Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bombs or butter

Trump has proposed a federal budget that increases defense spending by $54 billion and slashes "lower-priority" programs. The Office of Management and Budget did not identify which agencies would be slated for cutbacks, but administration officials said almost all other discretionary programs, as well as foreign aid, would see spending reductions.  Many fear that this means that departments that have long been the target of conservative, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would face the biggest cuts.
  Friends of the Earth senior political strategist Ben Schreiber said, " Senate Democrats must come out immediately and make it clear that sacrificing working Americans to Trump's war machine is an unacceptable trade."
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, "A budget is a statement of priorities, and with this proposal, Trump is telling America he doesn't care about what happens to children who are forced to drink toxic water and breath polluted air.... This is a budget rigged to boost the profits of corporate polluters at the expense of the health of our families."

Trump said the budget will put "America first” but the US are already first in armament spending and the arms trade yet most definitely not first when it comes to education and health.

Stop wage slavery

Rapid technological advances continue to render many jobs obsolete. Globalization has shifted employment to parts of the world with the lowest costs and standards. Most households have gone from one income-earner to at least two. Women have fully integrated into the workforce, albeit often with less-than-equal opportunities, conditions and pay. A lot of our work is unnecessary and often destructive — depleting resources, destroying ecosystems, polluting air, water and soil, and fuelling climate change.
Yet we're still working the same or more hours later into life within the same outdated and destructive system, furiously producing, consuming and disposing on a wheel of endless growth and conspicuous consumption. The gap between rich and poor is widening and working people — and those who can't find work — are falling further behind, crushed by growing debt, increased competition for scarce jobs and declining real wages and benefits.  Many people are tired, too stretched to become politically engaged or even to spend as much time with family and friends as they'd like, and the grinding consumer cycle doesn't bring them real joy or fulfilment. 
 The unions deserve credit for many gains working people have enjoyed over the past century or more, they also merit some criticism. In the face of technological advances and globalization, unions have failed to fight for steadily reduced work hours although lately it's more fighting to prevent drastic cuts to jobs, wages and benefits.
From a management perspective (the only perspective that counts) it is easier to manage one worker doing 60 hours a week than two doing 30 each. It's all about what works best for them and their profits. Nothing else really comes into the picture
A lot needs to be done to our economic systems and to address critical issues like pollution and climate change.  Many reformists are now proposing gradual piece-meal ameliorations but many of those will remain just that – proposals and won't be implemented to any significant degree under capitalism. Capitalism wants you ignorant and desperate, able to work at your job, but not able to see what's at the heart of the system and therefore not able to work at changing it. Under this system people are financially stretched to the limit, tired, worried and fed a steady diet of media and consumerist indoctrination. They are left intentionally confused but always feeling a vague confidence in the system, because they have been told their entire lives that it is fine and fair and "the way it is" and that you only sink or swim based on individual talent and effort. Until people are able to comprehend what is going on behind the curtain of disinformation and deception, they are helpless. The capitalist system is well aware that if you give people security and time, they will start to get ideas that you don't want them to have. These things, along with decent education, are intentionally withheld for the health of the system.

The German Migrant Crime-wave Myth

The German Migrant Crime-wave Myth: T he first  comprehensive study   to look at economic and social effects of the one million refugees fleeing to Germany is out, and it fla...

What Over-Population Crisis?

China’s birth rate, one of the world’s lowest, is fast becoming a worry for authorities rather than the achievement it was considered at a time when the fear was over-population. The Chinese government credited it with preventing 400m births. The policy was ended in 2015. China began implementing its controversial one-child policy in the 1970s in order to limit population growth, but authorities are now concerned that the country’s dwindling workforce will not be able to support an increasingly ageing population.

Now, China is considering introducing birth rewards and subsidies to encourage people to have a second child, after surveys showed economic constraints were making many reluctant to expand their families, the state-owned China Daily has reported. The idea was revealed by Wang Peian, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, at a social welfare conference on Saturday, the newspaper said.

Keeping secrets

 For years Shell had a clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago. Since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, say critics.

Shell’s film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted. If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected,” it says. “Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”

The predictions in the 1991 film for temperature and sea level rises and their impacts were remarkably accurate, according to scientists. Despite this early Shell invested many billions of dollars in highly polluting tar sand operations and on exploration in the Arctic. It also cited fracking as a “future opportunity” in 2016, despite its own 1998 data showing exploitation of unconventional oil and gas was incompatible with climate goals. Shell has recently lobbied successfully to undermine European renewable energy targets and is estimated to have spent $22m in 2015 lobbying against climate policies. The company’s investments in low-carbon energy have been minimal compared to its fossil fuel investments. Shell has also been a member of industry lobby groups that have fought climate action, including the so-called Global Climate Coalition until 1998; the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) until 2015; and remains a member of the Business Roundtable and the American Petroleum Institute today.

Prof Tom Wigley, the climate scientist who was head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia when it helped Shell with the 1991 film said Shell’s actions since 1991 had “absolutely not” been consistent with the film’s warning.

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate change chief, said the investments the oil majors are making in clean energy are, Espinosa said, “very small, the activities in which they are engaging are still small and do not have the impact that we really need.”



Billy Bragg recently appeared on BBC TV’s ‘Question Time’
dispensing his usual ‘lefty’ half-baked pearls of wisdom.

The beastly bard from Barking town,
Musician Billy Bragg;       
Bangs on in the same genre that,
Appears to be his ‘bag’.
His so-called ‘revolution’ needs,
A Bolshie balladeer;
And ‘wicked Tories’ to promote,
His musical career.
A-chording to our minstrel man, 
This 3-chord coup d’├ętat;
Is plucked from many sources on,
Eclectic folk guitar!

Our Silly-Billy draws a lot,
From Punk philosophy;
Which eruditely means at best,
“Duff up the BNP”!
The punch-ups that he advocates,
At many of his gigs;
Are far superior to that,
Of all the Fascist pigs.
His “Patriotism for the Left
to be won from the Right”;
Consists of imbecilic thoughts,
And shovelfuls  of shite!

That’s why in ’81 he was,
An Army raw recruit;
But peeling spuds for Queen and State, (1)
Somehow did not compute.
Our Billy’s keen on all ‘Home Rule’,
The ‘Independence’ fib;
That for such ‘liberated’ folk,
Is a complete damp squib.
He’s swung from Labour to the Libs,
And last played for the Greens; (2)
The Sally Army waits in turn,
And tunes its tambourines!

(1) Joined the Army in 1981 but bought himself out after 3 months.

(2) In 2010, long-term Labour member Bragg, supported the Lib-Dems.
In 2015, he supported the Greens. He now supports Corbyn.

© Richard Layton

Slough and Migrants

Slough was built on immigration. Since the 1920s, people have come here from across the UK and around the world to look for work. The reason migrants came here in the 1920s is the reason they come here now - jobs.  Slough's unemployment is just 1.4%, and the average wage is £558 per week. Slough's economy relies on migrant workers. It's the most ethnically diverse area outside London.There are 150 different languages spoken there. The last census found that two in every five of the town's residents had migrated to the UK. Slough's story is driven by economics: the town that built its success on immigration Slough voted for Brexit. The town that made its fortune with migrant labour wanted out of Europe.

 Salvatore Carus's business cuts and polish marble. Caruso, uses Polish workers. His workforce has tripled in size in the past decade. "If you take the migrant workers out of it, who's going to do the work?" he asks.

Sylwia Leszczynska is Polish and came to Slough 11 years ago to work as a carer for elderly people. She planned her future in the UK. She bought a house with her husband, Konrad. Their children go to British schools.But she doesn't believe in the dream anymore.
''Immigration, it's not so good an idea, like we thought before," she says. "I now think more about going back to Poland.I've got a feeling they don't want us here.”
Her husband nods, and adds quietly: "Mr Farage opened Pandora's box. And now it's just worse really, worse than it was before."
Arturo Benjumeda and Arturo Jr., from Spain both work at a printing company. In Seville - a city where almost a third of the population is unemployed - he faced losing his home.
"I arrived here at night time, and I was already working in the morning," he says "Everything was new for me, so I felt quite stressed and very nervous."
His wife, Maria, has also found work, in a pub. The Brexit vote didn't put them off. "Our situation was so desperate, we had nothing to lose by coming here," she says.
There are plenty of people in Slough who are unhappy about immigration. "Strain on the resources" is the most common complaint you hear. But despite the pressure, research suggests most communities still get along.
Rob Deeks runs a charity that works with children. "When we ask them if they've experienced racism, they have, but not in Slough," he says. "They say, 'In the town up the road,' or, 'On the train.' This place is diverse, but it gets on."

Be a partner in sacking your co-worker

Andy Street quit as the boss of John Lewis last year to try to become the mayor of the West Midlands. If elected in May, he plans to turn back to his former employer in an attempt to revolutionise public services. Street is looking to bring the company’s employee-owned partnership model into vital local services such as transport, social care and skills training, handing workers a stake in their performance.
The Conservative mayoral candidate said he could spin off existing services into new mutually owned operations, provide funding for these and social enterprises to compete for contracts, and allow existing mutuals, enterprises and charities to take on public work. Mutuals are fully or majority owned by members, while social enterprises work to support communities or the environment.

And how different will it be?

It seems the so-called partner workers at the John Lewis and Waitrose Stores will be ''asked'' to cut their fellow workers jobs and conditions again just recently in the interests of modernisation and the commercial interests of the firm.

John Lewis is to axe nearly 800 jobs in its customer restaurants and store administration. In an effort to reduce costs, the group shut some staff canteens about a year ago and introduced longer shifts for delivery drivers. The cuts come just weeks after Waitrose, John Lewis’s sister company, revealed plans to close six stores and remove a level of management in its supermarkets, putting nearly 700 jobs at risk.

Operating profits slumped 31% despite a 4.5% rise in sales in the six months to the end of July as the company invested heavily in equipment to support its online business and increasing pay for staff. Last year the staff bonus was 10%, the lowest for 13 years. This year’s lower bonus will be known on 9 March.

Hat-tip Libcom

UK Wage Squeeze

UK workers' wages fell an average of 1% a year after 2008 financial crisis putting it well behind global average. The findings are further evidence that real incomes are set to be squeezed this year.

The UK was almost at the very bottom of a national ranking of wage growth compiled by the Trades Union Congress. A study based on data from the International Labour Organisation, shows that average wage growth across 112 countries was 2.3 per cent a year between 2008 and 2015, compared to a median increase of 1.6 per cent. Of all the countries examined by the TUC, only a handful ranked worse than the UK in terms of wage growth, putting it in 103rd place.

The Bank of England reported that employers plan to scale down pay awards this year, despite the expected jump in inflation due to the plunging pound. According to the agents’ latest survey, average pay growth of 2.7 per cent in 2016 is expected to slow sharply to 2.2 per cent in 2017.

Consumer price inflation currently stands at 1.6 per cent and is expected to reach 2.7 per cent by the Bank of England by the end of 2017, largely due to the 12 per cent slump in sterling since last June's Brexit vote.

Bank of England - Clueless

 Women in the UK are participating in the labour market in ever greater numbers with the gender employment gap now at a record low. But rising female participation hasn’t been the only big labour market shift over the last 50 years. There has been a massive upheaval in the nature of work carried out too. The classic mid-skilled jobs of the past – secretarial and routine manufacturing jobs – are in long-term decline and won’t be coming back. The profound progress in pay made by the first four generations born in the 20th century came to a grinding halt for the millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000). Not only have they failed to claim a larger slice of the wages pie in their current workplace, they also moved job with less frequency.

There was supposed to be a quick bounce back from the crash of 2008 offering bumper pay rises all round, quickly pushing up the average wage to new highs. It was this rosy view that encouraged the Bank of England to forecast in every year since 2010 a rise in wages of such force that it said higher interest rates would be needed within two years to calm things down. It never happened. Not even the British “jobs miracle” of the last two years, which has seen the employment rate reach record levels, was able to bring about the expected jump in wages to 4%.  The thinking behind the theory was that once unemployment hits its natural rate, the labour market will be so tight that workers can almost walk into a job and in their newly confident state, start to bid up their wages. Last week MPs asked four B of E policy-makers how they could be so wrong year after year.

The Socialist Party could have answered that.

Boom Times in the USA

The US Dow Jones stock index has closed at a record high for the 12th day running.

It is the longest winning streak for the share index since January 1987.

The S&P 500 index also edged two points higher to 2,370, while the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite index rose 17 points to 5,862.
The biggest winners were shares in energy, financial and healthcare firms - areas that stand to gain if Trump's policies spur faster economic growth.
The Dow closed at record highs for 13 sessions in a row in January 1987, nine months before the Black Monday market crash – not that the blog is making any predictions but capitalism is a game of boom and bust...when the bubble bursts, nobody has a clue and that is what capitalist stock-market all about...guess-work. As Marx understood it, we only determine the cause of a recession by hindsight.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Too much chemicals in farming

Nearly half the environmental impact of a loaf of bread comes from the "unsustainable use" of fertilisers on wheat crops,researchers said.
Synthetic fertilisers boost yields, but they contain or generate chemicals -- ammonia, nitrates, methane and carbon dioxide, among others -- that drive global warming, they reported in the journal Nature Plants.
This arises from the large amount of energy needed to make the fertiliser, and from nitrous oxide gas released when it is degraded in the soil," said lead author Liam Goucher, a scientist at the University of Sheffield in England. Nitrate-rich runoff from industrial-scale agriculture also damages lakes, rivers and coastal waters around the world, in some cases creating so-called "dead zones"
The study highlights a double challenge in the decades ahead: how to grow enough food to feed the world's population -- set to increase to 11 billion from seven billion -- in a way that does not poison the planet.
"A key part of this challenge is resolving the major conflict embedded in an agri-food system whose primary purpose is to make money, not to provide sustainable global food security," (our emphasis) the study said.
Food production and consumption are responsible for about one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions. Cereals such as corn, rice and wheat -- usually grown with huge amounts of chemical fertiliser -- account for half of the calories consumed by humanity. To better assess the environmental cost of wheat production, researchers led by Goucher broke down the supply chain of a typical 800-gram (28-ounce) loaf of bread from "seed to feed". In 2016, Europeans consumed, on average, about 63 kilos of bread per person, while Americans eat about half that amount. They found that ammonium nitrate fertiliser contributes 43 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in a loaf's life cycle, a level they described as "unsustainable." In agriculture, more than 100 million tonnes of chemical fertiliser is used globally every year, applied to about 60 percent of all agricultural crops.
"This is a massive problem," said the study's senior author, Peter Horton, chief research advisor to the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. "But environmental impact is not costed within the system, so there are currently no real incentives to reduce our reliance on fertiliser."
 How to achieve sustainable global food security is not only a technical question but a political and economic one, (our emphasis) the researchers added.

The German Migrant Crime-wave Myth

The first comprehensive study to look at economic and social effects of the one million refugees fleeing to Germany is out, and it flatly contradicts the belief that the refugee influx to Germany in 2014 and 2015 was followed by a “crime epidemic,” co-researcher Martin Ungerer, from the Centre for European Economic Research, says. The study, looked at federal records on refugee allocations, data from state-run reception centers, and federal crime data. The study reinforces what the federal government said last year: Refugees committed crimes at the same level, according the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA).

There was a small increases in some criminal activity in the immediate aftermath of the record influx of refugees in Germany such as an uptick in drug crimes and fare-dodging in areas where large refugee reception centers were located but these spots were also associated with increased minor crime for German citizens. Ungerer suggests this could be explained in part by the increased police presence around large reception centers.

The findings are broadly consistent with other studies on the effects of immigration more generally. J. L. Spenkuch, an economist at Northwestern University says that immigrants in the US are no more likely to commit violent crimes than natives, though there are small differences in less serious offenses. “It is reassuring to see that these results appear to hold up when it comes to refugees and Germany,” explains.

Similar research in the US by Christopher Salas-Wright, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work, found what he described as “clear and compelling evidence that refugees are substantially less likely than those born in the US to report involvement in a variety of non-violent and violent criminal behaviors.”

Ungerer also looked at the impact of the refugee crisis on Germany’s labor market. The study found little evidence of a “displacement effect”—refugees taking jobs from German workers. In fact, most refugees were actually “struggling to find work,” Ungerer says. His findings highlighted the difficulty of quickly integrating refugees into the German labor markets.

Donald Trump is anything but a man of few words, especially on Twitter where  he produces a flurry of tweets, covering practically everything, yet the president hasn’t commented on the shooting in Kansas by a white xenophobe that killed 32-year-old Indian IT worker Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounded his colleague, Alok Madasani and and a local American customer who tried to intervene to stop the murderer. We can be sure if the situation was reversed, the populist president would have much to say on the incident.

The Poor are in Poor Health

What good does it do to treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?” Sir Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, asks. 

As societies around the world become more unequal, the gap between levels of health widens. Marmot says that social injustice is the biggest threat to global health and a radical change in society is needed if we really want people to live long and healthy lives.

Take Baltimore, for example:
“LeShawn has grown up in the Upton Druid Heights neighbourhood in Baltimore’s inner city,” explains Marmot, who has conducted research on health inequalities in communities across the world. “Bobby has grown up in Greater Roland Park.”
Although merely kilometres apart, people living in the suburban and affluent Roland Park can expect to live to the age of 83.
But LeShawn, living in the inner city, will probably die 20 years earlier. Life expectancy in Upton Druid Heights is just 63 years.
The reasons for this massive gap?
Only 10% of residents in Upton Druid Heights start tertiary education, while 75% of those living in Roland park complete college.
Almost all children living in the suburb can read proficiently by the third grade. Less than half of children in the inner city can read proficiently by the same age.
“In 2005 to 2009 there were 100 non-fatal shootings for every 10,000 residents, and nearly 40 homicides in Upton Druid,” he says.
In Roland Park there were no non-fatal shootings in the same period.
Households in the city earn an average annual income of $17,000 while Roland Park residents have a median income more than five times higher – $90,000.
“The conditions in which we live, early childhood development, income and education – these all predict how healthy we are and how long we will live,” says Marmot. He argues that our societies need to change radically: we need to invest aggressively in education and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
Nowhere is this more relevant than in South Africa, the most unequal country in the world according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The IMF estimates that 10% of the population earn around 60% of all income, compared to only 20% to 35% in more advanced economies.
Inequality is measured by the Gini Coefficient – a percentage estimate where zero represents perfect equality and 100 represents perfect inequality.
South Africa has the highest level of inequality in the world at just over 63%.
In comparison, Sweden and Norway have Gini Coefficients of 27% and 25%% respectively, according to World Bank estimates.
It does not matter how wealthy a country is. It matters that the wealth is more evenly spread.
One of the wealthiest nations in the world, the US, has some of the worst health outcomes, argues Marmot, because inequality is rife.
“Go into a typical American school and count one hundred boys aged 13. Thirteen of you will fail to reach your 60th birthday,” he says. Is 13 out of 100 a lot? The US risk is double the Swedish risk, which is less than seven.
He says that life expectancy in Costa Rica is high, about 80 years in 2012, even though it is not a wealthy nation. But inequality is lower, quality education is accessible and, interestingly, the country’s decision to abolish its military in 1948 has freed up resources to invest in public amenities. Marmot argues that the money and resources saved by not having to fund an army have been instead invested in, for example, education – and decades later the health of Costa Ricans has improved dramatically. In 2007 almost every single child aged three to five in Costa Rica attended pre-school. This is compared to just over 20% for many other South American countries such as Paraguay.
Ensuring children are educated and protected from abuse can radically change their prospects.
In England, says Marmot, preventing early adverse events in childhood, such as verbal, physical or sexual abuse, can reduce the likelihood of teen pregnancy by 38%. Many instances of abuse occur in households with low incomes and high unemployment.

Bangladesh Poverty

 According to the statistics of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the reduction in poverty has slowed down to 5.9 percentage points during the period of 2010-2014 from 8.5 percentage points of the years 2005-2010, and from 8.9 percentage points of the period 2000-2005. The government approximates that 25.6 percent of the population lives below the so-called poverty line as of 2014. It is also difficult to find causation between deliberate policy of government and reduction in poverty. Economic growth in Bangladesh is mostly consumption-based which can also otherwise be called "auto-pilot rate of growth". The underemployed people in rural areas, who either migrated to cities or abroad and fuelled consumption through remittances, largely contributed to Bangladesh's reduction in poverty. 

There has been much said about economic growth, yet the process in Bangladesh has not matched with jobs. Evidently, a considerable number of people have entered into the labour market with wages below the requirement for graduating out of the so-called poverty line — people who can be termed as "working poor." According to the BBS' latest labour force survey for the calendar years of 2014 and 2015, the country generated only 600,000 employments (300,000 per annum) out of two million eligible to enter the job market on an annual basis. Youth unemployment rate also rose sharply to 9.5 percent in 2015 from 8.1 percent in 2013. The unemployment rate is high amongst educated youth. The number of underemployed increased by over 10 million between 2011 and 2013 and reached 21.5 million in 2014. A World Bank-ILO report states that about 41 percent of Bangladeshi youth were NEET (not in employment, education or training) in 2013. 

The fruits of economic growth have not been shared fairly, and that the current economic crisis has further widened the gap between the rich and the poor. According to BBS estimates, nominal wage indices have increased by 24.7 percent during the period 2010-11 to 2014-15 while the consumer price index (CPI) grew by 32.6 percent during the same period, implying labourers have lost 7.9 percent of the real wage income they used to earn in 2010-11. The degree of income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has increased from an average of 0.38 in the 1980s to 0.44 in the 1990s and further to 0.46 in the 2000s, meaning the gap between the rich and the poor is still widening. Bangladesh is being run by a ruling class which is interested only in securing wealth by any means. Over the years, through the actions of successive regimes, aspirations of equality, human dignity and social justice have been supplanted by a completely different kind of aspiration for the power elite - primitive capital accumulation.

The World Socialist Party (India)257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Bangladesh Women's Health

During the 15-year era of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (2000-2015) maternal mortality was halved and the number of couples, mostly women, accessing contraception increased to 62 percent. Is Bangladesh thus winning in the pursuit for universal sexual and reproductive health care services for all of its citizens? Unfortunately, it is not quite as straightforward; the many achievements already made are still outweighed by some significant challenges the country faces – especially girls and women. 

Each year, 5,200 women die due to pregnancy and childbirth related complications in Bangladesh. This amounts to nearly 15 women losing their lives every day.

Life-saving emergency obstetric and newborn care is often not available or is of poor quality. 62 percent of women still give birth at home and 58 percent, without skilled birth attendance. This doesn't come as a surprise when taking into account that the health portfolio receives only 4.1 percent of the government budget, opening up opportunities for private facilities, which in turn can lead to high out-of-pocket expenditures for patients. Limited infrastructure and a fear of high costs and poor quality, paired with harmful social norms which limit girls' and women's decision-making power, leave Bangladesh in a situation where adolescents, young mothers and couples can't access the care they need. Women with no education and living in the poorest households are far less likely to be assisted by a skilled attendant during delivery. 

Bangladesh is lagging behind other South Asian countries particularly in terms of the ratio of midwives and nurses to population. Depending on the year of measurement, India and Sri Lanka have between five and six times as many midwives and nurses as Bangladesh, and Pakistan has almost twice as many. Bangladesh has only 2.2 nurse-midwives per 10,000, who do not meet a global standard of midwifery, and which is less than half the global average for low-income countries. Overall, workforce density is well below the internationally recommended figure of 22.8 per 10,000 required to achieve relatively high coverage for essential health interventions in countries most in need.

Midwives who are educated and regulated to international standards can provide 87 percent of the essential care needed for women and their newborns; investing in midwifery education and deployment to community-based services can potentially yield a 16-fold return in terms of lives saved and costs of caesarean sections averted.

In 2012, only 1 percent of Bangladesh's population was covered by some form of health insurance. 

The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Investing in farming

Economic inequality has always been a subject of discourse. Global inequality is worse than at any time since the 19th century.  There exists a highly unequal distribution of incomes and assets within countries and between countries. While many people enjoy longevity and good health, more than one billion people live in abject poverty, struggling for mere survival every day. The poorest of the poor face the daily life-and-death challenges of insufficient nutrition, lack of healthcare, unsafe shelter, lack of safe drinking water and sanitation. A grotesquely unequal distribution of income means millions of children run the risk of dying from easily treatable diseases. 

The workers who grow and harvest the cornucopia of fruit and veggies in the rich fields of California’s Salinas Valley live in a constant crisis of poverty, malnutrition and homelessness. Toiling in “America’s salad bowl,” they literally cannot afford to eat the fresh, nutritious edibles they produce. The valley is generating billions of dollars in sales that have enriched landowners and corporate executives and turned Salinas Valley into farm country with Silicon Valley prices. Unable to afford good food, the workers eat poorly — with 85 percent being overweight or obese and nearly 6 out of 10 diagnosed with diabetes, while many more, uninsured and unable to afford testing, go undiagnosed. Especially appalling, about one-third of elementary schoolchildren in the Salinas City district are homeless. They sleep with their families in tents, abandoned buildings, tool-sheds, chicken coops or on the ground, next to the rows of crops they tend. Allowing such abject poverty in fields of abundance is made even more shameful by the fact that our society throws 40 percent of our food into the garbage.

 Financial trusts and hedge funds are buying up these farms and converting them into investment packages for super-rich global speculators. One of these Wall Street investment schemes is called Farmland Partners. It’s run by managers trained in mergers and acquisitions as executives at the investment powerhouse Merrill Lynch. Rather than being sod-busters, Farmland Partners are tax busters, using a legalistic plow called a real estate investment trust (or REIT) to obtain enormous tax breaks to subsidize their scheme. With this special subsidy, Farmland Partners has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to buy up farms and ranches — who now own 295 agricultural properties covering 144,000 acres in 16 states including California’s Salinas Valley.

Of course, the Wall Street plow-boys don’t dirty their own soft hands by actually farming; they’ve figured out how to “work” the land without touching it — and how to harvest a sweet profit. The syndicate hires tenant farmers to do the sweaty work of plowing, planting and nurturing the crops. This tenant system produces a double-line cash flow for the faraway owners: Farmland Partners charges the tenants rent for tilling the corporate soil, then the partners harvest a sweet share of any profits from the sale of crops that the tenants produce. “It’s like gold,” says the founder of one such scheme, “but better, because there’s cash flow.” The new generation of young farmers who actually want to farm are having a hard time finding affordable land to get started. These new generation farmers can easily be outbid for good land by Wall Street speculators who have the cash flow from tenants and the subsidy from taxpayers to underwrite their financial contrivance. 

Germany's Migrant Crimes

Nearly 10 attacks were made on migrants in Germany every day in 2016

The interior ministry figures

  • 3,533 attacks on migrants and asylum hostels in 2016
  • 2.545 attacks on individual migrants
  • 560 people injured, including 43 children
  • 988 attacks on Migrant's houses 
  • 217 attacks on refugee organisations and volunteers