Friday, November 27, 2020

Imagine Online

The Autumn issue of Imagine is now online. 

Imagine is the journal of the Socialist Party of Canada.

It has articles on the pandemic, the ‘debt bomb,’ indigenous peoples and the environment, hydro power, the history of radical publishing, alternative communities, Black Loyalists, religion — all interspersed with pictures and poetry.

The Grenfell Fraud that Murdered 72

 Deborah Berger, a product manager at Celotex, told the Grenfell public inquiry that almost three years before the 2017 disaster, colleagues alerted her that a safety test had been rigged with fire-retardant panels to boost the insulation’s fire performance, but the modifications were left out of marketing literature used by architects and specifiers.

She was so alarmed that she noted “WTF?” next to a photograph of the test rig where she saw that fire-resistant magnesium oxide panels had been fitted. 

She said: “I didn’t think Celotex would do that. I thought Celotex was a good company that prided itself on doing the right thing, on being honest. I was really shocked by this. It appeared to me Celotex had taken some materials and installed them to pass the test.”

Berger was the latest witness to give evidence from Celotex. She said what had been done with the test was “like a secret, something we didn’t talk about”, adding: “I wish we had...Things were shared with me about the testing of the product and then when I tried to be honest and open about it and talk to people about it, it didn’t go very far.”

Celotex executive wrote 'WTF?' on fire test report, Grenfell inquiry hears | Grenfell Tower inquiry | The Guardian

Amazon is Anti-Union

 Amazon's war against the unions has once more been exposed.  Internal Amazon reports written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company's security division reveal in stark detail the company's obsessive monitoring of organized labor.

The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. 

They also indicate, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton well known for its union-busting activities—to spy and gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

The security division's team members around the world receive updates on labor organizing activities at warehouses that include the exact date, time, location, the source who reported the action, the number of participants at an event (and in some cases a turnout rate of those expected to participate in a labor action), and a description of what happened, such as a "strike" or "the distribution of leaflets." Other documents reveal that Amazon intelligence analysts keep close tabs on how many warehouse workers attend union meetings; specific worker dissatisfactions with warehouse conditions, such as excessive workloads,

Amazon intelligence analysts gather information on labor organizing and social movements to prevent any disruptions to order fulfillment operations. The new intelligence reports reveal in detail how Amazon uses social media to track environmental activism and social movements in Europe—including Greenpeace and Fridays For Future, environmental activist Greta Thunberg's global climate strike movement—and perceives such groups as a threat to its operations. 

In 2019, Amazon monitored the Yellow Vests movement, also known as the gilet jaunes, a grassroots uprising for economic justice that spread across France—and solidarity movements in Vienna and protests against state repression in Iran. 

"It’s not enough for Amazon to abuse its dominant market power and face antitrust charges by the EU; now they are exporting 19th century American union-busting tactics to Europe," Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, a global federation of trade unions that represents more than 20 million workers, told Motherboard. "This is a company that is ignoring the law, spying on workers, and using every page of the U.S. union-busting playbook to silence workers' voices." She continued, "For years people have been comparing Big Tech bosses to 19th century robber barons. And now by using the Pinkertons to do his dirty work, Bezos is making that connection even clearer."

Secret Amazon Reports Expose Company Spying on Labor, Environmental Groups (vice.com)

Solidarity

  


Over 250 million workers participated in the strike, called by 10 central trade unions and hundreds of worker associations and federations.

Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana witnessed a complete shutdown while normal life was partially affected in several other states as workers struck work and took to the streets, protesting against the “anti-worker” and pro-corporate policies and labour laws as well as the new farm laws brought in by the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata party government.

250 Million Workers And Farmers Strike Nationwide In India | Countercurrents

The Thanksgiving Dinner


Having turkey? Four companies process over half of U.S. turkeys.

Having ham? Just three companies control 63% of pork processing

Bread with that? Two companies process half of U.S. wheat.

Wine to go with the meal? The top four winemakers control one-third of the U.S. Market, with E & J Gallo controlling over one quarter of the market alone.

The farmer who raised the turkey or who grew the wheat received only 15 cents of each dollar spent at the store. 

Over the past two decades, farmers’ share of beef sales declined 8 percent, while the cost of ground beef surged 70 percent. 

Instead of reaching farmers, the profits are lining the pockets of the handful of corporations.

The farmers who grow our food are literally going into debt to do so. The 2020 net farm income estimate was negative $1,840 — and this was before the COVID pandemic significantly disrupted corporate supply chains, forcing many farmers to cull animals or plow crops under because of a lack of processing capacity.

10,000 farms are going out of business each year.

The food chain workers, from the farmworkers who pick produce to the workers in slaughterhouses across the country, risk their lives due to the COVID pandemic, forced to continue working despite enormous risk due to fear of losing their jobs, of company retaliation, or due to a lack of paid sick leave.

 The food system has been shaped by corporations’ power and influence and the elected officials who do their bidding.

Build a better future: We need to build a better food and farm system — one that works for all of us.

As We're Giving Thanks, Let's Resolve to Change Our Food System for the Better | Common Dreams Views

The seeds of socialism


The Billionaire Bonanza

 


  • Elon Musk’s wealth grew over $100 billion since the start of the pandemic, from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $126 billion on November 24, an increase of 413%, boosted by his Tesla stock. His wealth now surpasses Bill Gates of Microsoft
  • Jeff Bezos’s wealth grew almost $70 billion from $113 billion on March 18 to $182.4 billion.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by over $37 billion, from $6.5 billion in March to $43.9 billion on November 24, 2020, an increase of 575 percent.
 All privately held wealth in the U.S., estimated at $112 trillion. 

The distribution of $112 trillion in total private wealth is this: 
The top 1% has $34.23 trillion
The top 90-99% have 43.09 trillion 
The 50-90% have $32.65 trillion
 and, lastly the bottom half of the population have $2.08 trillion.

The almost $4 trillion owned by U.S. billionaires is about 3.5 percent of all privately held wealth in the U.S.. 
Billionaire wealth is twice the amount of wealth held by the bottom 50 percent of households combined, roughly 160 million people.



Class war on children

 The renown political journalist, John Pilger, has published an article drawing attention to his latest documentary focused upon Britain's impoverished children and in it he recognises that the key factor is class.

Pilger first reported on child poverty in Britain in 1975.

"...What has changed 45 years later?  At least one member of an impoverished family is likely to have a job — a job that denies them a living wage. Incredibly, although poverty is more disguised, countless British children still go to bed hungry and are ruthlessly denied opportunities..

What has not changed is that poverty is the result of a disease that is still virulent yet rarely spoken about – class.

Study after study shows that the people who suffer and die early from the diseases of poverty brought on by a poor diet, sub-standard housing and the priorities of the political elite and its hostile “welfare” officials — are working people. In 2020, one in three preschool British children suffers like this..."

Pilger points out that:

  "...the Children’s Commissioner has confirmed more than 600,000 children have fallen into poverty since 2012; the total is expected to exceed 5 million. This, few dare say, is a class war on children..."

Pilger concludes his article by saying:

"...the prime minister and his “elite” showed where their priorities lay. In the face of the greatest health crisis in living memory when Britain has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe and poverty is accelerating as the result of a punitive “austerity” policy, he announced £16.5 billion for “defence”. This makes Britain, whose military bases cover the world, the highest military spender in Europe. 

And the enemy? The real one is poverty and those who impose it and perpetuate it."

John Pilger: Britain’s Class War on Children – Consortiumnews

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Water...cool clear water

 On a planet of rivers, lakes, seas and oceans Water shortages are now affecting more than 3 billion people around the world, as the amount of fresh water available for each person has plunged by a fifth over two decades.

About 1.5 billion people are suffering severe water scarcity or even drought, as a combination of climate breakdown, rising demand and poor management has made agriculture increasingly difficult across swathes of the globe.

 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in areas where severe drought has catastrophic effects on cropland and pastureland once every three years. 

More than a 10th of the world’s rainfed cropland is subject to frequent drought, as is about 14% of the world’s pastureland.

The UN warned on Thursday that billions of people would face hunger and widespread chronic food shortages as a result of failures to conserve water resources, and to tackle the climate crisis.

Qu Dongyu, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said: “We must take very seriously both water scarcity (the imbalance between supply and demand for freshwater resources) and water shortages (reflected in inadequate rainfall patterns) for they are now the reality we all live with … Water shortages and scarcity in agriculture must be addressed immediately and boldly.”

Food production must change in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and try to stave off climate breakdown, but even this is not straightforward, the FAO warned. 

“As the world aims to shift to healthy diets – often composed of relatively water-intensive foods, such as legumes, nuts, poultry and dairy products – the sustainable use of water resources will be ever more crucial,” said Qu, former vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs in China. “Rainfed agriculture provides the largest share of global food production. However, for it to continue to do so, we must improve how we manage water resources from limited rainfall.”

Rainfed agriculture represents 60% of global crop production, and 80% of land under cultivation, with the rest benefiting from irrigation. However, irrigation is no panacea: more than 60% of irrigated cropland around the world is highly water stressed. 

Irrigation of the wrong type can waste water, depleting non-renewable resources such as underground aquifers, and poor management can result in some farmers losing out on water resources – for instance, in the case of downstream farms, if rivers and waterways are run dry by upstream irrigation. Small-scale and farmer-led irrigation systems are often more efficient than large-scale projects, the report found. Large-scale state-funded schemes in Asia, for instance, have relied on tapping directly into groundwater, putting excessive pressure on that resource. But small-scale farmers around the world face extra difficulties, such as a lack of secure tenure over water rights, and little access to finance and credit.

More than 3 billion people affected by water shortages, data shows | Water | The Guardian



Saving Capitalism

 


The Covid-19 crisis is on track to cut average pay packets by £1,200 a year by 2025, according to new analysis from the Resolution Foundation.

The economic downturn will continue to squeeze living standards in Britain warned the foundation. Its new research says that "the combined effects of weaker pay growth and higher unemployment will serve to prolong Britain's living standards squeeze".

"The Covid crisis is causing immense damage to the public finances, and permanent damage to family finances too, with pay packets on track to be £1,200 a year lower than pre-pandemic expectations," warned Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. "The pandemic is just the latest of three 'once in a lifetime' economic shocks the UK experienced in a little over a decade, following the financial crisis and Brexit," he added. "The result is an unprecedented 15-year living standards squeeze."


Its analysis shows household incomes have been growing at a slower pace even before the pandemic. They are on course to grow just 10% during the 15 years from the start of the 2008 global financial crisis until 2023. But household incomes grew by a much higher 40% in the 15 years leading up to the financial crisis. Further pressure will come next April, when about six million households will lose more than £1,000 through reduced Universal Credit payments.


Covid crisis could 'cut pay by £1,200 a year by 2025' - BBC News

The Billionaire Thanksgiving

 

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) think tank has revealed that America's 650 billionaires since March surged $1 trillion amid Tuesday's record-breaking day on Wall Street. As the Dow Jones crossed the record-breaking 30,000 mark, the combined wealth of the nation's 650 billionaires neared $4 trillion. 

 Meanwhile reports show that 26 million Americans are experiencing hunger. 

"The increases in billionaire wealth continue to defy gravity in the real economy where millions have lost their jobs, health, and livelihoods," said Chuck Collins from IPS in a statement. 

The $1 trillion growth in U.S. billionaire net worth since March represents an increase of more than one-third. Collins noted that 29 billionaires have seen their wealth double since the pandemic began, and the combined wealth of this super-rich class is now "twice the amount of wealth held by the bottom 50% of households combined, roughly 160 million people."

Collins warned that "we're at risk of the oligarchic death spiral," wherein "wealth concentrates and power concentrates, and the wealthy use their power to rig the rules to get more wealth and power."

 Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' wealth increased by nearly $70 billion over the past eight months, growing from $113 billion to more than $182 billion.  Meanwhile, the Bezos-owned Washington Post on Wednesday published a harrowing photo essay documenting the worsening hunger crisis in the U.S., where "26 million now say they don't have enough to eat, as the pandemic worsens and holidays near."

The yawning chasm between the super-rich haves and the struggling have-nots is not a coincidence.  Working-class immiseration is NOT an aberration but rather a feature of the concentration of wealth and power that characterizes capitalist class rule. 

There is no "equal sacrifice" in this pandemic. The ultra-wealthy continue to win. The impending expiration of federal unemployment benefits threatens further financial hardship for an estimated 12 million Americans the day after Christmas, and the end of the national eviction moratorium and student loan forbearance is also looming.  

"The ultra-wealthy continue to win," IPS tweeted, while Collins said that "it's going to be a billionaire Thanksgiving."

Stock Market Soars and Billionaire Wealth Swells by $1 Trillion as Food Lines Stretch 'As Far As the Eye Can See' | Common Dreams News



Land Inequality

 


The wealthiest 10 per cent of rural populations control 60 per cent of the value of agricultural land, while the poorest half only have 3 per cent, according to the data that did not include corporate ownership.

"Growing inequality is the greatest obstacle to poverty eradication - in countries like Guatemala, extreme inequality costs lives," Ana Maria Mendez, Oxfam's Guatemala director, said in a statement. "As we confront the coronavirus pandemic and catastrophic hurricanes fuelled by climate change, the impact of land inequality is even more stark," she added. The widening gap in ownership and access to land especially hurts small and marginal farmers, women, and indigenous and rural communities, according to a report by the International Land Coalition (ILC) and anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

While rural and indigenous communities are being squeezed into smaller parcels of land or uprooted entirely, land is increasingly concentrated in fewer hands, mainly those of large agriculture businesses and investors, the research showed.

"As corporate and financial investments grow, ownership and control of land becomes more concentrated and increasingly opaque," said Ward Anseeuw, an analyst at ILC and co-author of the report.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Militarism of the UK

 


Globally, the UK military has a presence in 145 sites in 42 countries.  

Phil Miller’s overview of Britain’s military footprint for Declassified UK shows, “...the UK has the second largest military network in the world, after the United States.”

The UK military, for instance, has a presence in five countries in the Asia-Pacific: naval facilities in Singapore; garrisons in Brunei, drone testing facilities in Australia; three facilities in Nepal; a quick reaction force in Afghanistan.  The head of the British Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, spoke in September about there being “a market for a more persistent presence from the British Army (in Asia).  It’s an area that saw a much more consistent Army presence in the Eighties, but with 9/11 we naturally receded from it.”  The time had come “to redress that imbalance”.

Cyprus remains a favourite with 17 military installations.  

In Africa, British personnel can be found in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mali.  

Then come the ever dubious ties to Arab monarchies. On September 12, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that a further £23.8 million would go to enhancing the British Joint Logistics Support Base at Duqm port, thereby tripling “the size of the existing UK base and help facilitate Royal Navy deployments to the Indian Ocean”.  T

 The UK has never had a problem with authoritarians it can work with.  A closer look at such relations usually reveal the same ingredients: capital, commerce, perceptions of military necessity. 

Over the next four years, the UK military can expect to get an extra £16.5 billion – a 10% increase in funding.

 “I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end, and ends now,” declared Johnson. 

Keeping the Empire Running: Britain's Global Military Footprint | Dissident Voice

Tesco Targets Romanians as Thieves

 Tesco has drawn accusations of racial profiling and fuelling discrimination after displaying anti-shoplifting signs in Romanian.  The posters singled out Romanians and were evidence of a prejudicial attitude towards the diaspora.

“Hoții din magazine prinși for fi urmăriți penal” (Shoplifters caught will be prosecuted) said the posters, which were placed along aisles with expensive items, such as alcohol.

“Tesco has used a heavy-handed and discriminatory approach that not only will not discourage shoplifters but also offend the majority of law-abiding and well-integrated Romanians living in the UK,” Alexandra Bulat, the chair of Young Europeans, “Many of them will be customers of the chain – I am one of them. EU citizens living in the UK are no more likely to commit a crime than British citizens.”

 The Romanian daily newspaper Libertatea, said: “The idea that ‘the Romanian is a thief’ is programmatically induced in the masses. That is, to be Romanian means to be a criminal. This phenomenon is a very serious matter. Terrible violence has taken place in history around these phenomena.”

Romanians in the UK have often been stereotyped and baselessly maligned by the far right as taking employment opportunities from the British people. Romanians are the second-biggest immigrant community in the UK, with many working long hours in British supermarkets, farms and hotels.

Tesco accused of racism with Romanian anti-shoplifting posters | Romania | Al Jazeera

The Gaza Ghetto

 The UN’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  called for an immediate stop to the continuing siege that has caused a near-collapse of economic activities in Gaza and a poverty rate of 56 percent.

“This unfair blockade in which two million Palestinians are kept inside Gaza should be lifted immediately. They should be allowed to move freely, do business, trade with the outside world and reconnect with their families outside of the Strip,”  Mahmoud Elkhafif, coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian People of UNCTAD, said. “The situation is going to get worse if the blockade continues.”

“Unless Palestinians in the Strip get access to the outside world, it is difficult to see anything but underdevelopment being the fate of the Gaza Palestinian society,” said  Richard Kozul-Wright, director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies at UNCTAD. “It is really shocking that in the 21st century, two million people can be left in that kind of condition.”

The isolation of the Strip has not prevented the coronavirus pandemic from reaching Gaza, worsening an already critical situation. As of Monday, 14,768 people had contracted COVID-19, with 65 deaths. Health authorities in Gaza warned of an imminent catastrophe if Israel continued to block humanitarian access as well as the entry of necessary health equipment and medical supplies. Hospitals and healthcare staff are in need of protective clothing, ventilators and beds.

“The health crisis is exposing the underlying conditions that have been worsening over a decade,” said Kozul-Wright.

Over 1m Palestinians under poverty line in besieged Gaza: UN | Palestine | Al Jazeera

Austerity Returns (had it ever gone away?)

 


With every crisis within capitalism the price of it is paid by the workers in some way or other. With the COVID-19 pandemic while the pharmaceutical industries and the online home-delivery businesses and the booming stock-market look to the future with optimism, ordinary workers can expect more austerity cuts.

Millions public sector workers are to have their pay frozen. “This is austerity plain and simple,” said Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the public sector union. 


“For all the government’s talk of levelling up, this spending review will level down Britain, hitting key workers’ pay and breaking the government’s promises to the lowest paid,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary.

Many retired workers will now see their future pensions reduced. A personal finance analyst at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “This is a horrible blow for pensioners, who will pay the lion’s share of the eye-watering cost of this move.”

Ignoring the increased plight of those in developing and undeveloped countries, the UK is to cut the amount given to foreign aid. Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative international development secretary, said the aid cuts “will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths."

Being Hungry in the USA

 Hunger is not new in America. Even before the pandemic, 35 million people relied on food banks every year, according to Feeding America. But the pandemic has been catastrophic – despite initial lauded federal interventions such as the stimulus cheques and enhanced unemployment benefit. As many as 54 million people could experience hunger this year, including a quarter of all children.

Millions of Americans must rely on charity to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table this year, as hunger surges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

 Less than half of US households with children feel “very confident” about having enough money to afford the food needed over the next month. 

 5.6m households struggled to put enough food on the table in the past week.

Families of color are suffering disproportionately with 27% of Black and 23% of Latino respondents with children reported not having enough to eat sometimes or often over the past week – compared with 12% of white people.

Overall food insecurity has doubled since last year due to record unemployment and underemployment rates. For families with children, hunger is three times higher than in 2019.

“We’re now seeing families who had an emergency fund but it’s gone and they’re at the end of their rope. We’re going to be doing this for a really long time, and that’s frankly terrifying given the impact hunger has on physical health, learning and development for children and parents’ stress,” said Kristin Warzocha, president of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

 “Hunger isn’t hidden anymore,” said Trisha Cunningham, CEO of the North Texas Food Bank. “If it isn’t you, then this is your neighbor, this is your child’s classmate, this is your hairdresser.”

According to the Lakeview pantry CEO Kellie O’Connell. “The pandemic has brought to light how normal wasn’t working for so many people, especially black and brown communities.”

'No end in sight': hunger surges in America amid a spiraling pandemic | Food | The Guardian

More on Food

 Even before the pandemic surfaced nearly a year ago, an estimated 690 million people around the world were undernourished, 144 million or 21 per cent of children under five-years-old were stunted, and about 57 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia could not afford a healthy diet. The COVID-19 pandemic may add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world this year alone, depending on the scale of the economic slowdown, according to preliminary assessments.

Yet we do produce enough food for the world’s 7.8 billion people. It’s our food systems that are broken. Hunger is rising even as the world wastes and loses more than one billion tonnes of food every year.

Our food choices matter not just for health and social justice, but also for their impact on the climate and bio-diversity.  The current food system responsible for around 21 to 37 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Africa is a huge net importer of food but 75 per cent of crops grown in sub-Saharan Africa are produced by smallholder farms, with family farms estimated to number over 100 million. Women do the bulk of weeding work while three-quarters of children aged 5 to 14 are forced to leave school and do farm labour at peak times.

Post: Edit (blogger.com)

The Law Flouting the Law

 The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)  has a legal duty to review government policies to ensure they are not racially discriminatory, and that they comply with equalities legislation.

In its latest damning report EHRC concluded that the Home Office broke equalities law when it introduced its hostile environment immigration measures.  The EHRC study detected “a lack of commitment” within the Home Office to the importance of equality.

Negative consequences of the hostile environment were “repeatedly ignored, dismissed, or their severity disregarded”, the report found. “This happened particularly when they were seen as a barrier to implementing hostile environment policies in a highly politicised environment.” The department’s approach to its legal duty to ensure that its policies complied with equality legalisation was “perfunctory”, half-hearted, in other words.

It found that officials failed to appreciate the severity of the negative impacts of its policy on this group of people. Even when the damaging consequences of the hostile environment policies began to emerge, the department failed to engage with representatives of the Windrush generation. 

The report found “there was a narrow focus on delivering the political commitment of reducing immigration, and a culture where equality was not seen as important. Identifying risks to equality was therefore not encouraged.” The EHRC detected an organisation-wide “lack of commitment, including by senior leadership, to the importance of equality and the Home Office’s obligations under the public sector equality duty. There was a misconception by some officials that immigration was exempt from all equalities legislation.”  

A series of hostile environment policies were introduced by Theresa May from 2012 during a drive to bring down net migration; the measures made it harder for people without documentation proving their right to be in the UK to get jobs, rent properties, access healthcare and open bank accounts. Large numbers of people who had the right to live in the UK, but no documentation, were adversely affected by the policies.  It was very politically charged environment; there was a very clear direction to reduce immigration. The Home Office did not comply with its obligations under the public sector equality policy.

Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said campaigners had repeatedly warned the Home Office that hostile environment policies would lead to serious discrimination.

“Successive home secretaries ignored these warnings. Today’s landmark EHRC report confirms that this was not only dangerous, it was unlawful. The Home Office has for too long cared more about its reputation and its political objectives than the real-life consequences of its decisions on individuals.”

Halima Begum, director of the Runnymede Trust, said: “This latest report is yet more evidence of the discriminatory nature of the government’s hostile environment. The report’s findings are nothing short of a national scandal.”

A September 2020 IPPR research paper reported “hostile environment” policy has fostered racism, pushed people into destitution and wrongly targeted people who are living in the UK legally. The measures also failed to achieve their key objective of increasing the numbers of people choosing voluntarily to leave the UK.

An independent review into the causes of the Windrush scandal found that he Home Office demonstrated an “ignorance and thoughtlessness” towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation consistent with elements of the institutional racism. Warnings were repeatedly ignored. The scandal was “foreseeable and avoidable”, and came about in part because of “officials’ poor understanding of Britain’s colonial history”.

Back in March 2019, a public accounts committee report, said the Home Office made life-changing decisions based on incorrect data and remains complacent about its systemic and cultural problems and that it  displayed a lack of concern for the impacts of its immigration policies on people without documents.

Even earlier, the National Audit Office in December 2018 criticised officials for poor-quality data that wrongly classified people as illegal immigrants, the risky use of deportation targets, poor value for money offered by hostile environment policies, failure to respond to numerous warnings that the policies would hurt people living in the UK legally. While in July of that year, the home affairs committee said that “Windrush generation” have been treated as if they were in the country illegally despite being lawfully resident for many decades. People have lost their homes and their jobs and been refused healthcare, pensions and access to social security. And a month previous the Joint Committee on Human Rights took the view that there was in all likelihood a systemic failure.

Home Office broke equalities law with hostile environment measures | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian


The Vaccine Race

 Several drug-makers now optimistically forecast that they can put into production an effective vaccine for COVID-19 and they stand to make enormous profits. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has already caused at least 1.33 million deaths around the world, means massive profits for Big Pharma. 

While all these individual companies across the world scrambled to develop a vaccine, one would think these companies and governments would have been able to come together to coordinate and pool their research to stem the spread of a virus that threatens us all. Not so.  Nations treated the development of the vaccine as a race, competing to win and accrue all the lucrative rewards of being first. All the scientific efforts and experiments were done in an uncollaborative manner. What mattered first and foremost to the pharmaceutical corporations was the effect on the value of their shares.

 In many countries scientific research receives state funding, but the resulting profits end up in private hands. The Bayh-Dole Act allows U.S. universities to sell patents on discoveries funded by tax dollars.  Operation Warp Speed (OWS), a Trump administration initiative, already reached an agreement with Moderna, and on August 11, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “announced up to $1.5 billion in funds to support the large-scale manufacturing and delivery of Moderna’s investigational vaccine candidate” in exchange for 100 million doses. That came on top of earlier support to the tune of $483 million and $472 millionAmong the main investments of OWS, there was “approximately $1 billion in funds to support the large-scale manufacturing and delivery of Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen)” — added on August 5 to a previous $456 million. On May 21, HHS announced “up to $1.2 billion in support for AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine, developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford.” On July 7, HHS announced $1.6 billion in funds to support Novavax. And on July 31, $2 billion were announced for Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) investigational adjuvanted vaccine. This $10 billion budget for OWS alone was approved by Congress.

While Pfizer received no OWS funds. The government reached an agreement to buy 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine if it wins approval, which would be enough to guarantee the two doses needed for 50 million people. The agreement also included an option to buy an additional 500 million doses. 

These companies have raked in public funding and increased their share prices, and now will add to that through deals with countries that will have to pay millions of dollars for access to the vaccine.

Global Justice Now have already pointed out, a majority of the vaccine doses that could be available in the near future have already been claimed by wealthy countries. For example, 780 million doses — or 78 percent of the doses Moderna claims it can produce by next year — have already been sold to the world’s wealthiest governments. The vaccine race has left most of the world to scramble for whatever is left when the great powers are done.

The challenge won’t only be purchasing vaccines but also handling the expensive distribution requirements, including access to freezers and dry ice. Dr. Germán Malaga, who is working on Peru’s response to the pandemic, told CNN that there are about 30 ultra-cold freezers in Lima to handle the Pfizer vaccine, but that “for the other 20 million Peruvians, including in the Andes and the rainforest, there are none.”

 India and South Africa submitted a request to the WHO to “guarantee a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19.” In other words, the manufacture of vaccines will be held back by patents.

The capitalists are touting vaccine development as an example of the merits of innovation. In reality, though, the global vaccine race has exposed the falsehood of some of the most closely held beliefs of the capitalist elite. These include the idea that capitalism “raises all boats” and “stimulates innovation.” As we have seen, rather than coordinating and sharing the results of scientific research, each multinational company is working on its own, in complete secrecy. Companies are wasting resources on duplicate research and taking much longer to find a vaccine. Imagine if the world’s great scientific minds all collaborated to develop the best possible vaccine in the shortest possible time. It is not hyperbole to say we would likely already have a vaccine saving lives. Medicines should be made for the public good, not patented by private companies. All medicines, vaccines, and beneficial therapies should belong to the people. [the World Socialist Movement goes further and demands that all necessities be made freely available to all]

We need to eliminate competition and unite research and development efforts across borders. 

Taken from here

Capitalist Competition Is Sabotaging the Race for a Vaccine | Common Dreams Views