Tobacco & Taxes

Smoking Can Help the Economy

I heard about this study in a podcast some years ago. A quick search reveals the following:

Philip Morris – Little Report Says Cigarette Smokers’ Frequent Early Deaths Offset Federal Medical Costs, Study Finds
By GORDON FAIRCLOUGH Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal (July 16, 2001)

Philip Morris Cos. officials in the Czech Republic have been distributing an economic analysis concluding that cigarette consumption isn’t a drag on the country’s budget, in part because smokers’ early deaths help offset medical expenses.

The report, commissioned by the cigarette maker and produced by consulting firm Arthur D. Little International, totes up smoking’s “positive effects” on national finances, including revenue from excise and other taxes on cigarettes and “health-care cost savings due to early mortality.”

The premature demise of smokers saved the Czech government between 943 million koruna and 1.19 billion koruna (between $23.8 million and $30.1 million or between 20.3 million euros and 25.7 million euros) on health care, pensions and housing for the elderly in 1999, according to the report.

The report also calculates the costs of smoking, such as the expense of caring for sick smokers and people made ill by second-hand smoke as well as income taxes lost when smokers die. Weighing the costs and benefits, the report concludes that in 1999 the government had a net gain of 5.82 billion koruna ($147.1 million) from smoking.

Philip Morris said it received the Little report late last year and handed it out recently after complaints from Czech officials that the tobacco industry was saddling the country with huge health-care expenses. “This is an economic-impact study, no more, no less,” said Robert Kaplan, a spokesman for Philip Morris’s international tobacco unit in Rye Brook, N.Y. “We’re not trying to suggest that there would be a benefit to society from the diseases related to smoking.”

Philip Morris manufactures about 80% of the cigarettes smoked in the Czech Republic. The New York company, which owns a 77.5% stake in a formerly state-owned Czech tobacco enterprise, sells its flagship Marlboro smokes as well as local brands.

Measuring the net costs of smoking to societies and governments long has been controversial and difficult. Studies measuring the lifetime health-care costs of smokers, who die sooner but have higher annual medical expenses, have reached conflicting conclusions. Some find that, over their lives, smokers have similar costs to nonsmokers. Others have found that smokers’ health-care costs are higher.

Gauging the real level of such costs is very difficult, and hard-to-quantify expenses aren’t captured in many estimates. Smokers, for example, recover more slowly and are more likely to have complications after surgery for unrelated problems, increasing the cost of caring for them.

Tobacco-control experts attacked the Czech report. “Is there any other company that would boast about making money for the public treasury by killing its customers? I can’t think of one,” said Kenneth Warner, an economist at the University of Michigan’s school of public health. Dr. Warner said the study appeared to be seriously flawed because, among other things, it fails to consider what the economic impact would be if smokers stopped buying cigarettes and spent their money on other goods instead.

Eva Kralikova, a physician and epidemiologist at Charles University in Prague, said the report also “very much underestimated” the costs of medical care for people suffering from smoking-related diseases. Dr. Kralikova said lung cancer and other illnesses caused by tobacco use account for about 20% of all deaths in the Czech Republic, killing about 23,000 people a year. And she said the number of illnesses and deaths is expected to mount, as is the expense of medical treatment, as smokers age.


Paddington is a 2014 British-French family comedy film directed by Paul King, written by King and Hamish McColl, and produced by David Heyman. Based on Paddington Bear by Michael Bond, the film stars Ben Whishaw as the voice of the title character, along with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman in live-action roles. The film was co-produced by the French company StudioCanal and the British company Heyday Films. It was released in the United Kingdom on 28 November 2014 and grossed $265.3 million worldwide on a €38.5 million budget. It received an Empire Award nomination for Best British Film.

A sweet and funny comedy based on the unlikely notion that a talking bear in London would not freak everyone out and cause a riot. At 90 minutes it never strays from it’s path or lingers on any of the characters. It’s great to see Peter Capaldi out of his usual hyper-kinetic Dr Who character and as the devious character. They set out to make a family fun film, and succeeded brilliantly at it.

Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington Bear
Hugh Bonneville as Henry Brown
Sally Hawkins as Mary Brown
Madeleine Harris as Judy Brown
Samuel Joslin as Jonathan Brown
Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird
Nicole Kidman as Millicent Clyde
Theresa Willson as Young Millicent
Jim Broadbent as Samuel Gruber
Peter Capaldi as Mr. Curry
Imelda Staunton as the voice of Aunt Lucy
Michael Gambon as the voice of Uncle Pastuzo
Tim Downie as Montgomery Clyde
Simon Farnaby as Barry
Matt Lucas as Joe
Matt King as Andre the Thief
Geoffrey Palmer as Head geographer
Michael Bond as the Kindly Gentleman



by Jeremy Robinson (2016)



Euphemia Williams, known to her few friends as Effie, and everyone else as Eff-Bomb, will punch you for looking at her funny, for using her full name or for noticing that she’s a genius. But when an elite global entity known as Unity takes note of her intelligence and offers her a chance to escape the hum-drum life of a foster-child, she signs up. At best, she expects her time abroad to be a vacation. At worst, an actual challenge. But what she finds, upon being swept up in a futuristic transport, is far, far worse.

This is the first of Jeremy Robinson’s Books I have read that is in first person, it’s also the first with a female protagonist. The plot is a mix of ‘Hunger Games’, and his recent Kaiju thrillers. It all works as well as his other books, lots of action, suspense and at the end it’s obvious this is the start of a new series. My only complaint it that for a 16 year old girl, Effie sure sustains a lot of damage but just keeps on going. Maybe there is a bit of genetic engineering involved. I’m sure all will be revealed in future novels.. Can’t Wait.

Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn – The Spirit of Autumn Past (1999)

Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light (2001)

This band is GREAT, and why they are not better known than The Corrs (the closest well known band in a similar style) I cannot understand.
The only disappointment is the packaging of the CDs (mentioned by one of the reviewers) which just looks cheap. A contract with a major record label should fix that!



Bryan Josh – electric guitar, vocals, e-bow, 6-string and 12-string acoustic guitar
Heather Findlay – vocals, 6-string acoustic guitar, tambourine
Iain Jennings – keyboards, vocals
Liam Davison – electric guitar, vocals, 6-string and 12-string acoustic guitar
Bob Faulds – violins
Stuart Carver – bass
Kev Gibbons – Low whistle, high whistle
Allan Scott – drums (on For All We Shared)
Rob McNeil – drums (on The Spirit Of Autumn Past)
Angela Goldthorpe – flute
Chè – djembe




Magnification   ( 2001)

Possibly their best release since the 1970s classics (I don’t have “The Ladder”). This marks a return to using an orchestra, which probably accounts for the better songs. The second CD has live versions of songs from the 1970s.

Jon Anderson – vocal master magician, midi guitar, acoustic guitar
Chris Squire – bass, vocals
Steve Howe – acoustic and electric guitar, steel, mandolin, vocals
Alan White – drums, percussion, vocals, piano
Orchestra conducted by Larry Group´

Other Reviews:

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, September 2001
More than thirty years before, on March 21st 1970 to be precise, Yes delivered one of the highlights of its career by combining their symphonic rock with a real classical orchestra. The Queen Elizabeth Hall therefore remains unique and has given the band the idea to once again combine their creative skills with the talent of a huge orchestra. This time around though the orchestra’s conductor has been involved in the writing, arranging, and producing of the actual album. None other than Emmy award-winning composer/conductor Larry Groupé raises his baton to steer the original Yes music through cascades of violins, violas and cellos. But can Yes’ music really work without a keyboard player? Has Groupé been able to replace the important, vacant spot of the keyboard player by means of lush arrangements? Has the fact that Alan White leaves his drum kit to play some piano been part of the solution to solve the difficulties regarding the situation of the keyboard player? Accompany us into exploring this brand new outing by one of the most important bands in prog history.

First of all let’s go back to 9th November 1966, to London’s Indica Gallery to be precise. It’s there and then that John Lennon meets Yoko Ono for the first time during one of her exhibitions. Called “one woman show or unfinished paintings and objects,” one of the installations is a white ladder leading towards a magnifying-glass which dangles from the ceiling (see pic). In order to live the experience, visitors have to climb the ladder, get hold of the magnifying glass, and then read the small word that has been written on the ceiling. When you reach the top of the ladder the word suddenly reads YES! That simple yet direct statement is exactly what Magnification is all about, going back to the acoustic simplicity of the composition, yet embraced by the power of the orchestra. Jon’s explanation sees Magnification as magnifying the good in people instead of the media magnifying everything that’s bad and evil (which, in case of the recent US tragedies, surely is no “magnification”!).

[This story can now be heard, told by John Lennon, as part of the interview that is on the remastered edition of Milk And Honey; his final interview recorded five hours before his death on December 8th, 1980 – JB]

It’s a miracle hearing how Jon Anderson’s voice sounds still as fresh and innocent, as if it were his very first recording. Whilst the new material on both Keys To Ascension sets showed great promise, the collaboration with the late Bruce Fairbairn on The Ladder certainly proved that Yes still had some good compositions inside of them. Whilst tracks like “Close To The Edge” and even “Ritual” became firm favourites during the new tours, it became obvious that Yes wanted to go back to its roots, delivering interesting, surprising music with a slight complex touch. Upon listening to Magnification one has to say it is one of the better Yes albums, yet for my liking I would have loved to hear the orchestra more prominently in the mix. The title track already holds all of the favourite ingredients, what with Jon’s unique voice blending with Steve’s stunning guitar sound and Squire’s murdering bass. Only Alan White chooses a more commercial beat. Steve is as his very best during the swinging “Spirit Of Survival,” which has the orchestra add extra power in those segments which really benefit from its inclusion. One of the focal points in “Don’t Go” is certainly the vocal harmonies, resulting in the kind of music which could easily have been recorded during the band’s peak in the seventies. About halfway through the song Jon switches his singing by means of studio magic, which has us think of the Trevor Horn period (he is even thanked in the credits!). We have to wait until “Give Love Each Day” before we really hear the orchestra shine in a solo spot. Because of the trumpet, it comes across as a film soundtrack mixed with After Crying. Once Jon integrates his singing into this song, it switches to some of the best Yes we have heard in years. In fact the spirit of the song takes you back to the Time And A Word period. The French horns of the orchestra really deliver the exclamation mark to an outstanding track.

Throughout this recording I get the feeling that the four remaining Yes men really enjoy the new direction they are taking, hence the fact they all lend their voices in order to deliver an even more diverse sounding album. “Can You Imagine” heavily features Chris Squire, yet it is in no way the kind of material that was delivered for the Squire/Sherwood project. Steve’s acoustic guitar in “We Agree” still has that same magic as during the Fragile days, delivering its distinctive sound as the ideal backing for Jon’s great voice. The violins really underline the majestic chorus, whilst the acoustic elements filter in and out of the song like the washing of the sea. With certain songs one could ask whether they are indeed Yes songs or Anderson solo compositions? “Soft As A Dove” is the best example of this, a joyful acoustic song adorned with harp and flute that would have fit perfectly on Song Of Seven. It even has some Celtic elements woven into it, referring to the band’s origins. Based around tribal drumming, “Dreamtime” maybe is the best example of incorporating contemporary music with the classical formula. There’s an outstanding part here that incorporates Mellotron in a very modern way, as opposed to approaching it as the obvious vintage “prog” instrument. Chris’s bass blends well with the powerful horns of the orchestra, whilst Alan injects the necessary rhythmic fuel. At the end of the song the orchestra gets a solo spot, reminding me of Deep Purple’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra. We are still waiting for some strong melodies though, and with “In The Presence” we get none other than just that. “If we were flowers, we would worship the sun” sings Jon, merging his romantic soul with an outstanding chorus, which is repeated towards the end by the orchestra, interspersed by Steve’s guitar playing. The album closes with “Time Is Time,” a song that could also have been sung by John Lennon, and with Alan White having been a member of the famous Plastic Ono Band, it perfectly closes the cycle Magnification has made.

With the new album, Yes has firmly re-established itself as one of the most important rock bands in the world. Nevertheless it doesn’t reach the quality of Close To The Edge, but then again it will never be the intention of the band to write a sequel to that epic anyway. Personally I think there are some very strong songs, but sadly a couple of weaker ones, too, and yes, I would’ve loved to hear the orchestra more prominent in the mix. I am however very pleased to hear Jon, Steve, Chris and Alan perform so well together, as it’s that “togetherness” that has always been the key to the band’s success. You can only produce the true Yes sound if you sit in the same room at the same time and compose from scratch, as opposed to the “jigsaw” technique that has been used so often over the years. Sadly, because Yes has always been THE band that featured loads of keyboards, there is no way the orchestral arrangement can compensate for the lack of keyboards. After all, which orchestra is able to reproduce the true identity of the Moog synthesizer or the holy sound of the Mellotron, even when the latter was, in fact, the world’s very first sampler based on classical instruments. The new album will certainly grow on you each time you listen to it, magnifying the name Yes into YES once again!


Mostly Lord Of The Rings

Mostly Autumn
Music Inspired By The Lord Of The Rings (2002)

Here is another Mostly Autumn release. Very similar to previous albums, but covering a familiar subject.

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, June 2002

Whilst Heather has been called the new Sandy Denny or the new Stevie Nicks, it is clear that she is getting better and better all of the time, her voice settling in nicely within the arrangements, as another live favourite illustrates by means of “The Riders Of Rohan.” However, for me, the band is at its absolute best in the quiet songs such as “Lothlorien” where all our attention goes towards the fragile vocals that are sparsely accompanied by guitar and tin whistle, the kind of song one would die for! The song is followed by a complete contrast in the form of “To The Grey Havens” which gets very close to vintage Hawkwind at times. Written, rehearsed, recorded, mixed and mastered in just fourteen days, this means the talented bunch of Mostly Autumn could produce no fewer than 26 of these albums a year. Now that’s what I call magic, and magic you get throughout this album, the unexpected album!


Heather Findlay – vocals, guitar, bodhran, tambourine, recorder
Bryan Josh – lead guitar, vocals
Iain Jennings – keyboards
Liam Davison – guitar
Angela Goldthorpe – flute, recorders, vocals
Andy Smith – bass
Jonathan Blackmore – drums

Guests :
Marcus Bousefield – violin
Marissa Claughlan – cello
Ché – djembe
Duncan Rayson – additional keyboards

Vixen 3

Vixen 03

In 1954 Vixen 03 is down. The plane, bound for the south Pacific and bearing several canisters of a particularly virulent organism, vanishes. Believed ditched at sea, Vixen has in fact crashed into an ice-covered lake in Colorado.

This is my first Clive Cussler novel. I owned a hard copy for a long time before switching to ebooks. It’s not surprising that this is a well written and paced novel, although only the forth Cussler book, it’s the work of an experienced author.

It has an interesting start and proceeds with an intriguing story following Dirk Pitt until a surprising change of location to South Africa. This part isn’t done as well, describing a political revolution seems out of genre for Cussler and things easily become confusing. The story moves on with suitable twists and action that accumulate to a final conflict in America. A good read, but not to the level of Desmond Bagley or Dick Francis.


by Jeremy Robinson (2008)

Two years after his wife’s death, oceanographer and former navy SEAL, Atticus Young, attempts to reconcile with his rebellious daughter, Giona by taking her on the scuba dive of a lifetime-swimming with a pod of peaceful humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine. But the beauty of the sea belies a terror from the deep-a horrific creature as immense as it is ancient. There is no blood, no scream, no fight. Giona is swallowed whole by the massive jaws. Only Atticus remains to suffer the shame of the survivor and his inconsolable grief turns to an unquenchable thirst for revenge.

Drawn by the spectacle, Trevor Manfred, a ruthless billionaire, approaches Atticus with a proposition: Trevor will make available all the advanced technology of his heavily armed mega-yacht, the Titan, to aid Atticus in his death-quest. In return, Trevor is to receive the beast’s corpse as the ultimate hunting trophy. But in the midst of the hunt, Atticus makes a terrifying discovery that changes the way he sees the ocean’s creatures and begs the question: what is Kronos? The answer sets him on a new and much more deadly course.

Another thrilling and entertaining thriller from Jeremy Robinson. This is a bit more conventional in structure; it’s got a monster, bad guy (with henchman) damsel in distress (daughter) and love interest on the side.

Can you guess what happens ?
It’s not too difficult but as usual it’s all in the telling and while this is his fifth book it reads like the author is an old pro. I’m sure authors like Desmond Bagley, Hammond Innes or Alistair MacLean have done similar stories. Here is another engaging thriller.