Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Don’t buy Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs

p1ceu1nzkbumc2itd4-czh7lrblwouulhndll_qzbmve5cwdwmlxzvickigkhdbqhsn5-sgs129It turns out that the toys inside the Kinder chocolate eggs are made by child labour in Romania according to an investigation by the Sun newspaper.

Families in this, one of the poorest of the EU countries are being paid as little as 20p an hour for making the toys at home.

Child exploitation is not new in Romania. It is probably as famous for sending gangs of child pickpockets to the UK as it is for being the home of Vlad the Impaler.

Apart from the child exploitation experts say there is also a risk of food poisoning if the toys have been assembled in unsanitary conditions.

A whistleblower said “Customers would expect products which go inside children’s chocolates to be made in controlled conditions but so many of the toys are being made in peoples homes that effective quality control is impossible”.

Ferrero (the Italian chocolatier that makes the eggs) may not be getting what they pay for and middle men somewhere must be making a killing off the back of people being treated like slaves“. What, corruption in the EU?

The eggs and toy parts are supplied by Romexa SA a Ferrero contractor. The Sun’s investigation revealed that Romexa’s boss Daniel Muran is a millionaire living in a fabulous mansion. He said “this is the first I have heard of it but I will find out who is responsible and the factories involved will have their contracts terminated if this is found to be true”. He is currently under investigation by the Romanian authorities

Ferrero said it banned the use of children in factories and that its suppliers had passed a strict audit inspection this year. “All our suppliers are subject to regular independent checks to ensure that they observe the terms of our strict code of conduct. We will investigate these new allegations fully in order to ensure that our code of conduct is being strictly observed“.

Well there are strict inspections and corrupt EU inspections I guess. Also they seem to be missing the point that these toys are being assembled by homeworkers rather than in factories and so are unlikely to be inspected.

One family of five, including children of six years of age, who were all involved in making the toys told the newspaper that they were paid the equivalent of just under £4 for every 1,000 completed eggs they delivered to a factory in Carei, near the border with Hungary.

The father felt they  had no choice despite the terrible pay as they needed money to feed the children. He complained about their living conditions and used it as a reason for their dream to come to the UK. Perhaps if their country wasn’t so corruptit is he fourth most corrupt country in the EU after Bulgaria and Italy, and equal with Greece – people might have a fairer chance of earning a decent living.

These eggs are illegal in the US with huge fines for smuggling them in.

Supply chain integrity is an absolute necessity in this day and age. I suggest we boycott these eggs here and also any other products made by Ferrero until they sort this problem out.



The EU is a hotbed of corruption

under_table_bribe_1600_wht_9467Leaving aside the allegations that the President of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, was  party to Luxembourg’s notorious tax-avoidance schemes, which attracted companies like Amazon and Pepsi-Cola, when he was Finance Minister then PM, there is something rotten in the EU.

Bojan Pancevski’s piece in the Sunday Times this week spelled out its extent.

Hungary, one of the first countries to allow escapees from East Germany to cross its borders into Austria, and originally hailed as an example of new democracy, has recently turned its back on liberalism – President Orban talks of a shift to “an illiberal state” – and adopted an authoritarian form of government with close ties to Russia. And corruption is so widespread that the USA has imposed a travel ban on six senior Hungarian officials over allegations of corruption – even though they are partners in NATO.

Slovenia joined in 2004 after emerging from the Balkan conflict. Originally praised for its successful liberal economy an economic development it was the first eastern european nation to meet the criteria to join the euro currency. Now the economy is struggling and corruption seems rife. The former Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who as in power when they joined the EU, is now serving a 2-year jail sentence for corruption. His successor is also under investigation after nominating herself to become a member of the European Commission.

Romania and Bulgaria are both under special scrutiny by the EU as each year they fail to make progress in curbing organised crime and corruption and to establish an independent judiciary. In Romania 30 lawmakers have been prosecuted or jailed for failing to take action against corrupt officials and for pressurising the judiciary. In neighbouring Bulgaria three governments fell in one year in the face of public protests about corruption.

Croatia, the latest country to join the EU, is also struggling with bribery and bad governance. The former Prime Minister, Ivo Sander,  who steered the country into the EU is serving an 8-year sentence for corruption.

There doesn’t seem to be much the EU can do. Once you’re in the EU club you’re in for life it seems (although British eurosceptics might wish it weren’t so).

The candidates for membership of the EU promise to be good democratic. law-abiding countries. Once they’re in the facade slips and the influence of decades of dictatorship re-surfaces.

Let’s not forget that Portugal, Spain and Greece were all ruled by dictators until the 1970s but they don’t seem as bad as the new boys on the block. Hungary and Bulgaria are keen to allow the construction of a gs pipeline from Russia – something the EU has previously stopped.

It’s not all bad news. The three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all former soviet republics, have done better (although corruption is still around with EU monies ending up in companies set up by MPs and their families).

Poland, the biggest of the new members, has done well economically and its citizens have a reputation for hard work. (The Poles have the highest employment rate (80%) of any nationality in England & Wales  including the Brits). Its President Donald Trusk has been appointed to the post of President of the European Council.

And it’s Poland, and the Baltic countries – who appreciate their hard-earned independence in 1991, who are urging a hard line against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.



Jūs suraižyti

hands_in_handcuffs_pc_1600_wht_3604Scotland Yard is about to recruit foreign police officers for a three-year project, Operation Nexus, to help tackle the increasing number of foreign criminals in the UK.

28% of the arrested suspects last year were foreign nationals.

Broadly the same percentage applies to murder victims, those suspected of  organised crime, and dangerous sex offenders.This is not surprising when you consider that 24% of people living in London are not British.

Romania and Poland have already signed up to the scheme with talks in progress with Lithuania and Ireland.

The police will be plain clothed and won’t have the power of arrest but will take part in raids and in interviewing suspects. They may wear their uniforms if the situation demands which should make it even more confusing for visitors to London!

This makes sense as the UK is the No 1 target for economic migrants. Crime knows no boundaries and in Lithuania, for example, the police there joke about the criminals joining the EU before the country did.

Lithuanian police in Trakai

Lithuanian police in Trakai

I was with an American friend in Lithuania when he had his lap-top snatched. The police sergeant who took my witness statement said he was surprised as he thought the criminals were all in England.

And Lithuanians in the UK have a bad reputation for illicit vodka stills and gun trafficking They are also involved in charity scams.

It’s hoped that Operation Nexus will improve the ability to deal with foreign suspects eg making it easier to check criminal records in their own country, and work more closely with the UK Border Agency to deal with overstayers and criminals trying to get into the UK.

But the Lithuanians are not the biggest group arrested because there aren’t that many of them. Poles and Irish are the two largest foreign nationalities arrested because there are so many of them here.

The Romanians are known to have criminal networks and made their criminal reputation here with their gangs of pick-pockets using children. And they haven’t officially arrived here yet!

Other countries in the top 10 list for crime are Pakistan, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Somalia, and Portugal.

FYI the post heading says “you’re under arrest” in Lithuanian.

Scotland Yard has just published figures showing that almost 35,000 Poles were arrested last year for serious offences in London including 84 for murder.

Romanians are the second most prolific foreign offenders with almost 28,000 arrests including 1o for murder, 142 for rape and 666 for other sex offences.

Lithuanians were the third most arrested foreigners in the capital.

The high number of Poles perhaps isn’t surprising considering the number over here (more than half a million) and the fact it’s now our second most spoken language.

Romanians aren’t officially due yet until next year so the criminals are following a well-worn path to the UK. To add to their track record of pickpocketing, child trafficking and begging they are now getting rich on stealing metals.

Lithuanians seem to punch above their weight when it comes to crime. Apart from violent crime they are known to be involved in charity scams as well as gun-running and illicit vodka.

A curse on the revenue

Witches in Romania are up in arms because they are going to be taxed.

The tax office says they earn a good living from casting spells and putting curses on people. The witches, led by “queen witch” Bratara Buzea,  are now planning to retaliate in the only way they know how – by putting a curse on the tax collectors.

The witches are thought to earn about €15,000 (£12,500), which is thirty times the national average gross wage, and are being asked, along with body embalmers and driving instructors, to register as self-employed when they will become liable to a 16 % tax rate and pension and social security contributions.

Now the practitioners of the dark arts, including tarot card readers, astrologers and mediums, will be required to give a receipt for every prophecy and curse they deliver which then has to be filed with the tax authorities.

Since the fall of communism witches have come out of the shadows;  a Hungarian Witches Association was formed in 1991 (and received tax exempt status in 1998) and a Bulgarian witch is said to have predicted the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks.

Given that Romania and Hungary have, at different times, included Transylvania – the ancestral home of the vampires – I suppose the tax collectors think it could be worse. But if I were them I think I’d carry a wooden stake in my laptop bag and eat lots of garlic to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile the catholic truth society has just published a guide on how to convert witches to Christianity. Written by a former witch Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers, says that young women – who make up 70% of its practitioners – are particularly attracted to the pagan religion because of the positive depiction of witches  in TV programmes such as Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the last census (2001) there were 31,000 neo-pagans in the UK of which just under a quarter were Wiccans.

The author says that there are grave psychological risks behind the glamour but that catholics should be aware that Wiccans are also on a spiritual quest. They are interested in nature and worshipping creation so that is the ideal starting point from which to convert them.

Wicca is also feminist in nature so its followers are unlikely to be impressed by what they see as a patriarchal cult which opposes women having any authority in the church. The Druids rightly point out that christianity appropriated many pagan festivals to persuade people to convert and the chairman of the Druid Network thinks the catholic should:  “talk less about ‘converting’ and ….. explain how they misled people in the past”.