Monday, 14 August 2017

Water in the UK - public versus private

Water in the UK - public versus private

Like the East Coast mainline, the differing setups within the UK offer a useful insight into claims by Britain's governing parties that privatised water is in any way superior to publicly owned. But it does offer some enormous profits.
Flickr/Patrick Brosset. Some rights reserved.
Of all the privatisations of the Thatcher government, perhaps the most controversial was the privatisation of water. Most countries in the developed world run their water on a municipal basis. In some countries, citizens don’t receive water bills but simply pay for it as part of their rates. In the UK, however, we now have a patchwork of different ways of delivering our water.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, water is delivered by the public sector. Northern Ireland Water is a government owned corporation, accountable to the Northern Ireland Utility Regulator. Scotland has a truly public water supply. Scottish Water is a statutory organization, accountable to Scottish Parliament. In Wales a non-profit organization, set up after the failure of a private concern, supplies the water. In England ten wholly private companies provide water and waste management in ten regions. Once again, this puts England at the forefront of the privatisation drive within the UK.
Water is the very stuff of life, so it is understandable that its privatisation during the Thatcher years was controversial. So why do it? The big argument for privatisation used to be that it was cheaper. However as this turned out not to be the case—or somewhat disingenuous, depending on how you want to look at it—the new argument is that it’s more ‘effective’. We are told that, whilst private utilities may be more expensive, they are also more efficient. It turns out this might be a bit questionable.
In 2014, the Public Services Research Unit conducted a review looking at the difference in efficiency between the public and private sectors. They concluded: “The results are remarkably consistent across all sectors and all forms of privatisation: there is no empirical evidence that the private sector is intrinsically more efficient.” This finding is echoed by a whole host of studies into privatisation in both developing and developed nations, which show that the idea of greater efficiency in the private sector is a myth. This applies to water, but also equally to other utilities. A review of the experience in privatizing electricity in Norway, Canada (Alberta) and the USA (California), as well as the UK, concluded that markets did not deliver lower prices and higher efficiency because small groups of producers abuse market power. (Woo et al, 2003).
The UK’s water supply would seem particularly informative to study, due to the diversity of supply methods within one nation. At the same time this very complexity—and the information available—means the industry is very opaque and difficult to scrutinize. In a report for the New Policy Institute, the authors refer to the way the industry, particularly within England, is organised as 'very odd'.
Despite the complexities of the English water industry and its ownership model, certain trends are evident. Firstly, as recent media headlines suggest, household bills in England are increasing. Secondly, there is the clearly changing ownership profile of the privatised water companies, and the increasing presence of private equity in the mix. Thirdly, high profits and dividends for shareholders have also generated headlines. Fourthly, an increasing amount of debt is being carried by the English water companies. And finally, a run of problems and issues have faced the English water companies, including leaks and unsafe water, along with waste water incidents. Taken together these issues seem to challenge the claim by Thatcher’s government that a privatised water industry would be more efficient and less costly to run.
In England annual water bills had risen from £120 per year in 89, to £204 by 2006. If you take into account inflation, you’ve still got a rise of 39% over and above inflation.
And bills continue to rise, despite stagnating wages and a sluggish economy.
To counter the anger at climbing bills, privatisation supporters argue that the English water companies have invested more than state run entities would have. A study by Greenwich University shows that this isn’t true. Theirresearch concluded that at least half the investment made by the water companies since privatisation was due to EU directives and regulations. That is, the companies made the investment because they had to. They didn’t do so happily either. In fact, the UK government tried to exempt the private water companies from having to make the improvements but the European Commission denied the bid.
During the early noughties Scottish Water and Northern Ireland water also had higher bills. But during this time Scottish Water invested £1.8 billion into the system, the biggest investment into the water infrastructure in Scotland ever made. Once this period of investment into a decaying water network was finished, Scottish Water began to reduce bills. Whilst Northern Ireland doesn’t currently charge domestic customers for water, it has had highernotional bills than some of the English regions. However it has, in the last few years, had the least increase to bills of all the water suppliers.
These days the difference in bills between the English water companies and Scottish Water are stark. Last year Scottish Water customers paid less than customers of all the private English and Welsh water companies. Prices across the ten English water companies vary greatly. Offwat’sestimated average bills for 2013/2014 are as follows:
South West                 £499
Wessex                        £478
Southern                      £449
Anglian                       £434
Dwr Cymru                 £434
United Utilities           £406
Yorkshire                    £368
Northumbrian              £359
Thames                        £354
Severn Trent                £335
In contrast the cost for Scottish Water customers was £334. In England, the least expensive is Severn Trent, and the most costly for households is South West water, whose average bill for 2013/2014 was an astronomical£499. So high are South West’s bills that the government pays for a £50 reduction for each household! This raises the question, if the private industry needs to rely on government help for its customers – shouldn’t the government simply take over and run the concern directly?
This isn’t the only instance of the industry asking the government to help. Thames Water has long argued that they need to build a new sewer in London to update the Victorian system – a so called ‘super sewer’. The only problem is that, as Thames Water is owned by a private equity consortia and has a high ratio of debt, it can’t finance this itself. The ownership group of Thames Water includes Macquarie Infrastructure Fund (Australia). The China Investment Corporation, and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. The result of the situation is that the British state has to come to the rescue once again as Thames Water has asked the government to guarantee the risk. This is because Thames water has run up debt since privatisation and now owes around £8 billion. All this despite being able to pay out approximately £1.4bn in dividends between 2006 and 2012. This example brings us to two of the most pressing issues facing the English water companies, the increasing amount of private equity ownership, and increasing debt profiles.
The ownership profile matters for a variety of reasons. Stock exchange listed parent companies would be subject to UK tax. Private equity companies are not open to the same scrutiny, or the same tax regime if based outside the UK. Furthermore, they do not have to comply with any of the disciplines of the UK equity market.
The water companies that are private equity owned seem to be the ones with higher debt ratios. In fact, the privatised industry as a whole now has high debt levels. You can measure a company’s debt levels by looking at what is called the gearing ratio. This is a way of looking at how highly leveraged a company is. It is measured in percentages, and it is traditionally argued that a business that has a gearing ratio of higher than 50% is highly geared, or, highly leveraged, which could be unsustainable. The average level for the water companies has risen dramatically since privatisation and stood at 70% by 2010.
Whilst higher ratios aren’t always a cause for alarm—financing through debt can be cheap—the figures for some of the water companies are worryingly high. It also matters what the money is being used for. If the money is being borrowed purely for capital investment it is different than borrowing to keep paying high dividends, which some believe utilities in general are doing. It is argued by some analysts that organisations which have to borrow to pay dividends are basically self-cannibalising.
Thames water in particular has been accused of using borrowed money to fund too high dividends for over a decade.
This need for high dividends can cause companies to experience trouble with their credit ratings. Indeed, Sir Ian Byatt, formerly of Offwat, himself makes the link between high dividends, high debt, and trouble getting finance. He states“In practice, many companies, especially the private equity infrastructure funds, have paid out excessive dividends to their owners. In the case of Thames Water, this has damaged its credit rating, leading to requests to Government for guarantees.”
Some analysts believe the most highly leveraged water companies could be in danger of going bust if asked to pay back a significant proportion of that debt. In this sense, English households are now, often unknowingly, part of the somewhat risky financialisation of water.
Another reason for the high debt structure of these companies may be more dubious than simply wanting to finance investment cheaply. There are increasing allegations that the water companies are using debt to lower their tax obligations. Tory MP, Charlie Elphicke, claims that the water companies have used debt interest to avoid tax adding up to over a billion pounds lost to the Exchequer in just three years. He terms the avoidance “staggering”. He singled out Yorkshire Water as a particularly bad example.
Simon Hughes MP gave figures showing just how much tax Yorkshire Water has managed to avoid by using debt to offset payments. He wrote to the Public Accounts Committee back in 2012 stating: “Yorkshire Water…has seen its tax liability decline from £70m in 2009 to a tax credit of £18.9m this year after it took out £1bn from a group of finance companies it owns in the Cayman Islands."
The ownership profile of Water Yorkshire includes Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, GIC an investment fund backed by the Singaporean government, along with Citi Infrastructure Investors (US based). So yet again we have a complex group of international finance organisations, owning a UK utility that is highly leveraged and pays little UK tax.
In sharp contrast to the complex over indebted structure of much of the English water companies. Welsh water is a non-profit organisation, under which “assets and capital investment are financed by bonds and retained financial surpluses. Financing efficiency savings to date have largely been used to build up reserves to insulate Welsh Water and its customers from any unexpected costs and also to improve credit quality so that Welsh Water’s cost of finance can be kept as low as possible in the years ahead.”
Scottish Water is a publicly owned utility, directly answerable to the Scottish Parliament. It can borrow more cheaply than the English water companies, as government debt is considered safer than private debt. It has invested record amounts of money in recent years into the infrastructure, and once the investment is finished it quickly reduced bills to levels lower than all the English companies.
Whilst analysing UK water provision is an extremely complex task, it is clear that the privatised English water companies are operating in a highly financialised environment in many instances. They stand accused of running up high debts to maintain dividends, and in some cases, such as Thames Water, this has arguably helped damaged their credit rating. They appear to be run in the interests of shareholders and not customers. Not only are English customers paying the highest bills, they also are most at risk from utility companies whose business practices may mean that when it comes to future investment the state has to step in. Indeed, it is this highly leveraged structure, and the increasing amounts of foreign ownership that are most troublesome when examining the water providers.
Water should not be a vehicle for huge, international consortia to get rich. We have two alternative examples of healthier ways to run water companies within the UK. The non-profit organisation set up in Wales, or better yet, a return to full public ownership. The case of Scottish Water shows that this would be the best outcome for English customers.
LocalismWatch iconThis article is part of the Modernise: de-privatise series.
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About the author
Rachel Graham worked in finance before moving into teaching, covering law, finance, marketing and organisational development. She currently studies journalism.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Seed Industry Giants: Who Owns Whom?

A shrinking number of colossal companies -- nicknamed the "Gene Giants" -- dominate global sales of seeds and agrochemicals, according to a new report released by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). The top five Gene Giants (AstaZeneca, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Aventis) account for nearly two-thirds of the global pesticide market (60%), almost one-quarter (23%) of the commercial seed market, and virtually 100% of the transgenic (genetically engineered) seed market. "The Gene Giants' portfolio extends far beyond plant breeding," explains Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. "From plants, to animals, to human genetic material, they are fast becoming monopoly monarchs over all the life kingdoms." Five years ago, none of top five Gene Giants appeared on the list of leading seed corporations. In fact, three of the top five companies didn't even exist. Zeneca and Astra merged to form AstraZeneca; Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst became Aventis; Ciba Geigy and Sandoz became Novartis; and DuPont swallowed Pioneer Hi-Bred earlier this year. Seed Industry Top 10 Company 1998 Seed Sales (US) Millions ======= ============================= DuPont (USA) $1,835+ Monsanto (USA) $1,800 (estimate) Novartis(Switzerland) $1,000 Groupe Limagrain (France) $733 Savia S.A. de C.V. (Mexico) $428 AstraZeneca (UK and Neth.) $412 KWS AG (Germany) $370 AgriBiotech, Inc. (USA) $370 Sakata (Japan) $349* Takii (Japan) $300* (estimate) Top 10 Agrochemical Companies Company 1998 Pesticide Sales (U.S.) Millions ======= ==================================== Aventis (Germany) $4,676 Novartis (Switzerland) $4,152 Monsanto (USA) $4,032 DuPont (USA) $3,156 AstraZeneca (UK and Neth.) $2,897 Bayer (Germany) $2,273 American Home Products $2,194 Dow (USA) $2,132 BASF (Germany) $1,945 Makhteshim-Agan (Israel) $801 *Note: 1998 sales figures were not available for some seed companies Consolidation: Vital Statistics % The top 10 seed companies control approximately 33% of the US$23 billion seed trade worldwide. % The top three seed companies (DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis) account for 20% of the global seed trade. % The top 10 agrochemical companies control 91% of the $31 billion agrochemical market. % The top five Gene Giants (AstraZeneca, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis and Aventis) account for nearly two-thirds of the global pesticide market (60%), almost one-quarter (23%) of the global seed market, and virtually 100% of the transgenic seed market. RAFI, the Rural Advancement Foundation International, is an international civil society organization headquartered in Canada. RAFI is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to the socially responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI is concerned about the loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the impact of intellectual property on farmers and food security. RAFI's newly updated chart, Seed Industry Consolidation: Who Owns Whom? will be available on RAFI's Web site, Source: Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) News Release, September 3, 1999. Contact: RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation Int'l.) 110 Osborne St., Suite 202, Winnipeg MB R3L 1Y5, Canada; phone (204) 453-5259; fax (204) 925-8034; email; Web site

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Consumer Tax Vs Income Tax

Why Do We Have VAT (Value Added Tax)?

"To understand why we have VAT, we need to know what it is.

What is VAT?

V.A.T. is an acronym that stands for Value Added Tax. In essence, it is a tax on the things that we buy. It's a tax onsupplies.
In the UK, a government tax agency (currently called Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs or HMRC for short) holds and manages the registry of sellers who can charge and claim VAT. When a registered seller makes a sale, they add tax onto the price of that transaction - thats the Value Added Tax. The exact amount to be added is calculated using 'the rate of VAT' which is a percentage of the 'price before tax'. I.e the price that would have been charged if there was no tax on it. See an example calculation showing VAT being added to a price.
There is more than one rate of VAT, but the most common one is the Standard Rate which is applied to most types of goods and services. Another rate, the Reduced Rate, applies to things like the installation of energy saving materials or women's sanitary products. There are also other supplies that are zero-rated and also others that are exempt from VAT. You can learn about all the nuances of the VAT system on the HMRC web site.
The VAT rates are set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Important changes to the VAT system are commonly announced during the government's Budget Report. For a long time, the UK Standard Rate of VAT stayed at 17.5%, but we recently saw this drop to 15% during 2009. This was an attempt to boost the economy by reducing the 'cost of buying things'.

So, why do we have it?

Like any tax, it's a source of revenue for public spending. It simply generates a lot of money for the government. In fact, VAT is quite a big proportion of the UK government's income.
Pie chart UK HMRC Annual Receipts 2008-09
In the year 2008-2009, VAT provided about 17.9% (GBP £78,439 million) of the HMRC's total annual receipts (GBP £439,107 million). The only other types of taxes that brought in more than VAT were the 34% that came from Income Tax (GBP £147,856 million) and the 22% that came from National Insurance Contributions (GBP £96,882 million).1
Furthemore it is quite a fair system. Because the rate is tied to the sale of goods and services, those who have more disposable income tend to buy more things and hence pay more VAT."
1 Source: Raw Data From HMRC Statistical Library
Pie Chart generated using
Taken from an article found: here

Following quote taken from Institute for Fiscal Studies 2012:

"Of a UK adult population of around 51.4 million, it is estimated that there 
will be 29.7 million taxpayers in 2012–13. Around 3.8 million of these will 
pay tax at the higher rate, providing 36.5% of total income tax revenue, 
and 307,000 taxpayers will pay tax at the additional rate, providing 24.6% 
of total income tax revenue. "

Sunday, 16 June 2013

What about barcodes and 666: The Mark of the Beast?

What about barcodes and 666: The Mark of the Beast?
by Terry WatkinsCopyright © 1999 Dial-the-Truth Ministries

Is the barcode the Mark of the Beast?Do barcodes really contain the number 666?Is the barcode paving the road to 666: the Mark of the Beast?
Before we answer these questions, we need to briefly examine the barcode technology. . .
What are barcodes?
Barcodes, of course, are those ever-familiar "bars" and "numbers" on virtually everything. In 1973, "Mr. Barcode" (or is it Mrs. Barcode?) quietly strolled into our world. In just over 25 years, Mr. Barcode has literally taken over the world. Now there's a barcode for virtually everything. There's short barcodes, and tall barcodes. There's skinny barcodes and fat barcodes. There's postal barcodes and international barcodes. There's 2-D barcodes. And there's even barcodes for the humble "bumble-bee". From letters, to cokes, from fishes to smokes - it's "clothed" with friendly "Mr. Barcode".
As someone truthfully said, "If it exists, bar code it".
The primary barcode used in the United States is the UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode. The UPC is also the "original" barcode. The UPC was designed for the grocery industry. Because of the large number of items normally "checked-out" at the grocery store, a method was needed to speed up and eliminate "human" cashier errors. In 1973, the UPC barcode was born.
To the average person, the barcode looks confusing and complex, but to a "bar-coded" friendly computer, it's actually very simple.
How does a computer-scanner reads a barcode?
A single barcode number is actually seven units. A unit is either black or white. A unit that is black would display as a "bar". A unit that is white would display as a "space". Another way of writing a barcode unit is "1" for a single unit "black bar" and "0" for a single unit "white space". For instance, the number "1" is composed of the seven units, "0011001" or "space-space-bar-bar-space-space-bar". Remember, a single barcode number requires seven units.
Also, on a UPC barcode the same numbers on the left-hand side (the Manufacturer Code) is coded different than the numbers on the right-hand side (Product Code). The left side numbers are actually the "inverted" or "mirrored" codes of the right side numbers, for instance what is a "bar" on the right-side, is a "space" on the left-side. The right-side codes are called "even parity" codes because there is an even number of "black bar" units. For instance the right-side "6" is "101000" - 2 even-numbered "black bar" units. The left-side is called "odd-parity" because there is an odd number of "black bar" units. For instance, the left-side "6" is "0101111" - 5 odd-numbered "black bar" units. Having different coded numbers for each side allows the barcode to be scanned in either direction.
The following tables are the left and right side codes matching the corresponding numbers, separated into the seven single units.

1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0001101 0011001 0010011 0111101 0100011 0110001 0101111 0111011 0110111 0001011
1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567 1234567
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1110011 1100110 1101100 1000010 1011100 1001110 1010000 1000100 1001000 1110100
Notice, a few things about the codes:

  1. As previously mentioned, the left and right numbers are "inverted" or "mirrored".
  2. Every barcode number is equal to "four" different marks. A "mark" can be either "black" (bar) or "white" (space). The "marks" vary in width, but there is always four different marks, 2 "bar marks" and 2 "space marks". For instance, the left code number "one" is "3 spaces (mark 1), 2 bars (mark 2), 1 space (mark 3), 1 bar (mark 4)".
  3. The left side codes always begins with a "space" or "0" and ends with a "bar" or "1". The right is just the opposite, it begins with a "bar" or "1" and ends with a "space" or "0".

Note: The computer does not read the numbers underneath the barcode. These Human Readable (HR) numbers are printed so a "human" can easily read the barcode, if necessary.
Number System Character: This number is a UPC system number that characterizes specific types of barcodes. In a UPC barcode it is normally on the left of the barcode. The actual "barcode" (the "bars" and "spaces") is the first "barcode" after the first "guard bar". The Number System Character is the blue box on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".

Codes of the Number System Character:
  • 0 - Standard UPC number.
  • 1 - Reserved.
  • 2 - Random weight items like fruits, vegetables, and meats, etc.
  • 3 - Pharmaceuticals
  • 4 - In-store code for retailers.
  • 5 - Coupons
  • 6 - Standard UPC number.
  • 7 - Standard UPC number.
  • 8 - Reserved.
  • 9 - Reserved.
3 Guard Bars: There are "3 guard bars". They are located at the beginning, middle and end. The beginning and ending guard bars are encoded as a "bar-space-bar" or 101. The middle guard bar is encoded as "space-bar-space-bar-space" or 01010. The guard bars "tell" the computer-scanner when the manufacturer and product code begin and end. For example, when the computer-scanner reads the first "101" or guard bar, the computer knows the next series of numbers is either the manufacturer or product code. And when the computer reads the "01010" or middle guard bar, the computer knows another number is coming. The 3 guard bars are also the supposedly "666" hidden in the barcode (we'll look at this in detail later). The 3 guard bars are highlighted with a green box on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
Also, the first guard bar scanned is used by the computer to calculate the "width" of one unit.
Manufacturer Code: This is a five digit number specifically assigned to the manufacturer of the product. The manufacturer codes are maintained and assigned by the Uniform Code Council (UCC). Every product the manufacturer makes, carries the same manufacturer code. For example, the manufacturer code for Kellogg's is 38000. Every product Kellogg makes carries 38000 as the manufacturer code in the bar code. The manufacturer code is yellow on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
Product Code: The product code is a five digit number that the manufacturer assigns for a particular product. Every different product and every different packaging or size, gets a unique product code. For instance, a 16oz bottle of coke gets a different product code than a 24 oz bottle of coke. For example: Kellogg's 13.5 oz Rice Krispies barcode is 38000 90530 — the 38000 is the manufacturer code for Kellogg and the 90530 is the product code for 13.5oz Rice Krispies. Kellogg's 16oz Mini-Wheats is 38000 02720 — the 38000 is the manufacturer code for Kellogg (the manufacturer never changes for Kellogg products) and the 02720 is the product code for 16oz Mini-Wheats. A manufacturer can have 99,999 unique product codes. The product code is orange on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
Check digit: Also called the "self-check" digit. The check digit is on the outside right of the bar code. The check digit is an "old-programmer's trick" to validate the other digits (number system character, manufacturer code, and product code) were read correctly. The check digit is red on the "Anatomy of a Barcode".
How the computer calulates the check digit:

  1. Add all the odd digits. In our "Anatomy of a Barcode" we would add 0 (yes, you include the number system character digit) + 2 + 4 + 6 + 8 + 0 = 20
  2. Multiply the sum of step 1 by 3. Our example would be 20 x 3 = 60.
  3. Add all the even numbers. In our "Anatomy of a Barcode" we would add 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25. You do not include the 5 or the check digit because that's what you are calculating.
  4. Now add the result from step 2 and step 3. 60 + 25 = 85.
  5. The check digit is the number needed to add to step 4 to equal a multiple of 10. 85 + 5 = 90. 5 is the check digit in our example. Another way to calculate the check digit would be simply to divide the number from step 4 by 10. The remainder is the check digit. Example 85/10 = 8.5
You'll notice the price was NOT included in the barcode.
Where is the price?
The price is kept in the store's centralized computer database. The store's "item database" contains a record for every item the store sells. The item record is "keyed" by manufacturer code and product code (same numbers as on the barcode). The price is kept for each item in this database. When the item is scanned by the employee, a computer program reads the barcode. It then converts the "bars and spaces" into the manufacturer and product "digital number". Using the manufacturer and product "digital number", the program reads the store's "item database". It then retrieves the price from the "item database" for that item. When a price changes, all the store has to do is update it once in the stores centralized database.
Is the number 666 "hidden" in the UPC barcode?
One of the most popular and shocking accusations concerning the number "666" is that the number "666" is quietly "hidden" in every UPC barcode. Mary Stewart Relfe's book, "The New Money System 666", published in 1982, is the "pioneer" of the "666 in the UPC barcode" teaching. Relfe's book contains over 50 pages of excellant doumentation on the UPC barcodes. Relfe's discovery is repeated in many publications touching the mark of the beast, within the last fifteen years. Including tracts published by this author.
Here's a few samples:

Terry Cook, The Mark of the New World Order, 1996:". . . the entire system [UPC barcode] is very deceptively designed around the infamous numerical configuration, Biblically known as 666, the mark of the Antichrist or devil (Revelation 13:16-18). . ." (Terry Cook, The Mark of the New World Order, 1996, p. 376)
Bob Fraley, The Last Days in America, 1984:
"The interpretation of the Universal Product Code marks is most revealing in that the three numbers '666' are the key working numbers for every designed Universal Product Code. Every group of Universal Product Code marks has in it three unidentified numbers. All three of these numbers are 6, making the use of the numbers '666' the key to using this identifying marking system. . .
There is no deviation. Every Universal Product Code has three unidentified marks whose number equivalent '6' encoding it with the code number '666'. " (Bob Fraley, The Last Days in America, 1984, p. 225, 228)
Here's how to "discover" the "hidden 666 in the UPC barcode".

The "hidden" 666 in the Barcode
Notice the three "guard bars" (colored RED) at the beginning, middle and end. Now, notice the same bar pattern ("bar-space-bar" or "101") for the number 6 (colored BLUE).
By "looking" at the above barcode, the number "666" clearly, appears to be there. . .
But is it?
Is the number 666 TRUTHFULLY "hidden" in the UPC barcode?
Technically, no it is not.
Here's the "technical" truth. . .
The number 6 and the three guard bars are NOT the same. They do "appear" to be identical, but they are different.

B M 6
123 12345 1234567
101 01010 1010000
Notice. The beginning and ending guard bars are "bar-space-bar" or "101" (the B in the above table). The middle guard bar is "space-bar-space-bar-space" or "01010" (the M in the above table). The number six is "1010000" (the 6 in the above table). Remember, technically a barcode number consists of sevenunits. The beginning and ending guard bars are only three units, and middle guard bar is only five units.
So, technically, from a computer's perspective the number "666" is NOT in the UPC barcode.
But. . .
Look again. . . All three guard bars contain the pattern "bar-space-bar" or "101". There is only ONE number, in TWENTY numbers (remember right and left numbers have different patterns) that contains the "101" pattern and that number is the right code SIX. Not the number one, or two, or three, etc. — but ONLY the right code SIX. I do seem to remember something about a mark on the RIGHT hand (Rev. 13:16).
Technically, from a computer's perspective the number "666" is NOT in the UPC barcode. . . but from a human's perspective — YES, the "appearance" of 666 is there!
What does the inventor of the UPC barcode say about the number "666" in the UPC barcode?
The inventor of the UPC barcode is George J. Laurer. In 1971, while Mr. Laurer was an employee with IBM, he was assigned the task "to design the best code and symbol suitable for the grocery industry". In 1973, Mr. Laurer's UPC barcode entered the world, and the rest is history.
On Mr. Laurer's web site, he has a "Questions" page, where he answers various questions about the UPC barcode. On the "Questions" page, Mr. Laurer answers the "666" question, as follows:
Question #8 - Rumor has it that the lines (left, middle, and right) that protrude below the U.P.C. code are the numbers 6,6,6... and that this is the international money code. I typed a code with all sixes and this seems to be true. At least they all resemble sixes. What's up with that?Answer- Yes, they do RESEMBLE the code for a six. An even parity 6 is:
1 module wide black bar 1 module wide white space 1 module wide black bar 4 module wide white space
There is nothing sinister about this nor does it have anything to do with the Bible's "mark of the beast" (The New Testament, The Revelation, Chapter 13, paragraph 18). It is simply a coincidence like the fact that my first, middle, and last name all have 6 letters. There is no connection with an international money code either. (From website)
Even, Mr. Laurer, the inventor of the UPC barcode admits, "Yes, they do RESEMBLE the code for a six."
In fact, as we've documented — SIX is the ONLY number they could RESEMBLE.
You would certainly think because of the "antichrist connections" to "666" they would have picked another number besides '6' to pattern the three 'guard bars' after? Why not 1 or 3, or 5, etc. — any number but '666'. Surely they knew Christians would, sooner or later, "discover" the clear "appearance" of 666 in the UPC bar code.
Maybe they had no choice?
Is the barcode the mark of the beast?
In the 1993 British movie, Naked, directed by Mike Leigh and starring David Thewlis, the following conversation takes place:
"What is the mark? Well the mark Brian, is the barcode. The ubitiqous barcode that you'll find on every bog roll, and every packet of johnny's and every poxie-pot pie. And every [expletive-removed] barcode is divided into two parts by three markers and those three markers are always represented by the number six. Six-six-six. Now what does it say? No one shall be able to buy or sell without that mark. And now what they're planning to do in order to eradicate all credit card fraud and in order to precipitate a totally cashless society.What they're planning to do; what they've already tested on the American troops; they're going to subcutaneously laser tattoo that mark onto your right hand or onto your forehead." (Naked, British movie, 1993, directed by Mike Leigh and starring David Thewlis)
There's no question Mary Stewart Relfe, author of When Your Money Fails, The "666" System" is Here, and The New Money System 666, believes the barcode is the Mark of the Beast.

Mary Stewart Relfe, When Your Money Fails…The "666" System" is Here, 1981

"And he causeth all . . . to receive a mark . . . "
In Greek this word mark is charagma, which literally denotes a stamp, an impress, and is translated mark. Notice that John did not say that he causeth all to receive a number in the right hand or forehead. This astute prophet could have certainly delineated between a series of numbers, and an unexplained stamp or mark. . .The same Electronic Eye which scans the UPC marks [barcodes] will in the near future scan the marks that will be required to be inserted on the body. . .
While some specifics remain vague, of this we are certain: All commerce will be conducted in the near future with a number, a name, or an identifying mark in the hand or forehead. It is my sincere deduction that the 'mark of the beast' will not be the insertion of numbers per se on the body, but of vertical lines which will represent encoded messages and digits. "(Mary Stewart Relfe, When Your Money Fails The "666" System" is Here, 1981, pp. 56,57,58)
Mary Stewart Relfe, The New Money System 666, 1982

"The Prophet John identified this Cashless System of Commerce 1900 years ago as one in which business would be transacted with a 'Mark' and a Number; the Mark will obviously be a Bar Code; the Number will be '666;' the combination of the two, about which you will read in this book, will be an integral part of the '666 System'. . .RECEIVING OF ONE'S OWN VOLITION THE MARK (BRAND) IN THE RIGHT HAND OR FOREHEAD; which I believe will be a Bar Code facsimile incorporating a concealed use of '666,' unintelligible to the eye,. . ." Mary Stewart Relfe, The New Money System 666, 1982, pp. xii, 206)
A bizarre coincident? concerning the barcode is the Greek word charagma translated 'mark' in Revelation. Here's how Robert Van Kampen, in The Signdescribes this coincident:
"It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated 'mark' is charagma which comes from the Greek word charax, which means 'a palisade, like a picket fence.' When one realizes that this specific word was used back in the first century, and we see today the use of the computer-related bar code, we find the possibilities becoming more than a reality in our day and age." (Robert Van Kampen, The Sign, 1992, p. 231)
Here's the explanation: The Greek "root" word for charagma (translated "mark") is charax. One of the meanings of charax is "a palisade" which is like a "picket fence, or vertical lines". The "idea" is, the reason John used the Greek word charagma, rather than stigma, etc., is because he was describing a 'mark' with vertical lines — a "bar code".
But is all this true?
Well, sort of. . .
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, defines the word charagma as:

5480 charagmakhar'-ag-mahfrom the same as 5482 (charax) a scratch or etching, i.e. stamp (as a badge of servitude), or sculpturedfigure (statue): — graven, mark.
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, defines the "root" word charax as:
5482 charaxkhar'-az from charasso (to sharpen to a point; akin to 1125 through the idea of scratching); a stake, i.e. (by impl.) a palisadeor rampant (military mound for circumvallation in a siege):—trench.
Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (a must have for any serious Bible student!) defines palisade as:
PALISADE, A fence or fortification consisting of a row of stakes or posts sharpened and set firmly in the ground. In fortification, the posts are set two or three inches apart, parallel to the parapet in the covered way, to prevent a surprize.
Does all this "prove" John is describing a "barcode"?
No. Of course not. It's a long and rocky road to travel from "charagma" to a "barcode".
Is the barcode the mark of the beast?
Probably not.
A bar code would make a poor candidate for the mark of the beast for the following reasons:
  1. The mark is described specifically in Rev. 14:11 as "the mark of his name". Even the wildest imagination would have a very hard time turning a "barcode" into "the mark of his name".
  2. In the world of "high-level" security and identification, a barcode is not reliable enough. The reason for the "self-check" digit on the barcode is the probability of the scanner misreading the barcode. The next time you go through the grocery line count how many "beeps" or misreads the cashier gets.
  3. Because the human skin stretches, it would be virtually impossible to get the precision needed for a "reliable" barcode. The skin continually stretches with age, weight, wetness, sun exposure, etc.
  4. There is much more reliable and easier to implement technology than barcodes, such as biometric IDs or even biochips.
  5. A barcode does not match the Bible's description of the Mark of the Beast. See What is 666: The Mark of the Beast? for more info.
Porter Lee Corporation has invented a barcode system for the identifying and recording evidence for law enforcement officers. The title of the system is interesting — BEAST — Bar coded Evidence Analysis Statistics and Tracking.
A fascinating development took place recently. On March 2, 1999, patent 5,878,155 was issued to Houston inventor Thomas W. Heeter described as a "Method for verifying human identity during electronic sale transactions".
Heeter's patent "abstract" reads:"A method is presented for facilitating sales transactions by electronic media. A bar code or a design is tattooed on an individual. Before the sales transaction can be consummated, the tattoo is scanned with a scanner. Characteristics about the scanned tattoo are compared to characteristics about other tattoos stored on a computer database in order to verify the identity of the buyer. Once verified, the seller may be authorized to debit the buyer's electronic bank account in order to consummate the transaction. The seller's electronic bank account may be similarly updated."
Heeter's invention is aimed toward the booming world of Internet E-commerce. In the very near future, many products will be purchased E-commerce via the Internet. WorldNet Daily writes, ". . . Internet e-commerce figures spiraling upward, and the European market expected to surpass the U.S. online community in a couple of years, potential sales online have been projected to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2003." (WorldNet Daily, September 30, 1999)
Is the barcode paving the road to 666: the Mark of the Beast?
Yes. The barcode undoubtedly is paving the road for 666: the Mark of the Beast.
The barcode did something very important to help bring in 666: The mark of the Beast. . .
The barcode opened the door (in fact, it not only opened it, it kicked the door down) to the "digital world". Everything is now a number. Everything gets a barcode. As someone truly said, "If it exists, bar code it". I remember when barcodes first started appearing. I began telling people back then, the barcode was preparing the world for 666: the Mark of the Beast. Was I ever laughed at. . . even by the Christians. I can still remember their laughing and ridicule, "You mean to tell me, everything is getting one of those "marks". You mean, I'll go even to the local "7-Eleven" and they'll have laser scanners and they'll scan these "marks". No way. It would be too obvious what was happening. Everybody would know the mark of the beast is coming".
But isn't it amazing 25 years later. . . and nobody gives the "mysterious" barcodes even a "second thought".
Satan very carefully and subtlety (see Genesis 3:1 and 2 Cor. 11:3) indoctrinated us to our wonderful, convenient, new "digital world".

And the road to 666 is just ahead. . .