Sunday, February 28, 2021

Germany's Roma Still Stigmatised

 "You're nothing, you can't do anything, you're the bottom of the pile." That's what members of Germany's Sinti and Roma communities have been told for centuries.

RomnoKher is the nationwide association of Sinti and Roma for the promotion of culture and education, and and issues a survey of  Sinti and Roma people living in Germany, among them both Germans and immigrants.

The authors of the study refer to racism, anti-ziganism and discrimination.

 Some 40% of respondents reported discrimination against their children — including in the classroom — by teachers and fellow students. 

Two-thirds of all respondents feel discriminated against because they belong to a minority, including in the education system. 

Sinti, Roma face systemic prejudice in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.02.2021

The BBC Is Animated

 A report in The Times - 26/2/21- stated The BBC wanted to end the dominance of American cartoons on television because they prevent British children from absorbing their own culture, a senior executive said.

Children are part of families which come from many different countries with their own cultures. Is it that they mean or is for them to adhere to "British Culture"  (whatever that means)  ?

The broadcaster is hoping to create Britain's answer to The Simpsons as it pours extra funds into animation to win back viewers from Disney and Netflix.

The Director Of Children's Programmes & Education at The BBC, Patricia Hidalgo, said too many cartoons watched in this country are made overseas. She is telling producers to insert more identifiably British moments, such as roast dinners, into family shows.

Hidalgo cited "The Amazing World Of Gumball" as an animated series created in the UK but set in a fictional Californian town. 

Maybe The BBC could consider a cartoon about Socialism. An animated series about a world without leaders, a world without money, a world where everything that is produced is available freely to everyone in the world.

As we know the dominant view in the world is the one of the Capitalist class.

Socialism is a big idea, it's a story that has to be told, which needs a platform.

The Royal Rich List


Militancy V. Military in Myanmar

The Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, are trying to suppress the people's opposition to their coup with increasingly more force. Workers and students have been arrested for participating in the peaceful protests, and the military has started to use live ammunition. Workers continue to resist. 

 “Workers were already angry, they were already activated”, said Daw Moe Sandar Myint, who has been on the frontlines of the movement against the coup. “A familiar feeling of suffering had returned and they could not stay silent.” This anger pushed her and many others to lead factory workers into the movement.

Soon after the coup was declared, a massive, civil disobedience movement emerged, with workers and trade unions front and center. In one of the earliest mobilizations, medical workers from over 110 hospitals and health departments in 50 townships across Myanmar were among the first who rose up and went on strike.

Teachers were also quick to join the movement with their students. Seven teachers’ unions, including the 100,000-strong Myanmar Teachers’ Federation announced work stoppages.

 The trade union federations were quick to mobilize. The Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM), the largest trade union federation in Myanmar, called for the first general strike on February 8.  The more recent general strikes since February 22 have seen participation from workers across a greater spectrum of Myanmar society. Despite threats of arrest and dismissal workers in a wide range of sectors, including garbage collectors, firefighters, electricity workers, private bank employees, and garment workers initiated waves of strikes, and many joined street demonstrations.

Andrew Tillett-Saks, a labor organizer based in Myanmar, emphasizes, "The sight of industrial workers, largely young, women garment workers, seems to have deeply inspired the general public, broken down some of the fear, and catalyzed the massive protests and general strike we are seeing now.”

Employees from municipal governments and various government ministries have joined the strike actions, leaving many departments deserted in the past week. The labor actions hit particularly hard in the transportation sector. According to an official from the Myanmar Railways (MR), 99 percent of railway employees are on strike, leading to a shutdown of train services. Striking workers managed to shut down the military-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, Myanmar National Airlines, mines, construction sites, garment factories, and schools, creating economic costs for the military rulers. 

Working people are boycotting the military’s extensive business interests in food and beverage products, cigarettes, the entertainment industry, internet service providers, banks, financial enterprises, hospitals, oil companies, and wholesale markets and retail businesses.

 Workers’ militancy has been building over several years. As the country opened itself up for foreign direct investment nearly a decade ago, the government agreed to major labor law reforms, legalizing trade unions and codifying labor rights in the 2011 and labor dispute resolution mechanisms in 2012. However, Myanmar labor activists have argued that the laws seek to channel workers into legal avenues that are far less powerful than their militant, mass actions to demand real improvements to harsh working conditions and the low minimum wage, which currently stands at 4,800 kyats (U.S.$3.26 per day).

 “When one strike happens, other workers see that the strike works,” said Daw Moe Sandar Myint, a leader of the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar and herself a former garment worker, describing the strike wave in the garment sector. “They come to know the taste of the strike, and it is a good taste. The strike also gives them the union.”

A wave of militant strikes swept the garment sector in 2019 to demand higher wages and safer working conditions. The $6 billion industry, which employs 700,000 mostly female workers, supplies global brands such as H&M, Zara, C&A, among others. It accounted for 30 percent of Myanmar’s exports that year—up from 7 percent in 2011, when the country’s democratic reforms began.

 Employers took advantage of the business disruptions wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic to bust unions by laying off their members. Workers at multiple factories went on strike early in the pandemic to receive their unpaid salaries and compensation for their dismissal. in March 2020, the Myan Mode garment factory permanently fired all 520 union members and withheld their wages, citing Covid, while keeping its 700 non-union workers. The union organized protests and was able to secure withheld wages for the dismissed workers.

The organized participation of workers and their unions in both the public and private sectors is one of the most crucial factors pushing the civil disobedience movement forward and determining the future of Myanmar.

Workers in Myanmar have demonstrated that direct actions are powerful and they work. Whether by organizing and engaging in militant strikes in their workplace, or by walking off their jobs and joining street demonstrations, they are fighting to defend their democratic rights and win a better life for workers in the country and around the world.

Myanmar Workers and Unions on the Front Lines in Fight Against Coup | Labor Notes

Saturday, February 27, 2021


 Colourism is discrimination against dark-skinned people. It comes from within the community as well as without, and is an issue across many races.

All black women face prejudice, but the truth is that mixed-raced and lighter-skinned black women have been granted a degree of privilege.

 Research looking at 12,000 female prisoners in North Carolina found that sentences for lighter-skinned women are, on average, 12% shorter than for dark-skinned inmates.

 In 2014, the founder of dating website OkCupid shared data showing that dark-skinned black women are the least likely to be approached on his site. 

Even the UK passport system is biased: according to a BBC investigation last year, women with the darkest skin were four times more likely to have their photograph rejected than those with the lightest skin.

Even in the playground, I was told my skin was too dark: it’s time to face up to colourism | Race | The Guardian

Some background reading

Material World: Colour Prejudice – (

Indians Take a Stand Against Skin Whitening – Baltimore Independent

Poverty Apartheid

 For building new homes, certain regulations were introduced to include affordable housing. This proved a problem for the up-market property developers aiming to attract the wealthy buyers who did not wish to mingle with the less affluent. 

So the solution was to design apartment blocks in a way that the rich and the poor were segregated. What has been termed "poor doors" and "poor floors" have been introduced and facilities such as courtyards, communal lounges and roof gardens divided. Separate entrances,  lifts and stairs were installed to keep the wealthier and the less wealthy residents apart. Technology allows developers to control which parts of new buildings people have access to. In many tenure-split blocks, access to certain floors is via a key-code, which prevents movement between levels.

  One  vast £1bn Convoys Wharf development in Deptford, south-east London, will have different entrances for residents paying London affordable rents – those on social housing waiting lists – and for slightly better-off households buying into shared ownership. The most common form of segregation, however, is the tenure-specific block. West London’s Ealing council, with Malaysian developer EcoWorld, is planning six towers with nearly 200 affordable homes confined to two blocks.

‘Poor floors’: anger over new plans to segregate tower block residents | Housing | The Guardian

America's Inequality - the Cost

 $50 trillion , that is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades, according to a new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation.

Had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.

Price and Edwards calculate that the cumulative tab for the US four-decade-long inequality had grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020. 

 America’s inequality is old news. Many other studies have documented this trend. The RAND report brings the inequality price tag directly home by denominating it in dollars—not just the aggregate $50 trillion figure, but in granular demographic detail.

For example, are you a typical Black man earning $35,000 a year? You are being paid at least $26,000 a year less than you would have had income distributions held constant. 

Are you a college-educated, prime-aged, full-time worker earning $72,000? Depending on the inflation index used (PCE or CPI, respectively), rising inequality is costing you between $48,000 and $63,000 a year. 

At every income level up to the 90th percentile, wage earners are now being paid a fraction of what they would have had inequality held constant. 

According to Oren Cass, executive director of the conservative think tank American Compass, the median male worker needed 30 weeks of income in 1985 to pay for housing, healthcare, transportation, and education for his family. By 2018, that “Cost of Thriving Index” had increased to 53 weeks (more weeks than in an actual year). But the counterfactual reveals an even starker picture: In 2018, the combined income of married households with two full-time workers was barely more than what the income of a single-earner household would have earned had inequality held constant. Two-income families are now working twice the hours to maintain a shrinking share of the pie, while struggling to pay housing, healthcare, education, childcare, and transportations costs that have grown at two to three times the rate of inflation.

America's 1% Has Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90% | Time

Fact of the Day

 According to WHO data for 2020 for entire world, in the case of children under 5 years of age, 45% of deaths are linked to undernutrition. 47 million children are wasted, over 14 million are severely wasted, 144 million are stunted while 38 million are overweight.

Pandemic - Blood on their hands

Countries seeking their own COVID-19 vaccine doses are making deals with drug companies that threaten the supply for the global COVAX programme for poor and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization said.

COVAX aims to vaccinate 20% of people in low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021 – a modest ambition, to UK ears. Late last week, COVAX was boosted by additional donations from the US, UK and European Union. But COVAX and the low-income countries that depend on it are still on the back foot. Despite wealthy countries’ apparent support for COVAX, most have raced to clinch bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies, “pre-ordering” vaccines even before efficacy trials had been completed – and there is a global shortage of vaccine stock.

The WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told the body’s recent executive board that 44 bilateral deals had been done in 2020 and a further 12 this year. Manufacturers, Tedros said, have prioritised regulatory approval in rich countries where the profits are highest 

“Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals, going around COVAX, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue. This is wrong,” said Tedros. Securing private bilateral deals directly with pharmaceutical companies is unaffordable for the least developed countries. Uganda, for example, is paying the Serum Institute of India $7 per dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine – triple the price paid by the European Union ($2.16).

Young people in wealthy countries were being vaccinated before vulnerable groups, including the elderly and health workers, in poorer countries. 

Three-quarters of global vaccinations have taken place in only ten countries, while 130 countries don’t have access to a single vaccine,

 WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for countries to waive intellectual property rules, to allow other countries to make vaccines more quickly.

 The WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires countries to give pharmaceutical corporations lengthy monopoly control over the knowledge and technology used to produce medicines. India and South Africa in October 2020 introduced a proposal (pdf) calling on the WTO to exempt member nations from enforcing pandemic-related patent protections. The TRIPS waiver is backed by more than 100 countries, but a small group of powerful states in the Global North—led by the U.S., U.K., and Canada—is actively and successfully impeding the will of a majority of the world.

Biden, despite having had the opportunity to do so at two recent WTO committee meetings, has not yet ended U.S. opposition to India and South Africa's proposal—even though current trends indicate that the world's poorest countries will be forced to wait until 2024 for mass inoculation, causing needless suffering and death, and generating more than $9 trillion in economic losses.

"As an expert in intellectual property law and access to life-saving medicines, I can assure the Biden administration that intellectual property barriers are real, and they're blocking millions of people around the world from accessing life-saving Covid-19 vaccines," Brook Baker, senior policy analyst at Health GAP and professor of law at Northeastern University, said during the press conference. "By obstructing the TRIPS waiver proposal, President Biden is breaking his promise to share Covid-19 vaccine technologies with the world."

The world does not have time to wait for the usual, slow, and unequal distribution of treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines. The new Covid-19 variants, which show more resistance to vaccines, prove that further delay in immunity around the world will lead to faster and stronger mutations. The TRIPS waiver would give countries more ways to tackle the legal barriers to maximizing production and supply of medical products needed for Covid-19 treatment and prevention. 

Akshaya Kumar, director of crisis advocacy at Human Rights Watch, pointed out, "Sharing the recipe for vaccines by pooling intellectual property and issuing global, open, and non-exclusive licenses could help scale up manufacturing and expand the number of vaccine doses made."

 Abby Maxman, president of Oxfam America, said that "rather than slicing the existing pie of vaccines even more finely, we need to share the recipe so that we have enough for everyone. We need a people's vaccine. A vaccine that is free to everyone around the world, that is fairly distributed based on need and not on nationality or ability to pay." Decrying the "vast chasm of inequality" created by giving "just a handful of giant pharmaceutical corporations... monopoly control over the live-saving technologies we all need," Maxman noted that the U.S., with only 4% of the world's population, has purchased almost half of Pfizer's total expected supply in 2021.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, emphasized that "rich nations have an obligation to share with the global community. That is the only way to protect the vulnerable here and abroad. The United States must stop blocking the WTO TRIPS waiver in order to share the vaccine with the developing world and to prevent the killing of our vulnerable siblings in the developing world," Campbell added. "If we don't get the waiver, we in the United States, I believe, will have blood on our hands, and we cannot allow that to happen. Let's change this."

Asia Russell, executive director of Health GAP, which has campaigned for equitable access to medicines for over two decades says, “The only solution is for vaccine manufacturers to share their technology so we can start to overcome artificial vaccine supply scarcity through easing monopoly restrictions. Why is gross profiteering being tolerated, while front-line health workers in poor countries are dying waiting in line for access? Aren't their lives worth as much as people in the UK or US? Pharmaceutical companies must wake up. Donation schemes and feel-good initiatives won't fix vaccine apartheid. They must relinquish their patents, share their know-how, and co-operate.”

'Blood on Our Hands': 400+ Groups Call on Biden to Support Making Vaccine Recipes Available to the World | Common Dreams News

Opinion | The Most Fundamental Stumbling Block To Vaccine Access Is That Private Pharmaceutical Companies Are in Control and Rich Countries Are Enabling Them (

Biden Backtracking on Fossil Fuels

 Biden is getting plenty of plaudits from the liberal media for returning America to the Paris agreement but when it comes to actual policies, he is reneging on his campaign promises.  He is cleverly masquerades pro-fossil fuel policies as climate action. 

“No more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period.”

His  actual executive order only paused the leasing program for some indeterminate period while the administration reviews it. Indeed, the order was accompanied by an announcement that existing leases and permits — stockpiled by the industry under Trump — would be untouched. 

Energy Secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm voiced support for exporting fossil fuels (in the form of liquified natural gas, or LNG). Boosting LNG exports means an increase in fracking in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio — creating a host of serious public health problems — along with building massive new facilities to handle these exports.

The administration is backing plans to create new ‘carbon markets’ in the agricultural industries which would let financial speculators and corporate polluters team up to monetize soil practices that increase carbon removal (which is extremely difficult to measure in the first place). The point of all of this is to allow fossil fuel corporations to purchase ‘carbon credits’ from farmers instead of actually reducing their own pollution.

Carbon capture schemes sound great in theory, but the technology, to the extent it works, is used to pump more oil out of the ground — the opposite of climate action. Several high-profile carbon capture projects have been shuttered recently, mostly because relying on ‘market incentives’ to coax compliance from fossil fuel corporations is a fool’s errand. If these companies can’t find a way to make the numbers work, they’re not going to bother disturbing their business model.

Increasing the amount of drilling to send fracked gas overseas, or creating accounting tricks that conceal continued reliance on fossil fuels, aren’t climate progress. It is a matter of old wine in new bottles.

No, Biden’s Climate Plans Don’t Cut It (

What caused the Syrian Civil War?

 Climate change alone cannot be blamed for the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011. However, neither can it be ignored as a reason the once blossoming country became a parched, war-torn place

"Syria serves as prime example for the impact of climate change on pre-existing issues such as political instability, poverty and scarce resources," Jamal Saghir, Professor at the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University, told DW.

"Climate disruption was an amplifier and multiplier of the political crisis that was building up in Syria," as Staffan de Mistura, former UN Special Envoy for Syria between 2014 and 2018, explained. "A toxic cocktail started to turn into an explosive mixture with the ingredients of the Arab Spring, the anger of losing jobs, migration to cities, as well as the purchasing power decline and the anger against the very tough and very cruel reactions by the government," de Mistura said.

In the past, Syria's farmers have benefited from relatively fertile and productive lands, as well as the state's promotion of staple crop production between the 1970s and 1990s. The country of around 17 million people has been hit by three droughts since the 1980s. The most recent stretched from 2006 to 2010, and was recorded as the worst multiyear drought in around 900 years.

Decreased precipitation combined with rising temperatures resulted in desertification and devastation of agricultural land, particularly in eastern Syria. Along with this, 800,000 people lost their income and 85% of the country's livestock died.

Since crop yields had also plummeted by up to two-thirds, the country had to start importing large quantities of grain. Consequently, food prices doubled. "But the drought still continued and people were hopeless," Saghir said, thus explaining why 1.5 million rural workers headed to the cities for work. Those who stayed were mainly impoverished farmers who became easy targets for terrorist recruiters from groups like the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The crisis was aggravated by Bashar Assad's decisions to reduce fuel, water and food subsidies over the years. In addition to water scarcity in rural areas, tensions rose between Kurds, Arabs, Alawites and Sunnis.

Geopolitically, the situation didn't become any easier with ongoing competition over Syria between archenemies Iran and Saudi Arabia. "We started seeing horrible medieval sieges around many cities or villages when people were cut off from food and water, like in Homs or Aleppo," de Mistura remembered.

Vast parts of the country have been devastated by war, water remains scarce and infrastructure is in dire need repair across almost the entire country.

"Assad has almost won the territorial war but is still very far from winning peace," said de Mistura.

Jamal Saghir agrees: "For peace, you need reconstruction," he said.

But with economic sanctions still imposed  and Assad's allies reluctant to invest the future is far from promising. 

How climate change paved the way to war in Syria | NRS-Import | DW | 26.02.2021

Food Wasted

 Supermarket chains are throwing away the equivalent of 190 million meals a year that could be given to the hungry.

 Britain’s top 10 chains are donating less than 9 per cent of their surplus food for human consumption. The worst-performing supermarkets were Sainsbury’s and Iceland, with 3.8 and 1.7 per cent donated respectively. Tesco, meanwhile, was top with 13.7 per cent, while Aldi and Co-op also managed above 10 per cent.

Just 24,242 tons was passed on to the needy out of 282,338 tons of unsold food approaching its use-by or best-before date.

Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) says that an additional 80,000 tons of the leftover food would have been suitable to donate. Every 1,000 tons amounts to 2.4 million meals.

For 2019-20, 258,096 tons were either sent for animal feed or pulped in crushers at the back of superstores and sent to anaerobic digestion plants to produce biogas or fertiliser.

 In the first few weeks of lockdown, up to 3.7 million adults sought charity food or used a food bank, while the plight of those struggling to feed children has been highlight.

Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said, “It is clearly unacceptable that with a climate and ecological crisis, as well as rising poverty and hunger, supermarkets in the UK are wasting tens of thousands of tons of edible food. The land, water and energy used to produce, then dispose of, uneaten food is sickening.”

Revealed: UK’s largest supermarkets throw away enough food for 190 million meals | The Independent

Friday, February 26, 2021

Myanmar Coup...Follow the money...

 The motives for the Myanmar military coup so far has been far from clear but this report from Al Jazeera may help to enlighten us. 

 Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, are fully integrated into the country's economy. The key to their wealth are Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) through which the military has been able to gain a monopolistic control over core sectors of the economy, including some of the country’s most lucrative industries. Their influence and holdings represented an elaborate system of patronage that the army generals uses to maintain power. When privatisation of nationalised businesses happened with the asset sales in 2011  senior generals and their families were able to take advantage of the opening of the economy to secure ownership over many of Myanmar’s companies. The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission, set up in the wake of the Rohingya crackdown, detailed the military’s business interests in a 110-page report that was published in August 2019. The report laid bare the extent of the armed forces’ involvement in the economy – exposing 106 MEHL and MEC-owned businesses as well as 27 close affiliates to the military – and the armed forces’ domination of Myanmar’s natural resources, including jade mining.

The Tatmadaw’s web of commercial interests enabled it to “insulate itself from accountability and oversight,” the UN said. “Through controlling its own business empire, the Tatmadaw can evade the accountability and oversight that normally arise from civilian oversight of military budgets.”

“During the NLD period, the military’s businesses empowered them and enabled their campaign of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The military is able to use funds from business to support military units, including those committing atrocity crimes, and it meant they were not reliant on the defence budget allocation from parliament.” explained Justice for Myanmar, an activist group.

However, in 2019, the NLD managed to secure civilian control of the general administrative department, which oversees key bureaucratic appointments, and had also introduced changes to the law on gemstones and jade. The military had been forced to relinquish much of their control.

Htwe Htwe Thein, an associate professor at Australia’s Curtin University, said, “It was a sign of the weakening grip of the military over the government administration and patronage – which had been at the heart of its ability to accumulate and protect its wealth.”

“The military’s tentacles spread across the board,” said Montse Ferrer, the business and human rights adviser at Amnesty International, which published a report last year estimating the military enjoyed dividends from MEHL alone of some $18bn  in the 20 years until 2011.

The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, which tracks transparency and standards of corporate governance in Myanmar through its annual Pwint Thit Sa report described MEC as a “military owned enterprise controlled by the Tatmadaw”, subject neither to civilian control, or the oversight. MEHL had seven directors, and one alternate director, all of whom were active or retired military personnel. About one third of shares were held by battalions, with individuals owning the rest. The company’s constitution, it noted, also showed the existence of a “Guiding Board” – to oversee the Board – headed by Min Aung Hlaing.

 Anna Roberts, executive director of the Burma Campaign UK, pointed out that concerning some sanctions upon individual generals, "Min Aung Hlaing led a genocide against the Rohingya and the international response has been almost nothing really. He’s probably calculated that there will be a small response, but that it will be a price worth paying.” Roberts continued, "He feels he will get away with it. That’s why the international response needs to be strong; stronger than he was calculating.”

 For foreign governments, it is time to get tough with Min Aung Hlaing and his generals.  Campaigners say efforts to identify military revenues – from legal and illicit sources – and investigate the way in which the military’s money passes through the global financial system must be stepped up in order for sanctions to work effectively.

“What we’re calling for in parallel with targeted sanctions is an effort by the countries imposing sanctions to investigate the revenue flows to the military and uncover the identities of unknown shareholders and the banks that have their money,” said  Clare Hammond, Global Witness’ London-based researcher on Myanma. “That’s pretty crucial because we need to understand exactly where the military is making and keeping their money to effectively put pressure on those sources of funding.”

Others have suggested targeting the military’s banking and financial links. In a recent report on how the world should respond to the coup, Crisis Group stressed there could also be pressure on the military’s preferred financial centres in the Asian region “notably Singapore” including asset freezes and denying the generals’ financial services.

Council put profit before people

 Elizabeth Campbell, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)  has said sorry for putting profits before people in a series of deals that leased out public property for commercial gain.

It related to the sale of leases on a public library, a teacher training centre used by council staff working in family, children and educational services, and a building housing a Citizens Advice bureau, to private school operators including Notting Hill preparatory school, which charges £21,000 a year per pupil. The assets were all in the more deprived north of the borough and part of a wider property strategy for the area aimed partly at boosting revenues to the council.

“Before 2017 the council did not find the right balance between financial benefits, and social benefits,” Campbell said. “Too often the council put the narrow goal of generating commercial income above the broader aim of delivering benefits to our wider community We fell below the bar on consultation, transparency, scrutiny, and policy. We cannot say hand on heart that residents were involved every step of the way, or that the council put their interests first and foremost, and for that we apologise.”

Ed Daffarn, a Grenfell survivor who questioned several of the property deals before the fire, said, “This report goes some way in capturing the culture of a local authority that had metamorphosed into an agent for property development; an organisation that treated the North Kensington community with contempt while playing it’s perverse game of monopoly with our public assets. "

The council’s chief executive, Barry Quirk, set the council’s failures in the context of the 2010 austerity policies of David Cameron’s coalition government, which required local authorities across the country to find new ways of raising funds.

“The period from 2010 established new orthodoxies in local government as the then government’s approach to fiscal consolidation led to substantial reductions in central government or national taxpayer-financed support for local government,” he wrote. “In the period from 2010 to 2017, councils’ ‘core spending power’ was dramatically reduced. Across London, the ‘spending power’ of councils was reduced by an average of 32%.”

Grenfell Tower council apologises for putting profits before people in borough | Grenfell Tower fire | The Guardian

Humanity - An Endangered Species

 Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, warns that the impending fertility crisis poses a global threat comparable to that of the climate crisis.

“The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” she writes in Count Down.

Sperm counts in the west had plummeted by 59% between 1973 and 2011. Now, Swan says, following current projections, the median sperm count is set to reach zero in 2045. 

 Such is the gravity of the threats they pose, she argues, that humans could become an endangered species. “Of five possible criteria for what makes a species endangered,” Swan writes, “only one needs to be met; the current state of affairs for humans meets at least three.”

Between 1964 and 2018 the global fertility rate fell from 5.06 births per woman to 2.4. Now approximately half the world’s countries have fertility rates below 2.1, the population replacement level.

Falling sperm counts 'threaten human survival', expert warns | US news | The Guardian

China Declares Victory

 In the war against poverty, the Chinese government claims success.

 Over an eight-year period, nearly 100 million people have been lifted out of poverty, 832 poverty-stricken counties as well as 128,000 villages have been removed from the poverty list.

China has set a low bar in its definition of poverty, and that ongoing investment is needed in its poorest areas. The threshold set by China to define extreme poverty amounts to $1.69 a day at current exchange rates, compared to the World Bank's global threshold of $1.90.  In China, extreme poverty is defined as earning less than $620 (£440) a year.

Wide income inequalities continue to exist.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Quote of the Day

 "We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism." - Fred Hampton

French Births Fall

  Linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of babies born in France in January fell by 13 percent, the biggest drop in 45 years. 53,900 babies born in January 2021, down from 62,180 in January 2020

National statistics agency INSEE said that the "context of a health crisis and huge uncertainty may have discouraged couples from procreating or prompted them to postpone their parenting project for several months".

In 2020, the number of births in France fell to its lowest level since World War II, with 735,000 children being born. In 2020, the birth rate in France fell to 1.84 children per woman, compared with 1.86 in 2019.

Covid-19 pandemic blamed for biggest drop in France's births in 45 years (

American Power


A new report published Thursday details United States so-called "counterterrorism" operations by the U.S. military in 85 nations since 2018 as part of its "Global War on Terror." The report—published by the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute and USA Today—features an interactive map showing U.S. military operations on every inhabited continent on Earth, including combat, training, exercises, and bases. 

According to the report, the U.S. has provided "counterterrorism" training or assistance in 79 nations since 2018, with U.S. troops carrying out bombing or ground attacks in 10 countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen—over the same period. American forces participated in training exercises in 41 nations over the past three years.

 Additionally, under "Section 127e" programs, U.S. special operations forces have planned, controlled, and participated in missions in numerous African nations. 

Despite recently closing hundreds of bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. still maintains nearly 800 overseas military bases on six continents, according to independent research by Base Nation author David Vine. China—considered by many to be the greatest competitor and threat to the U.S.—has only one official overseas base, in Djibouti.

 $6.4 trillion the U.S. has spent on the never-ending War on Terror.  The report states that more than 15,000 U.S. troops and contractors, nearly 12,500 allied troops, 177,000 national military and police officers, 1,300 journalists and humanitarian aid workers, nearly 260,000 enemy fighters, and nearly 336,000 civilians have been killed.

Socialist Sonnet No. 22

 Old Story Still Being Told


Firstly, burners cut and charcoaled the oak,

Then miners dug, broke and smelted the ore,

Puddlers puddled until ready to pour

Into sand-fashioned mould, stream of fire and smoke

To cool and shape and readied for smithing.

Heat ‘n’ hammer, heat ‘n’ hammer, driving

Out impurities before arriving

At the tempered blade. Next, grinders grinding

The keen edges, all measured by the hour,

Making manifest their muscle and mind,

All adding value, each of its own kind,

A realisation of labour power.


Yet, that sword was property of one alone,

Arthur, who claimed he drew it from the stone.


D. A.

Robbing the Poor

 Billions of people around the world are being trapped in poverty by systemic tax abuses, corruption and money laundering, according to the UN panel on financial integrity for sustainable development.

It said up to 10% of the world’s wealth could be hidden offshore. Illicit financial flows (IFFs) — from tax abuse, cross-border corruption, and transnational financial crime — drain resources from sustainable development. They worsen inequalities, fuel instability, undermine governance, and damage public trust. Ultimately, they contribute to States not being able to fulfil their human rights obligations.

The Facti report says recovering losses to tax avoidance and evasion could help countries such as Bangladesh expand its social safety net to 9 million more elderly, in Chad it could pay for 38,000 classrooms, and in Germany it could build 8,000 wind turbines.

The panel of world leaders, central bank governors and business and civil society representatives said criminals were laundering assets worth as much as 2.7% of global GDP each year.

The UK has steadily cut the rate of corporation tax to 19%, among the lowest in the advanced world. However, the government is thought to be considering raising the tax rate. Ireland’s corporate tax rate is 12.5%. Several UK overseas territories and crown dependencies, including the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey and Jersey, have a zero corporation tax rate.

602e91032a209d0601ed4a2c_FACTI_Panel_Report.pdf (

Tax abuse and money laundering is trapping billions in poverty, says UN | Banking reform | The Guardian

We Suffer, Billionaires Profit

 500,000 Americans have lost their lives.  Countless families across the U.S.  are suffering economic pain as joblessness, uninsurance, and hunger remain sky-high.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX founder Elon Musk saw their wealth grow by $76.3 billion and $158 billion respectively between March 18, 2020 and February 19, 2021. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, saw his net worth jump by $41 billion during that period.

2-19-21 Billionaires Data - Google Sheets

Class Struggle

 What the class struggle is and is not

Paradoxically, the militants and intellectuals who preach class struggle with the utmost vigour appear not to know what it is. Their position transferred to a military war would be careering round the battlefield, declaring strategies, uttering heroic cries and calling on all right-minded men to follow them — without knowing what the war is about, …

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The Class Struggle, Reforms & the Unions

The interminable nonsense talked about the nature of the class struggle by Trotskyists, Young Labourites and Communists does much to hold back class consciousness. According to these empty vessels, every possible aspect of working-class action, real or potential, is part of the class struggle: protests against the Government’s prices policy, squatting, and demands for higher …

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(151 years) 50 Years Ago: Class struggle industrial and political

The labour-power commodity is like all other commodities in that it is bought and sold upon the market, its value being determined by the cost of production, around which the higgling of the market allows its price to fluctuate. It is unlike all other commodities in that it is the commodity of a subject class …

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(116 years)50 Years Ago: Ethics and the Class Struggle

The victory of the Socialist working-class is the only possible ending of this great struggle. This, however, does not mean the subjection of the Capitalist class by the workers: it means the abolition of Capitalism and the end of classes, for the great unprivileged masses cannot secure equality of opportunity without abolishing class privilege, and privilege is based on private property. The triumph of the great working majority thus involves the emancipation of all from class oppression, for the interests of the toiling masses are fundamentally the interests of humanity.

Socialism, is then, the ethics of humanity, the necessary economic foundation of a national code of morality. The interests of the human race are bound up with the aspirations of the oppressed working-class in its struggle with Capitalist domination. As it has very truly been said: “Militant, the workers’ cause is identified with class; triumphant, with humanity.”

From the July 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Matt Culbert