How the changes in benefits may affect you

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The UK has recently seen a few changes in the benefit system, and a few more proposed changes. The changes that already have occurred and those that may occur, could affect millions of people, and not necessarily in a good way.

The self-employed

Self-employed people may no longer be eligible for working tax credit if they earn less than the minimum wage would pay you per year. So, if your yearly profit turns out to be less than what you would receive if you worked in a minimum wage job (Taking a whole year’s pay into consideration) then your benefits are likely to be cut, or dramatically reduced.

Right now, a minimum wage job will pay roughly £800 a month after tax, so if your self-employed job pays you less than that per month, your tax credits could be stopped. This means that you may have to look for extra work in order to make ends meet. If for example, you specialize in roofing as part of your self-employed job, you could find extra work at places like Leafield projects that do something similar.

 

 

Proposed housing benefit changes

There has been talk that the British government has decided not to pay housing benefit to anyone under the age of 22. This may be brought into place so that people coming into this country, don’t automatically become eligible for those benefits. But some people are worried that those under the age of 22 who have lived in this country all of their life, will be victimized. Perhaps the government will find a way around this, but perhaps those British citizens who struggle to make ends meet, will just have to keep struggling until they reach the age of 23.

 

Increasing poverty in the UK

Unfortunately, I think the proposed changes wil increase the level of poverty in the UK. Although the British government wants to save money, it will leave a lot of people without much cash. Those who have more than enough money to make ends meet, are the ones who will ultimately decide what our fate will be.

I know some people will bounce back from the benefits cuts, but some won’t and they will delve further into poverty, and that’s never a good thing. All we can do is wait and see what happens, and hope things don’t turn out to be too bad.

DOES CHINA REALLY EXIST?

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How many Chinas are there? If your answer was one then you’re wrong. Or maybe you’re right, it’s very confusing. That’s because there are actually two governments that claim sovereignty over the single nation state of China, The Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and The Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan.

Why the confusion? Well, like many issues in China, it all comes down to Chairman Mao. After the Chinese Civil war in 1947 the Communist Party took complete control of mainland China causing the ROC government to flee to the island of Taiwan. The ROC still claimed legitimacy as the rightful government of the whole of China, a claim that still stands today.

So which is the real China? Well if you look at a map it might seem pretty simple, the PRC is around 9.6 million square kilometres and the 2nd largest country on earth, while Taiwan is only 36,193 square kilometres. To put that into perspective, that is like deciding whether the Governor of Hawai’i should have greater control over the USA than the President. Except during the Cold War, when communism was pretty unpopular in The West, that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t until the 1970s and US President Nixon’s ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy that The West finally acknowledged the legitimacy of the PRC over the exiled government in Taiwan.

Why does it matter?

The matter of China’s sovereignty may become increasingly important in the coming years. The PCR has some very serious issues it must address if it is to avoid complete collapse. In particular the level of pollution in China is truly astounding, with many suggesting a clean water crisis may spark civil unrest in the coming years.

On a global scale it also serves as a timely reminder of just how fragile and subjective the concept of the nation state is. What constitutes a country has been fiercely debated for generations and it is important to remember that nation states are almost conceptual. For instance, the sovereignties of both Israel and Palestine are the source of contention, with only 70% of United Nations (UN) members formally recognising The State of Palestine and 83% recognising Israel. Returning to China, today 22 UN states still recognise the ROC as the official government and therefore the legitimate nation of China.

Many governments, such as Israel, attempt to solidify their countries’ existence with rigid border controls and boundaries clearly marked with walls, forests and even artificial hedges. However it only takes a quick look at other areas of the world to realise that the legitimacy of a border is also entirely subjective. The border between The Netherlands and Belgium, for instance, literally runs through peoples’ houses, meaning they get out of bed in Holland and have breakfast in Belgium.

Answering the big questions

The systems we use to define society, particularly the concept of the nation state, are not by any means immutable. Taking a step back and asking big questions about how the world is actually organised helps us understand contemporary issues and best prepare for the future.

Eyes on the Election – The Issue of Student Debt

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As the big players position themselves at the starting line for their 2016 US presidential election runs one of the biggest surprises so far has been the success of the left-wing Democrat candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. The self-declared democratic socialist has struck a chord with the American electorate, particularly with a young demographic for whom Senator Sander’s call for “a revolution in the way higher education in funded” has resonated strongly.

In reality, Bernie Sanders is very unlikely to be elected as the 2016 Democrat presidential candidate, especially considering he is up against the political behemoth Hillary Clinton. But that doesn’t mean that the issue of tuition-fees isn’t still of high importance. Here, look at how three systems around the world tackle higher education funding alongside the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches.

The USA

Universities in the US are split into two categories, public and private. State universities receive part of their funding from the government while the top institutions are generally run as private non-profits. Tuition fees vary depending on the institution. A public college 4 year course, for example, may cost the student around $9,139 per year. At a private non-profit university a similar 4 year course will cost in the region of $31,231 per year. Scholarships and grants are available for a few students, while the rest rely on federal loans which have a broad range of repayment plans.

The advantages? The taxpayer contributes relatively little to the cost of higher education, meaning they are not burdened with a service they do not directly benefit from. Private non-profit universities are free to expand rapidly and the USA boasts some of the highest ranked institutions in the world.

The disadvantages? The lack of secure financial support means that many students cannot afford to go to college, making affluence the deciding factor in education rather than aptitude. Moreover, those that can risk being hounded by unpayable debt repayments for the rest of their life, an issue Senator Sanders has made the cornerstone of his campaign.

The Scandinavian Model

A polar opposite system to the US, and one favored by Senator Sanders, is that employed for higher education in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Like many European systems Scandinavian universities receive the bulk of their external funding from the state, accrued via the tax paying population, meaning studying is almost completely free. Although the cost of living is higher in Scandinavia, most students therefore emerge from university with minimal debt.

The advantage? Universities are able to enroll the best students on the basis of merit, rather than their ability to afford it. The percentage of the population with a university education is higher than in fee paying systems and therefore, theoretically, better qualified for a wider range of roles in society.

The disadvantage? Tax payers that don’t attend university fund institutions which they do not benefit from directly. Moreover, the relatively minimal financial commitment to attending university means students spend longer on degrees, increasing the cost of their study while denying their labor and means of production to the nation’s economy.

The UK

The UK system can be thought of as falling somewhere between the USA and Scandinavian models. Universities fall under the loose control of the state, which permits them to charge up to £9,000 (around $14,000 US) per year for tuition while still receiving a portion of government funding, primarily for science and technology subjects. The government loans money to students to cover these fees; however, unlike the US model, graduates only have to start repaying this loan after their annual earnings rise above £21,000. Moreover, if after 30 years the debt is not re-payed then it is simply written off.

The advantages? The burden of university funding on the tax payer is alleviated while the ease of loan repayment should encourage students from lower income backgrounds to apply.

The disadvantages? Including maintenance loans a typical three year university course can land students in over £50,000 worth of debt which, in practice, dissuades poorer students from attending. Furthermore, the government’s policies of tying repayments to earnings and wiping out the debt after 30 years means that, inevitably, many of these loans are predicted to go unpaid.

Which system is best?

Judging which system is ethically and practically best is the source of intense ideological debate. For instance, student debt in America accounts for a staggering $1 trillion, but does that mean higher education should be made free or simply that it should be made more efficient? Many educational providers in the US have already moved to streamline courses, such as evoprep which uses online resources and workshops to reduce the cost of achieving a post graduate school administration qualification.

One thing is for sure, whether the next President of the United States is Bernie or Hillary, Republican or Democrat, college funding is going to be top of the agenda.

 

Let your Voice be Heard

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Newspapers have always provide the bedrock of a vibrant and unified democracy, due to the often uncredited ability it has if making everyone feel equal, and everyone having an equal stake in the society. Before newspapers it was pamphlets, which when the printing press came into wide use in England, contributed greatly to the civil war, which whatever side you take if any, did contribute greatly to building a democratic country out of what was a country made up of the rich landowners, or the royal class, and the peasant workers. Continue reading Let your Voice be Heard

Energy Savings Tax Rules

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I’m the kind of person who likes to get savings on just about everything. I’ve been known to clip coupons, bargain hunt online, and I’m a huge Black Friday shopper. In fact, one year I actually hit the mall at 2 am just to get the backpack I’d been thinking about buying for months. And then come tax season, you probably won’t see me much, because I’ll be at my kitchen table, practically buried in forms and instructions, trying to find every little tax savings and incentives clause that I can legally use.

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Picture Credit: DonkeyHotey

I’ve wondered, though, how far the government should go in giving tax incentives. There are things that I have which I really believe I should get credit for, because they save so much energy. For example, I was shopping the other day on www.CreamOfBmx.com/electric-sharpeners/, trying to find the best one. And I thought to myself that if I’m going to be spending that much money in order to reuse my knives, shouldn’t I get a tax credit for that? Good knives are extremely cost and energy intensive to make, and I’m actually saving energy by reusing my knife rather than throwing it away when the blade gets dull. Even the cheapest of knives takes a lot of energy, plastics, and metal resources in the manufacture, and I’m just using a little bit of electricity.

Another example is my bike. Maybe I just haven’t found it yet, but shouldn’t there be a tax savings for me when I choose to ride my bike instead of drive my car? It seems that if people who purchase hybrid or electric vehicles are eligible for tax breaks, I should be eligible too, because I’m expending almost no resources when I commute with my bike. The only energy being burned is my own calories. If I’m not mistaken, the tax credit is given for the carbon emissions savings when drivers buy electric vehicles. Last I checked, my bike didn’t emit fumes of any type.

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Picture Credit: rik-shaw

I suppose there’s got to be a limit, though. I don’t necessarily want the IRS going through my pantry to see if I own a knife sharpener, or stopping in on Independence Day to see if I’ve used paper plates or reusable ones. I think it’s great that the government is doing what they can to help consumers choose products which will help to protect the environment.  I’m just wondering if they couldn’t be a little more involved.

Some Possible Reasons why Politics is The Way It Is

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Some Possible Reasons why Politics is The Way It IsI consider myself among the many who have gradually become disillusioned with politics over the years, and it didn’t take many. It has gotten to the point where people feel they are at arm’s length from the politicians, who have longer arms than you and can reach into your pocket and take what they really want from you.

It goes a little deeper than just money though, because they also want your vote, and although you could say (cynically) that it counts for nothing, politicians have proved to be very skilful self-promoters who will make you believe one thing about them, and then go on to show their true colours .They convince people that they were peaceful and progressive people who cared for all things a good person would care for, in the meantime racking up a huge list of deaths at their command, and going on to create excellent networks from which they can make millions and millions of dollars – and probably not pay tax too.

It is not funny, nor a joke, but there are some things which are fairly absurd and revealing about the attitude of politicians today.

They are self-serving

In the case of Tony Blair, it is particularly depressing and disheartening to see a man that was trumped up to be the new hope of modern society by all the press (more accurately that of Rupert Murdoch who he had many private meetings with) then go on to show through his actions that his prime ministerial time was just a moment in his career. He now has a network of contacts from which he makes a lot of money under the title of peace envoy, an ironic title for the man who led Britain into the most morally unethical and illegal war in the nation’s recent history, and one that is just as fancy and irrelevant as that of prime minister.

The reason why it is so obvious they are so self-serving is because they don’t speak for me or many other people, they speak for themselves and big business. One example of this is the massive redistribution of funds from the public sector, such as benefits, to areas such as nuclear weaponry and bailing out banks. Who paid for the arrogance and misjudgement of the banks, not them but the poor.

They don’t care for freedom or democracy

I was disgusted by Cameron saying that Israel had the right to defend itself when the attention of the world was on them for bombing Palestinians. Defend themselves from what? A group of extremely poor essentially prisoners who are unarmed pose a threat to one of the most aggressive and highly armed nations of the world? Their deliberate targeting with the most accurate weapons modern technology has to offer of schools, homes and hospitals is a rightful self defence?! Not in my view. Can it seriously be in Cameron’s personal view. I suppose it must as these are the kind of things that politicians need to say, and it helps if someone so twisted actually believes what they say. It’s almost as if they don’t say it themselves but instead make the most of essay writing by essayspresident to do it for them.

One interesting story for me at least dates back to the culturally explosive decades of the 50s and 60s. Without sounding like too much of a conspiracy theorist, because this is all true, it concerns the history of the drug LSD. The American military were carrying out experiments with the drug before the public had access to it, and it was a failure to their eyes. The reason for this was because the soldiers who took the drug lost all obedience and could not carry out orders, instead they fell about laughing and climbing trees, including the officers.

When it got to the public a similar kind of thing happened, which resulted in serious reactions from the government culminating in the killing of four students on a university campus by police during a peaceful protest against the war in Vietnam. This is pretty telling when it comes to the government’s attitude to people, and if you look at COINTELPRO and more recently, the government’s regular spying on its citizens ‘for security’ a pattern reveals itself, and in it the facts speak for themselves.

How Instagram Can Help Your Business and Trade

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How Instagram Can Help Your Business and TradeHow can you use Instagram for the benefit of the business that you do? Most of the businesses these days are not advertising on the mainstream media but rather they are using social media platforms. The mainstream media are the uses of TV and radio for their advertisements. However, with the emergence of the social media platforms such as Facebook, Google plus and even Instagram, there are ways that you can use these new platforms for you to gain. The use of Instagram for instance can help you to do business in a better way. These are some of the ways that Instagram can help promote your business:

  1. You can show your products– when you use Instagram social media, it is possible for you to show your products to the people who visit the Instagram page. You can display the pictures of the products that you are selling and this is a simple and cost effective way of letting your clients know what you are selling. By visiting followfactor.com website, it is possible for you to get the procedures that you can follow so that you can display these products. If for instance you are fitness trainer, then you can showcase the products that you have through the photos on Instagram. The people who will see these photos will definitely want to visit your shop or your gym so that they can experience what you have on offer. And all this will be free of charge as Instagram does not charge you to have your photos posted on your profile.
  1. You could show the process of making the products you deal in– most of your customer would like to know how your products are made. Never mind their curiosity. It is only human for these to want to know. Why don’t you take the photos of the process that your product goes through and have it posted on Instagram? This is a sure way of making the clients to be part of the process. If the clients can see how the products that they buy from you are made, then it will be easy for them to develop a liking for them. The more they see these photos, the more they will want to share them with their followers. This is also a good way of getting even more followers for you.
  1. Make your followers feel special– there is nothing more special than having clients who feel valued and wanted. When you have an Instagram account, it is possible for you to interact with your followers and make them feel special. This is in the manner in which you let them know of the new products, how you interact with them in terms of the products that you offer and so on. Ask your clients about the products that they would like to have. Let them make comments on the pictures that you post on your account and take time to appreciate all this. You could also decide to take photos of your office and post them on your Instagram account. Share these photos with your followers and let them make comments about what they feel is good or wanting about the offices and even the stores that you have.
  1. Take your followers with you- as an owner of a business, let your clients feel part and parcel of all the activities that take place in your business. If you are going for a trade fair or any other kind of a show, let your followers know it. Let them follow you in the fair and ensure that you have posted the relevant photos so that your clients can share in them. This makes them feel part of the company and they will definitely remain loyal to your products.

From the above, one can get to lock in their clients and find even more through the simple Instagram interaction with their clients. Make this a promise for your company.

Get Ready for Work the Convenient Way

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We all find ourselves in a bit of a hurry when we need to get ready for work. We dash about making sure we have our work clothes on, ensuring the kids are off to school and that we’ve had enough coffee to get ourselves going.

But that’s not all we need to think about, we also need to make sure we’re clean and presentable enough too. We all have days when we can’t be bothered to deal with the usual morning routine, but there are ways that you can make it so much easier. These days’ technology is everywhere and as well as relying on it to help us drive to work and even do the work itself, it can also help us to get ready for work.

Technology that helps us

Electric toothbrushes help to clean our teeth even when we’re half asleep (Check out some of the best ones here: http://www.jacksbestelectricguide.com/best-electric-toothbrush).

Because my boss says ‘No’ to stubble, I have a choice of a clean shaven look or a tidy beard. I choose the latter as it’s a lot easier to maintain. I got my favorite beard trimmer online, and it works pretty well at helping me to look half human.

I then grab a cup of coffee that has been kindly brewed by my coffee machine, and I start to feel a little bit better.

Once I’m all clean and presentable, then I’m ready to go to work. It doesn’t take long to get ready thanks to a little bit of technology that makes me look and feel better. If you want to make getting ready for work just that little bit easier, introduce some new gadgets into your routine, and you’ll soon find they work wonders for you, even first thing on a Monday morning.