Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bombs Away?

An analysis by the Arms Control Association of U.S. government budget data projects the total cost over the next 30 years of the proposed nuclear modernization and maintenance at between $1.25 trillion and $1.46 trillion. 

To put this into perspective, this number exceeds the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

This expenditure is not included in the defense budget of $700 billionwhich leads the world in military spending and represents more than the spending of the next seven countries combined – three times what China spends and seven times what Russia spends on defense.

With climate change  and an increasing number of natural disasters, one might think nuclear weapons would lose their place as the top recipient of federal spending. But this is far from the case and there is a reason why.

As long as other countries continue to harbor nuclear weapons, we will do the same. And vice versa. As former Secretary of State George Shultz so eloquently put it, “proliferation begets proliferation.” One state’s nuclear acquisitions only drive its adversaries to follow suit. The reality is adding to our nuclear arsenal will only force our international opponents to defensively order a mad dash for the bomb.

 As Trump said at the start of his campaign, "If countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack." 

The United States currently maintains an arsenal of about 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and Strategic Bombers and some 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in five European countries.

 The Trump administration considered proposing additional, smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs. However, these mini-nukes are not something new. The US have had nuclear weapons capable of being dialed down to the power of "mini-nukes" since the 80's. 

 In August, the Air Force announced major new contracts for a revamp of the American nuclear force: $1.8 billion for initial development of a highly stealthy nuclear cruise missile, and nearly $700 million to begin replacing the 40-year-old Minuteman missiles in silos across the United States.

The Arm Control Association broke down the proposed spending for Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and found the total reached over $128 billion. The costly program, titled Colombia Class, includes 12 new boats for the Navy, and has a projected life-cycle cost of $282 billion. In comparison, free public education in America would cost a mere $62.6 billion dollars.

The third and final upgrade is a modernization of the current B-2 Bomber costing 9.5 billion. However, in accordance with Obama's efforts to decrease the US's quantity of weapons, known as START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the Pentagon announced it would retain 42 deployed and 4 non-deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers. The remainder of the B-52 bombers would be converted to carry only conventional weapons.

 Despite having spent hundreds of billions on strategic missile defenses, most analysts have little confidence that the US can destroy any intercontinental missiles launched against them once they get off the ground. After the most recent failed interceptor test Philip E. Coyle III, who previously ran the Pentagon’s weapons-testing program, stated that the system “is something the U.S. military, and the American people, cannot depend upon.” This is after spending $8 billion a year for the past forty years.

Cheating the system? It is the system

A new report  by U.S. PIRG and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that 73 percent of companies on the Fortune 500 list are taking advantage of overseas tax havens—costing the United States $752 billion in federal tax revenue last year alone.

The new study discovered that, in total, America's most profitable corporations in 2016 had $2.6 trillion deposited overseas in over 9,000 subsidiaries in various locations, including tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The Trump-GOP tax proposals would, if passed, make this bad situation even worse as Congress considers proposals to institute a near zero percent tax rate on profits booked offshore by multinational corporations. Richard Phillips, a senior policy analyst at ITEP, said "Lawmakers shouldn't be discussing how to sweeten the pot and give corporations a huge tax break that amounts to a huge financial reward for engaging in bad corporate behavior."  

The system is working exactly as policymakers designed it. Why should policymakers pause? In reality, they are accelerating. Al Capone was minor-league compared to these guys.

366 of the 500 companies on Fortune's list"operate one or more subsidiaries in tax haven countries." Furthermore, 30 companies with the most money officially booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 2,213 tax haven subsidiaries.
  1. Apple, which "holds at least $246 billion offshore, a sum greater than any other company's offshore cash pile," would owe $76.7 billion in U.S. taxes if this profit was not overseas;
  2. Citigroup, which stashes $47 billion overseas, would owe $13.1 billion in U.S taxes; and
  3. Nike, which holds $12.2 billion offshore, would owe $4.1 billion in U.S. taxes.
These corporations are the real "Benefit Cheats" and “Welfare Queens”. We are at the mercy of mega-corporations. This is just one example.

Fact of the Day

According to the New York Times, the number of Americans killed on battlefields in all wars in history is 1,396,733 

While the number killed by firearms in the US since 1968 is a jaw-dropping 1,516,863.

Most of those firearms deaths are people shooting themselves.

Ignoring modern slavery

The majority of Britain's biggest firms have taken a "tick box" approach to a landmark anti-slavery law, with half providing "no meaningful information" about their actions to stamp out slavery in their supply chains, a survey said. 

Under Britain's 2015 Modern Slavery Act, all businesses with a turnover of more than 36 million pounds ($48 million) must produce an annual statement outlining actions they have taken to combat slavery in their supply chains. The 2015 law was passed in response to revelations that slave labour is being used to produce everything from T-shirts to mobile phones for global consumption.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) only gave 11 out of 100 companies a score of six or more out of 10 for the quality of actions they reported in their modern slavery statement in the six areas suggested by the Act. These include statements on companies' policies in relation to slavery, due diligence in supply chains and staff training. The survey found that 43 companies did not meet the Act's requirement of posting a statement on their website which had been approved by the board and signed by a director.

Police in Britain are ramping up efforts to investigate cases of modern slavery, yet the true scale of the crime is hugely underestimated, Kevin Hyland, the UK's anti-slavery chief said. He was appointed in 2014 as part of Britain's  Modern Slavery Act, called in his second annual report for greater support for slavery victims, and urged businesses to do more to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour. At least 13,000 people are estimated by the government to be victims of modern slavery - from sexual exploitation to domestic servitude - but police say the figure is the tip of the iceberg.

The report called for a complete reform of the system, including immediate support for victims to stop re-trafficking, training for staff to improve identification of victims, and a focus on long-term care to ensure they can rebuild their lives. "The safety of victims is paramount ... their protection is non-negotiable," Hyland said. "Policies and processes mean nothing if they do not keep the victim at the centre."

Anti-Slavery International welcomed Hyland's decision to put the care and protection of victims at the heart of his report. Yet the organisation was disappointed by the omission of foreign domestic workers, its programme manager for the UK and Europe, Klara Skrivankova, said. "One area that should be improved ... is the situation of overseas domestic workers, whose visa arrangements make their status dependent on their employers, and therefore making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse." 

 Electric vehicles are often labelled the "green cars" of the future but rising demand for the raw materials needed to get them on the road could increase the risk of slavery in their production, according to a risk analysis report. British risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft said electric vehicle makers would need to be careful as they cast a wider net to source raw materials ranging from rubber to aluminium and mica needed for the 30,000 or so components in each car. 
"Increased exposure to human rights abuses, environmental degradation and less-than-savoury governments is, therefore, going to be inevitable as the industry's growth accelerates," Maplecroft researcher Stefan Sabo-Walsh said. Sabo-Walsh said businesses would seek new source countries with reserves of key materials such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, the Philippines and South Africa.

In some countries it was hard to trace if their raw materials came from legal, commercial mines or from illegal smallholder mines where forced and child labour are rife. The risks associated with lithium-ion batteries were of particular concern. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the leading global producer of cobalt used in these batteries, but has faced global criticism for human rights abuses. UNICEF estimates 40,000 children work in the warn-torn central African nation's cobalt mines in dire conditions.

"To maintain their clean, green image, they will need to ensure every individual component required for the manufacture of their vehicles is ethically sourced and as untarnished as a new vehicle rolling off the production line," Sabo-Walsh said.

Quote of the Day

 "Among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression," Audre Lorde, 1983

The Inequality of Birth Control

Countless women and girls worldwide are denied a say in decisions about sex and childbirth, leaving them at risk of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.  At least 214 million women in developing nations cannot get access to contraceptives - resulting in 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions each year, says UNFPA. A failure to give the world's poorest women control over their bodies could widen inequality in developing countries and thwart progress towards global goals aimed at ending poverty by 2030, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

Access to birth control allows women to delay and space births, reducing mother and child deaths, boosts economies by freeing up women to work, and leads to smaller families with parents able to spend more on children's health and education. Yet many of the world's poorest women - particularly the youngest, least educated and those living in rural areas - are missing out because such services are too few, too costly, or frowned upon by their families and communities, experts say. This can widen the gender gap, reinforce inequality between the poorest and richest, and ultimately weaken economies, UNFPA said in its annual flagship 'State of World Population' report.

"Inequality today is not only about the haves and have nots ... it is increasingly about the cans and cannots," UNFPA's executive director, Natalia Kanem, said in a statement. "Poor women who lack the means to make their own decisions about family size or who are in poor health because of inadequate reproductive health care dominate the ranks of the cannots," she said ahead of the launch of the report in London.

The report comes at a time when the United States, one of UNFPA's top donors, having said in April it would stop funding the agency. The United States contributed $69 million in 2016. In one of his first actions as president, Trump reinstated a policy known by critics as the "global gag" rule, which withholds U.S. funding for international groups that perform abortions or tell women about legal options to do so.
 Kanem observed,"There is nothing more unfair than having a woman or girl, and her desires, relegated to the bottom of the heap."

Other international donors vowed to help the fill the funding gap at a summit on family planning in July, pledging $207 million. Yet UNFPA says it still needs an extra $700 million by 2020. Kanem said she feared this gap would hinder UNFPA's ability to deliver services to those most in need - mainly rural women.  The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative aims to give 120 million more women worldwide access to birth control. Universal access to reproductive health services would lead to economic benefits of $430 billion a year, experts say. 

"When people talk about inequality, they often think about money and wealth ... but economic inequality is just the tip of the equality iceberg," said Richard Kollodge, senior editor of the UNFPA report. "A new perspective which focuses on sexual and reproductive rights can help level the playing field," 

Centre Court for Bangladeshi Workers

The Bangladesh Accord was signed in 2013 after the Rana Plaza disaster when more than 1,100 people were killed in the collapse of the building complex, as an independent, legally-binding agreement between global brands and trade unions to establish a fire and building safety programme for workers in the textile industry.

Trade unions hailed a landmark ruling allowing complaints to proceed against two global fashion brands for allegedly violating an agreement. Two cases will be the first that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague judges under the accord.

"For any brand that isn't in compliance, this decision sends a message that they cannot shirk their responsibilities to worker safety," said Jenny Holdcroft of IndustriALL Global Union, one of two unions federations to lodge the complaints.

"This decision is a win for worker safety and for accountability in Bangladesh's garment industry," said Christy Hoffman, deputy secretary general of the UNI Global Union. "The legally-binding nature of the Accord is a central pillar of its effectiveness."

The complaints allege that the two brands failed to compel their suppliers to improve their facilities within the mandatory deadlines, and did not help them to cover the costs to do so. The names of the two fashion brands accused must remain confidential, according to the PCA.

Bangladesh, which ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to Western countries, relies on apparel for more than 80 percent of its exports and about 4 million jobs. Under the accord, more than 118,500 fire, electrical and structural hazards have been identified at 1,800 factories which supply at least 200 brands.

The Rana Plaza disaster prompted fashion retailers to work more closely together to protect workers and ensure the safety of buildings in the South Asian nation, and legislation was introduced to ensure greater supply-chain transparency. Yet campaigners say the progress by retailers in fixing problems in the supply chain has been slow - with long hours, low pay, poor safety standards and not being allowed to form trade unions common complaints from garment workers.

The Changing of the Red Guard


The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) gets underway.

The constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) lays emphasis on the principle of "collective leadership," whereby senior officials of the party take decisions collectively. In practice, this collective consists of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The Standing Committee represents the apex of political power in China.  In CPC's internal language, this collective is currently the "party central office with comrade Xi Jinping at its core." But since the start of the year, the word doing the rounds in the party has been only "Xi core," without any mention of the party central office. China's official Xinhua news agency recently reported that the party's constitution could be changed at the upcoming congress. It is speculated that the principle of collective leadership could be scrapped to allow Xi to become chairman of the CPC.
There has even been a change in the way Chinese soldiers greet Xi. When the Chinese leader visited a People's Liberations Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong in June and then on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA in July, troops broke with a tradition dating back over 30 years to offer a more personalized welcome to Xi. Instead of shouting "Greetings, commander," as would be the usual case at official inspections, PLA troops roared "Greetings, chairman," referring to Xi's position as head of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). While Xi is chairman of the CMC, the soldiers' greeting could also point to his potential new role as chairman of the CPC. From 1945 to the 12th CPC congress in 1982, the party constitution stipulated the position of a "Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China." As party chairman, Xi would no longer be the "first among equals." Instead, he would have even more authority in the seven-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau.
Any move by Xi to install himself as chairman could fail due to opposition from sections of the CPC, especially from the older generation. Still, there are other ways for Xi to tighten his grip on power in the long run. This could be done, for instance, by reducing the number of seats on the Standing Committee from the current seven to five. It is likely that five of the seven members currently serving on the committee will have to retire at the convention for reasons of age. And up to 12 of the wider Politburo's 25 seats, as well as nearly half of the spots on the 205-member Central Committee, are also up for grabs. This gives Xi the opportunity to pack these bodies with his loyalists and augment his power. Some of the top favorites up for promotion to the Standing Committee are relatively young and could, therefore, remain in their posts beyond the next congress in 2022.
"Xi will install his loyalists and trusted allies in the politburo even if they are not high-ranking party officials," China expert Zhang Lifan told DW, adding that the "decisions in this respect have been taken.”
 54-year-old Hu Chunhua, party secretary of the economically strong southern province of Guangdong and thus automatically a member of the Politburo. He has experience managing unrest-prone regions like Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
Li Shulei, 53, is another official expected to be promoted. Li was Xi's speechwriter when the latter served as head of the elite Central Party School that trains the CCP's cadres. Li is a major ally of Xi in his anti-corruption campaign, which has ousted over 250 senior officials from the CPC and the military as well as placed up to two million lower-level officials under investigation.
 57-year-old Chen Miner, who has been party secretary of the central city of Chongqing since July.
 69-year-old Wang Qishan, Xi's anticorruption tzar who chairs the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. In this capacity, he oversaw, among other things, the proceedings against former senior officials like Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai, who were ousted from the party and jailed for life following conviction on corruption and other charges. Although the rule book says Wang will have to leave, it is possible that Xi would find a spot in the highest political body for his loyal ally and protect him from the numerous enemies he has made through his anti-corruption work. Some even speculate that Wang could get the post of premier if he advances from number 6 to 2 in the hierarchy on the Standing Committee.

Australian Energy Policy - "A Mistake and a Disaster"

Australia's government has rejected a clean energy plan that would have forced electricity companies to source a percentage of their power from renewables. The government also said it would scrap incentives and subsidies for wind and solar generators from 2020 to lower costs. Conservation groups say the decision is a huge mistake, warning it signals a damaging shift away from renewables in a country that relies heavily on its abundant coal reserves for power and export revenues.

The plan, known as the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), is notably different to the Clean Energy Target (CET) that was recommended by the country's chief scientist following a landmark review of the energy sector. The CET would have forced power companies to provide a certain percentage of their energy from renewable, low emission sources such as wind and solar to help Australia meet its obligations under the Paris climate change agreement.

The Climate Council, an Australian non-profit, described it as a "disaster for both energy prices and pollution...Any policy that doubles down on old polluting power at the expense of clean energy is a barrier to progress," the organization said.

Mark Wakeham from conservation group Environment Victoria accused the government of rejecting "a clean energy target in favor of a coal energy target." And adding "Australia joins Donald Trump's United States as one of only two major national governments to remove support for investment in renewable energy and redirect it to aging and polluting power stations."

 John Grimes from the Australian Solar Council told ABC that ending subsidies for renewables could cost the sector more than 10,000 jobs.

Many scientists say that the 1.5 degree goal is fast slipping out of reach because of insufficient action by all nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The World Socialist Movement has always asserted that capitalist governments would place national interests before the welfare and the well-being of people and the planet.

Brazil's Dams

 Northern Mato Grosso, where the land is the current source of local incomes and wealth, which is now based in agriculture, livestock farming and mining, after being based on timber, has now discovered the value of its water resources. Its energy use is imposed to the detriment of traditional users, just as the land was concentrated in export monoculture to the detriment of food production. New hydropower stations are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso into a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef.They change in the natural flow of the Teles Pires river.  The river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season. It is reducing fish catches, which native people living in the lower stretch of the basin depend on as their main source of protein. 

“The fish die, as well as the turtles, because the water has gotten dirty from the works upstream.” said 27-year-old Isaac Waru. 

Since the vegetation in the river began to die off after the river was diverted to build the dam, fish catches have shrunk, said Solange Arrolho, a professor of biology at the State University of Mato Grosso in Alta Floresta, where she is head of the Ichthyology Laboratory of the Southern Amazon. The researcher, who said she has been “studying fish for 30” of her 50 years, led a project to monitor fish populations in 2014 in the area of influence of the Colider hydroelectric power station. "These works affect fishing by altering the river banks and the river flow, reducing migration of fish, and cutting down riverbank forests, which feed fish with fruit and insects that “fall from the trees into the water,” said Arrolho . “The fish do not adapt, they migrate,”

Local indigenous people avoid drinking water from the river, even bathing with it, after cases of diarrhea, itchy rashes and eye problems, said the three students who come from three different villages. 

Patxon Metuktire, local coordinator of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government body for the protection of indigenous peoples in Brazil. “The companies believe that our problem is just one of logistics, that it is just a matter of providing trucks and fuel, and they forget that their projects damage the ecosystem that is the basis of our well-being and way of life,” he told IPS.
Julita Burko Duleba, president of the Sinop Colony of Fisherpersons and Region (Z-16), based in the city of Sinop, the capital city of northern Mato Grosso. “Fish catches in the Teles Pires basin have dropped: we used to catch over 200 kilos per week, but now we catch a maximum of 120 kilos and on average only between 30 and 40 kilos,” she said

Past their shelf-life

Sainsbury’s is axing 2,000 store and back office roles as the supermarket chain looks to slash costs by £500m.

Tesco is shedding 2,300 staff as part of its cost-cutting programme.

Asda has axed nearly 300 jobs at its head office as part of a cost-cutting drive.

the number of jobs in the UK retail sector slumped by 62,000 in the second quarter of 2017 (partly because of the collapse of BHS, which sparked 11,000 job losses.)
It has been predicted that there will be 900,000 fewer jobs in the sector by 2020

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When silence is approval

The US government knew people were being "delivered for slaughter" during a political purge in Indonesia during the 1960s, declassified documents reveal.
At least 500,000 people were killed between 1965 and 1966 and it is thought as many as three million could have lost their lives within a year. It was one of the worst massacres of the 20th century, but America and other nations remained silent.
US diplomatic staff describe the "slaughter" and "indiscriminate killings", exposing an intimate knowledge of the Indonesian army's operations to "completely clean up" the Communist Party and leftist groups. According to one from US embassy staff in East Java, dated 28 December 1965, "victims are taken out of populous areas before being killed and bodies are buried rather than thrown in river" as they had been previously. The telegram says prisoners suspected of being communists are also "being delivered to civilians for slaughter". Another document compiled by the US embassy's first secretary detailed a list of the communist leaders across the country and whether they had been arrested or killed.
A December 1965 cable from the US consulate in Medan in Sumatra said that Muhammadiyah preachers were telling people it was a religious obligation to "kill suspected communists". They were the lowest order of infidel, "the shedding of whose blood is comparable to killing chicken", the report said. The US cable said this was being interpreted as a "wide licence for killing".
Another telegram notes that people with no connection to the Communist Party were being killed by the youth arm of Nahdlatul Ulama because of "personal feuds". Other memo s mention  ethnic Chinese being killed in the violence and their businesses being burnt down.
Brad Simpson, founder and director of the Indonesia and East Timor documentation project, pushed for the files' release
"These documents show in great detail just how aware US officials were of how many people were being killed," said Mr Simpson, noting "the US stance at the time was silence".
Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono also says his extensive research has found no public comments from the US government at the time about the killings.

Safe water in Bangladesh

Arsenic cannot be seen or smelt; the first signs of its impact are skin lesions which only emerge once the poisoning has taken place. The poisoning can set off a range of heart diseases and cancer and the external symptoms look a lot like.
Human Rights Watch says up to 20 million people are at risk from arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh and estimate 43,000 people die each year in Bangladesh from illnesses caused by arsenic poisoning.
Millions have already suffered from what the World Health Organisation calls "the biggest mass poisoning in human history".
Millions of "tube-wells" have been dug across Bangladesh since the 1940s. The simple pumps were rolled out across the country by the government and NGOs from the 1970s onwards as a way of delivering cost-effective bacteria-free water. However during the 1980s cases of arsenic poisoning began to emerge. While the government has made efforts to replace the wells, in many rural areas they are still the primary source of water especially as many families have dug their own tube wells.
In Bangladesh one in every five deaths was associated with unsafe drinking water.
A particular type of resin technology removes arsenic and other harmful substances from water and once it has been used Drinkwell filters the water through a series of other tanks to take out other harmful substances. The water is sold locally by "Drinkwell" entrepreneurs and the money raised is used to maintain the system. According to the United Nations, 30% to 50% of all water projects fail after huge investments because of a failure to maintain the facilities.  Drinkwell includes operational and maintenance costs. The pricing is set depending on location but a monthly subscription costs anywhere between $0.05 (4p) and $0.12 for 20 litres (4.4 gallons) a day. There are now 30 Drinkwell filtration plants in India and Bangladesh serving more than 100,000 people.
Imagine if the Drinkwell system was freed from the need to make a financial return and implementation of the scheme prioritised around the world.

Fact of the Day

An estimated 35% to 45% of wealth is inherited rather than self-made.

 The Brookings Institution’s Richard V Reeves and Kimberly Howard have called this a “glass floor”, one element that protects the wealthiest from ever losing their mobility.

This inherited wealth can be passed on to one’s family members tax-free unless it’s larger than $5,430,000 – an extremely generous arrangement. (This means that fewer than 1% of all estates are taxed.) 

Evicted from their land

Tsuntsuim is one of the  communities affected by Ecuador’s mining industry, which is being promoted as necessary for growth in the developing nation. According to Ecuadorian law, everything in the ground belongs to the state. The money earned from extracting its bounty – be it minerals or petroleum – funds public services. But researchers say the opposite is true. “This development model impacts communities,” said Erika Arteaga, a doctor with the Latin American Association of Social Medicine (Alames), a co-author of the report. “The mine displaces people, and the impact is direct. It’s this industry that makes children lack nutrition.”

Psychiatrists found 42% of the indigenous Shuar people of Tsuntsuim village suffering from mental health problems and psychological damage. The mental ordeal has manifested itself in depression, severe headaches, insomnia, tremors and tachycardia (a racing heart rate). Trauma caused by the displacement and anxiety about what would happen to them next were the main triggers for these symptoms. Children were particularly traumatised by the noise of the helicopters and drones that had circled overhead during the eviction, according to medical researchers.

Residents said the soldiers destroyed crops and set animals loose. “They were left without any kind of economic or food options and were pushed into forced migration,” said Fernanda Solíz, one of the report’s authors and a doctor with the Movement for the Health of the Peoples of Latin America. “This is a process of impoverishment and a loss of subsistence and sovereignty.”

The territorial conflict around Tsuntsuim peaked in August 2016 when those living in the Shuar village of Nankints were forcibly evicted from their homes by the army because they were living on the site for the planned San Carlos Panantza copper mine.
Ecuadorian government officials claim the Shuar had no land rights and were living there. After the eviction, residents made several attempts to re-enter Nankints leading to an aggressive standoff with the authorities in December 2016. The then president, Rafael Correa, called a state of emergency in the province of Morona Santiago and sent in extra forces, who raided homes and made several arrests in Tsuntsuim, where most of the people from Nankints had fled. Nankints is now a military protected mining camp, surrounded by barbed-wire fencing.e illegally, while the Shuar community claim the region as part of their ancestral land. 

Brazil's Inequality

 According to a survey by Oxfam Brasil, richer Brazilians pay proportionally less tax than the poor and middle-income.

 The highest rate of income tax is just 27.5% .

The richest 5% earn the same as the rest of the population put together. 

 President Michel Temer approval rating plunged to 3% in one poll last month. Among under 24-year-olds, Temer’s approval hit zero. He has been charged with corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice

Temer has retained the support of financial markets who like the austerity measures he has introduced, such as privatising government services, a 20-year cap on expenditure and planned pensions cuts. Markets don’t care much about inequality rates. Public spending has been so slashed to the bone that some basic functions of the state are now at risk.

Many of the political representatives are allied with powerful agribusiness and evangelical Christian lobbies. Temer agreed to spend $1.33bn on projects in the states of lawmakers for votes not to impeach him.  Environmentalists say Temer’s administration is reducing Amazon protection in return for their support.

Quote of the Day

"Hunger is basically due to climate and conflict. It's not that we don't have enough food - we have more than enough food. Conflict is manmade, and if there is political commitment to do it, we can stop the conflicts tomorrow. We cannot avoid the impacts of climate change ... But we can stop drought from leading to famine, to increased prices, to people being displaced from their homes because they don't have water to drink. We only need the political commitment" - JOSE GRAZIANO DA SILVA, DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF U.N. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION

A different way to fill our belly

Food insecurity is largely driven by a food system that is highly controlled by agribusiness (Big Ag), believed to be the only way of producing large volumes of food to satisfy global demand. We see an ever increasing concentration in the agribusiness sector, as two recent mergers—Syngenta-ChemChina and Dow Chemical-DuPont—show. But the figures are clear: in 2016 the number of undernourished people in the world came to an estimated 815 million—from 777 million people in 2015. In addition, 75% of the world’s poor rely on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods yet, despite this, they are also the most food insecure, leading many to migrate to urban areas or other countries in search for better living conditions with great uncertainty for their own and their children’s futures. Hunger is not diminishing, it is increasing. We must be tackling its root causes, which is the capitalist system not increasing production. We must make a radical political and economic change.

Agroecology is a system that enable people and small-scale farmers to access land and resources, that can allow rural communities to work, flourish and live and that offers a sustainable food system.  The application of agroecology has demonstrated the potential to increase productivity, yields and biodiversity; revitalise exhausted and degraded soils, improve health and nutrition, enhance resilience and cohesion in communities while addressing climate change. It empowers farmers and peasants, especially women. It also brings consumers closer to farmers and the food they eat,  by reconnecting us to local and seasonal produce and restoring our relationship to nature. These are essential ingredients for sustainable, and just communities, where every person and every ecosystem counts and flourishes.  The present production for profit agricultural policies are reducing small-scale farmer’s autonomy, weakening the social fabric of their communities, affecting our health and the planet.

Capitalism interlinks food insecurity, land injustices and migration and the true root cause of the climate crises. The socialist cooperative commonwealth holds out solutions that take into account the well-being and dignity of people, the respect and the protection of our ecosystems. We must make a revolutionary transformation in how we produce and distribute the fruits of humanity's harvests.

Adapted from here 

The food debate

On global average, there is a yield gap of about 25 percent between organic and conventional agriculture, according to Andreas Gattinger, professor for organic agriculture and sustainable land use at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. Since organic agriculture depends heavily on the variability of various natural factors, crop yields tend to be smaller. Why put so much pressure on the capacity of organic farming to feed everyone, he said, when conventional farming practices around the world still leave one in nine people suffering from undernourishment? If neither farming method is currently able to feed the world, he added, we should find the silver lining and at least switch to the practice that is less harmful for the environment.
"If we would use the world's natural and food resources in a circular way, we would be able to feed even 12 billion people," he said — by for example, wasting less food, or using natural resources as pesticides instead of creating new, artificial products. This can be achieved by increasing the sustainable use of land resources and, above all, reducing food waste.

"We should increasingly make use of land sharing, instead of land sparing," he said, explaining how the same piece of land can be used for farming, but also for preserving wildlife and regulating the climate. For example, he points out that organic farming can, at the same time, provide food and enhance a field's soil fertility, increase biodiversity above and belowground and bolster natural resilience, among other benefits. "But at the same time, organic agriculture fulfills many other important ecosystem and public good services," he said. Organic farming increases biodiversity and leads to a higher adaptive capacity to extreme weather events like heavy rainfall, to mention only a few benefits, Gattinger added.

José Miguel Mulet, a researcher at the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology (IBCMP) in Valencia, Spain, quite skeptical regarding the further development of certified organic agriculture.
"If the world's production was made entirely ecological, we would not leave any trees standing," Mulet told DW. The use of synthetic pesticides is forbidden in organic farming — one of the main motivations for consumers buying these products. However, Mulet points out that many of the natural products applied to organic crops are also extremely harmful for the environment. "Such products create a big paradox," he said. "Copper, for instance, is highly polluting and does not biodegrade." "People don't know what they are buying, and the organic certification does not always mean better for the environment," said Mulet. Products certified as organic can come in ships or trucks from the other part of the world, or grow in greenhouses all year round. This, Mulet points out, does not respect natural cycles nor avoid polluting.
Wafaa El-Khoury, a senior technical specialist in agronomy with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), told DW that organic agriculture helps smallholder farmers diversify their production and therefore reduce risks. "If an insect eats one crop, they can still live from the other," she said. Organic farming requires less external input like pesticides or fertilizers and uses instead existing natural resources to maximize farmland production. In addition, organic farming promotes food safety as it diminishes exposure to synthetic pesticides that highly affect smallholders farmers — particularly women and children, she explained. However, once organic farming products enter the industrialized food system, El-Khoury believes they lose their benefits.
"The food system is becoming uncontrollable, and that is related to all the food we eat, not only to organic production," she said. "Food waste and the lack of information on organic products, for instance, are more of a concern that just eating organic or not." "Consumers have to be concerned with the way food systems function if they are interested in their health and the environment," El-Khoury said.

Protect your daughters from irrationality

The human papilloma virus (HPV) infects the skin and mucous membranes of the anus, genitals and respiratory tracts, causing genital warts and multiple cancers, of which cervical cancer is the most significant. HPV is also associated with cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, and penis, and oral cancers in men and women. Transmission occurs most frequently during sexual intercourse but can occur following non-penetrative sexual activity. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for over 70 per cent of cervical cancers. In Ireland, nearly 300 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year and 79 women died of the disease in 2016. HPV vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection.  The website has links to 79 research papers from 2006 to 2017 on the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.

The evidence that the HPV vaccine is good for public health is overwhelming. Despite this there have been vaccine deniers, a term coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) which has led to such a dramatic fall in the uptake of the HPV vaccine.  A Catholic bishop and anti-HPV vaccine groups such as Regret and Human Life International Ireland (HLI), have  argued that the HPV vaccine is unsafe and ineffective.

Both the bishop and HLI Ireland believe that HPV vaccines encourage “promiscuity” and want school “chastity” programmes instead. The sex connection is what upsets the vaccine deniers because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is one thing to have vaccines for the flu and measles which no one can “help” contracting, it is quite another to provide a vaccine for what the bishop called a “lifestyle” choice. HPV vaccine deniers would prefer if women and girls suffered the consequences of engaging in pre- and extramarital sexual activity.  As if having husbands protects women from contracting STIs.  The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and HSE Director General, Tony O’Brien, have vociferously defended the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, telling vaccine deniers to “butt out” and stop using “emotional terrorism".

There have been vaccine deniers around since the 19th century when the first anti-vaccination leagues opposed compulsory smallpox inoculation. The WHO is so concerned about growing public resistance to vaccines that it wants to deconstruct the five techniques used by vaccine deniers to make their false claims sound plausible.
First, they create impossible expectations, for example, wanting 100 per cent certainty about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. No medical treatment is 100 per cent safe and effective. Secondly, vaccine deniers use false logic arguing that natural things are good and unnatural things are bad. In their world vaccines interfere with the natural order of things. Third, they pretend to have technical expertise. Fourth, they claim that governments promote vaccination because of undue influence from the pharmaceutical industry. Lastly, they are selective about scientific research, ignoring any that says HPV vaccines are safe and effective.
Vaccine deniers forget, or do not care, how many children and adults died from infectious diseases before vaccines became widely available. In 1916 for example, 6,471 people died of tuberculosis, only 16 died in 2016; 525 people, mainly children, died of whooping cough in 1916, one died in 2016; and 218 people, mainly children, died of measles in 1916, nobody died in 2016. In fact, in the past 60 years vaccinations have saved more children’s lives than any other medical intervention.
On the Regret website there is a claim that HPV vaccines have not saved one life. HPV vaccines were only licensed between 11 and nine years ago. Girls who received the vaccine between 2006 and 2008 will now be aged between 17 and 23, much too young to have died from cervical cancer. Cervical cancer does not develop for many years after HPV infection – the average age is about 45 – so the number of women’s lives saved will not be known for some time. What is known now is that HPV vaccines prevent genital warts which cause cancer.