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Clare Balding complains to press watchdog over 'dyke' jibe | World news | The Guardian

Britain by Bike with Clare Balding Clare Balding in north Devon in episode 1 of her new BBC show Britain by Bike Photograph: Bbc

The BBC presenter Clare Balding is embroiled in a furious row over a newspaper columnist's "homophobic" remarks about her sexuality. The 39-year-old sports journalist has lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission following a review of her new programme, Britain by Bike, by the Sunday Times's TV and restaurant critic, AA Gill.

Balding, who is gay, complained to the newspaper's editor, John Witherow, about the tone of the article. But, she said, she was then even more horrified by Witherow's response.

Gill had written: "Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian."

After a mock apology, he continued: "Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation."

Balding complained to Witherow. She was then "appalled" to receive a reply stating: "In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society.

"Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person's sexuality should not give them a protected status.

"Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the epitome of the heterosexual male, is constantly jeered at for his dress sense (lack of), adolescent mindset and hairstyle. He puts up with it as a presenter's lot and in this context I hardly think that AA Gill's remarks were particularly cruel, especially as he ended by so warmly endorsing you as a presenter."

Balding responded: "When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.

"This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling. 'Dyke' is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I've had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me."

She added: "I am happy to be described as a lesbian, as and when relevant, but 'dyke' is too often used as a pejorative and insulting term."

Balding told the Guardian: "I just think there is a time when you say enough is enough. I can take pretty much anything. Words are just words. I've been through a lot worse. But this has a huge impact on lots of other people and that's why I thought: 'That's not on.'

"If I said something like that on the BBC I would be sacked in two minutes.

"One can't change AA Gill. But I am really disappointed in the editorial stance of the Sunday Times. Is it supposed to be OK because Gill was nice about me at the end? And how can you compare it to someone having a go at Jeremy Clarkson's dress sense? I have to make a stand on this. This is not just about me, and that's why it is important.

"This is in defence of people being allowed to live their lives and not have names shouted at them."

The spat is being followed by thousands of people on Twitter. Balding, who made her debut on the microblogging site earlier this week to call Gill a "twat", is now seeking advice from fellow tweeter Stephen Fry. Last night former the Labour deputy leader John Prescott tweeted his support for Balding, referring to Gill as "a shit".

A spokesman for the PCC confirmed that a complaint had been received from Balding under clause 12 (discrimination) of the editors' code of practice, and would be considered by the commission.

No one was available to comment at the Sunday Times.

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BBC News - The sisters living without stomachs

30 July 2010 Last updated at 20:02 ET

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The sisters living without stomachs

By Jane Elliott and Anita Anand BBC News and BBC Radio 5live
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The Singh sisters
Sisters Meeta and Ravindra Singh

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Sisters Ravindra and Meeta Singh both had their stomachs removed to beat the cancer which had killed five members of their family.

They both carry the rare mutant E-cadheri gene, seen in around 100 families worldwide, which makes them more prone to stomach cancer and breast cancer.

Ravindra, 30, already had stomach cancer by the time she had her operation, Meeta decided on the surgery as a preventative measure.

Almost a year after surgery the sisters, from Liverpool, say they are learning to live again, but admit things have been very hard.

"I am a lot better than I was in the earlier months, but obviously there are still side effects from having no stomach," said Ravindra, who says she often feels tired and dizzy.

Continue reading the main story

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If you have not got a stomach then you have to have lots of small meals”

End Quote Simon Dexter

"It's a year since the surgery and I'm still scared to go out and enjoy a meal out," she said.

"When I first came out of surgery the amount I could eat was very minimal, almost spoonfuls. But almost a year has gone by now and I probably eat about a third of what I used to be able to eat - so it is improving.

"But if I overeat, a few moments after I've finished eating, I'll feel discomfort, indigestion, have some acid reflux and then you get what's called 'dumping' syndrome which is unfortunately just what it sounds like - urgent diarrhoea."

Meeta agreed: "It depends what food we're eating but if it's a food we're not supposed to eat, like bread for instance, you can feel the sensation passing down your throat - you can feel it expanding."

Both sisters have lost about 20% of their body weight over the year - with Ravindra dropping to just eight stones (50.8 kilos).

Surgery - the only answer

Simon Dexter, a consultant at Leeds Teaching Hospitals and Meeta's surgeon, said that although it was a major operation it was possible to live without a stomach.

"The gut is basically a tube, which goes from top to bottom. The stomach is basically a swelling in the tube, so when you take it out you close the gap," he said.

"The main function of the stomach is storage. It allows us to have a big meal and then not worry about it for a while.

"If you have not got a stomach then you have to have lots of small meals.

"The acid in the stomach also helps to sterilise food, but that is not so relevant today as we are not scratching around in the dirt digging up grubs.

"It also helps absorption of iron and vitamin B12, so you do need extra supplements. As long as you supplement the various minerals then it should not have any profound effect on general well-being."

And he said removing the stomach was the only answer for patients who had the disease.

"I do get screening every six months - histology said the cancer had not spread," said Ravindra.

"It was the only option. If I hadn't had it I wouldn't be here."

But Meeta, aged 25, said she had felt that she too had no option.

"I elected for the surgery as a preventative measure partially based on family history, the fact that my dad died of it when I was 10 years old.

"When my sister had cancer, it made me change my mind. I'd been quite reluctant up to then."

And she said she would not have been happy relying on her regular screening.

"It's so easily missed," she said. "Gastric cancer, it doesn't form a tumour so it's really hard to catch, and it's not until later on when the cancer is more developed that you begin to get symptoms."

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BBC News - Wigan police officers cleared of soldier attack

30 July 2010 Last updated at 13:34 ET

Wigan police officers cleared of soldier attack

Two police officers have been cleared of assaulting a former soldier outside a bar in Wigan.

Sgt Stephen Russell and Pc Richard Kelsall, of Greater Manchester Police, were accused of attacking L/Cpl Mark Aspinall in July 2008.

A jury at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court is still considering its verdict on a third man, special constable Peter Lightfoot.

Lightfoot has been found guilty of one count of perjury.

Members of the jury were sent home for the weekend and on Monday will resume deliberations on the charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

All three officers, who are employed by Greater Manchester Police (GMP), had denied the charge.

The men were charged with the attack in July 2009 following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

It followed the emergence of CCTV footage of the arrest of the soldier, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Wigan town centre on 27 July 2008.

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Jack of Kent: What Happened to Lance Corporal Mark Aspinall

Louis Belanger: Cluster Bombs Treaty becomes int'l law: Years of campaigning reap results

By Anna MacDonald - Head of Oxfam's Control Arms Campaign

Treaties take a long time to develop and negotiate. The ones being negotiated under the helm of the United Nations can take decades to conclude. It is often a two-steps-forward-one-step-backwards process and can be rather frustrating to be part of.

Last week the first stage of formal negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty were completed at the UN in New York. Diplomats from all continents came together to begin to hammer out the details of a Treaty which will control the international sale and transfer of conventional weapons. Everything from planes and tanks through to small arms and ammunition is potentially covered by the future deal.

For an organisation like Oxfam, working on the ground in many of the world's worst conflict zones, the impact of the unregulated arms trade is something we see every day. Its not just the immediate loss of life - up to 2000 people die every day from armed violence around the world - it is the devastation that goes with it. Families torn apart, markets, schools, hospitals destroyed or rendered inaccessible, and economies constrained, making it harder and harder for ordinary people to work their way out of poverty.

That's why we and many other NGOs are campaigning for a really strong Treaty, which will put people before conflict, and have strong criteria to stop weapons getting into the hands of warlords and human rights abusers.

On Sunday (August 1st), another important Treaty we campaigned on, the Convention on Cluster Munitions enters into force, becoming binding international law.

The ban on cluster bombs took 18 months to go through negotiation, although campaigners, activists and supportive governments had worked for many more years previously to ban these indiscriminate weapons. Cluster bombs are nasty, indiscriminate weapons that are hard to target and often lay unexploded on the ground for months, years and even decades after they were dropped. Children are particularly vulnerable potential victims, as they are attracted to these strange shiny little objects in the ground.

Many cluster bomb survivors were active campaigners during negotiations such as 19 year old Soraj Ghulam Habib from Afghanistan.

Now more than 107 countries have banned the production, use, stockpile and transfer of cluster bombs, and the weapon has been so stigmatised that its use in future conflict has become much less likely, even amongst non-signatories.

A few years ago, both these Treaties were seen as far-fetched, idealist aims in the minds of campaigners and do-gooders. But now the cluster bombs deal is binding international law, and the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations are in full swing at the UN.

The process can be grindingly slow; the course of trying to get agreement or push through change is no easy challenge. But political will and activism can and does make things happen, and Sunday August 1st is a time to celebrate this.

Follow Louis Belanger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/louis_press

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Louis Belanger: Photos: Tens of thousand uprooted by clashes in Eastern DR Congo

Local authorities in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are reporting that at least 60,000 people have been uprooted from their homes following recent military operations in the region.

According to the United Nations humanitarian arm (OCHA), at least six civilians have died and dozens of others have been injured in the fighting between the national army (FARDC) and a Ugandan rebel group in the Beni territory in North Kivu province.

My colleague Pierre Peron has just arrived back from Beni and here are a few of his pictures. Oxfam is starting to dig latrines and distribute water in various of the camps in Oicha.

An abandonned village in Beni Teritory. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

A young Congolese kid. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

A displaced family in Oicha. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

An Oxfam colleague collecting information. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

Displaced people collecting water at Oxfam's water point. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

A young nurse who had fled her village is back to work at her clinic. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

One of the many Oicha sites. Credit: Pierre Peron/Oxfam

For more information on Oxfam's work in the DRC, go HERE

Follow Louis Belanger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/louis_press

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The Pixel Project

The Pixel Project is an innovative Web 2.0 effort to turbo-charge global awareness about violence against women while raising funds and volunteer power for the cause.  Our first campaign is to raise US$1 million for the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) Malaysia & the USA’s National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). LEARN MORE or GET INVOLVED.

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Lewes Pound | How to make a difference

How to make a difference

10 steps to creating your own local currency

Phil England 8th June, 2010

Click here to view the original article in the Ecologist

Local currencies ensure that money spent at local shops gets reinvested in the community and fosters community spirit and involvement. Learn all you need to know to get one started in your area...

In March 2007 Transition Town Totnes launched the UK's first Transition Currency - a complimentary currency, backed by Sterling, that strengthens the local economy. Since then three other Transition Towns have followed. The value of these projects is that they raise the profile of local businesses and start community-wide conversations around issues like the fragility of the international banking system, climate change and peak oil. Lambeth council estimates that the positive media coverage generated by the Brixton Pound is worth around £100,000. And since systemic risk is still alive and well in the international financial system, having an alternative currency could play a useful role in plugging the gap when the dominant system fails.

So if you want to do this in your own locality, how would you go about it? Just follow our ten-step guide...

1. Start a Transition Initiative

Starting up a local currency is an ambitious undertaking that is best built on a strong foundation. If your neighbourhood has launched a Transition Initiative you will have a ready-made pool of people who will understand a lot of the issues involved and are ready to get going on a project. If you don't have an established sustainability network, consider getting one going first. Also consider whether skill-shares, time banking or a Local Exchange Trading Scheme (LETS) might be more suitable models for your area.

2. Organise an open meeting on a topic related to money

This will bring in interested people and start seeding the idea in your community. The evening could include a speaker (from a group that has already launched an alternative currency or from a thinktank such as the New Economics Foundation), a film showing (try Money as Debt or one of the films made by established local currency projects) and a group discussion. Start thinking about the kind of people you want to get involved and make sure they are amongst the targets of your publicity. Take people's email addresses so that they can be kept informed as the project develops.

3. Identify and engage your stakeholders

Your main stakeholders are likely to be local residents and local traders - the two groups of people who make the currency work in practice. Lewes had the idea of signing up 100 members in advance in a scheme they called the '100-Club'. The scheme was so successful that 300 people took the pledge to buy a certain amount of Lewes Pounds and to give periodic feedback on how the scheme was working. Then Brixton went one better with their '1000-Club'. Get traders involved early so that there is plenty of choice about where to spend your money when the scheme goes live. Brixton had 70 traders signed up at the time of their launch.

Securing the support of the local authority can be useful in giving credibility to the initiative and helping with profile-raising. In Lewes the town council publicly endorsed the project and the town hall became one of the issuing points for the currency. In Brixton, the local council has given £6,000 in start-up funding. 

4. Set-up a management team

Oliver Dudok van Heel of the Lewes Pound team recommends a mixed team of traders and residents. Although the team will move forward collaboratively, he suggests that individual members take up responsibility for the roles of treasurer, trader liaison, community liaison, press liaison and design. Peter North also recommends a facilitator, directory producer or webmaster, events co-ordinator and a secretary.

5. Decide on the model

Take your time to research the various models and engage your stakeholders as much as possible in a public discussion about this. The most straightforward and user-friendly option is to make your currency exchangeable on a 1:1 ratio with Sterling. You will also need to consider what denominations to issue, how much total value to issue and how long the notes will be valid for.

Think about where to draw the line with traders. The four English Transition Currencies so far seem to welcome all traders as part of the scheme without them being required to fulfil any particular ethical criteria relating to local sourcing or environmental impact, although Josh Ryan-Collins, co-founder of the Brixton Pound and a researcher at the New Economics Foundation does see a case for ruling out corporations that are publicly listed and accountable to shareholders.

6. Launch a design competition

This is another opportunity for engaging the local population and for generating publicity. Brixton held an online 'Vote the Note' poll to choose which local figures should be celebrated on the different denominations.

7. Decide on your legal structure

You can launch a currency as an unincorporated association but if you are serious about this endeavour, at some point you will need to incorporate. Stroud chose the co-operativeroute to allow for democratic control and management of the currency by residents and traders, but this does necessitate administering a membership fee. Lewes chose theCommunity Interest Company (CIC) route because they felt it offered a modest administrative burden, gave the ability to trade the currency and eligibility for Government and foundation funding.

8. Generate start-up funding

You'll need money for publicity materials and for printing the notes. Security measures to avoid forgery can mean the latter gets expensive. In Brixton, the council gave a grant of £6,000 and four or five local businesses put in a couple of hundred pounds each in a sponsorship deal. Lewes also sold collector's packs to raise money and both groups have dabbled in souvenirs such as t-shirts, badges and posters.

9. Organise a memorable launch event

This is the big one. You've done all that work - you might as well celebrate, capitalise on your biggest publicity and marketing opportunity and design a memorable, preferably historic, occasion.

10. Nurture and develop the scheme

'After the honeymoon effect the key thing is what you put in place to keep things going and maintain the enthusiasm,' says Josh. 'Having somebody paid is vital for that. We have a development manager, who works three days a week.' Local councils sometimes have pockets of money that can be tapped into if you approach the right person in the right department.

How big can a local currency grow? Bernard Jarman, co-founder of the Stroud Pound, says that the Steiner-inspired Chiemgauer in Southern Germany has an annual turnover equivalent to €1/2M. 'It's a similar sized town [to Stroud] and there are 600 business involved. They're able to employ a full-time administrator to run it. If we could do that we'd have cracked it in some way.'

The Schumacher-inspired BerkShares scheme in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is said to have the equivalent of $2M in circulation and 12 local banks issuing the money.

How else might your scheme develop? Would electronic transactions help? Could the reserve generated by a currency issue be used for ethical lending? Would making currencies more regional make them more effective? What about intra-regional trading? Would an energy-backed currency be more useful in future than one backed by a national currency such as sterling?

Peter North's Local Money - how to make it happen in your community is out now published by Green Books/Transition Books (£14.95).

Phil England is a freelance writer and producer of Climate Radio



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Local currency - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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See Emissions Reduction Currency System for community based initiatives aimed at emission reduction

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Circulating currencies
Community currencies

Fictional currencies

Ancient currencies
Medieval currencies

Modern currencies




v  d  e

In economics, a local currency, in its common usage, is a currency not backed by a national government (and not necessarily legal tender), and intended to trade only in a small area. This amounts to a formalization of the barter system, a useful tool for raising awareness of the state of the local economy, especially among those who may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with traditional bartering. These currencies are also referred to as community currency, and are a form of alternative currency or complementary currency. They encompass a wide range of forms, both physically and financially, and often are associated with a particular economic discourse.


[edit] History

Free banking provides the economic prototype of local currencies.[citation needed] In the modern era, the most recognizable local currencies were company scrip issued in certain industries to pay workers, and token coins issued by some businesses to encourage consumer loyalty. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the failures of national banks during crises often created acute demands for cash, which were met by businesses creating emergency currency. These scrips were usually issued with the intention of redemption in national currency at some later date.

A few such currencies, however, developed into monetary systems in their own right. The idea of using free banking to produce an alternative, community-level currency dates back at least as far as the German Credit Unions in the 1800s. The oldest local currencies known to be in continuous use are the WIR in Switzerland, and the Labor Banks in Japan.

Complementary currency is a hypernym to local currency, but the terms are often used as synonyms. The term "local currency" does not refer to national currency that happens to be used only in a local area.

Advocates of local currency, such as Jane Jacobs, argue that this enables an economically cool, yet depressed region to pull itself up by giving the people living there a medium of exchange that they can use to exchange services and locally-produced goods. In a broader sense, this is the original purpose of all money. Local currencies also tend to operate in relatively small geographic regions and encourage recycling and reducing the amount of carbon emissions from the transportation and manufacture of goods. As a result, they are part of the economic strategy of many green and sustainable-living groups such as the Green Party of England and Wales.

Local currencies can come into being also when there is economic turmoil involving the national currency. An example of this is the Argentine economic crisis of 2002 in which small denomination, interest-free provincial bond IOUs issued by local governments quickly took on some of the characteristics of local currencies successfully.

Opponents of this concept argue that local currency creates a barrier which can interfere with economies of scale and comparative advantage, and that in some cases they can serve, like traditional national currencies, as a means of tax evasion.

Use of local currencies to boost local economies is strongly advocated by the Netherlands-based Instrodi Institute.

[edit] Historical local currencies

The Wörgl experiment that was conducted from July 1932 to November 1933 is a classic example of the potential efficacy of local currencies. Wörgl, a small town in Austria with 4000 inhabitants, introduced a local scrip during the Great Depression. By 1932 unemployment in Wörgl had risen to 30%. The local government had amassed debts of 1.3 million Austrian schillings (AS) against cash reserves of 40,000 AS. Local construction and civic maintenance had come to a standstill. On the initiative of the town's mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, the local government printed 32,000 in labor certificates which carried a negative 1% monthly interest rate and could be converted into schillings at 98% of face value. An equivalent amount in schillings was deposited in the local bank as cover for the certificates in case of mass redemption and earned interest for the government. The certificates circulated so rapidly that only 12,000 were ever actually put into circulation. According to reports by the mayor and economists of the day who studied the experiment, the scrip was readily accepted by local merchants and the local population. It utilized the scrip to carry out 100,000 AS in public works projects involving construction and repair of roads, bridges, tanks, drainage systems, factories, and buildings. The scrip was also accepted as legal tender for payment of local taxes. In the one year that the currency was in circulation, it circulated 13 times faster than the official shilling[citation needed] and served as a catalyst to the local economy. The heavy arrears in local tax collection declined dramatically. Local government revenue rose from 2,400 AS in 1931 to 20,400 in 1932. Unemployment was eliminated, while it remained very high throughout the rest of the country. No increase in prices was observed. Based on the dramatic success of the Wörgl experiment, several other communities introduced similar scrips.

In spite of the tangible benefits of the program, it met with stiff opposition from the regional socialist party and from the Austrian central bank, which opposed the local currency as an infringement on its powers over the currency. As a result the program was suspended, unemployment rose, and the local economy soon degenerated to the level of other communities in the country.[1][2]

Other well-documented historical examples include:

[edit] Characteristics

[edit] Theory

Local currency is based on a local form of monetarism and mercantilism: it establishes an internal trade barrier, as the local currency cannot be used externally, and allows the area to have a different (presumably lower) interest rate than the national currency's — in the Wörgl experiment, a negative interest rate, known as demurrage. Advocacy and criticism of local currencies is based partly on general attitudes towards monetarism and mercantilism, and partly on opinions of the desirability of having internal variations in currency and trade.

Advocates of local currency in effect argue that, in certain circumstances, an entire country is not an optimum currency area, and that various regions should have different currencies. Compare with the Eurozone in Europe.

[edit] Benefits

The Wörgl experiment dramatically illustrates some of the common characteristics and major benefits of local currencies.[4]

  1. Local currencies tend to circulate much more rapidly than national currencies. The same amount of currency in circulation is employed more times and results in far greater overall economic activity. It produces greater benefit per unit. The higher velocity of money is a result of the negative interest rate which encourages people to spend the money more quickly.
  2. Local currencies enable the community to more fully utilize its existing productive resources, especially unemployed labor, which has a catalytic effect on the rest of the local economy. They are based on the premise that the community is not fully utilizing its productive capacities, because of a lack of local purchasing power. The alternative currency is utilized to increase demand, resulting in a greater exploitation of productive resources. So long as the local economy is functioning at less than full capacity, the introduction of local currency need not be inflationary, even when it results in a significant increase in total money supply and total economic activity.
  3. Since local currencies are only accepted within the community, their usage encourages the purchase of locally-produced and locally-available goods and services. Thus, for any given level of economic activity, more of the benefit accrues to the local community and less drains out to other parts of the country or the world. For instance, construction work undertaken with local currencies employs local labor and utilizes as far as possible local materials. The enhanced local effect becomes an incentive for the local population to accept and utilize the scrips.
  4. Some forms of complementary currency can promote fuller utilization of resources over a much wider geographic area and help bridge the barriers imposed by distance. The Fureai kippu system in Japan issues credits in exchange for assistance to senior citizens. Family members living far from their parents can earn credits by offering assistance to the elderly in their local community. The credits can then be transferred to their parents and redeemed by them for local assistance. Airline frequent flyer miles are a form of complementary currency that promotes customer-loyalty in exchange for free travel. The airlines offer most of the coupons for seats on less heavily sold flights where some seats normally go empty, thus providing a benefit to customers at relatively low cost to the airline.
  5. While most of these currencies are restricted to a small geographic area or a country, through the Internet electronic forms of complementary currency can be used to stimulate transactions on a global basis. In China, Tencent's QQ coins are a virtual form of currency that has gained wide circulation. QQ coins can be purchased for Renminbi and used to purchase virtual products and services such as ringtones and on-line video game time. They are also obtainable through on-line exchange for goods and services at about twice the Renminbi price, by which additional 'money' is being directly created. Though virtual currencies are not 'local' in the tradition sense, they do cater to the specific needs of a particular community, a virtual community. Once in circulation, they add to the total effective purchasing power of the on-line population as in the case of local currencies. The Chinese government has begun to tax the coins as they are exchanged from virtual currency to actual hard currency.[5]

Society utilizes only a small portion of its resources and opportunities. Almost everyone has underutilized knowledge, skills and time that can be engaged productively. Most manufacturers and services have underutilized machinery or capacity. Complementary currencies are a creative means to enhance this untapped social potential.

[edit] Difficulties and criticisms

Local currencies and the Transition Towns movement in the UK have received criticism for a failure to address the needs of the wider population, especially lower socio-economic groups.[6] Such local currency initiatives have been more widely criticized in light of limited success stimulating new spending in local economies and as an unrealistic strategy to reduce carbon emissions.[7][8]. Successful Local Currencies such as the Wörgl experiment attract hostility from the Central Governments, as they reduce the bureaucracy's control over an important power centre.

[edit] Modern local currencies

There has been a tremendous surge in the use of local currencies over the past two decades. Today there are over 2,500 different local currency systems operating in countries throughout the world.

Since 2002 there has been an upsurge in local currency experiments particularly payment voucher-based systems that are exchangeable with the national currency. Such currencies aim to raise the resilience of local economies by encouraging re-localisation of buying and food production. The drive for this change has arisen from a range of community-based initiatives and social movements. The Transition Towns movement originating in the UK has utilised local currencies for re-localisation in the face of energy descent from peak oil and climate change. Other drives include movements against Clone town[9][10] and Big-box trends.

Previously, one of the most prominent systems was LETS, Local Exchange Trading System, a trading network supported by its own internal currency. Originally started in Vancouver, Canada, there are presently more than 30 LETS systems operating in Canada and over 400 in the United Kingdom. Australia, France, New Zealand, and Switzerland have similar systems. Time dollars, Ithaca Hours, and PEN exchange are among the most successful systems in the USA.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ [1] Wörgl Experiment with Depreciating Money
  2. ^ [2] Mckeever Institute of Economic policy Analysis
  3. ^ A Boon to Kut Chum archive
  4. ^ Lietaer, Bernard, The Future of Money, Century, 2002.
  5. ^ [3] Chinese government taxes QQ coins
  6. ^ Report from The Guardian on the Lewes Pound
  7. ^ The Undercover Economist on Local Currency
  8. ^ A critique of the Lewes Pound and of local currencies more generally
  9. ^ http://www.publicnet.co.uk/news/2009/04/15/measures-aim-to-tackle-problem-of-empty-shops/
  10. ^ http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/12345news_clonetownbritainresults.aspx
  11. ^ "No money? Then make your own". BBC News. 2009-09-17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8245276.stm. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  12. ^ "No money? Then make your own". BBC News. 2009-09-17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8245276.stm. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 

[edit] External links

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New benefits system forces three-quarters of claimants back to work - UK Politics, UK - The Independent

New benefits system forces three-quarters of claimants back to work

By Sarah Cassidy, Social Affairs Correspondent

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A controversial new system for assessing whether the sick and disabled are capable of working has seen more than three-quarters of benefit claimants either told to get a job or abandoning their claim.

Charity campaigners warned that the official figures published yesterday by the Department for Work and Pensions showed the new system was wrongly concluding that seriously ill people were ready to work. But the Government insisted the figures proved "the vast majority of people who are applying for these benefits are being found fit for work".

Nearly four out of 10 (39 per cent) of the 686,500 applicants for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been judged able to work since the replacement for Incapacity Benefit was introduced in October 2008. A further 37 per cent stopped their claims before their assessments had been completed.

Only six per cent of ESA claims (or 40,100 cases) from October 2008 to November 2009 were judged to have such severe disabilities that they were eligible for payments of at least £96.85 a week and exempted from work programmes. A further 14 per cent (or 96,700 cases) were judged unable to hold down a full-time job and received at least £91.40 a week, but were forced to take part in work schemes.

One in three of those judged fit for work appealed against the decision and four in 10 appeals (21,200 cases) resulted in victory for claimants.

Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, said yesterday he would push ahead with Labour's plan to reassess all Incapacity Benefit claimants under the new system from October. "The vast majority of people who are applying for these benefits are being found fit for work or have stopped their claim," he said. "These are people who under the old system would have been abandoned on incapacity benefits. It is a clear indication of why reform is so urgently needed.

"This is exactly why we are going to reassess everyone claiming incapacity benefits for their ability to work from this October. They will now be given the support they need to get back to work and will be expected to look for work if they are able to do so."

The new ESA system was designed to give greater support to people judged able to return to some form of work. A revised fitness-for-work test, known as a work capability assessment, was introduced at the same time for all new claimants, which aimed to discover what people could do rather than what they could not.

There are 2.2 million people on incapacity benefit and 136,800 now on the new ESA, costing a total of £14bn in 2009-10. However, campaigners believe the new system is flawed. Laura Weir, of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said: "Under this assessment system, more and more people are being found 'fit to work' when in fact they are living with severe health symptoms and disabilities.

"The assessment needs to be independently reviewed to take into consideration long-term, fluctuating conditions with 'hidden' symptoms that are being overlooked, such as fatigue and pain. We need better-trained staff carrying out these assessments, who are aware of the complex nature of conditions like MS, and more exemptions for people with the most severe symptoms."

A spokeswoman for Citizens Advice Bureau said: "We have grave concerns about how the work capability assessment for the ESA is working. We have seen cases where medical evidence has not been taken into account. Seriously ill and disabled people are being found fit for work."

Case study: 'After the medical I burst into tears as I was so relieved'

Andy Grantham, 38, of Worthing, West Sussex, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November 2006 and has not worked since October 2008. He was turned down for the ESA in February 2009 before having the decision overturned on appeal.

I applaud the idea behind the ESA but I deplore the way it is being implemented. It has been scientifically proven that people who work and have purpose are the ones do better in all sorts of ways. The ones who sit at home doing nothing get depressed and go down hill really quickly. But the way they have brought this in leaves a really nasty taste in my mouth. It really is skewed in the Government's favour to take money from people in very difficult circumstances in order to cut costs. The questions at the medical were very vague and the healthcare professional seemed to have no experience of MS. When I won my appeal I pushed my wheelchair out of the tribunal and burst into tears because I was so relieved. It is really not like me to cry so it just shows the sort of emotional stress I was under.

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They don't just shop local in Totnes - they have their very own currency - This Britain, UK - The Independent

They don't just shop local in Totnes - they have their very own currency

By Rob Sharp

Thursday, 1 May 2008

The notes feature a picture of Totnes instead of the Queen's head � Richard Lappas

If you were to nip down to Devon's Totnes market on a Saturday looking to buy some spelt flour pancakes, crêpes or falafels, then you might just encounter Lou Brown, who is a remarkably fine cook. But she has another, non-culinary distinction. Unlike most businesses in the country, Brown does not deal in currency with a picture of the Queen's head on it. No, instead, her change features an image much closer to home. The town where she lives.

Brown, along with thousands of her fellow residents in this colourful south-west retreat, uses Totnes pounds: notes printed and traded locally (and decorated with a sepia depiction of the town's main thoroughfare). The idea for the pound – used in 70 businesses round these parts – was introduced a year ago, to promote links between local businesses while reducing reliance on big business. The aim is to keep money circulating within the town's local economy. If people are encouraged to buy local produce, the thinking goes, it will help to cut down on food – and trade – miles and also help to strengthen community relations and links with local producers.

The concept has proved so popular that a cluster of other towns around the country are initiating copycat schemes. Indeed, it is hoped that similar projects can be launched in the Welsh towns of Lampeter, Llandeilo and Llandovery this year.

Brown says: "People are so positive about the currency. I think lots of people feel supportive towards helping local producers and farmers, especially with the growing awareness of the effects of transport on the climate. Some people ask for them in their change, especially when I put up my sign. They are certainly disappointed when they can't get hold of them."

Totnes radiates out from a bustling main road, Fore Street, peppered by cute boutiques run by what some locals refer to as "burnt-out people from the city who can afford to buy a shop and not sell anything". A legion of media types from London have second homes there and property prices are soaring. It follows that if anywhere could afford to experiment, it would be here. Its 8,500 residents have a reputation for middle-class, alternative lifestyles. Time magazine has dubbed it "the capital of New Age chic", while Highlife, the British Airways magazine, thinks it is one of the 10 places to be.

The Totnes pound was pioneered by a group of local environmentalists led by Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande. They set up a system in which £1 coins are exchanged for 1TP at one of four "change" points around Totnes. There are now 6,000 Totnes pounds in circulation and plans to introduce further denominations.

The idea was partly based on a US model. "BerkShares" were launched in the Southern Berkshire region of Massachusetts in 2006. They were a roaring success – some 1.43 million "BerkShares" worth $1.29m (£650,000) were issued in the scheme's first 17 months and there are now more than 300 businesses accepting them. BerkShares' organisers say: "The purpose of a local currency is to function on a local scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scale – building the local economy by maximising circulation of trade within a defined region.

"The currency distinguishes the local businesses that accept the currency from those that do not, building stronger relationships and a greater affinity between the business community and the locals. The people who choose to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy local first. They are taking personal responsibility for the health and well-being of their community by laying the foundation of a thriving local economy."

As Noel Longhurst, one of the group which developed and manages the Totnes pound project explains: "The idea is to keep money in the area, thereby retaining wealth within the community. If you look at the places with economic problems it is because the wealth is leaking out of the neighbourhood."

His zeal is matched by Alan Langmaid, the administrator of the museum in Totnes, although he admits "a lot do end up under fridge magnets". There are, however, some notable detractors. "We took Totnes pounds for only a year but then nobody wanted them back in change," says Ray Johnson, the owner of Annie's Fruit Shop, located at the end of the town's main thoroughfare. "That's basically the reason we stopped using them. At the end of each day we counted up 60 or 70 Totnes pounds in our till; but you could only spend them in other shops that accepted them."

Hoping such cases would be in the minority, Hopkins and Giangrande administrate the currency through the town's "transition" organisation, created in September 2006. Following in the footsteps of a similar scheme in Ireland, such "transition" areas aim to stave off the twin threats of climate change and "peak oil". The latter refers to when the maximum rate of world petroleum production is reached (after which point production declines and prices rise sharply).

In addition to the pound, the transition town organisation offers people advice at "oil vulnerability auditing workshops" on how their businesses can wean themselves off the black stuff; and the group is in talks with the council over "edible landscapes" – herb gardens instead of ornamental verges and bushes. They have recently secured some allotments for the green-fingered, and are promoting the use of energy-saving light bulbs. Similar ideas are in the pipeline: they are telling the town's inhabitants to switch over to locally generated power, and are promoting the use of solar water heaters.

One of the many to paddle up this river of change is Tom Morris, the owner of Totnes Kayaks. Outdoor pursuits such as kayaking are popular in Devon, and needless to say, modern kayaks, which are made mostly from plastic, could be a major casualty of dwindling fossil fuel supplies. "We are looking at alternatives the whole time because the raw material and transport costs are simply not sustainable," he says. By way of example, he gestures to some smaller "Jackson" kayaks which use less plastic. "Shipping any kayak from the States, which is where many of the manufacturers are based, is costly. We are looking into sourcing these locally, by speaking to a couple of businesses who have set up plants in the UK. And because the shipping costs are lower, prices are lower for our customers." He explains that such change is partly the result of work done by "auditors" from the transition town organisation. They have been through everything in his shop and worked out how he can save money – and energy.

"Wales is a hotbed of activity, as is Cornwall," says Hopkins. "We are now up to 50 formal transition projects and more than 700 'mullers', those at an earlier stage of the process – with New Zealand and Australia being very active. A man from Japan was over here recently, and he has now gone back to start transition projects there. And we are busily getting our literature translated into a number of languages, including Welsh and Japanese.

"The viral nature of the growth of the transition movement has taken us all by surprise. We have gone from one transition project to there being 50 formal ones and more than 700 at the earlier stages just by word of mouth and the internet. We still have no film, nor, until very recently, did we have a book. I think it shows that people are hungry for positive solutions which engage their creativity.

"The transition movement has been described as being 'more like a party than a protest march', and that feeling of being part of something playful and solutions-focused has undoubtedly been a part of its success."

If he has his way, the ring of local currencies pouring out of tills will soon be heard up and down the country.

Keeping it local: how alternative cash schemes work

* The Totnes pound is worth £1. Each unit of local currency is legally backed by an equivalent in official currency, so traders and customers can confidently use them, knowing that they have a real value.

* Since local currencies are only accepted at local businesses, their use encourages the purchase of locally produced goods and services. This helps to prevent money "leaking" out of the area's economy.

* By helping to give a boost to local producers, the scheme cuts down on food miles, which is better for the environment.

* Another form of local trading is Lets (local exchange trading system). In this scheme, people exchange goods and services for a system of credits, so bypassing the formal economy.

* Lets is not bartering. Locals set up a club and can trade in goods and services using Lets "points". These points can be used to buy from any other member. Thus, a parallel economy is created.

( There are thousands of Lets schemes around the world.

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