Fare Thee Well Bank of Scotland!

September 19, 2008

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The Bank of the Scotland is the latest victim to fall prey to the global credit crunch

avatarIt’s the credit crunch that just keeps on crunching. Latest victim – the Bank of Scotland, established in 1695, and the institution that invented banking as we know it in a Western sense.

Got an overdraft? You can thank the Bank of Scotland for that innovation and plenty more. The bank, known as HBOS after its merger with English bank Halifax, is the biggest home lender in the UK. And now, merged with Lloyds TSB, it will become even bigger.

But at what cost, and why? The cost to Scotland at this stage is unknown, though it’s inconceivable that no jobs will be lost. Some say with a Scottish Prime Minister and a Scottish Chancellor, pressure will be brought to bear on Lloyds to ensure there are not major cuts north of the Border.

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Haiti – Land of the Mud Pie Eaters

July 29, 2008

mud pies in Haiti

Mudcakes are inflation-proof

While the UK seems to be leading the way in the credit crunch, Haiti is blazing the trail for everyone else in regards to the inflationary crisis hitting food. Only a few months ago Haitians were rioting to protest (and loot) rising food staple costs. Indicative of the problems of Haiti’s poor is that the ultimate inflationary-proof food is now gaining prominence there: the mud pie.

Rory Carroll takes a look at the Mudcake industry in Port-au-Prince:

At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun.

The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food.

Brittle and gritty – and as revolting as they sound – these are “mud cakes”. For years they have been consumed by impoverished pregnant women seeking calcium, a risky and medically unproven supplement, but now the cakes have become a staple for entire families.

It is not for the taste and nutrition – smidgins of salt and margarine do not disguise what is essentially dirt, and the Guardian can testify that the aftertaste lingers – but because they are the cheapest and increasingly only way to fill bellies.

“It stops the hunger,” said Marie-Carmelle Baptiste, 35, a producer, eyeing up her stock laid out in rows. She did not embroider their appeal. “You eat them when you have to.”


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