Wednesday, May 25, 2022

 Socialist Sonnet No. 67

Inflation

 

The world, it seems, is a hot air balloon

With burners turned on full blast. There’s soaring

Temperatures, prices, and no ignoring

That all the while capital fuels the boon

Energising profits. Quantitative

Easing further feathered a nest or two,

Making fantasy money with the true

Recklessness of counterfeiters. Now give

A glance towards a prime minister here,

Or president there, whose vainglorious

Egos, puffed up with self-conceit, don’t fuss

Over being strangers to truth. It is clear,

Surely, unless we all want to be tricked,

For a better world, this balloon must be pricked.

 

D. A.

Roma - Second-Class Refugees

 Once more this blog draws attention to the racism against the Roma. 

At Prague’s central railway station hundreds of Roma people are sheltering  under what emergency workers say are dangerously unsanitary conditions, in the only place available to them since they joined the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion. Unlike other Ukrainians who have been offered refugee visas, these families have found they have nowhere to go and no one who wants them.

More than 500 people are crammed each night into quarters that were originally envisaged to accommodate 260 on a one-night-only basis. Some have stayed for up to 10 nights. Volunteer aid workers say they are overstretched and overwhelmed. 

“We were set up to provide information, but now we are dealing with a humanitarian crisis. It is no longer sustainable,” says Geti Mubeenová, crisis coordinator with the Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU).

“We tried to register for refugee protection at the registration centre but they wouldn’t accept us and didn’t give us any document explaining why,” says Zanna, a teenage mother of three children from Kyiv, who says she had arrived in Prague with her family four days earlier. “We came here looking for a place to stay but instead we are just lying on the floor like dogs. We are exhausted and have no energy any more. I’m just feeling really hopeless.”

It is a tale typical of many Roma arrivals, aid workers sy.

According to Mubeenová anti-Roma prejudice is widespread in the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries. Many Roma who left Prague for Germany later returned, she says, including some who reported that police in Dresden refused to allow them to disembark from their train.

Mubeenová says: “I have sat in meetings with representatives of Prague city hall, the police etc, and noticed the narrative changing – people stopped talking about refugees and started referring to ‘economic migrants’ and ‘welfare tourists’. She explained, “Representatives have told me that they don’t have the necessary documents to apply for protection, but they are often not even allowed to submit applications and that’s not legal.”

‘They won’t accept us’: Roma refugees forced to camp at Prague train station | Ukraine | The Guardian



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Blaming the Unions

 


Trade unions reacted angrily to the suggestion public sector workers should bear the responsibility for restraining inflation.

The TUC deputy general secretary, Paul Nowak, said: “These claims are nonsense. Making sure people can afford to pay their bills and put food on the table is not going to push up inflation. Inflation is being driven by rising energy costs, not pay demands.” He added: “Key workers in the public sector have endured a decade of wage cuts and freezes. At a time when staff shortages are crippling frontline services, this would be a hammer blow to workers’ morale.”

Unions angered by No 10 remarks about public sector pay stoking inflation | Public sector pay | The Guardian

Summer School

 


The first of the sessions at this year’s Summer School about The Class Divide (19th – 21st August, in Birmingham) has been announced. 

Howard Moss will be speaking on:

The Class Divide and the Role of Trade Unions

Historically trade unions were voluntary organisations set up by the working class to enable them to get as good a deal as possible in selling their skills and energies to employers, while at the same time not having the aim or ability to transcend the class divide they were (and are) a player in. But what about circumstances in which workers decide it is not in their interest to be part of trade unions, as many do these days? Do they lose by this? And what about ‘political’ trade unionism where unions manage to get themselves involved not just in trying to protect or improve the pay and working conditions of their members but instead are used as vehicles for campaigning for various reforms of capitalism or even for Trotskyist-style revolution? What should the Socialist attitude be towards such activities by trade unions?

 

More sessions will be announced shortly. For more details about the event, please go here: https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/summer-school-2022/

UN warns of growing crises

 The supply disruption caused by the war in Ukraine, with Black Sea ports blockaded, is driving up prices, creating shortages and the risk of famine.

Achim Steiner, the administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), tells us that the world is not prepared for what’s ahead: “We are in trouble. The war in Ukraine is dramatic in so many ways. There is an acute crisis in food, fuel and finance. As of today there is no reason to believe this is a short term challenge.

We are in the middle of a series of unfolding crises and the world is not prepared for it.

Hunger, Steiner said, was probably the one thing that got people on the streets because once people found they couldn’t afford to feed their families they lost faith in government. 

“What we saw in Sri Lanka we are likely to see in more and more countries.”

Steiner said 200 million people were facing acute hunger, double the figure of five years ago. “This is very serious”, he said. Higher energy prices - another consequence of the Ukraine war - were causing balance of payments problems for many developing countries. “Wealthier nations have a decision to make. Are they going to step up or do they let things drift on.”

Davos day two: World ‘in trouble’ as food crisis intensifies – live updates (theguardian.com)

US Child Poverty

 In the United States, children are more likely to experience poverty than people over 18.

In 2020, about 1 in 6 kids, 16% of all children, were living in families with incomes below the official poverty line – an income threshold the government set that year at about US$26,500 for a family of four. Only 10% of Americans ages 18 to 64 and 9% of those 65 and up were experiencing poverty, according to the most recent data available.

The official child poverty rate ticks down when the economy grows and up during downturns. It stood at 17% in 1967 – just about the same as in 2020. In many recent years the rate hovered even higher – around 20%.

Researchers calculate the official poverty rate by adding up a household’s income and comparing it with a threshold of what is needed to survive. The government has calculated this rate the same way since the 1960s.

One of its shortcomings is that it excludes several sources of income, including tax credits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which are intended to reduce poverty.

In 2011, the government began to calculate an alternative metric: the supplemental poverty measure. It includes SNAP and tax credits. It also uses thresholds based on the cost of living in different areas of the country. For a family of four, this threshold currently ranges from $24,000 to $35,000, depending on where a family lives and whether they own or rent housing. According to this alternative measure, 10% of children were living in poverty in 2020, the lowest rate ever recorded.

Depending on which measure you use, either 7 million or 11.7 million U.S. children lived in poverty in 2020.

Poverty is higher for children of color. The official poverty rate for Black children stood at 26%, and 23% for Hispanic children, while for white, non-Hispanic children it was 10%.

The Persistence of Childhood Poverty in the US - CounterPunch.org



Monday, May 23, 2022

UN seeks more philanthopy

 


David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), is appealing to the compassion and charity of  billionaires  as the global threat of food insecurity rises. If Ukraine’s supplies remain off the market, the world could face a food availability problem in the next 10 to 12 months, and “that is going to be hell on earth”, Beasley said.

“The world is in real serious trouble. This is not rhetoric and BS. Step up now, because the world needs you.”

Elon Musk, the world’s richest man,  last year challenged policy advocates to show how a $6bn donation sought by the UN agency could solve world hunger. Since then  Musk donated about five million shares of company stock worth roughly $5.7bn to an unidentified charity in November. The US Securities and Exchange Commission filing did not name any recipients for Musk’s donation.

‘Step up now’: UN’s food agency presses billionaires for aid | Food News | Al Jazeera


“Musk put $6bn into a foundation. But everybody thought it came to us, but we ain’t gotten any of it yet. So I’m hopeful,” Beasley pointed out. “I don’t know what it’s going to take,” he said of Musk. “We’re trying every angle, you know: Elon, we need your help, brother.”

Dark Horizons Ahead Say the IMF

 The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),  Kristalina Georgieva, has said the war in Ukraine could result in a recession for more vulnerable countries.

“Since then the horizon has darkened,” she said, pointing out that the impact of the war in Ukraine was being amplified by a tightening of financial conditions, a rising US dollar and a slowdown in China. “2022 is going to be a tough year.”

Asked whether the IMF was forecasting a global recession, Georgieva replied: “Not at this point. It doesn’t mean one is out of the question...What we may see is recession in some countries that are weak to begin with. They haven’t recovered from the Covid crisis. They’re highly dependent on imports from Russia, of energy or food, and they have a somewhat weaker environment already.”

The IMF  had recently downgraded the growth prospects for 143 of its member states, which represent 80% of global output.

Georgieva said there had been a sense over the past week that the global economy was getting into rougher waters. The oil price had come down but “food prices continue to go up, up, up, up”. She said: “We can shrink the use of petrol when growth slows down but we have to eat every day. The anxiety about access to food at a reasonable price, globally, is hitting the roof.”

Jane Fraser, the chief executive of the US investment bank Citigroup, explained, “Europe is right in the middle of the storms from supply chains, from the energy crisis, and obviously just the proximity to some of the atrocities that are occurring in Ukraine,” she said.

War in Ukraine could cause recession in weaker economies, IMF boss warns | Davos | The Guardian

The World is at Risk

 The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has released a worrying report, entitled "Environment of Peace: Security in a New Era of Risk." 

Environment of Risk: Security in a New Era of Risk (sipri.org)

"A compound environmental crisis and a darkening security horizon are feeding each other in dangerous ways," SIPRI's researchers write. Felled forestsmelting glaciers and polluted oceans are occurring simultaneously with an rise in the number of conflict-related deaths, arms expenditures and increasing numbers of people at risk of starvation. Pandemics pose further dangers.

Lacking a global plan, the world is "stumbling" into these intertwined dangers, according to SIPRI.

"Nature and peace are so closely linked that damaging one damages the other. By the same reasoning, enhancing one enhances the other," SIPRI's director, Dan Smith, explained.

SIPRI: From climate to war, world entering a critical era | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 22.05.2022

Palm Oil Robbery

 Buy something in a supermarket and there's a good chance it will contain palm oil, an industry worth more than $50bn each year globallyThe companies behind the country's palm oil boom have seen their profits soar this year as global prices reached record highs. Indonesia's super-rich list is already stacked with palm oil billionaires. The Widjaja family, who control Golden Agri-Resources, stand second place in Forbes' rich list for Indonesia; Anthoni Salim, who is the CEO of the Salim Group, sits one below in third place. But the companies that sell it to major firms like Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg's and Mondelēz are depriving indigenous communities of potentially millions of dollars of income. 

Vast tracts of the world's most biodiverse forests have been cleared for palm oil plantations. On the once jungle-covered Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, plantations now stretch for miles on end. The trade-off was the promise of economic development. In order to gain local support and access to government financing, companies often promised to share their plantation with villagers, in plots known as "plasma". In 2007, it became a legal requirement for companies to give a fifth of any new plantation to communities. But there were steady claims that companies had reneged on promises - and those legal obligations - to provide plasma.


 An investigation found companies have failed to provide more than 100,000 hectares - around the size of Los Angeles - of legally-required plasma in Borneo's Central Kalimantan province alone. Using conservative figures for the profits available from palm oil, we estimated this has deprived communities of an estimated $90m each year. The province accounts for just a fifth of Indonesia's corporate-run oil palm plantations.


Analysis of Ministry of Agriculture data suggests the picture is similar across other major palm oil-producing provinces, and the losses suffered across Indonesia by communities owed plasma could stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars each year. 


When communities complain of a failure to meet promises, the government relies largely on mediation, but an academic study found that just 14% of mediation negotiations lead to an agreement that is implemented. The investigation identified 13 major firms including Colgate-Palmolive that have sourced palm oil from producers alleged to have withheld plasma, or profits from plasma, from communities over the past six years.


Palm oil firms depriving tribes of millions of dollars - BBC News


"The world is falling apart"

"The number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts," said UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The figures combine refugees, asylum-seekers, as well as more than 50 million people displaced inside their own countries.

The 100 million figure amounts to more than one percent of the global population, while only 13 countries have a bigger population than the number of forcibly displaced people in the world.

UNHCR said the number of forcibly displaced people rose toward 90 million by the end of 2021, spurred by violence in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and since then, more than eight million people have been displaced within the country, while more than six million refugees have fled across the borders.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, said, "This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes."

He continued, "Compassion is alive and we need a similar mobilisation for all crises around the world. But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure. To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile."

Grandi called for those countries to lift any remaining pandemic-related asylum restrictions, saying they contravene a fundamental human right.

"I am worried that measures enacted on the pretext of responding to Covid-19 are being used as cover to exclude and deny asylum to people fleeing violence and persecution." 

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) chief Jan Egeland told reporters, "It has never been as bad as this. The world is falling apart."

Number of displaced people passes 100 million for first time, says UN (france24.com)

Sri Lanka - the health crisis

 Hospitals in Sri Lanka are forced to postpone life-saving procedures for their patients because they do not have the necessary drugs.

Sri Lanka imports more than 80 percent of its medical supplies but with foreign currency reserves running out because of the crisis, essential medications are disappearing from shelves and the healthcare system is close to collapse.

“It is very bad for cancer patients,” said Dr Roshan Amaratunga. “Sometimes, in the morning we plan for some surgeries but we may not be able to do on that particular day as supplies are not there.” If the situation does not improve quickly, several patients will be facing a virtual death sentence, he said.

Doctors say they are more worried than the patients or their relatives, as they are aware of the potential size of the problem and its impact on the wider population.

A government official working on procuring medical supplies said about 180 items were running out, including injections for dialysis patients, medicine for patients who have undergone transplants and certain cancer drugs.

Referring to the ubiquitous queues for petrol and cooking gas, Dr Vasan Ratnasingam, a spokesman for the Government Medical Officers’ Association, said the consequences for people awaiting treatment were so much more dire.

“If patients are in a queue for drugs, they will lose their lives,” said Ratnasingam.

‘Death sentence’: Doctors in Sri Lanka decry medicine shortage | Health News | Al Jazeera

Mental-health and the well being of the young

 420,314  children and young people in February   were being treated for mental health problems – the highest number on record – prompting warnings of an unprecedented crisis in the well-being of under-18s.

Experts say Covid-19 has seriously exacerbated problems such as anxiety, depression and self-harm among school-age children and that the “relentless and unsustainable” ongoing rise in their need for help could overwhelm already stretched NHS services.

The total has risen by 147,853 since February 2020, a 54% increase, and by 80,096 over the last year alone, a jump of 24%. January’s tally of 411,132 cases was the first time the figure had topped 400,000.

Mental health charities fear the figures are the tip of the iceberg of the true number of people who need care, and that many more under-18s in distress are being denied help by arbitrary eligibility criteria.

“Open referrals” are under-18s who are being cared for by child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or are waiting to see a specialist, having been assessed as needing help against treatment thresholds. GPs, teachers and mental health charities believe the criteria are too strict, exclude many who are deemed not ill enough, and amount to rationing of care. survey of GPs published last month by the youth mental health charity stem4 found that half said CAMHS were rejecting half of referrals they made of under-18s suffering from anxiety, depression, conduct disorder and self-harm because their symptoms were not seen as severe enough. 

“There is an unprecedented crisis in young people’s mental health, further evidenced by these record numbers of young people needing help from the NHS,” said Olly Parker, the head of external affairs at Young Minds. “The record high number of children and young people receiving care from the NHS tells us that the crisis in young people’s mental health is a wave that’s breaking now.” He said many young people were reaching crisis point before could get the treatment they need.

Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist and the founder of stem4, said that while more under-18s were getting help, it was unclear from the figures how many received effective treatment. “Teachers and GPs say that children and mental health in mental health distress are either being rejected in record numbers because their difficulties do not meet the high threshold for treatment, or they are stuck on long waiting lists. These latest figures also lack any real detail to warrant claiming there has been a marked improvement in accessing effective treatment. They just show greater need.” She said not just the prevalence but also the severity and complexity of youth mental health problems had increased in recent years. In addition, Covid-induced loneliness, increased time spent online, disrupted routines and exposure to family stress have increased levels of distress.

Record 420,000 children a month in England treated for mental health problems | Mental health | The Guardian

Fact of the Day

 Pets are big business in Japan.

The industry is forecast to reach 1.7 trillion yen ($13.2bn; £10.6bn) in 2022

BILLIONAIRES GET RICHER

 


The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have grown by $453bn over the past two years owing to soaring energy and commodity prices during the pandemic and Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, a report by Oxfam has revealed.  The charity said spiralling global food prices had helped create “62 new food billionaires” in just 24 months.

Cargill, which is one of the world’s largest food traders, now counts 12 family members as billionaires, up from eight before the pandemic. The Cargill family, along with three other companies, controls 70% of the global agricultural market.

Food prices, which are up more than 30% over the past year on average, are likely to push more than 263 million more people into acute poverty than before the pandemic. That would take the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day to 860 million by the end of the year. That is equivalent to the populations of the UK, France, Germany, and Spain combined.

A total of 573 new billionaires have emerged during the pandemic. Oxfam said the coronavirus crisis had been “the best time in recorded history for the billionaire class”.

Danny Sriskandarajah, the chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “It is morally indefensible that people in east Africa are dying of hunger while the fortunes of the world’s super-rich are fuelled by skyrocketing food and energy prices. At a time when hundreds of millions more people are facing extreme poverty, there can be no excuse for governments not to address gargantuan profits and wealth in order to ensure that no one is left behind.”

Billionaires’ combined wealth stands at $12.7tn, according to Forbes magazine’s ranking on the super-rich. That is the equivalent to 13.9% of global GDP, and a threefold increase from 2000. The fortunes of the richest 20 billionaires are greater than the entire GDP of sub-Saharan Africa.

Food and energy billionaires $453bn richer than two years ago, finds Oxfam | The super-rich | The Guardian


Bosses Pay Bonanza

 The gap between the pay of company executives and other workers is set to widen this year after falling during the height of the Covid pandemic, the High Pay Centre said.

Cuts to executive pay led to a fall in the median pay gap between bosses in FTSE 350 firms and employees last year. But it said early data indicated that the gap will widen again in 2022.


69 companies that disclosed pay ratios in the first months of 2022 to the High Pay Centre, the average chief executive to average employee pay ratio was 63:1 - almost double the ratio for the same group of companies in 2021, at 34:1.


Mubin Haq, chief executive of the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust said wage growth for those on lower incomes would be "critical" to ensure "millions can weather the cost-of-living crisis we are now facing".


The High Pay Centre's most recent chief executive pay analysis said the average FTSE 100 boss was paid £2.69m in 2020. The figure was 86 times the average full-time UK worker.


TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Pay inequality has gone much too far. Even for the best-performing executives, pay can be out of all proportion compared to hard-working staff on the frontline."


Pay gap from bosses to staff to widen - think tank - BBC News

Cost of Living Increases

 Basic goods and services for a typical family with two young children are about £400 a month more expensive than they were last year. Energy prices added about £120 to families' monthly costs as price caps rose and cheap tariffs ended. Transport costs, including petrol and parking charges, added at least £85 to families' outgoings, while childcare costs rose by £66 a month.

The cost of these basic household budgets - known as the Minimum Income Standard - has often gone up faster than inflation, which is calculated using prices across the whole economy. With inflation reaching a 40-year high of 9% in April 2022, families with two children face costs 13% higher than they did in the same month last year.

Pay is rising more slowly than prices, forcing many families to make tough spending choices. As well as the essentials needed to survive, like food, rent and heating, the budgets include things the focus groups believe are needed to take part in society, such as internet access, school trips and an annual family holiday in the UK.


Peter Matejic from anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says low-income households are hit the hardest by price rises: "Families in poverty are feeling the worst effects of the frightening jumps we are seeing in the cost of living, because more of their budget goes on essential items and their incomes just can't keep up."


Cost of living: Two-child families paying £400 a month more - BBC News




To care or to profit?

 The largest private suppliers of children's homes and foster care places in England, Wales and Scotland make excessive profits says a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report. Data on 15 large providers from 2016 to 2020 showed steady operating profit margins averaging 22.6%. The CMA says a well-functioning market should generate returns to investors of up to 6%, but the largest children's home providers make about double that.

The UK has "sleepwalked" into a system where some vulnerable children do not get good care. The CMA study into children's social care was launched a year ago. It found large private sector providers of fostering services and children's homes appeared to be making higher profits in England and Wales than would be expected in a well-functioning market. This suggests councils are paying more than they should, particularly for fostering.  Hampshire County Council's assistant director of children's services Suzanne Smith, runs the team which finds foster care or children's home places for young people who can no longer remain with their families. The team struggles to find suitable placements, the costs keep growing and they feel there is more picking and choosing by independent providers about which child they will take. Hampshire County Council has eight of its own children's homes, which cost more than £3,000 a week per child.

But the council says independent providers can charge anywhere between £3,500 a week to more than £10,000 for each child, depending on the complexity of their needs. Unlike in council homes, children can sometimes be asked to leave private homes with only a few hours' notice.

"Unfortunately, it drives towards profit generation as opposed to the outcomes for the child," says Ms Smith. "What we'd really like to see is a diverse market where you've got providers who can make profit, but those profits are reasonable, and then shared accountability around the outcomes for the children."

Overall there is a shortage of appropriate places for looked-after children, leading to some not getting the care they need, being placed far from schools and friends or being separated from their siblings, says the CMA.

Forensic accountant Vivek Kotecha, of the Balanced Economy Project, has done similar research and says such excess profits would be better spent by councils on more services for children.

"It could have paid for better staff wages, or it could have just funded more children who need care, or at the borderline of potentially needing care or extra help. So I think it affects children, the ones in care, but it also affects the ones who could be in care or need to be in care, but aren't receiving it."


Kim Emenike, 24, who went into foster care at seven when her mum died of cancer, says she too often felt like a pay cheque rather than a human being.

"I'm just someone who needed someone to care, someone to love me and someone to just be my cheerleader. You've got to do it because you have the heart for it - not because you get paid for it."


It notes that Scotland and Wales are already moving away from the model of for-profit provision in children's social care.


Children's social care generates excessive profits - report - BBC News




Sunday, May 22, 2022

Fact of the Day

 Of more than 7,000 edible plants worldwide, only 417 are widely grown and used for food.

Poverty and Covid in the USA

  A recent report from the Poor People’s Campaign highlights a key overlooked demographic in the pandemic response: poor and low-income people. Data from over 3,200 counties across the United States show that, after the first wave of the pandemic, poor counties experienced substantially higher death rates than richer counties. 

 During the pandemic, people living in poorer counties died at nearly two times the rate of people who lived in richer counties: After grouping counties by median household income into ten groups with equal population size (deciles), the report shows that death rates in the highest income group are half the death rates in the lowest income group.

 • During the deadliest phases of the pandemic, poorer counties saw many times more deaths than wealthier counties: 

A recent Pew study that broke the pandemic up into six phases shows that the deadliest phases of the pandemic to date were in winter 2020-2021 and the Omicron period.

 Except for the first phase in March 2020, death rates were many times higher in poorer counties than in richer counties: 

 - The second phase was mostly experienced by poorer counties. 

 - During the third phase (winter 2020-2021), death rates were 4.5 times higher in counties with the lowest median income than in counties with the highest. 

- During the Delta variant phase (August-November 2021), death rates were five times higher in these low-income counties. 

- The Omicron variant phase (approx. December 2021-February+) has had a death rate nearly three times higher in counties with the lowest median incomes compared to those with the highest median incomes

ExecutiveSummary_7.pdf (poorpeoplescampaign.org)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Depressing Facts

 The World Food Programme estimates about 49 million people face emergency levels of hunger. 

About 811 million go to bed hungry each night. 

The number of people on the brink of starvation across Africa’s Sahel region, for example, is at least 10 times higher than in pre-Covid 2019.

The total number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent food assistance has nearly doubled since 2016, according to the Global Network Against Food Crises, a joint UN and EU project. 

 “An absolute crisis is unfolding before our eyes,” the World Food Programme’s director, David Beasley, said following visits to Benin, Niger and Chad. “We’re running out of money, and these people are running out of hope.”

Apocalypse now? The alarming effects of the global food crisis | World news | The Guardian

Title 42 Remains in Force


 Who runs the country?

Judge Robert Summerhays of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana—an appointee of then-President Donald Trump—concurred with 24 Republican-controlled states' assertion that the Biden administration's decision to terminate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rule "violates the Administrative Procedures Act" because it "failed to consider the effects of a Title 42 termination on immigration enforcement and the states."

The injunction blocks the administration of Biden from lifting Title 42, a Trump-era public health order that both presidents have invoked to deport around two million asylum-seekers under the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic. First implemented by the Trump administration in March 2020 at the pandemic's onset, Title 42—a provision of the Public Health Safety Act allowing the government to prohibit entry into the U.S. of people who could pose health risks—was continued by Biden. More Title 42 removals have occurred during Biden's tenure than Trump's.

Blame the Republicans?

 Last month a bill by Sen. James Lankford (D-Okla.)—and co-sponsored by right-wing Democrats including Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)— was introduced to codify Title 42.

"If Congress locks Title 42 into law, what we're really talking about is creating an asylum system that selectively doles out protection for certain groups, while keeping out Black and Brown people," Helena Olea, associate director of programs at Alianza Americas, said in a statement. Olea contended that "Title 42 was never about protecting public health. It was about eliminating the possibility of asylum for people who cross the border by foot, fleeing instability and violence resulting from multiple factors, including U.S. policies."

Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at the immigrant legal aid group RAICES, called the judge's decision "both infuriating and unlawful."

"President Biden could have ended Title 42 and all of Trump's inhumane and immoral policies as soon as he took office in January 2021 with the flick of a pen," she continued, "but instead, he surrounded himself with centrist advisers who coddled his fears on immigration reform and embraced deterrence as their central priority on immigration." Goodlette then added, "Now, the anti-immigrant right-wing agenda continues to fly forward unchecked and immigrants seeking safety and asserting their legal right to asylum will continue to pay the price." 

"Beyond the devastating humanitarian impact of Title 42, the court's ruling also fails to recognize well-established domestic and international law," said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. "Seeking asylum is a legal right, and yet this bedrock of the American legal system is quickly eroding at a time of unprecedented need."

'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42 (commondreams.org)