Tuesday, November 21, 2017

WHAT'S WITH THESE POLITICIANS? (weekly poem)

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WHAT'S WITH THESE POLITICIANS?

Ex-Minister, Priti Patel, lied about her Israel visit & Bojo’s words
resulted in a woman receiving a doubled prison sentence in Iran.
Boris has a history of gaffes & being economical with the truth.

What's with these politicians who,
Insist on being chumps?
Such MP's are a motley crew,
With grey cells in their rumps.
Who clearly think they're not bound by,
The usual social rules;
And who prevaricate and lie,
And take us all for fools.

So would  you buy a used gun from,
Ex-Minister Patel?
She’d probably charge you a bomb,
For such materiel! (1)
Some say she looks quite devious,
And someone you can't trust; (2)
Too foxy and quite envious,
And with a power lust.

And Boris Johnson, Eton clot,
That would-be Churchill clone;
Who fantasises quite a lot,
And thus is blunder prone.
Does he believe, this rank poltroon,
That he’s this era’s sage?
This man who's merely a buffoon,
And hates to be backstage!

So what makes both these reprobates,
Think that they're qualified;
To regulate all of our fates,
When both of them have lied?
Most MP’s when they’ve just begun,
Claim their job’s doing good;
But they soon vote for number one,
And their own livelihood!

(1) Patel is staunchly pro-Israel and wanted Britain
to fund an Israeli Army hospital for Syrian refugees.

(2) She was a former big tobacco lobbyist who
voted against an EU tobacco control directive.

© Richard Layton

On a planetary precipice

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Every part of the planet and every person is affected by pollution which is the world’s largest killer.

everyone is affected by pollution, some are directly exposed by handling chemicals at work or by living in the 80% of cities whose air doesn’t meet UN health standards. Others are among the 3.5 billion people who rely on our polluted seas for food, or make up the 2 billion who still do not have access to clean toilets.

Nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide – or 12.6 million people a year – are due to environmental causes. “The health effects are stark, with air pollution alone killing some 6.5 million annually, affecting mostly poor and vulnerable people.”

Ecosystems are also “greatly damaged” by coastal, wastewater and soil pollution, it warns, adding that the vast majority of the world’s wastewater is released “untreated”, affecting drinking water to 300 million people.

“The only answer to the question of how we can all survive on this one planet with our health and dignity intact is to radically change the way we produce, consume and live our lives,” said on this Ligia Noronha, one of the report’s coordinators.


 UN Environment Programme warned that pledges made under the Paris Climate Change Agreement are only “a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said the UNEP chief . 
As things stand, “even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.”
The UN weather agency on the same day, 30 October 2017, warned that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), issued this alert in Geneva at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, indicating that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 parts per million in 2015.
“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas. The new figures reveal “we are not moving in the right direction at all,” he added that “in fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this all demonstrates that there is some urgent need to raise the ambition level of climate mitigation, if we are serious with this 1.5 to 2C target of Paris Agreement.”
To put that into perspective, WMO says that before the industrial era, a CO2 change of 10 parts per million took between 100 and 200 years to happen.
“What we are doing now with the atmosphere is 10 to 20 times faster than ever been observed in the history of the planet,” Tarasova said. In fact, according to the WMO’s report, which covers all atmospheric emissions, CO2 concentrations are now 145 percent of pre-industrial levels.
After carbon dioxide, the second most important greenhouse gas is methane; its levels rose last year but slightly less than in 2014. Nitrous oxide is the third most warming gas; it increased slightly less last year than over the last decade.
How many summits, reports, warnings, alerts, and scientific evidence are still needed for humans to halt this process of self-destruction? How long will it take to understand that there is an alternative economic system which can mitigate and reverse climate change?

A burning planet

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There was never any “pause” in global warming, new data shows, and the world is warming at a pace that scientists warn will be catastrophic.
Gaps in the data about the world temperature led people to believe that climate wasn't heating as much as suggested. But that was wrong and global warming is progressing far faster than would be expected, the new research suggests. That's according to scientists who returned to calculate global temperatures in the years 1998-2012. It's those years that many people claim were subject to a "global warming hiatus", where the pace of climate change appeared to slow.
But that idea was based on a mistake in the data used to calculate the temperature of the planet, the new research suggests. It builds on a range of research that shows that despite repeated claims global warming had stopped it is actually continuing at a catastrophic pace.
"We recalculated the average global temperatures from 1998-2012 and found that the rate of global warming had continued to rise at 0.112C per decade instead of slowing down to 0.05C per decade as previously thought," said Zhang who is also a professor with UAF's College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wage Theft in Australia

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A third of backpackers and a quarter of international students in Australia are being routinely ripped off by employers who are paying them $12 an hour or less, about half the minimum wage. A comprehensive survey on temporary migrant visas, by three universities in Sydney, has painted a grim picture of systemic exploitation of visitors to Australia, with some cases detailing criminal behaviour by employers such as confiscating passports or demanding part of wages back in return for keeping a job. The survey revealed the practice of wage theft was widespread and there had not been an effective response from the Australian government, unions or employer groups. The study also dispels the myth that underpayment occurs simply because temporary migrants do not know the minimum wage.

One of the report’s authors, Bassina Farbenblum, said: “We found the overwhelming majority of international students and backpackers are aware they are being underpaid. However, they believe few people on their visa expect to receive the legal minimum wage.”
The study found 86% of international students and backpackers earning up to $15 an hour believe that many, most or all other people on their visa are paid less than the basic national minimum wage. Underpayment was widespread across numerous industries but was especially prevalent in food services and especially severe in fruit and vegetable picking.
38% had their lowest-paid jobs in cafes, restaurants and takeaway shops. Almost a third of these were paid $12 an hour or less. Half were paid $15 or less. At the time of the survey, the legal minimum wage was $22.13 but often cafe workers are entitled to weekend rates that further raise their legal minimum wage.
In fruit and vegetable picking – which international backpackers must do for 88 days in a rural area order to qualify for a second-year working holiday visa – the degree of wage theft was extreme. Almost one in seven participants working in fruit and vegetable picking and farm work earned $5 an hour or less. Almost a third (31%) earned $10 or less.
The exploitation was widespread across all 107 nationalities identified in the survey but Chinese international students, who make up the bulk of international students in Australia, were particularly vulnerable to being underpaid. Some 31% were paid $12 or less. Students from other Asian countries also had high levels of underpayment. Some 27% of students or working holiday makers from the UK reported being paid $12 or less in their lowest-paid job in Australia. Among the Irish it was 25% and among Americans 20%. Students from European nations such as Germany or Italy fared even worse, with more than a third earning less than $12.
Laurie Berg, a senior law lecturer at University of Technology Sydney said the study showed conditions that might constitute criminal forced labour.
Ged Kearney, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said: “Our broken laws not only facilitate the theft of wages, they have facilitated big businesses importing what amounts to a slave labour class of workers on temporary visas. Wage theft has to stop. Workers must have quick and easy access to justice and unions which can protect their rights.”

Class apartheid

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 If you’re a resident of Knightsbridge, near Harrods, you can expect to live to 94, while a man living near Grenfell is looking at an average lifespan of 72, a figure which the report identifies as having fallen by 6 years since 2010.

Across the Kensington and Chelsea borough child poverty stands at the London average of 27%, but in the poorest areas it can reach a staggering 58%.

One street in Knightsbridge has a 0% health deprivation rating, but in a block on a council estate two miles away it’s 65%.

On the World’s End estate, residents have an average income of £15,000 a year, while owners of nearby homes on the other side of the King’s Road pull in a tidy £100,000 a year.


Councils have said the government is failing to release funds to improve the fire safety of dozens of tower blocks following the Grenfell Tower disaster despite promising that a lack of financial resources should not stand in the way of essential works.
Ministers have said building owners are responsible for funding safety measures, but town hall leaders complain that they are “washing their hands of their responsibilities” and are being “dismissive”, four months after the blaze at the Kensington tower block.
 Despite the pledge made in July by Sajid Javid, that lack of financial resources would not prevent necessary works going ahead, claims for the cost retrofitting fire suppression systems and other safety improvements on vulnerable buildings are being pushed back.
It’s evident that, as usual, the wealthy class are full of fine words in front of the media, but revert to type when they’re asked to put money where their claims of morality are.  They’re blatantly applying cost-benefit analysis to the issue and have judged that the lives of the poor are worth less than the cost of a few sprinkler heads.

Thailand's Poverty

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Thailand's Office of the National Economics and Social Development Board, indicated that the number of people below the poverty line increased by nearly 20 per cent in 2015-2016.
Some 5.81 million people lived in poverty last year, defined as having an income below 2,920 baht per month.
“From the statistics, we also found that the number of poor people is on the rise, because the daily expenses of the poor, especially food prices, are increasing. But on the other hand their income is getting lower, especially the income of poor people in the agriculture sector."  said Decharut Sukkumnoed, an economics professor at Kasetsart University. In comparison, said Decharut, statistics showed “the richest group of people in Thai society … have increasing income, especially after the coup three years ago”. He said the civil state system allowed big conglomerates, which compose the highest income group of society, to get more economic benefit than do the poor from the government’s projects intended to help the poor. The policy is giving the rich an opportunity to take advantage of the poor, he said. Decharut said that welfare does not much help the poor. 
Another academic, Surawit Wannakrairoj, a professor from Faculty of Agriculture of Kasetsart University, pointed to the civil state’s farming policy as an illustration of what is wrong. The policy intends to modernise Thailand’s agriculture and boost farmer incomes, he said. In practice, however, many policies and laws, such as the big plantation policy or Plant Varieties Protection Act, are instead helping big conglomerates in the agriculture sector to tighten their grip on farmers and force them to use only the conglomerate’s supplies.

The rich get richer

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Jeff Bezos recently became the richest person on earth.
Bezos, head of the online retail behemoth Amazon, saw his wealth jump by $10 billion in just the past month to now more than $90 billion. That’s a stunning leap. But what’s truly stunning is that Bezos and the next two wealthiest Americans, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, together now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined.
The rich are getting richer.
When Forbes first started compiling their famous list of the 400 wealthiest Americans in 1982, just $75 million would get you ranked. Even after accounting for inflation, that’s still less than $200 million in today’s dollars. These days, the price of admission is a record $2 billion — more than 10 times higher.
This group of just 400 multi-billionaires owns a combined $2.68 trillion. And it’s more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 204 million people. That’s more people than the populations of Canada and Mexico combined.
The median family owns about $80,000 in wealth, excluding durable consumer goods like cars and appliances. This figure is essentially unchanged from 1983, when the Federal Reserve first started tracking household assets using a uniform survey. In other words, despite 30 years of economic growth, the typical American family has barely seen a budge in their economic standing.
About one in five households lives in “underwater nation,” with either zero or negative wealth. That figure is even higher for black and Latino households, the result of decades of discrimination. 
Wealth is consolidating into fewer and fewer hands. 

World Children’s Day

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According to a UNICEF analysis conducted for World Children’s Day 180 million children live in 37 countries where they are more likely to live in extreme poverty, be out of school, or be killed by violent death than children living in those countries were 20 years ago.
“While the last generation has seen vast, unprecedented gains in living standards for most of the world's children, the fact that a forgotten minority of children have been excluded from this – through no fault of their own or those of their families – is a travesty” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy.
The share of people living on less than $1.90 a day has increased in 14 countries, including Benin, Cameroon, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This increase is mostly due to unrest, conflicts or poor governance. Primary school enrolment has declined in 21 countries, including Syria and Tanzania, due to such factors as financial crises, rapid population growth and the impact of conflicts. Violent deaths among children below the age of 19 have increased in seven countries: Central African Republic, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – all countries experiencing major conflicts.
“In a time of rapid technological change leading to huge gains in living standards, it is perverse that hundreds of millions are seeing living standards actually decline, creating a sense of injustice among them and failure among those entrusted with their care,” said Chandy. “No wonder they feel their voices are unheard and their futures uncertain.”
  • Half of children across all 14 countries report feeling disenfranchised when asked how they felt when decisions are made that affect children around the world.
  • Children in South Africa and the United Kingdom feel the most disenfranchised with 73 per cent and 71 per cent respectively reporting feeling that their voices are not heard at all or their opinions do not make a change anyway.
  • Children in India report feeling the most empowered with 52 per cent of children believing their voices are heard and can help their country and that their opinions can affect the future of their country.
  • Children across all 14 countries identified terrorism, poor education and poverty as the biggest issues they wanted world leaders to take action on. Across all 14 countries, violence against children was the biggest concern with 67 per cent reporting worrying a lot. Children in Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico are the most worried about violence affecting children, with 82 per cent, 77 per cent and 74 per cent respectively worrying a lot about this issue. Children in Japan are the least likely to worry, with less than a quarter of children surveyed (23 per cent) worrying a lot.
  • Children across all 14 countries are equally concerned about terrorism and poor education with 65 per cent of all children surveyed worrying a lot about these issues. Children in Turkey and Egypt are the most likely to worry about terrorism affecting them personally, at 81 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. By contrast, children in the Netherlands are the least likely to be concerned that terrorism would affect them directly, at just 30 per cent. Children in Brazil and Nigeria are the most concerned about poor quality education or lack of access, with more than 8 in 10 children worrying about this affecting children across the world.
  • Around 4 in 10 children across all 14 countries worry a lot about the unfair treatment of refugee and migrant children across the world. Children in Mexico, Brazil and Turkey are the most likely to worry about unfair treatment of refugee and migrant children across the world, with nearly 3 in 5 Mexican children expressing fear, followed by more than half of children in Brazil and Turkey. Around 55 per cent of children in Mexico are worried this will personally affect them.
  • Nearly half of children (45 per cent) across 14 countries do not trust their adults and world leaders to make good decisions for children. Brazil has the highest proportion of children (81 per cent) who do not trust leaders, followed by South Africa at 69 per cent. Children in India have the most confidence in their leaders, with only 30 per cent not trusting.
  • Barack Obama, Cristiano Ronaldo, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift are the most popular names for children to invite to their birthday party, with the former President of the United States featuring in the top five in 9 of the 14 countries. Watching TV featured as the number one hobby of choice in 7 out of 14 of the countries.

Fact of the Day

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“An estimated 36 million people in the region still live below the international poverty line, with about 90 per cent of these people living in Indonesia and the Philippines,” the ASEAN report pointed out.

“many of the working poor,” it emphasised, “remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty”

Racism and Science

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Dorothy Roberts, a professor of law and sociology, told a Cornell University talk, “Scientists invented race as an explanation for social inequality.”

 Roberts said “If you really wanna help black children in Philadelphia get a better education … don’t do research on the gray matter of their brains. Do you really think that’s gonna help these children?” Roberts added that policymakers and “extremists” have “seized” on the notion that there are “biologically-explained differences that underlie social problems” — like, for instance, the theory “that poverty reduces cognitive function in the brains of poor, black children.”

Seemingly fueled by empirical facts, systematically suppressive policies then prevail, Roberts said. “There is a whole system designed to keep black children from succeeding, again and again...What I’ve realized is it’s not so much about … thinking black children are inferior,” she said, “It’s about not wanting to confront white privilege and power.”

In this way, solutions proposed by researchers and policymakers aim toward those affected by the system — often “intervening in the behavior of … victims” or even blaming them on a biological basis, Roberts said. This approach neglects a reform of the system itself, she said. “The black baby in the womb is being harmed by structural racism … not his black mother’s ‘bad behavior’ or genes,” Roberts said.

Juan Cole on the Yemen

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Juan Cole is a highly-respected political commentator and his insights in the affairs of the world should not be ignored. These are his observations about the war in Yemen.

"The Houthi [Helpers of God] gang is also guilty of war crimes, and of severe human rights violations and cannot be held blameless in the unfolding devastation of Yemen. But the Saudi-led war and the various forms of blockade Riyadh is imposing on Yemen are far worse. The Houthis are a radical group deriving from Zaydi tribes in Saadeh and other towns in rural north Yemen, who as Shiites deeply resent Saudi proselytizing for hard-line Salafi Sunnism in Yemen. Houthi leaders have vowed to overthrow the House of Saud and have tried to imitate the rhetorical style of Hizbullah in Lebanon. However, Houthis are a local indigenous protest movement in Yemen and are not a proxy for Iran. Houthi weaponry is mostly American and Iran does not give them much money or other support. The Saudis try to blame Iran for the Houthi revolt in order to shift blame from their own aggressive policies."

* 130 children die every day in Yemen from extreme hunger and disease–one child every 18 minutes. The Saudi blockade on ports such as Hudeida will increase this death toll.
*This year, at least 50,000 children are expected to die as indirect casualties of the war (if food cannot be off-loaded at ports, and bridges are knocked out, children will die of malnutrition).
* Nearly 400,000 children will need to be treated for severe acute malnutrition in Yemen in the next twelve months. Aid organizations are being actively interfered with in this work by the Saudi blockade and bombing strikes.
* As a result of the Saudi blockade, aid organizations like Save the Children will be out of food and medicine stocks in the next two to three months.
* If left untreated some 20 to 30 percent of children with severe acute malnutrition will perish every year.
* It should be remembered that famines usually do not kill people because there is no food at all. What happens is that the food becomes too expensive for the poor to purchase. This situation now obtains in Yemen and obviously the Saudi blockade, by obese princes who are obviously getting three square meals a day, is driving up the price of food for Yemenis.
* A shocking 10,000 children are likely to die in Taiz district and another 10,000 in the Hodeidah district this year.

The Houthis took power in Sanaa in fall of 2014 and consolidated it in early 2015. By March-April, Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Bin Salman, now the crown prince, had ordered air strikes on the country that have continued to this day. These strikes have been indiscriminate, hitting schools, hospitals, apartment buildings and key civilian infrastructures like ports, bridges and roads. Any one of these strikes is a war crime. In the aggregate, they become crimes against humanity.

Israel Rejects Refugees

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Netanyahu has announced an unspecified international deal to expel some 40,000 African asylum seekers from Israel. 

The Israeli prime minister said he had reached an "international agreement" that allowed his country to deport around 40,000 African refugees. It is unclear whether the African asylum seekers would be sent back to their homelands or a third country.


 Netanyahu's Cabinet also approved plans to shut down the Holot migrant detention center in southern Israel and gave asylum seekers a three-month deadline to leave the country or face deportation.



The Israeli government says the African migrants are "infiltrators" and not genuine refugees.
"The infiltrators will have the option to be imprisoned or leave the country," Israel's Public Security Ministry said.
"Instead of turning away refugees within its territory, Israel can and should protect asylum seekers like other countries of the world, instead of imprisoning them or deporting them to continue the journey as refugees," a coalition of human rights organizations in Israel said. They say that refugees from Sudan and Eritrea cannot return to their "dangerous" homelands.

Nationalism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism are widespread ideologies. People think it's perfectly okay for people belonging to minority groups to be abused, threatened and excluded – but only as long as they don't happen to be part of that minority themselves.

"All people are foreigners, almost everywhere.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

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"There are no unemployed people." Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond

In fact, there are about 1.42 million unemployed people in the UK and many more who are underemployed and would like more hours.



He who pays the piper, calls the tune

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A few days ago, at the Bonn COP23, Claire Perry, the climate change minister, told the summit: “we are taking our commitments under the Paris agreement very seriously and we are taking action.”

But as we on this blog have always said, capitalism is pro-environment as long as it doesn't interfere with business.

Greg Hands, the UK’s trade minister, successfully lobbied Brazil on behalf of BP and Shell to address the oil giants’ concerns over Brazilian taxation, environmental regulation and rules on using local firms. Hands met with Paulo Pedrosa, Brazilian deputy minister for mines and energy, and “directly” raised the concerns of UK-based oil firms Shell, BP and Premier Oil over “taxation and environmental licensing”. Pedrosa said he was pressing his counterparts in the Brazilian government on the issues. The lobbying drive appears to have borne fruit. In August, Brazil proposed a multibillion-dollar tax relief plan for offshore drilling, and in October BP and Shell won the bulk of deep-water drilling licenses in a government auction.

The document also reveals that the UK pressured Brazil to relax its requirements for oil and gas operators to use a certain amount of Brazilian staff and supply chain companies. British diplomats described the weakening of the so-called local content requirements as a “principal objective” because BP, Shell and Premier Oil would be “direct British beneficiaries” of the changes. The UK’s drive to soften the requirements continued on the day after the meeting between Hands and Pedrosa, with a senior DIT official leading a seminar on the subject at the headquarters of Brazil’s oil and gas regulator.
Rebecca Newsom, senior political adviser at Greenpeace, said: “This is a double embarrassment for the UK government. Liam Fox’s trade minister has been lobbying the Brazilian government over a huge oil project that would undermine the climate efforts Britain made at the UN summit in Bonn. “If that wasn’t bad enough, Fox’s department  [for International Trade (DIT)]  tried to cover it up and hide its actions from the public, but failed comically.”


Solidarity

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that El Salvador should apply a moratorium on laws that punish women with harsh jail terms for having an abortion while it reviews cases of those already incarcerated. Women are being imprisoned for the crime of "aggravated homicide" due to what he described as obstetric emergencies.

"I am appalled that as a result of El Salvador's absolute prohibition on abortion, women are being punished for apparent miscarriages and other obstetric emergencies, accused and convicted of having induced termination of pregnancy," he said.

Since 1997, the Central American country has had one of the most severe laws targeting women and people who assist with abortions.  The local Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion puts at 27 cases in which exclusively poor women have been sentenced to jail terms of six to 35 years.

World Toilet Day

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 Arne Panesar, who heads the department for sustainable sanitary provisions at the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) explained:
 "The mayor of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, for instance, said that now only 1 percent of the city's 16 million inhabitants are without toilets." But if you look at where the waste goes, things are not as rosy as the mayor paints them. Of those 16 million people, only 1 or 2 percent have securely managed sanitary provisions. That means that waste ends up in containers where it cannot be treated. The other 98 percent simply flows out of the system. Thus, human waste is simply spilled out into the street in some neighborhoods, or into streams in others. That, of course, does not aid the health of the population.

"Six in 10 people around the world live without sustainable sanitary systems,” Panesar said. "That means roughly 4.5 billion people. Furthermore, 2.1 billion have no access to safe drinking water.”

Almost 1,000 children die preventable deaths each day. Many parasites and diseases such as cholera, typhus and polio are able to spread unimpeded because of a lack of secure sanitation systems. Beyond India, a number of African countries also have problems providing citizens with sanitation systems.

McDonalds Resistance

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Strike action at McDonald’s is to spread to outlets across the country in the coming months, following the lead of workers at two restaurants in the south of England.
Dossiers on claims made by staff, ranging from the company’s alleged failure to provide protective equipment for workers using grills to allegations about management mishandling sexual assault claims, are being compiled by trade unionists. 
“We are looking at moving [the strikes] right across the country so we are planning very carefully how that will be done and how workers can take part,” said Ian Hodson, national president of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union, one of Britain’s oldest trade unions.
Branches in the north-east and north-west of England, Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales are expected to be involved in the next stage of attempts to build up a union structure at the company. About 40 staff went on strike in September at two restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, south-east London, after a ballot in favour of industrial action amid concerns over low wages and the use of zero-hours contracts.
The fast-food chain has been one of the biggest users of zero-hours contracts in Britain.

Cambodia becomes a Dictatorship

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Cambodians thought that their country would slowly become more democratic. But that hope was buried.  The Cambodian Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP (Cambodia National Rescue Party) ahead of the elections in 2018. Only the CNRP could have competed with the CPP (Cambodian People’s Party), which has been in power for more than three decades. The CPP knows it can’t survive a new popularity test. The CNRP almost won the elections of 2013. It made more progress with the local elections in June. It’s evident to prevent a defeat, it has started the final assault on the opposition. The CNRP is now dissolved and the party’s president Kem Sokha is in prison. Half of the 55 members of parliament have fled the country. Human rights groups condemned the dissolution of the CNRP and asked the West to act. “The international community cannot stand idly, it must send a strong signal that this crackdown is unacceptable,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

 Hun Sen is the world’s longest-serving prime minister. “I could easily continue for another 10 years,” the 65-year-old Hun Sen told reporters.

Nobody dares protest since the government stepped up the crackdown on democracy. Kem Ley, a popular journalist and a government critic has been murdered. The gunman is behind bars. “That’s not the real killer,” Phauk Se, his mother, says in a timid voice. “If the government really wanted, they would have found the real culprit.”

No Cambodian believes that the killer acted alone. But nobody dares to express their suspicion. “Who has the real power? There is only one party who can organize such a murder,” says Kem Rithisith, the brother of Kem Ley, without naming it. “There was a second finger on the trigger, and everyone knows whose finger that was.”

at the market of Takeo, Kem Ley's hometown, a woman says “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We want change.” 


Mu Sochua the vice-president of the CNRP,  fled Cambodia after she was tipped off about her impending arrest.
“The dissolution of the CNRP is a big miscalculation of Hun Sen. The discontent will only continue to rise. Until now the CNRP has channeled this peacefully. But soon people might take their anger to the streets.” She continued, It needs only one spark to start violent protests, like Tunisia and the Arab Spring. I’m very afraid of violence. Hun Sen will do anything to stay in power. If people would dare to protest, the tanks will be waiting. Blood on the streets is not a victory for democracy. It’s a return to the dark ages. We want people to stay hopeful. The CNRP is more than a party. We don’t care about the political game. We want democracy in Cambodia, that’s our real job.”
 Lawmaker Kimsour says "The CPP is afraid – of losing power. We are witnessing the death of democracy in Cambodia. Hun Sen is showing his true face. He is a dictator now. We are counting on the West. Only economic sanctions can help us.
The Cambodian economy strongly depends on tourism and the garment industry. If the factories stop producing, 700,000 workers will lose their jobs. Hun Sun would have a major crisis on his hands. China has proved in recent years that it has the will and the money to back up Phnom Penh. 
“But that’s not guaranteed,” says Ou Chanrath, who lost his job as a lawmaker because of the courts decree. “The Chinese are still dependent on the West. The garment factories are Chinese, but the exports go to the West. When sanctions hit Cambodia, they will pack their bags.”

'REMEMBERING WHAT? ( London public meeting 21/11)

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'REMEMBERING WHAT? - Reflections on
Remembrance Day'

Tuesday, 21 November - 8:00pm

Venue: Committee Room,
 Chiswick Town Hall,
 Heathfield Terrace
London W4 4JN
Speaker: John Critchfield

Child Labour

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The 4th Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate. Children were notably absent from the event. Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, said representatives. Unless something changes, the goal set by the international community, that child labour in all its forms is to be eradicated by 2025, will not be met.

The conference recognised that child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture and is growing. While the general numbers for child labour dwindled from 162 million to 152 million since 2013, in rural areas the number grew: from 98 to 108 million. 71 percent of child labour is concentrated in agriculture, and 42 percent of that work is hazardous and is carried out in informal and family enterprises.

Bernd Seiffert, focal point on child labour, gender, equity and rural employment at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) explained, “We heard a lot in this conference about the role played by child labour in global supply chains. But the majority of boys and girls work for the local value chains, in the production of food.”

2014 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi said “We know that children are used because they are the cheapest labour force. But I ask how much longer we are going to keep coming to these conferences to go over the same things again. The next meeting should be held only if it is to celebrate achievements,” he said.

“We understand that children who work have no other option and that we should not criminalise but protect them and make sure that the conditions in which they perform tasks do not put them at risk or prevent their education,” said Anne Jacob, of the Germany-based Kindernothilfe, “it is outrageous that the problem of child labour should be addressed without listening to children. After talking with them, we understood that there is no global solution to this issue, but that the structural causes can only be resolved locally, depending on the economic, cultural and social circumstances of each place.”

Virginia Gamba, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that “modern armed conflicts use children as if they were disposable materials. Children are no longer in the periphery of conflicts but at the centre.”


Saturday, November 18, 2017

American Working Conditions

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A Gallup report from 2014 estimated that the average full-time worker in the United States works 47 hours a week, one of the highest figures in the world, and significantly higher than the rates in Western Europe.  In practice, employees in some countries, like Germany and Sweden, work closer to 35 hours a week.

Vacation time varies from country to country, but Americans seem to get the short end of the stick, with most companies offering around two weeks of paid leave a year. In Sweden workers get five weeks of paid vacation a year. And what little vacation time Americans do receive, they don't always take advantage of. The average US employee who receives paid vacation only actually takes 54% of the allotted time each year. 
The United States doesn't guarantee any paid leave to new parents, instead leaving it up to individual employers. The result is new parents take far less time off after having a child than other parents around the world. In Finland, for example, expecting mothers can start their leave seven weeks before having a child, and can continue for 16 weeks after the birth. Men in Finland are offered eight weeks of paid leave.
Americans have a reputation for being chained to their desks. A 2015 survey found that only one in five Americans actually spends their lunch break away from their desks, with most eating their midday meal while they continue to work. 
On top of that, millions of Americans are skipping lunch altogether to continue working. Meanwhile, in France, Spain, Greece, and other countries, lunch breaks can last an hour or more -- and rarely take place within the office.
Even outside of lunchtime hours, American workers rarely step outside for a break. In Sweden, workers often enjoy a daily breather called fika -- an extended coffee break during which employees can gather and socialize. Many offices offer two breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
One of the worst American work practices is the tendency to send and answer emails after work hours have ended.  France took extreme measures, enacting a measure earlier this year that allows employees to ignore work-related emails sent after working hours. The same goes for weekend emails.