The banks also need to feel the pinch, George

Let's hope, as the chancellor prepares his Mansion House speech on Wednesday evening, that he has already included brave words about the banks along the lines of "I know that the cuts I am announcing are in part the result of banking folly and greed. And so I am entirely with my colleague Vince Cable, who is even now preparing root-and-branch banking reform. We cannot have a public service cuts programme without the banks being equally painfully reformed."

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Labour must turn its attention to taming the banks

We need a universal banking obligation. It would mean that everyone, by right, would have access to the full range of banking services – whereas at the moment, one of the great fights with the banks has been the way they’ve chosen customers to maximise profitability and created finance deserts for poor communities. On the ground, it propels people into the hands of vulture lenders with baseball bats.

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The rise and fall of BP

As names go, the First Exploitation Company sounds like an inspired slight dreamed up by an angry anti-oil campaigner. In fact, it was the original title, coined in 1903, of the troubled company we now know as BP. But then, public relations have never been its strong point.

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Supermarkets spell the end of civic life

Today sees the publication of a report from the think-tank Demos which argues that supermarkets should be seen as an intergral part of creating the so-called ‘Big Society’. The report’s author said:

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Hay Festival: Cuba’s lessons in survival

Today, the UK and the US are living through challenging economic times. But, so far, we face nothing compared to the shocks endured by Cuba over the last two decades. It was uniquely unlucky at the end of the cold war, losing the support of one superpower, the Soviet Union, while keeping the animosity - and a comprehensive economic embargo - of the other, the US. Only now, years later, is there a suggestion of a thaw in relations.

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90 months and counting…

The fall of the Roman Empire was due to a large extent, writes the historian Adrian Goldsworthy, to a system of government that became inward-looking and weakened by internal dissent. Gone was the singular focus from the golden days of the Republic, when a small, trusted coterie of around 1,000 administrators ran the whole empire efficiently.

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Money matters: beyond banking status quo

Only a miserable 0.6 per cent of the government's stimulus package is going on green measures, to genuinely shift the way the economy works.

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Green shoots and radical reform withering in tandem

The recent talk of 'Green shoots' is now looking distinctly optimistic. A recent analysis by economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O'Rourke suggests that the world economy is following a worryingly similar pattern to the Great Depression. One year in, global output is declining at roughly the same rate as it was in the 1929-30 downturn (Chart 1).

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Civil liberties in a changing climate

Once again, civil liberties and climate change are crossing paths in the news. This morning, the Guardian released footage showing two activists being brutally manhandled by police at last year's climate camp at E.on's coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth, Kent. The film shows two female protestors, Emily Apple and Val Swain, asking unmarked police officers why they aren't wearing their numbers. More

Back from a permaculture siesta

I mentioned a while back that the practice of permaculture might hold some answers to our present predicaments around energy, climate change and looming food scarcity. Now, having spent two weeks in the Forest of Dean actually studying the thing, I feel knowledgeable - or foolhardy - enough to attempt to explain it here.

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