Sunday, February 25, 2018

Can Industry Mitigate Climate Change?

 Industry's dependence on polluting fossil fuels is at odds with a "revolution" in transport and renewable energy, and could stop the world doing a crucial U-turn on rising emissions of climate-changing gases by 2020, Christiana Figueres, a former U.N. climate chief warned.
"We're definitely not on track with everything to do with heavy industry that continues to depend on intense, high-carbon electricity, and we're not on track with land use," said Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. "So what happens if we don't get there is we increase our risk and increase the exposure to extreme weather events." 
Figueres cautioned against relying on controversial "geoengineering" techniques to try to cool the planet's temperature. So-called "negative emissions" technologies - to suck carbon back out of the atmosphere - could involve capturing gases and storing them underground or fertilising oceans to make them absorb more carbon dioxide. Other techniques being discussed include mimicking the planet-cooling activity of volcanoes by spraying chemicals into the Earth's upper atmosphere.
"Our biosphere, our forests, our whole plant kingdom is the best (carbon) absorption mechanism we have on this planet - it's the safest, it doesn't have any negative impacts and we just have not yet extracted all the benefits," said Figueres. "Before we go to industrial or chemical engineering – the side-effects of which we have no idea, the cost of which we have no idea, I would prefer to first exhaust the possibility of all the technologies we do know."

It is a gas

As 4000 workerss are ear-marked to lose their jobs, dividend calculations look mighty tight since dividend of 12p a share is being distributed from earnings of 12.6p, even when those earnings are totted up on Centrica’s “adjusted” basis. Next year the City expects earnings of 14p, which is hardly a great leap forward. Yet CEO,Iain Conn was prepared to stick out his neck and say Centrica“expects” to keep the dividend intact until 2020.
Centrica chief executive, Iain Conn, avoided the indignity of cutting the dividend for a second time in three years and has probably saved his job as a result, at least for now. It will be 4,000 colleagues who lose theirs as the company embarks on another round of cost-cutting in search of stability.
He inherited a share price of 279p at the start of 2015 and it’s now just 142p.Last year  he received a £4m pay package including a £759,000 bonus

Ivory Towers of Academia

At a time when lecturers are taking industrial action to protect their pensions from cuts, those charged with running many of the country’s universities are enjoying first-class air travel, five-star hotel, and fine dining.  They include a series of questionable items including a “pornstar martini”, a silver salver, Easter eggs and a Fortnum & Mason hamper. One university even paid £1,600 for its new vice-chancellor’s pet dog, a Maltese called Oscar, to be relocated from Australia. Between them, the country’s university vice-chancellors and their senior colleagues claimed almost £8m in expenses over the last two years, Dispatches discovered.

  60 vice-chancellors now earning in excess of £300,000 a year, there are concerns that their pay packages and perks are out of kilter with those of their academic colleagues who have received an average 1% annual pay rise since 2012 – a fall in real terms. University of Bath vice-chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, total pay package was £468,000, the highest in the land.
Professor Steve West, the vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England claimed £43,000 in expenses, including £10,000 on executive cars with a firm that describes itself as “the premier chauffeur service in Bristol and the south-west.”

Buffet's Bonus Billions

Finding things to buy at a “sensible purchase price” had become a challenge, Warren Buffet wrote in his annual letter to shareholders, and a major reason Berkshire was awash with $116bn of low-yielding cash and government bonds.

Buffett blamed a “purchasing frenzy” binge by deal-hungry chief executives employing cheap debt. Berkshire typically pays all cash for acquisitions.
“Our smiles will broaden when we have redeployed Berkshire’s excess funds into more productive assets,” Buffett wrote. “Berkshire’s goal is to substantially increase the earnings of its non-insurance group. For that to happen, we will need to make one or more huge acquisitions.“
The lower tax rate contributed to a 23% full-year boost in Berkshire’s book value, which measures assets minus liabilities and which Buffett considers a good indicator of Berkshire’s net worth, to $211,750 per class A share. Insurance float, or premiums collected before claims are paid, which gives Buffett more money to invest, was about $114bn at year end.
Warren Buffett reported a record quarterly and annual profit for his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, thanks in part to a $29.1bn boost “delivered” by the Republican tax cut.
 “Berkshire’s gain in net worth during 2017 was $65.3bn. 2017 was far from standard: a large portion of our gain did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire.  But only $36bn came from Berkshire’s operations. The remaining $29bn was delivered to us in December when Congress rewrote the US tax code.”
 Buffett said “no company comes close” to his conglomerate in its ability to financially withstand even a mega-catastrophe causing $400bn of insurance losses. Buffett said the odds of a giant hurricane, earthquake or other conflagration inflicting unprecedented, catastrophic damage in any year is just 2%, but that in such an event Berkshire would lose only about $12bn, a sum more than offset by annual profits from its non-insurance businesses.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Jungle in the UK

Our blog previously posted on the health risks of the American meat industry here. In the UK Inspection figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) reveal there were on average 16 major plant safety infractions every week between 2014-2017, according to a data analysis conducted this week by the Guardian and Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Almost two thirds of audited meat cutting factories (540 out of 890) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had at least one instance of major non-compliance with hygiene or food safety regulations. Several plants had multiple failures, with 25 breaches occurring at plants belonging to Russell Hume, the meat supplier at the centre of recent concerns about UK food hygieneAmong the overall number of failings identified by FSA auditors in the period analysed, there were 221 major non-compliances relating to maintaining legal temperature controls, and in excess of 300 relating to minimising the risk of cross-contamination. In addition, more than 50 major breaches were discovered relating to ensuring that animal byproducts are correctly identified, and 26 connected to traceability.

A major non-compliance is, by the FSA’s definition, “likely to compromise public health, including food safety ... or may lead to the production and handling of unsafe or unsuitable food if no remedial action is taken”

The findings “raise serious questions as to how robust the FSA’s system for monitoring food hygiene really is”, said Kerry McCarthy MP, who served as shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2016.
“These figures are truly shocking,” Kath Dalmeny, CEO of campaign group Sustain, told the Guardian. “That is why I find it so dismaying that over the last decade our government has slashed the budgets for the bodies who police our food system – our local authority meat hygiene services, independent public analyst laboratories and trading standards inspectors. They doggedly insist on pursuing the flawed notion that light-touch regulation is good enough for the meat industry.” 
There is growing anxiety that the problems in the industry may be wider than initially thought. Four different companies have now withdrawn meat, and the FSA has also set up a national review of meat processing plants. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Real Drug Problem

Inequality is the norm

The OECD researchers rate as “income poor” any households that are making less than half what their nation’s most typical households make. “Asset poor” households don’t have enough cash on hand to maintain themselves above this “standard poverty line if their incomes stopped for three months.”
These two categories do certainly often overlap. Across the developed world, the new OECD stats show, 11 percent of people rate as both income and asset poor.
But the two categories frequently don’t overlap. Many millions of households across the developed world have above-poverty incomes but qualify as “asset poor.”
A whopping 36 percent of people across the developed world, the new OECD research notes, find themselves in this situation. They rate as “economically vulnerable.” If their above-poverty-line incomes should stop for three months, they’ll sink into poverty.
In other words, on average across the developed world as a whole, over a tenth of the population is already living in poverty and over another third is living at the economic razor edge, at danger of falling into poverty at any moment.
 “Economic vulnerability,” the new OECD research shows, varies widely within the developed world. Only a little over 10 percent of people in Japan, for instance, rate as economically vulnerable. Just about 40 percent of Americans, by contrast, live at that razor’s edge. What do nations with high levels of economic vulnerability seem to share? In high-vulnerability nations, wealth tends to concentrate at the economic summit. In the United States, the OECD notes, the top 1 percent hold 42.48 percent of the nation’s wealth. In low-vulnerability nations, the rich typically stamp a smaller footprint. In Japan, the top 1 percent holds only 10.77 percent of national wealth.

Exposing the Sweatshop Exploitation

year-long study of more than 500 workers in Cambodia, India and Bangladesh found women often work overtime or borrow money from their husbands to feed their families and pay rent. The largely female workforce in South Asia is often underpaid, faces verbal and sexual harassment on a daily basis and is forced to work long hours, campaigners say.
"I wouldn't have enough money if we ate a lot," read one entry by Chenda in Cambodia, where researchers found most workers were in their 20s and married, with some primary education and earned about $45 for a 48-hour week. In Cambodia, despite earning the minimum wage and supplementing their income with overtime, researchers found that most workers were still short of money, which meant they had limited access to quality food and medical care.
Researchers found that Bangladeshi women earned the least per hour, often forcing them to borrow money.

Defend the Unions

With the conservative-dominated Supreme Court set to hear a case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31—could determine whether public sector unions are allowed to collect what are called "fair share" fees from workers to cover the costs of collective bargaining. That poses the "biggest threat to organized labor in years".  Although fair share fees have been upheld as legal for decades, the high court's conservative majority is likely to strike them down as unconstitutional. members of National Nurses United (NNU)—the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S.—rallied across the country to highlight the crucial role of unions in protecting workers from corporate exploitation. If the court rules against AFSCME, the entire U.S. public sector would essentially be a 'right-to-work' zone―meaning employees could no longer be required to pay anything to the unions that bargain on their behalf.

"It's the union that brings many safety laws in legislation and public regulatory protections. It's the union dues that fund those efforts," said Maureen Dugan, RN, who works at the University of California San Francisco. "It's the nurses in my hospital, in my region, in my whole state that make up the strength of our union and our ability to protect our patients, our license, and our profession."

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)  the Janus case did not arise out of widespread worker opposition to "fair share" fees. "Rather, the fair share cases are being financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies," highlighting the large role played by groups like the right-wing Liberty Justice Center, which is supported the Charles Koch Institute and similar pro-corporate organizations.

"This case is one of the most important cases to corporate interest groups. It is one of the cases that made Senate Republicans so determined to block President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court," EPI labor counsel Celine McNicholas, concluded, "The outcome of Janus will affect millions of working people across the country and will impact the public services we depend on these workers to provide."

Janus is the culmination of years of attacks by the wealthy elite and corporate interests on ordinary workers. The backers of the Janus case don’t want strong unions; nor do they want workers to have a voice on the job.  If the court sides with the moneyed interests behind these attacks, every single working family stands to lose out.  Unionized workers generally earn higher pay, have stronger job protections, enjoy better benefits and are more likely to have a traditional pension than non-unionized workers. The union advantage is clear. The economic benefits of unionization, however, extend well beyond those holding a union card. A 2017 Economic Policy Institute study found strong unions set a higher pay standard that non-union employers follow. In other words, the very presence of unionized workers in an industry, occupation or entire state like New York establishes norms that lift wages and benefits for all workers. That higher standard of living for all would be in jeopardy if the court rules against unions.

It’s easy to see why the corporate backers of the Janus case want to weaken unions and roll back pay and benefits for all workers. Without organized push back, the CEOs and billionaires can keep more profits for themselves. They benefit from a race to the bottom. They don’t care about inequality or injustice. They like it better when workers don’t have a voice.

Humanity is NOT doomed to destroy the planet.


In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich published "The Population Bomb". In it he predicted "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death..." The global population stands at 7.6 billion.
That’s double the 3.8 billion when he wrote his book. However, the cause of this starvation was nothing to do with population numbers. Today, the average person is healthier, wealthier and better fed than in 1968. Infant mortality has declined. Life expectancy has increased. History is littered with experts - and not just leaders of fringe cults - who prophesised the end of the world and got it wrong. The original Cassandra of food shortages and famines was Thomas Malthus, the English economist best known for his theory of population in his 1798 "An Essay on the Principle of Population". Ironically, many parts of the worl do have a population problem. But the problem is not the threat of famine due to too many mouths to feed. It’s that women are having too few children to maintain current population levels.

There is a common saying amongst Marxists...that our choice is “Socialism or Barbarism.” Someone recently added the words “...and that's if we are lucky”

Barclays Bank Enriches Its Investors

Barclays PLC showed its confidence in future earnings on Thursday by restoring its full dividend.   Shares in the British bank were up 5.1 percent to 212 pence sending Barclays to the top of the FTSE index risers after it said it would resume paying its full dividend of 6.5 pence per share, which it halved in March 2016 in order to provide extra funds to pay for restructuring.  Barclays posted a pretax profit of 3.5 billion pounds ($4.9 billion) for 2017.

“It is our firm intent, over time, to return a greater proportion of our earnings to shareholders, both through the annual dividend and in other ways,” Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley said in a statement.

Barclays was the worst-performing bank in the FTSE 100 index in 2017, falling nine percent on concerns about both its investment bank and its legal and regulatory troubles. Profit in the Barclays International division was down 22 percent in 2017, driven by a 4 percent fall in income from its investment bank and rising impairments, the bank said.  The bank also disclosed a gender pay gap of almost 50 percent in its International unit.

This follows Lloyd's bank rewarding their share-holders

Compassion not Cynicism is Needed

Europe has responded to waves of illegal migration in recent years by sponsoring security crackdowns in transit countries so that people are stopped before reaching its borders. Europe is increasing the suffering of African migrants trying to cross the Sahara, Francesco Rocca - head of the world's largest humanitarian network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), urging lawmakers not to put security above human rights.
"When we talk about European migration policies, it is only about security - how they are not allowed to enter - and not about the dignified manner in which you have to treat human beings," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Cynicism has increased a lot. I think we are sick and we have to find a way to cure this disease." 
About 350,000 people travelled through Niger in 2017 despite a law passed two years earlier that saw smugglers jailed and soldiers posted throughout the desert, the IFRC said.  Since the law, four times as many migrants have been hospitalised in Agadez each month for injuries because they travel at night, across mountains and through dangerous desert terrain rather than taking safe roads, it said. Some of the Africa migrants stranded in Agadez fled conflicts, though most left home hoping to find work, it said. Men from Senegal, Gambia and other countries squatting in mud ghettos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were afraid to continue their journeys and had no money to get home.
"The problem is how high a price these human beings are paying for EU policies," Rocca said, describing Europe's approach as cruel and ineffective and calling for more support to migrants and communities hosting them. The Italian lawyer said Europe's migration polices have failed for decades as people continue to move but they are forced to use more dangerous routes. "People in Agadez told me that the Sahara is just as deadly as the Mediterranean," he said in a statement, referring to the thousands who drown in overcrowded boats each year. "The difference is that we don't know how many people have died there, or what inhumanity they have faced."

Big Money for the Boss

Daniel Och, CEO of hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, according to ISS Analytics, the data arm of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc.received an annual compensation of $918.9 million fiscal year 2007 and $1.19 billion in 2008.
Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel received $637.8 million as total compensation last year after the company went public, the third-highest annual payout ever received by a company’s CEO. Spiegel's pay package is based on stock-based awards worth $636.6 million and salary and other compensation worth about $1.2 million.


Garbage scavengers in the impoverished Manila area of Tondo are not looking just for re-usable goods among the rubbish but, increasingly, for food to feed their families.Ever wonder what happens to restaurant leftovers?

 In the Philippine capital, Manila, meat is recycled from landfill tips, washed and re-cooked. It's called "pagpag" and it's eaten by the poorest people who can't afford to buy fresh meat. Pagpag is the product of a hidden food system for the urban poor that exists on the leftovers. 

“A lot of scavengers sell recycled food that they segregate from other waste. It’s common practice around here,” said Tondo resident Amy Ignacio, who has been collecting trash from a fast-food restaurant for the past six years. Feeling it was wasteful to throw away leftover chicken with some meat remaining, she re-cooks it to make pagpag to feed her children. “With the kind of life we live, this helps a lot. When you buy a bag worth a few pesos, you can already feed one whole family,” Ignacio said.

Families clean the leftover food by dusting it off (pagpagin). To be extra sure, others wash the leftovers before boiling or frying – modifying someone’s dinner leftovers into someone else’s breakfast.

Pagpag is also a business. Some food scavengers sell their pagpag, sometimes giving discounts to neighbors and patrons. Health professionals warn against the dangers of eating pagpag. They are at risk of getting salmonella and other illnesses. Eating nothing but pagpag can be detrimental to children’s health for they are not getting the nutrients needed for proper growth and development. Despite these warnings, some families say they have no other choice. It’s either pagpag or nothing at all.
What is pagpag  “Pagkain ng mahirap (food of the poor)."

Fuel Poverty Kills

Thousands of people are “needlessly” dying each year because they cannot afford to properly heat their homes, new research  by National Energy Action and climate-change charity E3G has revealed. The UK has the second-worst rate of excess winter deaths in Europe. 
Almost 17,000 people in the UK are estimated to have died in the last five years as a direct result of fuel poverty and a further 36,000 deaths are attributable to conditions relating to living in a cold home, the research found. The number dying each year is similar to the amount who die from prostate cancer or breast cancer.
A total of 168,000 excess winter deaths from all causes have been recorded in the UK over the latest five-year period. Of 30 countries studied, only Ireland has a higher proportion of people dying due to cold weather.
Pedro Guertler, of E3G, who co-authored the research, said the winter death figures were not only a tragedy but a “national embarrassment...This epidemic is entirely preventable” 
The impact of fuel poverty and cold homes is far wider than just the number of fatalities, the researchers said. GP surgeries and A&E departments --already at breaking point -- are placed under unnecessary additional strain. Infants living in cold conditions have a 30 per cent greater risk of being admitted to hospital or primary care facilities and almost three times more likely to suffer from coughing, wheezing or respiratory illness. Living in cold conditions also increases the risk of health problems including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as falls and injuries. 
 “In later life, the impact of a cold home often compounds poor physical health and loneliness,” the report states. “There is now a large gap between action to deliver warm and efficient homes, and the ambition to do so, which needs to be urgently filled,” the report said.
“Beyond the terrible scale of cold-related winter deaths, people experiencing fuel poverty can also struggle with poor mental health and this can sadly lead to total social isolation and even suicide,” said Peter Smith, director of policy and research at NEA and co-author of the report. “This preventable tragedy must end," he said.

Charity in India

Since the launch of the chain of Indira Canteens across Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in August 2017, the state-backed scheme has served as many as 30 million meals to the city's residents. The canteens offer heavily subsidized food to the public, with breakfast costing just five Indian rupees (€0.06, $0.07) while lunch and dinner each costing 10 rupees (€0.12) — a price which is as good as free for many.
The canteens, similar to soup kitchens in the West, provide simple and daily changing menu centered on local cuisine and dietary requirements.
India's urban poor remain one of the most neglected and marginalized groups in the country. It is estimated that around 65 million Indians live in urban slums, equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom.
These slums, often surrounding the neighborhoods of the rich and upper middle classes, are home to impoverished people who, in many cases, have migrated from their native villages in search of a better life. It's therefore not surprising that the main beneficiaries of the Indira Canteens program have been daily wage laborers, homeless beggars, low-income workers and even college students in Bengaluru.
More than 170 such facilities have so far been set up across Bengaluru, India's tech capital with a population of roughly 12.3 million residents, serving an average of nearly 250,000 people a day. Based on the "hub and spoke model," centralized kitchens are established in each locality where the food is cooked and then transferred to canteens operating under the kitchens' limits. Most of the canteens witness full-house crowds on weekdays, especially the ones which are located near busy locations such as colleges and hospitals. A dedicated mobile app has also been created allowing Bengaluru inhabitants to find five canteens nearest to their location. The app not only lets users to deliver feedback about a particular canteen but also provide information about the menu for the day.
The ruling state government in Karnataka, the Indira Canteens originally borrowed the idea from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, where a similar chain of government-operated outlets known as "Amma Canteens" came into existence.

Corruption and Liberty

Transparency International (TI) has found that a majority of countries in the world can be called corrupt, with a clear link between high levels of corruption and little protection of the media and civil society groups. The global corruption watchdog's annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43.

For the first time, Transparency International examined the relationship between corruption levels and the degree of freedom enjoyed by media and civil society groups. It found that almost all journalists killed since 2012 were killed in corrupt countries. Based on data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the findings show that more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that scored 45 or less on the CPI. This means that, on average, every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. In addition, one in five journalists that died was covering a story about corruption. "Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up," said Patricia Moreira, TI's managing director, adding that justice had never been served in the majority of these cases. The report names Brazil as an example — a country which scores only 37 on this year's CPI. There 20 journalists died in the last six years after being targeted for their investigations into local government corruption and drug-related crimes.

TI's analysis shows that most countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption. "Smear campaigns, harassment, lawsuits and bureaucratic red tape are all tools used by certain governments in an effort to quiet those who drive anti-corruption efforts," said Moreira. TI is calling on all governments that "hide behind restrictive laws" to roll them back immediately and allow for greater civic participation. 

TI Chairwoman Delia Ferreira Rubio said weak rule of law, lack of access to information, governmental control over social media and reduced citizen participation were directly linked to high levels of corruption, risking "the very essence of democracy and freedom."

Asylum Detainees on Hunger Strike

Around 120 female detainees in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre have gone on hunger strike over “inhumane” conditions at the facility. They began their protest on Wednesday, urging the Home Office to end “offensive” practices which they said leave people “breaking down psychologically” after being detained for immigration reasons.

Women taking part in the strike said they had “given up thinking about the outside world” due to uncertainty over being locked up indefinitely, saying the centre was “failing” to meet their health needs. One said she was “struggling to find a reason to go on”. In a statement, the women on hunger strike said they believed the Home Office was “overwhelmed”, saying it was “not fit for purpose” and accusing it of operating in a “rogue manner”.

One Algerian woman taking part in the strike, who was detained three months ago after living in the UK since the age of 11, told The Independent she felt she was being “broken down” by the system. She said: “Every day I wake up and I have to think of a reason to go on. I’ve given up thinking about the outside – I’ve given up thinking about it. I feel like I’m in someone’s dungeon and no one is letting me out. “I might as well be blindfolded in a van going 100 miles an hour in a direction I don’t know. The indefinite detention causes people so much stress. People are breaking down psychologically. We have no fight left. They break you down. It’s inhumane. “And there’s no psychological help. I’ve tried speaking to a psychological nurse in the centre about issues I have, and he advised me to speak to my solicitor about it.”

They highlight that the Government “refuses to accept that rape is torture”, as rape victims are detained despite a policy stating victims of torture must not be detained for immigration reasons. The document also highlights that the UK is the only country in the EU with no time limit on detention, and accuses the Home Office of “incompetent and untimely manner in handling cases”. he hunger strike comes after research in November found the Government was routinely detaining victims of sexual violence in Yarl’s Wood in breach of its own policy, introduced in 2016, that it should not detain “at risk” or vulnerable people. Women for Refugee Women, revealed that 85 per cent of women who had sought asylum and been detained after the new policy came into force were survivors of rape or other gender-based violence, including forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced prostitution.

A watchdog report published later in November found the majority of women held at the controversial detention centre were later released into the community, raising concerns as to why they were ever detained. HM Inspectorate of Prisons also raised concerns over the continued detention of women who had been tortured and two responses where the Home Office had refused, without explanation, to accept that rape came within the legal definition of torture.

Industrial Fishing

Feedback from more than 70,000 vessels shows commercial fishing covers a greater surface area than agriculture and will raise fresh questions about the health of oceans and sustainability of trawler fishing. The data also helps to explain the extreme decline in some fish stocks: the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says one-third of commercial fish stocks are being caught at unsustainable levels.

 The report’s author, David Kroodsma said, “What that means is we have control as humans to decide how we’re fishing the oceans: we’re not destined to overfish, we can control it.”
Just five countries account for 85% of commercial fishing measured by hours at sea. Half of that is China; other large-scale operators include Spain, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan (with a population of just 23 million.)
On average, every person on the planet eats 20kg of fish each year, with the FAO’s own estimates suggesting this makes up 6.7% to 17% of protein eaten. The figure is much higher in some developing countries, however, where people on islands and in coastal areas rely heavily on fish for their energy, up to 70% of protein in some cases.

Brighton Discussion Group

" If a worker wants to take part in the self-emancipation of his class, the basic requirement is that he should cease allowing others to teach him and should set about teaching himself." - Joseph Dietzgen

Socialist consciousness involves understanding socialism which means talking about it, sharing ideas about it - in short, educating ourselves and our fellow workers about it. 

People become socialists from their experiences; meeting socialists is part of that experience. Class struggle without any clear understanding of where you are going is simply committing oneself to a never-ending treadmill. 

We come to a socialist view of the world by interacting directly or indirectly with others, exchanging ideas with them. And that is perhaps the role of this discussion meeting as a catalyst in the process of changing consciousness. 

 The Victory pub (upstairs),
 6 Duke St,
 Brighton BN1 1AH,

Sunday, 25 February,  1pm

 Discussion meeting topic 
'Momentum; just Swings and Roundabouts?'

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Police State

The NHS has agreed to look into concerns about doctors having to pass names and addresses of suspected illegal immigrants to the Home Office. The Home Office last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NHS Digital to make doctors hand over non-clinical details of patients, including their last known address, date of birth and NHS registration details to immigration officials. NHS Digital is required by law to co-operate with the Home Office but it retains the right under the MoU to seek more information about requests for data and turn them down if "not satisfied that request is in the public interest". Some 8,000 people have reportedly had their details passed to immigration officials in this way.

Health bosses have been accused of ignoring evidence migrants are being deterred from seeking medical help for fear of deportation. England's main health watchdog said it was a "serious risk" to public health. Doctors and patient groups warned it was damaging trust in the health service and breaching patient confidentiality, in evidence last month to the Health Select Committee.  Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the health committee, wrote to NHS Digital last month to say the MoU had been signed without proper consultation and should be halted immediately for a review of confidentiality procedures.Some people were choosing to attend accident and emergency departments, where they are not required to give personal details.  The Department of Health said there was evidence that "fear of deportation is a barrier to seeking care".

Class Justice

Cambodia's Interior Minister has suggested the construction of more luxurious pay-to-stay prison blocks for wealthy inmates.

He pointed to a privately built block for wealthy inmates at Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison as a model. Sar Kheng announced the construction of the "hotel-like" prison block at Prey Sar last year, saying inmates could pay to use the facilities. These would be a far cry from typical Cambodian prison cells, where scores of inmates often share a single latrine and ailments such as nutritional deficiencies, diarrhoea and scabies are common.

Observers have raised concerns that allowing prisoners with disposable incomes to live more comfortable lives would make existing informal economic divides in the prison population official.  A 2015 prison report by rights group Licadho also found that cash flow already "dictated" life inside Cambodia's prisons, with inmates forced to pay bribes for everything from food, water and medical treatment to visits from loved ones.

The Overpopulation Lie

 "World population increased not because people were breeding like rabbits, but because they stopped dying like flies." - Earth Report 2000

Many people believe that overpopulation is the greatest threat to the world's security and prosperity. The word “overpopulation” is tossed around repeatedly as the cause of a global crisis.  The overpopulation doom-sayers are always at it but overpopulation alarmism isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous. It has been used to justify draconian forced sterilisations and actions like China’s One-Child Policy. Eugenic social engineering for population control is not just a problem of the past – it is still being advocated today. 

Simply put, the world's population is increasing because the number of births outnumbers deaths by three to one. A surplus of births first occurred two centuries ago in Europe and North America, when mortality started to decline. This marked the beginning of what scientists call the demographic transition which has subsequently spread to the rest of the planet as social and economic progress, combined with advances in hygiene and medicine, began to reduce mortality rates. The annual population growth rate actually peaked half a century ago at more than 2%, and has fallen by half since then, to 1.1% in 2017. This trend should continue in coming decades because fertility is decreasing at global level, from 5 children per woman in 1950 to 2.5 today. In 2017, the regions where fertility remains high (above 3 children per woman) include most countries of sub-Saharan Africa and an area stretching from Afghanistan to northern India and Pakistan. These are the regions that will drive future world population growth.

Fertility is, in fact, decreasing in Africa, but so far only among the educated and urban populations and not in rural areas where most of the population still lives. While the fertility decline is still slower than that observed some decades ago in Asia and Latin America, the reason does not lie in an unwillingness to use contraception. While most rural families have yet to adopt a two-child family model, they would prefer to have fewer children and to space them further apart. They are willing to use contraception for this purpose, but the necessary services are not available to them. National birth-control programmes do exist but are ineffective because they lack resources and, above all, because their organisers and the personnel responsible for implementing them are unenthusiastic. Many are not convinced of the advantages of birth control, even at government level, even if this is not the official line adopted with respect to international organisations

Total world population should plateau at about 13 billion by 2100, and actually decline thereafter. Other projections, like that of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, are more optimistic, suggesting that total fertility rate will drop below replacement rate in the 2070s, plateauing around the 9 billion mark. This worry about overpopulation started back in 1968 with Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb but way back in 1798, Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population, proposing the idea that limited resources can only sustain so much.

Draconian measures driven by xenophobic prejudice are not necessary to slow the expansion of our numbers. Nor do we need pandemics, famines or wars to cull our numbers. So long as we continue to promote education, public health and access to contraception, our numbers are likely to decline naturally. Approximately 34% of the population was probably unwanted or accidental. This is universal. It is caused by cases of unwanted pregnancies by young girls as well as poor family planning methods. Studies show that women with access to reproductive health services find it easier to break out of poverty, while those who work are more likely to use birth control. Simply educating men and women about contraception can have a big impact. When Iran introduced a national family planning programme in 1989, its fertility rate fell from 5.6 births per woman to 2.6 in a decade. A similar effort in Rwanda saw a threefold increase in contraception usage in just five years.

The rate of population growth has slowed down. Yes, it is true that the world's numbers is increasing. Nonetheless, it is growing at a slower rate than it was about 10 years ago, which is 1.24% then compared to 1.18% now. The increase in the life expectancy level has also played a role in overpopulation. This is brought about by the fact people are living for a longer time than they did, say 50 years ago. For instance, in 1950, males had a life expectancy level of 66 years whereas as of now, it is at 74 years. There are about 44 countries that have fertility rates lower than the replacement level. This means that for these countries, as other countries increase in population, they will face a decline in their population. In addition, most of these countries are developed countries. Overpopulation has been realized due to a decrease in death rates rather than birthrates. There have been advancements in the fields of medicine, technology, education and nutrition which have contributed to lower deaths.
According to the CIA World Factbookthe current US fertility rate is 1.87. (The fertility rate is the average number of children a woman has over her lifetime.The fertility rate necessary to simply replace the parents is approximately 2.1 Last year Japan’s birthrate fell below 1 million for the first time, while 1.3 million deaths were recorded. Since 2010 Japan’s population has shrunk by approximately 1.2 million (or roughly 1%). And they aren’t the only country shrinking; Russia has roughly 4 million less citizens than it had in 1995. We can see in Europe that population has levelled off, with deaths exceeding births for the first time in 2015, so growth is due only to immigration, not procreation. In Canada, too, its people are not having children at replacement levels – whereas we would need 2.1 children born per woman to maintain a stable population (this number is slightly over 2, to account for children who don’t survive childhood), Canada's birthrate is only 1.6.  There are problems that come with this, as an aging population doesn’t have enough young people to care for it. According to Philip Longman of the New America Foundation, "Global fertility rates are half what they were in 1972  studies show that population growth, which supplies an increasing source of workers and consumers, is vital to maintaining a stable economy, national strength and security, and ultimately a free society. However, this information isn't getting to the average person.
Maintaining sufficient workers to share the economic burden of providing Social Security and medical care for the elderly proves crucial to a population that exhibits increased life expectancy. When considering that there are currently 26 elders (those 65 and older) for every 100 working-age adults (20–64), the future looks bleak. Predictions show 42 per 100 by 2030 and 49 per 100 by 2050. Carl Haub, of the Population Reference Bureau, believes tinkering with the economy and adjusting the retirement age will not solve the problem. He says, "You can't keep going with a completely upside-down age can't have a country where everybody lives in a nursing home."
The wealthiest nations in the world — Macau, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong, to name just a few — are also the most densely populated. They enjoy the highest standards of living and the most thriving economies. It's more often the case that the least populated countries — many of them in Africa: Central African Republic, Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, among others — are the poorest.
Overpopulation occurs when the ecological footprint of a human population in a specific geographical location exceeds the carrying capacity of the place occupied by that group. Let's look at one aspect of that description — namely, population density. Let's put you to a test. See whether you can tell which country is richer and which is poorer just by knowing two countries' population density. North Korea's population density is 518 people per square mile, whereas South Korea's is more than double that, at 1,261 people per square mile. Hong Kong's population density is 16,444, whereas Somalia's is 36. Congo has 75 people per square mile, whereas Singapore has 18,513. Look at the gross domestic products of these countries, one would have to be a lunatic to believe that a smaller population density leads to greater riches. Here are some GDP data expressed in millions of U.S. dollars: North Korea ($17,396), South Korea ($1,411,246), Hong Kong ($320,668), Somalia ($5,707), Congo ($41,615) and Singapore ($296,967
Capitalism, not population is the main driver of our planet's ecological collapse. Overconsumption is a greater issue than overpopulation. It is now being realized that 20% of the extremely rich consume 85% while 20% of those under the poverty line consume 1.3%. The water consumption for both extremes is at 85% and 15% respectively. The human population has roughly tripled since WWII. But our consumption of resources has multiplied many many times greater than population growth: We use something like 6 times as much steel as in 1950, 15 times as much aluminium, thousands of times more plastic and on and on. That ravenous overconsumption of resources, and its associated pollution is overwhelmingly driven by the requirements of capitalist reproduction, the ceaseless creation of new but unnecessary needs, not by human reproduction.  The entire premise behind population control is also based on the faulty logic that humans are not valuable resources.  Human beings are valuable resources, and the more we have of them the better. The greatest threat to mankind's prosperity is capitalism, not population growth. Blaming poverty on overpopulation not only lets the capitalist system off the hook but also encourages the enactment of harmful, inhumane policies. The problem we are facing today is not about overpopulation, but about the unequal ownership of wealth and resources. To reach a world of abundance we need to rebuild the fundamental ways we create our wealth and use our resources which, of course, not as easy a task as presenting simplistic solutions such as reducing the number of people in the world.
It took wealthy nations like the United Kingdom a century for fertility rates to fall from over six babies per woman to fewer than three per woman. It took China and Iran a mere decade, because economic and human development initiatives are better understood and better targeted. There is every expectation that current nations with high fertility rates, like Niger and Somalia, can perform similarly.
The Kimberly-Clark corporation, who makes products for family, baby and child care, recently announced that it was going to cut 5,500 jobs. This accounts for roughly 13 percent of its total global workforce with the result of either closing or selling 10 of its 91 international factories. Two of its brands, Kleenex and Huggies have seen significant drops in sales, thus the need to restructure and to streamline business costs. When the CEO, Tom Falk, was asked why this was happening, he stated that Americans are having fewer babies. Falk went on to say, “You can’t encourage moms to use more diapers in developed markets when the babies aren’t being born in those markets.”
Many of us have grown up on stories of overpopulation so it isn't easy to jettison them as wrong. The world population will inevitably increase by 2 to 3 billion between now and 2050 because of demographic inertia that no one can prevent. Nonetheless, we have the power to change our way of living – and there is an urgent need to do so – by ensuring greater respect for the environment and more efficient use of natural resources. All in all, the long-term survival of humankind depends on the establishment of socialism.
Post Script
New York City, which is far and away the most populous city in the U.S., was home to an estimated 8.5 million people in 2016. More people live in this one city than in the entire states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Vermont, and the District of Columbia combined.
New York City consists of five boroughs spanning five counties, the most densely populated of which is New York County. This county, which consists principally of the island of Manhattan, is far and away the most densely populated county in the U.S., housing 72,000 people per square mile. At that population density, the entire population of the United States, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories could reside in the tiny State of Connecticut.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of New York County in 2016 was 1,643,734. But of course, that’s just the number of people who live in the county. The number of people who commute into Manhattan every day increases the actual population of the island by several millions more. The New York State Government estimates that the population of New York County swells to about 3.9 million people on an average business day.

The second most densely populated county in the U.S., Kings County (better known as Brooklyn), lies just across the East River from Manhattan. At 37,000 people per square mile, Brooklyn has slightly less than half the population density of Manhattan. The top four most densely populated counties in America are all in New York City. The most densely populated county in the U.S. outside of New York City is San Francisco County, which has only a quarter of the population density of New York County. If all Americans lived at the same population density as the average population density of all five of New York City’s boroughs (approximately 28,000 people per square mile), we’d all fit comfortably in the combined area of Delaware and Maryland.
While New York City is rather densely populated, it certainly is not an uncomfortable place to live in terms of space. Besides, many cities in other countries are far more densely populated. Monaco, for instance, has a population density of over 48,000 people per square mile.
Let’s continue to see how the U.S. population could hypothetically be distributed if it were at, say, the density of Los Angeles County, California. While Los Angeles County encompasses the second most populous city in the country and a number of its neighbouring cities, it also includes expansive uninhabited areas including vast stretches of the Angeles and Los Padres national forests and the Santa Monica Mountains. Overall, the population density of Los Angeles County is about 11 times less dense than New York City and ranks 49th overall among U.S. counties nationwide.
Over 10 million or so people call Los Angeles County home. But if you know Los Angeles County, or are familiar with any of the counties listed above, you also know that life at this population density is quite comfortable, with plenty of parks, open spaces, and many acre sized residential properties.
From sea to shining sea, there is even more space still in America. At the same population density of Middlesex County, NJ, which is only a little more densely populated than Los Angeles County, the entire U.S. population could fit inside the state of New Mexico.
Does this mean that the entire population of the United States could actually fit into an area the size of New Mexico at this population density? Probably not. We would still need to figure of course, for sustainability and conservation. Nevertheless, the point is this: If America has enough elbow room to fit our entire population comfortably into an area the size of New Mexico, we probably have enough room for the other things as well. And the USA not going to be running out of room any time soon for more people to live an work.