Wednesday, July 31, 2013

International Development Policies Harm Millions

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Below is an email just in describing false claims made by donor countries, including UK and US, about their involvement and cover up of gross human rights violations in development schemes in Ethiopia:
 
We Need Your Help to Fight Forced Evictions and Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia

Dear friends,

On July 17, the Oakland Institute exposed USAID and its UK equivalent DFID's role and responsibilities in the perpetuation of forced evictions and human rights abuses against indigenous communities in Ethiopia.

Our two reports as well as recorded interviews with affected communities on the ground strongly connected US and UK aid funds with the repression and human rights violations involved in relocating villagers for the development of agricultural plantations. With hard evidence and in-depth research, we showed that international development assistance is complicit with the implementation of violent and abusive so-called "development policy." Worse, we showed how once international pressure pushed USAID and DFID to do an investigation into allegations of rape, coercion, and other threats against primarily ethnic groups, the donors ignored their own findings.

We work hard to give a voice to those who cannot freely speak for themselves, and with these reports we succeeded in exposing the reality on the ground in spite of donor entities turning a blind eye.

Our goal is to put pressure on governments who--with our tax dollars--are making terrible decisions that are doing immense harm right now. Irrefutable evidence shows that USAID and DFID deny and hide the reality of large-scale abuses and also support the policy of the Ethiopian regime that destroys the lives and livelihoods of millions in the country. With this exposure, we accomplished what we set out to do.

<http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/in-the-news>

We took the stories of the people most harmed in the South Omo region of
Ethiopia and reached an audience of hundreds of thousands, building to perhaps millions, by getting coverage in the BBC, Christian Science Monitor, the Guardian, Bloomberg News, IPS News, and more.

Now we need to continue this work and to push even harder, with more
research, publications, and advocacy. Bulldozers are crushing homes and tearing up fields and it is urgent to stop them. We need your help for this and I hope we can count on you to support our work.

Our goal is to have a lasting impact in defense of voiceless people and of the natural resources they rely on for their survival. The Ethiopian government and its western supporters must respect the rights and dignity of the tribes of Lower Omo. Please give a donation of any amount to our Ethiopia campaign today.

Thank you.

Anuradha Mittal

Executive Director, Oakland Institute

P.S. We appreciate ALL donations but if you can give $35, $50, $100, $250, $1,000 or more, you will help us the most at this pressing time. Thank you!

Whilst we may applaud Oakland Institute's efforts to raise awareness of the general public to harm done by their respective governments and the steps the Institute takes to improve the conditions for many, socialists demand more and push to get rid of the root causes rather than to ameliorate them, to struggle to change the system to one which wouldn't require such interventions in the future. 
Why are there people who 'cannot speak freely'? Why must the goal be 'to put pressure on governments'? Why should foreign money be used in other countries, in indigenous areas to use 'bulldozers to crush homes and tear up fields'? Why must money be collected to be able to make a difference? 
The answer to these and many other questions is simply that the capitalist system is founded on a class system with pecuniary advantage built in for a small minority with the profit motive being the primary incentive. Governments serve the system not the people. Socialism's objective is a system organised by the people for the people - with a free voice and access for all to our common wealth.
JS


Fact of the Day

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Food insecurity in Canada is “a serious social and public health problem,” says a new report that found nearly one in eight Canadian households couldn’t access sufficient, safe and nutritious food in 2011.
The study said 3.9 million Canadians were affected and the 330,000 households that were “severely food insecure” were worried they would run out of food before being able to afford more.
In New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, one in four children were living in a home where the family struggled to put food on the table – and the long-term consequences will burden Canada’s health-care system.
“It’s toxic to human health,” University of Toronto professor Valerie Tarasuk AND  lead author of the study said.“By the time they’re teenagers and young adults, they’re more likely to be diagnosed with a whole range of health problems,” 

Quote of the Day

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In Europe we waste about 89 million tons of food every year. 

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: 
"This is morally and economically unacceptable and is all the more horrific when you consider the true scale of the resources required to produce those 89 million tons! We are also wasting all those resources. There's something wrong with the system."

Bread and Circuses in Detroit

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It is described as the biggest city bankruptcy in history. In Detroit public services are being cut . Fighting fires, emergency medical care, and trash collection are now precarious operations. Retired municipal workers will have their pensions slashed. Even the artwork in the city art museum will be sold off piece by piece.

Nevertheless, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has chosen to grant  $283 million to subsidize a new arena for the Red Wings Ice Hockey team in Detroit. Its owner is the founder of the pizza chain, Little Caesar’s, Mike Ilitch, whose family is worth $2.7 billion dollars. Keep the plebs happy and offer bread and circuses at the coliseum.

Perhaps Detroit should take a lesson from  Brazil, where mass discontent with the quality of schools, hospitals and the government led to ptotests against the cash provided for stadiums built or refurbished for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Government anti-worker spin caught out again

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Since coming to power the Coalition has cut the coverage and budget of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, and outlawed strict liability claims where there has been a criminal breach of safety law by the employer but negligence hasn’t been proven.
Cameron has claimed there exists a compensation culture, that workers make trivial claims and he will “We’ll change the health and safety law so that businesses are no longer automatically at fault if something goes wrong.”

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “ The true government motive here is to weaken health and safety laws and make it harder to for victims to pursue claims. Unfortunately the end result is likely to be a much higher rate of workplace accidents.”

The facts are that instead of rising claims against employers work injury claims are down 60 per cent in the last decade.

The number of people actually receiving awards for work-related injuries or diseases is down from 219,183 in 2000/01 to 87,655 in 2011/12.

The government figures, published in the health and safety journal Hazards, show that even the families of those dying from occupational diseases have little chance of securing a payout. For most occupational cancers, the odds of getting any compensation payout are less than one in 50.

More than 4,000 people a year die of work-related chronic bronchitis and emphysema, though just 59 received compensation last year. And of the 221,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety and depression last year, just 293 resulted in a payout.

Hazards editor Rory O’Neill, professor of occupational health at Stirling University and author of the report, said: “The Government’s cynical promotion of a compensation culture myth means many workers who are dying in pain are also dying in poverty. The Government is putting the health of the insurance industry and the safety of the most dangerous rogues in the business community over the health, safety and survival of people at work.”

Trust in Obama?

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Bradley Manning, the US Army private who divulged  thousands of classified documents which became known as the Wikileaks, has been convicted of espionage and now faces a possible 136 years in prison.

In 2008 ex-attorney Barack Obama hailed whistleblowing as "acts of courage and patriotism...We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose ... abuse of authority in government."

He even signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law in 2012.

 Thomas Drake. Drake worked for the National Security Agency revealing to the Baltimore Sun that the NSA’s Trailblazer Project, a project intended to analyze data carried on in the United States and elsewhere through the Internet, cell phones, and emails, not only violated the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against unwarranted searches and seizures, but it was a “billion-dollar computer boondoggle.” In April 2010, Drake was indicted by a federal grand jury of several crimes, including violation of the Espionage Act. If convicted of the charges against him, Drake faced up to 35 years in federal prison. A spokesperson for the Government Accountability Project reported that the government’s prosecution of Drake left him devastated. “His intelligence career is over, his finances are drained and he is personally spent,” According to one report, Drake was forced out of his NSA job and was working at an Apple Store in the Washington, D.C. area. Early in the summer of 2011, after several exposés ran in newspapers and on television, the Obama administration dropped all the charges against Drake in return for Drake's guilty plea to a misdemeanor of misusing NSA computers. Drake was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.

 Shamai Leibowitz, an FBI linguist who was eventually sentenced to 20 months in a federal prison for leaking documents to a blogger. Leibowitz testified that he believed that the papers he transmitted while working for the FBI contained evidence of “violations of the law” including the illegal attempt by the embassy of Israel to influence American foreign policy. In exchange for his guilty plea to one count of disclosure of classified information, Leibowitz agreed to never file petitions to look at documents related to his case and to "never disclose” any classified or sensitive information to which he had access while on contract with the FBI.

John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst who spoke out against the use of torture against suspected terrorists, was prosecuted and given a 30-month sentence. Kirakou was initially charged under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law and used only four times since it was enacted in 1917 to prosecute spies that critics have claimed the Obama administration is using as a cudgel against the press.

"I give the Obama administration an F,” said Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, in June 29. who criticized the administration for "moving backwards” on prosecutions of whistleblowers in the national security and intelligence fields. "Those workers don't have any whistleblower protections and, when they have leaked information, the Justice Department under Obama has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act -- six so far -- than any previous president and all previous presidents combined"

Is it no wonder that Julian Assange and Edward Snowdon decline to put their trust in the "justice" of a man such as Obama?

Know your class enemy 5/6

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In 2006 and 2007, as Goldman Sachs was selling high risk securities on home mortgages worth $40 billion, it was simultaneously betting against the housing market, ensuring that as the housing market crashed, the bank would make a significant profit. In late 2007, as the mortgage crisis was accelerating, executives at Goldman Sachs sent each other emails explaining that they would make “some serious money” betting against the housing market. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the bank helped the market crash harder and faster.

A U.S. Senate investigation into Goldman Sachs concluded that the bank “profited from the financial crisis [which it helped cause] by betting billions against the subprime mortgage market, then deceived investors and Congress about the firm’s conduct,” and referred the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the bank for criminal or civil action. In 2012, however, President Obama’s Justice Department announced that it would not pursue criminal charges against the bank. This, after the bank received over $12 billion in bailouts from the U.S. government to save the bank from the crisis that it created and profited from.

CEO Blankfein declared: “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations – the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to – they’re not going to get it.” Suggesting that benefits like social security, Medicare and Medicaid were providing too much “support” to every day people, Blankfein explained that “entitlements have to be slowed down and contained… because we can’t afford them.” The fact that Goldman Sachs received more than $10 billion in government welfare in exchange for its role helping to create a national and global financial crisis did not strike Blankfein as hypocrisy.  While Blankfein lectured the public about its need to “lower expectations” and lose its social benefits, bonuses for Wall Street executives were going up, with Goldman Sachs’s bonuses and salaries for 2012 topping $13 billion.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who has been chairman and CEO of the bank since 2006, and who is also a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Harvard Law School, a member of the Dean’s Council of Harvard University and is a member of the Advisory Board of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. Blankfein is also a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Medical College at Cornell University, the board of directors of the Partnership for New York City, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is additionally a member of the board of Catalyst, Chairman of the Financial Services Forum and is a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Stephen Friedman is on the board of directors of Goldman Sachs and has been Chairman of Stone Point Capital since 2005. He was previously Chairman of President George W. Bush’s Intelligence Advisory Board and Intelligence Oversight Board from 2006 to 2008, and was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York between 2008 and 2009. Friedman was also the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council in George W. Bush’s White House from 2002 to 2004, and was previously the Chairman of Goldman Sachs. He is a Trustee of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a Trustee of Columbia University, a Trustee of the Aspen Institute, a former director of Wal-Mart and Fannie Mae, and is a member of the board of advisers of the Center for New American Security and the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Also on the board of Goldman Sachs is Lakshmi N. Mittal, a director of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, and is also a director of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) N.V., as well as a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Kellogg School of Management, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Steel Association, a member of the Foreign Investment Council of the Government of Kazakhstan, a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council, a member of the International Advisory Board to the President of Mozambique, and a member of the Domestic and Foreign Investors Advisory Council to the President of the Ukraine.

The Chairman of Goldman Sachs International is Peter D. Sutherland, former Attorney General of Ireland from 1981 to 1984, who was European Commissioner for Competition Policy in the EU from 1985 to 1989, after which he was Chairman of Allied Irish Banks from 1989 to 1993. Between 1990 and 1995, Sutherland was Chairman of the European Institute of Public Administration, and was the Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) from 1993 and the first Director-General when it became the World Trade Organization (WTO), which he led until 1995. Sutherland was the Chairman of BP from 1997 to 2009, the former CEO of Ericsson, a former Director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and former Chairman of the General Assembly and President of the Advisory Council of the European Policy Center. Sutherland was additionally the former European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission from 2000 to 2009, and remains at the Trilateral Commission as a member and Honorary European Chairman. He was previously the Vice Chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists, from 2006 to 2009. He is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Supervisory Board of Allianz SE, a member of the boards of BW Group and Koc Holding, and President of the Federal Trust. He is a former member of the Council of International Advisors to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, ia member of the Board of Directors Emeriti of the European Institute, and is on the International Advisory Board of British American Business. Sutherland is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN for Migration and Development and has been the Consultor of the Extraordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (financial adviser to the Pope).

Senator Judd Gregg, a member of the International Advisory Board of Goldman Sachs, is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1980 to 1988, former Governor of New Hampshire from 1989 to 1993, and a U.S. Senator from 1993 to 2011. As a Senator, Gregg was the Chief Negotiator for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the bailout bill), and is a member of President Obama’s Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He is also a Senior Adviser to New Mountain Capital, and is on the boards of IntercontinentalExchange and Honeywell International.

Another member of Goldman Sachs’ International Advisory Board is Lord Griffiths of Forestfach, a member of the British House of Lords and member of the board of directors of Times Newspaper Holdings Ltd and Telereal Trillium. He is Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, was a former Professor at the London School of Economics, former Dean at City University Business School, and was a director of the Bank of England from 1983 to 1985. Between 1985 and 1990, he was the head of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Unit, where he “was a chief architect of the government’s privatization and deregulation programs.” In 2009, following a record-breaking $22 billion that was given out to Goldman Sachs executives and leadership in payment and bonuses, Lord Griffiths told a British audience that they should “tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all.”

Victor Halberstadt, a member of the International Advisory Board of Goldman Sachs, is also a Professor of Economics at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and former Crown-Member of the Netherlands Social-Economic Council. He is former Chairman of the International Advisory Board of DiamlerChrysler, former advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD, former member of the Council on Defence for the Government of the Netherlands, and former Informateur to the Queen of the Netherlands, as well as the former President of the International Institute of Public Finance. Halberstadt is a former Honorary Secretary-General of the Bilderberg Meetings, where he remains as a member of the Steering Committee, and is a director of ING Group, Stork, DiamlerChrysler, KPN and PA Consulting Group. He is a member of the board of Koc University, the Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy in Singapore, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Population Council. He is additionally Chairman of the Board of the American European Community Association (AECA), a member of the board of the Netherlands Opera and is a member of the Faculty of the World Economic Forum.

A Senior Director of Goldman Sachs is John C. Whitehead, who was former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State in the Reagan administration from 1985 to 1989, the founding Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and was an employee, partner, Co-Chairman and Senior Partner for Goldman Sachs between 1947 and 1976. He is a former member of the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, former Chairman of the Securities Industry Association, former Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, former Chairman of the United Nations Association, the International Rescue Committee, International House, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and former Chairman of the Harvard Board of Overseers. Whitehead is an Honorary Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Asia Society, Chairman Emeriti of the International Rescue Committee, a former director of the Nature Conservancy, a board member emeriti of the Watson Institute for International Studies and a director emeriti of the EastWest Institute. He is former Chairman of the Hungarian-American Enterprise Fund, a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings, Chair Emeriti of the Brookings Institution, a Commissioner of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a member of the board of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Revealing Levels of Poverty in Capitalism's Developed World

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'The Old “Story” Of Poverty' by Farooque Chowdury reveals the levels of poverty in a range of 'developed' countries, from US to Japan, from Germany to Sweden and shows how conditions are continuing to worsen for increasing numbers of workers - no matter what economists might be saying.

Poverty in the poor part of the world is not an exclusive case. It’s globe-encompassing. Societies touting as rich and prosperous are failing to escape the devastating “aroha”-touch of poverty.An exclusive Associated Press report by Hope Yen once again presents the fact. It’s an old fact with new data that reaffirms capitalism’s incapacity to eradicate poverty. The July 28, 2013, Washington datelined report said:
“Four out of 5 US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives …” And, “[m]easured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk … 4 in 10 adults falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.”
After presenting the grim fact the report observed: This joblessness, near-poverty, etc. are “a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”
In the US, the report said, “the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population …”
According to the report, the share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teenage pregnancy or dropping out of school in the US.

The capitalist economy is failing to cease school drop out. A comparison of the fact with post-revolutionary societies in central and eastern Europe, before their demise, help evaluate the two systems.Marriage rates, the AP report said, are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones in the US. 

Poverty, an incapacity of capitalism to eradicate, or, it can be said, a product of the economy, is influencing family, an institution capitalism proudly claims that it upholds and defends. But, fact tells, capitalism is devouring one of its sanctum sanctorum although it accuses socialism of plotting the sinful job. 

Citing census data the report mentions “race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s… Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government’s poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60…” Since 2000, the poverty rate among the working-class whites has grown faster than among the working-class nonwhites, rising 3 percentage points to 11 percent. Still, poverty among working-class nonwhites remains higher, at 23 percent. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, the report added, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white: more than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the US’ destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks. “The invisible poor”, lower-income whites, are dispersed in suburbs and small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white, said the report. 

Capitalism doesn’t make any division among Blacks and Whites although there are persons claiming to be progressives and anti-capitalists still draw a White-Black line among the working people. For the first time since 1975, according to the report, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade in the US. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Race disparities, the report said, in health and education have narrowed generally since the 1960s. 

Capitalism doesn’t spare mothers. Based on survey data the AP report said: The data “points to an increasingly globalized US economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend” cited above. The report refers to US president Barack Obama’s highest priority: Reverse income inequality. 

Two fundamental issues emerge from the above mentioned information: (1) loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs, and (2) reverse income inequality. What’s the cause of loss of manufacturing jobs and income inequality? Why capitalism is failing to provide good-paying manufacturing jobs? Is reversing income inequality possible, even if micro-enterprises are floated, micro-finance net is spread, while the causes that create the inequality are kept intact? The marketers of micro-finance and micro enterprise never answer the question.
As normal consequence, the economy presents hardship, pessimism, etc. “Hardship”, as the report said, “is particularly growing among whites …Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987” in the country.
The economy bears no ingredient of optimism. Along with alienation it saps human qualities and spreads pessimism.
Renee Adams, 28, a jobless single mother with two children, the AP report cites, relies on her boyfriend’s disability checks to get by. Adams expresses a wish that employers will look past her conviction a few years ago for distributing prescription painkillers, so she can get a job and have money to “buy the kids everything they need.” “It’s pretty hard”, she said. “Once the bills are paid, we might have $10 to our name.”
Does it echo early-English industrial labor? Is it far away and a lot different from the poor in today’s poor societies? It’s the universal face of the poor under capitalism. 

“The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality” in the US, said the AP report. In the age group 35-45, it was a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; it has increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. In the age group 45-55, the risk has jumped to 17.7 percent from 11.8 percent.

The numbers for the AP report come from Rank’s analysis. This is supplemented with interviews and figures provided by Tom Hirschl, professor at Cornell University, John Iceland, sociology professor at Penn State University, the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute, the Census Bureau and the Population Reference Bureau. So, the data cited are difficult to deny.
The report quotes William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor specializing in race and poverty: “It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position.”
Denying the class division, whether one likes it or not, is not possible. The reality reaffirms it. None, other than stupids and persons in the pay roll of capitalism, deny class position although poverty-fighting mechanisms are “innovated” without taking into account the class question.
What does the advanced capitalist economy convey to posterity? An answer is there in the AP report. It cites a citizen of the US: Children have “nothing better to do than to get on drugs.”

Dispossession-reality in the Orient is not different from that of the Occident.
A report in The Asahi Shimbun on June 23, 2013 presents a poverty-picture in Japan, an economic model to a section of mainstream economists in poor countries. The report “Young people struggle to emerge from poverty” by Masaki Hashida mentioned a middle-aged person. To save money, the person’s only meal is breakfast, and the breakfast is with rice, miso soup, fermented beans and broiled fish. The person has lost 30 kilograms in two years.
Caption of a photo along with the report said: A man saves money by not turning on the lights. Is it, not turning on lights, symbolic, a symbol of the economy?
The man, according to the report, is a victim of a “black company”, an employer that harasses employees, forces them to work long hours often without pay, and presses them to resign. The monthly pay from these companies appears limited to 200,000 yen ($2,104).

Hence, it comes out: Big entrepreneurs irrespective of poor and rich societies are the same while they compete in market. They harass, they force to work long hours, and often they don’t pay, and these give them competitive edge. How much value, after the above fact, sermons from rich societies carry?
According to the country’s National Tax Agency, 10.69 million people working in the private sector in Japan earned 2 million yen or less a year in 2011.
The person mentioned in the AS report is not alone or he is not a stray case.
The AS report cited Haruki Kono, head of nonprofit organization POSSE: The black companies “exploit employees by forcing them to work for the same job as stated in manuals to such an extent that they get sick and eventually quit.”
Does it sound Marx, as he detailed back-breaking work of industrial labor in capitalist economy in Europe?
Statements of two political leaders were mentioned in the AS report. One of the leaders decried the income gap. The leader said: “Young people cannot become regular employees even after graduating from university. Non-regular workers are paid much less.”
Doesn’t it reflect labor’s bargaining (in)capacity and its precarious position? And, what does labor’s bargaining incapacity signify? Mainstream economists know the answer well.
Narration of the AS report includes:
The middle-aged man showed a letter from his employer that was handed to employees: “If someone wants to sacrifice him- or herself to work, recommend that the person work 15 hours and 40 minutes a day, or 4,200 hours a year.”
The person worked at least 250 hours each month for a monthly wage of 200,000 yen. But his pay slip only showed 70 percent of the hours he actually worked, and he was paid only half the promised amount.

Capitalism in this millennium, joyfully invented as so and so by a section of proud mainstream economists determined to prove Marx’s depiction of capitalism now wrong, has not forgotten the thieving. “Dignified” capitalism is not dervish, it’s thievish. Should anyone dream of fighting out poverty by keeping intact the thievish system? Still there are enlightened persons with the “mission”, today with this name and yesterday with that name, banking on and business-ing with the system.
The middle-aged man, the press report from Japan said, graduated from an elite high school and entered a national university in the Tohoku region. The man in his 30s living in a one-room apartment in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward has taken on a variety of jobs, including work at a construction company, an adult-entertainment business and a waste-disposal facility. All of those were black companies. The person took out consumers loans, and poverty forced him to sleep in buses and trains for a couple of years. Neither adult-entertainment nor waste nor turning a debtor brought his emancipation from poverty. But despite the fact poor-“friend” “monks” in the service of banks shall not stop delivering their commandments to “fight” out poverty.
Although, the report said, the person was supposed to work “inside Tokyo’s 23 wards,” he was frequently dispatched to remote areas. On a typical day, he woke up at 7 a.m. and worked until 1 a.m. His monthly salary, 200,000 yen, did not include overtime. He eventually became ill and quit the company. He now lives on welfare. “Many jobs become difficult if one gets older,” the man said. “It’s not that I am lazy, but there are no decent jobs. Only ‘black’ jobs are available.” A company he was employed with asked him to cut his hair and warned, “You can be fired at any time.” “I cannot tell if or when the company will fire me,” he said. “In order to stay mobile, I do not buy extra home appliances, including a refrigerator.”
Isn’t commanding hair cutting, how much petty that may appear, a form of regimentation? And, doesn’t uncertainty with job take away freedom and sense of security, much cherished goals of capitalism? An all encompassing regimentation is imposed with such petty regimentation implemented with the demonic tool of ever-uncertainty at all levels of life in capitalist society.
The man, at the time of the press report, was on medical leave due to physical and mental illness.

The AS report quotes Makoto Kawazoe, an official at the General Union of Young Workers in Tokyo: “The largest segment of the poor is actually working. In addition to low wages and short-term employment, they lack sufficient unemployment benefits, which make it difficult for them to move out from the impoverished class.” Isn’t it a chain that binds down human being? Doesn’t it happen elsewhere? It happens in the entire domain of capitalism. 

It’s not only an Oriental “tale”. Germany, today’s mighty economy, faces similar reality.
“Poverty afflicts Germany’s older ‘guest workers’”, a Deutsche Welle report by Günther Birkenstock (11.07.2013) presents a few poverty-facts: Older foreigners living in Germany, who have worked there for many years are more commonly affected by poverty than German citizens. It’s a divide within labor – “privileged” and non-privileged, a requirement to have a favorable bargain by capital.
Thousands from southern and eastern Europe, the report said, migrated to Germany in the 1960s and 70s. Most were fleeing poverty in their countries while a booming Germany was in need of a labor force. The need led the economy to allure the migrant labor, “lovingly” naming them “guest workers”. With a hope for a better life, the migrant labor worked in steel factories, mines, automobile manufacturing plants and cafeterias.
But, alas, prosperity remained a mirage for most of the migrant labor.
Citing a recent study by the economic and social sciences institute of the Hans Böckler Foundation the report said: Today, more than 40 percent of migrants in retirement age are affected by poverty, which is more than triple the poverty rate among German citizens.
According to Eric Seils, co-author of the study report, poor payment is one of the three main reasons for the high poverty rates among older migrants. Other two main reasons are: Many of the migrant labor were left out, lost jobs, in the 1980s when the industrial sector slumped and the service industry grew, and they were excluded from becoming government employee, a large and prosperous sector not at all affected by poverty. In the face of problem, the “guests” were ignored, left out as the variable capital would not then help increase profit.
In 2006, a German Institute for Economic Research study on elderly poverty brought the issue to light. “The number of foreigners in old-age poverty has increased from 170,000 in 2006 to around 270,000 today”, Seils told DW in an interview. And that number is likely to climb further, he added.

Further north, poverty doesn’t spare capitalism. The reality in Sweden, the Nordic country that prides itself with prosperity, is not a happy one. The suburbs of Stockholm, one of Europe’s richest capitals, experienced riots last May, and the riots were fired by unemployment and immigrant poverty. The riots, at least for three days, found mob attack on a police station. Cars and an arts and crafts centre were set ablaze and two schools were damaged.
The economy produces inequality, and the increase in inequality in the economy is fastest among the advanced OECD economies. The Nordic country has failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty although average living standards in the economy are still among the highest in Europe. The poor within the society don’t enjoy the highest living standard. According to OECD, unemployment among the Swedes is 6 percent while it’s 16 percent among the immigrants in the country.

The face of poverty in Greece and Nigeria and Myanmar and Colombia and Egypt and Albania and Russia and Cambodia is the same. Everywhere, all the worm gears of capitalism have the same technique: long work-day, threat with uncertainty, appropriation of surplus labor, dehumanized life. It’s like a sump: fruits of all labor are collected for a few. These “stories” are as old as labor, as old as appropriation of surplus value, as old as getting rich by a few. These “stories” have been told many a times. Still these need to be told as mainstream, advocatus diaboli, the devil’s advocate, doesn’t cease its propaganda of this business and that business but don’t look into source of the riches for a few.


from Countercurrents here

Low wages big profits

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Apple, Walmart and McDonald's are among the largest corporate employers and  profit-makers in the U.S., with a total of 2.6 million employees worldwide (1.6 million in the U.S.) and combined 2012 pre-tax profits of more than $88 billion.

 Walmart makes over $13,000 in pre-tax profits per employee (after paying them), which comes to more than 50 percent of the earnings of a 40-hour-per-week wage earner. Four members of the Walmart family made a combined  $20 billion from their investments last year. Less than half of that would have given every U.S. Walmart worker a $3 an hour raise, enough to end the public subsidy.

McDonald's $8 billion profit, after wages are paid, works out to $18,200 per employee.

Apple’s 2012 profit of $55 billion ($19 billion declared in the U.S.) saw  Apple making  an astonishing $697,000 per employee in 2012 (almost  $400,000 in the U.S.).  Apple pays its U.S. employees only $1 for every $8 in profits.

From Here


Fact of the day

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The UK national minimum wage is no longer working because its value has fallen, one of its key architects said as a new study showed it could be worth less in 2017 than it was in 2004.

The minimum wage has dropped in value in real terms in the past five years after being pegged to wages, which have not kept pace with inflation.


Micro Credit, Micro benefit

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Many apologists reformers of capitalism have made absurd claims  about that the benefits of micro-fincance and how it unleashes the small entrepeneurs and maintain the myth of heroic individual entrepreneurs.  Ha Joon Chang makes the point about how many MORE “entrepreneurs”  are in poor countries than in rich ones. Many people believe that the lack of entrepreneurship is one of the main causes of poverty in developing countries. However, anyone who is from or has lived for a period in a developing country will know that developing countries are teeming with entrepreneurs. On the streets of poor countries, you will meet men, women, and children of all ages selling everything you can think of.

 A U.K. government-funded study of virtually all previous impact evaluations of microcredit dramatically showed there is no empirical evidence anywhere to show that microcredit has had a positive impact on poverty. Even long-standing supporters of microcredit now accept this extremely unpalatable fact.

One of the major assumptions about microfinance is that it is ideology free and simply about ‘helping the poor’. There is a view that the engine of development for poor countries should be the so-called ‘informal sector’, fuelled by microcredit. The recipe sounds perfect. Microcredit allows the poor to get out of poverty through their own efforts, by providing them with the financial means to realise their entrepreneurial potential. In the process they gain independence and self-respect, as they are not relying on hand-outs from the government and foreign aid agencies for their survival any more. Women are particularly ‘empowered’ by microcredit, as it gives them the ability to earn an income and thus improve their bargaining positions vis-à-vis their male partners. Not having to subsidise the poor, the government feels less pressure on its budget. The wealth created in the process, naturally, makes the overall economy, and not just the informal sector entrepreneurs, richer.

However as David Harvey and many others have shown, microfinance is actually almost perfectly in tune with the core doctrines of neoliberalism. Independent research has shown clearly that it does not work. There may be some short term benefits for a small group of people but ultimately microfinance dis-empowers the poor by deliberately restricting their ability to use their collective capabilities to effect real change. It is another attempt to distract people by perpetuating a model which ignores the real root causes of poverty and injustice and expects the poor to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Microfinance will give a few of them a pair of new boots but that is all!

This article reveals that the micro-credit has  proved to be one of the most destructive interventions brought to Latin America over the last 30 years. Microcredit has effectively become the developing world’s very own version of the USA ’s sub-prime lending crisis.

 In Bolivia, the commercialization of microcredit has been a major development disaster for the poor. First, Bolivia’s scarce financial resources were disastrously shifted into the “wrong” enterprises. Secondly, the elite group of individuals involved in running Bolivia’s main microcredit institutions have all become very rich indeed. High salaries, bonuses and dividends have been important to those most closely associated with the management and ownership of BancoSol.  PRODEM was an institution that has its origins as an NGO funded by the international community to “help the local community,” eventually made millions of dollars after they gradually took control of PRODEM and then brazenly sold it off to a Venezuelan bank.

In Mexico, Banco Compartamos, an organization founded in 1990 as an NGO and making extensive use of international donor grant funding. Even with laudable goals written into its founding articles, very early on it became clear that the main intended beneficiaries of Compartamos’s operations were going to be its senior staff. After 2000 the senior staff began to reward themselves with Wall Street-style salaries, bonus packages and cheap internal loans which allowed them to buy shares in Compartamos. Then in 2007, when Compartamos underwent the inevitable IPO, key senior staff really hit the big-time, with a number of them pocketing several tens of millions of dollars when they off-loaded their shares into the market. A number of external investors also made vast fortunes from their shareholdings in Compartamos, notably the Boston-based microcredit advocacy and investor body ACCIÓN, which saw an initial $1 million stake in Compartamos (of which $800,000 was actually a grant to ACCIÓN) rise in value to nearly $270 million. Note also that Compartamos generates the revenues to support such high financial rewards to senior staff by charging as much as 195 percent real interest rates on its microloans to mainly poor Mexican women. Compartamos has been the world’s most profitable microcredit institution for five of the past six years, and its nearly $100 million dividend payout to investors is now larger than the balance sheets of most other microcredit institutions. With such huge financial rewards made possible by lending to Mexico’s poor, the big profit-hungry international banks, such as Citigroup, have entered the market, clearly adding to the lending frenzy underway.

An evaluation of Compartamos , financed by Compartamos itself and centrally involving one of the most high-profile microcredit supporters, professor Dean Karlan, who is based at Yale University in the U.S.  found that in spite of Comapartamos’s huge presence in poor communities across Mexico, and its previous claims to be greatly helping Mexico’s poor, the impact evaluation team could only come up with a tiny amount of evidence of any positive impact arising from its activities. This conclusion actually hides a much more disturbing fact, which is that the research team could only manage to arrive at this sliver of good news by effectively refusing to adopt/adapt an evaluation methodology that would capture the most important downsides to the microcredit model. In order to ensure that they could come up with the required (very limited) positive impact result they later disingenuously claimed to have found, and which allowed Compartamos and other institutions involved to inevitably spin into the specious claim that Compartamos “generally benefits (its) borrowers”.”

The research team entirely overlooked so-called “displacement” effects – that is, the negative impact on incumbent microenterprises in the same community that lost business and income thanks to waves of new Compartamos-supported microenterprises. With most Mexican communities for a long time adequately served by simple informal microenterprises providing retail and other services to the poor, the arrival of rafts of new microenterprises operating in exactly the same sub-sector will inevitably have precipitated very large displacement effects. But these downside impacts were ignored. The team also failed to factor in the impact of exits, which is when a microenterprise fails - which the vast majority actually do, and usually very quickly - and the hapless individuals involved then have to either divert other funds (pensions, remittances, savings, etc.) to continue to repay their microloan, or else they lose assets lodged as collateral when they are forced into outright default. Another downside impact ignored by the research team relates to the fact that they also chose to examine a very short and unrepresentative time period – introducing microcredit into a community where before there was none. This then allowed them to simply aggregate the short-term results in such virgin territory into a generally upbeat assessment of the longer-term impact.

The politics and ideology was  to ensure that individual entrepreneurship and self-help remain the only potential paths out of poverty for the poor in Latin America, and not the exercise of any form of “collective capabilities” through social movements, trade unions or any other similarly “subversive” intervention that the poor might wish to collectively deploy to escape their povert. Second, there is the issue of the massive wealth that a tiny financial elite has been able to generate for itself thanks to (over)lending to the poor, and which it is now, quite predictably, unwilling to forego. This wealth has allowed, among other things, for the microcredit industry to aggressively lobby governments, mount massive PR campaigns and effortlessly finance deliberately dodgy impact evaluations, all in order to persuade the key actors in Latin America to continue to support the micro-credit model.

From Here






Know your class enemy 4/6

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 Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the United States.

The bank foreclosed on tens of thousands of Americans through a “mass perjury” scheme and pushed worthless mortgages on pension funds and unions. As several big banks – including BofA, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup – agreed to pay a $25 billion settlement with the government over “abusive mortgage practices,” the Department of Justice granted the banks what amounted to legal immunity “from civil government claims over faulty foreclosures.” In June of 2013, six former BofA employees and one contractor issued sworn statements in which they accused the bank of lying to homeowners, fraudulently denying loan modifications and paying bonuses to staff who pushed people into foreclosure. One of the whistleblowers commented, “we were told to lie to customers.” Employees that pushed ten or more homeowners per month into foreclosure would receive a $500 bonus, and the Bank also “gave employees gift cards to retail stores like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond as rewards for placing accounts into foreclosure.”  anyone who “questioned the ethics” of the bank’s practices was summarily fired - a policy that led to a lawsuit in which homeowners accused the bank of racketeering “to defraud homeowners who sought modifications and then acted as the kingpin of that [racketeering] enterprise.”

 January, Bank of America settled to pay $11.6 billion to the government-controlled mortgage company Fannie Mae in response to a legal battle over “bad loans.”  They rewarded the bank $20 billion for its massive financial crimes, as well as a special guarantee for nearly $100 billion of potential losses on the balance sheets of Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America acquired during the crisis.

The FBI confirmed that BofA was involved in laundering drug money for the Los Zetas drug cartel in Mexico. However, in a twist of fine news for the bank, U.S. government regulators indicated they would not hold the bank responsible for its actions. Bank of America is, in short, a profound symbol of much that is wrong on Wall Street: massive fraud, money laundering, racketeering, conspiracy, and weighty influence in Washington and beyond.

Bank of America’s CEO, Brian T. Moynihan, was a former executive vice president at Fleet Boston and director of BlackRock. He is currently a member of the Business Roundtable and Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Forum, as well as being a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Charles O. Holliday, Jr. is the Chairman of the Board of Bank of America and a director of Royal Dutch Shell, and was the CEO of DuPont from 1998 to 2009. He was the former Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Business Council, Catalyst, the Society of Chemical Industry, and is a founding member of the International Business Council. Holliday is a director of Deere & Company, a member of the board of Planet Forward, Climate Works Foundation, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and is a member of the board of directors of the National Geographic Education Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Mukesh D. Ambani is a member of the board of Bank of America and is the Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries. He is a member of the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry for the Government of India, a member of the board of governors of the National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi, and a member of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group. Ambani is also a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, a member of the Indo-U.S. CEOs Forum, a member of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait, Vice Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and a member of the Advisory Council of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Additionally Ambani is a member of the Business Council, the India-Russia CEO Council, Co-Chair of the Japan-India Business Leader’s Forum, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, and is a member of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution.

Monica C. Lozano is Chairman and CEO of ImpreMedia and CEO of La Opinion, as well as a member of the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company. She is also a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, a Trustee of the University of Southern California and a director of the Weingart Foundation, as well as a member of the board of directors of the Commission of the 21st Century Economy. Lozano was a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2009-2011, and has since been a member of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Charles O. Rossotti is a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group and was the Commissioner of the IRS from 1997 to 2002, also sitting on the board of directors of Booz Allen Hamilton, Quorum Management Solutions, Primatics Financial and AES Corporation. He too is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Linda P. Hudson, who sits on the board of BofA, is the President and CEO of the military contractor BAE Systems, and former Vice President of General Dynamics. Hudson sits on the board of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and on the executive committee of the Aerospace Industries Association. She is a member of the University of Florida Foundation Board and the International Women’s Forum.

Anne M. Finucance, who is the Global Strategy and Marketing Officer at Bank of America, is also a director of Partners HealthCare System, CVS Caremark Corporation, a trustee of Stonehill College and Carnegie Hall, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Finucance sits on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the American Ireland Fund, the International Center of Journalists, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Struggling to Survive? Try Working Harder and Longer

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McDonald's to Employees: Get a (Second) Job


According to Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, 'there has been more fast food news than I can keep up with, most of it involving McDonald's - - -'
'The first item involves wages.One way Big Food contributes to our national weight problem is by paying its vast army of workers a pittance. Poverty is heavily associated with obesity and other chronic health conditions. The industry profits by holding costs down, and it does that in part by paying as little as possible. A 2012 analysis by the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that 86 percent of the 20 million people who work within the food chain—that's a sixth of the overall US workforce—bring home less than a living wage. Food-system workers are 50 percent more likely to rely on food stamp (SNAP) benefits than the overall working population, the report found. Not surprisingly, the food-system workforce is getting restive—hence recent strikes by Walmart workers, as well as walk-offs by fast-food employees in New York City,  Detroit, Seattle, and St. Louis and fast-food/retail worker strikes in Chicago and Milwaukee. Fast-food workers in seven cities plan to strike next week.
Perhaps in response to such mounting pressures, McDonald's was recently moved to gift its employees with a "Practical Money Skills Budget Journal," "brought to you by Visa Inc. and Wealth Watchers International." Get a load of the "sample monthly budget," which has generated much hilarity across the internet:






The most practical tip: In order to obtain a living wage working at McDonald’s 35 hours per week (monthly income: $1,105), get a second job. Least practical facet: as MSNBC’s Maria Perez notes, it "leaves out necessary expenditures like food, child care, clothes and gas." Oops. All of that, evidently, falls under the "daily spending money goal" line—a whopping $25 per day. As for health insurance, the suggested monthly allotment of $20 won't even cover the $14 per week McDonald's itself charges employees, according to The Wall Street Journal.'

Workers justice

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JOIN THE UNION
It is now open season for unscrupulous employers to bully and intimidate their employees.
From today, workers will be charged upfront fees for filing an employment tribunal case. Workers will be charged one fee to bring a claim, another fee if it is heard and a further charge if they want to appeal the decision. Smaller claims such as unpaid wages will cost £160 to lodge and another £230 if they proceed. Larger ones like unfair dismissal will cost an initial £250 and then another £950. This is in addition to the two years qualification period of being the employment of your boss.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "By charging up-front fees for harassment and abuse claims, the Government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour. These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers' basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice."

Unite chief Len McCluskey said "Seeking redress for unfair dismissal and discrimination and other injustices in the workplace is a fundamental human right - but now ministers are putting up insurmountable financial hurdles for working people in pursuit of justice".

Lawyers suggested bosses would be less likely to obey their legal duties because there will be less risk of a challenge by staff. Elizabeth George from Leigh Day said: "This sends a very dangerous message to employers", adding it would penalise pregnant women, the sick, disabled and elderly.

When you lose your job, you lose your income as well, so where are you supposed to find these fees from? This will mean those that need the greatest protection - poorly-paid workers - will be the most vulnerable. Justice is only available for those who can afford it now and one more reason to join the protection of a trade union.

Capitalism's Poisonous Legacy

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Toxic trade deal: Friends of the Earth decries industry efforts to weaken regulation of chemicals associated with breast cancer, autism, infertility
WASHINGTON, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—July 25, 2013. Yesterday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing on the launch of negotiations for a U.S.-Europe trade deal, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. As suggested by the hearing title, “The U.S.-E.U. Free Trade Agreement: Tipping Over the Regulatory Barriers,” the negotiating objectives for the TTIP agreement have little to do with free trade. TTIP negotiations instead focus on removing perceived regulatory “barriers” and could result in dangerous deregulation of environmental and public health safeguards.
Statements made at today’s hearing by the American Chemistry Council, the trade association of multinational chemical companies lobbying for this new trade deal, highlight the risks to public health. In his written statement submitted to the subcommittee, Calvin Dooley, President of the ACC, called for TTIP provisions that could have the effect of weakening regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Endocrine disruptors, such as BPA found in plastic and the linings of cans and other food packaging, interfere with hormones and are associated with numerous adverse health impacts including infertility, early puberty and breast cancer. In addition Dooley advocated for trade secret protection potentially weakening disclosure of data required by the EU’s effective, health protective chemicals law known as REACH.
“The chemical industry’s statements at today’s hearing reveal its true objectives in lobbying for the new EU-US trade deal — providing multinational corporations the ultimate weapon, via a secretive, undemocratic process, to destroy the progress we have made over the last decade in the E.U. and in states across the U.S. to protect human health and the environment from toxic chemicals — the stakes couldn’t be higher. It’s time for politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to stand up and oppose this fundamental attack on our health, our environment and our democracies.” Said Lisa Archer, director of the Friends of the Earth food and technology program.
BACKGROUND
Friends of the Earth-US believes that the TTIP poses risks to the EU’s health-protective approach to chemicals regulation, called REACH. The TTIP could require Europe to give “mutual recognition” to chemicals that are approved as “safe” in the U.S. but not in Europe. The TTIP process could “harmonize down” European chemicals regulations so that they approach low U.S. standards, namely the failed Toxic Substances Control Act. In the decades to come, this downward harmonization could also have the effect of precluding comprehensive reform of U.S. chemicals regulation based on the successful REACH model.
The U.S.-E.U. trade negotiations and its risks are particularly relevant as the U.S. Congress debates the newly introduced Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bill that allegedly makes some improvements in TSCA, but falls far short of the European standard for safeguarding the public from dangerous toxic chemicals. As currently written, the CSIA would not effectively protect people and the planet from toxic chemicals. The bill replicates many of the worst provisions of TSCA, failing to protect vulnerable communities near chemical facilities and vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children and its provisions for broadly preempting state regulation of toxics are substantially worse than the status quo.
The bottom line is that the US-Europe trade deal would likely limit regulators’ access to the tools they need to effectively regulate toxic chemicals. A growing body of scientific evidence is demonstrating that many chronic illnesses on the rise in the industrialized world are linked to toxic chemicals, including many cancers, learning disabilities, asthma, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and fertility problems. For example, 216 industrial chemicals are associated with increases in breast cancer, including 73 found in consumer products or food, and many of these chemicals have been found in breast milk and in new born babies.

from bilaterals.org an open-publishing website
Yet more evidence, if it's needed, as to why the capitalist system should be ditched.

Toxic trade deal: Friends of the Earth decries industry efforts to weaken regulation of chemicals associated with breast cancer, autism, infertility
posted 26-July-2013
JPEG - 46.9 kb
Friends of the Earth | 25 Jul 2013
Toxic trade deal: Friends of the Earth decries industry efforts to weaken regulation of chemicals associated with breast cancer, autism, infertility
WASHINGTON, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—July 25, 2013. Yesterday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing on the launch of negotiations for a U.S.-Europe trade deal, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. As suggested by the hearing title, “The U.S.-E.U. Free Trade Agreement: Tipping Over the Regulatory Barriers,” the negotiating objectives for the TTIP agreement have little to do with free trade. TTIP negotiations instead focus on removing perceived regulatory “barriers” and could result in dangerous deregulation of environmental and public health safeguards.
Statements made at today’s hearing by the American Chemistry Council, the trade association of multinational chemical companies lobbying for this new trade deal, highlight the risks to public health. In his written statement submitted to the subcommittee, Calvin Dooley, President of the ACC, called for TTIP provisions that could have the effect of weakening regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Endocrine disruptors, such as BPA found in plastic and the linings of cans and other food packaging, interfere with hormones and are associated with numerous adverse health impacts including infertility, early puberty and breast cancer. In addition Dooley advocated for trade secret protection potentially weakening disclosure of data required by the EU’s effective, health protective chemicals law known as REACH.
“The chemical industry’s statements at today’s hearing reveal its true objectives in lobbying for the new EU-US trade deal — providing multinational corporations the ultimate weapon, via a secretive, undemocratic process, to destroy the progress we have made over the last decade in the E.U. and in states across the U.S. to protect human health and the environment from toxic chemicals — the stakes couldn’t be higher. It’s time for politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to stand up and oppose this fundamental attack on our health, our environment and our democracies.” Said Lisa Archer, director of the Friends of the Earth food and technology program.
BACKGROUND
Friends of the Earth-US believes that the TTIP poses risks to the EU’s health-protective approach to chemicals regulation, called REACH. The TTIP could require Europe to give “mutual recognition” to chemicals that are approved as “safe” in the U.S. but not in Europe. The TTIP process could “harmonize down” European chemicals regulations so that they approach low U.S. standards, namely the failed Toxic Substances Control Act. In the decades to come, this downward harmonization could also have the effect of precluding comprehensive reform of U.S. chemicals regulation based on the successful REACH model.
The U.S.-E.U. trade negotiations and its risks are particularly relevant as the U.S. Congress debates the newly introduced Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bill that allegedly makes some improvements in TSCA, but falls far short of the European standard for safeguarding the public from dangerous toxic chemicals. As currently written, the CSIA would not effectively protect people and the planet from toxic chemicals. The bill replicates many of the worst provisions of TSCA, failing to protect vulnerable communities near chemical facilities and vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children and its provisions for broadly preempting state regulation of toxics are substantially worse than the status quo.
The bottom line is that the US-Europe trade deal would likely limit regulators’ access to the tools they need to effectively regulate toxic chemicals. A growing body of scientific evidence is demonstrating that many chronic illnesses on the rise in the industrialized world are linked to toxic chemicals, including many cancers, learning disabilities, asthma, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and fertility problems. For example, 216 industrial chemicals are associated with increases in breast cancer, including 73 found in consumer products or food, and many of these chemicals have been found in breast milk and in new born babies.
Click here to read the full testimony of Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, filed on behalf of CIEL, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Sierra Club.
- See more at: http://www.bilaterals.org/spip.php?article23576#sthash.LeGPbDHi.dpuf

Quotes of the Day

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 “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value.”  -  Canada’s National Research Council president John MacDougall — effectively the country’s top scientist.

Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, announced that the NRC will shift its focus away from basic research to “large-scale research projects that are directed by and for Canadian business.”

Confirmation of the capitalist’s mantra “Nothing is of value unless it makes me money”

The Riverboat Gamblers

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68 banks failed in Florida during the past five years. From 1994 to 2008, more than 230 new banks started in the state. This ramped up competition for customers and experienced staff.

"There were just too many banks," said Hudgins, who now serves as chief credit officer for First National Bank of the Gulf Coast in Naples, "and not enough really good bankers who had been in the business for 25 to 30 years and had experienced all the different kinds of crooks and what they can do to you."

With fewer and fewer options, some bankers turned to borrowers with bad credit, past jail time or clear evidence suggesting they would never make good on the debts. In many cases, making loans to people with questionable backgrounds was a conscious business decision, according to Bill Black, a University of Missouri professor and former Savings & Loan regulator. It was a strategy used by banks and thrifts during the run-up to the Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s, Black said. This allowed lenders to make more loans and book higher profits than they might have through the more arduous task of finding credit-worthy borrowers. "Making money in banking is really hard," Black said. If a bank wants to grow by making good loans, it has to seek borrowers with the best credit histories and compete for their business by offering the lowest possible interest rates. But if a bank focuses on making loans to borrowers with poor credit, it can charge much higher rates and will not face the same competition. "If you make really crappy loans and charge a premium to people with nowhere else to go, you can make money really fast," Black said.

At least half of Florida's community banks failed because their leaders were greedy, arrogant, incompetent or sometimes corrupt, a Herald-Tribune investigation found. The newspaper obtained previously confidential state records that show how failed bankers broke the law, manipulated financial documents and gorged themselves on insider deals.

Banks lent more than $400 million to borrowers convicted of crimes, indicted by federal prosecutors or dogged by a past bankruptcy. Each loan went into default. Florida Community Bank, for example, lent $8 million to a company partly controlled by Leonard Mercer, identified by New Jersey law enforcement as a "front man" for the "Little Nicky" Scarfo crime family.

In the Panhandle, Coastal Community Bank bought an insurance company from the chief executive's son and sold it back to him three years later at a $900,000 loss.

In Port St. Lucie, the adult children of Riverside National Bank's chief executive borrowed $3.8 million. The bank wrote off the losses when they did not repay.

At First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay, employees were so fearful of the chairman that they met privately with state officials and told them of secret dealings, altered documents and questionable loans.

Bankers ignored a declining real estate market and warnings from regulators to slow down. They made some of their biggest loans after the slump took hold, and provided borrowers additional cash to keep up with their payments. Sarasota's Century Bank lent more than $70 million to just 10 borrowers in late 2006 and early 2007. One of these borrowers had already spent time in prison; three others would later do the same. All of those loans went into default.

 Thirty-four of the 68 banks broke federal or state laws, ignored repeated warnings from regulators, had high amounts of insider loans or made risky bets on customers who clearly couldn't repay their loans.

Twenty-one banks engaged in some form of insider dealing. Although these transactions were not illegal, they raised questions from regulators about conflicts of interest. Banks leased property from executives, bought cars from dealerships owned by directors, provided jobs for relatives and subsidized sister companies owned by insiders. At Ocala National Bank, directors started their own mortgage company, lost $1 million and persuaded the bank — by threatening a lawsuit — to pay them off.

Eighteen banks paid a dividend to investors during years they lost money. Essentially, these banks were giving out cash that they could have used to cover growing problems created by foreclosures and the collapse of the housing market. Naples-based Orion Bank paid out $28 million in 2007 — the same year it lost $6.1 million.

Only three people have been charged with crimes related to their banks. Orion CEO Jerry Williams was imprisoned for lending money that was later used to buy stock — a practice meant to fool regulators into thinking a bank has more capital than it actually does. Four other banks — Florida Community Bank, First Priority Bank, Lydian Private Bank and Community National Bank of Sarasota County — were accused by regulators, shareholders or employees of similar behavior. No one has been prosecuted.

"Bankers operated like riverboat gamblers," said Jack McCabe, a Florida real estate consultant. "They threw caution to the wind to prop up their bottom lines. The country suffered, but very few have been brought to justice."

Top financial regulators vow to give bankers more freedom. Gov. Rick Scott has cut 10 percent of employees in the Division of Financial Institutions and is closing half of the regulatory offices across the state.  Now the state's top banking regulator says there is no need to get tougher on the industry. " ‘Tougher' is a hard word to use because we do live in a free-enterprise environment," said Drew Breakspear, the state's top regulator."Bank and other financial regulators must change so they do not stand in the way of banks."Instead of blaming  bankers, Breakspear attributed the failures largely to homeowners who were "out of their league in terms of their spending habits." However,  most Florida institutions went under because of multimillion dollar loans to real estate developers — not to average home buyers.

 Peninsula Bank lent millions to developers whose behavior should have raised red flags. The bank's growth was fueled by loans to people with questionable ethics or past financial problems.A property flipper who later went to prison. An attorney suspended three times from the Michigan bar. A builder sued four times for copyright infringement. And six developers with a past bankruptcy. None of those people would ever repay their loans. A money launderer moved cash in and out of its vaults. A jury found that it lent $10 million to a man running a Ponzi scheme. And during its final months, state examiners say a director accused the CEO of using accounting tricks to hide information from regulators.

The federal government report by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission borrowed a quote from Shakespeare when it came time to assign blame for the financial crisis:
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Fact of the Day

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One-third of the Irish population – and over a quarter of those working – has less than €50 of disposable income left once essential bills are paid, according to a survey by the Irish League of Credit unions.

One in five Irish mortgage holders is in arrears or has had their loan restructured.

 Fingal  councillor Cian O’Callaghan resigned from Labour.  He stepped down because the Labour Party in Government had “broken steadfast election commitments, implemented unfair and unjust policies and made choices that have benefited the rich and powerful at a huge cost to everyone else”. Cllr O’Callaghan added that the introduction of two budgets in a row that “increased income inequality by targeting people on low and middle incomes was deeply unjust”.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Know your class enemy 3/6

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In the second quarter of 2013, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, Citigroup, posted a 42% increase in profits which CEO Michael Corbat praised as a “well balanced” result of “cost cutting” programs, including the firing of 11,000 workers.

In the late 1990s, Citigroup was dealing with accusations that it had aided in the laundering of roughly $100 million in payoffs by Mexican drug cartels.

Between 2003 and 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Citigroup of securities fraud five separate times, with the bank agreeing to pay settlements in each case. 

In 2000, the mega-bank was accused of abusing borrowers and clients through predatory lending practices. The bank aroused further controversy by helping Enron evade financial rules which allowed the company to hide its real financial reporting from government regulators.

 In 2005, Citigroup paid a $2 billion settlement to Enron investors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the bank for helping Enron hide billions of dollars in debt.

In 2011, Citigroup paid a $285 million settlement with the SEC for defrauding investors. 

In 2012, the bank paid another settlement of $590 million for defrauding investors, though it made sure not to admit guilt as the payment was “solely to eliminate the uncertainties, burden and expense of further protracted litigation.” 

In 2013, Citigroup agreed to pay a further $968 million to Fannie Mae over the bad mortgage loans it sold to the company in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Citigroup was subsequently bailed out by the federal government, that is, the U.S. taxpayer, and became the largest single recipient of bailout funds totaling some $476.2 billion in cash and guarantees. Citigroup was essentially put into receivership by the government. 

The bank meanwhile also undertook foreclosures on hundreds of U.S. military members during the financial crisis, often while the military personnel were in Iraq or Afghanistan. After illegally foreclosing on military personnel while they were overseas fighting wars for the America’s imperialists and profiteers, Citigroup made a later appearance in Iraq, announcing in 2013 that it would be the first U.S. bank to open a branch in Baghdad “as major international oil groups as well as industrial and construction companies are looking to invest in Iraq.”

Iraq is just the latest hub of overseas criminal financial activities for Citigroup, which has meanwhile been struggling to “comply” with anti-money laundering laws after also participating in the largest financial scam in history: the Libor rate-rigging scandal. At the same time, the bank has been dooming the European Union’s crisis countries (namely Greece) to a faster decline, issuing self-fulfilling reports that suggest the region is headed for further crisis, thus reducing investor confidence and pushing the crisis-hit economies into even deeper crisis.

A  report by Citigroup created the term ‘plutonomy’ to describe the modern capitalist system in which there is only the rich “and everyone else”; an economy in which the rich increasingly become the consuming class, driven to a significant degree by “disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, [and] capitalist friendly cooperative governments.”  Citigroup global strategist Ajay Kapur noted, “The Plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger, its membership is swelling,” and while the “risks” of plutonomies include “war, inflation, financial crises, the end of the technological revolution and populist political pressure,” Kapur noted that “the rich are likely to keep getting even richer, and enjoy an even greater share of the wealth pie over the coming years.” The report as published in 2005 and since then the projection has been on track.

On the board of directors of Citigroup are:

 Franz B. Humer, the chairman of Roche Holding, a major pharmaceutical conglomerate. Humer also sits on the International Advisory Council of JPMorgan Chase, and is chairman of INSEAD, chairman of Diageo Plc, a member of the international advisory board of Allianz SE, a member of the board of Jacobs Holdings, and a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (which advises EU leaders on promoting policies beneficial to large corporate and financial interests). Humer also serves, comfortingly, as chairman of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Rodin also served as the President of the University of Pennsylvania from 1994-2004, after which she remained as President Emerita. A former Provost of Yale University, Rodin also serves as a director of Comcast Corporation, AMR Corporation, the World Trade Memorial Foundation and Carnegie Hall. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former honorary director of the Brookings Institution. Additionally, Rodin is a member of the board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – a joint venture between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the advancement of GMOs in Africa – and she served as a member of the High Level Panel of the African Development Bank. Rodin currently serves as a member of the international advisory council of the Mary Robinson Foundation, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She is also a participant in the World Economic Forum, the Global Humanitarian Forum, the Clinton Global Initiative’s “poverty alleviation track,” and she is a board member of Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions.

Ernesto Zedillo, the former President of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, who was pivotal in implementing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), much to the benefit of big banks and corporations, and to the detriment of poor and working people. Zedillo had previously served a number of positions in the Mexican government, including deputy director of the Bank of Mexico. Currently, Zedillo is the director of the Center for the Study of Globalization and an International Economics and Politics professor at Yale University. He is a member of the Group of Thirty, on the board of directors of Alcoa and Procter & Gamble, and on the international advisory boards of both BP, Rolls-Royce and ACE Ltd. He is additionally an adviser to the Credit Suisse Research Institute, a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, a former member of the Trilateral Commission, the former chairman of the Global Development Network, a former chair of the High Level Commission on Modernization of the World Bank Group Governance, a former member of the international advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Coca-Cola Company, a former member of the Global Development Program Advisory Panel of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and he is currently a member of the board of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

William R. Rhodes, is president and CEO of William R. Rhodes Global Advisors. A director of the Private Export Funding Corporation, Rhodes is a senior adviser to the World Economic Forum, the global management firm Oliver Wyman, vice chairman of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a director of the Korea Society and the U.S.-China Business Council, a member of Korean President Lee’s Council of Global Advisors, a member of the international advisory board of the National Bank of Kuwait, a senior adviser to the Dalian Government in China, a member of the private sector advisory board of the Inter-American Development Bank, a member of the international policy committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the board of the Foreign Policy Association, and a trustee of the Asia Society and the Economic Club of New York. Rhodes is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Group of Thirty, the Lincoln Center Consolidated Corporate Fund Leadership Committee, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Business Committee, and he sits on the advisory council of the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce. He is a former vice chairman of the Institute of International Finance, a chairman emeritus of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas, a director of the U.S.-Russia Business Council and the U.S.-Hong Kong Business Council, a chairman of the U.S.-Korea Business Council, a trustee and member of the board of governors of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, a chairman of the board of trustees of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, and a member of the board of overseers of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

Taken from here