Sunday, March 18, 2018

A new treaty for migrants?

At least 15 migrants, including five children, have died when their boat capsized as they tried to cross from Turkey. Also a new wave of people fled the northern Afrin regionas Turkish warplanes struck the main town. More than 150,000 people have left the town in the last few days.

 As the death toll keeps mounting and the humanitarian crises continue unabated, the United Nations is pinning its hopes on a proposed Global Compact on Migration (GCM), a document that covers a wide range of issues, including labour rights, access to legal assistance, open borders, consular protection, cheaper transfer of migrant remittances and the re-integration of migrants and refugees into society.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric put it this way: “The Global Compact for Migration will be the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.” 

Sarnata Reynolds, Global Displacement & Migration Policy Advisor at Oxfam told IPS that overall, Oxfam welcomes much of the contents of the draft to the Global Compact on Migration. “It consistently recognizes that all migrants have human rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and respects their right to access education, health care, due process and justice before the law.” At the same time, she said, the zero draft is written from the perspective of states rather than the experience of rights holders. While this state-led process requires that political leaders ultimately agree to the contents of the GCM, implementation won’t be possible or credible if the experiences of migrants, their families and the communities who work alongside them are not fully integrated. As the negotiations unfold, Oxfam urges states to commit to increasing the safe passage of migrants by providing sufficient work opportunities, education, family reunification and protection visas that meet the needs of families and industry, and lifesaving assistance when migrants are caught in crisis. In particular, the experience of women as migrants themselves and oftentimes as the primary caretaker of migrant families, must be integrated into all programs and approaches, to ensure that their ability to exercise agency and take up fair and safe employment is promoted. As another priority, Oxfam is calling for the legal recognition and protection of migrants forced across borders due to disasters and/or climate change.
Matthew Reading-Smith, Senior Communication Officer at CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance told IPS there are over a quarter billion migrants and refugees in the world. Over 5,000 died last year on their dangerous journeys. He said that the Global Compact is meant to protect the rights of those displaced and help address the root economic, environmental and social drivers that are compelling people to leave their communities and countries. " But we know that natural disasters are the number one cause of internal and international displacement. With rising sea levels, desertification and extreme weather events, climate action must be a part of any meaningful agreement."

Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), said “climate induced displacement is upon us. Coastal communities are being evacuated and relocated the world over. In sea locked countries of the Pacific Ocean, disappearance of our island homes is imminent”, he warned. To protect the growing number of climate migrants, a necessary starting place for the compact is to reaffirm the importance of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate efforts to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5°C, instead of the more conservative and ambiguous target to keep the world “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Missing just one of these targets will lead to millions of people being displaced, said Duituturaga.
Kate Gough, a researcher at the Washington-based Center for Global Development (CGD) who specializes on migration issues, told IPS  immense benefits migration can bring can be amplified: migrants can significantly and positively contribute to the countries they move to and the countries they move from, but maximizing the positive impacts that are possible requires policies that enable migrants’ contributions rather than stifle them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Quote of the Day

" When people talk about its failure, I'm not sure what they have in mind exactly. Perhaps they're criticizing the fact that the capitalist economy still exists. Yes, that's something we didn't achieve. We didn't find an answer to this back then and that needs to be worked on today." Gretchen Dutschke, widow of  Rudi Dutschke "[young people should] become more aware of the situation of the society they live in, and that they join other people who also try to create a better world. That they sit together to think about what objectives they want to achieve, and how they can achieve them. 

St Patrick's Day

They came to America in the droves. They fled a despotic colonial government, famine, disease, and poverty. There were refugees, fleeing torture, imprisonment, and death over politics or civil war. They came in large numbers. They brought their religion.  

The immigrants settled in squalid impoverished areas of large cities. They took the worst jobs available, jobs no one else wanted to do. They lived in poverty. 

Due to their large numbers in such a short period of time, they were harshly discriminated against. Xenophobia was rife. They were feared foreigners pledging their allegiance to a foreign religious leader. They were taking jobs and food out of the mouths of American-born, whatever that means.

 They came to America. They came for a better life. They came to live in poverty because poverty here was better than where they came from. They faced harsh xenophobia.

They set down roots, raised families, assimilated, and became Americans. In some cases, they took control of the politics of the cities they called home.

Signs could be seen at hiring halls, "No Irish need apply." Others were in lodging houses, "No Dogs. No Irish."

Today is St. Patrick's Day. A day Irish-Americans celebrate their heritage and culture. Celebrate St. Patrick's day with a drink or two. Then, think about how we can fix a horribly broken system.

Others still come today. From all over the globe. All races and religions. They come for a better life. Wars, other conflicts, political upheaval, despotism, poverty, pogroms, worldwide depression, and other issues, has displaced tens of millions of people, a whole collective melting pot of humanity. For something called freedom. They are proud of who they are, where they came from, and want to live as they always have. They are no different than many others who came before them. Proud of their ethnicity, religion, customs, and traditions. The new immigrants face the same xenophobia as the others before them. The rhetoric is as inflammatory now as it was then. The demagogue Know-Nothings are as vocal now as in the past.   

Some nativists, criticize people coming here, legally and illegally, to escape poverty, tyranny, strife, famines, and the panoply of man-made and natural disasters that crush people. 

Instead of blaming immigrants and refugees for their plight, we should point our fingers and direct our wrath at politicians.
To all the peoples who came to and who built America.
Adapted from here

The Population Bomb Has Been Defused

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote “The Population Bomb,” warning that unchecked population growth would lead to mass starvation in the 1970s. He was wrong. Global population did rise, but food production managed to keep up.

The prophets of overpopulation have been defeated by technological progress but it alone can never deliver a final victory in the battle to feed the world. It is the women who are having fewer children that is proving the solution. Family sizes are reducing. Unlike other animals, humans can voluntarily limit their reproduction.

The total fertility rate is based on the number of children women have been having. When the rate is lower than about 2.1, it means total population will eventually stabilize and decline. It’s worth noting that World Bank estimates of total fertility rates tend to err on the high side. In most countries, total fertility falls from a high level of about six or seven children to two or below, and stays there. Once smaller families become the norm in a country or region, they very rarely go back up. The shift from agriculture to urban life means less incentive for families to have kids to work on farms. Urban life also increases the cost of raising a kid. Higher education levels for women, freeing them from traditional gender norms, are probably a big factor as well. Importantly, none of these factors are temporary.

 Overall,  world fertility has fallen and the Cassandras of overpopulation have shifted their concerns from global to regional. If some regions continue to have big families forever, they will eventually outgrow the regions with limited population growth, causing the overall world fertility rate to go back up. People who worry about overpopulation are now concerned that some cultures will simply always have more offspring.

A decade ago, many believed that Muslim culture, with its emphasis on traditional gender roles, would defy the fertility transition. But then fertility rates in majority-Muslim countries plunged. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Indonesia have mostly completed their fertility transitions, while Egypt’s and Pakistan’s are underway.

 Now the worry has shifted to sub-Saharan Africa. With a fertility rate of about five births per woman, it’s the only region of the globe that has not yet made the jump to small families. But even here, there are signs of change in a small but growing number of countries. Countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo still have very high fertility rates. But if these last holdouts fall, the global triumph of small families will be complete.

There are suggestions that Africa will not buck the trend and overpopulate the world. First, there’s a strong association between fertility and income levels -- once a country passes about $5,000 in per capita annual gross domestic product, it almost never has a high fertility rate. Rapid growth in a number of African countries means that this level will be in reach within a few decades. Also, the transition appears to be happening much faster than in the past -- it took the U.K. 95 years to drop from a fertility rate of six children per woman to three, but it took Botswana only 24, Bangladesh 20 and Iran only 10.

Lower fertility won't immediately defuse the population bomb. The number of people in a country continues to rise for years after young people stop having lots of kids -- a phenomenon known as population momentum. Thus, the United Nations continues to project that global population will rise from about 7.6 billion today to more than 11 billion by the end of the century.

Much of sub-Saharan Africa will possess a surplus of people for decades to come, and many of those people will want to migrate to wealthy, aging countries in search of better opportunities, or to escape strife and conflict. 

Adapted from here

Welsh Disability Poverty

The Disability News Service (DNS) website was given exclusive figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on poverty in Wales. The information was on top of a separate report by the foundation, which found [pdf, p1] that 39% of disabled people in Wales live in income poverty – the highest levels in the UK. This compared to 22% of non-disabled people in Wales.
But DNS claims that the figures the foundation gave it show “the increase in poverty levels appears to have started at around the time the Conservative-led coalition government came to power in 2010”. They showed that the proportion of working-age disabled people in poverty in Wales was:
  • 28% in the three years from 2008-09 to 2010-11.
  • 27% in the three years from 2009-10 to 2011-12.
This then rose to:
  • 37% in the three years from 2012-13 to 2014-15.
  • 39% in the years from 2013-14 to 2015-16.
Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales (DW) told DNS:"The sharp increase in disability poverty is very concerning indeed. Many would put this down to welfare reform and the cuts to disability benefits. However, because JRF does not take into account ‘disability costs benefits’ like PIP in calculating the rates of disability poverty, this tells us that this increase is not solely down to welfare reform. We cannot simply point to cuts in disability benefits as being the cause in Wales. Much more must be done to address the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people. The lack of flexible, well-paid job opportunities is a barrier for many disabled people."

South Wales Socialist Party Branch 

Saturday, 14 April 
12:00pm - 2:00pm
29 Park Place, 
Cardiff CF10 3BA

Friday, March 16, 2018

Criminalising the poor

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) will be introduced in the Dorset town of Poole from 16 April in a bid to “tackle anti-social and nuisance behaviours.”

Beggars will be issued with fines of £100, its council has said. Fines could also be issued to those found sleeping rough in car parks and doorways. The policy also covers leaving unattended possessions in the street.

 Labour MP David Lammy tweeted, "Fining people who are homeless and sleeping on the street is one of the most cruel and pointless policies I have ever seen,” he wrote on Twitter. “Why criminalise people for being poor and vulnerable? We need to focus on the support and housing services that homeless people need.”

Profits and Drugs

The market price of popular insulin products has skyrocketed in recent years. Some people with diabetes go broke paying for their medicine. Others have died while attempting to ration dosages.

Three of the largest insulin manufacturers have refused to seek a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed against them on behalf of diabetes patients. The drug makers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi-Aventis asked a federal judge in New Jersey to dismiss the case and suggested that the plaintiffs turn their attention to insurance companies instead.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has also put insurers on notice. In a speech before an insurance industry conference last Wednesday, Gottlieb said that current pharmaceutical pricing agreements between insurers and drug manufacturers have saddled people living with serious or long-term illnesses (such as diabetes) with the cost of keeping premiums lower for everyone else.
"But sick people aren't supposed to be subsidizing the healthy," Gottlieb said. "That's exactly the opposite of what most people thought they were buying when they bought into the notion of having insurance."
Gottlieb was referring to the system of "rebates" that currently controls the price of pharmaceuticals. Under this system, drug makers pay billions of dollars to insurance companies in order to sell drugs to people enrolled in health plans. It's a system that benefits people who can afford expensive insurance coverage, but for many working people, this system is a total failure. 
High drug prices are usually blamed entirely on pharmaceutical companies because they make the drugs and set the prices. However, these manufacturers do not set prices in a vacuum: They say they shape prices around the costs of rebate payments they're required to make to insurance companies in exchange for selling prescription drugs to their members. These rebating agreements are at the center of the drug pricing system that a growing chorus of advocates and policy makers say must change. Insurance companies are making secret deals with drug manufactures, and that's why people with health coverage don't pay full price for drugs at the pharmacy. These "kickbacks," as advocates call them, raise an important question: Are insurance companies giving customers what they pay for?
 How the system works
 Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) work with insurers to decide which drugs will be covered by their health plans. This provides PBMs with considerable leverage over drug makers. In 2017, the three largest PBMs -- Express Scripts, OptimaRx and CVS/Caremark -- controlled access to about 72 percent of the drug market, according to the Drug Channels Institute. This explains why individual insurance plans cover certain types or brands of medicines and not others.
Using this leverage, PBMs make secret agreements with manufacturers like Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly to place their drugs on health plans in exchange for large discounts and rebate payments. The PBM keeps a percentage of the rebate, and the insurance company takes the rest.
This gives drug companies access to millions of customers in exchange for billions of dollars in discounts and rebates that can significantly lower costs for people with health coverage, depending on how insurance companies share the savings. The Drug Channels Institute estimates that drug companies spent $127 billion on rebates, discounts and price concessions in 2016 alone. PhRMA, the industry group representing major drug makers, estimates that one third of the original price of all brand name drugs is rebated back to insurers and other members of the supply chain. 
Some drugs are more heavily rebated than others. Insulin, for example, secures rebates for insurers at rates of up to 75 percent of the original market price of the drug, or "list price," according to diabetes advocates. Patient advocates say this system creates perverse incentives that push the price of drugs like insulin through the roof. Insurers can use hefty rebates from commonly used drugs to lower premiums and attract new customers, and the demand for steeper rebates pushes manufacturers to set their list prices higher and higher. As result, many pharmacy benefit plans operate like "reverse insurance," according to Drug Channel Institute CEO Adam Fein.
"The sickest people taking medicines for chronic illnesses generate the majority of manufacturer rebate payments," Fein wrote, "Today, these funds are used to subsidize the premiums for healthier plan members."
People who can afford robust insurance plans may not notice the price increases, but those buying medicine with cheaper plans do. Insurance companies often calculate coinsurance and deductibles with the original list price of a drug, not the after-rebate "net price" they actually pay. That means cheaper health plans with high out-of-pocket costs require patients to pay all or part of the inflated list price until deductibles are paid off. In the case of insulin, that list price could be hundreds of dollars higher than what the insurer pays after rebates.
High out-of-pocket costs are a leading reason why patients don't take their medication, which can lead to medical problems that increase the cost of health care for everyone, according to Steven Knievel, an access to medicines advocate at Public Citizen.
"The practice of raising the list price to increase the size of rebates benefits the drug companies and the PBMs. Both come out winners," Knievel said. "But the consumer is the loser."
Meanwhile, insurers and PBMs tend to include higher-priced drugs that bring bigger rebates on the list of drugs they cover, rather than including cheaper generics and biosimilars.  Major PBMs are increasingly merging with insurance companies, a sign that their interests have long been aligned.
 "Patients shouldn't be penalized by their biology if they need a drug that isn't on formulary," Gottlieb said, referring to a health plan's list of covered drugs. "Patients shouldn't face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs and pay money where the primary purpose is to help subsidize rebates paid to a long list of supply chain intermediaries, or is used to buy down the premium costs for everyone else."
"The manufacturers point the finger at the PBMs and say, 'The rebates that you are demanding are so large that we have to raise our prices to maintain a reasonable rate of returns,'" said Patricia Danzon, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania, in an interview. "The PBMs say the drug companies are the ones that set the prices, and we are only trying to get the best prices for our customers."
 For example, manufacturers claim to be unfairly singled out by a growing number of state-level drug-pricing transparency laws, and they are eagerly promoting research suggesting that insurers are not passing savings from drug rebates on to their customers.
The result is an opaque blend of public relations messaging and raw economics. There are profiteers standing on all sides of the drug pricing equation. Consumers are stuck in the middle, shelling out monthly premiums along with rising out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy. It's a system of profit built on the backs of sick people. 

Syria's Statistics

- About 511,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war since it began seven years ago.
- More than 6 million people are uprooted within Syria and more than 5 million are refugees in neighbouring countries - mostly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan - and also throughout Europe.
- Syrian refugees in neighbouring Lebanon are becoming poorer, with more than three-quarters living on less than $4 per day - leaving children at risk of child labour and early marriage. - About 66,000 refugees returned to Syria in 2017.
- More than 3,900 civilians, including hundreds of minors and women, left Eastern Ghouta, the besieged rebel stronghold on the outskirts of Damascus, on Thursday in the largest displacement from the area since the government forces imposed their siege in 2013.
-Syrians are likely to file more than 2 million lawsuits seeking restitution for lost and damaged property.
-2.9 million Syrians live in U.N.-declared hard-to-reach and besieged locations. 
- 6.5 million people in Syria lack enough to eat, while a further four million people are at risk of going hungry.
-In the first two months of this year there had been 67 verified attacks on health facilities, health workers and infrastructure. That amounted to more than half of all verified attacks in 2017.

Relatively Rich

Felix Dennis, the publisher who was one of the richest men in Britain, famously suggested someone with assets of £1 million ($1.8 million) to £2 million would count as "comfortably poor" on his wealth scale, and would need £5 million to £15 million to be considered "comfortably wealthy". 

Last May Labour pledged to introduce an extra tax for the richest in society – those with an annual income of more than £80,000, said shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Almost half of respondents to a YouGov study in 2017 said that people who earned £45,001 a year, the starting point of the higher tax bracket, were wealthy. And 86 per cent considered those with an income of at least £150,001 as rich. 

But ask high-earners themselves and you'll find a third don't consider themselves well-off, according to new research by Caxton Premier International Services, the currency transfer firm. These respondents have an income of at least £100,000 a year and are in the top 5 per cent of earners in the UK. 
More than a third own an international property.  The research found that this was especially prevalent among older respondents; 61 per cent of over-55s would not describe themselves as wealthy.

More than two-thirds of these high-earning respondents still shopped around for the best deals on everyday essentials such as food, flights, and insurance. 
Douglas Meakin, a business consultant, describes himself as "comfortably wealthy". The 55-year-old, who used to work for a Silicon Valley technology firm, still calculates his income in dollars. He estimates it is between $US600,000 and $US700,000 in a good year.  "But if you are supporting a family and you're living somewhere expensive like London with few assets, that £100,000 income isn't going to go very far. Wealth isn't about income; you need to turn that income into wealth."
Income has little to do with feeling wealthy, according to Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist and life coach, because we continue to raise the bar as our salary increases.
A salary of £40,000 seems huge when you're earning £20,000, but when you get there you realise it doesn't feel as you imagined, she said. At £40,000 we could then tell ourselves an income of £80,000 could be life-changing. But once this is achieved, we find it's not.
Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer psychologist at University of College London. Dr Tsivrikos said wealth was relative and how rich we felt depended on who we're comparing ourselves with.
Even a person at the top of their social circle could feel like a pauper. In a world that gives us increasing access to those with "lavish lifestyles", such as the Kardashians, Dr Tsivrikos said we're never going to feel "wealthy enough".

Precarious Irish

In a survey commissioned by Irish Life half of workers say they are three paydays away from financial uncertainty.

The risks for renters are even higher the survey found that renters are just two paydays away from losing their accommodation.

More than half of working people believe they would be able to maintain their current standard of living for just three months or less if they were unable to work.

Nearly half of adults overall claim their household would struggle financially if they suffered a long-term disability or died.

The Internet Slave Market

In Saudi Arabia, labour by foreign domestic workers is controlled through the “kafala” system. To get authorisation to work in the country, a foreign worker must have a “kafil” (or “sponsor”). They are given guardianship of foreign domestic workers. They write up their contracts and the terms of their visa. Kafils are sometimes individual employers and sometimes agencies. This system makes foreign domestic workers dependent on their sponsors. When a woman arrives on Saudi territory, she has to give her passport to her sponsor for the entire duration of her contract. If at some point during her contract, she wants to change jobs, she has to get permission from her sponsor. If she is let go, then her former employer has signed off on a contract with a new employer, which is a complicated legal procedure.
By organising sales and auctions online, sponsors get around these complicated transfer laws: They don’t have to pay fees for breaking a contract with a domestic worker and don’t have to waste time in legal proceedings. Moreover, they ask a fee for the “sale” of their former employee, which they can’t do if they go down the legal route. Thus, instead of breaking their contracts with workers, sponsors organise amongst themselves to transfer domestic workers from one home to another.
On social media, on the site "", the main Saudi website for reselling items – a bit like Craigslist, you can buy both used cars and domestic workers. This practice isn’t legal but it is popular. Saudi law stipulates clearly that a foreign worker doesn’t have the right to work in the home of an employer not named in her contract. Moreover, foreign domestic workers are supposed to receive compensation for overtime and days off. But when you are operating outside of the law, then the practices are obviously different. In reality, we are seeing modern slavery take place on social media. The sponsors end up having full control of the lives of domestic workers. The domestic workers find themselves trapped because these sponsors vigorously exploit their ignorance of the laws. It also happens to be incredibly difficult for workers to file complaints.
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are the new playing fields for recruitment agencies that deal with foreign domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. The very first site that the international press discovered was the Twitter account “Moussaouqa Oum Ghada” (in English, “Oum Ghada Market”), where domestic workers are sold and bartered. The account, which has close to 2,000 followers, has been going strong since October 2013. There’s a brief description of the worker, highlighting her strengths and weaknesses. Usually the description is followed by the hashtag (in Arabic) “#DomesticWorkerToLetGo” and an explanation of why the employers are “letting go” this particular worker.
The reasons range widely. Sometimes, the former employers are moving. Other times, the employers admit that they’ve been late paying their employees and, instead of rectifying the situation, they prefer to let the employee go. On other occasions, they launch accusations at their employee, claiming, for example, that she didn’t look after the children properly. One message even specifies that the employee can be taken for a trial period if the employer wants to better evaluate her skills.
For example, “Letting go of female Indian worker. She works well and washes everything – from the floor to clothes – and is clean enough. On the other hand, she doesn’t know how to cook and only knows how to cut vegetables. It’s been less than a month since she arrived in Saudi Arabia. She doesn’t speak Arabic or English, she only knows how to speak her own language. She’s 50 years old.” The ad also explains why she is being “let go”: “The reasons for her suspension have to do with the large size of the former household, which meant that she wasn’t very efficient. It’s possible to try her for a trial period.”
There’s also a Moussaouqa Oum Ghada Snapchat account that regularly publishes “stories” (10 to 15 second videos) that are really ads to sell or trade workers.

Atheism is an "illness"

Blasphemy is illegal in Egypt, and arrests are routinely made if people insult or defame Islam under the country’s strict religious laws. Egyptian lawmakers are now considering outlawing atheism altogether. 
“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief when this is totally wrong,” Amro Hamroush, head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, said when he introduced the bill in late December.
An atheist was kicked off a live TV show in Egypt as he was presenting his reasons for being an atheist.
TV host Mahmoud Abd Al-Halim told him he was being “inappropriate”  then asked Mr Hashem to leave, saying: “We cannot promote such destructive set a very bad example for the Egyptian youth. He added: “I advise you to leave the studio and go straight to a psychiatric hospital.”
Former deputy sheikh of Al-Azhar, Mahmoud Ashour,  was also on the programme, agreed, telling him: “Look, dear Mohammad, you need psychiatric treatment. Many young people today suffer from mental illnesses due to material or mental circumstances.”

Orban the Demagogue

Hungary’s right-wing populist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has warned “countries that don’t stop immigration will be lost.” 

Addressing a huge crowd of supporters in Budapest he declared, “Africa wants to kick down our door, and Brussels is not defending us. Europe is under invasion already, and they are watching with their hands in the air.”

"They want us to voluntarily give [our country] to others, to foreigners from other continents who don't speak our language, don't respect our culture, laws or lifestyle," Orban told the crowd. "They want to exchange ours for their own. There is no exaggeration in this."

He announced, "The situation is that those who don't block migration at their borders will be lost. They will slowly but surely be digested," Orban told the crowd. "The youth of Western Europe will still live to see when they become a minority in their own country and lose the only place in the world to call home."

Orbán also said Hungary had kicked out the Ottomans, Habsburgs, and Soviets over the centuries and would kick out “Uncle George” too, referring to the American financier and philanthropist George Soros, who is of Hungarian Jewish origin and has supported civil society in the country through his Open Society foundations. Orbán attacked Soros using language that critics have said contains antisemitic undertones: “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.” Orbán’s government has painted Soros as a nefarious puppetmaster keen to destroy Europe by facilitating migration.
In February, Orban claimed the west had “opened the way for the decline of Christian culture and … Islamic expansion” while his administration had “prevented the Islamic world from flooding us from the south”. Deploying a host of questionable statistics and apocalyptic visions, Orbán said: “We are those who think that Europe’s last hope is Christianity … If hundreds of millions of young people are allowed to move north, there will be enormous pressure on Europe. If all this continues, in the big cities of Europe there will be a Muslim majority.” He accused Soros of having used his fortune not only to buy influence in Brussels and the west, but also at the UN. There was a conspiracy to create a “Homo sorosensus, the Soros type of man” that must be a rejected, he said. Orbán pledged his government’s solidarity with “those western European people and leaders who want to save their country and their Christian culture”.

Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described Orban as a racist, xenophobe, and bully whose "racial rhetoric is increasingly delusional."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ex-prisoners lack of hope

About one-third of all 30-year-old men who aren’t working are either in prison, in jail, or are unemployed ex-prisoners. Almost half of ex-prisoners have no reported earnings in the first several years after leaving prison; among those who do find work, half earn less than $10,090 a year or less than a full time job at minimum wage.

Most grew up in deep poverty and many weren’t working—or were earning very little—before incarceration. A disproportionate share grew up in racially segregated neighborhoods where child poverty rates were high, most parents were unmarried, and few men were employed. 

1. Ex-prisoners fare poorly in the labor market. In the first full calendar year after their release, only 55 percent reported any earnings, with the median earnings being $10,090. Of those with earnings, 4 percent earned less than $500, 32 percent earned between $500 and $15,000, and only 20 percent earned more than $15,000.
2. But prisoners fared poorly in the labor market before they were incarcerated. Of the prisoners we studied, only 49 percent of prime-age men were employed two full calendar years prior to incarceration. Of those who were employed, their median earnings were only $6,250. Only 13 percent earned more than $15,000. Indeed in any given year in the decade prior to their incarceration, only about half of prisoners had any reported earnings.
3. Growing up in poverty dramatically increases the likelihood of incarceration. Boys who grew up in families in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution were 20 times more likely to be in prison on a given day in their early 30s than children born in top ten percent of families. Almost one in ten children born to families in the bottom 10 percent were therefore incarcerated at age 30. At the extremes of the family income distribution, the differences are larger: Boys from the poorest families were 40 times more likely to end up in prison compared to boys from the richest families.
4. A third of men age 30 without any annual earnings are either incarcerated or unemployed former prisoners. Of the 17 percent of men age 30 that have no earnings in 2012, about 3.5 percent were in prison or jail and another 3 percent are former prisoners without work—combined, they make up more than a third of all non-working men age 30. Among men born to parents in the bottom half of the income distribution, the share of non-working men is closer to 50 percent. And these figures exclude any impairment to employment associated with having served time in jail (rather than prison) or from the 30 percent of felony convictions that do not result in incarceration. In short, the difficulties that many men face in the labor market, particularly low-income men seeking to move up the economic ladder, are closely related to their involvement in the criminal justice system.
5. The neighborhood you grow up in matters. Differences in incarceration rates can vary within cities by a factor of 30 between zip codes that are walking difference apart. Prisoners were disproportionately likely to have grown up in socially isolated and segregated neighborhoods with high rates of child poverty and in predominantly black or American Indian neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, for instance, the incarceration rate at age 30 of children growing up in neighborhoods in Westwood, Santa Monica, or Sierra Madre was essentially zero, whereas in neighborhoods in south LA or Compton the rate (of men and women combined) was close to 7 percent. In more rural states, like the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, or Idaho, while the overall incarceration rate is low, certain areas had high rates of incarceration. For instance, roughly 10 percent of all 30-year-old prisoners in Nebraska came from a single neighborhood in Omaha.

Rewarding the Capitalists

After the U.S. Senate approved the corporate tax-cut bonanza last December, Boeing,the plane maker, boosted stock buybacks by $4 billion and hiked its dividend by 20%, both overwhelmingly benefiting wealthy shareholders and top executives, not workers. Boeing is estimated to be getting a $221 million tax cut in 2018 thanks to the new law. Like a lot of big American corporations, Boeing hardly needs this handout: it paid an average effective federal income-tax rate of just 5.4% over a recent eight-year period

 After Congress passed the tax plan that month, Boeing unveiled a $300 million spending program to indirectly assist employees through charitable giving, workforce development and “infrastructure enhancements.” But that investment will be less than a tenth of what it gives shareholders through buybacks alone, and it does nothing to boost workers’ take-home pay.

Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, explained, “Boeing has frequently paid tiny if any U.S. taxes. Now it’s using its latest large tax cut to reward already wealthy shareholders and top executives, not to give raises or even bonuses to hard-working employees. This is what opponents of the Trump-GOP tax scam predicted would happen.”

Boeing had profits of nearly $5 billion last year on revenues of more than $94 billion and is number 24 on the Fortune 500 list.