The English

BBC – Freedom of the Press …

Posted on September 22, 2018. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personalities, The English |

What India’s first newspaper on Democracy

The front page of Hicky's Bengal Gazette, 28 April 1781Image copyrightUNIVERSITY OF HEIDELBERG
The newspaper was named after its founder, James Augustus Hicky

India’s first newspaper, founded in 1780, held up a mirror to British rule in India. It can also teach us about how tyrants work and how an independent press can stop them, writes journalist and historian Andrew Otis.

Known as Hicky’s Bengal Gazette after its intrepid founder, James Augustus Hicky, the newspaper notoriously dogged the most powerful men in India.

It dug into their private lives and accused them of corruption, bribery and abuse of rights. Among many claims, it accused the then ruler of British India, Governor General Warren Hastings, of bribing the chief justice of India’s Supreme Court.

It alleged that Hastings and his top aides launched illegal wars of conquest, taxed the people without representation and suppressed freedom of speech.

The newspaper also reported on the lives of Europeans and the Indian poor – often news that its competitors would have ignored. It bonded with those at the lowest levels of colonial society, especially the soldiers who fought and died in the wars waged by the British East India Company.

At the height of its power, the Company controlled large parts of India with its own armed forces. But it was disbanded after Indian soldiers in its army revolted against the British in 1857.

The newspaper, in fact, called on the soldiers to mutiny, arguing that their throats were “devoted to the wild chimeras of a madman”, a reference to Hastings.

Warren HastingsWarren Hastings was the then ruler of British India

But soon the criticisms became too much for the government to stand. Those in power sought to discredit those who held them accountable.

The East India Company funded a rival newspaper to control the narrative, while Hastings’ surrogates resorted to ad hominem attacks, calling the newspaper “insolent” and referring to its writers as “pitiful scoundrels”.

Finally, when one of its anonymous writers argued that the “people are no longer bound to obey” when the government no longer consults their welfare, the East India Company moved to shut it down.

Hastings repeatedly sued Hicky himself for libel. Hicky stood little chance in front of a bribed judiciary.

He was found guilty and, despite printing his newspaper from jail for another nine months, the Supreme Court issued a special order to seize his printing press, shuttering India’s first newspaper for good.

Eventually the allegations of abuse of power and rights made it back to England. Armed with reports from Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, the members of parliament launched an investigation.

This resulted in the recall and impeachment of both Hastings and the Chief Justice of India at the time.

The reports in Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, and later, in the British newspapers, were instrumental in building public pressure against corruption.

General Warren Hastings' impeachment trial in 1788General Warren Hastings’ impeachment trial in 1788

Like in the case of India’s first newspaper, authoritarian leaders today seek to suppress the press. The source of their power is to convince enough of the public to believe them, and not what they read in the press.

Politicians who want to be dictators are not new. But why are they so dangerous now?

They have new tools to sow divisions between citizens. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other forms of social media have created “filter bubbles” in which people consume and share content they already agree with.

The result is that people across the world are increasingly divided into tribes as social media allows politicians to communicate directly with their citizens.

For instance, US President Donald Trump often lashes out at the news media with tweets, denigrating them as “fake news” and as “enemies of the people”.

Social media has also had a deadly effect in India, where a recent spate of mob lynchings were linked to child abduction rumours spreading over WhatsApp.

Online trolls in India have also backed a Hindu nationalist agenda. Activists and journalists in the country were arrested in August and, in the fallout, many on social media termed them “anti-national” and said they were against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.

In such a tumultuous atmosphere, it is time for companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to be accountable for their effect on society and to follow ethics guidelines that newspapers have followed for decades. Social media companies bear a responsibility to foster connections and dialogue – not division and hate.

Dictators such as Hastings have come and gone. But these men set the stage for the subjugation of India. They created the political structure upon which British rule began. Through them, a subcontinent that is home to hundreds of millions came to be ruled by a company of a couple of hundred men.

They gained legitimacy not only through the sword, but by controlling what others could write about them.

Now we have democratically elected politicians who wield social media in the same way, using it to degrade the value of a free press and pit citizens against each other.

The fight between Hastings and Hicky is not that different from the fight we face today. The only thing that has changed is the tools used to fight.

Andrew Otis is the author of Hicky’s Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India’s First Newspaper, published by Westland.

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WW II – Op ‘Market Garden’ …

Posted on July 4, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

Gen KM Bhimaya –

THERE is a particularly British tendency to romanticise valiant military failure. The retreat to Corunna, the charge of the Light Brigade and the death of General Gordon at Khartoum are remembered as much as famous victories.

The “Battle of the Bridges” of 1944, fought predominantly in the Netherlands, fits into this category. Two films celebrate the heroics of what was the biggest airborne battle in history—“Theirs is the Glory” (made in 1946, immediately after the second world war) and “A Bridge Too Far” (1977).

Sir Antony Beevor avoids this trap. In the meticulous narrative style he first employed in “Stalingrad”, he recreates the operation from the dropping of the first troops on September 17th to the evacuation of the remnants of the British 1st Airborne Division eight days later. Tragically, heroism and incompetence are inseparable.

The outline of the story of “Arnhem” may be familiar, but Sir Antony’s unearthing of neglected sources from all the countries involved—British, American, Polish, Dutch and German—brings to life every aspect of the battle. The misjudgments of egotistical commanders are exposed by their own actions and words.

The experiences of individual soldiers both appal and inspire. Five were awarded Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest military award, four of them posthumously.

The plight of trapped Dutch civilians, who took great risks to help their liberators, is never overlooked. At times the wealth of detail threatens to confuse the reader. But confusion is the very essence – the “fog” – of war.

There is still debate about whether Operation Market Garden (the assault’s code-name) was a bold strategy that might have shortened the war or was fatally flawed from the outset.

Conceived by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, it was meant to provide a route into Germany’s industrial heartland that avoided the well-defended Siegfried Line farther south.

The idea was for airborne forces, dropped by parachute and gliders, to take a series of bridges over the Rhine, then to be quickly reinforced by ground units arriving by road.

How much Montgomery was motivated by personal rivalries is disputed, but there is no doubt he saw Market Garden as an alternative to Dwight Eisenhower’s “broad front” strategy, which he despised.

Eisenhower acceded to his relentless demands for resources, including American airborne divisions and vast numbers of transport aircraft. In the battle of the post-war memoirs, Montgomery still blamed him for his parsimony (while admitting to mistakes of his own).

In fact, the reasons for the disaster that befell the airborne assault were many and various. British tanks arrived too late to help; they had to come by a narrow road, dubbed “Hell’s Highway”, which ran across marshy polder land and was highly vulnerable to German attack.

The decision to spread the drops over three days (because of shortening daylight) forfeited tactical surprise, as did the drop zones’ distance from the objectives (the zones were chosen to avoid enemy flak).

Montgomery discounted intelligence from the Dutch resistance that warned of a large German build-up around Arnhem. German fighting spirit had not collapsed after defeat in Normandy, as had been supposed.

Market Garden was not a total failure: part of the southern Netherlands was liberated and some bridges, though not the key one at Arnhem, were held.

But the price was high. Allied casualties numbered around 17,000; thousands more were taken prisoner.

German retribution against Dutch railway workers who went on strike to aid the assault led to a famine that killed over 20,000.

A military maxim says that an operation’s outcome rests 75% on planning and 25% on luck. Even if this plan had been impeccable, it needed improbable good fortune to succeed.

As Sir Antony concludes, it “ignored the old rule that no plan survives contact with the enemy.”


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Greater than – ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – Gertrude Bell …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Movies, The English, Uncategorized |

“The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the The Ottoman Empire that had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. Now the colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils”. 

‘Queen of the Desert’ – the Motion Picture – moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The officers and Churchill  are looking at a map of the colonial “spoils”.  Churchill asks: “How do we delineate the borders?.  . . Who knows best about the tribes? . . .Who knows best about the Bedouin tribes?”

The officers reluctantly agree among themselves, “That woman”.“That woman” is Gertrude Bell, a British archaeologist, writer, traveler, and diplomat, who worked in a time of intense Western colonialism. 

This motion picture rescues Bell from oblivion.

The film ‘Queen of the Desert’, is based on the real-life story of Gertrude Bell  (1868-1926). Nicole Kidman acts the part of a, a humanitarian among those human colonialist scorpions who were roaming the deserts in search of prey and profit.

The difference between Bell and Lawrence? Bell was a woman and a natural diplomat, while Lawrence was an adventurer, romantic author -‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’  and made famous by  David Lean’s film, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Lean’s film made  Lawrence famous while ‘Queen of the Desert’ has been put on the backburner by the Film Industry. Diplomacy, Arab history and colonial exploitation of indigenous populations has little appeal. Gertrude Bell actually cared about the people of the Levant. Her books – and books about her – underscore this.

Gertrude Bell was there when the modern Middle East was formed. Because of her personal and caring knowledge of tribes and their leaders, she was used by the victorious nations after World War I to draw borders and choose leaders who became kings.

But the story of Gertrude Bell violated a narrative written and protected by Zionism as Levant history before 1947 was of little consequence and a period best lef out.

Queen of the Desert was initially screened in 2015 at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for the festival’s highest award, the Golden Bear. Directed by noted German director Werner Herzog and beautifully photographed on locations in Jordan and Morocco, the film was a natural for American “art house” screenings.

With Nicole Kidman, as the film’s star and a script by Herzog, which examined the role Gertrude Bell played in modern history, yet the film was not distributed in the US. The Desert Queen covers history in the World War I era when Israel did not exist then.. Yet a Nicole Kidman film of that era was shelved for two years.                                                                                   ..

When Queen of the Desert had its limited run earlier this year when it finally surfaced. There was still money to be made so the film now has DVD exposure and is on Netflix and sites like Amazon, began renting or selling copies.

This sensitive film which examines the life of one of the most significant women of the 20th century, lies deep into the archives of film history, a journey noticed by only a few. picture above of Gertrude Bell between Winston Churchill (left) and T.E. Lawrence, was taken in Cairo, Egypt, in the early 1920s.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that this photograph is viewed as one of a future  British Prime Minister, the real “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “that woman”.

One Final Perilous Journey For Gertrude Bell

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Stephen Hawking Goes at 76 …

Posted on March 14, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

From The Guardian                  

It began with Albert Einstein. Where Isaac Newton had thought gravity was an attraction borne by the fields of massive objects, Einstein said mass curved space itself.

By his reckoning, the planets of the solar system circled the sun not because of some unseen force, but simply because they followed the curvature of space.

The late John Wheeler, US Physicist,  once summarised the theory with characteristic simplicity: “Matter tells space how to curve …

Hawking was never one to think small. His goal was a complete understanding of the universe. So while others pondered the creation of black holes in space, Hawking applied the same thinking to the cosmos itself.

He joined forces with Roger Penrose , the Oxford mathematician, and showed that if you played time backwards and rewound the story of the universe, the opening scene was a singularity.

It meant that the universe, with all of its warming stars and turning planets, including Earth with all its lives, loves and heartbreaks, came from a dot far smaller than this full stop    . ………………………………


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Better than Bond …

Posted on February 3, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

Adam Lusher – The Independent Online.
Frank Foley – The mild-mannered British spy who defied Hitler and saved 10,000 Jews from the Nazis.

Sixty years after dying in relative obscurity, the quiet hero has received the rarest of accolades: a public statement from the serving head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, acknowledging the life-saving work of one of its spies.

Frank Foley risked his life to help Jews in Nazi Germany Wikimedia Commons To look at him, Frank Foley was no-one’s idea of a hero.
Small, slightly paunchy, with round glasses, he was less James Bond, more like the kind of functionary who could blend in with the backroom furniture while performing whatever humdrum task his superior set him.

Which is precisely what made him, to use the words of Sir Alex Younger, the current Head of MI6, “a consummately effective intelligence officer”.

So consummately effective, in fact, that while posing as a mild-mannered bureaucrat, Major Frank Foley – to give him his proper rank – became “the pimpernel of the Jews”, rescuing more than 10,000 men, women and children from under the noses of the Nazis in Hitler’s Germany.

Now, 60 years after his death, Frank Foley has received the rarest of accolades: a public statement from the serving Head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, acknowledging the work of one of its spies.

Holocaust Memorial Day: At a special ceremony in MI6’s London headquarters, Sir Alex told members of Foley’s family and the Holocaust Educational Trust: “There is a mantra that surrounds MI6’s history: ‘Our successes are private, our failures are public’.

“So it is a wonderful thing for MI6 that one of its most distinguished members’ successes are no longer private. While many condemned and criticized the Nazis’ discriminative laws, Frank took action. He took a stance against evil. He knew the dire consequences were he to get caught. He saved the lives of many thousands of European Jews [and] ensured they could travel safely out of the clutches of Hitler’s killers.”

It was an extraordinary tribute to an extraordinary spy. Using his cover as passport officer in the British Consulate, Foley – actually our most senior agent in Berlin – bent or broke the rules to give Jews the visas they needed to escape the Reich, even entering Nazi concentration camps to extract them.

One former MI6 officer told the Author Michael Smith that the work of Oskar Schindler, immortalised in the film Schindler’s List “pales into insignificance” compared to Foley’s success in rescuing Jews from the Nazis.

Perhaps tellingly, the ex-MI6 man added: “One of the most interesting things about Foley was that normally to be a case officer you have to be a bit of a s**t. But Foley managed to be a good case officer and a near saint.”

In fact, Foley wasn’t just a good case officer. His agent handling skills were so exceptional they were used as a model for training future generations of MI6 officers. And it’s true he had nearly become a Catholic missionary.

Born in 1884 in relatively humble circumstances, the son of a Great Western Railway engine fitter, at the age of 14 Foley was sent by his devoutly Catholic mother to a Jesuit seminary in France. Eventually though, the lure of student life proved stronger than the training to be a missionary, and Foley decided on a career as an academic.

When the First World War broke out, he found himself stranded in Hamburg, where he was studying philosophy. Yet rather than submit to being interned, Foley had the chutzpah to borrow a military uniform and escape Germany by train, posing as a Prussian officer on his way to the front.

At first, British intelligence rejected him, on the grounds that such a fit young man was needed in the infantry. Only after he had been shot in the lung on the Western Front was the young subaltern admitted into the ranks of the Secret Intelligence Service.

By the 1920s he was in Germany. After Hitler came to power in January 1933, it didn’t take long for this quiet, thoughtful and highly effective spy to work out was going on. In the spring of 1933 he took his wife Kay on a drive into some pinewoods looking for a picnic spot.
Every possible place they came to was marked with signs saying “Forbidden to halt”.

One of the first concentration camps was being built.

In his book ‘Foley, the spy who saved 10,000 Jews’, Michael Smith revealed for the first time the full extent of how Foley bent and broke the rules to grant Jews the visas they needed to get from Germany to Britain or British-controlled Palestine.

To begin with, when the rules insisted on £1,000 for a Palestine visa – a huge sum, especially for Jews with bank accounts frozen by the Nazis – Foley would accept payments of £10 on the grounds that £990 would somehow magically appear once the refugee disembarked in the port of Haifa.

When people said they had no money at all, he would gently hint that maybe someone could write them a letter promising them £1,000. And when he found out about illegal Zionist operations to smuggle Jews from Germany to Palestine, he kept quiet, instead of telling his superiors as the (British) rules decreed.

Some British diplomats shared Foley’s sympathies and also did their bit to help Jews escape. John Carvell, Consul-General in Munich, issued certificates allowing 300 Jewish men to go from Dachau to Palestine.
But by no means all Britons were quite so welcoming of the immigrants now fleeing Nazi persecution.

In the Commons in 1933, the Conservative MP Edward Doran rose to ask the House: “Are we prepared in this country to allow aliens to come in here from every country while we have three million unemployed?
”Consular staff were told that while the current numbers of refugees entering Britain were acceptable “We most certainly don’t want numbers increased, and it is our policy to do nothing to encourage further immigration.”

A Cabinet committee formed the opinion that there was no room in Palestine “for any appreciable number of German refugees,” and in time the head of MI6 himself, Sir Hugh Sinclair, came to tell the Home Secretary he was “seriously concerned” about the influx of refugees to Britain. “It was,” Sir Hugh declared, “A menace to our national interests.”

Yet if Foley was risking disciplinary action from his superiors, it was nothing compared to what the Nazis would have done to him had they realized exactly what he was up to. Foley could expect no diplomatic immunity: he was operating as a spy. But he pressed on, going as far as helping Jews to obtain forged passports and visas, even hiding some of them in his own Berlin apartment.

Foley’s nephew, who visited in 1934, told Michael Smith how “There would be this knock on the door at two or three o’clock in the morning and we would hear Frank go downstairs to talk to them.” At the same time, Foley was continuing his spying duties.

His wife Kay recalled how the strain and the terrible stories of persecution he was hearing pushed him to the point where “he felt he could go on no longer”.

But by 1939 the British passport control office in the Consulate building on Tiergartenstrasse was attracting queues of 250-300 people at a time, some of them Jews who had come from as far away as Austria or Hungary. Many never met the man who saved them. Many were never even expecting salvation.

One Sunday morning, recalled Werner Lachs, “Out of the blue, the post produced a letter from the British Passport Control Office”. Young Werner, a 12-year-old in 1939, escaped to Britain and lived to become a 91-year-old great-grandfather-of-four. Like many others rescued by Foley, he spent decades thinking he owed his life to a curious administrative mix-up in the British passport office.

Others, though, got to meet the man who saved them, in the most extraordinary circumstances. In 1939 Gunter Powitzer was in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, having been arrested for “race defilement” after getting his non-Jewish girlfriend pregnant.

One night, he returned late to his hut to find it empty. When he eventually found someone to ask why no-one else was in the hut, he was told: “They tried out a new machine-gun today”. A few days later, he was surprised to be cleaned up, shaved and led by an SS man into the camp office.

“There,” Powitzer later told Michael Smith, “Sat a small man wearing glasses, who told me in English: ‘My name is Foley. I am from the British Consulate in Berlin.”

Foley had started going into the concentration camps, convincing the Nazis that their Jewish prisoners had been granted a visa but been interned before they could receive it. Foley didn’t just get Powitzer out. He got his infant son to Palestine too.

In late August, days before war broke out, Foley left the Berlin passport office for the last time, but not before he had summoned someone to collect visas for 80 young Jews. Even after Foley left Germany, Jews were still escaping on papers signed by him.

The last group, 300 men, got out on August 28 1939, four days before Hitler’s invasion of Poland started the Second World War. After doing what he could to rescue as many Jews as possible, Foley took the fight to the Nazis.

He questioned Rudolf Hess after Hitler’s deputy flew to Scotland in 1941.

He played his part in the Double Cross deception operation, helping to run a network of double agents and turned spies who were able to trick Hitler into thinking the D-Day landings would be in Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy.

And then, in 1949, this “most normal, pleasant man” – as one unsuspecting Consulate civil servant remembered him – retired from MI6 to enjoy a quiet retirement in Stourbridge with his wife. There was little official recognition. The CMG awarded in January 1941 had been blandly listed as for “services rendered to the Foreign Office”.

To his Stourbridge neighbours, Foley was “a quiet, nondescript little man,” the kind you could easily miss in a crowd. But in all likelihood he was quite content with what he did receive: letters sent by those who did know who had rescued him, a canned turkey sent every Christmas from New York, from a grateful Jewish doctor.

He also formed a firm friendship with someone living round the corner from him: Ernst Ruppel, who had been rescued from Buchenwald by Foley before settling in England.

In later years, Foley worried about the possibility of a third world war. He declared himself a pacifist “unless some tyrant gets busy trying to rob people of their mental and physical liberty”. With more reason than most to know what he was talking about, he confided to his brother: “I hate war, and all the suffering it causes to the weak and innocent.”

His death aged 73, from a heart attack in May 1958, attracted little attention beyond a few appreciative letters in the Daily Telegraph. The funeral was a simple one, for friends and family, at Stourbridge cemetery. It would be 40 years before the true scale of Foley’s achievement was fully recognized.

Told about Foley by the former MI6 officer who regarded him as “a near saint”, the Author Michael Smith began investigating. Finally, when Smith’s book was first published in 1999, the world realized what Foley had done.

Today, he is honoured at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as one of the Righteous Among Nations. The figure for how many he saved is normally put at “more than 10,000” – but it could be yet higher.

As one helped by the quiet spy put it, “It is impossible to say how many owe Frank Foley their lives”. Now, there are public honours for Frank Foley, even where he once worked undetected.

On 24 November 2004, the 120th anniversary of Foley’s birth, a plaque was unveiled in his honour at the British Embassy in Berlin. There, finally, at the age of 91, Elisheva Lernau, rescued by Foley aged 22, could offer her thanks.

“His name is written on my heart,” she said. “I owe my life to this man I never met: a man of humanity in a time of unparalleled inhumanity.”

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English – the Germanic Way …

Posted on January 14, 2018. Filed under: The English |

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl.

And Congratulations you have learnt German within minutes…“`

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Tax Havens n Tax Avoidance …

Posted on November 9, 2017. Filed under: Business, The English |

Offshore tax havens: How do they work? What can be done about them? Can they ever be legitimately used? Exactly how big is the problem? And what can governments actually do about it? – Ben Chu

Another massive leak of information from a tax haven law firm – dubbed the Paradise Papers – has shone a spotlight on the questionable ways in which wealthy individuals and big companies structure their finances.

But how do tax havens actually work? Can they ever be legitimately used? Exactly how big is the problem? And what can governments actually do about it? How do tax havens actually work?

One of the primary methods is corporate profit-shifting. This is where a multinational company registers its headquarters in a low -corporation tax jurisdiction and then books its profits there, rather than in the Country in which it actually makes its sales.

This is what firms such as Google and Facebook have been doing in order to lower their global corporation tax bills. But what about personal taxes?

An individual could simply become a resident of a low-tax country in order to pay a lower rate of tax on their income. This is what racing drivers and globe-trotting sportspeople generally do.

But there are also ways in which individuals can remain living in a non-tax haven, such as the UK, and still benefit from tax havens. If an individual keeps their assets in a Trust in an offshore tax haven they can legally avoid paying capital gains in the country in which they are resident.

What is a trust? This is where an individual puts their assets “in trust” to be managed by nominally independent third parties (or “trustees”) for the benefit of named beneficiaries, which can include the individual who put the assets into trust in the first place.

The income can be paid out by the third parties to the beneficiaries regularly, or sporadically, depending on the decisions made by the third parties.

Once it is received by the beneficiaries, the income is subject to income tax. But while it is in the trust the assets are not subject to capital gains and the income on the investments is not taxed.

A major tax advantage is that the beneficiary of a trust is also not subject to inheritance tax on the value of the assets when the person who put the assets into trust for them dies. So who are these trustees?

They can be local officials in the tax haven, or partners in a local law firm, or accountancy firm, appointed by the individual who put their assets into trust.

Given the likelihood of those trustees being influenced by the previous owner of the assets when it comes to income disbursements the scope for abuse of the arrangement is obvious. But aren’t there legitimate uses of tax havens?

Historically, mutual investment funds, which attract investors from around the world, have registered themselves offshore to avoid the risk of double taxation of their surpluses.

This isn’t necessarily a problem so long as the beneficiaries of the fund do pay income tax on the money they receive from the fund in their home country.

When it comes to off-shore trusts, some argue that they are necessary to safeguard the privacy of beneficiaries. There are some circumstances where one can imagine this is a legitimate argument.

Yet the problem is that privacy can be so easily abused to facilitate illegal personal tax evasion and other crimes such as money-laundering. How big is the problem?

Corporate tax avoidance is significant. At the end of 2016 the Giant US Technology Companies alone were estimated by Moody’s Investors Service to have $1.84 trillion (£1.4 trillion) of cash held offshore.

This is essentially profits that Firms such as Apple, Microsoft and Google registered outside the US, and most of which is piled up in tax havens. But personal tax avoidance is bigger.

The calculations of the Economist Gabriel Zucman – analysing discrepancies in Countries’ National Accounts – suggest that around $7.6 trillion, or 8 per cent of global wealth, is held offshore.

That’s up 25 per cent over the past five years. Not all of that money will be held off-shore in order to dodge tax in a morally questionable way. But it’s fair to assume that a large proportion of it is.

The Tax Justice Network Campaign Group estimates that Corporate Tax Avoidance costs Governments $500 bn a year, while personal tax avoidance costs $200 bn a year.

Didn’t David Cameron promise to clamp down on all of this? The previous Prime Minister did implement a series of “automatic exchange of information” Agreements between the UK and the tax authorities of various tax havens designed to prevent the possibility of evasion.

But campaign groups say that this effort was a lot less impressive as a crackdown than the fanfare suggested. And the new system hinges on an unrealistic level of cooperation from law firms and accountants in tax havens.

Cameron also actually fought a proposal from the European Union that there should be public transparency over the beneficiaries of offshore trusts. The previous government’s “diverted profits tax”, designed to curb corporate tax avoidance by the likes of Google, was also grossly over-sold by ministers as a viable solution to multinational profit shifting.

So what needs to be done? On corporation tax avoidance, there are broadly two potential solutions. One would be for governments around the world to collaborate and agree to tax a multinational’s profits on the basis of a fair international formula, based on their sales, investments and employee numbers in various countries.

This would effectively shut down tax havens, where no substantive economic corporate activity actually takes place.

The other solution is for governments to unilaterally tax a multinational’s revenues, while making allowance for its local costs, investments and exports. This was something that US Republicans were pressing for earlier this year, although the plan has now been ditched.

And on personal tax? Here a major part of the solution is to go down the route that David Cameron blocked: to demand full and public transparency on the beneficiaries of offshore trusts. Acting in concert, the Governments of the EU could bring serious pressure on many tax havens to comply.

Many tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda are also British Crown Dependencies, giving the UK Government itself considerable leverage if it chose to exert it.

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Macaulay’s Best …

Posted on October 25, 2017. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Personalities, The English |

Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of very popular poems about heroic episodes in Roman history which Macaulay composed in India and published in 1842.

The most famous of them, Horatius, concerns the heroism of Horatius Cocles. It contains the oft-quoted lines:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?”

PS As a rival you might enjoy

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Phrases – Origin …

Posted on September 30, 2017. Filed under: The English |

There is an old Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial, of course) to be hung. The horse-drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ‘ONE LAST DRINK’.
If he said YES, it was referred to as *ONE FOR THE ROAD.
If he declined, that prisoner was ON THE WAGGON

They once used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then, once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery.
If you had to do this to survive you were “piss poor”,
but worse than that were the really poor folk, who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot, They *“Didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be in England. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of “carrying a bouquet when getting married”

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children. Last of all the babies.
By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.
Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”!

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.
Hence the saying, *”Dirt poor.”

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: *a thresh hold.*

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old’.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.
When visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off.
It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “Bring home the bacon.”
They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around talking and *‘chew the fat’.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, *tomatoes were considered poisonous.*

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or ‘The Upper Crust”.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.
They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ‘Holding a Wake’.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people, so they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realised they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus someone could be, ‘Saved by the Bell’ or was considered a ‘Dead Ringer’.

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Churchill n AlanBrooke …

Posted on May 25, 2017. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

Gen Brooke commanded II Corps in the British Expeditionary Force and had a pessimistic view of the Allies’ chances of countering a German offensive. He was sceptical of the quality and determination of the French Army. This appeared to be justified when on a visit to some French formations he was shocked to see unshaven men, unkempt horses and dirty vehicles.

After Dunkirk,in his first conversation with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Brooke insisted that all British forces should be withdrawn from France. Churchill objected but was soon convinced by Brooke.

In July 1940 Brooke took over command of  Home Forces to counter any invasion. Contrary to his predecessor, who favoured a static coastal defence, Brooke focused on developing a mobile reserve which was to swiftly counterattack the enemy forces before they became established. A light line of defence on the coast was to assure that the landings were delayed as much as possible.

Brooke believed that the lack of a unified command of the three services was “a grave danger” to the defence of the country. Despite this, and the fact that the available forces never reached the numbers he thought were required, Brooke considered the situation far from “helpless” in case the Germans invaded.

“We should certainly have a desperate struggle and the future might well have hung in the balance, but I certainly felt that given a fair share of the fortunes of war we should certainly succeed in finally defending these shores”, he wrote after the war. But in the end, the German invasion plan was never taken beyond the preliminary assembly of forces.

In December 1941 Brooke became Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) and member the Chiefs of Staff Committee and in March 1942 its Chairman. For the remainder of the Second World War, Brooke was the foremost military adviser to Winston Churchill.

As CIGS, Brooke was the functional head of the British Army, and as chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which he dominated by force of intellect and personality, he took the leading military part in the overall strategic direction of the British war effort.

His relationship with his Civilian boss was a turbulent one. He describes Churchill as a “genius mixed with an astonishing lack of vision – he is quite the most difficult man to work with that I have ever struck but I should not have missed the chance of working with him for anything on earth! “

Churchill on his part said about Brooke: “When I thump the table and push my face towards him what does he do? Thumps the table harder and glares back at me. I know these Brookes – stiff-necked Ulstermen and there’s no one worse to deal with than that!” 

It has been claimed that part of Churchill’s greatness was that he appointed Brooke as CIGS and kept him for the whole war.

A general complaint from Brooke was that Churchill often advocated diversion of forces where the CIGS preferred concentration. Brooke was particularly annoyed by Churchill’s idea of capturing the northern tip of Sumatra.

But in some cases Brooke did not see the political dimension of strategy as the Prime Minister did. The CIGS was sceptical about the British intervention in the Greek Civil War in late 1944, believing this was an operation which would drain troops from the central front in Germany. But at this stage the war was practically won and Churchill saw the possibility of preventing Greece from becoming a communist state.

 The most serious clash between the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff, was regarding the British preparations for final stages of the Pacific War. Brooke and the rest of the Chiefs of Staff wanted to build up the forces in Australia while Churchill preferred to use India as a base for the British effort. It was an issue over which the Chiefs of Staff were prepared to resign, but in the end a compromise was reached

Despite their many disagreements Brooke and Churchill held an affection for each other. After one fierce clash Churchill told his chief of staff and military adviser, Sir Hastings Ismay, that he did not think he could continue to work any longer with Brooke because “he hates me. I can see hatred looking from his eyes.”

Brooke responded to Ismay: “Hate him? I don’t hate him. I love him. But the first time I tell him that I agree with him when I don’t will be the time to get rid of me, for then I can be no more use to him.” When Churchill was told this he murmured, ”Dear Brookie.”.

The partnership between Brooke and Churchill was a very successful one and led Britain to victory. According to historian Max Hastings, their partnership “created the most efficient machine for the higher direction of the war possessed by any combatant nation, even if its judgments were sometimes flawed and its ability to enforce its wishes increasingly constrained”.

Brooke’s diary entry for 10 September 1944 is particularly revealing of his ambivalent relationship with Churchill: ...”And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no idea what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of this otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again…… Never have I admired and despised a man simultaneously to the same extent. Never have such opposite extremes been combined in the same human being.

The Alanbrooke diaries also give sharp opinions on several of the top Allied leaders. The Americans Eisenhower and Marshall, for example, are described as poor strategists and Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander as unintelligent. Among the few individuals of whom Brooke seems to have kept consistently positive opinions, from a military standpoint, were General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Field Marshal Sir John Dill, and Joseph Stalin.

Brooke admired Stalin for his quick brain and grasp of military strategy. Otherwise he had no illusions about the man, describing Stalin thus: “He has got an unpleasantly cold, crafty, dead face, and whenever I look at him I can imagine his sending off people to their doom without ever turning a hair.”

After the war, the Brookes’ financial situation forced the couple to move into the gardener’s cottage of their former home, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

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