Friday, July 20, 2018

Buying nationalities

 Investing in Grenada, with its white sand beaches, buys more than a slice of paradise - it comes with citizenship and a passport with visa-free entry to almost 130 countries. Few who take up the offer may ever visit their new homeland. Grenada is one of a growing list of countries cashing in on a booming industry that offers citizenship or residency in return for investment as more people look for political and economic safe havens. Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Lucia are also tapping into the global citizenship market estimated by international advisory firms at $2 billion a year. All those countries' passports allow visa-free travel to the European Union. Various European nations including Britain, Spain and Malta, as well as New Zealand, Singapore and the United States have similar, albeit more expensive schemes, some of which require residency. The relatively low cost of Caribbean citizenship sets the islands apart from other countries.

Nationals of China and the Middle East are the biggest buyers of Caribbean citizenship. Dominica charges $100,000, and Saint Kitts - which has the region's longest-running programme set up in 1984 - until recently offered citizenship for a family of four for a $150,000 donation to a hurricane relief fund. In Grenada, to gain citizenship, investors can buy a $350,000 stake in a development like Mount Cinnamon, or donate $150,000 to a national transformation fund for the island. The U.S. State Department last year described Antigua's citizenship programme as "among the most lax in the world". In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department warned banks that passports from Saint Kitts could be used for "illicit financial activity".

http://news.trust.org/item/20180719150014-ncqtk/

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Price of Brand Labels

Burberry, the upmarket British fashion label, destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m last year to protect its brand.  Burberry had to dispose of £10m worth of old products - largely perfume.
That was 6% higher that the value of products the company disposed of in the previous financial year.
Fashion firms including Burberry destroy unwanted items to prevent them being sold cheaply.

The burning imperative of capitalism..profit

 In capitalism stuff is not produced for use, but for sale at a profit.

Burberry, the upmarket British fashion label, destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m last year to protect its brand.

That was 6% higher than the value of products the company disposed of in the previous financial year.

Fashion firms including Burberry destroy unwanted items to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply.

Burberry is in the midst of a revamp intended to "re-energise" its products over several years.

 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44885983#_=_

Poverty and Death

People living in the poorest parts of the UK are more likely to die prematurely, BBC analysis shows. The mortality rate from avoidable causes is more than three times higher in some of the most deprived parts of the country than the most affluent.
Analysis found a strong correlation between deprivation and the number of people dying prematurely. Avoidable death rates range from 138 deaths per 100,000 in affluent areas such as Chiltern in Buckinghamshire, to 517 in the poorest parts of Belfast.
In England - Chiltern, South Oxfordshire, South Cambridgeshire and Hart in Hampshire had the lowest avoidable death rates. Places with the highest rates include Manchester, Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Hull and Liverpool.  Hull also had the highest overall mortality rate in England and Wales, with 1,346 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017. The city replaced Blackpool as having the highest mortality rate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Libyan Hell

Rising numbers of migrants trapped in Libya are prey to smugglers and traffickers and sold for labour, said the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM), amid a security vacuum created by the 2011 toppling of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"Smuggling networks are becoming more organised, stronger, globally," IOM's Libya head Othman Belbeisi told reporters in London. "More and more we are seeing migrants being sold from one smuggler to another ... being contracted for work but not being paid. Traffickers don't need detention centres, they can go on the streets, detain 100 migrants and take them to a farm (to work)," he added. "This is regular business for armed groups." Many people in Libya become smugglers because the networks are well established, unlikely to be dismantled or prosecuted, and due to a lack of other sources of income, Belbeisi added.

And the plight of migrants may worsen as the country struggles with a deepening economic crisis, said Jalel Harchaoui, an associate at North Africa Risk Consulting.

"This erodes whatever scruples some armed groups may have when faced with migrants whose presence they need to monetise," Harchaoui told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that migrants are in greater danger now than two or three years ago. "At sea, migrants die at a higher rate," he added. "And in the desert, there is less information (on the fate of migrants) which means more aberrations and more abuses are possible."

http://news.trust.org/item/20180717171038-xwv3i/

Dirty air is killing people

A record number of people are dying of asthma, and experts have warned growing air pollution and a lack of basic care could be to blame.
In England and Wales 1,320 people died of asthma last year, a sharp rise of more than 25% over a decade.
The findings come amid growing concern about the air pollution crisis in the UK and mounting evidence of its impact on people’s health – particularly children and the elderly.
Earlier this month a medical expert said the hospital admissions of a nine-year-old girl who died during an asthma attack showed a “striking association” with spikes in illegal levels of air pollution around her home in London. Last week an A&E doctor wrote in the Guardian about how her ward in London was overwhelmed by terrified children struggling to breathe because of dangerous levels of pollution. A separate report revealed that illegal levels of air pollution were driving up hospital admissions and GP visits.
Jonathan Grigg, a professor of paediatric respiratory medicine at Queen Mary University of London and a British Lung Foundation medical adviser, said:“These figures add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution is damaging everyone’s health. The case to clean up our air couldn’t be clearer, but the government has not yet showed the courage to deliver a credible nationwide plan.”
Today’s findings from the ONS showed that 1,320 people died in 2017 compared with 1,237 in 2016 and 1,033 in 2007. There has been an increase of 43% in asthma deaths in those aged 55-64 since 2016. ONS data showed that 17 children aged 14 and under died from an asthma attack in 2017, up from 13 in 2016.
Kay Boycott, the chief executive of Asthma UK, described the surge as shocking. “This is devastating for the families who have lost a loved one and highlights the urgent need to improve basic care for people with asthma,” she said. Boycott said that alongside rising levels of toxic air, asthma deaths could be also be linked to inadequate basic care for an estimated 3.5 million people. She said people were entitled to a follow-up appointment with their GP after they had been admitted to hospital with asthma. “Two thirds of people with asthma do not receive this within two working days of their discharge from hospital,” she said. “We are urging the NHS to ensure that people with asthma receive basic care to prevent avoidable deaths.”
Sonia Munde, head of helpline and nurse manager at Asthma UK, said the top trigger for asthma attacks was pollution. “On days where pollution levels are high, it can leave people with asthma struggling for breath, increasing their risk of a life-threatening asthma attack,” she said. Munde added that people who have asthma triggered by pollution should make sure they take their preventer inhaler as prescribed as this will help reduce inflammation in their airways, making them less likely to react to asthma triggers.
Overall air pollution has been linked to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the UK and labelled a public health emergency by the World Health Organization. It is known to be a major risk factor for childhood asthma.
The UK government has lost three times in the high court for failing to deal effectively with the crisis and is now being taken to Europe’s highest court. Earlier this year MPs from four select committees said serious concerns remained over the government’s commitment to reducing the impact of air pollution on public health.

Slovakia's second-class citizens

There are around a half-million Roma in Slovakia, most of whom live in impoverished slums. Roma make up around 10 percent of Slovakia's total population.

In the eastern Slovak village of Jarovnica more than 5,600 Roma live in densely packed makeshift homes and shacks inside the roughly one square kilometre slum.
Florian Gina, mayor of Jarovnice says that Roma face institutional barriers to obtaining a fair share of state resources, making it harder to combat the community's poverty. 
"Even if politicians say there is no discrimination against Roma, the reality is that the discrimination is huge," he tells Al Jazeera
"They face segregation, large scale unemployment and discrimination by police in Slovakia," says Jonathan Lee, the European Roma Rights Centre communications officer, explaining that there has also been a rise in anti-Roma hate crimes as far-right groups spread in the country. 
With little work in the east and pervasive discrimination in the job market, the community has a more than 97 percent unemployment rate and most residents are dependent on welfare. 
In Jarovnice and many Roma communities in Slovakia, there is little to no access to potable and running water, despite the fact that water is enshrined in law as a human right by the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe. 

Bezos' Billions

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now worth $150bn (£113bn), according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.
Jeff Bezos's net worth has increased by over $60bn in the last 12 months, which makes him the world's richest man.
This places his worth higher than that of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who has previously topped the rich lists - even at his peak in 1999. Then Gates was worth $100bn - which would be around $149bn today, when adjusted for inflation. Gates is currently in second place with a worth of $95bn.
It's not the first time Jeff Bezos has topped the world's rich list - in July 2017, he briefly overtook Bill Gates to become the world's richest man according to Forbes when Amazon's shares surged - but returned to second place when their value dropped again.

Haiti's Disaster Continues

The government’s attempt to remove fuel subsidies were a part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This would have raised the price of petrol by 38 per cent, diesel by 47 per cent and kerosene by 51 per cent.
The Haitian prime minister resigns after his government raised fuel prices, setting off a wave of deadly riots. Jack Guy Lafontant stood down before a vote that could have led to his removal could take place. Critics had called for his resignation over the disturbances, which left at least seven dead and dozens of businesses burned and looted. Lafontant suspended the fuel price increase following the wave of violent protests last week, but the measure failed halt them. Calls for the prime minister to resign grew, including from the opposition and some business groups. 
The IMF said scrapping the fuel subsidies would allow more money to be spent on key areas including health and education. But protesters said the government was out of touch with their economic problems.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, with more than 59 per cent living in poverty and 24 per cent in extreme poverty, according to the latest household survey.

Ortega's Repression

Police and authorities in Nicaragua have used "unacceptable" lethal force against civilian protestors, says the UN's human rights office as it called for a halt to violence in which an estimated 280 people have died since April. The death toll includes at least 19 police officers.

"A wide range of human rights violations are being committed including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, and denying people the right to freedom of expression," UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing. "The great majority of violations are by government or armed elements who seem to be working in tandem with them," Mr Colville told Reuters, adding that the protesters were mainly peaceful though some were armed. 

Protests arose in April over a plan by President Daniel Ortega's government to trim pension benefits. The government backed down but its heavy-handed response to the demonstrations sparked a wider protest against  Ortega's rule.

 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned groups linked to Nicaragua's government for using "unacceptable" lethal force against citizens, and urged an end to the violence. UN officials remain concerned about the effect of a law passed this week with a very broad definition of terrorism. They say it could be invoked against people simply exercising their right to protest.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/nicaragua-protests-daniel-ortez-un-human-rights-unacceptable-a8451341.html

We need a food revolution as well as a socialist revolution

Meat and dairy companies are on track to be the world’s biggest contributors to climate change, outpacing even the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN.
They found that broadly speaking the companies were being secretive about their emissions data and few had set hard targets intended to deal with their pollution. If these industries continue down their current path, the authors of the report warned that the livestock sector could be responsible for 80 per cent of the allowable greenhouse gas budget by 2050.
“There’s no other choice. Meat and dairy production in the countries where the top 35 companies dominate must be significantly reduced,” said Devlin Kuyek, a researcher at GRAIN. “These corporations are pushing for trade agreements that will increase exports and emissions, and they are undermining real climate solutions like agroecology that benefit farmers, workers and consumers." 
When taken together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are already responsible for more emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.
China, the US, the EU, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand are collectively responsible for over 60 per cent of global meat and dairy emissions – about twice the rest of the world on a per capita basis.
A paper published in the journal Science in June found that if everyone stopped eating meat and dairy products, global farmland use could be reduced by three quarters.

UK Guns Unlimited

The UK nearly doubled the value of arms sales to countries on the government’s list of human rights abusers in the past year, figures reveal.
Licences for arms deals worth some £1.5bn were approved in Whitehall in 2017, up from £820m a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade(CAAT) pressure group.
The value of sales to Saudi Arabia, currently embroiled in a bloody conflict in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels where thousands of civilians have been killed and millions left in need of aid, alone totalled £1.13bn, the group said.
Theresa May’s government is “actively arming and supporting many of the regimes that even it believes are responsible for terrible human rights abuses”, CAAT’s Andrew Smith told The Independent. He added: “There is little oversight in the system, and no controls over how these arms will be used once they have left the UK. The arms sales being agreed today could be used to fuel atrocities for years to come. Right now UK-made fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen, and the government and arms companies have totally failed to monitor or evaluate how this deadly equipment is being used. We are always being told how rigorous and robust the system supposedly is, but nothing could be further from the truth. These arms sales don’t just provide dictatorships and human rights abusers with the means to kill, they also give them a huge degree of political support.”
Israel was the second-biggest buyer of UK arms in 2017 to feature on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) human rights priority list, with £221m of licences granted. The FCO condemned Israel’s breaches of international law by its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and also “its systematic policy of settlement expansion”. 
Bahrain bought £30.7m of British arms in 2017, Egypt imported £6.5m of arms and Pakistan, £11.2m. Sales to China, which is cracking down further on freedom of speech and religion, totalled £11.8m. In Bangladesh, which bought £38.6m of arms, there were continued “credible reports of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture by government agencies”, the FCO said.

Turning away refugees

Needless to say that Israel's actions in turning away vulnerable refugees is not unique and reflects the policies of many other nations.

Lama Fakih, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera both the Israeli and Jordanian governments have an obligation to not push back fleeing asylum seekers. Although Jordan is presently home to 655,624 registered Syrian refugees.
"The tens of thousands that have been displaced are fleeing extensive bombardment. They have left in many cases with literally the clothing on their backs," Fakih said. "They are living in areas where is intense heat without adequate shelter, without adequate humanitarian assistance and despite the extreme humanitarian conditions and insecurity in the area, both the Israeli and the Jordanian government have persisted in not allowing these asylum seekers to try to seek refuge across the border," he added.  According to Fakih, the displaced group includes journalists, humanitarian aid workers and other individuals who the Syrian government has targeted, detained and executed in the past. Fakih said Israel's response to developments along the border falls short of what is required to alleviate the suffering of displaced Syrians. "Quite simply it is inadequate and inhumane. These are individuals that are desperate for assistance. The response from the Israeli government has been to provide assistance across the border which has been inadequate. There are serious concerns for displaced populations that remain in Syria."

Why didn't they wait for the report?

In April the entire media system with instant certainty damned an enemy state for crimes against humanity in Douma, Syria. The villainous agent on every journalist’s lips: sarin, a highly toxic synthetic organophosphorus compound that has no smell or taste, but which quickly kills through asphyxiation.
This was a repetition of the fake justification for war to secure non-existent Iraqi WMDs, or to prevent a fictional Libyan massacre in Benghazi. 
On April 14, the US, UK, and France attacked Syria in response to the unproven allegations.
On 6 July 2018, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued a report regarding the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. 
"No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties."
They describe with various caveats the incident as the possibility of a chlorine gas attack, an unsophisticated weapon that could also be deployed by ‘rebel’ forces and to which they have had access.

Solidarity

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has just become the richest man in recorded history—surpassing $150 billion in net worth—thanks to his business model of subjecting employees to low wages, brutal working conditions, and scant benefits, and on Tuesday Amazon workers throughout Europe marked "Prime Day" by walking off the job in massive numbers to call attention to their plight.

In addition to walkouts by an estimated 80 percent of the workers at Amazon's largest distribution center in Spain—nearly 1,800 workers—employees of the retailer are also reportedly launching strikes in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom to demand higher wages and denounce Amazon's union-busting efforts.

"The message is clear—while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers," Stefanie Nutzenberger, spokesperson for the German services union Verdi, said in a statement.

The Amazon chief earns around $275 million each day while refusing to pay his workers enough to get by without food stamps.

Who looks after the elderly?

 3 million elderly people are receiving care across Germany. By 2060, that figure is expected to reach 4.5 million.
With an aging population and a lack of carers for the elderly, Germany is fast approaching a care crisis. Across the care sector, some 36,000 positions are currently unfilled — 15,000 of them in elderly care alone. According to the study "Deutsches Pflegethermometer 2018" only one-third of old age care facilities even announce when job openings come up, as the chances of finding an applicant are so slim. Last year, on average, it took 171 days to fill a position in elderly care.  On average, for every 100 open job positions in elderly care, there are only 21 job-seekers. In the states of Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, however, it can be as few as just 13.
Low wages in relation to carers' workload has also pushed applicants away. According to Destatis, Germany's Federal Office for Statistics, carers with three years of training earn, on average, €18 ($21) per hour (gross, full-time). On average, workers in Germany earn €22 per hour. The regional differences are also big.
Yet there are is a waiting list of migrants hoping to find work in Germany.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Poverty USA

 12.7% of Americans (43.1 million of them) classified as poor by the government’s criteria: an income below $12,140 for a one-person household, $16,460 for a family of two, and so on… until you get to the princely sum of $42,380 for a family of eight.
Savings aren’t much help either: a third of Americans have no savings at all and another third have less than $1,000 in the bank.  Little wonder that families struggling to cover the cost of food alone increased from 11% (36 million) in 2007 to 14% (48 million) in 2014.
Unemployment can certainly contribute to being poor, but millions of Americans endure poverty when they have full-time jobs or even hold down more than one job.  The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are 8.6 million “working poor,” defined by the government as people who live below the poverty line despite being employed at least 27 weeks a year.  Their economic insecurity doesn’t register in our society, partly because working and being poor don’t seem to go together in the minds of many Americans — and unemployment has fallen reasonably steadily.  After approaching 10%in 2009, it’s now at only 4%.
the proportion of people who exhausted their monthly paychecks just to pay for life’s essentials actually increased from 31% to 38%.  In 2013, 71% of the families that had children and used food pantries run by Feeding America, the largest private organization helping the hungry, included at least one person who had worked during the previous year.  And in America’s big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families.  In New York City, no outlier when it comes to homelessness among the working poor, in a third of the families with children that use homeless shelters at least one adult held a job.
The working poor cluster in certain occupations.  They are salespeople in retail stores, servers or preparers of fast food, custodial staff, hotel workers, and caregivers for children or the elderly.  Many make less than $10 an hour and lack any leverage, union or otherwise, to press for raises.  In fact, the percentage of unionized workers in such jobs remains in the single digits — and in retail and food preparation, it’s under 4.5%.  That’s hardly surprising, given that private sector union membership has fallen by 50% since 1983 to only 6.7% of the workforce.
Employers like it that way. They rarely find themselves under any real pressure to increase wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have stood still or even decreased since the late 1970s. Walmart announced this year that it would hike its hourly wage to $11 and that’s welcome news.  But this had nothing to do with collective bargaining; it was a response to the drop in the unemployment rate, cash flows from the Trump tax cut for corporations (which saved Walmart as much as $2 billion), an increase in minimum wages in a number of states, and pay increases by an arch competitor, Target. It was also accompanied by the shutdown of 63 of Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores, which meant layoffs for 10,000 workers.  In short, the balance of power almost always favors the employer, seldom the employee.
The United States has a per-capita income of $59,500 and is among the wealthiest countries in the world, 12.7% of Americans (that’s 43.1 million people), officially are impoverished. And that’s generally considered a significant undercount.  The Census Bureau establishes the poverty rate by figuring out an annual no-frills family food budget, multiplying it by three, adjusting it for household size, and pegging it to the Consumer Price Index.  That, many economists believe, is a woefully inadequate way of estimating poverty.  Food prices haven’t risen dramatically over the past 20 years, but the cost of other necessities like medical care (especially if you lack insurance) and housing have: 10.5% and 11.8% respectively between 2013 and 2017 compared to an only 5.5% increase for food. Include housing and medical expenses in the equation and you get the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published by the Census Bureau since 2011.  It reveals that a larger number of Americans are poor: 14% or 45 million in 2016.
 The good news: only 1.8 million, or 2.3% of them, subsist at or below minimum wage.  The not-so-good news: one-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42%earn less than $15.  That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs. The government has increased the hourly federal minimum wage more than 20 times since it was set at 25 cents under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.  Between 2007 and 2009 it rose to $7.25, but over the past decade that sum lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power to inflation, which means that, in 2018, someone would have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.
Workers in the lowest 20% have lost the most ground, their inflation-adjusted wages falling by nearly 1% between 1979 and 2016, compared to a 24.7% increase for the top 20%.  This can’t be explained by lackluster productivity since, between 1985 and 2015, it outstripped pay raises, often substantially, in every economic sector except mining.
Even when it comes to jobs that offer health insurance, employers have been shifting ever more of its cost onto their workers through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, as well as by requiring them to cover more of the premiums.  The percentage of workers who paid at least 10% of their earnings to cover such costs — not counting premiums — doubled between 2003 and 2014. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11% of workers in the bottom 10% of wage earners even enrolled in workplace healthcare plans in 2016 (compared to 72% in the top 10%). As a restaurant server who makes $2.13 an hour before tips — and whose husband earns $9 an hour at Walmart — put it, after paying the rent, “it’s either put food in the house or buy insurance.”
It’s housing, though, that takes the biggest bite out of the paychecks of low-wage workers.  The majority of them are renters.  Ownership remains for many a pipe dream.  According to a Harvard study, between 2001 and 2016, renters who made $30,000-$50,000 a year and paid more than a third of their earnings to landlords (the threshold for qualifying as “rent burdened”) increased from 37% to 50%.  For those making only $15,000, that figure rose to 83%. The number of low-income workers struggling to pay their rent has surged.  As the Harvard analysis shows, this is, in part, because the number of affluent renters (with incomes of $100,000 or more) has leapt and, in city after city, they’re driving the demand for, and building of, new rental units.  As a result, the high-end share of new rental construction soared from a third to nearly two-thirds of all units between 2001 and 2016.  Not surprisingly, new low-income rental units dropped from two-fifths to one-fifth of the total and, as the pressure on renters rose, so did rents for even those modest dwellings. On top of that, in places like New York City, where demand from the wealthy shapes the housing market, landlords have found ways — some within the law, others not — to get rid of low-income tenants.
Public housing and housing vouchers are supposed to make housing affordable to low-income households, but the supply of public housing hasn’t remotely matched demand. Consequently, waiting lists are long and people in need languish for years before getting a shot — if they ever do.  Only a quarter of those who qualify for such assistance receive it.  As for those vouchers, getting them is hard to begin with because of the massive mismatchbetween available funding for the program and the demand for the help it provides.  And then come the other challenges: finding landlords willing to accept vouchers or rentals that are reasonably close to work and not in neighborhoods euphemistically labelled “distressed.”
The bottom line: more than 75% of “at-risk” renters (those for whom the cost of rent exceeds 30% or more of their earnings) do not receive assistance from the government.  The real “risk” for them is becoming homeless, which means relying on shelters or family and friends willing to take them in.
Trump’s proposed budget cuts will make life even harder for low-income workers seeking affordable housing.  His 2019 budget proposal slashes $6.8 billion (14.2%) from the resources of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) by, among other things, scrapping housing vouchers and assistance to low-income families struggling to pay heating bills.  The president also seeks to slash funds for the upkeep of public housing by nearly 50%.  In addition, the deficits that his rich-come-first tax “reform” bill is virtually guaranteed to produce will undoubtedly set the stage for yet more cuts in the future.  In other words, in what’s becoming the United States of Inequality, the very phrases “low-income workers” and “affordable housing” have ceased to go together.
he OECD defines as the difference between a country’s official poverty line and the average income of those who fall below it.  The United States has the second largest poverty gap among wealthy countries; only Italy does worse.
Child poverty?  In the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 41 countries — from best to worst — the U.S. placed 35th.  Child poverty has declined in the United States since 2010, but a Columbia University report estimates that 19% of American kids (13.7 million) nevertheless lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line in 2016.  If you add in the number of kids in low-income households, that number increases to 41%.
As for infant mortality, according to the government’s own Centers for Disease Control, the U.S., with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, has the absolute worst record among wealthy countries. (Finland and Japan do best with 2.3.)
And when it comes to the distribution of wealth, among the OECD countries only Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do worse than the U.S.

Australia's Low Wages

A$53,000. That’s how much the median wage in Australia is. In other words, for half the population that’s the most they’ll bring home in a year while trying to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families.
It took the CEO of Domino’s Pizza just a few hours to earn that much, as he raked in A$36.8m.
The median pay for an ASX 100 chief executive is A$4.34m.


That’s 82 times the median wage.  And that figure for CEO wages doesn’t even include bonuses, with a median bonus payment of A$1.76m bearing little or no relation to the performance of these companies. These are the same executives and directors telling their workers they can’t afford to give them anything but the stingiest of pay rises, or even permanent secure work for that matter.
CEO pay is now the highest it’s been since the ACSI report began 17 years ago, as general wages lie stagnant at best. While executive pay is soaring and a record number of companies are profitable, the amount that everyday Australians are getting is shrinking. 
 Australia has experienced the longest period of uninterrupted growth in the developed world, the proportion of GDP that’s being paid to workers has hit an all-time low. Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past 30 years, according to the International Monetary Fund. While the economy has been growing, wages have been stagnating. While median ASX100 CEO pay rose by 12.4% in a single a year, real median household incomes only grew by 2.7% between 2007-08 and 2015-16.
At the same time, work is increasingly insecure. 40% of Australians workers are now in insecure work. Australia has the third highest level of part-time work in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Centre for Future Work has found that less than half of the labour force are full-time workers with access to leave. There has also been a disappearance of “good jobs”, jobs that are full-time and not low paid, with analysis by Peter Whiteford finding that only 55% of men and only 30% of women are in such roles.
In a climate of insecurity, employers are increasingly brazen. It is no surprise that stories of wage theft fill the media, catching everyone from local restaurants to celebrity chefs. The most galling bit is that wage theft is not only a business model but that CEOs are actually rewarded for such bad behaviour. At Domino’s Pizza, as the CEO was raking in the millions the company was refusing to provide information to the Fair Work Ombudsman to investigate wage fraud across franchises and being unable to rule out continuing exploitation. Rather than intervening, the federal government has ignored concerns about low wages raised by the Reserve Bank governor and sat on its hands. It’s even encouraged insecure work by using labour hire and outsourcing essential public services in commonwealth agencies. People are working side by side but being paid vastly different pay and conditions to perform very similar work. In the public sector, there are outsourced ATO call centre staff paid less than if they were working at McDonald’s, a third of staff at the National Disability Insurance Agency are labour hire and Centrelink call centres are being outsourced to Serco. Corporate Australia feels no pressure from the federal government to change its ways when it is emulating their model of insecure work.

Europe wide strike

Now Amazon workers in Germany and Poland and Spain are striking and
taking actions such as work to rule on the launch of a service by the Amazon company called 'Prime Day'.


Amazon workers primarily in German, Poland, and Spain are participating, with union representatives saying Amazon has been working to freeze salaries, reduce medical leave pay rates, and strip other rights from its warehouse workforce. 



 “The message is clear — while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers,” Stefanie Nutzenberger, a top official responsible for retail workers at German trade union Verdi, told NBC.


Time to take on the global giants with some global action.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/16/17577348/amazon-warehouse-worker-strike-europe-prime-day

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%.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44857055


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?"