EU Optimism Vs Pessimism

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Netherlands Considering Pay-Per-K Motoring

nocars

The Netherlands government are getting serious about abolishing road tax and a current 25% sales tax on cars and replacing them with a per kilometer fee in an effort to cut car congestion and carbon dioxide emissions.

If the law is passed then it would come into effect in 2012 for Netherlands drivers and implemented for foreign motorists in 2018.

The proposed system would rely on each car being fitted with a GPS device that would send data regarding distances travelled to an appropriate revenue collection agency.

Initially a charge of 3 Euro cents per kilometer would be charged rising to 6.7 Euro cents by 2018.

If successfully introduced then the rest of Europe will be watching closely as to how effective a measure it is in achieving its stated objectives.

Photo lbsterling under this creative commons license

Turkeys Must Be Free To Vote For Xmas?

EU member states
Image via Wikipedia

I am both greatly amused whilst being equally heavy hearted at the usual lemming like outcry from many of the well indoctrinated inhabitants of these British Isles over the news that Europe has voted to remove Britain’s opt out concerning the EU 48 hour week working time directive.

Gobble Gobble

The BBC’s Have Your Say (always a good place to visit to find out how a certain element in Britain is thinking) is awash with outraged of Tunbridge Wells and the like spouting forth some well tutored vitriol at Europe for limiting the number of hours they can keep their noses to the grindstone in any working week.

In essence the repeated sentiment is along the lines of ‘British turkey’s must retain the right to vote for Xmas’.

Got To See It Their Way?

You’ll find similar sentiment in our nation’s slightly biased media happy to spread the kind of misinformation that their consumers seem only too ready to believe.

The fact that so many people actually believe that this piece of EU legislation seriously  restricts the number of hours an individual wishes to work shows how much influence Britain’s largely right wing press has and how well it is able to spread such misinformation to an eager public so desperate to have their irrational fears and xenophobia stoked to near boiling point.

Can You Hear Me?

To clarify, the legislation is and has always been about preventing employers from making it compulsory to work more than 48 hours per week and being able to unfairly treat or even sack employees who did not wish to work those hours. It does not prevent anybody from working more than 48 hours by their own free choice. It’s about protecting people from being unduly pressured to work long hours and those who would find their employment terminated if they do not comply.

Shamefully, in my opinion the British Government has had an opt out on this legislation which allowed British employers to impose working hours over and above 48 hours arguing that Britain’s businesses needed the ‘flexibility’ (read ability to make their employees work very long hours by default) in order to remain competitive.Europe has now voted to remove Britain’s veto on this legislation so in time British businesses will be required to comply with the directive.

Personally I welcome the end of Britain’s compulsory long working hours culture (at least in law if not in practice).If you want or need to work long 60-80 hours weeks in order to make ends meet (and it might be interesting to ask exactly why this is ever so in Britain) then you are still perfectly free to do so.

Seasons greetings to all the British turkeys who still wish to vote for Xmas

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Free Range iTunes

A variable day for rip off Britain as the EU prompts a change in price policy on the UK i-Tunes store, battery hens will be phased out and another Internet music service will soon be unavailable to UK listeners.

A Tune A Day
Apple responded to recent EU pressure over its differing price structure for iTunes music downloads across Europe and has announced that price reductions in the UK store will come into force within 6 months though complained that it was hampered by restrictive copyright and contractual arrangements that differed so much in each country.

I’m writing this post via that latest gOS desktop which I’ve been assessing and in the supplied firefox browser is a short cut to the Amazon mp3 store where tracks are .89 cents (.45p) but of course I can’t buy these because I’m outside of the US. Equally I can’t buy from the US iTunes store (not unless I’ve go a US registered credit card anyway) where tracks there are .99 cents (50p).

Pandora’s Empty Box
Bad news though as music recommendation site Pandora will soon be unavailable to UK Internet listeners because of the seeming difficulty in negotiating reasonable copyrights terms. Thank heavens for Last.fm.

Breaking Eggs
Elsewhere the UK government is to legislate against the battery farming of chickens which is great but of course the cry goes up that prices will have to rise. This, I presume will be on top of the 25 pence rise in I’ve recently been swallowing for the free range eggs I usually buy.

It’ll be four years before the egg and chicken industry is completely free range with the UK currently the highest consumer of free range eggs and demand outstripping supply. Farmers currently received around a quarter of the supermarket shelf asking price for free range eggs and only 3-4p for the bird itself.
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Green Light For EU Health Tourism?

EUThe EU is apparently to allow all EU members to seek medical treatment anywhere within the EU especially if there is undue delay at home with financial compensation for member states who may feel unduly swamped by health tourism to an extent that their own provisions become over extended (if we were to take our own NHS as an example). If this EU directive is put in place then maybe I’ll finally get some dental treatment (I have several years wait for an NHS dentist here and after all that it’s certainly not free or even of a high standard) .

Reimbursement for hospital treatment abroad will require the prior consent of your home government but non hospital treatment will not and so under EU law will entitle the individual to claim the costs incurred back directly.

I’m happy. I bet the Daily Mail won’t be though.

Join the queue for treatment abroad in an orderly fashion please.
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Brown’s British Jobs

The controversy surrounding Gordon Brown’s sound bite slogan ‘British jobs for British workers’ is perhaps predictable. The Australians have a vaguely similar slogan that is encountered within Australia which is ‘Australian owned business’ (which could be accused of meaning very little as we need to define who qualifies as an Australian outside anybody who happens to be living there though this slogan is often extended to ‘100% Australian owned’). Both the Australian slogan and Gordon’s British variation do have slightly xenophobic undertones perhaps more readily spouted by far right political parties.
Our GordonFlag Waving Without Prejudice?
Gordon’s flag waving ditty seems to be part of his attempt to define what it means to be British and an awkward notion of patriotism ( which will probably always have to wrestle itself away from the narrow confines of the far right.)

Of course at the core of such a sentiment is the urban media myth that immigrants are stealing British jobs when largely it’s a repetition of history where many are doing the jobs that many natively born Brits don’t have the inclination or qualifications to do themselves.

Freedom To Roam The EU
We need to remember too that EU members have the freedom to work in any EU member country. Many Brits are seeking to live in Europe and work here or even buy property abroad. If Britain was fully committed to the EU then it would technically be possible for holders of British passports to continue to claim benefits whilst seeking a job in another EU member country.

That brings in that old chestnut, membership of the EU which often seems to go against some people’s sense of isolated Britishness and slight Island mentality and many would argue that the EU is to blame for the current unpopular (if the media be believed) wave of immigration rather than Britain’s economy and widespread unrestricted free market practices that act as an attractor for those seeking to better their lifestyle and career opportunities whilst many existing British citizens have lost their will to work when the cost of living including housing and their inability to make a dent in the sheer expense of living here has ground them down into a lower standard of living than many of them expected to achieve and with many stuck in an ongoing benefits trap.

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Noise Kills

The World Health Organisation has guidelines for noise levels that can cause increased stress levels and cardiovascular problems as a result. A general annoyance level is 35 decibels. Disturbed sleep is put at 42db and chronic night-time exposure leading to cardiovascular problems is put at 50db or above (click picture or comparisionNoise levels here).

Stress Hormones
Research has shown that noise can increase the level of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin within the body. The longer these hormones are at high levels in the body then the greater risk of leading to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure and immune problems.

Noise Maps
The WHO has produced noise maps which show the noisiest European cities whilst the EU has issued a directive that says that European cities with populations above 250,000 must produce digitised noise maps to show where traffic and other noise is at the greatest level.

See also: UK noise maps, WHO related, Defra(UK),Interactive Paris noise map (flash required)

Source

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