar examples

“Key revelations include:
Millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund – and some of her money went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people.
Prince Charles’s estate made a big profit on a stake in his friend’s offshore firm.
Extensive offshore dealings by Donald Trump’s cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross.
Twitter and Facebook received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions.
The tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trust managed by the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s chief moneyman.
The Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton avoided taxes on a £17m jet using an Isle of Man scheme.
Oxford and Cambridge and top US universities invested offshore, with some of the money going into fossil fuel industries.
A previously unknown $450m offshore trust that has sheltered the wealth of Lord Ashcroft.
The man managing Angola’s sovereign wealth fund invested it in projects he stood to profit from.
Apple secretly moved parts of its empire to Jersey after a row over its tax affairs.
How the sportswear giant Nike stays one step ahead of the taxman.
The huge tax refunds given by the Isle of Man to the owners of private jets.
Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton.
The secret loan and alliance used by the London-listed multinational Glencore in its efforts to secure lucrative mining rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A former UK minister who defended tax avoidance has a Bahamas trust fund.
The complex offshore webs used by two Russian billionaires to buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.
Stars of the BBC hit sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys used a web of offshore companies to avoid tax.
British celebrities including Gary Lineker used an arrangement that let them avoid tax when selling homes in Barbados.
Prominent Brexit campaigners have put money offshore.
The Dukes of Westminster pumped millions into secretive offshore firms.
A tax haven lobby group boasted of “superb penetration” at the top of the UK government before a G8 summit that was expected to bring in greater offshore transparency.
The law firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers leak was criticised for “persistent failures” on terrorist financing and money laundering rules.
Seven Republican super-donors keep money in tax havens.
A top Democratic donor built up a vast $8bn private wealth fund in Bermuda.
The schemes used to avoid tax on UK property deals.
The celebrities, from Harvey Weinstein to Shakira, with offshore interests.
How a private equity firm tried to extract £890m from a struggling care home operator by making it take out a costly loan.
Trump’s close ally Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, is the longtime owner of an offshore firm.
One of the world’s biggest touts used an offshore firm to avoid tax on profits from reselling Adele and Ed Sheeran tickets.”

It’s only the wealthiest individuals and companies which go to such lengths to contribute less of their wealth to the societies in which they made their gains.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, there is a growing evidence that increasing minimum wages is a great way to make positive impacts on populations.

A 2011 national study showed that low-skilled workers reported fewer unmet medical needs in states with higher minimum-wage rates. In high-wage states, workers were better able to pay for the care they needed. In low-wage states, workers skipped medical appointments

“Studies have linked higher minimum wages to decreases in low birth-weight babies, lower rates of teen alcohol consumption and declines in teen births. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that between roughly 2,800 and 5,500 premature deaths that occurred in New York City from 2008 to 2012 could have been prevented if the city’s minimum wage had been $15 an hour during that time, instead of a little over $7 an hour.”

None of these issues can be tackled in isolation. They need co-operation and collaboration. That should encourage us, because these are two of the greatest strengths of the human species.

 

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