Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Less money goes to green energy

The world’s energy watchdog has sounded the alarm over a “worrying” pause in the shift to clean energy after global investment in renewables fell 7% to $318bn (£240bn) last year. Fossil fuels’ share of energy investment needs to drop to 40% by 2030 to meet climate targets but instead rose fractionally to 59% in 2017.
The International Energy Agency said the decline is set to continue into 2018, threatening energy security, climate change and air pollution goals. Fossil fuels increased their share of energy supply investment for the first time since 2014, to $790bn, and will play a significant role for years on current trends, the IEA said. Investment in coal power dropped sharply but was offset by an uptick in oil and gas spending. 
Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, said of the renewables fall: “We are seeing a decrease, which is disappointing. And more disappointing is we see the signs this decline may decline this year – this is a worrying trend.” Birol said, “I was myself worried to see there is a contradiction between a) the statements the governments make and b) what the world needs today vis-a-vis the investment numbers, where we see a decline,” he said. Outside the US, investment in conventional oil and gas projects remains subdued and Birol said the world faced “major difficulties” if investment was not stepped up.
Globally, energy investment fell 2% to $1.8tn in 2017, with electricity taking a bigger share than oil and gas for the second year in a row. The decline in renewable power generation spending was mostly down to falls in wind power and hydro but solar hit record levels despite becoming cheaper to install. While coal investment fell to its lowest level in 10 years, spending on gas-fired power stations rose 40%. Nuclear power fell sharply to the lowest level of investment in five years. In the oil and gas industry, rising prices have helped investment in production rise 4% last year and is expected to grow 5% this year. The US’s shale boom will drive much of the growth, and frackers are on track to achieve positive free cash-flow this year, for the first time.

Wages Drop

UK wages rose more slowly in the three months to May, despite a further fall in unemployment. Wage growth slipped to 2.7% from 2.8% in the three months to May, while unemployment fell by 12,000 to 1.41 million. The unemployment rate remained at its joint lowest since 1975 at 4.2%.


NHS Rationing

Groin hernia patients are having to "prove their pain" and show they have complications to get surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has said.

The RCS said harsher restrictions may amount to "rationing".
RCS senior vice-president Susan Hill said: "It's difficult to prove categorically that these CCGs are introducing harsher restrictions for inguinal hernia surgery to make financial savings. However, we have seen a significant increase in CCGs that have acknowledged rationing surgery in other ways, for example by smoking status or BMI, to save money, so this may be the case here."  She added: "Allowing commissioning groups, not patients with their surgeon, to make a decision to operate is putting patients at unnecessary risk of serious complications."
David Sanders, from the British Hernia Society, said patients were being denied access to a procedure that potentially limits pain and improves quality of life. He said: "The NHS has to be very clear about what it offers. Does it want a value for money service with quality and safety as a priority or a rationed service that will inevitably put some patients at risk?"

Age Discrimination

More than a million people over 50 are unemployed but would be willing to work if given the opportunity.

The Women and Equalities Committee has warned that “too little” is being done to enforce age discrimination law.
“It is unacceptable that the nation is wasting the talents of more than one million people aged over 50 who are out of work but would be willing to work if the right opportunity arose,” the committee’s report states. “People in later life are often playing many different roles in society, but those who wish to work should not face the current barriers of discrimination, bias and outdated employment practices.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said age discrimination was “still rife”, with 36 per cent of 55-64-year-olds feeling like they’ve been disadvantaged or treated negatively because they were perceived as being older. 

Profits before poverty

UK aid spending risks disadvantaging the poorest people in the world because it is too heavily focused on boosting trade and investment in Britain, the Commons International Development Committee said. The government's strategy for promoting economic growth in poorer countries had placed "insufficient focus" on helping those most in need.  Labour MP Stephen Twigg, suggested ministers were prioritising “profit margins” over alleviating poverty.
MPs accused ministers of having failed to prioritise "poverty reduction and on helping the very poorest and most vulnerable". As a result, they said, UK policy risks disadvantaging some of the most vulnerable people in developing countries, including children, women and people with disabilities.
 "Although the Secretary of State refers to the 'boost' in trade and investment with developing countries as 'a clear win-win for Britain and the world’s poorest, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact have highlighted that economic growth produces winners and losers. It is acceptable for UK companies and the UK government to have ‘wins’ in trade and investment with least developed countries as long as it can be guaranteed that the most marginalised in developing countries do not become the resulting ‘losers’."
 Twigg said: “DFID believes that more economic growth leads to fewer people in poverty. While it’s acceptable for UK companies and the government to score ‘wins’ in trade and investment in the world’s least developed countries, this is not a trade-off. It’s not just profit margins that count.. Girls and women, disabled and young people will lose out unless DFID undertakes to protect them."

UK and war crimes

British military personnel could be prosecuted for killing civilians in drone strikes and risk becoming complicit in alleged war crimes committed by the US, a two-year probe by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones revealed.  As well as launching its own strikes, the Ministry of Defence is assisting operations by the US and other allies that could violate both national and international law, it said.
Professor Michael Clarke, chair of the parliamentary drones group, said the UK was working with countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that “do not work on standard Nato rules”.
“As the trend of British personnel being embedded with foreign forces increases there is a danger they will find themselves complicit in drone strikes that are not legal on our terms,” he told The Independent.  “If we’re prepared to be a bit lax, which we are, it will get considerably worse as the use of drones proliferates.” Professor Clarke, the former director-general of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), said any airstrike must be proportionate, with care taken to avoid civilian casualties. “If civilians are going to get killed for a strike that ‘might be helpful’, that’s not good enough,” he added.
The killing of British Isis militants Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin in 2015  followed by the British militant known as Jihadi John, who was killed in an American drone strike supported by UK intelligence, and several other jihadis whose deaths have been revealed by relatives or in domestic terror cases, marked a departure from Britain’s previous practice.
Professor Clarke said the government put forward “weak and inconsistent” legal arguments to justify the operations. “’Arguably lawful’ is just not good enough,” he added. “No one objected because everyone was very glad to see the back of Jihadi John, but behind that the principles being compromised are very important.”
The government says the targeted militants constituted a significant threat to the UK but has not presented any information that would allow MPs or parliamentary committees to make a judgement.
“The current government does not consider parliamentary approval necessary when providing assistance to allies,” it concluded. 
“As cooperation is likely to increase in the future, this approach leaves an expanding oversight and accountability gap. Moreover, it leaves UK personnel and ministers vulnerable to criminal liability in allies’ unlawful strikes.”
Because the use of force outside conflicts Britain is directly involved with is not protected by combatant immunity, British servicemen and women can be prosecuted for murder. 
“There is growing concern that the UK is likely supporting a drone programme where the US commits unlawful acts,” the report said. “This Inquiry has found that the support provided by the UK constitutes the provision of material assistance to a state that appears to be violating international law.”
American forces operate four bases in the UK, while Britain operates and flies military drones from partner bases around the world.
Britain both shares personnel and intelligence with allies that can be used in the commission of strikes, and its personnel pilot American drones.
The report said the situation was “deeply problematic” because of the lack of oversight, while almost every request for information is “categorically dismissed”. 
The government has refused to detail its policy on targeting or the process of launching drone strikes to parliament – or what is defined as a “combatant”.
While American forces have confirmed the death of more than 900 civilians in airstrikes on Isis strongholds in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the UK puts its own total at one after more than 1,700 strikes in those countries, and claimed a single operation caused civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Professor Clarke called the British government’s claims “ridiculous”, adding: “They don’t look for evidence and they don’t try to look for evidence.”

FAREWELL BORIS? (weekly poem)

Boris Johnson has resigned as Foreign Secretary over
the Brexit terms. Some say his real aim in supporting
Brexit was simply a ploy to become Prime Minister.

The truth is plain, the myth is spent,
Can there be any doubt;
That Boris Johnson's run his course,
And now is down and out?

Behind the bluff exterior,
“A nasty piece of work”; (1)
Who plays the jester and the fool,
To hide dark thoughts that lurk.

A calculating Eton toff,
Who pushed the farce too hard;
The game of bluff is over now,
He's ceased to be 'the card'.

The blonde toupee is now passé,
The push bike tyres flat;
The big buffoon is just a loon,
A pothole's sent him splat.

Another would-be Churchill has,
Slipped down the great man ranks;
And if there was a God above,
We all would give him thanks.

If Heathrow’s new third runway’s built,
The Fibster said he’d lie;
In front of the bulldozers there—
That’s one lie he’ll pass by! (2)

So is it farewell, Boris J.,
Will voters now see sense?
Or will some British people still,
Continue to be dense?

(1) TV interviewer, Eddie Mair, called Boris “ A nasty piece of work” after
he admitted giving a friend's telephone number to someone who wanted
that friend beaten-up. He also admitted writing articles with false quotes.

(2) Boris promised to lie in front of a bulldozer if a third runway was agreed
for London Airport. At the vote in Parliament he made sure he was abroad.

© Richard Layton

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dehumanising Kafala

Black women working in Lebanon routinely face racism, sexism and discrimination stemming from a "dehumanising" sponsorship system, rights groups said.

Rights groups say the kafala system used across the Arab world exploits workers and denies them the ability to travel or change jobs.
"The kafala system contributes to dehumanising Shamila and 300,000 other women in her situation in Lebanon. It denies them their most basic human rights," said Anti-Racism Movement (ARM).
Lala Arabian, executive manager at Insane Association, a local non-profit fighting for human and migrant rights said she is "ashamed and angry" over the lack of human rights for migrants in Lebanon.
"Migrant women are being deported even when they make claims that they were physically abused, raped, years of unpaid wages, etc," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.

Public Meeting West London (21/7)

'Should we join the Labour Party to transform it?' 

Saturday, 21 July  
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Quaker Meeting House, 
20 Nigel Playfair Avenue, 
London W6 9JY

Public Meeting North London (19/7)

'Gender and Power' 

Open discussion 
Thursday, 19 July - 8:00pm
Venue: Torriano Meeting House
 99 Torriano Avenue, NW5 2RX

The robots are coming

Global workforces will be decimated as the next industrial revolution gets under way, the head of one of Germany’s biggest firms has warned.

Joe Kaeser, global chief executive of the engineering giant Siemens, said up to almost a third of jobs could be lost as the transition from combustion engines to electric cars takes place over the next decade, in what will be “one of the single most important transformations of all time”.

“It may cause quite a dip in employment, because if you have 20-30 less value chain, then … you have 20%-30% fewer jobs. That is how it has been in the first three industrial revolutions. There has always been a significant change in employment. And then by enabling growth, it actually turned out that more jobs were created. Higher growth was achieved and obviously more people moved out of poverty and had better lives. So the first three worked very well and now we’re on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution which will obviously affect manufacturing massively as it accounts for 70% of global GDP. The social and economic impact of digitalisation is going to be massive. The least efficient part of the value chain, the middle man, will be cut out. Unfortunately the least efficient part of the value chain is human beings so someone has to do something about the fall out,” he said.

We are a caring world

The number of people caring for a family member has reached 7.6 million, a sharp increase of one million compared with a decade ago.  The Social Market Foundation, an independent thinktank, shows that millions are now giving up their time to for free to look after elderly relatives, a partner or a sick or disabled child – with the number spending 20 hours or more caring for a relative up by 4% between 2005 and 2015.

The Social Market Foundation report also found that family carers provide 149m hours of care each week, equal to the work of 4 million full-time caregivers. More than half (59%) of those providing care for an elderly relative are women. Of those providing care to a sick or disabled child, 65% are women. The report highlighted how caring can affect earning, with women aged 40-64 who are non-carers making a median £1,500 a month, £50 a month more than carers, who earn a median £1,450.


The Golden Visas

There has been a 46% increase in the number of the global super-rich prepared to invest £2m for the privilege of living and working in the UK despite Theresa May’s ordering a crackdown on a wealthy visa scheme to root out “illicit and corrupt” money flowing into the UK.
More than 400 very wealthy overseas investors applied for tier 1 investor visas in the year to 31 March, a 46% increase on the number of applicants in the previous 12 months. The tier 1 investor scheme, widely described as the “golden visa”, allows visitors to stay in the UK for 40 months if they invest more than £2m in the UK economy.
Research by Collyer Bristow, a law firm that advises the global super-rich, found that 405 people applied for tier 1 visas in the year to 31 March, up from 278 in the previous 12 months. The number of applicants from Russian citizens increased by 46% to 52, Chinese interest rose by 26% to 123. The biggest rise in applications was from Turkey, where the number rose 85% to 24 following the government making it harder for Turkish citizens to apply for permanent residency.
James Badcock, a partner at Collyer Bristow, said: “Despite Brexit uncertainty, the UK is attractive to many HNWIs [high net worth individuals] as a place to live and invest in. For many overseas investors, the UK offers an international platform from which to grow their investments or businesses on an international stage. In addition to the financial and investment opportunities, the strong cultural appeal of the UK and London, as well as its private education system, attracts many overseas HNWIs.
There are more than 8,500 Russians listed as directors of UK companies, according to research by the accountancy firm Moore Stephens.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Rip-Off Capitalism

When companies have too much power, they are able to charge consumers far more than it costs to make a product or deliver a service, generating huge profits. Companies facing fewer challengers also have less incentive to innovate or pay their employees well. 

Economists Jan De Loecker of Princteon and Jan Eeckhout of University College London are sounding the alarm particularly loudly. Last year, they reported that markups in the US, defined as the amount above cost at which a product is sold, had jumped from about 18% in 1980 to 70% in 2014

According to their analysis of the financial statements 70,000 companies across 134 countries, the rise in markups is a worldwide phenomenon. They find that while global average markups were less than 10% in 1980, they were at almost 60% in 2016. For most countries, the companies in the dataset represent more than two-thirds of that country’s economy. While the greatest increases in markups have come come in North America and Europe, every region but South America saw large rises—and that’s because markups in South America were already high.

The IMF has since weighed in, and come down on the side of De Loecker and Eeckhout. In a recent research paper, the IMF found that markups have indeed increased across the world; even when you account for marketing and management expenses, the rise has been dramatic.


Japanese Class Divisions

Japan is basically divided into two economic groups: Those who can marry and afford to have children, and those who can’t.
In “Shin Nihon no Kaikyu Shakai” (The New Japanese Class Society), sociologist Kenji Hashimoto says that class divisions are widening. Traditionally, there were two classes, an owners’ class and a workers’ class. The rise of the white-collar employee following World War II created a middle class, but in principle even these salarymen belonged to the workers’ class.
Hashimoto breaks the current population down into five classes.
He defines the owners’ class as those who employ at least five people. They number, in his estimate, about 2.5 million, or 4.1 percent of the working population. Their average annual income is about ¥6 million, weighed down somewhat by the many small business owners who belong to this class.
The new middle class numbers 12.85 million or 20.6 percent of the working population, and includes people in administration, engineering and higher education. Their average annual income is a little less than ¥5 million. Then there’s the regular employee workers’ class, the largest group at about 22 million, or 35 percent of the working population.
The traditional middle class is made up of self-employed individuals, numbering some 8 million people.
Finally, there is the layer known as the underclass, which is made up of nonregular employees and numbers about 9.3 million or 15 percent of the working population. Regular full-time employees are protected to a certain extent by organizations like the Japanese Trade Union Confederations, usually referred to as Rengo, but nonregular employees have very little protection or representation to help them receive raises or gain benefits.
With the exception of women who work to supplement household incomes, almost all part-time workers belong to the underclass, which Hashimoto says has expanded in size in recent decades and become a fixed class.
The biggest problem is that once a person is hired as a nonregular employee they tend to be stuck in such a position for the rest of their lives, even if they change jobs. So even if the economy improves, the lives of the people in the underclass don’t.  As it stands, minimum wage earners barely get by. The underclass in Japan makes roughly 40 percent of the national median income, while in Europe, the underclass makes anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the median income, depending on the country. 
University of Tokyo professor Yuji Genda edited a book which explores wage stagnation since the dawn of the Heisei Era. Most people blame the country’s lost decade of the 1990s, but since then the demand for labor has gone up, and with an increase in demand, there is almost always an increase in wages. That’s basic economics. But that hasn’t happened here, and Genda partly blames workers themselves for not demanding higher wages. Companies, uncertain about the future, are hoarding cash rather than sharing profits with employees, so it’s up to employees to use their leverage to gain access to that cash, but that would require a certain amount of organization.
Full story here

UK In Debt

Stoke-on-Trent has been identified as the debt capital of England and Wales, according to official figures.
The Midlands city had the highest rate of personal insolvencies in 2017, followed by Plymouth, Hull and Scarborough.
The former industrial centre famous for its potteries and pinpointed as a Brexit heartland, recorded an insolvency rate of 44.8 per 10,000 adults – more than double the national average.
Eight of the 10 places with the lowest numbers of people with debt problems were London boroughs, led by Westminster and Kingston upon Thames, with only nine people per 10,000. 
For the country as a whole, the insolvency rate – which counts personal bankruptcies, debt relief orders and individual voluntary arrangements per 10,000 adults – rose for the second year to reach 21.4. The number of people struggling with debt went into decline in the wake of the financial crisis but since 2016 numbers have been rising again. 
Britain’s personal debt mountain has ballooned in recent years, fuelled by low interest rates from the Bank of England, payday loans and increasing use of personal contract plans for buying cars. The total level of consumer debt excluding student loans surpassed £200bn in the middle of last year, returning to levels unseen since the financial crisis.

Top 10 highest insolvency rates (cases per 10,000 of population)

Stoke-on-Trent 44.8
Plymouth 40.4
Kingston upon Hull 39.5
Scarborough 38.5
Blackpool 38.1
Corby 37.4
Isle of Wight 37.4
Torbay 37.1
Gloucester 36.4
Harlow 34.3

Top 10 lowest insolvency rates

Westminster 9.0
Kingston upon Thames 9.0
Wandsworth 9.1
Harrow 9.4
Camden 9.7
Kensington and Chelsea 9.8
Wokingham 10.0
Barnet 10.4
Richmond upon Thames 10.4
Rushcliffe 11.1

America's invisible working class

 The average real weekly earnings of all production and nonsupervisory workers remained $312.18 in early 2018 compared to $315.44 in 1972, but have in fact been falling over the past year. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the real wages (a metric that takes inflation into account) for workers in production and nonsupervisory positions fell from $22.62 in May 2017 to $22.59 in May 2018.

According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey on the Economic Well-Beingof U.S. Households in 201740 percent of adults said they would be unable to handle an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the money or selling something. 

The working class has always had it rough in the United States. It has had to struggle to the limit for every crumb it has ever gotten. Racial divisions have always been a detriment. Labor history here has been the most violent of any industrial nation. American mythology about the ‘land of opportunity’ is powerful even as economic mobility is in decline. The system is currently designed for low wage jobs and the almost impossibility of forming a union. 

Protests with a working class theme are largely nonexistent. This appears to be the case in the country as large. Intersectionality seems to about everything except the working class. Protesting the names of buildings on campus or the existence of statues bring history to light but ultimately are displays of radical attitudes not radical politics.


Hungary's inhumane “keep them out” policy

Julia Ivan, the director of the Hungarian branch of Amnesty International, explained that “The atmosphere towards migrants and those trying to support them has become so toxic here.”
In 2018 Hungary has become the most anti-migrant country in Europe. Gallup recently devised a Migrant Acceptance Index to measure how accepting populations were on issues such as “an immigrant becoming your neighbour”. Hungary recorded the third-worst score in the entire world. 
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of the Fidesz party, was re-elected for a fourth term in April’s landslide election win, and relentlessly campaigned to a drumbeat of xenophobic rhetoric – laying the blame for the entirety of Hungary’s woes, from its collapsing education system to widespread political corruption, at the feet of the migranj. Orban, who enjoys near-messianic levels of popularity has referred to all refugees as “Muslim invaders” and migrants trying to reach Hungary as a “poison” that his country does not need.   
 Orbán’s government has submitted a new piece of anti-migrant legislation, informally called the “Stop Soros” bill. The proposition is named after the American/Hungarian billionaire and civil society donor, George Soros, who Mr Orbán claims is trying to “settle millions from Africa and the Middle East” to disrupt Hungary’s homogeneity. The bill declares that any NGOs that “sponsor, organise or support the entry or stay of third-country citizens on Hungarian territory” will be viewed as a “national security risk”. NGOs will have to obtain permission from Hungary’s interior minister to continue to operate and those breaking the rules to support migrants of any kind have been told they will be fined and shut down. Their employees could then also face jail time.
“The constant stoking of hatred by the current government for political gain has led to this latest shameful development, which is blatantly xenophobic and runs counter to European and international human rights standards and values,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights (Unhcr), has said.
According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), just 1,216 asylum seekers were granted protection in Hungary in 2017. In the same year, 325,400 asylum seekers were granted protection in Germany, followed by 40,600 in France, 35,100 in Italy, 34,000 in Austria and 31,200 in Sweden. A further 2,880 applications were rejected and recognition rates for those arriving from war zones such as Syria and Iraq even remain low. The country also refused to resettle even one refugee from the inundated Italy and Greece as part of the EU’s mandatory quota programme.
The “keep them out” policy was signposted by the triumphant construction, in June 2015, of a mammoth 175km long, 4m high razor wire fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border. This impenetrable barrier was later extended to the Hungarian-Croatian frontier. A “pushback law” was also introduced, whereby potential refugees caught in the country with no legal documentation could be removed by any means possible to Serbia. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which provides medical treatment to refugees on the Serbian side of the frontier, has recorded hundreds of cases of intentional injuries allegedly perpetrated by Hungarian border patrols during “pushbacks”. They include beating injuries, dog bites and irritation from tear gas and pepper sprays. Between January 2016 and February 2017, MSF also recorded that just over one in five of these alleged attacks were inflicted on children.
“This pushback law is completely arbitrary and massively contradicts EU law,” says Gabor Gyulai, director of the HHC. “Violence is a clear accompanying phenomenon of the pushback policy.”
To action asylum requests from those fleeing conflict, the government has set up two transit camps outside the Hungarian border towns of Tompa and Roeszke to house applicants. In 2016, 60 refugees were allowed to enter the transit zones per day but the HHC believes this has plunged to a mere one person a day, on average, at each site. This tactic is designed to split up entire families for an infinite time period. Refugees fortunate to be allowed to cross into Hungary then experience the second carefully calculated prong – “detain them all”. Living conditions are “absolutely inhumane”, according to the HHC. “We know what is going on there, it is like a military camp where you are guarded everywhere, minimal privacy,” Mr Gabor says. “Plus you live in a shipping container and we have a continental climate. In the summer, temperatures can easily reach 40 degrees inside. Many of the adults who arrive are already in poor mental health; they have been tortured or witnessed death. Then they are then stuck in a space a few metres squared in size." NGOs are offering psychological assistance to the asylum-seekers, they are denied the opportunity to take it. “We have an NGO here, the Cordelia Foundation, which can provide specialist psycho-therapeutic assistance to these individuals but they are not allowed to do so by the government. It is totally senseless and completely inadequate for the vulnerable.”
The third deterrent strategy deployed is the “withdrawal of integration support”, which occurs if a refugee is granted permanent residency in Hungary. Individuals are transferred to a reception centre near the remote Austrian border town of Vámosszabadi. They are given 30 days free board and food and then left to fend for themselves, provided with no language courses or labour integration – as occurs in many other European countries. 
Abdul, a young man from Afghanistan, currently resides in the run-down and very decrepit facility in Vámosszabadi. Granted asylum in Hungary after an arduous journey via Iran, Turkey and Serbia, Abdul received death threats from the Taliban for working as an English translator for American troops stationed in his home country.
“I want to scream, I am going crazy,” he says. Abdul claims that those staying at the centre have been the victim of beatings from both security personnel and local residents. “I have travelled through so many different places, I thought I would drown in the sea, but Hungary is the worst. The people here, they hate us and the conditions here and on the border are not fit for animals. I have seen my friends beaten, refused food, we are treated like inmates here, second class humans, not actual people with needs and hopes. There is no future here unless you are Hungarian,” Abdul adds. “Europe has forgotten us.”
The UNHCR has now taken the unprecedented step of urging EU states to stop returning asylum seekers to Hungary over fears about their security on arrival.
SOYMB blog takes the opportunity to remind the Hungarian workers how different attitude towards refugees was in 1956 when hundreds of thousands of Hungarians fled abroad from the Russian invasion and were welcomed with a safe haven. Memories are indeed short.

Friday, July 13, 2018

England beat and wife-beating rises

Domestic violence cases in Britain have surged during the World Cup and England's defeat in the semi-finals is likely to trigger another spike in beatings. The NPCC has recorded nearly 300 incidents of domestic abuse since the World Cup began on June 14
The number of victims referred by police in Britain to the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has risen by a fifth this month as England's football team enjoyed their best World Cup run in 28 years before losing to Croatia on Wednesday. The NCDV - which helps battered or threatened women obtain court orders to escape abusive partners - said it had received at least 3,500 reports of domestic violence so far in July - about 600 more complaints than it would expect on average.
Police and activists in Britain last month issued warnings over domestic violence ahead of England's first World Cup match, with evidence showing abuse levels spike when the team plays.
"After last night's defeat, I feel sure we are going to see an extra amount of people coming through in the next few days," the NCDV's head Mark Groves told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "For a significant increase like that in domestic violence referrals, there must be something significant happening and the only significant thing happening is losing in the football."
The most detailed research into the links between the World Cup and domestic abuse found that violent incidents in Lancashire in northeast England increased by 38 percent when the national team lost a match, and by 26 percent when they won.
England fans were captured starting mass public brawls and throwing bottles at people in the streets after the national team's defeat to Croatia.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said, "This is incredibly disappointing to see, and is in stark comparison to Russia, where the fans have conducted themselves brilliantly."

Quote of the Day

"Those who unleash controlled forces, also unleash uncontrolled forces." Engels

The Racial Wealth Gap

There is a large wealth gap between white families and nonwhite families.  Median wealth for white families is $171,000. Black and Latino families, meanwhile, have far less wealth: Black families have a median wealth of $17,600, while Latino families have $20,700. The most common explanation for what drives the racial wealth gap is lack of Black homeownership.

It would take decades to centuries for Black families to achieve the same amount of wealth that white families have. It would take Black families 228 years to reach the same amount of wealth that white families have today.

All Americans saw their wealth decline after the Great Recession in 2008, after the housing market collapse. However, Black and Latino Americans were hurt the most. In 2007, the median net worth of all households was $135,700. That dropped to $82,300 in 2010 and $81,400 in 2013. Nonwhite Americans already had less wealth than whites and saw what little wealth they had deplete even more. In 2007, the median net worth of white households was $192,500. White median net worth dropped to $141,900 in 2013. Meanwhile, what little wealth Black and Latino households had prior to the recession was further depleted. In 2007, Black median net worth was $19,200, while Latinos had $23,600 in wealth. Their wealth, in 2013, dropped to $11,000 for Black households and $13,700 for Latinos.

Obama’s homeowner relief measures did very little to provide relief. For example, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) helped homeowners refinance their mortgages, but only for those not in danger of foreclosure. As a result, it did not help the homeowners most in need, particularly subprime borrowers. This especially hurt Black and Latino borrowers since their refinance rates under HARP were lower.

The post-recession “recovery” has seen an obscene increase in housing prices across the nation. As of this month, median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,500 a month. But San Francisco isn’t the only expensive city. Median rent for a one-bedroom in New York City is $2,860 a month, in Seattle, $1,990, and in Miami, $1,800. The national average rent reached $1,405 last month.

Housing prices are also outpacing wages. The median wage for US workers is $30,533.31 a year. Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not enough to afford a two-bedroom rental home anywhere in the country. Not even $15 an hour is enough for most locations. One would have to make $22.10 an hour, on average, to afford a two-bedroom rental home and $17.90 an hour for a one-bedroom.

Because apartment rents and home prices are so high, it is incredibly difficult for young people of color to buy homes and accumulate wealth to pass down to their offspring. University of California, Berkeley, professor and housing expert Carolina Reid told Truthout that renters “are compelled to pay increasingly more of their income on rent, and there’s no wealth gains to be made from rent.” Reid also warned that if someone is struggling to pay rent and their rent continues to increase, they are more likely to take out a predatory loan. In fact, loosely regulated independent mortgage companies are creating half of new mortgages compared to nearly 20 percent in 2007, echoing signs of the previous collapse. Many of these loans are to low-income people. Even if another financial crisis does not happen, Reid says, “Your ability to save for a down payment to buy a house in the future is compromised.”

A 2017 Institute for Policy Studies report found that the median wealth of Black Americans will drop to zero by 2053 and Latino median wealth will drop to zero 20 years after that. Meanwhile, “median white household wealth would climb to $137,000 by 2053.”

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