Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Caravan

The World Socialist Movement
"Sending active military forces to our southern border is not only a huge waste of taxpayer money, but an unnecessary course of action that will further terrorise and militarise our border communities," said Shaw Drake of the American Civil Liberties Union's border rights centre at El Paso, Texas.
"The migrant caravan is full of women and children fleeing violence, poverty and government repression," tweeted Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts. "Sending thousands of troops to turn them away as if they are foreign invaders reflects the profound paranoia, fear and hate fueling this administration's immigration policies."
Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications of the Migration Policy Institute, said: "there is no crisis at the border".
"We believe that the US is capable of dealing with the caravan without such extraordinary measures, and that is well within the capacity of the government to determine among those arriving at the border who has a legitimate protection claim and who does not," she told Al Jazeera, adding that overall activity at the border is a "mere fraction" of what it was in the 1990s and early 2000s.
"In many cases we are talking about people who have no choice but to leave their homes, and people who will continue to keep trying to find a safe place to live, despite the policies of Mexico, the USA, or any other country that may be safer than theirs," Amnesty said in a statement. "The hardline border controls used by a series of US governments over the last 30 years have been shown to be ineffective at reducing migration and only condemn people to more precarious and dangerous routes that put human lives at risk and fuel smuggling network," the international rights organisation added.
The "caravan's" goal is to seek asylum at an official port of entry.  Migrants are entitled under both US and international law to apply for asylum.

Argentine Re-living the Past

In Argentina the peso is in free fall, prices are exploding, consumption is reduced to a minimum, the middle classes are being squeezed, many firms and businesses are closing, hunger is spreading in outlying areas and speculators are panicking.

Sound familiar? Remember 2001? Argentina capital was in flight to await better times. Same thing again now. 

Seventeen years on and the Macri government is imposing  a fierce structural adjustment plan following the $50 billion loan requested from the IMF.  Macri promised “Zero poverty” in his 2015 election campaign, another unfulfilled politician's pledge.

  Popular discontent has returned to the streets of Buenos Aires, La Plata, Rosario, Mar del Plata, and in other cities of the country and the clang and clatter of pots and pans may well be heard once more as they were in 2001.

The Obesity Problem

Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of "the globalisation of obesity" affecting both rich and poor countries.
"If we do not find concrete ways to stop this constant increase, the number of obese people will soon be as high as the number of people who are hungry," he said.
One in nine people around the world goes hungry every night, while one in eight adults are obese, according to the latest figures.
 As governments seek to improve people's eating habits in the face of resistance from food and drink manufacturers Chile mandates comprehensive labelling of foods that are high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and calories. Unhealthy products also cannot be advertised on Chilean television or the internet, or use toys, cartoons or stickers to encourage children to eat them.
Xochitl Galvez Ruiz, a senator in Mexico - which has one of the world's highest diabetes rates - said she will continue to push for a food labelling law similar to Chile.

The Mid-Terms

For many years Americans have been told to vote for a “lesser evil.”  Voters are often presented with the twin choice of either Tweedledum-Tweedledee or voting for the lesser evil, the former suggests that there is no difference in the candidates and the latter that there is a degree of difference. One peculiar event around the 2016 elections received almost no analysis or discussion: The overwhelming majority of the supporters of Hillary Clinton disagreed with their candidate on most major issues. This simple fact tells how deep the corruption of the American political system has become and why Trump was viewed as the lesser evil to Clinton - the Wall St candidate. The enormous success of the two-party pro-money duopoly political system developed in the United States is in getting about half the people simply not to vote and forcing those who do — even when they disagree with corporate domination — to vote in favor of what they oppose. Keeping this system in place is essential for the rule of a tiny minority for open totalitarianism would have a very deep negative impact on the economy. Far better is the illusion of democracy. The lessons of history are clear: Working people have never gotten anywhere by guaranteeing their support to capitalist politicians.

Surely it is true that there is the lesser evil? Isn’t such an openly racist buffoon as many of the Republican candidates are the special enemy of the working class and must be stopped “at all costs”? Yes, the Republican's reign has been an ugly one for the workers. They've almost bled-to-death the working class, taken an ax to public spending, closing down social services; and openly bragged about the vicious reign of police terror against Black and Latino people. The Republicans have used repression against the people’s resistance movements.  With slight variations the unabashed opportunists of the American Left have resurrected the discredited theory of the “lesser evil,” to proclaim: Trump and the Republicans must be defeated at all costs! To lend credence to their “lesser evil” line, they loudly blazon that Trump's Republicans and Fascism are twins. The term “fascism” is used as a scare word to frighten the doubters into line.

 The bourgeoisie uses the line of going for the lesser of two evils as a way to detour the masses down a dead-end, a way to politically disarm people and demoraliSe them, a way to keep the working class chained to the treadmill of capitalist politics. In contradiction to the “lesser of two evils” confusion spread by the anybody but the Republicans campaign is the task of the WSPUS to expose concretely how it is the capitalist system itself that stands behind all the attacks on the people and how these mid-term elections are yet another  diversion and a trap to disarm people for still more to come. The WSPUS cannot afford to let fellow-workers wander down that mistaken and dangerous path without challenge

In these mid-term elections, all the Democrats need to do is bring out the bogey of the Republican right and cry “The fascists are coming!”  This electoral blackmail Is integral to the functioning of capitalism.  We are blackmailed into voting for a union "friendly" politician because the nasty politician menaces the labor movement. With the liberal vote assured the Democratic can steadily move to the right and the center position now becomes right. The case against voting for the Lesser Evil is that ultimately there is no Lesser Evil. This doesn't mean the Republicans and the Democrats are identical but that they merely increasingly tend to act in the same way in essential respects when the fundamental needs of the system are concerned. How many great evils of today were spawned by the “lesser evils” of yesterday?  Voting for one party to stop another invariably backfires on the working class. Working class progress, as now taught by the intellectuals, no longer lies along the road of class independence, but in the practice of tying labor to the kite of one capitalist politician as against another.  Choosing the “lesser-evil” Democrat is always a dead-end strategy.

The Democrats are not opposed to capitalism and have repeatedly declared that they are out to save capitalism from itself. The vast majority within the Democrat Party are indifferent to the fate of the international working class. The reason genuine socialists never support candidates of capitalist parties is that there is nothing more dangerous for the workers than endorsing a class enemy. We want the working class to become conscious of itself and its power in society and class consciousness begins with the recognition of the fundamental class division: the working class versus the capitalist class. The path towards socialism demands working-class independence from all capitalist parties and their reform programs. The WSPUS can use electoral campaigns to encourage socialist understanding among workers.

 If you give up the class struggle and support pro-capitalist parties when, later, when YOU are ready to resume the class-struggle for socialism, you will find that meanwhile, you will have strengthened the capitalist class enemy, and weakened, disoriented and demoralized the working class. If labor does not fight as a class, capitalist interests will surely triumph. Do you really want to be guilty of helping the class enemy win? It is the time to dedicate yourselves to socialist principles and struggle for socialist freedom. Elections are not, as “merely elections.” There is no such thing as voting for bourgeois politicians “without illusions,” because this act entails the illusion that we are better off getting a “lesser evil” elected than in building and supporting independent working-class institutions, including our own socialist parties. Those who vote for capitalist politicians either develop, underestimate or overlook the power of independent working-class organization and action.
The WSPUS  policy has always been when there is no socialist on the ballot, it is to abstain from voting for either evil. Your vote does count for capitalism. It becomes one mandate for the crimes of the government. The path to socialism lies in resolute opposition to all pro-capitalist parties. What the  "lesser evil" campaign shows most clearly is the burning need for the working class to make a total radical rupture with capitalism and its ideology. The WSPUS shouldn'rt and doesn't provide a radical cover to capitalist reformism and divert activists from the necessary task of resisting capitalism and striving for socialism. The WSPUS, part of the World  Socialist Movement appeals to you to join us, and thereby to resume the fight for working-class emancipation and socialist freedom. We have the right to call upon you to enter our Party, for we have never flinched from the struggle against capitalism and never forsaken the principles of socialism. We declare that support of either the Republicans or the Democrats amounts to a betrayal of the interests not only of socialism and the working class but humanity.

When  Marx urged workers of the world to unite, he meant with each other. Capitalist politicians were not included.

Wild Lands

Just five countries hold 70% of the world’s remaining untouched wilderness areas and urgent international action is needed to protect them, according to new research by the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Australia, the US, Brazil, Russia, and Canada as the five countries that hold the vast majority of the world’s remaining wilderness.
They found that more than 77% of land – excluding Antarctica – and 87% of oceans had been modified by human intervention.
The researchers say that the planet’s remaining wilderness can be protected “only if it is recognised within international policy frameworks”. They’re calling for an international target that protects 100% of all remaining intact ecosystems.
“It’s achievable to have a target of 100%,” Watson said. “All nations need to do is stop industry from going into those places.”
John Robertson, the executive vice president for global conservation at WCS said, “Already we have lost so much. We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever,” he said.

Migrants bring economic benefits

Workers from fellow European Union countries were crucial in increasing economic output in Germany between 2011 and 2016, a study by the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) showed.

In the period under review, migrants from across the EU added an average 0.2 percent of GDP growth annually. The study said their contribution to Germany's overall economic output was particularly big in 2015 as a result of an above-average influx of skilled labor from the blocThe overwhelming majority of the new arrivals was able to find employment and thus fueled private consumption in Germany.

According to DIW researchers, a total of 5.1 million migrants from other EU nations came to Germany between 2011 and 2015, with the high number attributable to the introduction of the free movement of goods and labor for most countries in the bloc in 2011.

The study noted the vast majority of migrants from the nations in question came to find employment in Germany as the economic situation in their home countries had worsened in the wake of the global financial crisis and the ensuing debt crisis in much of Europe. Most of the EU migrants entering the German job market were young and highly skilled, the survey pointed out, helping Germany to cope better with the downsides of an aging population reflected also in a shortage of skilled labor.

"Germany will have to double its efforts to remain attractive for skilled labor from the EU now that the economic situation in the eurozone and the larger EU is looking up again," said Marius Clemens, the author of the DIW study.

Stealth Politics

A study of the 100 wealthiest Americans indicates that most of the wealthiest US billionaires – who are much less visible and less reported on – closely resemble Charles Koch.

They are extremely conservative on economic issues. 
Obsessed with cutting taxes, especially estate taxes (which apply only to the wealthiest Americans). 
Opposed to government regulation of the environment or big banks.
Unenthusiastic about government programs to help with jobs, incomes, healthcare, or retirement pensions – programs supported by large majorities of Americans. 
Tempted to cut deficits and shrink government by cutting or privatizing guaranteed social security benefits.

Billionaires who favor unpopular, ultraconservative economic policies, and work actively to advance them (that is, most politically active billionaires) stay almost entirely silent about those issues in public. This is a deliberate choice. Billionaires have plenty of media access, but most of them choose not to say anything at all about the policy issues of the day. They deliberately pursue a strategy of what we call “stealth politics”

Consider social security, the largest and most popular domestic program in the United States. Social security has been the subject of spirited debates for decades. Is it going “bankrupt”? (No.) Should its benefits be expanded, to keep all retirees’ incomes well above the poverty line? Or – as advocated by the billionaire Pete Peterson (co-founder of the Blackstone private equity firm) and wealthy allies who fear that high government spending and deficits would erode bond values – should guaranteed benefits be cutperhaps through less generous cost-of-living adjustments, or by ending guaranteed benefits entirely and leaving retirees with private accounts subject to stock-market fluctuations?

Most of the wealthiest US billionaires have made substantial financial contributions – amounting to hundreds of thousands of reported dollars annually, in addition to any undisclosed “dark money” contributions – to conservative Republican candidates and officials who favor the very unpopular step of cutting rather than expanding social security benefits. Yet, over the 10-year period, 97% of the wealthiest billionaires have said nothing at all about social security policy. Nothing about benefit levels, cost-of-living adjustments, or privatization. (Also nothing about the popular idea of shoring up social security finances by removing the low “cap” on income subject to payroll taxes and making the wealthy pay more.) How can voters know that most billionaires are working to cut their social security benefits?

Consider the estate tax.  Twelve of the wealthiest billionaires – including the Kochs and (perhaps unsurprisingly) several wealthy inheritors of the Walton and Mars fortunes – aimed specifically at cutting or abolishing the estate tax. They gave money to policy-oriented organizations seeking to abolish the tax, or founded such organizations, and served on their boards. Not a single billionaire took such activity to support the estate tax.
The political network assembled by the Koch brothers has become so powerful. The Kochs have had a fertile field of less-well-known conservative billionaires to cultivate for hundreds of millions of dollars in secret, unreported contributions. The Kochs’ entrepreneurship and organizational skills, together with stealthy contributions by these little-known billionaires, have produced a political juggernaut.
Both as individuals and as contributors to Koch-type consortia, most US billionaires have given large amounts money – and many have engaged in intense activity – to advance unpopular, inequality-exacerbating, highly conservative economic policies. But they have done so very quietly, saying little or nothing in public about what they are doing or why. They have avoided political accountability. 

A hopeful sign for Yemen

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday called for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen, which has been ravaged by a nearly four-year-old civil war. Pompeo said missile strikes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should stop. He also called on the Saudi-led coalition to stop air strikes in all populated areas of Yemen.
"The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV (drone) strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Pompeo said. "Subsequently, coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen," he added.
UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said earlier this month that the world body hoped to resume consultations between the warring sides by November.
Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis backed Griffiths' call for talks next month.
Mattis said on Tuesday the US had been watching the conflict "for long enough" and called for a ceasefire.
"We've got to move toward a peace effort here. And we can't say we're going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days," he said.

The Red Cross is in the red

Millions of people living in crisis are being "left behind" by humanitarian aid organizations, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced

Some 134 million people will need humanitarian help this year, the IFRC said in its World Disasters Report 2018, citing the UN, but only 97 million would receive aid.  In 2017, "fewer than half of the people estimated to be in need were actually known to be reached by internationally supported humanitarian assistance." 

"Even if all humanitarian appeals were fully funded, it is likely that many millions of people would still be left behind," said the IFRC secretary general, Elhadj As Sy. "This report should shake the entire international humanitarian sector into actively seeking out those left desperate and hidden in the shadows."

The Red Cross said the failure to provide support to those in need was not just due to lack of funds. Discrimination against minority groups, holes in government statistics, damaged or insufficient infrastructure, and conflict and violence were all reasons cited by the report as to why millions of people fail to receive needed aid. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 3,751 natural disasters, affecting some 2 billion people. 

Weather-related disasters accounted for the largest type of natural disaster at 84 percent, with floods as the most frequently occurring type. Other disasters include storms, heat waves, landslides, fires, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Over 700,000 people died due to natural disasters over the past decade, with earthquakes causing roughly half the deaths.  

While the World Disasters Report pointed out that the scope of international humanitarian aid has reached record levels, it simultaneously highlighted a "massive and growing gap between the funds required and the funds available."

In 2017, the UN was only able to cover just over half of its total spending calls, the IFRC wrote. "The data suggests that while aid levels may be reaching their peak, the level of need has not yet reached its peak," it warned

The North-South Mortality Divide

Socioeconomic deprivation has led to a particularly sharp rise in deaths among 25 to 44-year-olds , according to new data analysis from Manchester university.

There has been a “profoundly concerning” rise in early deaths from accidents, suicide, alcohol misuse, smoking, cancer and drug addiction in the north of England, deepening the north-south divide, research has found. The north–south divide in mortality for people aged 25–44 years first emerged during the mid-1990s and continued into 2016. This mortality divide grew quickly during that period for accidents among men relating to alcohol and drug misuse, while a longstanding gap for cardiovascular deaths remained and a gap for male suicide emerged more recently.

Northerners in that age group were 47% more likely to die from cardiovascular complications, 109% from alcohol misuse and 60% from drug misuse, compared with southerners, the paper published in the Lancet Public Health medical journal stated.
Between 2014 and 2016, 3,530 more men and 1,881 more women aged between 25 and 44 died in the north than in the south, when population and age are taken into account.
Research also found that fatal traffic accidents were far more common in the north than the south, with nine of the 10 lowest-risk counties in the south. It suggests that poor transport infrastructure in the north could be to blame, with investment “heavily skewed towards the south, especially London”. Excessive speed, intoxication, failure to wear seatbelts, and unlicensed or uninsured driving are most prevalent in the most deprived areas in England. Pedestrians are also more likely to be killed in deprived areas, they claim.
Work-related fatal accidents were also higher in the north of England, mainly owing to variations in regional industries and occupations and their associated risks.
London had the lowest mortality rates, with the north-east having the highest, even after adjusting for age, sex and socioeconomic deprivation.
Suicide among men, especially at ages 30-34, is significantly more common in the north than the south.

Money goes to money

A think-tank says that a landmark study reveals growing absolute wealth inequality and raised questions about the outsize impact of inheritance on social mobility. 

The Office for National Statistics data exposed a big gap between the oldest and wealthiest in society, who are likely to inherit the largest sums, and the youngest and those on lower salaries.

The ONS found that between 2014 and 2016, those aged 54-64 were the most likely to have inherited £1,000 or more in the past two years, compared with 4 per cent of those aged between 25-34. The median inheritance received by those in the top personal wealth quintile stood at £35,000, compared with £3,000 for those in the lowest wealth quintile.

Tom Stevenson, investment director at Fidelity International, an asset manager, said: “Unfortunately it is clear from the ONS’s study that money has a tendency to fall on the biggest pile. If you are looking at ways to reduce wealth inequality then inheritance is not the answer.”

The amount of money passed on through inheritance each year has doubled over the past two decades — and will more than double again over the next 20 years as baby boomers pass away. According to the Resolution Foundation, UK residents stand to inherit £200bn in 2035, up from £90bn in 2014/15.

Fast Fashion Costs

Demand for cheap garments is also leading to poor working conditions and exploitation in global supply chains, the Environmental Audit Committee was told. Campaigners estimate some 25 million people globally were estimated to be trapped in forced labour in 2016.

"Consumers in the UK are getting pleasure and enjoyment from fashion and that is coming at a cost to workers and the environment," said Mark Sumner, a lecturer in fashion and sustainability at the University of Leeds.

Global clothing sales have boomed in the last two decades, driven by fast-changing fashion trends, but this has resulted in people wearing each item far fewer times before throwing it away, a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found.

Textile production emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, it said, with less than 1 percent of unwanted clothes being recycled. Clothes release half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

"We are finding synthetic materials - plastics but particularly fibres - in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice, in fishing shellfish," said Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at the University of Plymouth..

Alan Wheeler, head of Britain's Textile Recycling Association, a trade group, said, "I would like to see producers, retailers, being made in some way to take more responsibility for the clothing that they are putting on the market."

Billionaire Bonanza

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and financier Warren Buffett own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. combine;

As median household wealth has declined since 1982, the Walton, Koch, and Mars families have seen their wealth grow 6,000 percent;

A full-time Amazon employee would have to work for 2.5 million years to earn $78.5 billion, the amount Bezos made last year alone.

 The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) published on Tuesday a new report—titled "Billionaire Bonanza 2018: The Role of Dynastic Wealth" (pdf)

A handful of individuals and family dynasties are leaving the rest of the American population with stagnant or falling wages, meager or even negative wealth, and soaring economic insecurity.

"Today's extreme wealth inequality is perhaps greater than any time in American history," Josh Hoxie, a co-author of the report, said in a statement. "This is largely the result of rapidly growing wealth dynasties and a rigged economy that enables the ultra-wealthy to grow their wealth to never-before-seen highs."

IPS found that "seven of the 20 wealthiest members of the Forbes 400 inherited their wealth from previous generations, often through companies founded by their ancestors." 

They include Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries as well as Jim, Alice, and S. Robson Walton of Walmart and Jacqueline and John Mars of the Mars candy empire.  These three "wealth dynasties" own a combined $348.7 billion—over four million times the median wealth of American families.

IPS looked at the 15 wealthiest American families with multiple members on the vaunted Forbes 400 list, it found that the wealth of each of these families "comes from companies started by an earlier generation, either a parent or more distant ancestor. Each of them also represents a wealth dynasty passing generation to generation free from interruption." Combined, these families are worth $618 billion. 

In total, IPS found, "136 out of the 400 members of the Forbes 400 derive their wealth from companies started by an earlier generation. That's 34 percent, or about a third, of the entire list."

"These families have used their wealth and power to lobby and rig the rules to expand their wealth and power," explained Chuck Collins, IPS senior scholar and co-author of the new report.

 IPS argues that "There is now ample evidence that some billionaire families are engaged in aggressive practices to preserve dynastic wealth. These include using their wealth to lobby for tax cuts and public policies that will further enrich their enterprises," the report notes. "They hire armies of tax accountants, wealth managers, and trust lawyers to create trusts, shell corporations, and offshore accounts to move money around and dodge taxation and accountability."

“We are developing into a plutocracy.” These words are not from Bernie Sanders, but Paul Volker, the former chair of the Federal Reserve under both Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Plight of the Rohingya Continues

More than 720,000 of Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya people fled a brutal military crackdown in August last year, taking shelter in crowded camps in Bangladesh and bringing with them harrowing tales of rape, murder, and arson. Although the community has lived in Myanmar for generations, a 1982 law stripped them of their citizenship and made most of them stateless. No clear process for citizenship for the Rohingya has been demonstrated. They are widely referred to as “Bengalis” by the government, inferring they are interlopers in the country. 

Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to start the repatriation of Rohingya refugees next month, less than a week after UN investigators warned that a genocide against the Muslim minority was continuing. The Rohingya still are not allowed to move around in Rakhine freely.  Rohingya are still being targeted in violence and the hardship and threats are still forcing the remaining Rohingya to flee. Rohingya demands for safety and citizenship had not been met by Myanmar authorities and Rahkine is described as “dangerous” for the Muslim community. Buddhist community leaders and citizens there still refer to the Rohingya as “terrorists” and made it clear that “no one wants them to come back”.

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said last week, “It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment.”

 The Myanmar government is demolishing areas where thousands of Rohingya lived before fleeing to Bangladesh. According to a UN fact-finding mission, whose report last month called for Myanmar’s military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide,  the purpose of the bulldozing and construction is “the removal of the Rohingya and all traces of them and their replacement with non-Rohingya”. 

Another effect of the construction is the destruction of physical evidence that could be useful in a future tribunal.  Christopher Sidoti, a member of the UN fact-finding mission, told the Guardian he and his colleagues were able to collect enough witness and victim evidence to compile pre-prosecution briefs, which could one day be used by prosecutors. “The clearance is certainly destroying evidence, including of probable graves and sites of burning bodies, but it does not prevent accountability because of the great mass of other evidence,” Sidoti said.

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic recently told the Guardian that the agency “does not believe that conditions are currently in place in Myanmar for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees”.

Rohingya families who fled Myanmar have been living in cramped, makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Bangladesh initially proved very welcoming to those fleeing the violence, but the burden of looking after the refugees has become politically contentious in the already poverty-stricken country.

The end of war

In the 242-year existence of the U.S. (1776–2018), it has been involved in 79 wars.

If a “war year” is one during which the U.S. was involved in war part or all of the year, and if we define a “peace year” as one during which the U.S. was not involved in war, then the record shows there were 224 war years (92.5 percent) and only 18 peace years (7.5 percent).

America has had 45 presidents. If we define a “war president” as one whose entire term included at least one war year, and if we define a “peace president” as one whose entire term included only peace years, then the record shows there were 45 war presidents and no peace presidents.

In addition to the aforementioned 79 wars, the U.S. is involved in many “secret wars.” In 2017, U.S. Special Operations forces, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, deployed to 149 countries around the world. That’s about 75 percent of the nations on the planet and represents a jump from the 138 countries that saw such deployments in 2016 under the Obama administration. It’s also a jump of nearly 150 percent from the last days of George W. Bush’s White House. 

 Virtually all parts of the world have been the target of U.S. intervention.

There are between 1,077 and 1,180 U.S. military bases dotting the globe. In each of 80 different countries, there are at least one or more bases.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest employer in the world. It has 3.2 million employees, including 1.6 million active-duty military personnel, of which 250,000 staff foreign U.S. military bases. There are 801,000 in the Coast Guard and Reserves and 800,000 civilian employees. DOD defense contractors include over 50,000 corporations. The total employment is just under 2,000,000. DOD has contractors in 190 of the 200 nations.

In 2016, the U.S. spent $1.036 trillion on defense, which is 3.66 times more than the combined total of $0.2829 trillion for China ($0.2157) and Russia ($0.0672).
In 2016, the U.S. spent 1.6 times more than the rest of the world combined ($0.650 trillion).
As of 2017, the U.S. has an inventory of 6,800 nuclear warheads; of these, 2,800 are retired and awaiting dismantlement and 4,018 are part of the U.S. stockpile. Of the stockpiled warheads, the U.S. stated in its April 2017 New Start declaration that 1,411 are deployed on 673 ICBMs, SLBMs and strategic bombers. Currently (2018), Trump wants to spend $1.2 trillion on upgrading the nuclear arsenal.
Since the end of World War II, U.S. military forces were directly responsible for approximately 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths, while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
There also are proxy wars for which the United States is responsible. In these wars, there were between 9  million and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan. The overall conclusion reached is that the United States most likely has been responsible since WWII for the deaths of between 20 million and 30 million people in wars and conflicts scattered over the world.
There is a long-overdue transformation which could enable all to thrive and enjoy the benefits of a much more humane society. Capitalism is an abomination and a crime against humanity. It ought to have been done away with ages ago. 

No matter what the real or alleged atrocities of the “bad” side, however, wars are quarrels over control of territory and resources between different sections of the capitalist class—business rivalry by other means. The working class can have no interest in such matters. The result of a “just” war is the same as a “bad” war—the poor do the dying and the rich harvest the profits. The only “worthwhile” war is the class war—the fight against war.

Wars are inevitable under capitalism because of the economic competition between states that is built-in to it.

When Humanitarian Aid is a PR Exercise

Saudi Arabia has demanded that aid agencies operating in Yemen should provide favourable publicity for Riyadh’s role in providing $930m (£725m) of humanitarian aid, an internal UN document reveals. Although many donors seek publicity in return for grants, the extent of the Saudi demands are highly unusual.

The document, entitled Visibility Plan, covers the terms of the 2018 humanitarian budget for Yemen, and shows the extent to which the UN aid agency, Ocha, was put under pressure to accept the PR strings attached to money given both by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The two countries provided nearly one-third of the total UN humanitarian budget for Yemen for this year. Future grants distributed by Ocha to agencies should be tied to the amount of beneficial publicity given to Saudi Arabia, the documents advises. It also calls for Ocha to seek favourable publicity for the Saudi humanitarian effort in Yemen in newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian.

The document also sets out how all agencies receiving Saudi aid must share a summary of their publicity around the funding. The agreement adds: “We consider it very important to ensure that our dear fellow Yemenis are all aware of our donations. More emphasis should be placed on strengthening the local visibility plan by engaging local media … so that donors get deserved recognition and not to be overshadowed by the recipient’s agencies’ visibility.” The UN, the plan sets out, will convene events at UN headquarters focusing on the humanitarian response in Yemen, and the impact of all donor funding. These events will acknowledge the roles of all donors including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The agreement also requires agencies receiving the aid to document Saudi- and UAE-supported activities in photographs and video material in Yemen. The document then sets out 48 specific steps UN agencies have agreed to take this year to publicise Saudi activity covering five different UN aid-linked agencies, including the UN Development Programme, Ocha, the World Health Organization and Unicef.

One demand states: “One would expect from Ocha or a recipient agency to publish articles in recognised daily newspapers such as the New York Times or the Guardian, highlighting our contribution.” Ocha complied with a Saudi request that “a specialised person is recruited by Ocha to be the focal point to ensure the implementation plan by all recipient agencies and to consolidate reports”.

End of Austerity?

The era of austerity is not over for working families on benefits or government departments like transport, according to one of the first independent analyses of the Budget by the Resolution Foundation. It said that richer households would feel the most positive effects.
The report highlighted that many of the cuts to welfare announced in 2015 are still to be rolled out. That includes the £1.5bn benefits freeze for people in work which the foundation said would see a low-income couple with children up to £200 a year worse off.
The Resolution Foundation said it was the top 10% of households that would gain most - around £410 a year - from the decision to increase the amount people can earn before they start paying income tax and the higher rate of tax. Poorer households would gain around £30 a year.

In total, 84% of the income tax cuts announced on Monday will go to the top half of the income distribution next year, rising to 89% by the end of the parliament.

The overall package of tax and benefit changes announced since 2015 will deliver an average gain of £390 for the richest fifth of households in 2023-24, the thinktank found, compared to an average loss of £400 for the poorest fifth.

Ignoring the science

Important information on the efficacy of new drugs and treatments is going unpublished, posing a risk to health, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee says.  
Despite repeated warnings, not enough is being done to make sure the results of all clinical trials are reported. Nearly half of clinical trials go unreported, evidence suggestsIt means some clinical decisions are made without all the available data. In some cases, this might endanger human life.
They give the example of heart drug lorcainide, which was tested in 1980. The results showed that people who were taking it were more likely to die than those who were not, but those findings were not published until 1993 - long after it was made available to patients in the US.
The committee also heard that "publication bias" may have led to UK public money being wasted, for example when the government's decided to spend £424m to stockpile Tamiflu in response to the H1N1 "swine flu" epidemic in 2009. Dr Simon Kolstoe, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth and chairman of two ethics committees, told the committee: "Eight out of the 10 trials that were used by the company to show the drug was useful in preventing complications such as pneumonia had never actually been peer-reviewed or published." He said this meant governments were "relying on a marketing spiel claiming successful trials of this drug, rather than being able to consider the actual evidence of the drug efficacy for themselves".