Sunday, September 30, 2018

Carrying Capacities and Populations

In a recent Nature Sustainability paper, a team of scientists concluded that the Earth can sustain, at most, only 7 billion people at subsistence levels of consumption (and this June saw us at 7.6 billion). Achieving “high life satisfaction” for everyone, however, would transgress the Earth’s biophysical boundaries, leading to ecological collapse. Despite its seeming scientific precision, the claim is old, not new – the latest iteration of the longstanding assertion that our population and consumption might soon exceed the Earth’s fixed “carrying capacity”.
 From the 18th-century arguments of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus onwards, prophets of environmental doom have imagined that in response to abundance, humans would respond with more – more children and more consumption. Like protozoa or fruit flies, we keep breeding and keep consuming until the resources that allow continuing growth are exhausted.
In reality, human fertility and consumption work nothing like this. Affluence and modernisation bring falling, not rising fertility rates. As our material circumstances improve, we have fewer children, not more. The explosion of human population over the past 200 years has not been a result of rising fertility rates but rather falling mortality rates. With better public health, nutrition, physical infrastructure and public safety, we live much longer.
Today, in the United States, Europe, Japan, much of Latin America, even parts of India, fertility rates are below replacement, that is, the average number of children born per woman is below two. Much of the rest of the world will likely follow suit over the next few decades. As a result, most demographers project that the human population will peak, and then begin a slow decline, in some cases before the end of this century.
For this reason, today’s warnings of impending ecological collapse mostly focus on rising consumption, not population growth. As many now acknowledge, our social biology might not function like protozoa, but capitalism does. It cannot survive without endless growth of material consumption.
Some environmental scientists claim that we have already surpassed the Earth’s carrying capacity. But this view is deeply ahistorical, assuming carrying capacity to be static.
In fact, we have been engineering our environments to more productively serve human needs for tens of millennia. We cleared forests for grasslands and agriculture. We selected and bred plants and animals that were more nutritious, fertile and abundant. It took six times as much farmland to feed a single person 9,000 years ago, at the dawn of the Neolithic revolution, than it does today, even as almost all of us eat much richer diets. What the palaeoarchaeological record strongly suggests is that carrying capacity is not fixed. It is many orders of magnitude greater than it was when we began our journey on this planet. There is no particular reason to think that we will not be able to continue to raise carrying capacity further. Nuclear and solar energy are both clearly capable of providing large quantities of energy for large numbers of people without producing much carbon emissions. Modern, intensive agricultural systems are similarly capable of meeting the dietary needs of many more people. A planet with a lot more chickens, corn and nuclear power might not be the idyll that many wish for, but it would clearly be one that would be capable of supporting a lot more people consuming a lot more stuff for a very long time.
Viewing humans in the same way we view single-celled organisms or insects risks treating them that way. Malthus argued against Poor Laws, in the belief that they only incentivised the poor to reproduce. Ehrlich argued against food aid for poor countries for similar reasons, and inspired population-control measures of enormous cruelty. Today, demands to impose planetary boundaries globally are couched in redistributive and egalitarian rhetoric, so as to avoid any suggestion that doing so might condemn billions to deep agrarian poverty. 
We are not fruit flies, programmed to reproduce until our population collapses. Nor are we cattle, whose numbers must be managed. To understand the human experience on the planet is to understand that we have remade the planet again and again to serve our needs and our dreams. Today, the aspirations of billions depend upon continuing to do just that.

The Irish Tax Evaders

83 ‘High Worth Individuals’ (HWIs) used tax credits and reliefs to declare a taxable income below that of the average workerThe report examined how the Revenue taxed Ireland’s 334 HWIs – defined as those worth more than €50 million – in 2015.
Approximately €473m in income tax was paid by the 334 HWIs that year, an average of €1.4m each. However, 140 HWIs (42% of the total) were found to have a taxable income of less than €125,000, while 83 had taxable income of less than the average industrial wage, which is just over €36,500.
A combination of clever accounting and loopholes is allowing some of the country's richest individuals to minimise their contribution to the State's coffers. Individuals claimed tax relief for maintenance, significant buildings and gardens relief, venture capital relief and trans-border relief, which gave them in benefits which averaged €167,000 each. Many reduce their tax bill by investing in assets like machinery, citing previous losses made on investments or using credits for tax paid in other countries.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) reviewed how 480 people, classified as 'High Wealth Individuals' (HWI), interact with the Revenue Commissioners.
It was found that, despite having at least €50m in assets, they paid "relatively low amounts of tax due to the use of credits and reliefs". One in four declared taxable income below the average industrial wage, which the C&AG cited as €35,672. Overall 140 HWIs had taxable income of less than €125,000. Remarkably just 10 taxpayers from this group were liable for 85pc of the total tax paid, which was €473m in 2015.
The report also found that Ireland’s definition of a HWI is high compared with other countries. While criteria vary from country to country, HWIs are generally considered to have assets of between $1 million and $50 million, while ultra-High Worth Individuals have assets of over $50 million However, the Revenue defines HWIs as those with assets of more than €50m. By comparison, HWIs in the UK are classed as those worth more than €23m, while HWIs in Spain are worth more than €10m. 

Racism and being a Black Jew

Ethiopian Jews have taken to the streets many times, demanding equality before the law in Israel. But do the activists think anything has changedToday, the Ethiopian community is made up of more than 145,000 people — less than two percent of Israel's total population. Over half live below the poverty line.

There has long been a dispute over the immigration of the Falash Mura — mainly because the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize them as fully Jewish. Their ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity in Ethiopia, but today their descendants live according to Jewish religious customs. Those who are waiting to immigrate to Israel already have family there.

"To have dark skin and to be a Jew — for some people it doesn't really match-up," Avi Yalou, who works at an NGO that advocates for the equality of Ethiopian Jews, told DW. However, the protests were not just about police violence. "There are many problems," says Yalou. "There are young people who, despite having a degree and similar qualifications, still get paid less." Yalou was six years old when he came to Israel with his family in 1991 through 'Operation Solomon' — a covert military operation to airlift approximately 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He considers Israel to be his homeland: he went to school, joined the army and studied here. But he's still uncertain if he will ever feel fully accepted in society.

Examples of discrimination can be found in many areas of life, says Israeli-born member at the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, Efrat Yerday told DW. Even during the immigration process, Ethiopian Jews were treated differently from other Jews who came to Israel. They had to spend more time in the absorption centers for example — temporary living quarters where immigrants are given intensive Hebrew lessons — and could only settle in certain areas afterwards, much like Jews from Arab countries. Although some progress has been made on this front, it's still not enough, Yerday says, pointing out a report published by the Ministry of Justice in 2016, which provided evidence of institutionalized discrimination.

"It's not enough to just create new jobs," says Melaku, who came to Israel as a 16-year-old through 'Operation Moses' in 1985. "For real change, you have to tackle the root causes … Those who were born in Ethiopia suffered from antisemitism, not from racism, because we all had the same skin color. We suffered because we were Jews and we were abused and hurt for thousands of years. The generation who was born here doesn't know what we went through. They suffer because of the color of their skin — with this skin also come stereotypes." Ultimately, she says, Israel is the only place where she can freely live as a Jew. 

Miraculous in the 21st Century

Three in five UK adults say they believe some form of miracle is possible, a survey commissioned by the BBC has suggested.
Nearly half of those questioned on behalf of BBC Local Radio admitted to praying for a miracle at some time.
However, when it comes to the miracles of Jesus, nearly half say they do not believe he did miraculous things.
The survey suggested:
  • 62% of British adults believe some form of miracle is possible today
  • Nearly three-quarters aged 18-24 say they believe some form of miracle is possible today, more than any other age group
  • 43% say they have prayed for a miracle
  • 37% of British adults who attend a religious service at least monthly say they believe the miracles of Jesus happened word for word as described in the Bible
  • Half of this group say they have prayed for a miracle which was answered in the way they had hoped
  • But 37% of Christians have never prayed for a miracle
  • The survey suggests 59% of adults who identify as Christian have prayed for a miracle, with around half of these people (29%) saying their prayer was answered in the way they hoped.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Venezuelan Diaspora Grows

Venezuela was traditionally a receiving country for migrants. In the mid-20th century it received thousands of Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Lebanese and Syrians. And after that came people from other countries in South America, and from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Now the flow has turned 180 degrees and it is Venezuelans who are the protagonists of a dramatic diaspora in Latin America, which according to many experts will increase in the short term and which has already become the biggest migration crisis in the history of the Americas.

The economic collapse in this oil-producing country, which for decades was the fourth largest economy in Latin America, has translated into shortages and soaring prices of food and medicine, combined with the high rates of violence and crime, triggered the exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring nations. Exhausted by the race for survival, more and more people are leaving.

United Nations agencies estimate that 2.3 million people have left Venezuela in the last three years, 7.2 percent of the country’s population of 31.8 milliony, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, said on Aug. 20. But in early September, international humanitarian organisations set the number of people in the exodus at between 3.5 and 4.0 million. Sociologist Tomás Páez, who directs a study on “the Venezuelan diaspora,” maintains that some three million have migrated in the last two decades.

“These are all estimates, because many people cross the border just to go shopping, and there are no accurate records in Venezuela, and because in some countries migrants settle illegally, but even so it is about 10 percent of our 31 million inhabitants,” expert Oscar Hernández, who is the head of the Migrant Training Centre, told IPSHe also considered that “it is a very, very serious brain drain. We are going to pay dearly for all the talent that is leaving, so many professionals, teachers and students, people at the peak of their productive age.”

According to the latest figures provided by the immigration authorities, 870,000 Venezuelans have settled in Colombia, 414,000 in Peru, 325,000 in Chile, 80,000 in Panama, 70,000 in Argentina, 57,000 in Brazil and 16,000 in Uruguay, while 340,000 entered Ecuador in 2018 alone, 116,000 of whom are still in the country while the rest have crossed over to other countries. Also, 26,000 Venezuelans have gone to the Dominican Republic, and more than 10,000 to other Caribbean islands, according to estimates by several official spokespersons, while in Mexico some 9,000 have applied for the “visitors’ card for humanitarian reasons.” Outside the region, the largest receiving countries are the United States (290,000) and Spain (208,000). The Venezuelan polling firm Delphos, estimated that in the remainder of the year at least 800,000 more Venezuelans plan to leave the country.
The Central University of Venezuela, the country’s largest university, enrollment dropped in 10 years from 47,000 to 32,000 students. Healthcare unions estimate that so far this decade some 20,000 professionals have left the country, including doctors, nurses, and therapists.

“If people decide to walk to Lima, it’s because they feel their needs have reached a limit and their conditions for survival in Venezuela are minimal. Reality tells them what to do,” social psychologist Colette Capriles, of Caracas’ Simón Bolívar University, told IPS.

According to Efraín Rincón, an expert with the polling firm Consultores 21, only one out of every five Venezuelans who say they want to emigrate cites political reasons. The rest point to the economic crisis. The inflation rate for August alone was 223.1 percent and the accumulated rate for the year climbed to 34,680 percent, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the inflation rate could reach one million percent by the end of 2018 and economists at consulting firms believe it could grow even more.

Poisoning our children

Young people face a long-term ‘health crisis’ unless the government acts to clean up pollution, says UNICEF.

Because of the toxic fumes they breathe on their way to and from school, the organisation, which campaigns on children’s rights and well-being around the world, described the situation in the UK as “horrific” and has announced it is to make protecting youngsters from air pollution its priority across the country in the months ahead.

“Research is coming out all the time showing us how these toxic emissions can lead to lasting and devastating health impacts, impacts that will last their entire lives, from stunted lung growth to asthma to brain developments. It is horrific.” said Alastair Harper from Unicef UK. Harper said: “We want a national strategy specifically to protect children from harm, and a ring-fenced pot of funding to focus on the ways to reduce children’s exposure to toxic air. "We now know that exposure is most acute when they are travelling to and from school or nurseries and even inside the classrooms. Now there is no excuse not to take immediate and determined action.” He said measures should include vehicle exclusion zones around schools, a network of clean air zones, improved walking and cycling infrastructure in towns and cities and more child friendly urban areas. Harper said: “All children have the right to breathe clean air, and toxic air not only violates children’s right to breathe clean air it also impacts on their future and that is unacceptable.”

Unicef said,  “It has taken a while to understand the true nature of the problem but now we do know and we have to act.”
Last year a Guardian investigation revealed hundreds of thousands of children are being exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles at more than 2,000 schools and nurseries across England and Wales. Earlier this month it emerged that children were absorbing a disproportionate amount of air dangerous pollution on their way to and from school – and while in the classroom. One school was found to have several times over the World Health Organization pollution limit for the most damaging particulates inside several of its classrooms.
Harper said that unlike some other problems facing young people – including entrenched poverty and obesity – air pollution was relatively simple to address, if there was the political will. “The fact is that it is so needless, we can fix this – other things are more intractable – but this is something we can resolve.”

The Australian Banksters

Abuse and misconduct within Australia's banks and financial institutions were driven by a culture of greed, a royal commission revealed. The inquiry heard testimony about corporate fraud, bribery rings at banks, actions to deceive regulators and reckless practices.
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne questioned why such misconduct had taken place and wrote "Too often, the answer seems to be greed - the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty." He also criticised what he called the inadequate actions of regulators for the banks and financial firms. "When misconduct was revealed, it either went unpunished or the consequences did not meet the seriousness of what had been done," he said
The royal commission came after a decade of scandalous behaviour in Australia's financial sector, the country's largest industry. The government initially resisted calls for the probe before conceding that a royal commission was a "regrettable but necessary" action.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Underspending on the disabled

In Australia unerspending on the national disability insurance scheme is projected to run to as much as $5bn by the end of the financial year, according to an economist who was one of the scheme’s key architects.
Prof Bruce Bonyhady, the inaugural chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency, said the underspend “strikes at one of the fundamental principles of the scheme, which is that it is about equality and and being fair to people with disabilities as quickly as possible”.
NDIS payments were down $2.5bn.
Bonyhady said the unspent money could have been put to essential use elsewhere. He said it was not a good sign that people in the scheme were not using the full support offered by their packages – people were on average spending just 70% of the funding allocated to them.
“In that $2.5bn underspend there is more than enough to make sure the scheme works for everybody,” Bonyhady told Guardian Australia. “This scheme has to be equitable, so I think it’s very important that the money not spent is used to deliver the scheme in line with the original vision for it. If the slow rollout continues at this rate and package utilisation continues at 70% – and all indications are they will – then the underspend will reach $4.5bn to $5bn dollars by the end of this financial year.”

Wages and House Prices

The average salary required by a first-time buyer to purchase a home in the UK’s biggest cities has risen by 18% in the past three years, above the rate of earnings growth – making it harder for young people to get on the housing ladder.

In the latest sign that homeownership was becoming an increasingly distant prospect for young adults in the UK, figures from the research company Hometrack showed only three out of 20 major cities had become more affordable since 2015.  According to the Hometrack figures, the average salary required to buy a house across all 20 cities included in the study rose from £44,974 in 2015 to £52,826 today, more than double the median annual wage for the country as a whole of £28,677 for full-time employees.
The biggest drop in affordability in the past three years was in Bristol and Manchester, where rapid growth in house prices had pushed up the average wage needed by a first-time buyer by almost a quarter. In Bristol, a first-time buyer now needed to earn £58,826 per year to afford the average property, compared with £47,283 three years ago; while Manchester has seen the salary requirement jump by more than £6,500 to £34,770.
It has also become harder for first-time buyers to purchase a property in cities that include Leicester, Birmingham and Nottingham, with home values rising by more than the rate of growth in earnings over the past three years.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank has suggested that one in three millennials were unlikely to own their home, with many forced to live and raise families in insecure private rental accommodation throughout their lives. 
The Institute for Fiscal Studies also said the chances of a young adult on a middle income owning a home in the UK had more than halved in the past two decades.
While pay growth in the UK has risen just above the rate of inflation – which measures the annual increase in the price of a basket of consumer goods – property values have increased much faster.  Regions outside of the capital and the south-east have seen the fastest growth in house prices, with homes in the north-west recording annual increases of about 5.6% and properties in the south-west and West Midlands rising by about 4.4%.

Self-employed - Self-exploitation

In a new report, the TUC said that  almost half of self-employed in the gig-economy  aged 25 or over were earning less than the minimum wage

Wages for those working for themselves were far lower than for employees and had actually fallen in the latest year.
Of the four million adults over 25 classified as self-employed, 49% (1.96 million) were earning less than the current minimum wage, the TUC said.
The TUC said the self-employed aged 25 and over earned £12,300 on average in 2016-17, down from £13,200 the previous year, and well below the average of £21,600 for employees and self-employed combined.
TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Self-employment can be a great option but it’s clear that it’s not working for everyone, with millions of self-employed workers stuck on poverty pay. Too many workers have been forced into sham self-employment – like at Uber and Hermès. It’s not about helping workers. Theresa May promised to change things for ‘just about managing’ families but she’s done nothing. She should be cracking down on businesses that use sham self-employment. She should ban zero-hours contracts. And she should give agency workers the right to equal pay to stop undercutting and encourage employers to create more permanent jobs."
“The two million people in low-paid self-employment are part of at least 3.7 million people in insecure jobs. The other 1.7 million include agency workers, casual workers, seasonal workers and those whose main job is on a zero-hours contract,” the TUC said.
Self-employment has risen from 12% to 15% of workers since 2001, with a particularly marked increase in the years after the financial crisis of a decade ago. Including the under 25s, the Office for National Statistics says the total stands at 4.8 million. The TUC believes the growth in self-employment has been caused in part by an increase in sham forms of employment, where workers who would once have counted as part of a company’s payroll are treated as self-employed to reduce tax liability, duck the minimum wage and deny workers their rights. It added that bogus self-employment included some gig economy workers and people who were contracted to a single employer through a personal service company, rather than being contracted as an employee.

Millennial Pay Slump

Many millennials are earning significantly less than they predicted when they were younger and have not entered the career they hoped for, new analysis shows.

Half of 16 to 17-year-olds expected to earn £35,000 by the age of 30 if they’d achieved a degree and £25,000 if they did not have a degree but the average salary of a 30-year-old last year was £23,700.

Just 7 per cent of those with degrees and a quarter of those without degrees thought they would be earning less than £20,000 by the age of 30. But in reality, 37 per cent of 22 to 29-year-olds last year were in this earnings bracket. 
At the top end, 5 per cent predicted they would be earning over £80,000 but just 2 per cent hit this target.
Artistic, literary and media jobs were the most popular choice in 2011/12, cited by more than 11 per cent of 16 to 21-year-olds, but just 1.4 per cent were actually in those careers last year. Almost 9 per cent said they wanted to be teachers compared to 4.5 per cent who did so. In healthcare the discrepancy was wider at 8.2 per cent to 1.7 per cent. The most common work for the older group turned out to be as sales assistants or cashiers, accounting for 6.2 per cent of employment for 22 to 29-year-olds last year.
Coming of age in the post-financial crisis era has meant lower wages and fewer chances for career progression than the previous generation. British millennials experienced a 13 per cent drop in real hourly earnings between 2007 and 2014.

Another Honour to Aung San Suu Kyi Withdrawn

Canadian MPs have voted unanimously to revoke the honorary citizenship of Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Passing the motion was a response to her failure to stop the persecution of the Rohingya minority in her country.
In 2007 Canada granted honorary citizenship to Ms Suu Kyi, just one of six people to be so recognised.


Hospitality workers in the McStrike, TGI Fridays Strike and SpoonStrike [JD Wetherspoon] are staging coordinated walkouts to highlight issues of low pay and insecure working in the UK hospitality industry. They are part of a growing movement of workers who face similar conditions of poverty pay, precarious contracts and lack of union recognition.


Ryanair German pilots decided on Thursday to walk out. They will join striking pilots in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Cabin crews in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain will also go on strike in a row over contracts and conditions. 
Unions want staff to be given contracts in the countries where they live, rather than under Irish law. EU social affairs commissioner Marianne Thyssen told Mr O'Leary at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that EU rules on employment of air crews were based on where workers left in the morning and returned in the evening - and not where aircraft were registered.
Joost Van Doesburg, of the VNV union, the Dutch pilots union, said his members also wanted pensions in line with Dutch standards, and firmer guarantees on sick pay.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Netanyahu Sabre-Rattling Again

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu showed an aerial photograph of the Iranian capital marked with a red arrow and pointed to what he said was a previously secret warehouse holding nuclear-related material.

“I am disclosing for the first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran, a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and materiel from Iran’s secret nuclear programme,” Netanyahu said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is aware of the facility Netanyahu announced and described it as a “warehouse” used to store “records and archives” from Iran’s nuclear programme.

A second U.S. intelligence official called Netanyahu’s comments “somewhat misleading. First, we have known about this facility for some time, and it’s full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminium tubes for centrifuges, and second, so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] any faster than it otherwise could.”

A Bit Belated News

110 Years Ago: Mail-Herald, September 26, 1908
E.T. Kingsley, Dominion Organizer of the Socialist Party of Canada gave an address to about 200 people. He stated that a working man could not be a Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, or Republican as these parties were capitalists standing for a slave-exploiting system of society. He advocated for the establishing of a co-operative commonwealth to promote peace and freedom.

US Vets and Suicide

More than 6,000 veterans have killed themselves each year since 2008, according to the VA data. Veteran suicide rates increased 25.9% between 2005 and 2016.

Veterans aged 18 to 34 have higher rates of suicide than any other age group, the VA says in its National Suicide Data Report. The rate for those young veterans increased to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, up from 40.4 in 2015.

The suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for adults who never served in the military, even after adjusting for age and gender.
The gap was even greater for female veterans: after adjusting for age, their suicide rate was 1.8 times greater than the rate for non-veteran women in 2016.
Veterans were also more likely than other Americans to kill themselves using a gun. In 2016, 70% of veteran suicides were by firearm, compared with 48% of non-veterans.
“This isn’t just alarming. It’s a national emergency that requires immediate action. We’ve spent the last decade trying to improve the transitioning process for our veterans, but we’re clearly failing, and people are dying,” said Joe Chenelly, the executive director of the national veterans group Amvets. “The new data tells us that too many younger veterans – specifically those of the post-9/11 era – were slipping through the cracks despite all the efforts to address mental healthcare access and barriers to seamless transition after service,” Chenelly said

Brazil's Backward Progress

In less than two weeks, Brazilians will head to the polls to elect new president and representatives, but many have little faith in politicians, with extreme poverty and hunger on the rise.

According to one study undertaken by Action Aid Brazil and Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (Ibase), extreme poverty rose from 5.2 million people in 2014 to 11.9 million in 2017, based on the July 2017 definition of extreme poverty, which includes those living on less than 102.44 real (about $25) a month. 

Sao Paulo's LCA Consultancy, using data from Brazil's Continuous National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), extreme poverty rose from 13.3 million in 2016 to 14.8 million in 2017, using the World Bank's definition of living on $1.90 or less a day.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 12.3 percent or 12.8 million people, according to Brazil's Institute of Geography and Statistics. Experts say unemployment rates will continue to recover slowly, with most the qualified the first to benefit and the poorest last.

"Any initial economic recovery will not reach people in extreme poverty," says Cosmo Donato, an economist at LCA. "They are historically disadvantaged."

Brazil's northeast concentrates the highest number of people living in extreme poverty with 8.1 million in 2017 according to LCA. In greater Sao Paulo, extreme poverty grew by 35 percent in 2017 to 3.8 million people and isolated semi-rural regions like Parelheiros - a three hour bus ride from the city's business centre - are especially bad off. 

"It is likely that Brazil will shortly return to the United Nations hunger map," says Francisco Menezes, an economist and researcher for Action Aid and Ibase. The United Nations hunger map is defined by more than five percent of the country not consuming the recommended number of calories a day. Menzes blames a combination of high unemployment due to the recession and austerity, which began under former president Dilma Rousseff in 2015. Austerity then accelerated under current president Michel Temer when Rousseff was controversially impeached. According to Menzes, Brazil has returned to levels of extreme poverty of 2005. "Brazil has gone back 12 years in three," he says.

Apathy for the upcoming elections is high.
"I won't vote for anyone, all they do is make promises,"  Marcos Alves da Silva from Parelheiros says.
According to the Datafolha polling institute, 12 percent of voters will abstain from this election, 49 percent of whom are low income voters, with a family income of less than two monthly minimum salaries of BR$954. (about $230). Of the five percent of undecided voters, 64 per cent fall into this income bracket.

A Bleak Future

 Generations growing up today face a bleak future: falling real wages, shrinking opportunities and greater income divides. The dream of just doing better, let alone climbing the social ladder, is dying.

Our privately educated elites are remarkably persistent. Today as many as 50% of leading people across a range of professions – from politics, media and law, to film, the arts, music and elite sports – attended private schools, despite comprising only 7% of the population.

In post-recession Britain, life for average workers has worsened. In the decade from 2008, the median worker’s wages decreased by 5% in real terms.

For all the talk about social mobility, little has changed. 

The Cause of it All (Short Story)

The Cause of it All (1958)

A Short Story from the October 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

The tiny triangular bedsitter at the top of the house was occupied by Mr. Winston Tobias. He was 45 years old, a mild, sad, yearning little man, as black as boot polish. No one knew very much about him. He was seen coming and going, but never there. At exactly the same time every morning he walked down the stairs to go to the office where he worked, and at exactly the same time every evening, he returned with the evening paper and a small parcel of groceries for his tea. Neither the Carters nor the Fentons, who lived in the other two flats below, could ever remember him having a visitor, and he seldom went out. Most evenings he spent in his uncomfortable little room with its small window, divan bed, single armchair, and gas stove neatly hidden from view by a plastic curtain. Here he read a little, dreamt a little, and wrote long letters to his family, full of loving, lying promises of their future together in England. Mr. Tobias possessed that virtue, so often extolled by the neighbours of “keeping himself to himself” and, of course, was a constant source of frustration to the avid curiosity of Mrs. Carter, immediately below him, and Mrs. Fenton, on the ground floor.

Mr. Tobias was a little afraid of his neighbours and avoided them, if possible. Mr. Carter he identified by the sound of heavy boots clumping up the stairs, occasional choruses of: “A white Christmas,” and shouted admonitions both to his wife and seven year old son. The Carters did not keep themselves to themselves, their trials and tribulations were the common property of the neighbourhood. Their son Jonathan was the fruit of one of their infrequent harmonies. He was affectionately known as Jonty, when he was affectionately known at all. Mr. Tobias felt sorry for the little boy, and would have liked to befriend him, but he was far too timid to attempt to climb the barriers of prejudice erected by the child’s parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Carter found it hard enough to be amiable to one another, but their friendship with the Fentons was a precarious thing indeed. The two families had antagonized each other from the beginning. They quarrelled mostly over the children (the Fentons had a daughter born one month before July, and nine months after her father’s works outing). The two children found themselves periodically separated while their parents furiously re-enacted a quarrel they themselves had completely forgotten. The regular screams of abuse between the two wives were so commonplace that they were accepted by the neighbours as part of the urban scene.

On the very rare occasions when they were friendly, then Mr. Tobias was really frightened, for he knew that the basis of their agreement was condemnation of him. He was well aware that they spoke about him, if not to him. Fearful of meeting their anger face to face he stayed in his room and felt cold, tight apprehension at every footstep mounting the stairs. He breathed a sigh of relief when the atmosphere in the house settled back into its simmering dislike. At least it was not of him.

Then one night came the final explosion. Mr. Tobias had gone to bed early and was almost asleep, when he heard a woman’s voice raised in hysterical anger. He sat up in bed and listened. From below came unmistakable sounds of battle. Heavy boots could be heard scuffling on the stairs, grunts and groans interspersed with shouted insults as the two men fought. Mrs. Fenton was screaming encouragement to her husband and Mrs. Carter whose spouse was apparently getting the worst of it could be heard shrieking for the police. A shower of milk bottles cascaded down the stairs, the dustbin on the landing was kicked over and the two protagonists began hurling the contents at each other. The din was appalling. Mr. Tobias felt vaguely that he ought to do something, but was too frightened to do so. Then came a knock at the door, be opened it fearfully and saw outside little Jonathan Carter in his pyjamas. "Mr. Fenton’s fighting my dad, and he’s made his nose bleed and I’m scared,” whispered the little boy. Mr. Tobias took the child on his knee to comfort him, and Jonty clung to him in tearful longing.

New voices entered into the play beneath them. The second act had begun with the arrival of the police. Their calm, matter-of-fact voices could be heard vainly attempting to sort out the confusion. Finally, they had to admit defeat and departed, taking with them the two men still arguing, and leaving their wives to remove the debris. Now that things were once again peaceful, little Jonathan left the security of Mr. Tobias’s embrace and went downstairs. As he emerged from the dark vacuum of the stairway, his mother, busily sweeping empty tins and broken glass into the comer, looked up and saw him. "Where have you been,” she shouted. "I got scared,” replied the boy. "So I went upstairs to Mr. Tobias and he gave me a drink and some biscuits.” His mother gave an offended gasp. "Why, you little devil,” she screamed, cuffing him on the ear, "I'll murder you if you go up there again. Didn’t I tell you not to have anything to do with them blacks. You know they’se always causing trouble.”

J. H.

Hong Kong's rich get richer

Oxfam said funds were needed to address the city’s widening wealth gap – the largest in 45 years. 

The difference between a society’s rich and poor is often measured using the Gini coefficient index of how evenly income is distributed on a scale from zero to one. In June last year, the figure for Hong Kong was 0.539, with zero indicating equality. The United States was at 0.411 and Singapore 0.4579. Hong Kong’s number has climbed 0.006 points since 2006, according to the city’s Census and Statistics Department.

In 2016 the median monthly household income of the top 10 per cent of Hongkongers was 43.9 times the bottom 10 per cent. The poorest would have to work three years and eight months on average to earn what the richest make in a month.

The city’s top 21 tycoons had assets collectively equalling Hong Kong’s HK$1.83 trillion fiscal reserves as of April, according to data published by Forbes. The top five tycoons earned HK$23.6 billion in dividends alone in 2016 and 2017. That amount was also never taxed as Hong Kong does not place a levy on dividends as part of efforts to maintain a “free economy”.

Low-income workers are not sharing the fruits of economic growth. Real wages have only increased 12.3 per cent in the last decade. The purchasing power of the HK$34.50 minimum wage is lower than eight years ago. 

Among children, one in four live below the poverty line. The figure for the elderly is one in three.
This year the government is spending 14 per cent of total expenditure on public health care. As a comparison, last year spending in Canada amounted to 18.1 per cent, and 19.2 in South Korea. Social welfare spending accounts for 16.5 per cent in Hong Kong – lower than all seven members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Rich get richer (graph)

Fake News Journalist boss of Italy TV

Marcello Foa, a Eurosceptic journalist who has often shared stories proved to be fake, who also holds anti-gay, anti-immigration, anti-vaccine and pro-Russia views, has been appointed president of Rai, Italy’s state broadcaster.
Fake stories shared by Foa included one during the US presidential election campaign about Hillary Clinton participating in satanic dinners and another about a supposed plan to overthrow Donald Trump. He has also said that being gay is abnormal and that giving babies vaccines could provoke a “shock” in the child. He has expressed admiration for Steve Bannon and Vladimir Putin, and in the past has collaborated with the state-funded Russian news outlets RT TV and Sputnik.
Rai’s journalist union, Usigrai, had urged the committee to carry out an “in-depth assessment to ensure the legitimacy” of the candidate. Industry sources said that Foa’s appointment is likely to prompt journalists at Rai to resign in protest. “They fear the loss of freedom,” said one source.
Many speculate that Foa’s appointment was made possible after Berlusconi struck a deal with Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the League, ensuring that his business interests would be protected from government interference. Berlusconi owns the rival media company, Mediaset.
“Foa won the vote because of the Berlusconi accord,” said a source.

Bias Research

Great Barrier Reef scientists were told to focus on projects that would look good for the government and encourage more corporate donations.

Emails sent by staff at the Australian Institute of Marine Science outline how government expectations, the ability to leverage private donations and public perceptions “may drive the foundation to prioritise shorter-term research initiatives in order to demonstrate progress and return on investment”.

Some Statistics

The world’s total wealth is estimated to be close to $255 trillion, with the United States and Europe holding approximately two-thirds of that total.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of the world’s people live on less than $10 per day, the poorest half of the global population lives on less than $2.50 per day, and more than 1.3 billion people live on only $1.25 per day. 

795 million people on the planet are suffering from chronic hunger.  Each year, poor nutrition kills 3.1 million children under the age of five. Each day 25,000-30,000 people die from starvation or malnutrition, a staggering total of more than ten million such fatalities each year. Chronic hunger is mostly a problem of distribution, as one-third of all food produced in the world is wasted and lost. 

In 2017, 2.3 million new millionaires were created, bringing the total number of millionaires around the globe to more than 36 million. 

These millionaires represent 0.7 percent of the world’s population and they control more than 47% of global wealth. At the same time, the world’s bottom 70 percent only control 2.7% of the total wealth.