Sunday, December 31, 2017

Polluted India

The national capital is the most polluted city in India and also the 2nd most polluted city in the world. It is indeed a matter of concern as the pollution is making millions of people vulnerable to physical ailments. This is a huge matter of concern because this city has one of the maximum populations in the country. The levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) are about 153µg/m3.
Patna, Bihar
Even though Patna is a non-industrial city, it is still featured in the second position as the most polluted city in India. The matter of concern here is the fact that Patna’s main source of income is agriculture which will surely suffer due to rise in the levels of pollution. Here, the levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) are estimated to be about 149µg/m3.
Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Ranked number three is most polluted cities in India is Gwalior. Tourism is the key source of income here but the pollution is going to affect not only the inflow of tourists but it is also going to take a toll on the historical monuments. The levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres in the city are 144µg/m3.
Raipur, Chhattisgarh
Raipur is the capital of Chhattisgarh and is the 4th most polluted city in India. Chhattisgarh is rich in coal and produces maximum electricity in India. Chattisgarh is rich in coal and produces maximum electricity in India. Many power plant and industry are located in this belt which is a big reason for increasing pollution.Here, the levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres are reported to be about 134µg/m3.
Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Third fastest growing city in the world is also the 5th most polluted city in the world. And the reason is simple; Ahmedabad has the most number of textile industries in India which causes enough pollution to make it one of the most polluted cities in India and world.The levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) in the city is reported to be about100µg/m3.
Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh
Recording 96µg/m3 levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres. Firozabad is a city in Uttar Pradesh which is famous for bangle production. The city has a large number of glass industries which are said to be the main reasons for increasing pollution in this region.
Amritsar, Punjab
This is the 7th most polluted city in the country. Increasing vehicle traffic and growing industrial area are probably the prime reasons for pollution in this city. The levels of harmful particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) in the city were reported to be 92µg/m3.

Class and marriage

Britain one of the worst social mobility problems in the world.

 It is exacerbated “assortative mating”—choosing to have kids with someone who has similar traits. 

 A report by independent think tank Resolution Foundation pointed out (pdf) that in the UK “people tend to couple up with those who have similar inheritance expectations to their own.”

 If you’re born into a certain class in Britain, it’s less likely you will move around within society, and therefore be exposed to more potential partners across other groups. But by usually coupling with others of similar social standing, you end up hurting social mobility by strengthening the status quo.

“Assortative mating is likely to amplify these absolute gaps in individuals’ future wealth transfers at the household level,” said the report. “Adults aged under 50 who are in couples and expect to get no inheritance themselves have partners with an average expected future inheritance of £25,000 ($33,759). By contrast, those who themselves expect to inherit more than £500,000 in future have partners with an average expected future inheritance of £190,000.”

The Resolution Foundation also points out that the fortunes passed onto the younger generation mostly come down to home ownership. The poorer the family, the less likely they are to own their home, and even if they do own property, it’s unlikely it will be worth as much as their wealthier counterparts. The think tank says that 46% of 20-35 year olds who don’t own a home have no parental property wealth, meaning they are more likely to not ever inherit one—or pass one on to their own children.

The Resolution Foundation also looked at what the implications are for inheritances and gifts on generational living standards. It found that these types of wealth transfers will significantly help millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) in years to come, even more so than previous generations. This is because the home-ownership rates of parents of millennials (baby boomers born between 1946 and 1965) are at 75% and “the real value of estates passing on death has more than doubled over the past 20 years.”

However, as the report pointed out, children of rich parents will receive bigger inheritances while the very poor will receive barely anything. If history repeats itself, their children will couple up with others with similar economic backgrounds, and the income equality gap will further widen, as it has for generations.

People falling in love with someone “from the wrong side of the tracks,” are so compelling in Britain precisely because those relationships are so statistically unlikely.

The cream for some

 If increases in the national minimum wage had kept pace with a chief executive it would be £12.74 an hour compared with £7.50 now for those 25 years and older. For a worker aged over 25 on 40 hours per week this would equate to £26,000 a year compared with the £14,664 they are currently paid. £5.24 an hour higher if it had risen at the same rate as a FTSE 100 chief executive’s pay over the last two decades.

Analysis published last week by the Vlerick Business School, based on 2016 data, found that chief executives of FTSE 100 companies receive on average 94 times more than the average employee. The average FTSE 100 company chief saw an 11% rise in their median total pay between 2015 and 2016.
Calculations by the High Pay Centre confirm that the average FTSE 100 chief is now paid £4.35m a year – compared with £1.23m when the national minimum wage came in – an increase of 354%.
Every year the High Pay Centre highlights “fat cat day” when the average FTSE 100 chief executive will have already been paid the same as the average UK worker earns in a whole year. In 2018 the day falls on 4 January.

Outsourcing workers

A new analysis conducted for The Wall Street Journal shows those names are nowhere to be found on that list today. In their place are large outsourcing companies like Compass Group PLC, Accenture PLC and other businesses that essentially lease workers to clients.

Of the top 20 global employers in 2017, five are outsourcing and “workforce solutions” companies, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2000, only one employer in the top 20—International Business Machines Corp., which offers outsourced IT services among its many businesses—fell into that category.

Outsourcing companies are vacuuming up the world’s workers as traditional employers are handing over more of their tasks to nonemployees, a shift that has transformed the way corporations do business and had profound effects on workers’ prospects and pay. For employers, dispatching work to outside companies saves money and lets them access skills they need without adding to their headcount. Workers in jobs that have gone to outsourcers, though, can feel moved around like chess pieces, either displaced entirely or re-badged as employees of a service provider, sometimes with fewer benefits and lower pay. A growing body of economic research suggests that outsourcing is a significant factor fueling the rise of income inequality in the past decade.

The past two decades have been boom times for the outsourcing sector, with the annual value of contracts growing to $37 billion in 2016 from $12.5 billion in 2000. The market is expected to rise again in 2017 and 2018, thanks partly to double-digit growth in big technology projects.

“If all the engineers are in one firm and the cleaners are in another, you get less diversity within firms and more inequality across firms,” says Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University.

Outsourcing leads to workers being clustered in companies according to their skills, which affects pay and benefits. A bank used to employ janitors and security guards, in addition to traders and salespeople. For the sake of morale and a sense of fairness, management had an incentive to limit the disparities in employees’ compensation. That had the effect of boosting the pay of lower-skilled staff.

Now, those janitors might just as often work for an outside firm like Denmark’s ISS AS, one of the largest facility services companies in the world, while the high-skilled workers remain employed by the bank—a trend economists call occupational sorting. Pay for outside workers tends to be lower because outsourcing firms need to keep costs low to compete for contracts and because the workers don’t reap rewards from the financial successes of the bank.

Companies that provide security guards or IT help-desk workers have to show they can do the job more cheaply than the client can, keeping a tight lid on wages for those workers, says David Weil, a Labor Department official in the Obama administration and an expert on contract labor.

Dublin-based Accenture, best known as an information-technology and consulting firm, has become the de facto back office for hundreds of client companies. The firm employs 435,000 people globally — up from some 200,000 in 2010 — and serves 95 of the Fortune Global 100 with consulting or outsourcing services or both. Outsourcing comprised 46% of the company’s 2017 revenue, or $16.1 billion, up from 41% in 2011. On behalf of loan-servicing companies, Accenture’s people collect debts from homeowners who defaulted on their mortgages. For large insurance clients, doctors and nurses employed by Accenture make wellness calls to diabetes patients. For Alphabet Inc.’s Google, it oversees contractors who review content for the search giant.  Providers like Accenture tell companies they can do their work better and more cheaply, prodding executives to view labor as an on-demand resource they can rent as needed.

“When CEOs tell me they want to keep all of their talent, my response is ‘Why?’” says longtime Kelly Services Inc. boss Carl Camden

 Compass Group was founded in 1941 to run factory cafeterias in wartime England, eventually branching out into corporate catering. It now employs more than 550,000 and counts among its subsidiaries firms like Eurest Services, which staffs and manages mailrooms for clients, provides them with full-time receptionists, sets up their conference rooms for meetings and operates their warehouses. Eurest’s clients include Google, SAP and Pfizer Inc.

Steve Hall, a partner at ISG, says “The large outsourcers are using a combination of analytics and automation to significantly reduce the need for labor.” 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Black Propaganda

The  organizations, Color of Change and Family Story, commissioned a research team at the University of Illinois that studies media patterns to examine what an average news consumer might have “learned” about black families (and white families) during the last election cycle. The results were disturbing.
The study found that, at best, media outlets promoted racially biased portrayals and myths that pathologize black families and idealize white families with respect to poverty and crime. At worst, media outlets amplified those inaccurate depictions for political and financial gain. Such reporting reinforces debunked narratives, helping to justify actions from police brutality to economic policies that will hurt not just black families but all families for generations.
The research team examined more than 800 relevant stories published or aired from January 2015 through December 2016, encompassing coverage from national broadcast and cable news outlets such as ABC, CBS and MSNBC; national mainstream newspapers like The Washington Post, the New York Times and USA Today; and online news sites. In both written and television reporting, the researchers found that the news media systemically misrepresented black families.
When the media outlets examined in the study reported stories about poor families, they chose to feature black families in their coverage 59 percent of the time, even though only 27 percent of families living below the poverty line are black. Similarly, in coverage of welfare, 60 percent of families portrayed were black, even though only 42 percent of families receiving welfare are black. This pattern was widespread across numerous sources — among the worst offenders for networks were Fox News and CNN, and the New York Times and Bretibart for national print and online news organizations.
The news media habitually reinforced the myth that black fathers are less involved in their children’s lives. We found that photos and videos in the study showed black mothers, white mothers and white fathers interacting with their children at the same rate. Black fathers, however, were shown with their children half as often, and the news media regularly perpetuated the conventional wisdom that missing black fathers explain social inequity. On “CNN Tonight,” for example, conservative commentator Larry Elder said, “The primary problem with the black community in this country is absentee fathers.” Though black children are disproportionately born to single mothers, that does not mean fathers aren’t involved. A 2013 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that black fathers spend more time engaged in parenting than fathers of other races, participating more often in bathing, diapering, taking their kids to activities and helping them with their homework.
 Media outlets reinforced the idea that black families are sources of personal, cultural and societal instability — that responsibility for poverty and crime lies with them, rather than with those who shape the economic and social environment they live in. On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly commented, “The root cause of poverty . . . as ‘Talking Points’ has reported over and over again, that is the dissolution of the African American traditional family.” There is no evidence to support this claim and much evidence to debunk it. At the same time, the news media promotes white families as the model norm, a source of social stability. This extends beyond the loud claims of O’Reilly to a steady stream of reporting, including the images that mainstream news producers, editors and reporters choose to include when covering families and family life.
 Prior research has shown that when the news media constantly associates black people with crime, it increases racial stereotypes among viewers, leading the public to disproportionately favor punitive criminal justice policies. In addition, when the poor are depicted as overwhelmingly black, it leads the public to support heavier restrictions on welfare because of a perception that undeserving black people benefit from it. Backers of corporate and right-wing policies gain when the news media blames black families for social conditions, while their own role in destabilizing society remains invisible.
Federal poverty solutions such as welfare, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income and earned-income tax credits were not stigmatized when white people were correctly understood to be the main beneficiaries of them. This was especially true during the Great Depression of the 1930s. As Martin Gilens documents in his book, “Why Americans Hate Welfare,” this started to change in the 1960s following the Civil Rights movement and the War on Poverty. Reporters who had covered Martin Luther King’s quest for civil rights continued to follow him as he turned his attention to abject poverty in both rural and urban areas where blacks and others were deeply affected. This turn toward urban black poverty became an obsession of the media, over time leading to a distorted view of who is poor in our country. Over time, the media and politicians began “othering” the poor by putting a black face on them to undermine the promise of the New Deal and justify policy changes. Today, we continue to see politicians deploy coded racism as economic populism to distract and inflame the public, and to create cover to further right-wing and corporate interests. News outlets are their best partners, echoing these myths in ways big and small, exceptional and routine, serving as validators.

Fact of the Day

According to a 2015 OECD study, Spain had the fifth highest rate of inequality of the OECD countries in Europe, after the United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Portugal.
The economic crisis hit low-income Spaniards the hardest, according to the report, with the poorest 10 percent of the population losing 13 percent of their real incomes each year between 2007 and 2011. The top 10 percent, in comparison, lost 1.4 percent.

NHS Privatisation Continues

Richard Branson’s Virgin Care won a record £1bn of NHS contracts last year, as £3.1bn of health services were privatised despite a government pledge to reduce the proportion of care provided by private companies. Virgin’s £1bn haul means it now has over 400 separate NHS contracts. . It pays no tax in the UK and its ultimate parent company, Virgin Group Holdings Ltd, is based in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven.

Overall, private firms scooped 267 – almost 70% – of the 386 clinical contracts that were put out to tender in England during 2016-17, according to a new report. They included the seven highest value contracts, worth £2.43bn between them, and 13 of the 20 most lucrative tenders. The £3.1bn in contracts, a big rise on the previous year’s £2.4bn, prompted concern that profit-driven companies are increasingly involved in delivering care, in a development that undermines repeated assurances by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that they play only a marginal role.

“These figures clearly show that privatisation has a strong momentum within the NHS,” said Paul Evans, the director of the NHS Support Federation, a campaign group which monitors the privatisation of NHS services and which produced the report. “The doors to private sector involvement in the NHS remain open despite promises to move away from market-based approaches by NHS leaders and politicians. Privateers continue to win huge new NHS contracts. Private health providers now have a strong foothold,” said Evans. “Billions of pounds-worth of opportunities to bid for NHS business are still being advertised, despite numerous failures and widespread criticism.” “Dysfunctional” NHS procurement rules mean that private firms could land another £10bn of contracts in the next three years, said Evans.

The private sector’s £3.1bn of wins last year represented more than two-fifths (43%) of the £7.2bn of contracts tendered by the NHS for services including babies’ health and out of hours GP care. That dwarfed the £2.55bn (35%) of tenders won by NHS trusts and £1.53bn (21%) by not-for-profit organisations, including charities.  The private sector’s continued success is a long history of winning contracts, often by undercutting rival bids from NHS trusts, only to then hand back those that do not yield a profit or have them taken away because they have provided inadequate care.  Dozens of examples of private firms taking over NHS services since 2012 but then abandoning them, either because they cost them too much to provide, or could not recruit enough staff, or went into administration – or, often, because of serious complaints about the quality of their service.
For example, in 2014 Circle pulled out of its 10-year contract to run Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire – the first NHS hospital to be run by a private firm – two years early after encountering financial problems and heavy criticism from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates NHS care standards.
In 2013, Serco ended its contract to provide out of hours GP care in Cornwall after staff falsified data about its performance.
In 2015, Coperforma’s £63.5m takeover of non-urgent patient transport to hospital in southern England was branded an “absolute shambles” by health unions after kidney patients awaiting dialysis and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy missed vital appointments. It finally lost the contract in late 2016.
Care UK and Virgin Care have benefited by changing tactics to target often high-value contracts for community-based health services as the NHS in England increasingly moves care out of hospitals.

Food Waste in India

India grows enough food to meet the needs of its entire population, yet is unable to feed millions of them, especially women and children. India ranks 100 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) — 2017 of 119 countries, where it has consistently ranked poor. Even as millions of Indians go to sleep on an empty stomach, the country wastes about seven per cent of its total food production. It is lost during production, processing, retailing and consumption.  Around one per cent of GDP gets shaved off annually in the form of food waste.

India is the second largest producer of vegetables and fruit but 25 per cent to 30 per cent of it is wasted due to inadequate logistical support, lack of refrigerated storage, supply chain bottlenecks, and poor transport. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) puts this figure at around 40 per cent.

Twenty-one million metric tonnes of wheat — almost equal to Australia’s production — rots each year due to improper storage. Every year, the government purchases millions of tonnes of grain from farmers for use in food subsidy programmes and to maintain an emergency buffer. The cruel truth is that most of it has to be left out in the open, vulnerable to rain and attacks by rodents, or stored in makeshift spaces, covered by tarpaulin sheets, creating high rates of spoilage. 

One million tonnes of onions vanish on their way from farms to markets, as do 2.2 million tonnes of tomatoes. Tomatoes get squished if they are packed into jute sacks. Overall, five million eggs crack or go bad due to lack of cold storage.  If there are no proper roads linking fields to markets, farmers cannot easily sell their surplus produce, which may then spoil before it can be eaten. Improving road and rail capacity enables farmers to reach buyers — and fertilisers and other agricultural inputs to reach farmers. Just three states — Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana — grow most of India’s grain, and the food has to be transported to far-flung areas.

A study undertaken by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (2013) of post-harvest loss estimated that around 67 million tonnes  are wasted in India every year. That’s more than the national average of Britain, the entire food requirement of all of Bihar for a year. In terms of monetary value it is nearly two-thirds of the amount that the government needs to feed 600 million poor Indians with subsidised ration under the National Food Security programme.

A recent study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata has uncovered that only 10 per cent of perishable produce get cold storage facility in India. These are mostly used for potatoes to meet India’s robust demand for chips.  The study estimates that India needs storage facilities for another 370 million metric tonnes of perishable produce. India has developed some modern supply chains linked to food processing companies, such as Nestlé, Pepsi Unilever and Del Monte. But these handle only a fraction of the country’s perishable food.

According to the United Nations, India is estimated to use more than 230 cubic kilometre of fresh water annually — enough to provide drinking water to 100 million people a year — for producing food items that are ultimately wasted.  Wasting a kilogramme of wheat and rice would mean wasting 1,500 and 3,500 litre of water respectively that is consumed in their production.
 Besides this, nearly 300 million barrels of oil used in the process is also ultimately wasted.

The World Bank recently warned that 60 per cent of the country’s food subsidies do not reach the poor; they are pilfered by corrupt middlemen, stealing precious aid destined for the hungry and malnourished.

Hate Crimes and the Social Media

A new study has found a direct link between social media hate and subsequent violent attacks on immigrant groups in both Germany and the US.

Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz of the University of Warwick in the UK collected data from the AfD's Facebook and Twitter accounts to "show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment ... predicts violent crimes against refugees. Not only that, the study, entitled "Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime" also found evidence that Donald Trump's tweets predicted hate crimes against specific minorities he mentioned — an effect that has been heightened since Trump became US president.

The paper show almost exact correlations between the peaks and troughs in the number of anti-refugee posts on social media and the number of attacks against refugees between late 2015 and early 2017. The same holds true for Trump's tweets — the report measured social media sentiment by the number of the president's tweets per week, and matched it with FBI hate crime data

"We find that Trump tweets are a strong time-series predictor of such crimes," the researchers wrote. "Crucially, the effect exclusively works through incidents aimed at the groups targeted by Trump's tweets; anti-Hispanic tweets, for example, have no effect on hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, African Americans, or Whites."

The former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and  currently the president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, voiced concern over growing anti-Semitic sentiment in the country. "Anti-Semitism, has grown on the right and the left, in the Muslim community and also in the heart of German society," Knobloch said.  She underlined the fact that anti-Semitism is widespread online and on social media 

Iranian Ire

Too soon to make a judgement and it is difficult to determine the accuracy of the West's reporting but it does look promising for 2018 in Iran.
Anti-government demonstrations that began in Iran on Thursday have now spread to several major cities. Protests have even been held in Qom, a holy city home to powerful clerics. The protests began against rising prices but have spiralled into a general outcry against clerical rule and government policies.
Slogans have been chanted against not just Mr Rouhani but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and clerical rule in general. Demonstrators were reportedly heard yelling slogans like "The people are begging, the clerics act like God".. There is also anger at Iran's interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the administration's focus on foreign rather than domestic issues. Other demonstrators chanted "leave Syria, think about us."  They shouted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”
The unemployment rate is 12.4%. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.  A BBC Persian investigation has found that Iranians, on average, have become 15% poorer in the past 10 years alone. Egg prices in Iran had doubled since last week, due to the government's culling of millions of chickens diagnosed with avian flu, A resident in the central city of Isfahan said protesters had joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back wages. 
 There is anger over lost investments initiated in the era of past President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mashhad is a city hit hard by the closure of Mizan, one of three banks brought down by toxic construction-related debts.  The closure of Mizan, which had about one million accounts, prompted several protests back in 2015. Current President Hassan Rouhani was urged again on Wednesday by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to make good on solving the problem.

Friday, December 29, 2017

How I discovered the Nakba

I grew up in a Jewish family in the North London suburb of Muswell Hill. This is the story of how my family rejected Zionism and how I discovered the truth about the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland – the nakba (although I was not to learn the word itself until much later).
The call of the prophets 
Around the age of eleven or twelve, I passed through a stage of feeling attracted to religious observance. My parents no longer went to the synagogue, nor did my sister, so I attended the Sabbath morning service alone. It lasted an hour and a half. I liked the slightly musty atmosphere of the old shul. (A few years later it was demolished to make way for a supermarket and a shiny but soulless new synagogue was built in another part of the neighorhood.) I liked the davening – the praying in a standing position, swaying back and forth. I enjoyed the singing of The Rock of Ages with which the service closed. Sometimes I even enjoyed the rabbi’s sermon, especially when he was in an irate mood and castigated his audience for hypocrisy and impiety. 
Our rabbi was a keen idol-smasher. “Do you suppose that idolatry belongs to the remote past?” he would ask. “Not at all! You think that you are Jews. You are nothing of the kind! Jews worship God. What do you worship? The idol of money, Mammon, the Golden Calf!” He expressed the same contempt for the majority of his congregants in conversation with my mother, who prided herself on being his confidante. Clearly he did not regard us as worshippers of Mammon. 
In this way Rabbi Brazil rammed home an idea that recurs throughout the Bible. God’s chosen people are fickle, always running after false gods. Of those who call themselves Jews, only a very few deserve the name. Thus, authentic Judaism is a rare and precious thing—one that demands the renunciation of ethnic solidarity, which can only corrupt it. What matters to the real Jew is communion with God, not getting on well with fellow Jews. 
As for the broad interpretation of the idea of idolatry, I found it so appealing that I extended it further. It seemed obvious to me that nationalism was also a kind of idolatry.  
And we were taught about the prophets. This was basically the same message, but in an even more extreme form. For the prophets were lone individuals—minorities of one—who denounced the evils and injustices perpetrated by their fellow Jews and, above all, by the rich and powerful among them. One argument by one of our teachers made a particular impression upon me: 
“People often say that when you speak out against injustice you nust be tactful and take great care to offend no one. But the prophets were not tactful. How tactful was the Isaiah when he declaimed in the name of the Lord? 
Your burnt offerings are an abomination in my sight.                                        Your sweet-smelling incense stinks in my nostrils!                                           Your new moon feasts and your appointed festivals                                        I Ihate with all my being!                                                                              You You stretch your arms to me,                                                                         Your Your hands reeking of blood. 
Many years later, this teacher’s argument re-echoed in my mind when colleagues at Brown University criticized me for my lack of tact in denouncing the crimes of the State of Israel. 
Did the prophets’ call to “defend the oppressed” apply only when the oppressed were Jews? Or did it apply also when they were Gentiles? It seemed to me that it must apply to all victims of oppression, for is it not written in the Torah, not once but twice: “Oppress not the stranger, for you too were strangers in the Land of Egypt”? 
So even before I was confronted with Zionism as a problem, I was psychologically primed to denounce it in the name of Judaism – more precisely, an acquired notion that I identified with “real” Judaism. That is not the way I think now. Like other religions, Judaism has varied enormously over time and space. There are many Judaisms: some are pretty awful, and all are real. I had picked out the bits I liked, done my best to ignore the rest, and called the result “real Judaism.” A rather arbitrary procedure, though it served me well at the time. 
Throwing out the JNF box 
As in so many other Jewish homes, our kitchen mantelpiece was graced by a blue-and-white tin box with a slot into which we would occasionally drop coins. The coins were for a country called Israel – or, to be more precise, for the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Every few weeks, an old man from the synagogue came round, opened the box with his key, and took away the money. On one side of the box, there was an outline map with an intricate pattern of light-blue patches. As a young child, I was fascinated by the pattern and loved to gaze at it, though I had no idea what it meant. Even when I grew older and learned that the patches marked out areas of land that had been bought by the JNF, my understanding of the box’s purpose remained hazy. Whose land were they buying and why?      
In 1962, when I was eleven, my parents visited Israel for the first time. They left my sister and myself behind with our aunt. A couple of years earlier they had visited the Soviet Union. Later I learned that they were considering the possibility of resettling there (for my father it would have been a return to the country of his birth) but discovered enough about the unpleasant sides of Soviet life to give up the idea. Now they were considering resettling in Israel and again decided against it. After that, they gave up the whole idea of leaving England. 
When we were all back home, I asked my mother what she thought of Israel. “It’s a fascist country,” she declared. I was so astonished that for a while I could think of nothing to say. I could not have said exactly what fascism was, but I knew it was something so terrible that it had to be wiped out by any means, even by force of arms. After a while, I asked my mother why she thought Israel was fascist. She replied that “there are soldiers everywhere.” She also talked about teenagers forced to go on long marches and often collapsing in the heat and said that the Nazis had done the same thing in Germany in the 1930s.    
I was still skeptical but decided that the matter merited further investigation. At that time I was just starting to discover the intellectual delights of left-wing bookstores, and on a dusty shelf at the back of one such store, I happened to find two items that seemed relevant. For a small sum, I bought them and took them home to study. 
One was a religious tract by a rabbi who cited passages from the Talmud to prove that the State of Israel was an abomination created in defiance of the will of God. I thought it would be interesting to repeat the arguments of this rabbi in cheder. I was curious what the reaction would be. 
Sure enough, when the subject of Israel next came up I stood and delivered my very first anti-Zionist speech. I ironically pointed out that the Messiah had not yet come and therefore we were forbidden to “go up” to Palestine in large numbers or set up a Jewish state. As I spoke, the other boys in the class peered up at me, with astonished faces and mouths wide open. I finished and sat down. The woman teacher let out a long sigh that expressed a mixture of indulgence and exasperation, pondered a moment, and then said: “Stephen, have you considered that maybe we ourselves are the Messiah?” Now it was my turn to be astonished. 
The other item that I had picked up at the bookstore was a pamphlet by the late champion of human rights Dr. Israel Shahak. His indictment of Israel was secular rather than religious in character, ending with Voltaire’s splendid summons: Ecrasez l’infame! He talked about the discrimination suffered by people whom he called “Palestinians.” It was the first time that I had come across this word and I could not grasp who these “Palestinians” were, though I gathered that they were an ethnic minority in Israel and that they were persecuted. The trouble was that the author’s presentation was too sophisticated and assumed very basic background knowledge that we lacked. 
The most disturbing passage in the pamphlet concerned a compound in Jerusalem where these mysterious “Palestinians” were held prisoner and tortured. People living nearby heard their screams at night but made no protest, accepting the situation as normal. 
My mother’s comparison with Nazi Germany no longer seemed so outlandish. I showed her Shahak’s pamphlet, drawing her attention especially to the passage that I found so disturbing. Then I pointed at the JNF box and asked her why we were still contributing money to a “fascist” state. Without a word, she took the box down from the mantelpiece and dropped it in the trash can. 
When my father and my sister learned what had happened to the JNF box, they made no objection. So we decided to reject Zionism as a family. For me that was a very fortunate circumstance. Later I discovered that Jewish youngsters who reject Zionism are usually rejected in turn by their families. 
When the old man next came round from the synagogue to collect our money for the JNF, we all hid and kept silent as though there was no one home. With great difficulty, my sister and I tried to suppress our laughter as we held our heads down and listened to him shout and swear at us all in Yiddish. Finally, he gave our front door a kick powerful enough to leave a visible dent—though he must have done even more damage to his foot than to the door—and went away. He never came again. 
I continued to attend cheder and Sabbath services at the synagogue. The rabbi was still friendly to our family. 
The puzzle solved 
One summer when I was about 16 or 17 – I don’t remember exactly when, but I was still at school – I spent a couple of weeks in Israel, hiking around the country and visiting various distant cousins. There was an elderly couple in Jerusalem who resembled the elderly Jewish people I knew in England. There were also middle-aged and young people. To the young men, in particular, I took an instant dislike. They struck me as boastful and arrogant, just like my Israeli schoolmates. 
There is no need for me to give a detailed account of this trip, but I would like to recall a series of encounters that finally enabled me to solve the puzzle of the Palestinians. 
First, let me recount a conversation I had with a young man who worked at the small hotel where I stayed upon my arrival in Tel Aviv. Our ability to communicate was limited, as we could find no language in which we were both fluent. When he learned that I was from England, he asked what was the total population of that country. Then he asked how many Jews lived there. After that, I could see from the look of concentration on his face that he was doing some mental arithmetic in his head, evidently calculating a proportion or ratio between the two statistics that I had given him. He shook his head and tutted his tongue. Terrible, terrible! 
Did I know about France? – he asked next. Total population, Jewish population, mental arithmetic, and again shaking of the head and tutting of the tongue. Terrible, terrible! 
I wanted to assure him that despite these statistics we English and French Jews did not live under siege. We were not at the mercy of hordes of Gentile enemies out for our blood. Our relations with the Gentiles were on the whole quite good, and he need not worry on our behalf. I did not persuade him. The language problem, I suspected, was only part of the reason. These Israelis appeared to have been brainwashed with some rather strange notions.        
The second encounter happened in the middle of a bus tour. We had all got off the bus and were chatting and strolling around. I happened to overhear an intriguing snatch of conversation between the tour guide, a middle-aged Israeli man, and a young Jewish-American woman tourist, so I joined them. 
“You fought in the War of Independence, didn’t you?” – asked the young woman, evidently not for the first time. 
The driver nodded patiently. 
“Can I ask you something? I don’t understand how you could know where to stop fighting. How were you able to tell where the border was?” 
“When the fighting stopped, that was where the border was.” 
The woman obviously found this laconic reply hard to grasp. Surely the fighters had to know where the “correct” border was. Otherwise, they could easily have found themselves no longer “defending Israel” but inadvertently invading some neighboring country. Evidently thinking that she had failed to explain what puzzled her, she tried rephrasing the question. The tour guide just repeated the same reply. As he did so, he glanced at me with an ironic smile, as though sharing a joke with me. But what was the joke? I was following the conversation because I shared the woman’s puzzlement. Only later did the meaning of the reply fall into place in my mind’s eye. 
The third encounter was in a church. I can’t recall in what town I was, but I happened to notice the church, wandered in and stood admiring the architecture and the stained glass windows. A short middle-aged man wearing a suit approached me and warily asked (in English) what I wanted. A little taken aback by his tone, I replied that I was just a tourist admiring the church. I asked him a few questions about the church – the sort of questions any tourist might ask – and he answered politely. But as he was talking I gradually became aware that something was amiss. In his eyes, I saw something that I recognized after a while as fear. I also noticed that he was trembling slightly. I did not recognize these signs for what they were right away because it was difficult for me to conceive of the possibility that he might fear me. Why should he fear me? When I did become conscious of his fear, I acted to relieve it by quickly walking away and out of the church.  
Afterward, it slowly dawned on me. A church is a place where Christians worship, and in this country, the Christians were mostly “Palestinians.” This man must have been a Palestinian and he must have been afraid of me because I was a Jew. Elsewhere it was we Jews who were afraid, but here we were the master race and non-Jews were afraid of us. I felt acutely uncomfortable. Wasn’t this even worse than the other way round? I resolved not to come to Israel again because I did not want to be in a country where I was feared. 
The fourth and final encounter was of a more mystical kind. 
I was hiking somewhere on the coastal plain to the east of Tel Aviv. I had spotted what looked like some ruins in the distance and wanted to get a closer look. I was walking across a wide stretch of wasteland surrounded by a very long ring road. Apart from a few vehicles moving along that distant road, no one else was in sight. Only the wild grass and the wind. 
I reached the ruins. Clearly, there had once been a village here. I sat down on a large stone and remained sitting there. I sat there for several hours. I must have fallen into some sort of trance. Now and then I heard everyday sounds, like the creak of a door opening or closing or a human voice saying something in a language that I did not understand but that I knew, must be Arabic. 
Was it the spirits of the people who used to live there? Or just imaginings that my mind conjured out of the sound of the wind rustling in the grass? The spirits, if indeed they were spirits, showed no sign of being aware of my presence. 
When I finally awoke from my trance, the sun was already low in the sky. I started to walk back over the wasteland toward the road. The puzzle was now solved. I knew who the Palestinians were. They were simply the people whose country this used to be. The Zionists had stolen it from them. Some chutzpah, eh? Now I knew their dirty little secret. A good thing they weren’t all that thorough in clearing up the mess, otherwise I would still be in the dark! 

I am reluctant to believe in spirits, but I cannot explain what I experienced in any other way. I am fairly sure that at that age I had never before heard spoken Arabic. When I went to college a year or two later and met Arab students and heard them speak Arabic among themselves, I recognized it as the same language that I had heard in those ruins. So how could my mind have manufactured those voices?   
Stephen D. Shenfield, 

CEO Pay Boom

Bloomberg analysis found that chief executives of American companies already make 265 times the amount of money an average worker is paid—the largest CEO-worker income gap in the world.

Last year's CEO-to-worker compensation ratio, calculated by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), was 271-to-1, with the chief executives of American companies seeing an average of $15.6 million in annual compensation. The EPI report notes that "regardless of how it's measured, CEO pay continues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typical worker pay," and "exorbitant CEO pay means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers."

"CEOs of the biggest publicly traded U.S. companies averaged $14.3 million in annual pay, more than double that of their Canadian counterparts and 10 times greater than those in India," according to Bloomberg. While India ranked second on Bloomberg's CEO pay-to-average income ratio, Indian chief executives made about a tenth of their American counterparts' incomes, averaging $1.46 million annually.

EPI president Lawrence Mischel and research assistant Jessica Schieder found that CEO compensation rose "by 807 or 937 percent (depending on how it is measured—using stock options granted or stock options realized, respectively) from 1978 to 2016." They argue that "exorbitant CEO compensation...has fueled the growth of the top 1 percent incomes" at the expense of "the vast majority of workers."
"Simply put, money that goes to the executive class is money that does not go to other people. Rising executive pay is not connected to overall growth in the economic pie," Mishel explained, as Common Dreams previously reported. "We could curtail the explosive growth in CEO pay without doing any harm to the economy."