Saturday, March 25, 2017

Martin McGuinness is playing his harp

0 comments
“If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed. Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin – is only national recreancy.[a disloyality to a belief] - James Connolly

"Yes, friends, governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class." - James Connolly

“Ireland as distinct from her people is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’ and yet can pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and suffering and the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland: aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women ithout burning to end it, is a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’” - James Connolly

James Connolly before he subordinated working class independence to Irish independence asked what would be the difference in practice if the unemployed were rounded up for the "to the tune of 'St. Patrick's Day'" and the bailiffs wore wear "green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the road will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic...Whoop it up for liberty! "? 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Time to re-think capitalism

0 comments
Reformists seek to soften the effects of capitalism by calling for such oxymorons as “ethical” capitalism or “responsible” capitalism.

Today's co-operative movement is so unlike the dreams of its founders as to be almost unrecognisable. Socialists have not the slightest interest in the efforts of the co-operative movement to extend its business organisation. Some workers may find a co-operative permits a bit more say in the work-place but, as a movement, it never will or could bring emancipation any nearer. It can thrive only by accepting and imitating capitalism. It can never bring the workers more than a few crumbs from the capitalist table. The Socialist Party points out to those people trying to maintain a precarious and often illusory independence against large-scale industry and commerce, that there is no salvation for them under capitalism. As individuals, their place is within our ranks, when they recognise that the prime need of our age is the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and the establishment of socialism, and when they are prepared to work with us to that end. As socialists, we do not gloat over the personal tragedies of the failure of the small cooperative enterprise any more than we do over other tragic effects of ruthless capitalism.

Likewise our criticism of credit unions as a more convenient method of saving or borrowing than a conventional bank. Or the proclaimed panacea for poverty – micro-finance.

 Much has been said about the supposed empowerment easy access to credit for the poor, and in particular, poor women. This “grass-roots” capitalism has been advocated by charities and NGOs as a means of transforming lives for decades now and enough time and study has now been given to determine the results on the much trumpeted “success” stories. Undeniably, in a few personal situations, these loans have helped the slightly better off among the poor to build up their livelihoods but those entrepreneurial individuals are few who use a small amount of money to catapult themselves out of destitution. Those successful enterprises are the exceptions. However, the idea that micro-credit has potential to spark sustained economic benefit has been misplaced. Micro-finance is a Band-Aid solution to poverty and fails to address the root causes of poverty. No one should be lulled into believing that micro-finance is a cure-all for global poverty. 

Originally developed as a non-profit effort to lift society’s most downtrodden, microfinance has increasingly become a for-profit enterprise that serves investors as well as the poor. It can also lead to indebtedness. We must not forget the flip-side: Microcredit is microdebt. When a person and especially a woman fails to make installments on time, she experiences humiliation from fellow members and loan recovery officials. The default by a lone woman can result in friction among group members who are collectively held responsible for individual loans. Women who cannot pay due to unforeseen circumstances, (poor investment decisions, unexpected illness or even theft) are subjected to dishonour.

Six randomised evaluations from four continents conducted by researchers affiliated with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), show that microcredit does not have a transformative impact on poverty. The results of studies, which were carried out in India, Mongolia and Philippines in Asia, Bosnia-Herzegovina in Europe, Morocco and Ethiopia in Africa, and Mexico in North America, were presented in the January 2015 issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. They conclude that micro-loans generally do not lead to increased income, investments in children’s schooling, or substantial gains in women’s empowerment for poor borrowers.



The Robots are Coming

0 comments
More than 10 million UK workers are at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace in a new machine age.
report by the consultancy firm PwC found that 30% of jobs in Britain were potentially under threat from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI),  compared with 38% in the US, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan. In some sectors half the jobs could go.
PwC said 2.25 million jobs were at high risk in wholesale and retailing – the sector that employs most people in the UK – and 1.2 million were under threat in manufacturing, 1.1 million in administrative and support services and 950,000 in transport and storage.

Which jobs are most at risk?

Transportation and storage - 56% of jobs at high risk from automation
Manufacturing - 46%
Wholesale and retail trade - 44%
Administrative and support services - 37%
Financial and insurance - 32%
Professional, scientific and technical - 26%
Construction - 24%
Arts and entertainment - 22%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing - 19%
Human health and social work - 17%
Education - 9%

Oneness

0 comments
 Without racism, there would be no Ku Klux Klan. Without racism there would have been no Jewish Holocaust. Without racism there would not have a 100 days of genocidal slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans, mostly of Tutsi heritage.  Racism is both ugly and vicious but for many it is subconscious.  Xenophobes have a fear of others and that is of the perceived stranger and so hate the foreigner. Racism is pernicious and it is the most divisive issue between human beings.  It not only cobbles together inequalities but also a sense of inferiority.  Racism is borne of exploitation, of the oppressor and the oppressed dichotomy and its dynamical structures.   Racism is a most powerful propaganda weapon which seeks to turn people against people in order to secure an ulterior motive. The history of humanity has been polluted by this diabolical ploy.  Racism is not about difference, but about the manifestation of difference for the purpose of exploiting an outcome – the perpetuation of power over others.

 Racism cannot exist without exploitation. For without power over people inequalities can be bridged. With equality the cruel tool that is racism becomes redundant, benign. Racism is a tool of the oppressor, of the exploiter. Concepts of ‘inferiority’ and of ‘racial supremacy’ are attributions originating in the exclusive pursuit to exploit human beings, whether as chattel or whether to acquire benefit from their dispossession. To achieve these ends the exploiters have disguised their actions with false concepts intended only to justify the oppression and disenfranchisement of peoples. These concepts are sold so powerfully on a wholesale scale that even ‘learned’ individuals justified slavery and racism while the more ignorant developed cultish behaviours around these presumptions. The conscious and subconscious hating comes in various forms, including the claim to superiority – where people truly feel that that their way of living, that their culture is superior to those of others. That’s dangerous because it pits people against people, denying diversity.

 America wants to be great again, but America was never great – a country that has engaged in brutality the world over with more than 100 military engagements since World War 2, and its subversion of the internal affairs of other nations. Racism is always used as part of the propaganda package. America that sells itself as the 'land of the free' built its economies on the back of Black slavery – for a long time 90 per cent of the American economy was intertwined with slavery. The poor White masses were taught not to dissent at their own starvation level wages or the slave would replace them. This narrative of the self is sold by Trump in his war against Hispanic immigrants. Across the West we see hate against migrants and refugees, particularly of the ethnic minorities with the racist catch cries, “I want my country back,” “we are full,” “England for the English” and of course “lets make America great again,” where the indigenous people rebel against the idea that they are not special and are just like any other. In the racist, white people are sold their superiority over the black and brown. Martin Luther King said, “When (the White’s) wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide… a psychological bird told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a White man, better than the Black man.”

Remember the mass murder in the US city of Charleston, where a White man killed 9 Black people in a church, seen to be motivated by depression, alienation and mental illness – not terrorism.
In Brisbane Australia, again depression was cited as the cause when an Indian Bus driver, Manmeet Alisher was burned alive by a white man and Queensland Police and media were quick to suggest, one, the attack was not terrorism and two, not racially motivated.

 The highest arrest and jailing rates in the United States of America are of African-Americans, and in Australia of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. One in four African-American males can expect to go to prison. In Australia, one in 9 of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living have been to prison while in the Northern Territory and Western Australia one in six have been to jail.

For many Western whites, opportunities for reaching the top of the hill seem unattainable. So their identity, their whiteness feels under threat and more important than ever. In other words if you were supported for the majority of your life in a world that re-enforced whiteness, that whites are superior and lacks inferior in need of civilisation – rather than embrace a deconstruction of the truth you become fearful. And because the foundations of your identity were based on denial and non-truths rather than acceptance you fear this “truth” will destroy or diminish an identity you cherish, and because you have no understanding of a world beyond whiteness you have no culturally acceptable way to articulate what you perceive as a crisis.

Morris Dee and J. Richard Cohen also published in a The New York Times article “White Supremacists
Racism continues today in its ugliest exploitative forms as did when the colonialists were pillaging Africa, the Americas, Asia and Australia. Islamophobia is used to turn people against people while the citadel of exploiters loot and pillage. Propaganda is sold daily as is the scare-mongering.  Oneness is the greatest threat to the exploiters Without Borders” published in 2015; “We know Islamic terrorists are thinking globally, and we confront that threat. We’ve been too slow to realize that white supremacists are doing the same.”

In the words Martin Luther King, during his March 25, 1965 speech in Montgomery, Alabama. “And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead; remain committed to non-violence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the White man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with conscience. And that will be a day not of the White man, not of the Black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

 Diogenes described humanity as citizens of the world and not of nations. Our battle is with the capitalist system that gives rise to racism and perpetuates it but we have no fight with one another. If we have a problem with each other then we have all got a problem and if so we are all in trouble and in some ways we are as bad as each other. In the fight to end the system that oppresses, that turns people against each other, that discriminates and disadvantage, that screw us all, we have to carry this fight together. Racism hurts, it hurts deeply that we are not seen equally and therefore so to beat racism we must indeed see each other equally, live with one another, walk by any neighbour with the love that will bring us together as one – the means and the end are one. In understanding racism let us consider it as an atrocity borne of nothing but to justify something that disservices us all, and that in other words racism is no more than filthy gossip without any truth.

Adapted from here

China's Plutocracy

0 comments
The National People’s Congress (NPC) is China’s rubber-stamp legislature.

Out of the more than 5,100 delegates to these two assemblies, 209 possess individual wealth of more than 2 billion yuan (US$290 million). More than 100 of the wealthy individuals are members of the NPC, and 97 are from the CPPCC.

According to the survey, their cumulative assets tallied “almost 3.5 trillion yuan” (US$507 billion) – nearly equivalent to the annual GDP of countries such as Belgium, Sweden or Poland.
The majority of the wealthy delegates were businessmen, rather than politicians who had spent their careers within the party apparatus. Among them are the heads of internet giants, such as Pony Ma of Tencent and Robin Li of Baidu, smartphone maker Xiaomi’s CEO Lei Jun, and Zong Qinghou, head of soft drink producer Wahaha.

Fragile China

0 comments
Economist Gan Li and his researchers at Chengdu’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics  showed that China’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, had reached 0.61, well above the 0.4 level widely considered destabilizing by economists.

 The top 1 percent held more than one-quarter of China’s wealth, while 430 million Chinese struggled day-to-day.

Gan’s research on China’s housing sector figures that 70 percent of total household wealth is made up of the value of apartments. About 50 million already-sold units sit empty, much more than some investment banks had estimated. (The government doesn’t release national data on empty apartments.) China has a vacancy rate of 18 percent, compared with 13 percent in the U.S., Gan says.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Who will heed the warning?

0 comments
The world has got only four months to save millions of people in Yemen and Somalia from starvation, the International Committee of the Red Cross says.

"Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, the root cause of this crisis is conflict, conflict that has been going on for years and that has been destroying livelihoods. People cannot farm their fields, people are displaced numerous times, infrastructure like hospitals is destroyed or damaged. So there are a lot of factors that play a role here and one of them is the risk of famine that we have seen. What we know, if you take a country like Yemen, is that the country is really reliant on the importation of goods. Ninety percent of its food and other goods were imported even before the conflict took place. So of course now, with the blockage of goods coming in, there is a real crisis and that needs to be tackled urgently. Our assessment on the ground of both countries is that we have got a very short window to actually tackle this situation. And we are saying that the root is not something that has to do with climate, it has to do with conflict. The international community needs to mobilize now and take this very seriously and tackle this issue...We have got three or four months before us and the alarm bell has to be rung. It is really about understanding that this is not business as usual, this is not just another crisis that an aid organization is talking about. This is four countries with twenty million people faced with the threat of famine. ."

Fact of the Day

0 comments

Boss of British Gas owner gets 40% pay rise as millions live in fuel poverty Centrica chief Iain Conn’s package leaps to £4.15m – enough to pay heating and lighting bills for nearly 4,000 customers.

Defending Refugees

0 comments
We live in a world where nations are prepared to turn back boats of desperate refugees, where nations are prepared to let refugees risk drowning. Thousands have drowned. More refugees are dying than ever before in fleeing war, persecution, poverty. For those refugees who mange to cross borders, they live in squalor and insecurity. For the majority of refugees these are dire times. If refugees are to be imprisoned in  detention centres and trapped in shanty-camps let us then not expect harmony.  Poverty breeds despair and it leads to anger. Child refugees are self-harming and attempting suicide. Children who without family,  their lives broken and ruined irrevocably children are seeking relief in substance abuse – alcohol and drugs– desperate to escape the reality of their existence. Médecins Sans Frontières warns of a “human cost to come” much worse than anything thus far. One report records “The conditions are taking from children their dreams and replaces them with anger, and they turn to harming themselves and others.”

It is inevitable that a handful of people will cynically exploit the global movement of refugees to pursue their own criminal, political, or religious aims on the fringes—either by concealing themselves in the masses to cross borders to commit violent acts abroad, by taking advantage of the political polarisation of migration politics to promote their own agendas, or by extorting these people for their own criminal purposes. Among any population this size, there will be criminal activity here and there, refugee or not.

Today, one in every 122 humans living on the planet is a refugee, an internally displaced person, or an asylum-seeker. In 2014, conflict and persecution forced a staggering 42,500 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, resulting in 59.5 million total refugees worldwide. According to the UN refugee agency’s 2014 Global Trends report (tellingly entitled 'World at War'), developing countries hosted 86% of these refugees. Developed countries, such as the U.S. and those in Europe, host only 14% of the world’s total share of refugees.

 Populist nationalist leaders appeal to public anxieties about refugees as “lazy opportunists,” “burdens,” “criminals,” or “terrorists” and in response the supposedly morre moderat mainstream parties hve begun to echo this rhetoric, with politicians of all stripes calling for increased border controls, detention centres, and the temporary suspension of visa and asylum applications. Importantly, none of these panicky characterizations of refugees is born out by systematic evidence.

Are Refugees Economic Opportunists? The most reliable studies of refugee movements suggest that the primary cause of flight is violence. Refugees are fleeing war in hopes of sanctuary in a safe haven. Surveys bear out this reality in today’s crisis. In Syria, one of the world’s major producers of refugees in the last five years, survey results suggest that most civilians are fleeing because the country has simply become too dangerous to live. And refugees rarely choose their destinations based on economic advantages; instead, 90% of refugees go to a country with a contiguous border (thus explaining the concentration of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon). Those that do not stay in a neighbouring country tend to flee to countries where they have existing social ties. The data suggest that most refugees think about economic opportunity as an afterthought rather than as a motivation for flight. That being said, when they arrive at their destinations, refugees tend to be exceedingly industrious, with cross-national studies suggesting that they are rarely burdensome for national economies. In today’s crisis, “Many of the people arriving by sea in southern Europe, particularly in Greece, come from countries affected by violence and conflict, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; they are in need of international protection and they are often physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized”.

Who’s Afraid of the “Big Bad Refugee”? In terms of security threats, refugees are far less likely to commit crimes than natural-born citizens. The Wall Street Journal evaluated data on the link between immigration and crime in the United States and calls the correlation a “myth.” Even in Germany, which has absorbed the highest number of refugees since 2011, crime rates by refugees have not increased. Violent attacks on refugees, on the other hand, have doubled. This suggests that refugees do not pose a problem for security; instead, they require protection against violent threats themselves. Moreover, refugees (or those who claim to be refugees) are highly unlikely to plan terror attacks. Moreover, refugee-vetting processes are exceedingly stringent in many countries—with the U.S. having among the most stringent refugee policies in the world—thereby precluding many of the adverse outcomes feared by critics of status quo refugee policies. Although such processes do not guarantee that all potential threats are excluded, they mitigate the risk considerably, as demonstrated by the paucity of violent crimes and terror attacks committed by refugees in the past thirty years.

Given the choice between staying and fighting, staying and dying, or fleeing and surviving, today’s refugees fled—meaning that, by definition, they actively and purposefully chose a non-violent option in the context of mass violence raging all around them. The millions of refugees are people who have chosen the only available non-violent pathway out of their conflict environments. In many respects, today’s 60 million refugees have said no to violence, no to victimization, and no to helplessness at the same time. The decision to flee to strange and often unwelcoming foreign lands as a refugee is not a light one. It involves taking significant risks, including the risk of death. 

In today’s crisis, it is essential to resist the urge to ascribe nefarious motivations to the millions of people seeking safety because of the violent or criminal actions of a few. The latter group does not represent the average refugee, nor do they negate the fact that refugees are generally people who, in the context of truly dislocating violence, made a life-altering, non-violent choice to act for themselves in a way that cast them and their families into uncertain futures. Once they arrive, on average the threat of violence against the refugee is much greater than the threat of violence by the refugee. Shunning them, detaining them as if they were criminals, or deporting them to war-torn environments sends a message that non-violent choices are punished—and that submitting to victimisation or turning to violence are the only choices left. This is a situation that calls for compassion, respect, protection, and welcome—not fear, dehumanisation, exclusion, or revulsion.


People should be able to go to wherever they want to in this world of ours – migration should be the norm. Borders are an idea only and not a fixed reality despite that we are sold nationhood as if inalienable. Borders generate fear and hate – xenophobia. Society needs to be about people. Capitalism exploits humanity. It is so bent on profit for the few that it leaves behind more and more dire circumstance. Capitalism is the maker of abject poverty and billions live utterly dirt-poor. 

Work till you drop

0 comments
An analysis for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has suggested that workers under the age of 30 may not get a pension until the age of 70.
At least six million people face the prospect of having to work longer.
"This report is going to be particularly unwelcome for anyone in their early 40s, as they're now likely to see their state pension age pushed back another year," said Tom McPhail, head of retirement at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"For those in their 30s and younger, it reinforces the expectation of a state pension from age 70, which means an extra two years of work."


US Inequality

0 comments
1.) The total wealth of the members of Forbes 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States adds up to a record $2.34 trillion, more than the GDP of India, a nation of over a billion people.  All 400 of these people have fortunes that are worth at least $1.7 billion.
2.) An estimated 115,000 U.S. households (the top one-thousandth of America’s population) owns more than 20 percent of U.S. household wealth, up from 7 percent in 1970.
3.) The wealthiest 400 people in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population which is comprised of 70 million households or 194 million people.
4.) The wealthiest 20 people in the United States have as much wealth as 152 million people who live in the 57 million households that make up the bottom half of the United States population.  These people include the following:
Their combined wealth totals $732 billion.  It is interesting to see that six of the top twenty are in the tech sector and nine have inherited their wealth from the previous generation.
5.) A typical U.S. household has $81,000 in total wealth.  The Forbes 400 have more wealth than 36 million American households, equal to the number of households that own cats!
6.) The Forbes 400 have as much wealth as all of America’s African-American households plus one-third of America’s Latino population combined.  The wealthiest 100 members of the Forbes 400 have as much wealth as the entire African-American population of 42 million people.  The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 have as much wealth as the entire Latino population of over 55 million people.
7.) African-Americans make up 13.2 percent of the United States population but have only 2.5 percent of the nation’s total wealth.  Latinos make up 17 percent of the United States population but have only 2.9 percent of the nation’s total wealth.  Here is a table showing the inequality in wealth by race:

Poor Canadians

0 comments
Five million people in Canada are living in poverty.

  • On a per capita basis, the poverty rate in Canada is nearly as high as it is in the United States. With 45 million Americans out of a total population of 320 million living in poverty, that works out to roughly one in seven. In Canada, with 5 million people in poverty out of a total population of 37 million, that works out to be just marginally (one-third of a percentage point) lower than the U.S. rate. Certainly nothing to boast about. 
  • Three million Canadian households are living in housing conditions that are sub-standard – overcrowded, inadequately furnished, and barely affordable for low-income families. One in every five households are being forced to spend 50 percent of their income on rent.
  • Canada is one of the few advanced industrialized countries with a public health care system that doesn’t cover pharmacare, dental and vision care, as well as the services of doctors and hospitals. One in 10 Canadians often can’t afford to fill their medical prescriptions.
  • Three million Canadian children – one in five – are living in poverty. UNICEF ranks Canada 17thamong 29 wealthy countries due to its high rate of child poverty, and 26th for its dismal overall rate of child care. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has ranked Canada dead last out of 25 countries for the inadequacy and inaccessibility of its child care programs.
  • Unlike most countries in Europe, Canada still doesn’t have a national, accessible, affordable, and quality child care network. Most European countries have committed to providing an ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) place for all children, either by legislating a legal entitlement or by making attendance compulsory. Eight European nations – Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia and Malta – guarantee a legal right to ECEC for all children soon after their birth.
  • 21 percent of single mothers in Canada have to raise their children while living in poverty.
  • Among Canadian cities, Toronto has the most children living in poverty: 133,000 – 27 percent, one in four. Montreal is a close second.
  • One in eight Canadian households struggle to put food on the table, even though 62 percent of their breadwinners have low-wage (obviously underpaid) jobs. Only the food banks save them from starvation. Since 2008, food bank usage has increased in all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Between 1980 and 2005, average earnings among the poorest in Canada fell by 20 percent, and part-time, low-wage employment has risen by 50 percent over the last two decades.
  • Nearly two million Canadian seniors rely on the GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) and live on about $17,000 a year — $1,000 below the basic standard of living for a single person.
  • An estimated 235,000 people in Canada were homeless on any given night in 2016.
This is just a sample of the statistical evidence that makes it clear that the lives of millions of Canadians and their children are wretched, precarious, unhappy, and often plagued by cold and hunger.

To contact the Socialist Party of Canada send postal mail to:
Socialist Party of Canada
PO Box 31024
Victoria, B.C.
Canada
V8N 6J3 


Or, e-mail the Socialist Party


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Selling mothers' mik

0 comments
Breast milk is in great demand by women who cannot feed their own babies in the US.

The UN children’s fund has strongly criticised the sale by a commercial company of breast milk bought from Cambodian mothers to women in the US, warning it could lead to the babies of poor and vulnerable women becoming malnourished. Unicef condemned the trade by Utah-based company Ambrosia Labs. Cambodia’s customs department said the finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, had signed a letter blocking further exports.

“Breast milk banks should never be operated by exploiting vulnerable and poor women for profit and commercial purposes,” said Iman Morooka, of Unicef in Cambodia. “Breast milk could be considered as human tissue, the same as blood, and as such its commercialisation should be banned. Malnutrition remains a threat to children’s wellbeing in Cambodia, and proper breastfeeding is one of the key factors contributing to a child’s good health and nutrition.”
There is a substantial online trade in breast milk in the US, where women advertise their expressed milk for sale. Many claim to eat only healthy food and be free from disease. Ambrosia, however, claims to offer a safer service, by importing breast milk on a large scale from women in Cambodia. The women are given blood tests to ensure they are healthy and the milk is shipped frozen and then sterilised once in the US. Ambrosia Labs employs about 30 women in slum areas to 'donate' milk. 

CEO Inequality

0 comments
The average FTSE chief executive earns 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage, according to an analysis published by the Equality Trust as it steps up its campaign for new government rules to expose pay gaps.
The charity used annual reports from 2015 for all the companies in the FTSE 100 to calculate that their CEOs pocket an average of £5.3m each year, compared with £13,662 for someone on the national living wage of £7.20 an hour.
The Equality Trust analysis found that FTSE 100 chief executives are now paid 165 times more than a nurse, 140 times more than a teacher, 132 times more than a police officer and 312 times more than a care worker.
“The people who educate our children, look after our grandparents, and keep our families safe have seen their pay frozen, while fat cat CEOs continue to gorge themselves on obscene and undeserved rewards,” said equality trust executive director Wanda Wyporska.

A Water Crisis

0 comments
About one on four child on the planet will die, have their growth stunted or otherwise suffer from a lack of water by 2040, Unicef has warned in a new report, Thirsting for a Future.
36 countries in the world face “extremely high levels of water stress”, the report by the UN children’s agency said. 
Every day more than 800 children under five die from diarrhoea linked to a lack of clean water and poor sanitation. The same conditions have resulted in an astonishing 156 million children under five suffering from stunted growth, which causes irreversible physical and mental damage.
 Professor Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, wrote: “Water is elemental. Without it, nothing can grow. And without safe water, children may not survive. Children without access to safe water are more likely to die in infancy – and throughout childhood – from diseases caused by water-borne bacteria, to which their small bodies are more vulnerable. When these diseases don’t kill outright, they can contribute to the stunting of children’s bodies and minds – and the blighting of their futures – by undermining their ability to absorb nutrients. 
“When a community’s water supply dries up or becomes contaminated – because of drought, because of flooding, because of conflicts that undermine infrastructure and prevent people from reaching safe water sources – such diseases abound.”
Parts of Africa and the Middle East are currently in the grip of a serve drought.
“We see the terrible effects of water scarcity today all over the world – and nowhere more tragically than in parts of Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, where drought conditions and conflict are producing deadly effects,” Professor Lake said.
“Nearly 1.4 million children face imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition as famine grows in these areas. In Ethiopia alone, we anticipate that more than nine million people will be without safe drinking water in 2017."
global warming will result in higher rates of evaporation and less rainfall in many areas – such as the Middle East – “water will become even scarcer”, it added.
“Rising temperatures increase the atmosphere’s water storage capacity, which essentially reduces water availability on the ground, particularly during the warmer months of the year,” it said.
“Then, when the air eventually cools, more intense rainfall occurs, this can lead to increased frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones and other extreme weather events. Rising temperatures also impact water by creating an environment for bacteria, protozoa and algae to grow, which can lead to illness and death in children.”
Higher sea levels can contaminate freshwater with salt, rendering it undrinkable. Low-lying areas and small islands, the places most affected by this problem, are home to about 25 per cent of the world’s population.
"The changing climate is one of many forces contributing to an unfolding water crisis. In the coming years, demand for water will increase as populations grow and move, industries develop and consumption increases," the report said.
"This can lead to water stress, as increasing demand and use of water strains available supplies. By 2040, almost 600 million children [one in four of the total] are projected to be living in areas of extremely high water stress. If action is not taken to plan for water stress, and to safeguard access to safe water and sanitation, many of these children will face a higher risk of death, disease, and malnutrition."
But Unicef stressed that a “growing water crisis” was “not inevitable, if we act now”.
It said countries should prioritise access to safe water for the most vulnerable children; increase the capacity of water storage facilities; factor in climate risks to water and sanitation policies; and get businesses to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of clean water supplies.

Farmers need Migrants

0 comments
California’s Central Valley, the hub of the state’s agricultural business, provides more than half the produce grown in the United States, and in 2016 the region overwhelmingly supported for Donald Trump. Now, the farmers who helped put Trump in office are experiencing a critical shortage of farmworkers—and nobody is stepping up to take the jobs.

The flow of labor began drying up when President Obama tightened the border but now Trump’s immigration and deportation policies are starting to hurt California farmers  who are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines. The pay rises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields,” they continue. “Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Words of hate hurt.

0 comments
“Politics of division and the rhetoric of intolerance are targeting racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees. Words of fear and loathing can, and do, have real consequences,” warns the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Zeid said that States do not have any excuse to allow racism and xenophobia to fester.
States “have the legal obligation to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, to guarantee the right of everyone, no matter their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law,” the senior UN official said. “It is not an attack on free speech or the silencing of controversial ideas or criticism, but a recognition that the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities,” Zeid said. 
 Zeid denounced “reckless political profiteers” who threaten the multilateral system or intend to withdraw from parts of it. “Without a commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare,” he warned. “Of all the great post-war achievements, it is this assertion of the universality of rights in human rights law that may be the most noteworthy.” Zeid said “the sirens of historical experience ought to ring clear” and pledged that “we will not sit idly by” in the face of violations. “Our rights, the rights of others, the very future of our planet cannot, must not be thrown aside by these reckless political profiteers,” he added.
 


Can't Pay - Can't Have

0 comments
Africa is facing a severe food crisis affecting up to 60 million people. Christina Bennet is head of the humanitarian policy group at the Overseas Development Institute in the UK explains  these famines aren't caused necessarily by a lack of access to food. 

 It is not so much that there is no available food in many of these places, it's more that there is not the possibility of accessing food. If people can access food through cash, quickly, that would be the fastest way to resolve some of the food situation in these countries.

That gives people access to cash so that they can buy food which is available to them at their local markets. 

Bangladesh Misery

0 comments
Children as young as eight, working in the tanneries of Bangladesh producing leather that is in demand across Europe and the USA, are exposed to toxic chemical cocktails that are likely to shorten their lives, according to a new report.
Approximately 90% of those who live and work in the overcrowded urban slums of Hazaribagh and Kamrangirchar, where hazardous chemicals are discharged into the air, streets and river, die before they reach 50, according to the World Health Organisation.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to set up clinics in the area to diagnose and treat those who are the victims of their workplace. It is, says a paper published in BMJ Case Reports, “the first time they have intervened in an area for reasons other than natural disasters or war”. MSF’s intervention was triggered by “the widespread industrial negligence and apathy of owners of tanneries and other hazardous material factories” towards the more than 600,000 largely migrant population who have no access to government-funded healthcare.
The hazards of the 250 or so tanneries in Hazaribagh – which are 30 to 35 years old and discharge 6,000 cubic metres of toxic effluent and 10 tonnes of solid waste every day – are best known. In 2012, Human Rights Watch produced a report called “Toxic Tanneries” which revealed the flouting of Bangladesh’s own laws as well as international law in the employment of children under 18 in work that is harmful or hazardous.
The factories douse animal skins in cauldrons of chemicals as part of the processing of “Bengali black” leather, which is exported to European leather goods manufacturers in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. “Apart from heavy metals like chromium, cadmium, lead and mercury, a conglomerate of chemicals are discharged by the tanneries into the environment,” says the paper. “Workers aged eight and older are soaked to the skin, breathing the fumes for most of the day and eat and live in these surroundings throughout the year. Personal protective equipment [is] not provided.”
Child workers clad in no more than loin cloths and wellington boots are exposed to chemicals including formaldehyde, hydrogen sulphide and sulphuric acid, write Venkiteswaran Muralidhar, associate professor at the Sri Balaji Medical college in Chennai, and colleagues.
The other factories– for plastics recycling, garments and metals – are in Kamrangirchar, an urban slum which is not officially part of Dhaka city. “In these, there are complex risk hazards from cotton dust, heavy metals and chemicals like mercury, phthalates, acids and dioxins and ergonomic hazards,” says the paper.
Chronic skin and lung diseases are common, say the authors. Within six months of the setting up of the clinics, 3,200 of the 5,000 eligible workers had come forward for at least one consultation. Among them, 468 (14.6%) were diagnosed with suspected work-related diseases, and 30 (0.9%) had work-related injuries.

IF REAL TRUTH HAS A CYNIC’S RING (weekly poem)

0 comments
IF REAL TRUTH HAS A CYNIC’S RING 

Oscar Wilde said “A cynic is someone who knows
the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
-- but what if cynics see the world as it really is..?

If real truth has a cynic’s ring,
I’m guilty of the charge;
There’s strings attached to everything,
In the real world at large.                             

We know false values have a price,
Where everything is  sold;
We throw the dice for a large slice,
Of pyrite or fool’s gold.

We know true value’s snuffed at birth,
In this flawed world we’ve made;
But on this Earth, things of real worth,
Should need no money paid.

If cynicism is the truth,
It says how real things are;
And all the truth sold us since youth,
Is fiction gone too far.

© Richard Layton