Monday, November 30, 2020

China's Greying Population

 With the costs of an ageing population rising, China is to raise its retirement age. In 2018, nearly 250 million of China's 1.4 billion people were aged 60 or over. That is 17.8% of the population and it may exceed 33% by 2053

China’s retirement age has remained unchanged for more than four decades at 60 for men and 55 for female white-collar workers, even as life-expectancy has risen. In places like Japan and Taiwan, most men and women can retire and start drawing a pension at 65. The global average was 62.7 years for men and 61.3 years for women, according to an analysis of 70 countries by insurer Allianz SE.

Top among the complaints were from those closest to retiring, expressing anger over the prospect of delayed access to their pensions. Younger people argued that an increase in older workers would reduce their employment opportunities.



Poverty Rises in the UK

 Almost 700,000 people in the UK, including 120,000 children, have been plunged into poverty as a result of the Covid economic crisis, according to the Legatum Institute, a thinktank, analysis. Of the 700,000 people newly in poverty, just over half had incomes up to 25% below the poverty line, 160,000 were between 35% and 50% below, and 270,000 had slipped more than 50% below, known as “deep poverty”.

An additional 700,000 people had been prevented from falling below the breadline by the chancellor’s temporary £20-a-week boost to universal credit, introduced in April to help claimants cope with the extra costs of the pandemic.

Some non-working claimants who received the £20-a-week top-up have been effectively pulled out of poverty in recent months, the analysis shows, including 100,000 in lone-parent families and 170,000 within workless families.

Overall, the pandemic has pushed the total number of people in the UK living in poverty to more than 15 million – 23% of the population – according to the institute.

Almost 700,000 driven into poverty by Covid crisis in UK, study finds | Society | The Guardian

Global Big Ag

 The world is fast losing farms and farmers to the rich and powerful land speculators and agribusiness corporations.

In 2014, the Oakland Institute found that institutional investors, including hedge funds, private equity and pension funds, are eager to capitalise on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class. Financial returns are what matter to these entities, not food security. The September 2020 report on the grain.org website ‘Barbarians at the barn: private equity sinks its teeth into agriculture’ shows that there is no morality where capitalism’s profit compulsion is concerned. These funds tend to invest for a 10-15 year period, resulting in handsome returns for investors but can leave a trail of long-term environmental and social devastation and serve to undermine local and regional food insecurity.

Private equity funds – pools of money that use pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowment funds and investments from governments, banks, insurance companies and high net worth individuals – are being injected into the agriculture sector throughout the world. This money is used to lease or buy up farms on the cheap and aggregate them into large-scale, US-style grain and soybean concerns. The article outlines how offshore tax havens and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has targeted Ukraine.

Consider Ukraine. That country contains one third of all arable land in Europe. The organisation Grain found that in 2014 small farmers operated 16% of agricultural land in that country, but provided 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk. It is clear that Ukraine’s small farms were delivering impressive outputs. Reforms mandated by the EU-backed loan to Ukraine in 2014 included agricultural deregulation intended to benefit foreign agribusiness. Natural resource and land policy shifts were being designed to facilitate the foreign corporate takeover of enormous tracts of land.

Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, stated at the time that the World Bank and IMF were intent on opening up foreign markets to Western corporations and that the high stakes around the control of Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, constitute an overlooked critical factor. He added that in recent years, foreign corporations had acquired more than 1.6 million hectares of Ukrainian land. In June 2020, the IMF approved an 18-month $5 billion loan programme with Ukraine. According to the Brettons Wood Project website, the government committed to lifting the 19-year moratorium on the sale of state-owned agricultural lands after sustained pressure from international finance. The World Bank incorporated further measures relating to the sale of public agricultural land as conditions in a $350 million Development Policy Loan (COVID ‘relief package’) to Ukraine approved in late June. This included a required ‘prior action’ to “enable the sale of agricultural land and the use of land as collateral.”

 Frederic Mousseau recently stated:

“The goal is clearly to favor the interests of private investors and Western agribusinesses… It is wrong and immoral for Western financial institutions to force a country in a dire economic situation amidst an unprecedented pandemic to sell its land.”

The world’s biggest companies, Cargill, which is involved in almost every aspect of global agribusiness. Still run as a privately held company, the 155-year-old enterprise trades in purchasing and distributing various agricultural commodities, raises livestock and produces animal feed as well as food ingredients for application in processed foods and industrial use. Cargill also has a large financial services arm, which manages financial risks in the commodity markets for the company. This includes Black River Asset Management, a hedge fund with about $10 billion of assets and liabilities.

A recent article on the Unearthed website accused Cargill and its 14 billionaire owners of profiting from the use of child labour, rain forest destruction, the devastation of ancestral lands, the spread of pesticide use and pollution, contaminated food, antibiotic resistance and general health and environmental degradation.

The web that global capitalism weaves in a quest to seek out new profits, capture new markets and control common resources  is destroying farmer livelihoods, the environment and health under the bogus claim of ‘feeding the world’. Those farmers who survive the profiteering strategies of dispossession are to become incorporated into a system of contract farming dictated by global agri-food giants tied to an exploitative food regime based on market dependency and corporate control. A regime that places profit ahead of biodiverse food security, healthy diets and the environment.

From an article by Colin Todhunter on the Countercurrents website

Dispossession and Imperialism Repackaged as ‘Feeding the World’ | Countercurrents

Food for People

 Ninety per cent of the world’s energy intake comes from only 15 crops; and more than half the people on the planet (upwards of four billion) rely on maize, rice and wheat as staples.

Kew scientists and collaborators identified 7,039 edible plant species in their research and there is the potential that this number can grow more and more. In their study, the researchers looked at the edible plants’ other uses: 70 per cent are also medicinal; nearly 60 per cent can be used for materials (e.g., in construction); and 40 per cent have environmental uses (e.g., enrich the soil).

Just 417 of these are currently considered food crops, the researchers found, leaving thousands of overlooked and underutilized plants. Some of which may have been grown in the past, but have fallen out of favour, others which are known locally but not globally, and uncultivated plants people collect from the wild. 

 The multipurpose morama bean holds promise for the future of food. Native to the arid savannas of southern Africa, it’s well-adapted to harsh conditions. Widely eaten there, its flavour is reminiscent of cashew nuts when roasted. Cooks work with it in various forms: Milled into powder for porridges and drinks, or boiled with maize meal.

“From a single bean, you can obtain milk. You can obtain oil. And you can grind the bean and obtain flour, which can be really useful for baking. The potential of this plant is really incredible,” explains Tiziana Ulian, senior research leader in Kew’s Natural Capital and Plant Health department. “(Its tubers) are full of water … which is really good for the species to be able to grow in very dry environments, like in southern Africa in the Kalahari Desert.”

 Akkoub, which is eaten as a vegetable in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East — fried with olive oil and garlic, pickled, or folded into omelettes;

Fonio, a wild grass species that grows in West Africa, which “is a potential staple food” high in iron, calcium and several essential amino acids; 

Pandanus, a drought-resistant coastal tree which grows from Hawaii to the Philippines, and produces fruit and leaves with a variety of uses; and

Chaya, a shrub with “highly nutritious” leaves and shoots native to Mexico’s Yucat√°n Peninsula.

The baobab found in Madagascar, northwestern Australia and various parts of the African continent epitomizes the versatility researchers were looking for. The tall, “upside-down” trees provide shade, giving them immense social significance. It also presents a multitude of medicinal, material and edible uses: The fruit and seeds are local foods; the white pulp treats fevers and diarrhea; and the bark is used to make clothes, paper and rope. 

Most food comes from only 15 crops. That's a problem | National Post

Promises now - Betrayal later

 


Biden is really the tool of Wall St. And it is why did so many of the bankers and industrialists and the big business media endorsed him. They regarded Biden as a more tractable tool, not a different but a better instrument for their designs than Trump. Biden has proved supreme in the art of deception. His liberal camouflage often appeared so realistic that it has even frightened some capitalists further on the right. Biden’s ability to make people think they are getting something has been his greatest contribution to the preservation of capitalism. For his primary objective is to save the capitalist system. He attempts to do this by reconciling the workers to the interests of the bosses. Biden may loathe inequality but he loves capitalism more.

 

 Biden may well sit at the desk in the Oval Office but behind him stands the CEOs of Wall St. They will carry out their strategic aim – saving capitalism.


What makes a businessman tick? The lust for profit that means a callous disregard for the education structures and the health system. This present system twists and distorts the capitalists until they become monsters.


 Wealth flows into the hands of an ever narrowing circle of corporations completely dominated by a handful of capitalists who perform, no function in production whatsoever. At the same time the industrial machine becomes so complex, involves such an intricate organization, requires such a vast number of workers for its operation, is so highly productive, that it is completely ripe for the next stage of society’s development, the socialist system of production for use instead of profit. 


The purpose of the World Socialist Party is to assist our fellow-workers in taking control over our lives away from Big Business and vest it in ourselves. Future generations will wonder why we took so long to act. Not a day passes but what the WSP charges against the profit system is supported by new examples of the inefficient operations of this Big Business-controlled society. Quite naturally, Big Business believes capitalism is the best of all possible systems. It is – for Big Business. But it is hell for the people. Or haven’t you had enough yet? If you have bad enough, and are looking for a program to fight capitalism intelligently, join the World Socialist Party of the United States.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Arming the Despots

 


Most UK arms are being sold via a secretive and opaque licensing regime that allows for the mass transfer of deadly weapons to “sensitive locations”, according to new analysis. Researchers found tens of billions of pounds worth of missiles, bombs and machine guns had been sold under open licences, a mechanism that makes the tracking of arms sales more difficult. It has prompted accusations that the government is attempting to mask the true extent of British-made arms export to repressive regimes.

Analysis of government export licence figures and military contracts from 2010 to 2019 by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) indicates that around £44bn of the total £86.1bn have been sold through open licences. Critics said the figures were “extremely alarming” and called for the use of open licences to be stopped.

The UK government had approved at least 10,390 open licences since 2010, many to countries with poor human rights records. The UK government also sells military goods across the world using standard expert licences which are far more transparent, specifying the value of goods and destination. Open licences, however, allow an unlimited transfer of an agreed type of military equipment to a destination over a designated period of time, though the weapons transferred do not have to be accounted for and their totals are not made public. These licences are only supposed to be used for ‘less sensitive’ goods but much of the equipment exported is extremely deadly and the locations it is sent to are often very sensitive

These include more than 200 to Saudi Arabia which is leading a coalition responsible for widespread bombing in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions.

Almost 270 shipments went to India which has been accused of human rights abuses in Kashmir and whose police were found complicit in anti-Muslim violence. 

Another 167 licences were agreed with Turkey which has intensified its campaign against a decades-old Kurdish insurgency.

More than 1,800 open licences involved small arms – including sniper rifles, assault rifles and ammunition. These included 87 to Sri Lanka, which has been accused of atrocities against the Tamils; 49 to Egypt whose government has faced criticism for state repression; and the Philippines whose brutal war on drugs has seen thousands killed by policeThere were also 199 open licences for teargas with destinations including Hong Kong whose police have been using brutality in clashes with pro-democracy protesters.

“By using this opaque mechanism, the government is making proper scrutiny of arms sales even harder,” said Andrew Smith of CAAT. "These weapons could be fuelling abuses and atrocities around the world.”

Secretive licensing system allows UK weapons to reach ‘repressive regimes’ | Arms trade | The Guardian

Bleak Times Ahead

 Britain is on course for one of the worst periods of income growth since records began. Real household disposable income is set to rise by just £220 from 2019 to 2024, a lift of just 1%. 

The hit to household income emerges amid a growing outcry over the plight of 2.9 million self-employed workers who say they are facing “a miserable Christmas period” after being excluded from the government’s financial aid schemes. The groups who have not been helped include the newly self-employed, directors of small limited companies, self-employed workers who have earned £50,000 or more in trading profits in recent years and certain types of freelancers. As many as one million people in the UK are planning to give up being self-employed after seeing their earnings decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic. A report from the London School of Economics found that a two-decade-long trend in favour of more people working for themselves was now under threat.

The Resolution Foundation thinktank, based on official figures, highlights how long the economic scarring from the pandemic will take its toll on household finances. It concluded that it would mark the second worst parliament for income growth since 1955, when records began. Only the 2015-17 parliament, when incomes actually fell by 0.1% a year, has a worse record.

Unemployment set to peak at 2.6 million in mid-2021 and remain high long after the pandemic is over, the foundation said. It warns that a plan to cut universal credit and tax credits in April would see around six million households lose more than £1,000 a year.

Adam Corlett, principal economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “On Wednesday the chancellor warned that the economic emergency was just beginning – and that’s true of both the public and household finances..."

Families ‘facing hardest period in five decades’ as Britain's economy stalls | Economic growth (GDP) | The Guardian

Have Yachts V the Have Nots

 


Billionaire owners  of superyachts often spend £200m or more on what is essentially a floating palace on the ocean. Three young British people died on superyachts, and their families never provided with compensation or even an apology from anyone. It’s complicated, not least because the yachts can operate in international jurisdictions, so coroners are prevented from calling people as witnesses, and it’s incredibly hard to hold anyone to account.

There’s been a big rise in the purchasing of Downton Abbey-style estates, costing upwards of £25m, where people who formerly lived in Mayfair or similarly expensive urban locations have relocated to get more space, more land, in order to escape the pandemic and house more family members. 

The very richest people have benefited financially – in fact, it’s been a very good year for the super-rich. That group – including people such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Elon Musk of Tesla – are able to take financial risks. Tech firms are doing brilliantly on the stock market. We’re all at home using Zoom, Google, Amazon and so on, so they are sitting pretty. The market value of Zoom is up over 500% this year!

recent UBS report talked about how the super-rich’s fortunes have almost doubled in the last three years, and by more than a quarter during the recent market turmoil. Wealth is as concentrated now as it was in the US Gilded Age, when a few billionaire families – the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, etc – had monopolies on the biggest industries.

While whole families who would previously have been decidedly 'middle-class' are queuing up for food banks, the average pay of chief executives has surged far beyond that of the average worker. Just before lockdown, there were a number of chief executives who forewent their pay, but they’ll recoup it elsewhere, whereas their employees certainly won’t.

Reporting on wealth: ‘The virus isn't a leveller. It has made the rich richer’ | Investment funds | The Guardian

The Elderly are Expendable

  Covid-19 has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people who live and work in long-term care facilities in the United States. 40% of the nation's Covid-19 deaths have occurred in care homes for the elderly.  7.7% of the nation's nursing home residents, or one in 13, have now died as a result of Covid-19. 

Critics have argued that the profit-driven nature of the private nursing home industry is the underlying problem, since treating elder care as a commodity rather than a public good can incentivize cost-cutting or money-making measures that put people in harm's way. 

In Connecticut, according to a study, "For-profit nursing homes had about 60% more cases and deaths per licensed bed than nonprofit ones," while "larger facilities were hit harder than smaller ones, and... homes serving as part of a chain had worse outcomes," as Reuters reported

The “K-shaped recovery”


Economists talk of a “K-shaped recovery” where the well-off bounce back on the upward tick of the K while the less fortunate slide further into poverty on the downward leg.

Stock markets are at record highs. And the very rich have done very, very well. America’s billionaires have added $1tn to their wealth over the pandemic.

Yet 20 million Americans are currently unemployed.  About 778,000 people filed for unemployment last week alone. For many hunger has become a major issue. Government figures show that the week before Thanksgiving – America’s biggest feast day – 5.6m households struggled to put enough food on the table. Huge lines have formed at food banks across the country and years of neglect and underfunding of the systems to help those in need have worsened their plight.

According to the Century Foundation, 12 million Americans will be cut off from their jobless benefits on 26 December. Anew round of stimulus have stalled and stalled again. The extra payments have stopped, the cash has been spent. Republicans, happy to run up record debts under Trump, are now talking about the need for “austerity”.

“It’s borderline criminal that nothing has been done,” said William Rodgers, former chief economist at the US Department of Labor, and an informal adviser to the Biden transition team. “They rammed through a supreme court nominee but have done nothing to help American families.”

A disproportionate number of those people will be women and Latino or Black and young, the groups hardest hit by the economic downturn. only one in four US workers have a job that allows them to work from home. 

Janet Yellen, the next treasury secretary of the United States, said that the African American unemployment rate in particular was too high but argued that the central bank was ill-suited to address the issue

 She told Reuters: “There really is a new kind of recognition that you’ve got a society where capitalism is beginning to run amok and needs to be readjusted in order to make sure that what we’re doing is sustainable and the benefits of growth are widely shared in ways they haven’t been.”

The US is on ‘inequality autopilot’ – how can Biden's treasury pick help change course? | US income inequality | The Guardian

Saturday, November 28, 2020

American Food Banks Overcome with Demand

 One in six U.S. families with children don't have enough to eat this holiday season, a national emergency exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the unemployment crisis it has generated.

According to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S., more than 50 million people will experience food insecurity by the end of the year. Among U.S. children, the figure rises to one in four. The group, which runs a network of some 200 food banks across the nation, says it distributed over half a billion meals last month alone, a 52% increase from an average pre-pandemic month. 

The latest U.S. Census Bureau pandemic survey, published earlier this month, found that fewer than half of U.S. households with children were "very confident" they could afford to provide enough food for their families in the next month.

When it comes to matters of economic inequality, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by the hunger crisis. 

Among the 25 U.S. counties experiencing the worst food insecurity, only four have majority white populations, all of them in rural Kentucky. Census Bureau data reveals that fully 27% of Black and 23% of Latinx households with children reported not having enough to eat over the past week—compared with just 12% of white families. 

"People are seeing hunger like they've never seen it before," Trisha Cunningham, president of the North Texas Food Bank—where cars lined up for miles and people slept in their vehicles waiting for Thanksgiving food boxes.

"We're now seeing families who had an emergency fund but it's gone and they're at the end of their rope," Kristin Warzocha, president of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, told the Guardian. "We're going to be doing this for a really long time, and that's frankly terrifying given the impact hunger has on physical health, learning and development for children, and parents' stress."

In Texas' second-largest city, the San Antonio Food Bank distributes eight semi-trucks full of food every day, but still was forced to resort to rationing due to soaring need. 

San Antonio Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper told CNBC. "Pre-pandemic we were feeding around 60,000 people a week, and now we're seeing around 120,000... and most of those are new to the food bank. They've never had to ask for help before." 

 Thousands of cars that lined up starting in the pre-dawn hours for free Thanksgiving meals at Houston's NRG Stadium last weekend. If a person driving a Mercedes is in need of food, you know it's bad.

'Hunger Like They've Never Seen It Before': US Food Banks Struggle as 1 in 6 Families With Children Don't Have Enough to Eat | Common Dreams News

Solidarity with Dilli Chalo (Go to Delhi)

 


Tens of thousands of Indian farmers continue to protest in and around New Delhi, the national capital against agricultural legislation they say could be exploited by the private sector to buy their crops at low prices. Police had used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to block the demonstrations from arriving but eventually the farmers were allowed to enter the city.

 Farmers and their unions have rejected laws, which were passed in September which they say could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.

“We are fighting for our rights. We won’t rest until we reach the capital and force the government to abolish these black laws,” said Majhinder Singh Dhaliwal, a farmer activist.

Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last 30 years. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15 percent of the country’s $2.9 trillion economy. Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water supplies during dry spells.

Darshan Pal of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and Punjab president of Krantikari Kisan Union, said “They [government] have actually opened the markets, open the land and open the commodities of the farmers for the big corporate houses. They will form the mandis (agricultural markets), they will get the contract farming done and control the agribusiness. Our basic demand is to scrap all these anti-farm laws and assure the Minimum Support Price (MSP) [the price at which the government buys farm produce] as recommended for all the crops and assured marketing guarantee for all the crops.”

Sukhdev Singh, Punjab general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta, accused the government of passing the laws “to benefit the big corporates...The government didn’t find it worthy or important taking us onboard before bringing these black laws.” 

Many people may agree that the agriculture sector needs reforms but they say the laws passed by the Indian government leaves farmers at the mercy of private investors. These laws loosen the rules around sale, pricing, storage – laws which had protected Indian farmers from the market for decades. This is what the farmers are worried about, even though the government says something of a minimum support price for produce will remain. Farmers say there will be no more guaranteed assurance of this.

Indian farmers continue anti-farm bills protests | India | Al Jazeera

Friday, November 27, 2020

The Stock-Market Boom for Who?

 


The pandemic is draining millions of workers of their retirement futures. 

The all-time record highs that Wall Street has registered this week have given some Americans — the nation’s already rich — considerable cause for celebration. But tens of millions of Americans are paying precious little attention. The simple reason: They own no stocks at all. How much of America’s stock wealth does the bottom 50 percent hold? At the end of this past June, the most recent Federal Reserve data point available, the nation’s poorest half held less than 1 percent of the nation’s stock holdings, just 0.6 percent.

The nation’s poorest 90 percent, all combined, now hold just 11.8 percent of the nation’s stocks.

Shares of stock — either held directly or through mutual funds — make up just 2.3 percent of the total assets of households in the bottom 50 percent and a mere 7.6 percent of the assets the rest of the bottom 90 percent hold.

Last year found that 55.8 percent of households in the middle 20 percent of U.S. income-earners hold stocks. The median — most typical — value of these stocks for those average Americans who held them: just $15,000, down $1,000 from three years earlier.

On the other hand, for the America’s richest 1 percent  stock holdings make up over 40 percent of top 1 percent household wealth. These 1 percenters, overall, hold 52.4 percent of the nation’s stock, a share almost five times greater than all the stock that households in the bottom 90 percent hold.

This top 1 percent share has been steadily increasing. Since 1989, the year the Fed started keeping track, the top 1 percent share of the nation’s stock holdings has jumped 22 percent. The bottom 90 percent share has dropped 33 percent.

Millions of other Americans who do own stocks don’t see any reason to celebrate either. They’re finding themselves forced, amid pandemic economic collapse, to start selling the stocks that make up the bulk of their retirement savings.

 Increasing numbers of Americans start taking advantage of changes Congress made this past spring — via the Covid-19 relief legislation — that let economically reeling Americans under age 59 1/2 withdraw dollars out of their 401(k), IRA, and other retirement accounts without having to take the standard 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. The rules around 401(k)s and other retirement accounts have traditionally used penalty fees to discourage cashing out account holdings. In Covid-19 America, with withdrawal penalty fees now off the table for this calendar year, Americans have begun making those withdrawals anyway.

The Covid-19 calamity, notes Denver CPA Celeste Schimmenti, “has forced many Americans to exhaust their savings and emergency funds,” and that’s left them agonizing over whether they’ll need “to dip into retirement savings to cover current expenses.” But dipping into retirement accounts — selling the stocks in these funds — can have a devastating impact on future retirement security. Withdrawing $10,000 from a 401(k) today can cost a 35-year-old $100,000 by the time retirement comes around.

The number of Americans cashing out the stock they hold in their retirement accounts is rising as the income support for average Americans provided through the CARES Act expires. By the end of the year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Lori Lucas estimates, 10 percent of Americans with 401(k)s could be raiding their retirement futures.

Overall, the Economic Policy Institute reported last year, “nearly half of working-age families have nothing saved in retirement accounts.”

The Rich Are Cheering Wall Street's Latest Records. Americans of Modest Means Are Draining 401(k)s. | Common Dreams Views

Hunger Stalks the Land

 


According to the World Food Programme (WFP) 690 million people do not have enough to eat. while130 million additional people risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of the year. Hunger, as many experts have pointed out, is not because the world doesn’t produce enough food.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council last April: “There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don’t prepare and act now – to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade – we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”

“Hunger is an outrage in a world of plenty. An empty stomach is a gaping hole in the heart of a society,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week pointing out that famine is looming in several countries. Guterres said he could have never imagined that hunger would rise again during his time in office as Secretary-General.

Danielle Nierenberg, President and Founder of Food Tank, told IPS, “Ironically, there will be record yields for many grains this year, but the disruptions in the supply chain caused by the pandemic as well as the global climate crisis and increasing conflict in several countries is leading to a hunger pandemic as well,” she pointed out. “We’ll need more than vaccines to make sure that food is considered a human right and that people around the globe have access to a living wage and safe, affordable, and accessible food,” she declared.

Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s President & CEO, told IPS, “We’re hearing the same refrain all around the world – families are very worried as they are forced to make impossible decisions – do they risk catching the disease as they go out to earn money to buy food? Or stay home and watch their children go hungry?” Maxman told IPS the exciting news about vaccines is providing hope of getting out of this global nightmare, but the scientific breakthrough is only part of the equation. Equally important, she said, is making sure every single person on this planet can get it as soon as possible. But at the moment, rich countries, including the US, are already hoarding more than half of the vaccines to be developed by the companies with the leading five vaccine candidates. To protect everyone no matter their wealth or nationality, corporations with the leading candidates for an effective COVID-19 vaccine must commit to openly sharing their vaccine technology to enable billions of doses to be made as soon as possible at the lowest possible price, Maxman declared.

Maxman said: “The global food system is broken. We must rebuild a fairer, more resilient, and more sustainable food system”.

The fact that eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe illustrates just how broken our food system is, she noted.

UN Warns of an Impending Famine With Millions in Danger of Starvation | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

Socialist Sonnet No. 9

 Neither Lender nor a Debtor Be?


The National Debt’s a kazillion at least,

As pandemics are expensive it seems.

Who would have thought in their darkest of dreams

Such a high cost in becoming deceased?

Just how much can a cough possibly cost?

What’s the price of a lungful of forced air?

Taste, smell and the economy are lost,

And long Covid’s legacy is despair.

 

But, then there’s those who buy gilts without guilt,

Who find the prospects of bonds quite thrilling;

While people are dying, they’ll make a killing.

Meanwhile, pay packets and pensions will wilt.

 

Diseases are certain and life is unsure,

Then common wealth, not money, is the best cure.

 

D.A.


Imagine Online

The Autumn issue of Imagine is now online. 

Imagine is the journal of the Socialist Party of Canada.

It has articles on the pandemic, the ‘debt bomb,’ indigenous peoples and the environment, hydro power, the history of radical publishing, alternative communities, Black Loyalists, religion — all interspersed with pictures and poetry.