Friday, October 31, 2014

More Depleted Uranium For The Middle East

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This month, the US has deployed a type of aircraft to the Middle East responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform. Twelve 'A-10's have arrived in the region along with 300 US airmen.
Whether or not the aircraft will be used in areas under ISIL control has not been confirmed. Master Sgt Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told Al Jazeera that although no explicit order for their use was currently in place, this position "could change at any moment. When that order comes, US crews may load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into 30mm Gatling cannons". Hubble continued: "Should the need arise 'to explode something - for example a tank - they will be used."

The decision to position the controversial aircraft in the region comes against a backdrop of consultations at the highest diplomatic levels to remove DU as an international military resource.
The First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has been meeting to discuss a broad range of issues related to international security and peace. Several nations have presented appeals to the UNGA calling for study and mitigation of DU contamination in civilian areas.
DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and evidence of health damage produced by its use is extensive. It has 40 percent less radioactivity than natural uranium - but the same chemical toxicity.

Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told Al Jazeera: "The US has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The US doesn't want studies done."

(etc etc etc - - - continued information here)

(Final paragraph: note the irony)

CCR and Iraq Veterans Against the War have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in an attempt to learn the locations targeted in Iraq during and after the 1991 and 2003 invasions. The UK and the Netherlands have already revealed targeted locations, as did NATO, following DU use in the Balkans.

Iraqi doctors will be testifying to the damage done by DU before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, DC, in December.

In the meantime, the Obama Administration said on Thursday that it will be spending $1.6m to identify atrocities committed in Iraq by ISIL.

The Hazards Of Working (Too) Hard In US

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In industry after industry, speedups are turning work into a hazard, with increasing numbers of injuries and dangerous levels of stress. While 18.6 million people remain underemployed, millions of others are working more hours, and more intensely, than ever. This is especially true in certain industries, from oil refineries to retail to publishing, where federal data shows labor productivity has risen at double or more the national rate.
 A 2010 survey of people registered with Monster.com found that 53 percent of respondents had taken on additional duties since the start of the recession because co-workers had been laid off—almost all of them without any additional compensation.
 A 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that overwork was a particular problem among professionals: 14 percent of women and 38 percent of men were working more than fifty hours a week. But it has become common in industrial occupations as well. “When time and a half for overtime was established by federal law, that was really a job-creation measure, so it would cost less to hire a new worker,” says Mike Wright, the United Steelworkers’ director of health and safety. “But starting in the late 1970s, the cost of benefits exceeded that extra pay cost, and it became cheaper to work your existing workers harder.”

American workers do work longer hours than we did a generation ago, according to some analyses, and hundreds more per year than our counterparts in France or Germany—the equivalent of six to eight extra weeks a year. We top the Eurozone nations in productivity by 18 percentage points. “Every month the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] releases its worker-productivity numbers, which measure output per labor hour worked,” says Celeste Monforton, a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staffer. Montforton, now at the George Washington University School of Public Health, points out that the numbers “go up every month. And that’s because businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.” Some of these gains come from the adoption of new technologies, but others just come from pushing workers harder.

A 2013 survey of its own union reps by the United Steelworkers, which represents such blue-collar industries as oil and steel, found that production pressures, the increased pace of work and increased workloads topped workplace health concerns—outstripping more obvious risks such as poorly maintained equipment. When the reps were asked to give an example of a health or safety problem that had gotten worse over the past year, understaffing led the list. The jobless recovery, in other words, is sustained in part by aggressively overworking those with jobs.

taken from here

Climate Change Performance Index Updated

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The new edition of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) was released by Germanwatch and CAN Europe in Warsaw at the UN climate talks. The results show emissions worldwide have climbed to a new peak and no single country is yet on track to prevent dangerous climate change.

“Unexpectedly, for the first time our Index also draws a cautious picture of hope”, says Jan Burck, the author of the Index that ranks the climate protection performance of the 58 highest emitters worldwide. “We see positive signals towards a slow down in the increase in global CO2 emissions. And China – the world’s biggest emitter – improved its performance in climate protection.”

Nevertheless, no country made it into the first three spots on the list due to a lack of ambition to reach the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. Denmark clearly defended its fourth place in the Index. Its policy evaluation is exceptional: it managed to slightly improve its score in nearly every sector compared to the previous year. The United Kingdom took 5th place (previously ranked 10th) due to a decrease in emissions of 15% in the last five years plus an improvement in its efficiency, while Portugal is ranked 6th (previously ranked 7th).
Canada and Australia are the worst performers of all the industrialised countries, also Japan dropped several ranks. After a change in government, Australia’s policy evaluation was much worse than previous years; consequently it has fallen to a rank of 57th (previously ranked 51st). One of main reasons for this decline was a turnaround on previous commitments to install a carbon levy and trade system that would have helped to reduce emissions. Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains at 58th position for another year. Only Iran (59th), Kazakhstan (60th) and Saudi Arabia (61st) have worse ratings.







Work Related Deaths UK. Official figures A Smoke Screen

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the regulatory agency with primary responsibility for enforcing health and safety law across British workplaces, has released its latest annual statistics. According to their break down of the key figures: “The statistics show that, in 2013-14, there were 133 fatal injuries – a fall from 150 the previous year.”
On the face of it, a decline in the numbers of people who go to work never to return is good news. But, whether or not there actually is a year-on-year fall, the figure of 133 “deaths at work” is one category that obscures the tens of thousands of fatalities caused by working for a living.
Even in terms of deaths resulting from injuries at work, anyone who determinedly trawls the HSE site may chance upon a much fuller document: Statistics on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain 2014. Here it is reported that: “There were 264 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2013-14. Of these deaths, 194 (73%) related to incidents occurring on railways.”
Let us be clear about what is happening here. We have a press release that contains the headline figure of 133 deaths. Then, it is possible to find a further 264 fatal injuries recorded by HSE but which do not make it into its own press release.
As the HSE acknowledges, there are significant categories of deaths – at sea, or associated with the airline industry, for example – which are occupational but recorded by other agencies. But by far the biggest omission are the deaths of those who die while driving as a normal part of their work: another 800 to 1,000 deaths a year. This includes those who deliver “meals on wheels”, district nurses, postal workers and lorry drivers, but because such deaths are recorded as “road traffic” rather than occupational fatalities, they don’t make the figure recorded in the annual statistics.
Then there are the numerous deaths that result from working conditions and diseases contracted as a result of work. If we follow the link from HSE’s press release to their Health and Safety Statistics 2013-14, it reveals: “Around 13,000 deaths each year from occupational lung disease and cancer are estimated to have been caused by past exposure, primarily to chemicals and dust at work.”
This immediately makes the press released figure look rather like an under-estimation of the scale of death as a result of working in contemporary Britain. The end result of this trawl through official, albeit buried, data takes us from 133 deaths to almost 13,400 deaths in 2013-14.

Missing data

The underestimation – or misrepresentation – does not stop there. Also reportable to and recorded by HSE are deaths to members of the public which arise out of work activity. Data on these deaths are nowhere to be seen in the press release or the glossy documents to which it links. But a little digging around HSE’s own website is, again, revealing.
First, a visit to the HSE’s Fatal Injury Statistics page reveals, for 2013-14: “There were 70 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2013-14 (excluding railways-related incidents).” This figure significantly augments the 133 fatal injuries to workers, which refers specifically to people who are fatally injured in the workplace.
The thousands of deaths from work-related diseases. HSE
Click to enlarge

Underestimating fatal illness

Still, these additions do not capture the full scale of the problem of work-related deaths. Indeed, the HSE’s data on fatal occupational illness is a gross underestimation when compared with data from other sources.
For example, researchers from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work calculated, in 2009, 21,000 deaths per year in the UK from work-related fatal diseases, while accepting both that such data “might still be an under-estimation” and that deaths from work-related diseases are “increasing”.
Another UK study estimated up to 40,000 annual deaths in Britain were caused by work-related cancers alone. And long-term research by the Hazards movement, drawing on a range of studies of occupational and environmental cancers, the number of heart-disease deaths with a work-related cause, as well as estimates of other diseases to which work can be a contributory cause, showed a lower-end estimate of 50,000 deaths from work-related illness in the UK each year.
This is around four times the HSE estimate and ranks highly in comparison with virtually all other recorded causes of premature death in the UK.
Workplace deaths are not, of course, reducible to numbers. Every death creates ever-widening ripples of emotional, psychological and financial harm through families, friends and communities. But the harms experienced by those so bereaved are surely compounded when an agency of the state understates the scale of the issue. If we are to see a real reduction in the thousands of work-related deaths there are in the UK every year, it’s paramount that the HSE both presents these problems accurately and responds to them adequately.

by Steve Tombs from here with links



Unity is Strength

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A call for union action by Alan Nasser makes a refreshing read.

“...Labor gets nothing unless it exhibits class consciousness, a trait long exhibited by its class enemy. And this involves acting in concert with fellow workers...That employers fear and resist unions suggests that employers have a greater appreciation than many of their employees that organization is for workers a powerful weapon in the class war....”

“...In a capitalist society in which business persons have, in addition to the power conferred by coalition, structurally determined power by virtue of their ownership of society’s productive and financial resources, labor is deeply disadvantaged and subordinated without its own form of organization. The union is such a form. It simultaneously constrains the power of capital and strengthens the power of workers....”

“...Still, a union’s conception of its objectives is almost always limited to its objectives. Each union seeks to enhance its own interests. It tends to act as a collective individual. In this sense, unions are not at present working-class agents. Were unions truly working-class organizations they would struggle to further not their individual interests but the common interests of the entire working class....”

“....The task ahead will not be easy. Discouragement makes it more difficult still. This essay has tried to show that a resurgence of militant labor unions is an essential ingredient of of popular anti-capitalist mobilization, and that discouragement has far fewer grounds than some of us had thought....”

Of course, the World Socialist Movement has its own reservation on everything the article says but it is nevertheless a worthwhile read.

Full essay here 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Capitalist Expansion In The US - Profits Over People

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Land & resource grabs in the United States: Five sites of struggle and potential transformation

Across the United States, communities are fighting to defend the resources they need to produce food. Corporate control of the food system is undermining the livelihoods of family farmers, farmworkers, fisherpeople, communities of color, and indigenous peoples—squeezing them economically; contaminating their soils and waterways; and pushing them off the land. These processes of dispossession and disenfranchisement— dubbed a new wave of global “land grabbing”—are not new, nor are they confined to poor countries of the Global South. Indeed, they form the basis of the history of capitalist expansion in the US. What is new, perhaps, is the rapid rate at which land and other resources are being concentrated in the hands of new financial and institutional actors—thanks to policies that favor profits over people, and finance over food.

In the face of such momentous challenges, the capacity of local, regional, and community-based movements to create systemic change depends on their ability to link their respective struggles while at the same time confronting and resolving the historical, cultural, and strategic differences among them. While these differences are many, a number of crosscutting issues can be identified that help us to make sense of 1) the rapid transformations underway in our nation’s land and resource base, and 2) the ways in which communities have organized themselves to confront these threats. While numerous issues intersect with the question of land, here we identify five strategic “nexuses” to help us understand how land converges with historically embedded power relations in the United States:
  • The Land-Labor Nexus
  • The Land-Race Nexus
  • The Land-Finance Nexus
  • The Land-Water Nexus
  • The Land-Climate Nexus

While each nexus represents an area of capital expansion, growing crisis, and deepening inequality, it also embodies a key site of intensifying resistance and potential for systemic change.
Click here to download the full brief.
This is the seventh brief in the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas series, co-published by Food First and the Transnational Institute.

The Land & Sovereignty in the Americas series pulls together research and analysis from activists and scholars working to understand and halt the alarming trend in “land grabbing”—from rural Brazil and Central America to US cities like Oakland and Detroit—and to support rural and urban communities in their efforts to protect their lands as the basis for self-determination, food justice and food sovereignty. The series—which includes short issue briefs and books—is a project of the Land & Sovereignty in the Americas (LSA) activist-researcher collective, coordinated by Food First.
by Tanya M. Kerssen and Zoe Brent

from here 







The Gender Gap - Economy, Politics, Health, Education

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No single country has closed the income gap between men and women, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum, and if current trajectories hold it will be nearly another century before pay equity for women is finally achieved.

Among the key findings in WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014 (pdf), women currently have 60 percent of the economic opportunities men have worldwide, an increase of just four percentage points since WEF began its study in 2006.
"Much of the progress on gender equality over the last 10 years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce," said Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF Gender Parity Program and lead author of the report. "While more women and more men have joined the workforce over the last decade, more women than men entered the labor force in 49 countries."

Globally, gender gaps persist across all four sectors studied in the report: economy, politics, health and education.
Out of the 142 countries studied, the U.S. sits at number 20 in the overall gender gap index. Among the sub-indexes, the U.S. is 4th in economic participation, 39th in educational attainment, 54th in political empowerment, and 62nd in health and survival. Notably, the health and survival index does not take reproductive health into account.
Despite some advances in closing the pay gap over the past nine years, the U.S. is still struggling with the less visible issue of unpaid work—such as cleaning and caring for family members—a responsibility which most often falls on women, as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Magdalena SepĂșlveda told the General Assembly last year. WEF found that the average amount of time spent per day on unpaid work in the U.S. is 248 minutes for women, 161 for men.

Elsewhere, the U.K. slipped in the rankings, falling below the U.S. to 26 in the overall global index, down six points from the last WEF report.


Nordic countries continue to lead the world in creating equal opportunities for men and women. Iceland, which is number one in narrowing the gender wage gap—to 85 percent—tops the list, followed by Finland (2), Norway (3), Sweden (4), and Denmark as the top five.

Despite those rankings, some of the most remarkable advancements belong to developing nations. Saudi Arabia is the most improved relative to its starting point in the sub-index of economic opportunities, while Burkina Faso has made the most gains in educational attainment, Angola for health and survival, and the United Arab Emirates for political empowerment.

Zahidi added, "These are far-reaching changes—for economies and national cultures, however it is clear that much work still remains to be done, and that the pace of change must in some areas be accelerated."

taken from here



Rickety Piketty

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There has been innumerable reviews of Thoma Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Most have been favourable, decreeing it a ground-breaking analysis. This one is a little more critical

The article by Anitra Nelson, Honorary Associate Professor at RMIT University Centre for Urban Research, deserves a mention since it offers refreshing observations on the book.

“....Inequality represents a double-edged sword for the Marxist left. Inequality in owning assets and income levels are living breathing proof of capitalism’s deepest failings. But addressing inequality often slides into reformism. Union demands generally support capitalism unless linked overtly to a revolutionary agenda ending capitalism. Unionisation has fallen since the 1980s. Radical unionism has been decimated....

...addressing environmental sustainability often raises reformist, market-oriented solutions too — taking us into a quagmire of perceiving and ‘re-imagining’ the world in terms of exchange values.
Debates on economic inequality are bound by monetary language and practices. Money perpetually creates inequality in a world producing and distributing on the basis of exchange values...

...Non-market socialists [for a money-free, market-free, wage-free, class-free and state-free society where everyone’s basic needs are met — and power, responsibility and uses of the Earth are shared in fair, i.e. just, and sustainable ways] see inequality as a permanent essential feature of capitalism due to the practice and concept of money, which is ‘not a thing’ but a social relation and social value...

...Money enmeshes attempts to change back into mainstream political and economic structures. Fair trade, ethical investments and carbon markets do not lead to equality between countries and environmental sustainability; trade is a seesaw of winners and losers, snakes and ladders....

....We must establish a world where people collectively plan and produce, share and care for one another and create a world ‘without equal’...

Full article here 

The Rich get richer - same old story

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Around the world, inequality is making a mockery of the hopes and ambitions of billions of the poorest people. According to the charity, Oxfam, the number of billionaires (US$) worldwide totalled 1,645 people by March 2014 - up from 793 billionaires in March 2009. Calculations published earlier this year, found that the 85 richest individuals in the world owned the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the global population. This figure was based on the total wealth of the 85 billionaires at the time of the annual Forbes list in March 2013. The latest research according to Oxfam’s is that in the 12-month period since the last Forbes report, their wealth has increased by 14%, or $244bn - equating to a $668m-a-day increase. The report says From Ghana to Germany, South Africa to Spain, the gap between rich and poor is rapidly increasing, and economic inequality.

The charity on Wednesday, warns that the “billionaire boom is not just a rich country story”. India, which had two billionaires in the 1990s now has 65, while by March 2014 there were 16 billionaires in sub-Sharan Africa alongside the 358 million people living in extreme poverty. In Zambia, GDP per capita growth averaged three percent every year between 2004 and 2013, pushing Zambia into the World Bank'™s lower-middle income category. Despite this growth, the number of people living below the $1.25 poverty line grew from 65 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2010. In South Africa, a platinum miner would need towork for 93 years just to earn the average CEO annual bonus.

Oxfam have calculated the length of time it would take the world’s richest people to spend their wealth.  If Bill Gates were to cash in all of his wealth, and spend $1m every single day, it would take him 218 years to spend it all. In reality though, he would never run out of money: even a modest return of just under two percent would make him $4.2 million each day in interest alone. For Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man according to some estimates , it would take 220 years for him to spend his $80bn fortune at a rate of $1m per day.

If you are born poor  you will most probably die poor, and your children and grandchildren will be poor too. In Pakistan, for instance, a boy born in a rural area to a father from the poorest 20 percent of the population has only a 1.9 percent chance of ever moving to the richest 20 percent. In the USA, nearly half of all children born to low-income parents will become low-income adults.

Oxfam, however, does not question the system that allowed such individuals to accumulate such high levels of wealth but merely requests a very limited re-distribution of riches.

Full Oxfam report available here 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Free Education?

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Millions of families are struggling with the hidden costs of sending children to state school, with many forced to take out loans or scrimp on food and heating to pay for basics such as dinners, uniforms, course materials and trips.

Parents face average annual bills of £800 a pupil, although this can be much higher, with some state secondary school uniforms costing more than £500, making the idea of a free education “far from reality”, according to the Children’s Commission on Poverty inquiry. 

More than 95% of parents on low incomes reported difficulties meeting school-related costs, while large numbers of poorer children said they fell behind academically and were subjected to humiliation, embarrassment and bullying because their poverty made them “stand out” in the classroom. The report of the inquiry said teachers and schools often did not comprehend the psychological impact of poverty on pupils. They failed to do enough to prevent poorer pupils being stigmatised, and adopted practices that often inadvertently identified them as “poor”, such as by segregating pupils in receipt of free school meals.

Uniforms represented a big challenge to many parents, the inquiry found, with huge variations in costs of state-school clothing. Costs ranged from as little as £34 a pupil to more than £500, with an average of £108 for primary school uniforms and £126 for secondary. The inquiry found that schools were increasingly insisting on policies that required parents to buy clothing with embroidered names and logos, or branded blazers and sports kit. One parent said that “there was a trend for publicly funded schools to adopt uniforms more commonly seen at private school”. An academy school in London had introduced a new uniform costing £225 – more than double the £99 price of the old one, forcing 70 families to take out loans. An estimated one in five low-income families received no assistance. Where there was financial help, it often did not cover the full cost of the clothing.

Parents spent £400 a year on average on school meals, although many pupils from low-income families who did not qualify for free school meals because their parents were working missed lunches because they did not have enough money. It estimates that 540,000 children living in poverty do not qualify for free meals. Purchasing books, stationery and equipment cost parents an average of £60 a child. One in three poorer children said they had been priced out of taking courses such as art, music and PE because they were unable to afford the cost of materials. A third of children from the poorest families said they had fallen behind at school because they could not afford a computer or internet access, while a similar number felt they suffered academically because they could not afford course books and equipment.

Teachers’ union NASUWT said the report showed how parents were being hit by “an unacceptable tax on learning, which is hitting the poorest families the hardest”.

Meanwhile in Scotland where many students receive free university tuition students are being forced to take out record levels of debt after the Scottish government cut the grants they could claim by 40%.

Official figures show total student borrowing jumped by 69% for the last academic year up to £430m, the highest level ever, as Scottish ministers championed their policy of providing free university tuition.

The heaviest burden is being carried by the poorest students after ministers cut overall spending on grants for living costs from £53m to £36m last year, and introduced far less generous funding bands which penalised low income applications. The average loans taken out by students from the lowest income families averaged out at £5,610 a year, compared to £4,340 for students from better off homes, said Lucy Blackburn Hunter, a former civil servant who specialises in higher education policy. Blackburn Hunter said that the cumulative impact of those policies meant that Scottish students doing a typical four year Scottish university course would end up owing more than £20,000, while the poorest faced the heaviest debts.

European data last week also showed that Scotland has the least generous student grants of any comparable west European country, including other parts of the UK. Only Greece, Turkey and most of eastern Europe have lower state grants, while Iceland is alone in offering no grants at all.

The Social Democratic Federation

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Notes on the Social Democratic Federation by Julian Wilson, a member of the Weadlen Progressive Movement given a talk on the Social Democratic Federation at the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Fabian Society, that the blog publishes in the interest of working class/socialist history on 10th October, 2014. The SDF was reformist and many of the early members of the SPGB broke away from it to form a revolutionary socialist party ! It later went on to become the British Socialist Party (that too split during the Great War, the pro-war faction becoming the National Socialist Party) The BSP went  on to furnish the bulk of the members of the CPGB in 1920. Which tells us something about the reformism of that party too.

Tunbridge Wells Branch – founded in the mid 1880s

Not quite the first socialist organisation in Kent – Smithian or Ricardian socialists linked to the Society for the Promotion of Cooperative Knowledge founded a branch in the town in 1829 and at Maidstone in 1830

The Social Democratic Federation were the first significant political organisation in Britain to claim Marx as their influence. With the Socialist League, a splinter group from it, they pioneered the revival of socialist politics in the 1880s.

The SDF started as a grouping of London radical clubs, known as the Democratic Federation, in 1882. It is clear that they wished to turn a London-based organisation into a national one. In 1884 they published a weekly newspaper, Justice, which struggled to find agents in the provinces. However, newsagents in Tonbridge and in Tunbridge Wells stocked it. Establishing their first provincial branches – of which Tunbridge Wells was one, together with a few other places such as Edinburgh, Bristol, Bolton and Salford, enabled the party to claim that it was now part of a national movement...

FOR THE FULL ARTICLE CLICK READ MORE

Child Poverty In The Most Affluent Nations

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Children remain "the most enduring victims" of the recession in the world's wealthiest nations, where 2.6 million children have fallen below the poverty line since 2008, a new report from UNICEF reveals.
The annual study, Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries, was released Tuesday in Rome. It finds that in the 41 richest countries at least 76.5 million children live in poverty.

"Many affluent countries have suffered a 'great leap backwards' in terms of household income, and the impact on children will have long-lasting repercussions for them and their communities," said Jeffrey O’Malley, UNICEF’s Head of Global Policy and Strategy.

In 23 of the 41 wealthy countries examined, the rate of child poverty has increased since 2008. In some countries, this rise was drastic: Ireland, Croatia, Latvia, Greece, and Iceland saw child poverty climb by more than 50 percent. The report notes that the young are hit harder than the elderly, and among children, the "poorest and most vulnerable... have suffered disproportionately."
The recession has created "a generation cast aside," where unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 has increased in 34 of the 41 countries, the report states.

The United States is no exception. In 2012, 24.2 million children were living in poverty in the U.S., an increase of 1.7 million since the 2008 recession. In 34 out of 50 states, child poverty has risen since 2008.

While the authors claimed the report was not intended as a "comment on austerity," their analysis finds that the decimation of public services has fueled the crisis.
"Extreme child poverty in the United States increased more during the Great Recession than it did in the recession of 1982, suggesting that, for the very poorest, the safety net affords less protection now than it did three decades ago," states the report.

"Governments that bolstered existing public institutions and programmes helped to buffer countless children from the crisis – a strategy that others may consider adopting," the report notes.

from here

World Bank's "Doing Business" Report Rejected By Civil Society Organisations

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Oakland, CA: Some 260 civil society organizations from around the world have joined forces to send a resounding rejection to the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business report, which is to be released on October 29.

Since 2002, the Bank’s Doing Business project has been benchmarking and ranking countries on the ease of doing business. It rewards lowering social and environmental safeguards to facilitate foreign investments, thereby allowing the exploitation of natural resources and human capital by foreign corporations and local elites. Upheld as the flagship project by the World Bank, Doing Business has guided other benchmarking projects, including the 2013 Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA), developed at the G8’s urging.

“This race to the bottom, cheered on by the Doing Business metrics, has forced countries to adopt an economic and regulatory environment that favors big agribusinesses and foreign corporations. How the Bank usurped the authority to rank nations--dictating national policies in sovereign nations, which are most harmful to the working poor, the indigenous, pastoralists, and smallholder farmers--remains a puzzle. After years of devastating impacts caused by these rankings, international civil society is rejecting the 2015 report and denounces the Doing Business Rankings as an illegitimate practice for which the Bank has no mandate nor authority,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

With the World Bank setting standards for investors and bilateral donors and driving significant funds toward the best performers in the Doing Business system, governments refrain from challenging the rankings. Instead, governments set improving their Doing Business ranking as their policy goal, turning to the advisory services of the Bank to guide the implementation of regulations that will improve their score. This practice has undermined national sovereignty while thwarting the necessary public debate on economic and development policies, as made evident by the multi-continental campaign Our Land Our Business.

“There are no winners in this race to the bottom created by the Doing Business rankings--today’s version of the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) that devastated the livelihoods of millions of people through the withdrawal of state intervention and the forced liberalization of national economies in the 1980s and 1990s,” said Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute. “With both the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group and Independent Panel Review questioning the Doing Business report’s relevance in accomplishing the Bank’s goals to eradicate poverty and boost shared prosperity, it is time that governments around the world also reject the rankings and formally end the governance of their nations by the World Bank," Mousseau continued.

by email


You Are Under Surveillance

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asurvcamera 



















 Parody of a Homeland Security poster. (Photo: ThreeErin)













Them and Us in UK Democracy

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21% Average pay rise of FTSE 100 executives in UK last year

0.7% Average pay rise for workers in UK in same period

10% Pay rise MPs will receive next year

1% Maximum pay rise other public sector workers will receive next year


from Private Eye No. 1377 'NUMBER CRUNCHING'

The Global Warming Worry

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Business as usual or system change 
 Climate change is the most global and the most threatening, of all of the consequences of capitalism. No part of the world is unaffected by climate change, especially because the environmentally destructive extraction and consumption of fossil fuels takes place in both rich and poor countries, although rich countries managed to concentrate extractive activities in regions populated by less affluent people, with little political power.

The costs of climate change are not spread evenly across the planet. For example, people living on islands or low-lying seacoast are at risk for rising levels of ocean water. For example, small island states, such as the Maldives, face risk from rising oceans submerging their nations but no part of the world is safe from the long-term consequences of climate change. Given such powerlessness, the climate-change deniers have been surprisingly successful in dismissing the threat of climate change; however, the effectiveness of their rearguard activity seems to be diminishing, but not nearly fast enough to begin to take serious action to diminish dangers threatened by climate change.  Largely because of the resistance of domestic business from accepting any responsibility for climate change, states are paralyzed in the face of taking action. One area in which governments do cooperate is in joining together to oppose any regulations that might be useful in reducing climate change.

 Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), explained that "The Synthesis Report will provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change. It gives us the knowledge to make informed choices, the knowledge to build a brighter, more sustainable future. It enhances our vital understanding of the rationale for action—and the serious implications for inaction." He went on to say "A great deal of work and tall hurdles lie ahead. But it can be done. We still have time to build a better, more sustainable world. We still have time to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change. But we have precious little of that time."

Time is not on anyone’s side. Global carbon emissions continue to increase year after year and if they don’t peak and begin to decline in the next two or three years, it will be extremely difficult and costly to keep global temperatures from rising above two degrees C. Temperatures have risen .085 degrees C so far and are linked to billions of dollars in damages, with extreme events affecting tens of millions people. Under business as usual economic growth, the new infrastructure planned and likely to built over the next five years will commit the world to enough CO2 to max out the 2C carbon budget. That budget is the amount of CO2 or carbon that can be emitting and stay below 2C. After 2018, the only choice will be to shut down power plants and other large carbon emitters before their normal lifespan.  Data shows “we’re embracing fossil fuels more than ever,” Robert Socolow of Princeton University and co-author of the study told Vice Motherboard. “We’ve been hiding what’s going on from ourselves: A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world’s capital investments,” Socolow said.

China and the United States are responsible for 35 percent of global carbon emissions but could do their part to keep climate change to less than two degrees C by adopting best energy efficiency standards, a new analysis shows. Although China’s energy use has skyrocketed over the past two decades, the average American citizen consumes four times more electricity than a Chinese citizen. Both countries need to dramatically reduce their use of coal,

However, when it comes to energy efficiency, China’s steel industry is far less efficient than the U.S. The reverse is true when it comes to cement production, according a new Climate Action Tracker analysis of energy use and savings potential for electricity production, industry, buildings and transport in the two countries.

China and the U.S. are very different but could learn from each other. If China and the U.S. integrate the best efficiency policies, “they would both be on the right pathway to keep warming below two degrees C,” said Bill Hare a climate scientist at Climate Analytics in Berlin, Germany.
“We looked at how well both the U.S. and China would do if they each adopted a ‘best of the two’practice in electricity production, industry, buildings and transport. We found this, alone, would set them in a better direction,” Niklas Höhne of Ecofys told IPS. 

Should both the U.S. and China adopt the global best practices on energy use, U.S. emissions would decline 18 percent below 2005 by 2020 (roughly five percent below 1990 levels) and China’s would peak in the early 2020s. That would close the crucial ‘emissions gap’by nearly 25 percent. The emissions gap is the amount of carbon reductions over and above current commitments that are needed before 2020 in order to have a good chance of staying below 2C.

In contrast to the destructive anarchy of capitalist competition which reinforces the divides between countries, classes, and cultures, a cooperative worldwide commonwealth would put an end to the unchecked power and authority exercised by both governments and corporate powers. New techniques of transportation and communication should facilitate a world in which the entire population could be cooperating in the creation of the good society. Of course, nothing of the kind is taking place. 

We think it is getting worse - we know it is getting worse

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Almost half believe the UK has become less fair since the last election, according to a poll. A majority of people believe the gap between the richest Britons and the rest of the country has a corrosive effect on society and the economy.

Workers intuitive understanding of the their situation has been verified by new research. More than one in four children in the UK are now living in poverty – and the number is rising sharply because of the Government’s harsh austerity measures, Unicef claimed. The Coalition’s performance on child poverty was “disappointing” compared to 18 other wealthy countries that have actually cut down on the issue despite the recession.

Its study that ranked the UK just 25th out of 41 developed nations for allowing the effects of the international economic crisis to hurt vulnerable families. Unicef’s global report found there was an “unprecedented increase” in rates of severe material deprivation – defined by factors including whether families can afford rent, heating and food – in the UK alongside Greece, Italy and Spain.

David Bull, the executive director of Unicef UK, said the majority of the vulnerable children have working parents who are “not being paid enough” and not receiving enough contributions from the Government to escape poverty. He said the report, which tracked poverty from 2008 to 2012, showed a “worrying trend” likely to get worse. “What's important is that we haven't seen the worst of this austerity and its impact.”

Human Lives - Just Flotsam and Jetsam

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The SOYMB bloggers are not christians, or of any other religion, but we can identify with those who may be and who recognise the hypocrisy of supposed fellow followers of christian values.

The Church of England  Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has warned:
“... at the heart of Christian teaching about the human being is that all human beings are of absolutely equal and infinite value and the language we use must reflect the value of the human being and not treat immigration as a deep menace that is somehow going to overwhelm a country that has coped with many waves of immigration and has usually done so with enormous success....We have 9,000 clergy working in 16,000 parishes, living in these parishes. We have better reports from the grassroots than almost anyone. What we are seeing is an upsurge of minor racist, antisemitic, anti-Islamic, anti-foreigner xenophobia – not major things – just comments being made, things being said which are for the people who grew up in those backgrounds seriously uncomfortable, really quite frightening.”

Last year a wealthy couple called Regina and Christopher Catrambone saw a life-jacket float past their yacht, the owner was probably dead, one of thousands of desperate people who drown each year as they seek a decent life in Europe. Soon after their holiday, inspired by this glimpse of tragedy and Pope Francis’s appeal to help migrants, the pair spent £3m on a rescue ship for refugees. This couple from Malta are modern-day Good Samaritans. Their 40-metre vessel is equipped with a sick bay, drones to spot migrants adrift in the sea, and fast boats to pluck them from the waters. On its first trip two months ago, the ship picked up 227 migrants crammed on to a floundering fishing boat – just a few of those thousands of human beings fleeing carnage in Syria, chaos in Iraq, civil war in Libya, conflict in Nigeria and cruel repression in the horn of Africa. Another 300 were saved on Monday.

Contrast this display of Christian values with the position of the UK government. In response to the greatest refugee crisis in more than half a century, a foreign office minister Lady Anelay  told the House of Lords that Britain would not support European search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean sea and justified this act of inhumanity on the spurious grounds that such missions might end up encouraging migrants to make a dangerous sea crossing.

 Italy’s Admiral Filippo Foffi categorically dismissed the idea that Mare Nostrum has created a pull factor: “If someone is talking about pull factors, he [or she] simply doesn’t know what he is speaking about,” he said, adding that that many refugees’ journeys start more than three months before they make it to the shores of Libya and northern Africa with the majority enduring hardships that meant an estimated half die before reaching the coast. Her argument was also refuted by Daniel Habtey, an Eritrean pastor who fled Africa’s most repressive country after churches were closed and he was put in a prison camp. These were the hostile actions that drove him to flee his nation with his wife and infant child; together, they spent 15 days crossing the Sahara desert before joining nearly 80 others on that perilous Mediterranean crossing. Similar horrors lie behind the stories of many of the 400 migrants pulled from the waters each day, or the more than 2,500 known to have drowned there so far this year. Many more deaths go unrecorded.

There is a terrible irony in how recent British governments have made such play of being forces for good in the world, whether through military invasions, described as humanitarian interventions, against despotism or or maintaining dictators through ‘aid’ budgets, but the same politicians treat human beings fleeing dire circumstances in search of tolerable lives like flotsam and jetsam to be discarded in the seas.

This is the consequence of mainstream parties spooked by UKIP joining a bidding war to be most hostile to migrants instead of challenging the prejudices of a party playing on people’s insecurities. This is the result of crass talk by politicians , both Tory and Labour, of communities being “swamped” along with the rise in racism and religious bigotry identified by  the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THE MARLBOROUGH ARISTOCRACY (poem)

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THE MARLBOROUGH ARISTOCRACY

16/10/2014The 11th Duke of Marlborough who has diedfailed in
the High Court to bar his criminal son from the title but appointed
trustees to have executive control over the Blenheim Palace Estate.

The Marlborough aristocracy,
Blue-bloodied to the core;
Have had their lordly lineage,
Diluted more and more.    

Lord Churchill was ‘unfortunate’, (1)
With one such ‘on the game’;
And died of a disease so vile,
We dare not speak its name! (2)

His offspring to a large extent,
Conceited, drunk and mad; (3)
Inherited their temperament,
Most likely through their dad.

And cousins of the Churchill lot, (4)
At Blenheim Palace too;
Appear to also have acquired,
A bloodline less than blue.

The present Duke thought by his dad,
To be a hopeless case;
Has had the title come his way,
But trustees run the place. 

Despite a prison record that’s,
Far longer than his arm; (5)
We have to guess that his success,
Is simply down to charm.

So workingmen to all become,
A healthy, wealthy chap;
Go on a charm offensive but,
Avoid the dreaded clap!

(1) A Victorian euphemism for prostitute.

(2) Winston Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph, son of the 7th Duke,
died of syphilis aged 45. Winston’s mother, a U.S. socialite,
conceived him out of wedlock. She reputedly had over 200 lovers.

(3) Winston and his family were racked by depression, alcoholism,
broken marriages and suicide. Winston was so conceited he
believed he had been chosen by ‘fate’ to be a ‘great man’.

(4) Winston was a cousin of the late 11th Duke of Marlborough.

(5) The 12th Duke has had numerous convictions for criminal
damage, assault, burglary, motoring and drug offences.

© Richard Layton

When Google Met Wikileaks - Julian Assange

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In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country house in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.
For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin.
They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

(Below are two brief quotes from a long extract here  , taken from Assange's book, 'When Google Met Wikileaks.' It's an insight into the tangled web of the would-be controllers of every aspect of our lives.)

“The received wisdom in advanced capitalist societies is that there still exists an organic “civil society sector” in which institutions form autonomously and come together to manifest the interests and will of citizens. The fable has it that the boundaries of this sector are respected by actors from government and the “private sector,” leaving a safe space for NGOs and nonprofits to advocate for things like human rights, free speech and accountable government.
This sounds like a great idea. But if it was ever true, it has not been for decades. Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming “civil society” into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy.”

“If the future of the Internet is to be Google, that should be of serious concern to people all over the world—in Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union and even in Europe—for whom the Internet embodies the promise of an alternative to U.S. cultural, economic, and strategic hegemony.”



Will Borders Be Open To Climate Refugees?

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A group of young Pacific islanders calling themselves the Climate Warriors arrived in Australia this month to mount a protest against the Australian coal industry and call for action on climate change. 

Kaio Tiira Taula, one of the Climate Warriors, has written this open letter to the people of Australia.
TUVALU, Oct 25 2014 (IPS) 

 The fate of my country rests in your hands: that was the message which Ian Fry, representing Tuvalu gave at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen five years ago. This is also the message that the Pacific Climate Warriors have come to Australia to bring.
We have come here, representatives of 12 different Pacific island nations, which are home to 10 million people, to ask the people of Australia to reject plans to double Australia’s exports of coal and to become the biggest exporter of gas in the world.
We want Australia (and other industrialised countries which also rely on the burning and extraction of fossil fuels) to understand that for every kilo of coal which they dig, or every gas well they make, there is someone in the islands who is losing their home.

My home, Tuvalu, is a series of three islands and six atolls halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world and home to 11,000 people and most of us have been there for generations.
Tuvalu, like many of our island neighbours, is living on borrowed time with climate change expected to displace over 300 million people worldwide before 2050. The displacement has already started to happen with thousands of my countrymen forced to leave by the rising King Tides and the long drought affecting our food supplies.
One family drew international attention when they became the first refugees to seek asylum in New Zealand based on grounds of climate change.

Aside from the humanitarian cost, there is also the loss to culture and diversity with several thousands of years of civilisation and history wiped from the face of the planet. And there is nothing that we can do about this except hope that you and your country will see the value of keeping our island above water and make the decision to turn away from fossil fuels.
This is the reason I have joined with the Pacific Climate Warriors to come to Australia and represent my country and our region.
For years our leaders have tried to convey our message in the halls of power to politicians, diplomats and whoever else would listen, but the arguments of economic growth have always taken precedence over the arguments for our survival.

I now come as an envoy to ask the people of Australia to please consider the plight of the 11,000 people in Tuvalu and the further millions in other Pacific islands and other low lying nations which may expect to be wiped out by climate change.
In my time in Australia I have heard plenty about the importance of the Australian coal industry and the jobs and economic growth that it generates, yet it is us in the islands who are paying the price with our land, our culture and our livelihoods. This hardly seems a fair price to pay when we gain nothing from this industry.
This is why it incenses me so much to hear that coal is good for humanity or coal will be the solution to poverty. Coal will benefit only the wealthy whereas it will be the poor, like us, who suffer.
This is why it is the ultimate insult to hear that wealthy corporations are acting in the interests of the world’s poor when they dig and burn coal.

The Australian people have the power to decide the fate of my country and others in the Pacific. You need to let your government know that you have considered the matter carefully that you choose human life over the digging and export of coal.
If you do not, you must be ready to open your borders for the flood of climate refugees who will end up on your doorstep.

from here

Another too many people scare story

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“I don’t know how to save the world. I don’t have the answers or The Answer. I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, none of us will survive -- nor will we deserve to.” - Leonard Peltier

The overpopulation myth threatens to overtake the human nature myth as the chief explanation for the evils of the modern world where  hunger, disease, the retarded development of backward countries, social unrest, political instability, urban sprawl, destruction of wildlife, city squalor, crowded mental hospitals, violence, all kinds of pollution and ecological upset, the shortage of housing and the desecration of the countryside are all confidently attributed to the problem of an excess of human beings. The readiness to accept the "overpopulation" argument arises from a lack of understanding of the way capitalism works.

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A Migrant’s Tale

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The Irish Times profiled Farrell and two other migrants workers who felt compelled to leave Ireland to maintain their quality of life. Holding a psychology degree from a university outside Dublin, Farrell accepted a research position in Chicago when a six-month job hunt at home produced no results. The Times described the grinding facts of his search. He was competing against hundreds of applicants even for low-paid service-industry positions.

“Unemployment and emigration are still high, yet the cost of living is going up and up. Housing costs are massive; for young people trying to rent it is almost impossible to find a place in Dublin. Third-level registration fees have gone up again this year, to €3,000. Mental-health services and community supports, which are supposed to help people who are struggling, have been cut back and not replaced or reinstated. There are so many people out there who feel trapped.” Farrell explained: “I had to support myself and couldn’t afford to work for nothing, which seemed to be the only option. I didn’t really want to leave Ireland, but I didn’t feel I had a choice.”


What the rich do with their money and power

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According to Forbes, a leading business magazine, the combined wealth of the 400 richest Americans has now reached the staggering total of $2.3 trillion.  This gives them an average net worth of $5.7 billion–an increase of 14 percent over the previous year.

Other Americans aren’t doing nearly as well.  A new report in the US medical journal JAMA Pediatric says nearly 25 percent of American children live in poverty, the highest level in 20 years. 16 million children live in poverty in America. Such high level of poverty, according to the report, has adverse health effects including “significantly higher risks of low birth weight, injuries, lower IQ, intensive care unit admissions, and infant, condition-specific, and overall mortality.” The report listed food insecurity as the second threat to the US children, with 1 out of 3 poor children relying on food stamps for nutrition. “Food insecurity is associated with deleterious consequences for children’s health, including elevated risks of suboptimal health and hospitalizations,” the report said.

 According to the Census Bureau, more than 45 million Americans are living in poverty, which it defines as under $11,490 a year for an individual and under $23,550 for a family of four.  Many of them endure lives of hunger, misery, and despair, helped along by a Congress that has slashed billions from government food stamp programs, ended extended unemployment benefits, and refused to raise the minimum wage.  According to the Federal Reserve, between 2010 and 2013 median income in the United States fell by five percent.  Indeed, since 1989, the median net worth of the statistical middle class–the middle 20 percent of Americans–has dropped by nearly 18 percent.

CEO compensation, inflation-adjusted, grew by 937 percent, while the typical worker’s compensation over that same period grew by only 10 percent.  Thus, although the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965, it stood at 296-to-1 in 2013.  The same pattern prevails when it comes to wealth.  From 1989 to 2013, the wealthiest three percent of Americans increased their share of the wealth from 44.8 percent to 54.4 percent, while the bottom 90 percent found their share of the wealth dropping from 33.2 percent to 24.7 percent.  Today, the United States has the fourth most uneven income distribution among economically developed nations.

The Walton family–owners of Wal-Mart, the country’s biggest private employer–who rank among the top 10 richest Americans, with a combined net worth of $143.7 billion.  Most of their full-time workers are paid less than $25,000 a year.  Wal-Mart’s cashiers, for example, average$8.48 an hour, and thousands of Wal-Mart workers receive no more than the minimum wage ($7.25 an hour).  These low wages keep many of the company’s workers mired in poverty and dependent upon government assistance.  Indeed, it is estimated that Wal-Mart’s low-wage workers cost American taxpayers $6.2 billion a year in public assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing. Meanwhile, the Walton Foundation in Milwaukee, the Walton Foundation funded the organizations that developed and pushed through that city’s school voucher program (contributing more than $750 million to other such efforts elsewhere.)

 Charles and David Koch, the sons of a wealthy founder of the John Birch Society, as well as the fourth and fifth richest Americans (with $84 billion).  Over the years, the Koch brothers have used their vast wealth to champion the abolition of public schools, the postal system, minimum wage laws, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.  Bankrolling a broad variety of rightwing groups and foundations, they have zealously opposed legislation providing for environmental protection, health care reform, and limits on campaign contributions.  As massive financers of rightwing election campaigns–including more than $400 million to candidates in 2011-2012 alone–they have been very effective in pulling the Republican Party and American politics rightward.

Acclaimed 'philanthropist', Bill Gates (the nation’s wealthiest individual, with $81 billion)–has spent at least $2 billion to undermine public schools by promoting charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing, and other corporate educational initiatives.  The Gates Foundation has also played a key role in creating organizations opposing teacher unions and teacher tenure.  Both  the Gates and Walton Foundations have funded the work of ALEC, the right-wing operation that has successfully promoted the passage of state laws that restrict voting rights, weaken unions, privatize education, harass immigrants, encourage “Stand Your Ground” behavior, and, of course, provide big tax cuts for the rich.

Taken from here 

No women's equality

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Average wages for women in the workplace fell by £2,700 in a year, a new report reveals.  It found that this year average earning for women in the UK had fallen from £18,000 to £15,400 while earnings for men were unchanged at £24,800.

The UK now lags behind Bulgaria and Burundi in the list of those societies where women and men have the most equitable life chances in education, work and health. The UK is ranked overall 26th in the Global Gender Gap Report and  46th for economic participation and opportunity and 32nd for educational attainment.


The ice-cold heart of the Conservatives (2)

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Lucy Hill. At the start of October, the 35-year-old mother from Kidderminster was broke. After missing an interview at the jobcentre, her disability benefits had been stopped – which left her, her partner and her toddler of 18 months without anything to live on. So she went to the local Spar and stole a chicken and some soap powder.  She was ordered to pay compensation, a fine, costs and a surcharge: a total of over £200 to be taken off someone who’d only committed a crime because she had no money.

Last week, Ian Mulholland of Darlington was in court. After having his benefits “sanctioned” and spending nine weeks with nothing to live on, the 43-year-old had stolen some meat from the local Sainsbury’s. That crime got him six weeks in prison. A theft worth £12.60 means the taxpayer will spend over two thousand pounds to keep Mulholland behind bars.

Solicitor John Rogers explains cases like this keep coming his way, he says: “They miss an appointment so their benefits are sanctioned , so they have no money, so they steal.” His local office now handles “at least half a dozen” such cases each month – up from almost nothing a year ago. He’s just one lawyer in one post-industrial town, describing a national policy: of starving the poor into committing crime. Nothing is accidental about this regime. Police from Lancashire to south London cite as one of their growing crime areas: of people stealing to eat because they can’t afford basics. The poorest are forced either to steal, or to beg from this decade’s other great phenomenon: food banks.

Mark Frankland, who runs a food bank in Dumfries noticed another trend: people who’ve had their benefits sanctioned stealing televisions or other items sufficiently expensive to guarantee they’re sent down. That way, they get up to four months in a heated cell, with three meals a day. He says: “For them, it’s ten times better than spending a hungry winter in a cold flat.”

Iain Duncan Smith has denied setting staff targets for sanctioning benefits claimants; but this paper has found evidence, not only of targets but even league tables for job centres to compete against each other in keeping claimants away from their money. Do that on a big enough scale and some are bound to choose to steal rather than starve.

Remember just a few years ago over 300 parliamentarians were found to have claimed expenses to which they weren’t entitled; hundreds of thousands handed over to some of the richest people in the country for duck houses, moat repairs and heating their stables. A mere handful were sent to prison. For others, the punishment was just a career break. David Laws, an architect of the cuts we are living through, resigned after it was discovered that he had funnelled over £40,000 of public money as rent to his landlord, who was also his lover. He was back as a minister within two years and is in charge of drafting the Lib Dem election manifesto.

Food and energy prices have been rising since the crash; real wages and benefits have been sliding. The upshot was always going to be: families in work having to go without, and much worse for those not in work.  There can be no doubt Freud and IDS and Cameron that they have engineered Britain’s crisis of hunger.  And it’s best summed up by Joseph Townsend, an 18th-century vicar – and a precursor to IDS in his plans to scrap poor relief.

“Hunger will tame the fiercest animals,” wrote Townsend in support of his welfare reforms. “It will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjection … it is only hunger which can spur and goad the poor on to labour.”


The icy-cold heart of the Conservatives (1)

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The lack of humanitarian concern of the Cameron government continues unabated. Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing. Refugee and human rights organisations reacted with anger, saying it would contribute to more people dying needlessly .

The British Refugee Council chief executive, Maurice Wren, responding to the Foreign Office refusal to take part in future search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean said: “The British government seems oblivious to the fact that the world is in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war. People fleeing atrocities will not stop coming if we stop throwing them life-rings; boarding a rickety boat in Libya will remain a seemingly rational decision if you’re running for your life and your country is in flames. The only outcome of withdrawing help will be to witness more people needlessly and shamefully dying on Europe’s doorstep. The answer isn’t to build the walls of fortress Europe higher, it’s to provide more safe and legal channels for people to access protection.”

The official Italian sea and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, is due to end this week after contributing over the past 12 months to the rescue of an estimated 150,000 people since the Lampedusa tragedies in which 500 migrants died in October 2013. The Italian operation will now end without a similar European search and rescue operation to replace it.  A limited joint EU “border protection” operation, codenamed Triton and managed by Frontex, the European border agency, is to be launched on 1 November. Crucially, it will not include search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean, just patrols within 30 miles of the Italian coast.

Tony Bunyan, director of Statewatch, which documents European justice and home affairs policies, added: “The government’s justification for not participating in Triton is cynical and an abdication of responsibility by saying that not helping to rescue people fleeing from war, persecution and poverty who are likely to perish is an acceptable way to discourage immigration.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

It isn't all a bad dream

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When it comes to inequality , the facts and statistics can seem just a blur. They require repeating over and over again until the reality sinks in.

In just three years, from 2011 to 2014, the bottom half of Americans lost almost half of their share of the nation's wealth, dropping from a 2.5% share to a 1.3% share.

Most of the top half lost ground, too. The 36 million upper middle class households just above the median (6th, 7th, and 8th deciles) dropped from a 13.4% share to an 11.9% share. Much of their portion went to the richest one percent.

This is big money. With total U.S. wealth of $84 trillion, the three-year change represents a transfer of wealth of over a trillion dollars from the bottom half of America to the richest 1%, and another trillion dollars from the upper middle class to the 1%.

The bottom half of America owned $1.5 trillion in 2011. Now their wealth is down to $1.1 trillion. Much of their wealth is in housing equity, which was depleted by the recession.

The richest Americans, on the other hand, took incomprehensible amounts of wealth from the rest of us, largely by being already rich, and by being heavily invested in the stock market. The following summary is based on the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook  figures and reliable  estimates of the makeup of the richest one percent, and on the fact that  almost all the nation's wealth is in the form of private households and business assets:

----in 3 years the average household in the top 1% (just over a million households) increased its net worth by about $4.5 million.

----In 3 years the average household in the top .1% (just over 100,000 households) increased its net worth by about $18 million.

----In 3 years the average household in the top .01% (12,000 households) increased its net worth by about $180 million.

----In 3 years the average member of the  Forbes 400 increased his/her net worth by about $2 billion

World-wide, the 1% wealth grew from $100 Trillion to $127 trillion in 3 years

A stunning 95 percent of the world's population lost a share of its wealth over the past three years. Almost all of the gain went to the world's richest 1%.

Again, the gains seem almost incomprehensible. The world's wealth grew from $224 trillion to $263 trillion in three years. The world's richest 1%, who owned a little under $100 trillion in 2011, now own almost $127 trillion. For every dollar they possessed just three years ago, they now have a dollar and a quarter.

From New York and LA and San Francisco to London and Kenya and Indonesia,  the rich are pushing suffering populations out of the way to acquire land and build luxury homes. The "winner-take-all" attitude is breaking down society in the U.S. and around the world.

Taken from here