Number of millionaires has soared while half the planet – 3.5 billion people – owns less than 3 percent of wealth.
The richest 1 per cent of people in the world now own half of the planet’s wealth, according to a new report that highlights breathtaking levels of global inequality.
The study reveals how the super-rich have profited from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, seeing their proportion of the world’s wealth increase from 42.5 per cent in the midst of the crisis to 50.1 per cent now.
According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the top 1 per cent are now worth a total of £106 trillion – around eight times more than the size of the US economy.
The wealthiest 10 percent of people, meanwhile, own 87.8 per cent of global wealth.
“The downward trend reversed after 2008 and the share of the top 1 per cent has been on an upward path ever since, passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” the report says.
The gaping inequality has resulted in a huge rise in the number of millionaires and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (those worth more than $30m). Since 2000, the number of millionaires in the world has risen by 170 per cent, to 36 million, while the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals has increased five times over.
The UK has the third highest number of millionaires – 6 per cent of the total.
The report states: “Increasing inequality can boost the speed at which new millionaires are created.”
At the other extreme, the poorest half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people – own just 2.7 per cent of global wealth, which grew faster in the last year than at any time since 2010, reaching a total of $280 trillion.
Charities said the findings highlighted the need for action from political leaders both in the UK and internationally.
Katy Chakrabortty, Oxfam’s head of advocacy, said: “In the UK, the wealthiest 1 per cent have seen their share increase to nearly a quarter of all the country’s wealth, while the poorest half have less than 5 per cent.
“This divide matters hugely at a time when millions of people across the UK face a daily struggle to make ends meet and the numbers living in poverty are the highest for almost 20 years.
“The recent Paradise Papers revelations laid bare one of the main drivers of inequality – tax-dodging by rich individuals and multinationals. Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality that is undermining economies around the world, dividing societies and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives.
“In the UK, the Chancellor should use next week’s Budget to prioritise tough action to tackle tax avoidance to help provide funds to fight poverty in both the UK and developing countries.”
According to the report, growth in Europe was the second highest of all regions, but the UK was singled out as having an “uncertain” outlook because of Brexit.
Analysts said the impact of leaving the EU on British markets and the value of the pound means UK wealth is likely to fall by 0.9 per cent over the next five years.
In contrast, many European countries are growing rapidly: Germany, France, Italy and Spain accounted for a fifth of all global growth in the past year.
The study also found that millennials face a significant disadvantage compared to older generations.
Introducing the report, Urs Rohner, chairman of the Credit Suisse board of directors, said: “Those with low wealth tend to be disproportionately found among the younger age groups, who have had little chance to accumulate assets, but we find that millennials face particularly challenging circumstances compared with other generations.
“High unemployment, tighter mortgage rules, growing house prices, increased income inequality, less access to pensions and lower income mobility have dealt serious blows to young workers and savers and hold back wealth accumulation by the millennials in many countries.
“With the baby boomers occupying most of the top jobs and much of the housing, millennials are doing less well than their parents at the same age, especially in relation to income, homeownership and other dimensions of wellbeing assessed in this report.”
Only a small proportion of high-achieving millennials will be able to overcome the “millennial disadvantage”, he added.
NOAH’s Ark was in the shape of a pyramid, according to startling new revelations following a high-tech scan of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
More than 50 years ago, a shepherd found seven scrolls in the Qumran Caves in the Judean desert of the West Bank near to the Dead Sea.
The findings formed a larger manuscript which have been come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The papers contain Biblical and non-Biblical stories and have offered scientists a glimpse into the past and shed new light on Abrahamic religions.
The latest discovery, which was found by scientists who scanned a piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls using different wavelengths of light at 28 times higher resolution than standard scans, revealed that Noah’s Ark was pyramid-shaped.
Experts had been unable to read a word following the Hebrew phrase “the ark’s tallness” on the scrolls, but thanks to the high-tech scan, they have now discovered that the word is ‘ne’esefet’.
The translation of ne’esefet from Hebrew to English means “gathered”, which Dr Alexey Yuditsky from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says means that the ark’s ribs were gathered at the top to form a shape of a pyramid and the discovery is actually backed up by previous findings.
Dr Yuditsky says the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Bible which dates back to the third century BC, also describes the ark’s shape as a pyramid, while medieval authors such as Maimonides also suggested the same.
This discovery has led some to believe Noah, who escaped from ancient Egypt, was actually a pharaoh, as pyramids were a sign of high standing in the North African empire at the time.
Blogger Jesse Waugh writes on his website: “Many ‘alternative’ historians now believe that Moses was Akhenaten, who escaped to Amarna with his people and his Queen Nefertiti, and where he set up a new society dedicated to the veneration of the monotheistic sun-god Aten.
“Is the Old Testament actually the story of the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt?”
A recently unearthed mummy equipped with a well-preserved pair of ‘Adidas sneaker’ has intrigued archaeologists and conspiracy theorists alike. While some consider it to be only a lucky find, others have brought conclusive arguments as to why this could be the remnants of an actual time traveler.
Time travel has always been a fascinating topic, especially in present days when this concept doesn’t look so futuristic after all. With our current development in technology, we can dream of cruising through time in a couple hundred years. Until that day arrives, we’ll need to focus our attention on a very bizarre archaeological find from the Altai Mountains in Siberia, where an unusual mummy had recently been discovered.
So, what’s the connection between those mummified remains and time travel? Well, there’s a certain item on the deceased body that’s strongly resembling a pair of – you guessed it – Adidas sneakers. If the pair of shoes prove to be authentic, then the world will know that time travel is a real phenomenon. However, I’m inclined to think that people at that time were only skilled shoemakers. Or were they really?
The extremely well-preserved remains belong to a Turkik person that lived some 1,500 years ago in central Asia. The body was found alongside the remains of a horse, a pillow, and a sheep’s head. Archaeologists also found a saddle, bridle, clay vase, wooden bowl, trough, iron kettle, and four different ‘Dool’ (Mongolian clothes).
“It is the first complete Turkik burial at least in Mongolia – and probably in all Central Asia. This is a very rare phenomenon. These finds show us the beliefs and rituals of Turkiks,” said B. Sukhbaatar, researcher at Khovd Museum. “We can see clearly that the horse was deliberately sacrificed. It was a mare, between four and eight years old. Four coats we found were made of cotton.”
Researchers haven’t been able to determine the genre of the deceased so far, but they believe the remains belonged to a woman because they found no trace of a weapon inside the tomb, where male warriors were always buried alongside their bow.
The resting place was found at an altitude of 2,803 meters, and the mummy – still wrapped in felt – was resting its bones inside a 3-metre-deep grave. The body preserved extremely well because of the cold temperatures, together with the belongings and horse remains.
“The grave was located 2803 meters above sea level.This fact and the cool temperatures helped to preserve the grave,” said Sukhbaatar. “The grave was three meters deep. The finds show us that these people were very skilled craftsmen. Given that this was the grave of a simple person, we understand that craft skills were rather well developed.”
There are several things that don’t add up here. First of all, Mongolians are well-known for their herds of horses, which in turn determines the wealth of their people. These noble animals were (and still are) essential to them, meaning that whenever someone died, they would leave behind a substantial herd.
The grave of the Turkik mummy is considered to be rich in possessions, but since only the remains of a horse were found inside, researchers are now insinuating that the mummy didn’t belong to the elitist class of the region. But how is that possible if four different garbs, together with a presumed pair of ‘Adidas sneakers’ and numerous other items including the wool originating from a camel were discovered inside the tomb? Could it be that this woman was of a different culture? A distant traveler with knowledge of time manipulation?
A Romanian archaeologist explains more about the burial ceremony in his book about Turkik nomads. It reveals that Turkik people preferred being buried with far less material possessions, but they sacrificed their horses to accompany them on the other side.
“When a man died, the survivors dug a pit as large as a house, in which they laid the deceased holding in his hand a wooden cup filled with a drink, as well as his belt, bow, and money…Following that, the dead man’s horses were killed, the number of horses sacrificed being an indication of his personal wealth.”
So how does a not-so-wealthy Turk woman end up in a strategically-placed grave atop of the Altai Mountains, together with rich possessions and a pair of sneakers from the future?Is it possible that archaeologists really stumbled across the mummified remains of a time traveler, or is this but a mere coincidence?
More images from inside the tomb can be found HERE.
Nine citizen and environmental groups are urging West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reconsider his plans to let companies drill for oil and natural gas underneath the Ohio River, citing concerns that drilling and fracking could contaminate the drinking water supply and increase the risk of earthquakes in the region.
In a letter sent to the governor this month, the coalition of Ohio- and West Virginia-based groups said Tomblin’s Department of Environmental Protection has not proved that it can adequately protect the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water to more than 3 million people. The groups cited drilling currently taking place in a state-designated wildlife area, which some have complained is unacceptably disrupting the nature preserve, and a chemical spill in January that tainted the drinking water supply for 300,000 people.
“The well-documented deficient enforcement capability of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas has been on public display for years,” the letter reads. “How are we ever to believe that the state has the political will, technical capability and community commitment to guarantee that adequate controls, timely supervision and, when needed, ruthless enforcement would occur on well pads that close to the Ohio River?”
On Friday, Tomblin’s administration opened up the process for companies to bid on oil and gas leases located 14 miles underneath West Virginia’s section of river, which also acts as a natural border with Ohio. The bids would allow for companies to use the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to stimulate the wells.
State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told the Associated Press that drilling would be necessary because “budgets are very tight.” Indeed, the AP pointed out that the state has already received a $17.8 million bid from Triad Hunter LLC, which would also include 18 percent in royalties for the state on the oil that’s extracted.
It remains to be seen how big of a risk to the drinking water supply fracking would pose to the Ohio River. As Burdette told the AP, some leases under the Ohio River date back 25 years — though it’s likely that those wells used conventional drilling, and not fracking. Environmental advocates worry that fracking poses a bigger risk to water supplies than conventional drilling because of the chemicals used in the process, and the large amount of contaminated wastewater it produces. Science on the issue has been all but definitive, and the EPA is currently in the process of conducting a study that would clarify the technique’s impact on drinking water.
For the coalition of groups opposing the practice, though, drinking water is not the only concern. In their letter, the groups said that there is a fault line located near West Virginia’s proposed drilling site, and that drilling would increase the risk of earthquakes in the region. Though drilling itself is not linked to quakes, scientists have found evidence “directly linking” earthquakes to wastewater injection, a process widely used during fracking to dispose of large amounts of wastewater underground.
“Where one state decides to drill should never put residents of their own state or another state in harm’s way,” the letters reads. “The exploitation of limited natural gas resources under the river could degrade our water quality, reduce the recreational and aesthetic value of the river, and cause health problems for millions of people.”
After the Ohio River bidding is done, West Virginia commerce officials reportedly said the state would look to other river tracts and a wildlife management area for further drilling.
“One plus one equals two. So that’s the starting point of interstellar messages.”
The surprise alien blockbuster Arrival takes an old science fiction plot — intelligent extraterrestrials come to Earth — and jettisons the explosive boom and doom of an invasion scenario. Instead of indulging our fears of otherness, the film posits that extraterrestrials might be peaceful, curious, and maybe even in need of human assistance. It also peers into how humans would struggle to help galactic fellow travelers because our government institutions and prejudices make it nearly impossible for our leaders, much less our species, to act in concert. That’s an interesting reality check from a science fiction film, especially as SETI research ramps up and a politician with little interest in science or diplomacy moves into the White House.
The chances that Donald Trump will speak to aliens on behalf of mankind are not significant, but there remains a nonzero chance of contact. And if that event occurred, it would — unless something radical happened — be organized in a frighteningly haphazard way.
Whether it’s Trump or someone else, whoever is tasked with talking to extraterrestrials on this planet will have to approach the situation with the understanding that whatever they do might not work. Any alien landing, especially on the lawn of the White House, could be easily perceived as hostility or opportunity. “It’s probably going to be perceived as both,” says Douglas Vakoch, a SETI researcher and head of METI International. Any country will want to do what they can to protect themselves, and many may also want to capitalize on the opportunity to access new technologies and represent planetary norms. But that doesn’t mean America has a plan.
To the contrary, there is no evidence to suggest the U.S. government has a concrete protocol for dealing with alien visitors. There are only reports about a 1950s military plan called the “Seven Steps to Contact,” which was designed as a guide for human extraterrestrial intervention and calls for an initial round of remote surveillance and intelligence gathering to assess the aliens’ weaponry and technological advancement before any pleasantries. The idea there being that if we’re technologically inferior, we’re not going to want to stir things up. The plan also suggests that humans should abduct plants, animals, an intelligent forms of life before touching down on another planet’s surface. This all makes sense, which is why it’s so alarming. If aliens followed the steps on Earth there would be widespread panic and clear communications would immediately become difficult.
Humans have actually spent quite a bit of history brainstorming how to talk to beings from another world. According to Vakoch, humans have long pitched ideas about carving shapes and messages into the landscape in order to send messages to those living on the moon. Austrian astronomer Joseph Johann von Littrow once made the suggestion to dig a large circular canal in the Sahara desert, fill it with kerosene, and light it up. He was interested in symmetry and that actually makes sense — even if the rest of the plan was nonsensical. “There may be some basic language you need to know in order to make contact in the first place,” says Vakoch. The language he speaks of is generally considered to be math.
The most famous human transmission meant for alien life was the 1974 Arecibo Message, which was written as a graphic of math and science encoded as Morse code. “The underlying principle,” Vakoch says, “is ‘what is it that we and the aliens have in common by virtue of being able to send and receive radio signals?’ It means you can build transmitters and receivers so you’re a good engineer. You’ve got to know something as fundamental as one plus one equals two. So that’s the starting point of interstellar messages.”
The subtext behind that thought is that if an alien species comes to Earth, both our civilization and the visiting one would likely have the capacity to meet one-another halfway by acknowledging the laws of physics as demonstrated through math. Alien messages meant for us would probably be presented in a context that the aliens presume is more familiar to us — and vice versa. So if America’s big orange man was to speak to small green men, we could at least take comfort in the initial compromise on language.
Unfortunately, we’ll still have to be flexible on that front because education — as humans know all too well — is not homogenously distributed. “We see such stark differences here on our own world,” says Vakoch. “We’ll have to start with what’s basic and work our way up.” That will require brainstorming several different tracks for developing that communication, because in all likelihood, says Vakoch, we may have to start over and over and over again.
And that means Trump will need to show patience. A lot of patience. It’s certainly not something he’s well known for, but with the fate of human civilization depending on him, he’ll need to quickly learn how to chill out. This will be even more true if aliens show up, then give humanity the silent treatment. Aggression, Vakoch suggests, is a zero-win strategy. “The better approach is to think of all communications in terms the future and pursue altruistic reciprocity, pivoting towards a give-and-take series of interactions.” Trump would do well to meet extraterrestrial visitors with gifts and assistance as signs of goodwill. After all, when someone visits you at home it’s only polite to offer a drink or snack of some sort. This is doubly true when they possess superior technology.
How likely is that? Very unlikely. If Donald Trump is the person we put forth to make first contact with aliens who arrive on Earth, things will probably end up poorly.
The UN has predicted that the world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050–nearly 2.5 billion more people on Earth than we have at the moment. In 2013, the annual day in which humanity consumes more natural resources than the planet is capable of recovering from in a year came early, once again. Overpopulation also just happens to be one of those words that immediately triggers images of the apocalypse, despite the fact that nothing in human existence seems more routine than birthing a child.
But before anyone takes Rush Limbaugh’s advice that environmentalists ought to save the planet by committing suicide, let’s take a step back and unpack what “overpopulation” really means. The good people at Wait But Why have come out with another set of dazzling infographics (we first saw them when they made this shocking piece about the death tolls of major disasters) that deal with rethinking population density and space. For example, if we lived at the density that people live in Manhattan, the entire global population could fit in New Zealand:
Or, look at the possibilities if we lived as they do in Bangladesh and New Jersey:
“Space is certainly not the problem,” one of the creators of Wait But Why (who prefers to remain anonymous) tells me. “I’m walking right now through Manhattan. It’s crowded, but it’s not that crowded,” he adds. “The point is when we talk about all the issues we have with growing population, the thing that’s scary about that is not space, it’s of course resources, and the distribution of resources.”
In some ways, the infographics are mildly comforting: When we talk about overpopulation, the implication should be that we’re talking about systems of consuming and producing waste that desperately need to be overhauled and made efficient. It’s a big task, but not completely dire.
The space comparison works both ways. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s also Alaska:
For the whole set of comparisons, head on over to Wait But Why.
And yeah, he always had “that look…” That way of staring straight through you into some faraway, unknowable beyond. It was there when I first saw him, but nothing compared to what he looked like when we said goodbye. That’s the story I’m going to tell you now: I’ll try to keep it short.
I forget how the idea of selling acid at Jim Morrison’s grave first occurred to me, but when it did it seemed like a pretty good one. Turned out it was too – it only took about a week and a half hanging out in Pere LaChaise to finance my next three months in Europe. I bought two sheets of blotter on Telegraph and mailed it a friend in Paris accordionned inside a cassette mailed with a bunch of other cassettes. It was decent, garden variety blotter, and I called it “Electric Warrior” because that was the T-Rex cassette I sent it in. Between the market forces of supply, demand, and relative strengths of the Franc, Dollar and various Kroner at the time, I was able to pull in close to a thousand percent profit and still be offering a good deal to the stream of quiet Scandinavians who flowed through to pay their respects to the Lizard King. When they’d ask “Where’s it from?” I’d say “Berkeley”and their eyes would go wide and they’d repeat the word “Berkeley” like it was Xanadu.
So anyway, it was something like my third day on the job and along with the Norwegians, Danes and Swedes there’s this quiet Russian dude with a guitar, Vladimir, who’s there to pay his respects like the rest of us. Although he wasn’t interested in my product, when he found out I was from San Francisco he got really animated and wanted to hear everything I could tell him about it – the music especially. I guess like a lot of people he thought it was just 1967 forever by the bay with the Airplane and the Dead still playing in the park… I told him about the handful of Dead shows I’d seen, and he got a far off look and said “Just to see Jerry…Y’know? Just to be there and see his fingers and lips moving and hear the music at the same time… Man…”he sighed. “Hey now,” I said, “it’ll happen.” He just shook his head in that way people do when there’s just too much to explain. Vlad was like that a lot.
Lots of people bring their guitars to Jim’s grave, thinking they’re going to play something. But when they get there they seem to understand pretty quickly it’s not right. Vlad though, he just sat down next to the grave, pulled his guitar out of its case and did “Crystal Ship” while the rest of us just sat there stunned. It was like Jim’s voice coming up out of the ground and straight out of this guy’s mouth. Like Mr. Mojo himself risin’ up from the grave.
His case had the tell-tale bills and coins of a busker, and when a couple of Swedes started towards it with some francs he politely waved them off. He was off work, he said. Likewise when he finished and we asked him to do more. He just smiled politely, sweetly even, and begged off. He said we could see him at the Metro station at Les Halles if we wanted to: he was there every day. I gotta say, the guy had class. And a lot of what Hemingway called “the dignity of an iceberg…” that quiet aura about him that let you know you were seeing only a fraction of what was beneath the surface.
The next day I figured what the hell, went down to Les Halles and watched him do a couple of sets. Mostly old stuff: Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel, some Neil, of course. His mainstay though, believe it or not, was Donovan. Back then he had the look, or at least the hair. But he also had that far-off quality, that sort of otherworldliness that Donovan had. He was pretty solid through and through, but there were some songs… man. His “Let it Be” came with a sort of emotion that was practically transcendent.
We talked for a bit between songs. He was staying at a hostel and I told him he was welcome to crash at my place for awhile. The guy I was staying with was in Morocco for a couple of weeks, so I had a place all to myself in Saint-Denis. I made the offer without hesitation, there was something about him that let me know immediately that I could trust him. But there was something else too – that hint of something buried deep inside him that cried out for help, or at the very least just needed a friend.
They say that youth is wasted on the young, and I suppose most of the time that’s true. But there are times in youth that aren’t wasted at all, when you’re young and free and friends and lovers are all plentiful and beautiful and smart and funny… you’re living the life and you know it. Every relationship, even every conversation, is meaningful and beautiful somehow, no matter how brief. Those weeks with Vlad and the neighbor girls in Saint-Denis were like that.
It took about a week for him to open up about the KGB. I’ll never forget how he put it, he said “You know how you hippies in America, when you talk about authorities you talk about ‘the man…’ Well in Russia, that is me. I am that man.”
We were drinking wine and playing chess, Babette and Lisbeth dutifully writing in their journals. We all kept journals back then. Anyway, Vlad had been pressing me for details on a Hot Tuna show I saw at the Sweetwater when Grace came in and did a couple of songs. “Wooden Ships,” was the only one I really remembered… (fucking mushrooms – so tough to get the dosage right…) He had a real thing for Grace Slick and hell, who could blame him? I’d told him how she dropped in at the Sweetwater all the time and made some remark about how someday we’d see her together and he went stiff. It wasn’t hard to tell when something bothered Vlad, believe me: you could feel the temperature of the whole room drop. That’s when he told me about being in the KGB.
I was a bit incredulous at first, but then I started to laugh: I couldn’t help it. He was serious though, and so I said “I’m sorry man… I’m sorry. But that’s some pretty fucking deep cover you’ve got going… playing Donovan songs in the Metro… I’d have never guessed it myself.” And he starts to laugh too, because it’s funny. And because he’d made his confession and knew we were still friends.
I started to understand him better after that, and at least some of the ghosts that were haunting him. His time here in Paris, playing and singing in the Metro was, as he put it, his “soul journey…” and it was ending soon. We never talked about it openly, but I knew he must’ve been thinking of defecting. Even with his talents, which were considerable, he knew the odds of actually making it in the music business were slim to none. But more than anything else, defecting would mean never seeing his parents again, and I knew enough about him by then to know that wasn’t going to happen. He also hinted at there being more to his career than simply “being in the KGB,” so it’s possible that defecting to the west might not even be survivable.
Ultimately it seemed like he knew he’d be going back and this was sort of his last youthful hurrah – and I’ve got to say it was a privilege to be a part of it. He was a really fascinating person to me – I’ve always been a sucker for the quiet type – but I could tell whatever it was he kept so deeply hidden, it was in no way malevolent. Whether or not that’s still true, or was ever true to begin with I don’t know. Obviously he’s changed a lot since then, and I’m a little ashamed to say I was a part of that change. Rather a large part too I’m afraid, but we’ll get to that soon enough. Since he seems to be running our country now, I just want you to know that I knew Vladimir Putin very well – or at least as well as anyone could. He was a puzzling and deeply complicated man, but somewhere beneath it all there was a very beautiful person. Of course, back then we were all beautiful, weren’t we?
Sometimes we’d go out, but mostly we’d just stay in with the girls. We’d all smoke hash and listen to music, play some chess or backgammon. We’d drink wine and cognac and chainsmoke Gitanes or Gaulloises and talk about other places we’d been, adventures we’d had… the other people we’d met and things that they’d said. We’d talk until we ran out of words, then retire to our separate rooms with our lovers. His time was running out though, and there was a sadness to the normally happy sound of “Surrealistic Pillow” seeping in from their room. I’d put on a Chopin concerto and make love to Babette and afterwards just lie there spent, staring into the darkness while I ran my fingers through her hair. Grateful for the moment, and thanks to Vlad, grateful for my freedom.
In the darkness I understood though, free as I might be, I was just like Vlad… just with more time. I knew all of this would be ending sometime, and probably sooner than I thought. I forced myself to remember the beauty of that moment – the look of the darkness and the smell of the room… the sound of Babette’s breathing and the feel of her hair and the sheer luxury of just lying there painting pictures in my mind and slowly drifting off to sleep. And I did remember it, just as I remember it to this day. And I highly recommend anyone reading this who’s in love to do the same. Trust me on this.
For spies, like lovers, the truth comes out piecemeal. Turns out what I’d been laughing at wasn’t a joke after all: Vlad was on the job. And the last person some Ukrainian defector is going to think is tracking him was the kid in the subway singing “Heart of Gold.” When he told me I felt stupid for not realizing it in the first place. They don’t just let Russians bum around Europe playing guitar, let alone KGB. As his time ran out Vlad became more agitated: he’d stay in his room and instead of his usual full repertoire, he’d just practice the same five or six songs over and over for hours – and I realized he was working on a demo tape. He acted more and more homesick too, and one time he started talking about his parents and his eyes started to water a bit. He was thinking of defecting, I knew it… the poor bastard was actually thinking of doing it.
By the time he came out with it I’d already had a few days to think it over and I said not to do it. “Put aside everything else – your highest duty is still gonna be to your parents. It’d be different if you hated them, or didn’t care. But so long as you love them and respect them and worry about them, you’ll never truly be happy out here. Even if you end up playing with the Dead and banging Grace Slick on the side.” Vlad smiled and said he knew that, but was searching for some kind of third way, a middle path. Maybe a way of getting his parents out, maybe something else, he didn’t know. What he did know was that he only had a few days left to find it. So, like any responsible international acid dealer, I suggested he drop some acid and see if the answer came to him while he was tripping. We’d smoked hash and drank pretty much every night together, but Vlad had always drawn a line when it came to LSD. This time though, he gave in.
A few minutes after we dropped Vlad asked how long before the effects would kick in, and I said about half an hour or so. I said he’d feel a sort of rising sense of excitement at first – maybe a bit of loopiness of thought…
“Okay,” he said, “then I want to tell you this now. Before.”
“I shouldn’t tell you this at all, but I have to tell someone. And I know you will not speak a word of this to anyone. I just need you to know why all of this is so… difficult for me.”
We’d left the apartment and were walking beside the Marne. He’d stopped and was leaning against the concrete balustrade, looking out over the river. There were a few people around, but nobody too close.
“You see, this man I’m watching – they’re going to kill him. I don’t know how, or when, or even why… but I know he is going to be killed, and that I will be a part of his death. And that will be a first time for me, and I don’t know how I feel about it.”
I said “Oh.” and just stood silently. There wasn’t really anything I could say. I definitely understood the gravity of it though, and kind of wished he’d mentioned it before we’d dropped the acid.
“And every day when he goes by I think to myself I could tell him. I could stop the whole thing if I wanted to. But in reality I know I can’t. No matter how I did it, they would find out. It would mean my death.”
“So I just wanted to tell you that. And that I know this is only going to be the first. If I go back to Russia, there will be more. It will probably never end. And that’s why all of this is so hard for me, and so strange.” His eyes begin to well up and he shook it off. “This… this will change me, I’m sure of it. But I just wanted to tell you, these last days, with you and the girls… they have been my happiest. They may always be my happiest. You are a crazy hippie, but you are a very good friend…”
“Aw shit Vlad…”
We walked along in silence. I didn’t want to, but couldn’t help rethinking, and judging a bit, the poor guy walking next to me. He was as much a captive of his own talents as he was the agency he worked for. When I say he sounded just like Donovan, believe me, he did. And I know it sounds funny, but you’ve never heard “Diamonds and Rust” until you’ve heard it sung by Vladimir Putin. I pictured him there in the subway, back against the tiles, guitar case open in front of him, singing “Let It Be” and finally understanding where all the emotion behind it was coming from.
He was good, sure, but pretty much everyone trying to make it was good. If he had any kind of real shot it was as an impressionist. Every guy with a falsetto thinks they sound like Neil Young, but Putin actually did. He had an incredible range: from Art Garfunkel highs all the way down to Leonard Cohen lows. And when he’d play “Ne Me Quitte Pas”you might not think you were listening to Jacques Brel himself, but somebody damn close. It was difficult, practically impossible, to think of such a voice as an accomplice to murder, but then I felt a chill run through my veins when I realized he was in fact very much on the job… because the one thing he didn’t sound like was Russian.
Now there are rules about acid, particularly about being with someone on their first trip. You don’t have to have the whole “safe space” with Indian rugs, incense and favorite music and all that crap, but there are certain things you should probably avoid. So when we just started coming on and Vladimir said, “Oh Man Dude Look, We gotta go see that!” My first thought was, “No, we probably shouldn’t…” But he was insistent, so I went along with him into the theater thinking, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
What’s the worst that could happen? Those six little words… I think we all know what I’m talking about. We can all point to times in our lives where we’ve said, “What’s the worst that can happen?” only to have the worst that could happen actually happen and turn out to be way worse than we could’ve possibly imagined. For me that would have to be going and seeing Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” with Vladimir Putin in 1983 while we were high on acid and he was going through a transitional phase.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, “The Wall” is a highly disturbing and psychedelic film of a musician’s journey from innocence through madness into a sort of dictatorial fascistic dystopian hellscape, and the biggest mistake of my life was letting Vladimir Putin see it high on acid. The second biggest mistake of my life was letting him see it again right after that… and you can probably guess what the third biggest mistake of my life was.
We didn’t talk much on the way back, or much at all after that night. I don’t need to tell you the experience changed him profoundly, nor the direction in which those changes took him. He spent one last night in Saint-Denis with Lisbeth, and I took the above picture the next morning. I was trying to be as cheerful and goofy as I could, but as you can see he was having none of it. I doubt he slept much, if at all. He left sometime during the day and never came back, and I never saw him or heard from him again. My friend came back from Morocco a week later and two weeks after that I spent my ill-gotten gains from Pere LaChaise traveling through Italy and Greece. I tried to put Vlad out of my mind, but it was impossible to do it entirely. Before I left back for the States I spent a few last nights in Paris with Babette. It was bittersweet, and romantic in its own way, but just as I’d foretold that night staring into the darkness, it wasn’t the same.
So that’s my story… my confessional. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why our nation is in the fucked-up state it’s in, with a so-called President and ruling party firmly under the thumb of a single man in Moscow… (And if you don’t believe me, you just wait…) I’m not gonna take any responsibility for the caricature of a man that is Donald J.Trump, or any of the scum-sucking ruble-drunk traitors in the GOP that support him. I do feel somewhat responsible for the character and motivations of Vladimir Putin, however, and since he seems to be the man currently pulling their strings, for that I’m deeply sorry and solemnly promise that I will never do it again.
If there’s one bright spot in all of this I can offer you, it’s this: After Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991, there was a memorial concert in Golden Gate Park, and everyone who he’d promoted through the years played that day. The Grateful Dead, Santana… members of the Airplane/Starship… Neil even got back together with Crosby Stills and Nash for the occasion… Everyone was there. I knew if there was still a spark left of the Vladimir Putin I’d first known back in ’83… he’d be there too. And if there was even a trace of his old hippie heart still beating inside that oligarch chest, then there may indeed be a ray of hope left for us.. And I’m proud and happy to tell you that I did, in fact, see him there… I’m pretty sure.
But you know: fucking mushrooms… It’s so hard to get the dosage right.
The US is slowly withdrawing from the Paris agreement, but the rest of the world’s not having it.
Last week, the European Union and China released a joint statement declaring their intentions to move on with the Agreement with or without America. They were clearly referring to just the Executive Branch, however, as now they’ve decided to work with US states and cities that are keen on cutting their carbon footprint by going over the President’s weirdly coiffed head.
“Strong transatlantic ties are far more important and far more durable than the latest unfortunate decisions of the new administration,” EU President Donald Tusk said at the end of an EU-China summit in Brussels.
Rebuffing Trump’s suggestion that the climate accords could be “renegotiated,” EU officials have decided to cut out the White House entirely, and will instead deal directly with Governors, mayors, and CEOs of major corporations. This will include the Climate Alliance, a growing bipartisan group of states that have vowed to uphold the terms of the accord.
The official statement also included the ambition of working even more closely with Canada, another nation that reacted defiantly to the Trump administration’s recent decision.
At the same time, China and the EU have vowed to make sure that the Green Climate Fund – donations from wealthy nations to help poorer countries meet their carbon-cutting targets – will be maintained, despite America’s refusal to pay. By 2020, they will be paying $100bn a year into the fund, something that is essential for the survival of low-income nations.
“The decision of the United States to pull out of the Paris agreement is utterly regrettable, and that is me choosing very restrained language,” Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, added.
“This is why it is necessary now after this announcement by the US administration yesterday evening, to turn our attention to the future.”
At the same time, Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic organization said that it will donate $15 million to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – something the US government is still obliged to pay – that, among other things, helps coordinate the Paris Pact.
“We can’t wait for national governments to act on climate change,” Bloomberg noted on Twitter. “For solutions, look to cities.”
It’s a thrill to see that the rest of the world, and much of the US, is essentially defying the President on this overwhelmingly important issue.
Ignoring the vast population of the planet – who think that pulling out of the Paris accord is a disgraceful one at the very least – there has been a total of 159 reactions from senior politicians, media outlets and figureheads from around the world. Out of these, 137 are negative, 10 are neutral, and just 12 are positive.
Of those positive reactions, one comes from his own administration (Rick Perry, the Secretary of Energy), two come from Trump apologists Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan, and the rest come from right-wing press or think tanks.
This reckless decision was one of the most roundly condemned political moves of the last few decades, and it’s not difficult to see why – the world wants to do something about climate change, as it’s an existential threat to a vast swath of the planet.
No wonder the EU is taking unprecedented steps to circumvent the federal government to get things done. Some issues are far more important than scoring political points, and saving the planet, thankfully, is one of them.
PLUMES of dark smoke can be seen rising from the walled city, in Rome, as a fire rages near the religious site.
According to reports the Pope is inside the Vatican, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. Alarming footage from the scene shows black smoke pouring into the sky at a considerable rate. Visitors have taken to social media to express their shock at the scenes unfolding in the city. One person simply tweeted: “Vatican on fire”.
Another said: “Possible explosion at the Vatican.”A third posted online: “Currently a major fire (near the #Vatican), heavy smoke, big column of smoke rises up into the sky.”One eyewitness said they saw smoke, adding: “Then a few minutes later there was a loud boom and more smoke”.
“I’ve heard lots of sirens.”The smoke was drifting high over my apartment.”Photos show a fire raging behind a building, and it is said to have taken hold in the Primavalle district of Rome.
Smoke pours from buildings dangerously close to the Vatican
The fire is said to be coming from a neighbourhood behind the Vatican, and the blaze is not inside the city walls. Local reports indicate the fire is at a nearby car pound, and has “shrouded a building”.The home of the Pontiff, the Vatican is the smallest country in the world measuring just 0.2 square miles. The Pope recently met with US president Donald Trump, and his wife Melania, in his first foreign tour. The pair exchanged gifts, with the Pontiff handing the billionaire a copy of his 2015 encyclical on the effects of climate change. When deciding on a new Pope the papal conclave, the college of cardinals convene and the colour of smoke emanating from the Sistine Chapel indicates whether a decision has been made. Dark smoke indicates the ballot did not result in a new pope, while white smoke indicates a new one has been chosen.