Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Climate Own-Goal?

Surprise, Surprise. As if we weren't warned.

 Greenhouse gas emissions are on course to be about 30 percent above the 2030 global target. An annual U.N. audit of progress towards that goal showed emissions are likely to be 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, far above the 42 billion tonne threshold for averting the 2 degree rise.

The U.N. says greater efforts will be needed because temperatures are set to rise by 3.0-3.2 degrees Celsius this century.

The world's 250 biggest listed companies account for a third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions yet few have strong goals to limit rising temperatures, a study showed. Only about 30 percent of the 250 firms had set strong goals to curb them.

"Without continual reduction in emissions from this group of companies, effectively mitigating the long-term risks of climate change is not possible," according to the study,

In the past three years, emissions from the group of 250 had been flat "when they should have been going down by roughly three percent per year" to limit temperatures in line with goals set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, it said.

Coal India, Gazprom and Exxon Mobil topped the list when measuring carbon dioxide emitted by companies and by consumers using their products.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on Tuesday signed a directive that bars scientists who have received federal grants from serving on the EPA's advisory boards. Justifying the new rule, which will take effect immediately, Pruitt suggested that the research of scientists who have received federal money lacks objectivity and gives off "the appearance of conflict."  Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), noted in a statement responding to the directive, Pruitt doesn't apply this same standard to oil industry-funded scientists, whose input he eagerly courts. Rosenberg concluded. "Pruitt is turning the idea of 'conflict of interest' on its head—he claims federal research grants should exclude a scientist from an EPA advisory board but industry funding shouldn't."

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune commente that the directive shows "Pruitt doesn't want to listen to a word from anyone who isn't in the pocket of corporate polluters."

Michael Halpern, program manager of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS, said "It's all consistent with a hostile takeover of science-based policymaking: those with true conflicts of interest are exerting control over not only staff positions but also the independent entities who are there to provide science advice. Without public protections that are fully informed by independent science, more people will die and get sick, and our quality of life will suffer. We should do all we can—including challenging the new directive in court—to prevent administrator Pruitt from excluding independent scientific advice from the work of the EPA."

Pruitt didn't unveil the names of appointees to the EPA's Science Advisory Board who will replace scientists receiving agency grants, bt an unofficial list obtained by the Washington Post includes "several categories of experts—voices from regulated industries, academics and environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who have a history of critiquing the science and economics underpinning tighter environmental regulations."


The Price of Nukes

Modernizing and maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years will cost more than $1.2 trillion, according the Congressional Budget Office.

The report said costs would rise from $29 billion in 2017 to $47 billion in 2027, before peaking at around $50 billion a year through the early 2030s.

Shareholders before patients

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon blamed the health insurance industry for increased premiums in order to pay shareholders, while reducing choice for patients by “controlling what services are provided”.
He told a federal parliamentary committee in Sydney the cost of medical procedures is not the reason why patients with health insurance are seeing a rise in out-of-pocket expenses. The problem facing them was they believed they were covered but have inadvertently bought a product that is “useless”, he said.
He blamed a shift to a full-profit industry for the growth in health premiums because insurers had to ensure there were sufficient profits to allow a return to shareholders. The AMA president also said insurers were driving Australia to a “managed-care system” like in the US. Gannon said insurers were trying to convince government they could reduce health expenditure through controlling what services are provided.
“We do not believe insurers should decide which procedures should be funded,” he said. “Insurers should not … interfere with the relationship between the patient and the doctor.”

Migration truths

While everybody talks about the growing forced movement of people –be they migrants or refugees—decision-makers haven’t seriously acted on the root causes of why millions of humans are compelled to leave their homes.
There has been a surge in international migration in recent years, reaching a total of 244 million individuals in 2015. Forced displacement has also reached a record high, with 65.3 million individuals displaced worldwide by the end of 2015 – including refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.
Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions, wrote Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Over the last 18 months, some 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, forcing millions off their land, they added. “Often not for the first time and, for many, it may likely be the last time as they turn their backs on the countryside and try to make a life in urban slums and informal settlements.”
For at least the last two years, Glasser and Lacy Swing remind, we have seen more people forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by conflict — according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, over 40 million people have been internally displaced by floods, storms, and, in some cases, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides, in 2015 and 2016.
“And these numbers do not take into account the many people compelled to move every year as a result of slow-onset disasters, such as drought and environmental degradation. Nor do they factor in the millions affected by these disasters who are trapped and unable to flee their consequences.”
Meanwhile, two other United Nations specialised agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), have been focusing on other major causes why people are forced to abandon their homes and even countries.
WFP says that though the initial driver of migration may differ across populations, countries and contexts, migrants tend to seek the same fundamental objective: to provide security and adequate living conditions for their families and themselves.
Its 2017 report “At the root of exodus: Food security, conflict and international migration,” sought to answer some of the following questions: What is it that compels people to leave their homes? What role does food insecurity play in migration? Are these factors common across all international migrants, or do unique root causes spur specific migrant populations to move from their homes?
One major conclusion is that countries with the “highest level of food insecurity, coupled with armed conflict, have the highest outward migration of refugees.” Additionally, when coupled with poverty, food insecurity increases the likelihood and intensity of armed conflicts; something that has clear implications for refugee outflows. 
“Food insecurity was also shown as a significant determinant of the incidence and intensity of armed conflict.” And it was also found to be “a critical ‘push’ factor driving international migration, along with income inequality, population growth and the existence of established networks for migration.”
Among migrants from Bangladesh and East and West Africa, food insecurity and resource constraints are key drivers for outward migration, whereas lack of safety and security were triggers for migration from Afghanistan and Syria, the study says.
 The causes of the growing massive displacement of human beings are well known. People are forced to leave their homes and families due to the flagrant lack of political wisdom and the capacity of decision-makers to address the roots instead of just complaining and alarming their societies. Do they really think that building walls and wire fences can stop climate change, food insecurity, poverty and conflicts?
This blog would just like to add this. Capitalism is the real cause of the misery of migration and the reason that cures are not implemented

In debt Brits

Six million Britons fear never being debt-free with 25% struggling to make ends meet and 62% worried about personal debt levels.

 According to new research which has also found the average person in the UK owes £8,000 – on top of any mortgage debt.

10% of respondents had “maxed out” on a credit card.

A third of those interviewed told researchers that they were already planning on taking on additional debt – in the form of credit cards, loans car finance and mortgages – in the next year.

Over a third said they could not see themselves ever being in a financial position to help younger family members, breaking the tradition of the “bank of mum and dad”.

 Another recent study by the Financial Conduct Authority  found that that 4.1 million people are already in serious financial difficulty. The survey, the biggest ever by the city regulator, concluded that half of the UK population are financially vulnerable, with 25- to 34-year-olds the most over-indebted.




24/10/17. 'Chinese Communist Party' Congress delegates voted
unanimously to add 'Xi Jinping Thought' to their Constitution.

From Sichuan and Beijing down to,
Ex-Portuguese Macau;
The Chinese rocked to the 'Red Book',
Of dear old Chairman Mao.

But these days all the millionaires,
With 'Anti-Rightist'* glee;
Are now hip-hopping to that rap,
'The Thought of Chairman Xi'. (1)

This 'Great Leap Forward'* surely means,
In China, everyone;
Is still revolting, though not with,
'The Barrel of a Gun'*! (2)

The 'Counter-Revolutionaries'*
Who under Mao, were purged;
These same ‘Revisionists’* returned,
When Deng Xiaoping emerged. (3)

The Party failed in it’s attempt,
To 'Rehabilitate'*;
The 'Capitalist Roaders'* who’d,
Begun to dominate.

But still they claim they’re ‘Socialists’,*
Though with a 'Chinese face'*;
Their 'Communism'* fully part,
Of the world's marketplace! (4)

(1) Xi Jinping is pronounced SHE JEENG-PEENG.

(2) 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun'. Mao Zedong.

(3) Mao’s successor who more openly accepted the market economy.

(4) * The many preposterous slogans of the farcically named
'Chinese Communist Party' would have us believe that “Socialism
with Chinese characteristics” is anything other than Capitalism.
© Richard Layton

Head in the gas oven

Many oil and gas companies have pushed natural gas as a “bridge to the future”; a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while providing the consistent supply of energy that renewables like solar and wind cannot yet deliver. But natural gas is mostly methane – a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Any unburned methane released into the atmosphere, therefore, contributes to climate change and several natural gas projects have been shown to leak significant amounts of the gas. Scientists calculate that a leakage rate of just 3 per cent makes gas a bigger contributor to climate change than coal, while multiple studies have found that the industry underestimates the amount of gas that escapes. A 2016 study by the American Geophysical Union found that methane emissions in the US jumped by more than 30 per cent between 2002 and 2014.
Gas industry firms are spending millions of euros influencing European policymakers to ensure that the continent continues to rely on fossil fuels for decades to come, according to a new report. It claims that gas lobby groups have used their financial firepower to push the “myth” that gas is a clean fuel in order to win financial and political backing from the European Commission for costly and potentially useless pipelines and other infrastructure. The report came from the campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) said.
In the past two and a half years, gas industry representatives met with the two European commissioners in charge of climate and energy policy and their cabinets 460 times. Eight out of the 10 most frequent business visitors received by Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for climate action and energy, and Maros Sefcovic, vice-president for energy union, were linked to the gas industry which spent €104m (£92m) on lobbying in 2016.  This dwarved the amount spent by public interest groups advocating a fossil-free future by a factor of 30.
The top spender is CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council, with a budget of over €12m and 82 lobbyists, followed by General Electric which spent €5.75m in 2016 and Shell which spent €4.75m.
 Fossil-fuel infrastructure companies provide the commission with a “wish list” of projects that they think should be completed over the next 10 years, via a group called the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSO-G). This list is based on projections of demand for gas, which ENTSO-G calculates. Its past projections significantly overestimated gas usage. “If asked, of course the gas industry will say we need more gas," said Pascoe Sabido, a researcher and campaigner at CEO. The commission then asks ENTSO-G to analyse the costs and benefits of these projects, despite the fact that, in more than three-quarters of cases, the group’s own members stand to benefit from their construction.  There are clear conflicts of interest in the way gas projects are approved and how money is allocated for their construction. Projects included on the Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list can have their permits and impact assessments fast-tracked and are also eligible for various funding streams, including the Connecting Europe Facility, which has already handed out more than £1bn to gas PCIs. ENTSO-G supplied draft amendments to multiple MEPs on the recent regulation guaranteeing future gas supply as it passed through the European Parliament. The industry group was also present during a shadow rapporteurs’ meeting, where compromises are thrashed out between the political parties. The group  shares the same office as well as several staff with Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), a trade association which spent €1.5m on lobbying during the two and a half year period.
The EU’s Transparency Register is supposed to keep track of lobbying activity but it is entirely voluntary and only top-level meetings are recorded. The bulk of work, however, is done at lower levels of the Commission. Of the gas companies identified by the researchers as actively lobbying in the EU, 40 per cent simply did not appear on the register, while others had made entries in the past but had then stopped doing so. 
“Investing in big infrastructure risks locking us into using gas for decades and slowing down the transition to renewable energy”, CEO’s report said. “In particular, tighter regulation on climate change and the use of fossil fuels would create a risk of stranded assets, ie infrastructure built now will no longer be usable, let alone profitable, in a decarbonised futures, making investments worthless. We can, therefore, anticipate that the gas industry will marshall all of its firepower to try and prevent the introduction of any regulations discouraging the use of gas and devaluing its assets.”

India's servants servitude

Across the world, domestic work is a rapidly growing source of employment for women and girls. Unions and organizations argue that the mindset regarding domestic workers must  focus on workers' rights. Only then, can domestic workers' rights be defined and protected.
There are widespread reports of domestic workers in India being underpaid, overworked and abused by their employers. Incidents range from withholding of wages to starvation, not allowing time for sleep or rest, and beatings, torture, and sexual abuse.
"Many resort to domestic work because of the decline of employment opportunities in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors," Pratchi Talwar, a social activist with Nirmala Niketan, an NGO that works with domestic workers, told DW, adding that domestic workers are vulnerable because they have no formal protection such as unions.
There is no exact figure for the number of domestic workers in India as they are mostly a floating population. Figures released from the National Sample Survey Office estimate they could range from anywhere between 4 to 10 million, many of whom migrate from the eastern states of Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh.
 India's labor ministry has initiated a policy paper and invited all stakeholders to contribute to a national policy for domestic workers. It is intended to provide them with legal status and the protection of social security. But trade unions and organizations working with domestic workers are not convinced that the ministry's policy paper is specific enough. The issue, they argue, has been on the backburner for several years.
"This approach by the ministry is piecemeal and not workable. We need to have an omnibus board that looks at the rights of workers employed across sectors from construction and agriculture to domestic," Dunu Roy, social activist who has worked actively in the informal sector,  told DW.
"These are just guidelines which are not legally enforceable. What happens when there is sexual abuse, withholding salaries and denying leave?" Sonia Rani, project coordinator of the Self-employed Women's Association (SEWA), told DW. "Can the workers go to court? There also has to be a non-negotiable salary regime," she added.
Other organizations like the National Domestic Workers Forum argue that neither the Maternity Benefits Act nor the Minimum Wages Act or any of the numerous other labor laws in India apply to domestic work. Domestic workers can be hired and fired at will and employers have no legally binding obligations. India has only two laws that in a roughly consider maids as workers - the Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act of 2008 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013.While the first law is a social welfare scheme, the other aims to protect working women in general. Importantly, neither law recognizes domestic workers as having legal rights.
"We need to introduce a national policy for domestic workers, begin the process of fixing minimum wages for them and recognize domestic workers as 'workers' with legal rights," Amarjit Kaur, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, explained.
Earlier this year, domestic workers at a posh housing complex in Mumbai went on a strike to protest the residents' attempts to standardize below-average payment. The residents eventually conceded to the workers' demands, but a few months later, all of the protesting maids were sacked.

Still doom and gloom for the future

More than a billion people could be forced to flee their homes because of global warming, according to a new study from The Lancet. The movement of people, as well as the various effects of climate change, could be about to trigger a major health crisis. It notes that “migration driven by climate change has potentially severe impacts on mental and physical health, both directly and through the disruption of essential health and social services”.
Global warming is already leading some to conclude the climate-change migrants are being forced to move because of extreme changes in the amount of rain and temperature changes destroying their ability to farm. The report pointed out that between 2000 and 2016 there had been a 46 per cent increase in the number of weather-related disasters around the world. During the same period of time 125 million vulnerable adults over the age of 65 had been exposed to heatwaves. In addition, climate change had increased the threat from mosquito-borne infectious diseases. Transmission of dengue fever by the Aedes agypti mosquito had increased by 9.4 per cent since 1950.
The new research, which brings together a range of different studies looking at the health impacts of climate change suggests that the possible impact of those changes on people’s health could be vast – and that governments must act quickly to clean up the air and address environmental problems before they begin to kill people. The study concludes that people can adapt to some of the less dramatic changes. But there are powerful limits to the amount people can adapt, it says. 
Professor Hugh Montgomery, co-chair of The Lancet Countdown and director of the Institute for Human Health and Performance at University College London, said: “We are only just beginning to feel the impacts of climate change. Any small amount of resilience we may take for granted today will be stretched to breaking point sooner than we may imagine.”
“The indicators reveal some stark warnings for human health as well as some glimmers of hope,” said Dr Clare Goodess, a senior researcher at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
It found that global exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels had increased by 11.2 per cent since 1990 with more than 70 per cent of cities exceeding WHO PM2.5 limits. Many British cities and towns also broke the WHO limits for PM10s, slightly larger sooty specks considered less of a hazard than ultra-fine particles but still harmful to health.  802 London schools and a high proportion of the capital’s hospitals and clinics were located in highly polluted areas “potentially putting some of society’s most vulnerable people at risk”. Diesel-powered vehicles, which generate pollution particles, were one of the “key drivers” of poor air quality in towns and cities in the UK
European Union air quality guidelines were far less stringent than those of the WHO, with an upper safety limit for PM2.5s of 25 micrograms per cubic metre. WHO limits represented a “safer threshold”.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Brazil's Gold Rush Riots

Brazilian army and police  have ramped up security in the northern town of Humaitá in the Amazon region after illegal gold miners set fire to the offices of government environmental watchdogs, officials said on Sunday. The buildings of Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency (Ibama) and the Chico Mendes Institute of Conservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio) in the northern Brazilian town of Humaitá were hit. Ibama acts as an environmental monitoring group to protect Brazil's natural resources while ICMBio is in charge of forest reserves. Gold miners have decimated parts of the forest and poisoned the rivers with mercury and other toxins while also involving human trafficking and prostitution, according to federal prosecutors.
The attacks came after a crackdown on illegal mining operations with a government taskforce burning about 30 boats worth about $20,000 each in a prohibited area near a forest reserve on the Madeira River early Friday morning.  Illegal miners - or "garimpeiros" as they are known - and up to 5,000 protesters took to the streets after the operation. Aurelio Herraiz, a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Amazonas State, who has worked on a project with garimpeiros in Humaitá for years, feared the conflict would get worse.
The attacks have raised concerns of further violence from illegal miners who often look for gold in protected areas or indigenous lands amid rising tensions over land ownership.  ICMBio and Ibama explained, "Usually associated with several other crimes such as smuggling and tax evasion, illegal mining finances land grabbing and has contributed to increased violence in the countryside." 

The green-house gas increase

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is growing at alarming rates and is now at levels not seen for millions of years. The dangerous levels of CO2 could fuel a 20-metre rise in sea levels and add 3 degrees to temperatures, the World Meteorological Organisation said.
Levels are accelerating far faster than before, with last year's growth more than 50 per cent above the average for the last decade. That has led CO2 levels to rise 45 per cent above pre-industrial levels and further outside the range of 180-280 ppm seen in recent cycles of ice ages and warmer periods. As far as anyone can tell, the world has never experienced a rise in CO2 levels as quick or intense as this. The increase has happened 100 times faster than when the world was emerging from the last ice age.
The last time carbon dioxide levels reached 400 ppm was 3-5 million years ago, in the mid-Pliocene era.
"During that period, global mean surface temperatures were 2-degrees warmer than today, ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica melted and even parts of East Antarctica's ice retreated, causing the sea level to rise 10-20 m higher than that today," the WMO bulletin said.
The two other main gases - methane and nitrous oxide - also grew to record concentrations last year, although at a slower rate of increase than carbon dioxide.

Militarisation of Migrant Control

The 5,000-strong army costing $400m in the first year is designed to end growing insecurity, a driving force of migration, and combat endemic people-smuggling. 

What is called the G5 force, will be fully operational next spring across five Sahel states, has the strong backing of France and Italy. A joint command headquarters has been set up in central Malian town of Sevare, with operations already under way. The British support the force in principle.

The aim is for the force to be able to combat Islamic terrorism and human traffickers by operating by as much as 50km across state border lines in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. But as they say...good intentions pave the way to Hell.

Keeping us addicted to nicotine

Big tobacco companies have introduced marketing tactics to keep cigarettes affordable for the poorest smokers, undermining efforts to reduce smoking rates, researchers say.

Rosemary Hiscock, of the tobacco control research group at the University of Bath, said: “Through sophisticated pricing strategies and clever tactics, such as price-marked packs and small pack sizes, the industry is thwarting a public health measure in order to keep smokers hooked on tobacco and their profits rolling in..."

Rob Branston, from the University of Bath’s school of management, said: “The industry is effectively manipulating the system: it is absorbing the tax increases on the cheapest brands to make sure they stay cheap. It does this especially around the time of the budget to hoodwink smokers. But later in the year it gradually puts the cost of these products up, hoping smokers won’t notice. This game is possible because of the massive profits it is making on its premium products.”

White-on-White Crime

The phrase "black-on-black crime" has been used to specifically discredit the Black Lives Matter movement and to invalidate very real concerns about police treatment of black communities across the country. Implicit in those attempts is a suggestion of the inherent criminality of black Americans.

The FBI in 2016 reported that 90.1 percent of black homicide victims were killed by black perpetrators. Similarly, 83.5 percent of white homicide victims were killed by other whites, yet when di you hear or read the term “white-on-white crime.” 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics maintains that less than one percent of all black Americans commit a violent crime in any given year, which, stated differently, means that 99 percent of black Americans do not commit crimes to contribute to the black-on-black crime categorization.

 Professor David Wilson made clear in his book, Inventing Black-on-Black Violence: Discourse, Space, and Representation, “black-on-black crime” is an invention. An invention that is weapon in the hands of conservatives, who deny their culpability of deprivation and poverty due to their economics in favor of blaming color and absolving themselves of accountability. They constructed the myth of black-on-black crime as a means of shaming and subjugating black communities.  Law enforcement officers over-policed black communities for manufactured petty crimes, and they  under-investigated  the violent crimes that happened in those same communities.

Social problems within society need a villain because capitalists cannot admit that their system is the cause of misery and crime. So they point the finger at the urban poor and in particular the black communities.

truth is that crime reflects social circumstances.

Studies have shown that areas with higher rates of concentrated disadvantage display higher rates of violent crime. Similarly, areas with higher income disparities tend to evidence higher rates of crime as well. To these points, the Department of Justice determined in a 2014 report that poor black families and white families were more likely to be victims of crime than their more financially secure counterparts and at comparable rates. Poverty, segregation, and income inequality each in their own right hamper individuals’ access to necessary resources. Those in power manipulated the levers of influence that, intentionally or unintentionally, kept black people from accessing these necessary resources. The same environment that allowed the myth of black-on-black crime to flourish kept black communities impoverished, segregated, unemployed, and vulnerable to the despair that makes crime a viable solution.

Jill Leovy made the case in her book Ghettoside that people deprived of resources are more likely, not less, to turn against each other. The absence of legal recourse for individuals who were citizens in name only meant that they often administered justice on their own terms, creating a feedback loop of crime in black communities and police negligence. 

The years between 1980 and 1994 witnessed a massive expansion of the prison population from 500,000 to 1.5 million. Black representation in the prison population increased from 14 percent in 1980 to 51 percent in 1992. More than 32 percent of black men were involved in the criminal justice system in one way or another in 1998. As the prison population grew, resources to other areas fell: California, for example, spent more to incarcerate a child in 1998 than to educate one, $32,200 against $5,327. 

For the full article go to

The Old Boys Network

120 years of biographical data in Who’s Whoresearchers from the London School of Economics calculated that the so-called Clarendon schools, which include Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Westminster, continue to produce nearly 10% of entrants. This is despite those schools having traditionally educated fewer than one in 500 (0.15%) of pupils aged between 13 and 18.  They still hold “extraordinary power”, according to the study.

The elite schools, which also include Charterhouse, Merchant Taylors’, Shrewsbury, St Paul’s and Winchester College, continue to exert a “profound influence”. The researchers also observed that the decline in the Clarendon schools’ powers stalled completely over the past 16 years.

“Although the Clarendon schools have not always been the best performing schools in the country, they have consistently remained the most successful in propelling their alumni into elite positions. Clearly their power lies beyond simple academic excellence and is likely rooted in an extensive extracurricular education that endows old boys with a particular way of being in the world that signals elite male status to others.” The joint lead authors, Aaron Reeves of the International Inequalities Institute at LSE and Sam Friedman of its department of sociology, said.  “While the democratisation of education clearly dented the influence of these elite schools, their power remains a testament to how far adrift Britain lies from true equality of opportunity,” they observed.

Austerity has failed

The Institute for Fiscal Studies finds Tory government spending is no lower as a share of national income than it was after 11 years of a Labour government. The document presents a challenge to claims that Conservative-driven austerity saved the public finances following years of Labour overspending.

In 2007-08, public spending as a share of GDP was 39 per cent, it peaked in 2009-10 at 45.1 per cent and is forecast to be 39.6 per cent this year, according to the IFS.

The UK’s leading economic think tank shows that deep cuts have left the NHS, schools and prisons in a “fragile state”. It adds: “Both the four-hour A&E target and the 18-week waiting period target are being missed nationally.
“The indicators paint a worrying picture for prisons, which, unlike the NHS, have seen large real-terms cuts (over 20 per cent) since 2009-10. Statistics compiled by the Institute for Government show that while the prison population is at roughly its 2009 level, staffing is down and violence (both against fellow prisoners and prison staff) and prisoner self-harm rates are on an alarmingly steep upwards trajectory.”

The German Weapons Trade

Germany is in the top five of weapons sellers, behind the United States and Russia but with sales volumes more comparable to those of China and France.

The government granted permission for arms sales valued at €6.85 billion in 2016. Last year, Germany accounted for around 5.6 percent of the world's weapons exports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 46.4 percent of permissions for German arms sales were for fellow NATO countries.

The trade publication Jane's Defense estimates that the Middle East and North Africa could account for 40 percent of German arms exports by 2018, which is comparable with those two regions' share in the global market.

Germany has provided weapons to a number of countries with dubious human-rights records, including both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  German arms sales to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, both countries accused of commonly using torture, have also been criticized. 

A submarine deal with Israel worth an estimated €1.5 billion came under fire earlier this year following allegations of corruption in Israel. In the past, critics have noted that German submarines sent to Israel could be modified to carry nuclear missiles.

North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles has raised the threat of a full-blown conflict on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea has also been acquiring German weapons. The German cruise missile Taurus KEPD-350 has a lot of demand in South Korea. The nearly 1,000-kilogram high-tech weapon made by an German firm, Taurus Systems, has a range of almost 500 kilometers. It has been specifically designed to penetrate highly capable air defense systems in low-altitude flight. The weapon is capable of both hitting deep underground bunkers as well as destroying large surface areas.  The company set up an office in Seoul in 2014. In October 2016, 177 cruise missiles were handed over by the firm to the South Koreans. The delivery of 90 more has already been decided.

But cruise missiles were only a part of the armaments bought by South Korea last year. In the first half of 2016, South Korean purchases of German military gear amounted to over 200 million euros, according to German government data. The sales encompass a broad spectrum of weapons systems, including, but not limited to, submarine parts, combat ships, missiles, missile defense systems, rocket parts, components for combat tanks and armored howitzers. This meant that in the first half of 2016, South Korea was the fourth largest buyer of weapons made in Germany.  In fact, South Korea has regularly figured among the top five destination countries of German armaments over the past several decades.

The Black Tudors

Historian Miranda Kaufmann in her  book 'Black Tudors: The Untold Story,' which debunks the idea that slavery was the beginning of Africans’ presence in England, and exploitation and discrimination their only experience.

Africans were already known to have likely been living in Roman Britain as soldiers, slaves or even free men and women. Kaufmann shows that, by Tudor times, they were present at the royal courts of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James I, and in the households of Sir Walter Raleigh and William Cecil.  Black Tudors lived and worked at many levels of society, often far from the sophistication and patronage of court life, from a west African man called Dederi Jaquoah, who spent two years living with an English merchant, to Diego, a sailor who was enslaved by the Spanish in Panama, came to Plymouth and died in Moluccas, having circumnavigated half the globe with Sir Francis Drake.

“History isn’t a solid set of facts,” she explains. “It’s very much about what questions you ask of the past. If you ask different questions, you get different answers. People weren’t asking questions about diversity. Now they are.” She added, "Part of it is the surprise element: people didn’t think there were Africans in Tudor England. There’s this fantasy past where it’s all white – and it wasn’t. It’s ignorance. People just don’t know these histories."

Black Tudors does not make overblown claims about ethnic diversity in England – in her wider research, Kaufmann found around 360 individuals in the period 1500-1640 – but it does weave nonwhite Britons back into the texture of Tudor life. Black Tudors came to England through English trade with Africa; from southern Europe, where there were black (slave) populations in Spain and Portugal, the nations that were then the great colonisers; in the entourages of royals such as Katherine of Aragon and Philip II (who was the husband of Mary I); as merchants or aristocrats; and as the result of English privateering and raids on the Spanish empire. “If you captured a Spanish ship, it would be likely to have some Africans on board,” says Kaufmann. “One prized ship brought in to Bristol had 135. They got shipped back to Spain after being put up in a barn for a week. The authorities didn’t know quite what to do with them.”

Although there was no legislation approving or defining slavery within England, it could hardly have been fun being “the only black person in the village” – such as Cattelena, a woman who lived independently in Almondsbury and whose “most valuable item … was her cow”. 

Kaufmann uncovers some impressive lives, such as the sailor John Anthony, who arrived in England on a pirate’s boat; Reasonable Blackman, a Southwark silk weaver; and a salvage diver called Jacques Francis. Kaufmann points to them as “examples of people who are really being valued for their skills. In a later age, you get these portraits of Africans sitting sycophantically in the corner looking up at the main character, but they’re not just these domestic playthings for the aristocracy. They’re working as a seamstress or for a brewer. Even in aristocratic households they are performing tasks – as a porter, like Edward Swarthye, or as a cook – they are doing useful things, they get wages. John Blanke, a royal trumpeter, gets paid twice the average wage of an agricultural labourer and three times that of an average servant. They’re not being whipped or beaten or put in chains or being bought and sold.”

Black Tudors are no worse off than white ones. At a basic level, they are acknowledged as citizens rather than loathed as outcasts. “It’s enormously significant, given how important religion was, that Africans were being baptised and married and buried within church life. It’s a really significant form of acceptance, particularly the baptism ritual, which states that ‘through baptism you are grafted into the community of God’s holy church’, in which we are all one body.”

Earlier this year, the historian Mary Beard was the target of abuse for corroborating an educational film for children which showed a well-to-do black family living under the Roman empire. Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk, erased the presence of Royal Indian Army Services Corp personnel and lascars from south Asia and east Africa working for the British and, on the French side, Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian troops from France’s colonies.

Some black people in Tudor England

John Blanke, the musicianOne of the court trumpeters, he was present in the entourage of Henry VII from at least 1507. He performed at both Henry VII’s funeral and Henry VIII’s coronation in 1509.
Jacques Francis, the salvage diverAn expert swimmer and diver, he was hired to salvage guns from the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1546. When his Venetian master was accused of theft in Southampton, Francis became the first known African to give evidence in an English court of law.
Diego, the circumnavigatorDiego asked to be taken aboard Sir Francis Drake’s ship in Panama in 1572. Diego and Drake circumnavigated the globe in 1577, claiming California for the crown in 1579.
Anne Cobbie, prostituteCobbie was one of 10 women cited when the owners of the brothel where she worked were brought before the Westminster sessions court in 1626.
Reasonable Blackman, the silk weaverHe lived in Southwark around 1579-1592 and had probably arrived from the Netherlands. He had at least three children, but lost two to the plague in 1592.
Mary Fillis, servantThe daughter of Fillis of Morisco, a Moroccan basket weaver and shovel-maker, Mary came to London around 1583-4 and became a servant to a merchant. Later she worked for a seamstress from East Smithfield.
Dederi Jaquoah, merchant and princeJaquoah was the son of King Caddi-biah, ruler of a kingdom in modern Liberia. He arrived in England in 1610 and was baptised in London on New Year’s Day 1611. He spent two years in England with a leading merchant.