Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It is getting worse

The average pretax income of the top 10th of Americans has doubled since 1980, that of the top 1% has more than tripled, and that of the top 0.001% has risen more than sevenfold – even as the average pretax income of the bottom half of Americans has stayed almost precisely the same

Globally, over the same period, according to the World Inequality Report, the top 1% captured 27% of new income, while the bottom half of humanity – presently, more than 3 billion people – saw 12% of it.

The fortunes of the world’s billionaires now grow at more than double the pace of everyone else’s, and the top 10% of humanity have come to hold 85% of the planet’s wealth. New data published this week by Oxfam showed that the world’s 2,200 billionaires grew 12% wealthier in 2018, while the bottom half of humanity got 11% poorer.

The average US high-school leaver tests more poorly in reading today than in 1992.  Americans who read at least one work of literature a year has dropped by almost a quarter in recent decades.

Rich American men, who tend to live longer than the average citizens of any other country, now live 15 years longer than poor American men, who endure only as long as men in Sudan and Pakistan.


Protecting the health of Migrants

Migrants and refugees  who travel to countries in Europe and elsewhere pose little health for their host countries. In fact the opposite is true.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday revealed that refugees are likely to be in good overall health when they leave their home countries, but are put at risk for infectious and chronic diseases in their new homes—where quality and affordable healthcare is often unavailable to them.  They arrive in countries in which they're subject to a new form of inequality—where some of the world's strongest healthcare is offered to the local population but is often kept out of reach for newcomers. 

Living in conditions of poverty for long periods of time, becoming less physically active, and consuming less healthy food than that which was available to them in their home countries all puts migrants at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer after they've arrived in their host countries, according to WHO.WHO also reported that a "significant proportion" of refugees who are HIV+ became infected with the virus after entering their new countries, that migrants are far more likely to suffer work-related injuries than non-migrant workers, and that depression and anxiety is prevalent in newly-arrived refugee and migrant communities.

The organization said, "despite the widespread assumption to the contrary, there is only a very low risk of refugees and migrants transmitting communicable diseases to their host population."

"As migrants and refugees become more vulnerable than the host population to the risk of developing both noncommunicable and communicable diseases, it is necessary that they receive timely access to quality health services, as everyone else," said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the organization's regional director for Europe. "This is the best way to save lives and cut treatment costs, as well as protect the health of the resident citizens."


Inventors or Social Parasites?

As of 01/20/19, the richest six American tech leaders (Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, Ellison, Page, Brin) averaged over $80 billion in net worth. Meanwhile, the 25 million Americans just above the median, many of them teachers, have an average net worth of $78 thousand. That's a difference of a million times. 

For anyone questioning this disturbing truth, the following information should be helpful: There are over 4 million preschool, primary, secondary, and special education teachers; the median teacher age is 41; the median elementary school salary is $57,000; the median wealth of a 41-year-old is only $60,000. So it's probably even worse than a million to one. Consider also that about 77 percent of teachers are female, and that females suffer the discrimination of lower wealth, especially Black and Hispanic women, for whom net worth is in the low HUNDREDS. 

The Los Angeles teachers are striking for better pay, smaller class sizes, the addition of nurses and counselors, and the ending of the rash of charter school openings that suck the lifeblood out of the public school system. They could also be striking for a fairer wealth distribution. A technology boss is not a million times more important than an L.A. teacher. 

Bill Gates  was lucky and opportunisticGates didn't invent the PC operating system, and any history that says he did is wrong. Gates provided an OS based on Gary Kildall's CP/M system. Kildall wanted to sue, but intellectual property law for software had not yet been established. 

The late Steve Jobs spoke for the industry: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." The biggest expense in the iPhone is the touchscreen, which was developed at the CERN laboratories in Europe.

Mark Zuckerberg also took his ideas from others. Zuckerberg developed his version of social networking while he was at Harvard. Before he made his contribution, Columbia University students Adam Goldberg and Wayne Ting built a system called Campus Network, which was much more sophisticated than the early versions of Facebook. 

Jeff Bezos built his business with the extraordinary advantage of minimally-taxed sales on Amazon to offer discounts while undercutting competitors, pushing many of them out of business.  Bezos spent millions of dollars per year on lobbyists, deployed an army of lawyers, and cultivated political allies with large campaign contributions.

Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin, their company has gained recognition as one of the world's biggest tax avoiders, a master at the "Dutch Sandwich" and "Double Irish" global tax games. The National Science Foundation funded the Digital Library Initiative research at Stanford University that was adopted as the Google model. 

Capitalism is a perfect system for people like this, who care only about making more money than everyone else, and fail to grasp the importance of a healthy, working society.



(“What A Brexshit” – Bild newspaper headline
on the loss of the Brexit Vote by 202 to 432.)

Achtung! Ze Brexit Vote's kaput!
Es ist right-up ze duff;
Despite all of the 'Brexit-tears',
It's run right out of puff!
The cake, that we would all scoff-down,
Is now a worthless crumb;
You can't fool people all the time,
Though some are always dumb!

Of course 'the cake' was never there,
Right from the very start;
The BoJo and the Rees-Mogg claims,
Were each a windy fart.
Now all that MP's have to do,
Is heed the public's plea;
The Single Market? Norway Plus?
So easy to agree!
                  Remember them?

The Customs Union? Switzerland's
Own deal with the EU?
The Irish Backstop? Schengen, yes?
It can't be hard to do!
In fact, it should be, as was claimed,
To quote, “A piece of cake”;
Whose recipe turned out to be,
The burnt side of opaque!

© Richard Layton

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Anti-vax Threat to Health

Some 2 to 3 million people a year are saved from dying by vaccines worldwide, according to the WHO. Approximately 1.5 million could have been added to that tally, if vaccination efforts were more widespread, the organization said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that a lack of willingness to vaccinate was one of the world's greatest health risks. The WHO put the focus in particular on the threat posed by anti-vaccination movements in the western world.

The WHO said a case in point, to illustrate the magnitude of the problem, was the fight against measles. In 2017, the number of cases rose by 30 percent worldwide in comparison with the previous year. In particular, the WHO warned about the increase of measles in Europe, where 23,927 contracted the disease in 2017. This was a sharp rise in comparison with the previous year where only 5,273 cases were registered.

China's Birth Rate Falls

Despite attempts to encourage couples to have more children, China's birth rate fell to its lowest since the country was founded in 1949. The birth rate in 2018 dropped to 10.94 per thousand, down from 12.43 the previous year. The number of babies born in 2018 dropped by 2 million compared to the previous year to 15.23 million.

Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irving, said: "Decades of social and economic transformations have prepared an entirely new generation in China, for whom marriage and childbearing no longer have the importance they once did for their parents' generation."

Chinese demographer He Yahu said: "The low birth rate has led to a seriously ageing population. On one hand, families are getting smaller, reducing support for the elderly; on the other hand, the elderly population to workforce is growing, which increases the burden on the working population."


Oxfam's Inequality Figures

Once again the growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by an Oxfam report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.

Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.

As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 the number was 61.
Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Matthew Spencer, said: “The way our economies are organised means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting. Women are dying for lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor. It doesn’t have to be this way – there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life..." 
In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled. 
Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.
 The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people. 
The poorest 10% of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.
 The report said many governments were making inequality worse by failing to invest enough in public services. 
It noted that about 10,000 people die for lack of healthcare and there were 262 million children not in school, often because their parents were unable to afford the fees, uniforms or textbooks.
 Between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% of humanity only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth. By contrast, the top 1% captured 27 cents of every dollar.

The Mediterranean Watery Grave

The UN refugee agency has said 117 died or were missing after a smuggler’s dinghy sank off Libya on 18 January.

53 others died when another boat capsized in the western Mediterranean a few days earlier.

According to the IOM, at least 2,297 people died at sea or went missing trying to reach Europe in 2018.

What is in a name?

A lot if you are a Greek or Macedonian nationalist.

Previously known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the country has re-named itself  the Republic of North Macedonia, its language will be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians. In Macedonian, the name is Severna Makedonija.

Greek nationalists believe it erodes their identity. 

60,000 demonstrators in Athens on Sunday say it implies a claim on the Greek province of the same name and chanted, "Macedonia is Greek" and waved Greek flags. 

Present-day Macedonia and northern Greece were part of a Roman province called Macedonia. And both claim the heritage of Alexander the Great two millennia earlier.

Up against the truth

Trump's federal shutdown has exposed an unpleasant truth to many federal employees and government contract workers - they are only one missed paycheck away from financial disaster. Those who are described as middle-class have discovered they’re not immune to the harsh reality of living paycheck to paycheck.

The end of the month is less than two weeks away, and those furloughed workers will collectively owe more than $400 million in mortgage and rent payments, to say nothing of utility and day-to-day living bills. But this economic insecurity  is not limited to furloughed federal workers, however. According to a report by Forbes Magazine,  78 percent of all US workers are living paycheck to paycheck. One quarter of workers are financially unable to set aside any money for savings after each pay cycle. Three quarters of workers are in debt, and half of those believe they always will be. Four in ten Americans can’t, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Board. Those who don’t have the cash on hand say they’d have to cover it by borrowing or selling something.

Financially speaking, millions of people in the US spend their lives on the wage-slave tread-mill, running fast and getting nowhere. You have no savings to speak of, a wallet full of maxed-out credit cards, but more bills coming in the mail every day, yet you need to eat, need to commute to keep a job, need medicine and have to buy clothes and basic necessities plus the rent or mortgage is due. The Trump shutdown has made even professionals like the air traffic controllers face up to this stark reality.

Because it has been this way since we can remember,  it need not always have to be this way. It is time we remembered that, and acted accordingly.

Adapted from here