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Wednesday, 31 January 2007


 Michael Dickinson

 So Chas and Cam ( Prince Charles of Wales and the Duchess Camilla of Cornwall to you) popped over the pond for a weekend visit to America focusing on ‘youth development, urban renewal and environmental stewardship’, and for the Prince to collect the Global Environment Citizen Award from Former Vice President Al Gore at a ceremony at Harvard Medical School. Apparently he deserves it for warning his subjects about global warming (as if we didn’t know already.)

 ‘Citizen’ Charles said he was touched at being honored, especially by Gore, with whom he had “had great fun talking about all these issues.”

In response to criticism from environmentalists that he had increased global warming by flying to America, Charles’ office announced that he would cancel a skiing trip to Switzerland to compensate for the carbon dioxide he had contributed. Perhaps while home in Britain he ought to choose the car rather than the more environmentally unfriendly helicopter he tends to favor for jaunting about the country.

At a white-tie concert for the royal couple, singer Rod Stewart took a swipe at the green critics: "Bollocks to them. What are we going to do without the jet age? Are we supposed to go by ships now? People will be complaining about the fuel burnt by ships. We have got to get around you know. It's the 21st century." He also said that Camilla radiated sexuality and he could imagine rolling in a haystack with her. Arise ‘Sir’ Rod?

On Sunday, as part of their trip, their royal highnesses visited Geoffrey Canada’s Promise Academy, a private school with an annual budget of $36.3 million, financed mostly by billionaires such as Wall Street high rollers like the school chairman hedge fund investor Stanley Druckenmiller. Only 30 percent of funding comes from government.

In the 42 million dollar building equipped with state-of-the-art science labs, the kids can take advantage of a first-class gym, and a cafeteria which serves only healthy food to fight obesity.

A lot of the 10,000 poor black children who live in the area in a 60-block area of Harlem philanthropist founder Canada calls the Children's Zone want to get into the flash Academy. Some will, some won’t. But entrance to the school does not depend on intelligence or aptitude.

Perhaps gambling-minded poker-playing Druckenmiller decided on the method they use to select students. By lottery. Parents watch as the wheels spins to decide if their child will be one of the lucky ones. Charles would probably approve. After all, it’s just by pure chance that he should have been born to inherit the powerful position of head of state of the UK, regardless of talent, ability, qualifications or hard graft.

Another reason poor black children are keen to attend the Promise Academy is the bribery. Cash is handed out every month to the children without absenteeism. Lesson one – ‘Time is money’.

In fact the whole school positively reeks of capitalism and gambling. To get more Baby College participants, where mothers are taught parenthood skills, there are incentives such as raffles for a $50 gift certificate at the end of each class and for a full month's rent at the end of the program.

Teens that come to the after-school center are eligible for up to 150 dollars a month if they complete their work. Chas and Cam visited one of these classes and watched as middle-school pupils evaluated stocks and shares as part of an after-school program that teaches them about dows and nasdaqs. One student asked the prince if his multimillion-dollar line of organic foods, Duchy Originals, was on the stock market.

"No," replied Chas, "it's still a private company." A bit like ‘the Firm’, as his mother, the richest woman in the world, calls her family.

It’s just as well the budding student speculator didn’t ask the Prince for any tips on the stock market, because he wouldn’t have given her any. All the royal family is tight-lipped about the vast amounts of private wealth they earn on the markets, apart from the considerable amount paid to them by the British Parliament.

You can bet your bottom dollar, however, that there’s many a royal investment in companies contributing a darn sight more to global warming than a transAtlantic plane flight. The British people would like to know. Transparency, please, your majestees?

When Camilla learned that the children receive real money if their virtual stock investments are successful, she exclaimed, "That's fantastic."

It is fantastic. They don't lose money if their investments are unsuccessful. But they’d better not lose too often. As Druckenweller says: ‘The intensity and level of the support for students is directly related to outcomes that are produced."

The Duchess was clad in more sensible gear for the school visit than the plunging necklined ballgown she’d worn the previous night at a swish party they’d attended thrown by the bigknobs of Philadelphia. Perhaps to distract attention from her cr¿pey pushed-up cleavage Cam sported a flashy halter necklace of 36 rubies strung between hundreds of glittering diamonds, a present from a Saudi king, estimated at about a million.

Unfortunately, apart from the attention it focused on her wrinkled throat, it also stirred up some British MPs to demand that Members of the Royal Family should be forced to publicly declare gifts they receive during the course of their official duties. Oops!

Instead of the gaudy necklace, (which might have been flaunting wealth and privilege a little too much in front of the children – after all they’re still dirt poor, despite their Wall Street grooming), Camilla wore a rope of pearls along with a brown outfit with - leopard-skin cuffs! Double oops!

I mean, after all, her father-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh was once the President of the Word Wildlife Fund, for God’s sake! They’re supposed to protect animals. It doesn’t matter if the fur was fake. Who’s to know – and what’s the difference? Such fashion sense endangers the leopard species and encourages the hunting and killing of animals for their skins for profit, simply to gratify human vanity.

Asked later by a journalist to describe his impression of the horse-faced future queen of England, one of the lucky black students showed that he was at least learning discreet diplomacy, if not honesty, from his capitalist professors.

“She’s pretty,” he said.


Jan 30 07

Posted by yabanji at 8:57 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007 2:57 PM EST

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