Rupert Murdoch- The man who runs the world?

Rupert Murdoch- The man who runs the world?

 

Newscorp international. The far reaching Murdoch Empire, owning vast swathes of the English speaking media.

Sky. 21st Century Fox. Telstra. The Sun. The Australian Telegraph. The Times. Sunday Times. Press Association. New York Times. Dow Jones & Company. Wall Street Journal. The Australian. HarperCollins.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of companies and publications owned by Rupert Murdoch, it purely illustrates the power he holds over the political and social narrative stretching over three continents. You don’t hear that much about Murdoch in the media because he IS the media.

I could talk about phone hacking, I could talk about “king making”, I could talk about controlling governments by controlling the electorate. All very worthwhile topics regarding Murdoch, but there is one particular subject I want to cover here today.

Murdoch’s heavy involvement in Genie Oil and Gas. A subsidiary of IDT energy, spun off in 2011. Afek Oil and Gas is an Israeli subsidiary of Genie. Rupert Murdoch holds shares in Genie, as well as sitting on their Strategic Advisory Board, alongside a stellar cast:

Michael Steinhardt (SAB Chairman) – Noted Wall Street investor and Principal Manager, Steinhardt Management LLC.

Richard Cheney – 46th Vice President of the United States.

Marry Landrieu – United States Senator from Louisiana from 1996 to 2014. Senator Landrieu served as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. In her capacity as chair, she sponsored and passed the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Bill.

Rupert Murdoch – Founder and Executive Chairman of News Corporation, one of the world’s largest diversified media companies. News Corporation’s holdings include significant media assets on six continents.

Bill Richardson – Governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2011. Mr. Richardson served as Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration (1998-2001).

Jacob Rothschild, OM, GBE – Chairman of the J. Rothschild group of companies and of RIT Capital Partners plc. Chairman of Five Arrows Limited. Lord Rothschold is a noted philanthropist and Chairman of the Rothschild Foundation.

Dr. Lawrence Summers – Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University. Dr. Summers served as the 71st Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton and as Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama.

R. James Woolsey – Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 to 1995. Mr. Woolsey is co-founder of the United States Energy Security Council.

This board reads like a who’s who of Washington, and there’s a good reason for that. Genie Oil was a company set up for the purpose of extracting oil from Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights is a 700 square mile stretch of land on the Syrian / Israeli border. Formally recognised by the UN as Syrian land, the Israeli government seized Golan during the 6 day war of 1967.  Israel began constructing settlements in the 1970s and extended Isreali law across the area in 1981. Isreal’s occupation is internationally recognised as illegal.

Back to Genie. Their subsidiary Afek was awarded exploratory drilling rights in Golan in February 2013 by the Israeli government. In October 2015 the company announced a significant find, with WorldOil reporting a 350m oil depth, which is up to 10 times the average oil field.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has even asked President Obama to formally recognise Golan as a part of Israel, citing the Syrian war as justification.

In November 2015, at the first meeting between Netanyahu and Obama in over a year, the Israeli leader allegedly said as Syria was no longer a fully functioning state, this allowed “for different thinking”.

An article from October 2015 in The Jewish Press stated:

Syrian rebels, the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Assad regime, and today that means Russia, now have another reason to capture the Golan Heights – oil.

If Genie manage to extract this oil it would leave Israel independent of its Arab neighbours for fuel for decades, as well as providing a friendly source for the USA. The political ramifications of oil in the Golan are complex and far reaching.

Murdoch is no stranger to using his media control to manipulate voters. He helped Thatcher in the 80s,  Blair to power in 1997 and Bush in 2000. He uses his power to influence public opinion. His outlets were all in staunch support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The war in Syria has been incredibly complicated by the actions of other nation states each supporting their favoured factions. As can be seen from the Jewish Press article, the belief that Russia is supporting Assad for its own gains is a theory considered by Israeli media. From Murdoch’s point of view, continued instability in the region is necessary for business. Genie need Golan Heights to be internationally acknowledged as part of Israel prior to extracting billions of barrels of oil from it. A master of manipulation, a well publicised control freak, and quite likely a narcissist; is Murdoch once again using his control of public opinion and of government heads to suit his own agenda?

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The Reality for Syrian Refugees

The Reality for Syrian Refugees

I have been visiting the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq for 7 years now. Married to a Kurd, it’s a necessary, albeit rather dangerous and adventurous part of our family life. We take an annual trip there, which usually involves months of preparations, consular advice, vaccines, and a suitcase full of meds “just in case”.

In April 2014, on the drive up to the family village, we noticed a huge refugee camp had sprung up in Arbat, known locally as Scorpion Town due to the hundreds of thousands of deadly scorpions that live there. We’ve never stopped there before for that very reason!

We asked our driver to pull over, so we could have a better look at the camp, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. Row upon row of white UNHCR tents, as far as you could see, a tall barbed wire fence keeping the refugees in, armed guards every few meters, and grubby, tiny, children playing in the dust.. I’ve lived a very comfortable life here in the UK, and even though visiting family in Iraq is a bit of a culture shock, it was nothing like seeing this huge camp.

We were very fortunate that the guard in charge of the camp was a relative and was delighted that “The Westerners” were wanting to visit and have a look around.

The camp was hot, dusty and smelly, as you would expect. The sanitation was horrendous, we had to step over rivers of sewage flowing between tents. This was the best they could do, the overly stretched camp director told us sadly. “They don’t mind really, they never complain, they know they are safe, they are just waiting to go back home”.

We were followed around by groups of kids, some of whom were too young to remember a life outside the camp, they had no television or internet and so the sight of strange, white people was quite a talking point.

On our first visit , there were around 3,500 refugees, Syrian Kurds, who make up around 15% of Syria’s population, who had fled the fighting. There was one part time Doctor’s clinic (tent). There was a school, which consisted of a few big tents under a makeshift barn-type structure. The tents had no heating or cooling (bear in mind in the winter the temperatures gets as low as -15, and in summer can reach 50 degrees). These people had the clothes they stood up in, a few blankets to sleep on, and some pots and pans. None of them wanted to be there, and none of them wanted anything else but to go home. No-one wanted to come to Europe, no one even knew what a benefit system was, never mind planning to milk it. They were trapped inside the camp, no one was allowed in or out, except for emergency medical care. Despite having had houses, job, cars, normal lives back home, they were now treated a prisoners.

We came back determined to help out in whatever way we could and started to fundraise, via family, friends and our business. The issue of refugees was by now being highlighted all over western media and thankfully, lots of people wanted to help out. We collected clothes, toiletries and medicines and managed a huge truckload of items which we arranged to be driven to the camp. We then did further fundraising and managed to buy every child a winter coat. My brother in law who helped distribute them said he had never felt so humbled. The children patiently waiting in line for their coats, the mothers weeping with gratitude, the fathers weeping with shame at not being able to provide basic warmth for their children.

In April this year, we again set off to visit the camp. My whole outlook had changed since my last visit. I had become, sadly, acutely aware of the racism and hatred that was emerging towards refugees. The constant media coverage of hordes of rampaging, raping, refugees, the hidden Isis members, the benefit seekers and the job stealers, none of it remotely accurate, I knew. I was on a personal mission, supported by, thankfully, a lot of like-minded folk, to educate people and set the record straight. Refugees were people, humans, just like me. They’d just ended up in a crappy situation.

There are 5million registered Syrian refugees, of which 2.5 million are children. That’s more than the populations of Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff put together, just kids. Those figures are astounding, and should make every stop and think. They are most certainly not “all young males” as mass media would have you believe. They are also the kindest, most gentle people. Never once, on wither visit, did I feel uncomfortable or threatened, I had my young children with me who were free to wander round the camp, who joined in an impromptu game of football, regardless of the language barrier.

In 2014, the Arbat camp housed. It was meant to be a temporary camp, set up in 2013, but sadly, on our last visit this month, 3 years on, the camp has now grown and extended to three separate camps.

The camp we visited this year at least had people housed in shelters, not tents, which could be heated in winter and were waterproof and windproof. However, sadly, the population had now doubled to almost 7,500. The realisation that these camps weren’t temporary had clearly sunk in.

The conditions have improved slightly, with the accommodation and sanitation, however, the food shortages were a real problem. We arrived when the food rations were being handed out. There wasn’t enough to go round. I asked the lovely camp director, a tiny slip of a woman, who was clearly utterly respected and revered by the refugees in the camp, what about those families who didn’t get anything? “They queue until tomorrow”. Simple, yet heart breaking.

We visited the school and were so warmly welcomed by all the children and the teachers (all volunteers, refugees in the camp themselves), they were fascinated to know where we had come from, why we there. We met with the director of the school, a Kurd who was employed by UNCHR to lead the school. Still turning up for work everyday from 6am until 6pm, despite all government employee wages in Kurdistan having been stopped for 5 months due to the funding being reallocated to the fight against Isis.

“The children come, every day. Except for washday. They have one set of clothes, for sleeping, for daytime, for winter and summer. They wash them once a week, They can’t come to school that day. They cry, because they love the school. They can forget about where they are, they learn about other lands, about other cultures, they want to travel, they dream about what job they will do. Some of them have been born in the camp, they don’t know anything about the world. Some of them have never been to a shop, never been to a park, never been in a car. They are hungry, and we cannot keep them from falling asleep. They come all day and we only have water to give them for lunch. Some of the children don’t speak. They have seen too much. Children shouldn’t see those things. We try out best, but we aren’t professionals, they need real help some of them. Every night I go home and I cry for them.”

There is so much these people need, as the school director said, of course, they need the war to stop, and they need to go back home, but what they also don’t need is to be vilified, to be labelled, to be feared.

They are people, they hurt, they get sick, they get traumatised, they need our help and understanding. These words are the real refugee crisis, the hatred spread by Britain First, EDL, The Daily Mail and of course my personal favourites Refugees Not Welcome In Devon, are not.

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Osborne & Little, and a Crash Course in Accountancy

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When George Osborne released the rather shortened version of his latest tax return this week I cast it a quick glance, not expecting for a moment it would lead me on a down the rabbit hole type journey that would consume every spare minute I had. Surely nobody really finds this stuff interesting, not even accountants? How hard can it be to do a few sums, it must be a short exercise when armed with PC and trusty calculator?
Here I am 4 days later, having not done nearly as much of my real day job work as I should have. What I am left with is questions. A whole jumbled-up mess of the bloody things. I’m sat thinking how to present these questions, how to sex up the world of company accounts enough to keep your interest until the end. Here goes…

£44,647. The figure on Gideon’s tax return as dividend earnings. The register of MPs interests confirms this must all have been from the family business, Osborne & Little. I had read an article previously that had mentioned a dividend payment of around £1,200 on the Chancellor’s shareholding, so this piqued my interest enough to have a look on Companies House. The company paid out dividends of £335,000 in their 2014/2015 financial year. The annual return confirmed George Gideon Osborne holds 6,833 shares out of a total of 1,989,029, or 0.034% of the business. The calculator is holding up well at this point.

0.034% of £335,000 = £1,150.84

Oh bugger. I’m £43,496.16 short. Trying again didn’t solve it. More maths.

£335,000 / 1,989,029 = £0.16842 per share

£43,496.16 / £0.16842 = 258,260 shares. He must have another 258,260 shares in this Family Trust he makes passing mention to. Hold on, so he’s got 265,093 shares really. That’s (presses buttons furiously on calculator) 13.3% of the business! Quite an interest then.

Having also seen in recent news articles Osborne & Little hadn’t paid corporation tax in 7 years, I wondered how they had managed to pay dividends. Now I’m no accountant but I know dividends are based on profit. It turned out that they did pay £179,000 corporation tax in 2014/15. What has baffled me is the apparent refund in tax in 2013/14. A whopping £599,000, made up of £158,000 fixed asset timing differences and £440,000 tax losses. Cue frantic googling.

Thanks to a rather convoluted tax system combined with a lack of explanation on the company accounts, I’m still not sure on the how or why, but I do have a shocking headache and some sympathy for anyone who works in accountancy.

What I have achieved so far are some questions for our Chancellor.

Dear Gideon,
How exactly is your shareholding in Osborne & Little made up?
Why are the majority of your shares not in your own name?
Have Osborne & Little been in receipt of any government grants, subsidies or tax breaks in the past five years?
What does the £599,000 relate to; in detail and in layman’s terms? (We’re not daft, but we’re not forensic accountants.)
Yours neither sincerely nor faithfully
The Peasants.