Friday, June 22, 2007

Not worth the paper it’s printed on?

Which is the world’s worst currency? The hardline US political website Foreign Policy has been debating the issue. The Zimbabwe dollar has its adherents, wrecked by just one man, Robert Mugabe. The North Korean won, whose official exchange rate against the dollar is pegged at 2.16, February 16 being the its bonkers president’s birthday? The Iraqi dinar? The Venezuelan bolivar, where Hugo Chávez has moved to counter monetary instability by introducing a 12.5 cent coin? Bound to work. The lucky winner is the Somali shilling, where the central bank stopped issuing notes in 1991 and the warlords simply stepped in and printed their own. As much as 80 per cent of the currency is bogus, so no one has any idea what the shilling might be worth.

Off target

Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, was musing over the easy availability of credit at his Mansion House speech the other night. “Ignore the unsolicited e-mails that rain down on us offering unwanted credit. I received one last week that began, we have the solution, Mervyn, for your bankruptcy.”

Threatening calls

Just how terrified is the rest of the telecoms industry of the forthcoming all-singing, all-dancing iPhone being introduced by Steve Jobs, which could theoretically make them all redundant? One unnamed chief executive is quoted in NY Mag thus: “The entire f****** Western world hopes that it’s a case of imperial overstretch. But everyone is quietly saying, er, what if people want to buy a $500 phone? What if, er, people have been waiting for a device that does all these things? What if this thing works as advertised? I mean, my God, what then?”

News that Cadbury Schweppes plans to drop the second part of its name sets me wondering just who the original Mr S was. Johann Jacob Schweppe was born in 1740 in Hessen, Germany. He became a jeweller, and was the first man to patent the method of injecting water with carbon dioxide, though this was actually invented by Joseph Priestley, above, the discoverer of oxygen. Hmm. Invented by a Brit, patented by a foreigner. Sounds familiar. Schweppe moved to London during the upheaval of the Napoleonic Wars, and in 1834 his company was bought by one John Kemp-Welch. Whose namesake and descendant, unless I am very much mistaken, was chairman of the London Stock Exchange.

A former Barclays Bank employee writes. The bank’s eagle logo may well date back to 1690, but before 1914 the offices next to its HQ at 54 Lombard Street was the London branch of Norddeutsche Lloydbank, confiscated on the outbreak of the First World War and acquired by Barclays. The former owners traded under a black eagle emblem that continued to be displayed by Barclays, which even went to the College of Arms for approval to adopt the device.

Farewell, then, Optimistic Entertainment, which called in the administrators yesterday. Optimism misplaced, then.

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