Sunday, March 31, 2019

Emigration Vs Immigration Issues

In Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and Romania, six countries where population levels are either flatlining or falling sharply, more citizens said emigration was a worry than immigration. In some countries, the fear of emigration was so great that large numbers of people believed compatriots should not be allowed to leave their country for long periods of time. The steepest falls are in Romania, where the population has decreased by almost 10% over the past decade as an exodus of mostly young people move to work in western Europe. Fewer and fewer young people pay for the healthcare and pensions of an ageing population

However, in northern and western nations, concerns over immigration far outstripped those over emigration. In the survey as a whole, 20% were worried about emigration and 32% about immigration. However, immigration numbers have fallen sharply over the past two years: in 2018, the number who crossed the Mediterranean was put at just over 116,000 by UNHCR, down almost 90% from those who made the journey in 2015.

Populist leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini are seeking to put migration front and centre of the 23-26 May polls, in which 374 million people are eligible to vote in a new parliament for a five-year term. The Orbán government recently deployed a scare poster warning about migration policy in Brussels. Hungary has refused to take refugees under an EU quota system and continues to block an EU law that proposes a permanent redistribution system for asylum seekers. The poster referred to this theme, stating: “They want to introduce compulsory relocation quotas.”

In a new book, Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbotson, they say many countries are already being forced to grapple with the problems caused by a falling population. Bulgaria has a low birth rate of 1.5 births per woman, the toughest of lines against immigration and its population has fallen by almost 2 million in 30 years, to just over 7 million. Spain, where the fertility rate is even lower at 1.3, has appointed a sex tsar to see what can be done to prevent the population – currently just over 46 million – from falling by 5.6 million by 2080. Poland has closed hundreds of schools because there not enough children to fill them. Fewer Italian babies were born in 2015 than in any year since the country was unified in 1861. Germany’s ageing population was a key factor in Angela Merkel’s decision to accept a million Syrian refugees in 2015.

It is not just Europe. The same trend applies to Japan and will soon apply to China, thanks to the one-child policy imposed by Beijing 40 years ago. India’s birthrate has also dropped, as has Brazil’s. Two factors lie behind falling birthrates – more people living in cities and the empowerment of women – and they apply to the developing as well as the developed world.

If developed countries wanted to maintain growth rates at anything like their current levels, they would have to welcome immigration from the one part of the world where the population will keep growing, Africa.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Brexit Chaos

Many thanks to VM

“No Land, No Life!”

Millions of small-scale farmers and food producers including indigenous communities in poor countries have limited access to land and resources because the land is monopolised and controlled by landlords and big corporations. It is ironic that those who suffer severe hunger are those who directly produce food. We face today a world of increasing repression of rural communities and worsening threats to their rights to land and resources. We witness how landless peasants, farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, fishers, rural women and youth, and other marginalized rural sectors greatly suffer under authoritarian populist regimes. We see how massive infrastructure projects and agricultural “development” programs, many funded through onerous foreign debt and investments, displace rural peoples from their lands, livelihoods and cultures – all in the name of capitalist domination and plunder, local elite rule and private profits. Global powers – now counting emergent China – and their corporations continue to intensify their endless pursuit of and competition for control and exploitation of the world’s natural resources, including lands and all the wealth these hold and can produce. All this feeds the unabated concentration of land in the hands of a few at the expense of the vast majority who actually till and enrich the lands for generations.

Land grabbing and resource grabbing are strife. Land and resource grabbing is inherent in capitalism. Foreign businesses are buying or leasing agricultural land in developing countries for industrial food and biofuel production. Local elites in business and politics play a central role in facilitating these deals. Land and resource grabbers remain determined to take away what rightfully belong to the people. Without land to till or agriculture to depend on, people have no food or income for their families. Latest available estimates show that of the 570 million farms worldwide, 475 million are small holder farms (i.e. less than two hectares). While comprising more than 83% of the total number of farms, these small holder farms only operate about 12% of the world’s agricultural land. While small farms are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia and could produce almost three-fourths of food commodities globally, these same regions account for 95% of the rural poor. Overall, eight out of every 10 of the world’s poorest live the rural areas, based on latest estimates.


A Failing USA

The United States is indeed first in average household income per capita, but fall to sixth in median household income.

The U.S. falls to thirteenth on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which looks at education and longevity as well as purchasing power. 

In a comparison with nineteen other OECD countries, thought to be our peers, recent studies indicate that the United States now has:

The highest rate of poverty overall and the second highest rate for children. The poverty rate among blacks is more than twice that of whites, and about a third of all Americans live in or near poverty

The greatest inequality of both incomes and wealth

The third lowest social mobility

The smallest government payments and taxes to reduce poverty and fourth from bottom in overall public spending on social conditions

The lowest rank in the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index, with international ranking of 41st

Next-to-last in the percentage of women ministers/cabinet members

The second highest wage gap for employed women

The greatest rate of violence against women

The largest consumers of opioids per capita

 The highest drug-death rate

The highest consumption of anti-depressants per capita

The highest rate of death due to police shootings

The third highest suicide rate

The highest homicide rate

The highest incarceration rate

And third from bottom in trusting other people

The lowest rank on the World Economic Forum’s Environmental Performance Index and 114th in “climate and energy” performance globally

The  second highest Ecological Footprint per capita

The largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases and the second largest current emitter and the third largest emitter per capita

The greatest meat consumption and the second highest water consumption, both per capita

The lowest score on UNICEF’s Index of Well-Being of Children

The highest infant mortality rate

The lowest score in math performance and middling performance in reading and science

The shortest life expectancy

The highest share of population with mental health and substance abuse disorders and the highest share with depression

The highest rates of skipped medical visits and skipped medications due to cost

The highest spending on health care as % of GDP

Fifth from bottom in the 2017 Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index; in 2016 the U.S. fell from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy”

Fourth from bottom in protection of fundamental rights

Near the lowest in voter turnout in national elections

The fifth lowest in confidence in national government, and the third lowest in confidence in the courts and judicial system

The next-to-lowest contributor to international development and humanitarian assistance as a % of GDP

The highest rate of failure to ratify international agreements

The greatest military expenditure in total and as a % of GDP. In 2017 the US spent more than the next seven countries combined.

The largest international arms sales

The young people are our hope

The environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg appeared before 25,000 people gathered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to protest the indifference to the threat of climate catastrophe.

Thunberg spoke for less than two minutes, and, despite her now-regular public appearances, her reluctance to be seen as a leader of a movement remains obvious. Nevertheless, the anger was audible in her words behind her reserved manner — as was her discomfort at being thought of as a "new hope."

"The older generations have failed in tackling the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced," Thunberg told the crowd. "When we say to them that we are worried about the future of our civilization, they just pat on our heads, saying: Everything will be fine, don't worry. But we should worry, we should panic, and by panic I don't mean running around screaming," Thunberg said. "By panic I mean stepping out of our comfort zones. Because when you are in a crisis you change your behavior. We want a future. Is that too much to ask for?"

Documents leaked ahead of an EU summit on climate change last week showed that the German government has not supported a European Commission-backed plan to decarbonize the bloc by 2050 — a key part of the strategy to limit global warming in accordance with the 2015 Paris climate agreement. 

"We are here," the students in Berlin chanted. "We are loud because you are stealing our future!"

14-year-old Raphael explained, "I think we've been waiting for far too long for politicians to do something about it," he told DW. 

One young speaker said there had been more than enough time to act, given that the facts about the impending climate disaster are much older than most of the people at the demo. "We're basically going on the streets because of facts that were recognised 40 years ago, and agreements that were made 30 years ago," she said. 

The school students warn that unless adequate action to arrest global warming is taken within a short period it will be “too late.” The urgency of the warning, it is hoped, will rouse people from lethargy to activism. The Socialist Party says the same thing, with the important proviso that “adequate action” must mean, above all, the establishment of world socialism. If we do have a chance of survival, it is contingent on the establishment of world socialism. If capitalism continues indefinitely, then sooner or later we are doomed. The sooner we establish socialism the better. But better late than never. The environmental threat to human survival will come to occupy central place among the concerns that inspire people to work for socialism, overshadowing all else.      

The Day of the Landless

A declaration endorsed by 126 international and national organizations from 24 countries, including the Asian Peasant Coalition, Food Sovereignty in Action Europe, GRAIN, and Arab Group for the Protection of Nature, as well as the Farmworker Association of Florida and Zambia Social Forum, 
declared Friday to be "Day of the Landless." They marked the occasion with a statement denouncing the plunder of the planet's natural resources and reaffirming marginalized rural communities' claims to land and food sovereignty. 

In their zeal to pursue profits by snatching up ever more land for destructive plantations and mining operations, governments and corporate entities are carrying out "human rights atrocities" against small farmer advocates, the groups noted, referencing a catalog of documented killings, assaults, and threats. 
"We see how massive infrastructure projects and agricultural 'development' programs, many funded through onerous foreign debt and investments, displace rural peoples from their lands, livelihoods, and cultures—all in the name of imperialist domination and plunder, local elite rule, and private profits," the groups wrote. "The neoliberal restructuring of agriculture," added the coalition, has contributed to a situation in which the vast majority of the world’s agricultural land is in the hands of a wealthy few—despite the fact the vast majority of farms are held by small holders. It is these small farmers "who actually till and enrich the lands for generations."

We mark the Day of the Landless to let the world recognize our legitimate demands for land to the tiller and genuine agrarian reform; for food sovereignty; and for people's rights and democracy," they stated."Today," they concluded, "we reaffirm our commitment to reclaim our lands and our future from the powerful forces that took them away."

The new statement coincides with the kickoff the "No Land, No Life!" campaign.

Laos - The Land Grab

The Laos government has prioritised big infrastructure projects including dams, railways and mines that have benefited few people and uprooted the poor from their land, said the top independent expert on poverty at the United Nations. While the Southeast Asian nation has seen "remarkable" economic growth over the last two decades, a focus on foreign investment-led infrastructure projects has created too few jobs, and generated large debt repayment obligations.
"The policies pursued so far are very one-sided, and many of them have exacerbated, rather than improved the condition of the people," said Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. "They have generated a large number of landless people who have endured forced resettlement, inadequate compensation and highly problematic livelihoods after they have been evicted," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The landlocked country is experiencing rapid transformation as it lures foreign investment to tap its natural resources, and build much-needed infrastructure. From 2006, government policies paved the way for investments in mining and agriculture, which have placed greater pressure on the land in a country where more than three-fourths of the population is engaged in agriculture. Concessions for mining, and plantations of rubber, sugarcane and other cash crops cover about 45 percent of total land area, according to research organisation Mekong Region Land Governance. Many, if not most, of these concessions have produced "very few returns to the national budget" and have led to "large scale dispossession" of people, according to Alston.With most rural land untitled, land security is tenuous, and compensation is often inadequate or delayed.  Investors continue to hold vast swathes of land that are lost to communities that farmed them, Alston said.
The government has little technical expertise in hydropower, so corporations generally have the upper hand in drafting contracts with terms that favour them, he said.
"The contracts are largely negotiated in secret, and the lack of transparency makes it impossible for even the government to get good advice - at the expense of the country," he said. "The full extent to which the government has mortgaged the future of the country through these contracts - the details of which are only vaguely known - will only come to light years from now."
A dam that was under construction broke last July, killing at least 19 people as it swept away homes in flash flooding. Nearly 4,000 villagers continue to live in temporary camps with little financial support and no clear idea of resettlement,

Gaza, "Completely Abandoned"

MSF said Gaza had been "completely abandoned" over the past 12 months of rallies, and that "the more than 6,500 people shot by Israeli forces during the protests have been largely left to their fate."

According to the medical charity, the vast majority of those injured had suffered leg wounds.

"These are not simple wounds that can be easily stitched up. Huge chunks of legs have been blown out and the bones within shattered," the group said. 

At the moment, Gaza does not have the capacity to treat all of its patients. 
"We have a situation where the health system is overwhelmed, although MSF is doing all it can, we also won't be able to treat all those patients," Melki said.

Challenging The Pouvoir

Algeria has for decades been ruled by perhaps a dozen or so shadowy rival networks of military and intelligence officials, leaders of the dominating National Liberation Front (FLN) party, business people, and regional leaders. They are collectively known by Algerians and Algeria specialists as le pouvoir – the power.
“You have the army, the old guard and there’s the new guard,” says Tarek Cherkaoui, a North Africa specialist at the TRT World Research Centre, a think tank associated with Turkey’s public broadcaster. “Then you have the old FLN, and offshoot organisations, a lot of businesspeople. They marry each other. They have social relationships. They go to the same clubs, live in the same compounds.”
Inside the halls of power, Algeria’s various factions are in deep discussions about what steps to take to keep peace within the regime and satisfy protesters’ demands for change. Within le pouvoir, discussions are focused on propping up a transitional figure, a former head of state or cabinet minister, who is enough of an outsider to calm protesters, but enough of an insider to remain credible to the establishment.
“The pouvoir don’t want a completely independent figure,” says Keren Uziyel, a North Africa analyst of The Economist’s Intelligence Unit. “They want someone who can be influenced by them.”
“People are determined to take to the streets until substantial results are reached,” a journalist in Algiers tells The Independent. “Some are happy, but most of the people are suspicious and not really confident about the application of the law and what will come after it.”
What’s happening now is an Algerian regime in transformation, with everything in flux. For now, the people are the most influential players, but the generals are attempting to take control.
“The public has the upper hand; all the others are trying to adapt and understand,” says Mohammed Affan, an expert on Arab politics and North Africa. “But a new transitional change is emerging. During this phase, the public will lose part of its influence to more organised forces – the state forces and the opposition parties.”
Affan says the dangers for Algeria remain high. All the likely factors for a forceful response by the military are present in Algeria, including a past history of intervention in politics, a weak and divided civilian political scene, large numbers of officers involved in politics, and military officials with huge economic interests.
“The protesters are up against the Bouteflika system, the oligarchs that have been created by Bouteflika,” said Hacine Haroune, a former Algerian secret services official now living in the UK.. “The revenues since he came to power are more than a trillion dollars. But he didn’t construct even a single hospital where he could treat himself.”