What went on last week:

1. Britain’s Unemployment Falls At An Annoyingly Brisk Rate.

Britain’s unemployment rate for the 3 months to February fell to 6.9%. And it’s mostly news because 7% was the original benchmark for the Bank of England to declare “crisis averted” and end the looseness of its policies. Only, it abandoned that benchmark earlier this year when it realised that the unemployment rate would drop below 7% long before it was ready to start increasing interest rates.

But here’s the part of the job report that I found really interesting: the primary reason for the drop in unemployment is the increase in self-employment. Some are concerned that the self-employment is not “a wave of new business direction”, but rather:

“a motley collection of freelancers aiming to keep a toehold in the labour market until they are able to return to regular employment.”

They cite a recent survey which found that more than 25% of people that became self-employed in the last five years would prefer to go back to regular employment.

Or you could read that as “nearly three quarters of people are happier self-employed, thanks very much”.

Just saying.

2. The Recycling Of Building Material.

Chinese factory built a house in 3D for 3500 dollars

A Chinese company, Winsun New Materials, announced that it has built 10 homes using a 3D printer. The houses are 200 square meters and cost about half that of a normal home. The printer uses a mixture of cement and glass fibres to create the pre-fab walls, etc.

The intention is (apparently) to use scrap material as part of the mixture. Personally, I would raise an eyebrow. I may be wrong – but I’ve seen how badly a home printer can react to ink from a refilled cartridge. When you’re talking about colossal 3D printers that are laying down layers of material at the microscopic level, I would guess that a loose nail or a change in the viscosity of the “ink” could properly cause a problem.

Also, my other question: it looks like they made pre-fab walls, but aren’t those just cement blocks? Because then I’m wondering whether they’re comparing the cost with “traditional homes built using bricks” or “traditional homes built using the pre-fab materials that we have around already”…

3. Berlusconi’s Community Service.

berlusconi old age home

For his tax fraud, Silvio is going to spend a year doing part-time community service in an old age home. And by “part-time”, they mean “once a week and for a period no less than four consecutive hours”.

The original case involved €62 million worth of tax savings. Because of Italy’s statute of limitations, this was eventually changed to €7.2 million of tax savings between 1994 and 1998. Depending on your perspective, the court is roughly saying “So you illegally kept some money to yourself, we’re going to let you work it back by making you work 208 hours of community service at a rate of somewhere between €35,000 and €300,000 per hour.”

Sounds like a sweet deal.

Also Silvio is 77 years old and he’s going to be working in an old age home. Does anyone else find that ironic?

4. George Osborne’s new opposite-of-requirement for prosecution.

His Chancellorship has been really annoyed with all those individuals with offshore accounts – so his most recent suggestion is the creation of a new criminal offence which would allow a prison sentence to apply even where the taxpayer did not intend to avoid income.

Situations where this would apply:

    • widows that were unaware of the full extent of their spouse’s estate
    • immigrants with bank accounts in their home country that fail to report any interest (even if the amounts are miniscule)
    • those people that did not realise that they had income to declare

Culture of paranoia much?

5. India Gets A Third Gender.

india transgender

India’s supreme court has agreed that the transgendered should no longer have to self-classify as either male or female – they can class themselves as “hjira” and/or “other”. There are an estimated 2 million indians that identify as transgendered. Nepal and Bangladesh have similar legislation.

Of course, these kinds of rulings tend to rile the evangelicals amongst us, who like to dwell on the biological intent of two genders while conveniently ignoring nature’s bounty of the hermaphroditic, the polyamorous and the seasonally-transgendering.

But that aside, there is a certain administrative cost here. Every country that goes through this process needs to revise every law, official document and welfare program to include a third gender category. It’s a cost that will have to be absorbed by the taxpayer base.

Does it just go to show that bigots always pay for it in the end?