Saturday, July 31, 2021



Not very long ago nurses were earning praise for their commitment and dedication during the worse of the pandemic.  Now nurses around the US are holding strikes, protesting deteriorating working conditions and severe understaffing issues.

For over four months, more than 700 nurses at the Tenet Healthcare-owned Saint Vincent hospital have been on strike, the second-longest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’ history. The hospital has brought in replacement workers throughout the strike and have spent more than $30,000 a day on police coverage during the strike.

Dominique Muldoon, a nurse for more than 20 years at Saint Vincent’s hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, explains, “Most of us felt like we went from heroes to zeroes quickly.”   Nurses had worked through breaks and past scheduled shifts to try to ensure patient care. Understaffing and cuts were the “new normal” at the hospital.

Marlena Pellegrino, a nurse at Saint Vincent hospital, said, We worked through some very tumultuous times where our employer could have stepped up to assist us instead of being an obstacle in our way of trying to care for our patients.” 

In Chicago, about 300 nurses at Community First medical center held a one-day strike on 26 July over hospital failures during the pandemic and new contract negotiations.

Kathy Haff, an emergency room nurse at Community First medical center for 29 years, explained the hospital lost a significant number of nurses on staff during the pandemic, including three nurses who died from the virus, and now nurses are working severely understaffed and with inadequate equipment to perform their duties.

“They don’t appreciate us. They claim to, but they don’t. They just take advantage of us left and right,” said Haff. “We’re working at half staff basically. They don’t care that we’re short. They just keep loading us up and keep criticizing if you’re not moving fast enough. There is no appreciation. All those ‘healthcare heroes’ signs were garbage. We didn’t believe one bit of them. We’re like, yeah whatever. We’re like healthcare suckers because they didn’t protect us.”

 1,400 nurses at USC Keck hospital and USC Norris Cancer hospital in Los Angeles held a two-day strike on 13 and 14 July over understaffing and patient safety concerns.

Thousands of nurses represented by National Nurses United at hospitals throughout California and Texas held a day of action on 21 July to call attention to workplace issues highlighted by the pandemic.

Juan Anchondo, a nurse for nearly 18 years at Las Palmas medical center in El Paso, Texas, explained staffing issues at his hospital have worsened throughout the pandemic as nearby hospitals have lured workers away with bonuses and better pay, and support nurses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) left several months ago after assisting with Covid-19 surges in the region.

“People don’t take breaks,” said Anchondo. “One of the things we’re trying to negotiate is a relief break nurse..."

Kimberly Smith, an ICU nurse for 12 years at the Corpus Christi medical center in Texas, said unsafe staffing was a prevailing issue in new union contract negotiations but that these important issues to nurses have fallen by the wayside for the sake of profits and public relations campaigns asserting nurses are heroes for working on the frontlines during the pandemic and empty thank you events where nurses were given free hotdogs.

“I just want to be safe at work. I don’t need a hotdog. You’re telling me I’m a hero and how wonderful I am. Just make the working conditions safe. That’s all nurses want. We want to feel like we’re able to give the best care we can and have enough resources to do it,” said Smith, who added that nurses regularly skip breaks because there is no staff to relieve them. ‘‘Even before the pandemic the staffing wasn’t this bad. It’s been a horrible year. Nurses have passed away, are getting out of the profession, they’re retiring.”

‘We went from heroes to zeroes’: US nurses strike over work conditions | Nursing | The Guardian

India's "Hereditary Criminals"

De-Notified Tribes (DNTs) continue to bear the brunt of the various laws that stigmatised them since 1871. In 1871, nearly 150 tribes were notified to be criminals by the ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ passed by the British, meaning, just being born into one of these tribes made one a criminal. 

 The creation of these criminal tribes was a “colonial stereotype”. It was to justify the British to discipline or control a section of the population who did not fit into the colonial power’s moral order they were trying to enforce on rural society. 

Dakxin Chhara, the award-winning filmmaker and DNT activist, explained,  “People from time immemorial have been pursuing the caste system defined job-positions: weaving, carpentry and such were hereditary jobs. So, there must have been hereditary criminals also who pursued their forefathers’ profession.”

The DNT community in India continues living an abysmal existence because of a centuries-old criminality stigma. Chhara calls his community an “invisible population” owing to their absence from government records, welfare schemes and a complete lack of political will to address their marginalisation.

 “They are not considered worthy of being part of the village, and most end up living in jungles, moving from one place to another, isolated and stigmatised.” he said.

The Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, was repealed on August 31, 1952, resulting in the former criminal tribes ‘de-notified’ of this discriminatory tag. However, this was only on paper. Over the years, there haven’t been any genuine attempts to address the plight of the DNT communities, and commissions aimed at improving their condition have failed. Many people belonging to the community commit suicide because of how the authorities continue to ostracise them. Youth are arbitrarily arrested on mere suspicion because they are seen as habitual offenders

Women from the community face prejudice and stereotypes because of their involvement in sex work, and those who wish to explore other avenues of livelihood are discouraged and not treated with dignity. Sex workers from the community not only face stigmatisation but also are targets of police excesses. Khatoon shared how children of these women are often discouraged from pursuing higher education and are recipients of undignified comments from people who know that their parents are sex workers.

Shiney Vashisht, a PhD research scholar at the Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi, who worked as a researcher at the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi Nomadic tribes, confirms this.

“The National Commissions established and re-established over the years, have done nothing close to substantial for the DNTs except for half-heartedly recommending welfare steps, that are a mere compilation of suggestions from previous commission reports, based on population projections of decades-old data,” Vashisht says.

Based on her engagement with leaders from the community and field research, she argues that these communities deserve a designated commission, having a constitutional status on the lines of National Commissions for Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 

When Branded as a Born Criminal: The Plight of India’s De-Notified Tribes | Inter Press Service (

Pharma Profits Before Patients


The answer is a resounding no

Advanz Pharma – and its former private equity owners HgCapital and Cinven inflated thyroid drug prices over 10n years by up to 6,000% paid out more than £400m to shareholders and directors during the same period. So much for the usual defence of high prices and lucrative profits that it is for the expense of research and development costs.

Advanz and its subsidiaries were found to have charged “excessive and unfair prices” between 2009 and 2017 for liothyronine tablets, primarily used to treat hypothyroidism and were fined a combined £100m by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

During the period that the CMA found that drug prices were inflated, Companies House filings show that dividends were paid to entities controlled either from Luxembourg or Jersey.

The shareholder payouts were channelled through Mercury Pharma Group, part of the Advanz Pharma network of companies and one of the firms fined in the CMA’s crackdown.

Between 2009 and 2012, Mercury Pharma Group paid £44.4m in dividends while under the ultimate ownership of Hg Capital, via a Luxembourg-based entity called Midas.

In 2012, fellow private equity group Cinven bought Mercury from Hg and merged it with Amdipharm, which it had purchased that year, combining them under the control of a Jersey-based entity called Amdipharm Mercury.

Under the ownership of this new entity, Mercury paid a £12.8m dividend.

Cinven sold Amdipharm Mercury to Canadian drugs company Concordia Healthcare in a £2.3bn deal in 2015, but the Jersey-based structure remained in place.

Now under Concordia’s control, Mercury paid dividends of £240.3m in 2016 and £85.4m in 2017, both to the Canadian firm’s London-based subsidiary Concordia Investment Holdings (UK) Limited

This firm paid no income tax over the period, instead claiming tax credits worth a combined £42m. It was able to do so in part because it made significant losses over the three years, partly due to £344m in debt interest that it paid on £1.47bn in loans that carried an interest rate of 10.5%.

As well as paying the Jersey entity hundreds of millions of pounds in interest, Concordia Investment Holdings (UK) also paid it dividends worth a combined £65m.

Also over the eight-year period covered by the CMA’s fine for inflating drug prices, Advanz Pharma also handed significant payouts to senior managers. The Guardian analysis found the company rewarded directors handsomely via a complex system of dividend payments and intra-company loans involving offshore entities. A subsidiary paid directors, who never numbered more than three people, about £21m over the period of the drug price inflation.

Drug firm that hiked prices by 6,000% paid shareholders £400m | Pharmaceuticals industry | The Guardian

The New Normal?

 Soon such weather events will be so commonplace that they will no longer make the news.

Four people were killed by blazes that swept through the Turkish tourist regions of Antalya and Muğla, forcing thousands of holidaymakers to be evacuated from their hotels by a flotilla of boats.

Throughout the country, firefighters battled more than 50 blazes. Dozens were hospitalised by the smoke. The Turkish meteorological office sees little likelihood of respite in the week ahead. Next week, Ankara and several other sites are set for temperatures more than 12C higher than the August average.

The heat intensity of wildfires in Turkey on Thursday was four times higher than anything on record for the nation. Conditions at the sites of dozens of other blazes throughout the country were tinder dry. Turkey’s 60-year temperature record had been broken the previous week when Cizre, a town in the south-east, registered 49.1C.

“Those numbers are off the scale compared to the last 19 years,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist in the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.

Residents of affected towns told reporters they had never seen anything like it.

 Ibrahim Aydın, a farmer, said he had lost all his livestock and nearly been killed while fighting the flames. “Everything I had was burned to the ground. I lost lambs and other animals.” He pointed out. “This is not normal. This was like hell.”

Climate scientists have long predicted the Mediterranean will be hit hard by rising temperatures and changes in rainfall, driven by human emissions. Future wildfire risk is projected to increase in southern Europe, according to the last report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This year looks likely to continue the trend. The World Meteorological Organisation tweeted that extreme heat is hitting the wider Mediterranean region with temperatures forecast to rise well above 40C in inland areas of Italy, Greece, Tunisia and Turkey. It has urged preparations to prevent health and water supply problems.

Wildfires have already hit southern Greece, forcing evacuations of villages outside the western port city of Patras. Blazes are also reported in Bulgaria and Albania. The EU has issued its highest fire risk alert to places in Italy, Portugal, Spain and parts of North Africa. A large fire broke out on Thursday in Lebanon, where one person has died.

Turkish fires sweeping through tourist areas are the hottest on record | Turkey | The Guardian

Friday, July 30, 2021

Capitalism Cannot Deliver Living Wages Nor Living Hours


A report from the Living Wage Foundation puts the number of people in insecure work at 3.7 million. The Foundation shows that those most at risk from insecure work are, for example, the very youngest and the very oldest workers.

 It further highlights how unpredictable working hours can be and the impact job insecurity has on the family life, health and the ability of workers to do things most of us take for granted: planning our lives and suchlike.

Of those paid less than the living wage, the survey found 12 per cent received under 24 hours’ notice of working hours, shifts or work schedules, nearly half (49 per cent) received less than a week’s notice and more than two thirds (68 per cent) were given less than four weeks’ notice. Forty-two per cent had experienced unexpected cancellations of shifts and of those, 28 per cent received no payment. Nearly all lost some pay. Short notice periods that hit the ability to plan working and personal lives and threaten to tip shaky household finances off a cliff are a problem for hundreds of thousands of workers.

The Living Wage Foundation now has given birth to the Living Hours campaign.

Living Wage Foundation rails against insecure work as Labour belatedly wakes up | The Independent

Caring for Refugees?

There are serious concerns about the “shocking conditions” they found in Kent holding facilities for asylum seekers, including an unaccompanied child housed in an office space for 10 days, and a girl forced to sleep on a sofa for days on end.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, has written to the home secretary following a committee visit on Tuesday when MPs saw asylum seekers held in cramped, unsafe and “completely inappropriate” facilities.

Cooper described how they found 56 people crammed into a small, unventilated waiting room before they were assigned an onward placement. There was no social distancing, or mask wearing, and it was hard to see how it was Covid-safe, she said. “Most people were sitting or lying on a thin mattress and those covered almost the entirety of the floor including the aisles between seats. Sharing these cramped conditions were many women with babies and very young children alongside significant numbers of teenage and young adult men,” she said in her letter to Priti Patel.

50 children’s and refugee charities have warned the education secretary Gavin Williamson that the government, by putting asylum seeker children into “inappropriate” holding facilities with limited supervision and care, may be in breach of its own legislation, due to come into force in six weeks’ time.

This would make it unlawful for children aged 15 or under to be placed in unregistered accommodation. The charities also warn that the holding of asylum seeker children in hotels by the Home Office could amount to a breach of the Children Act 1989, which makes clear that councils are their legal “corporate parent”.

Their letter, whose signatories include the Children’s Society, Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, said: “Reports of vulnerable children sleeping on military-style camp beds and being placed in hotels with limited numbers of agency staff expose fundamental faultlines in our care system, which should be able to offer loving care and protection equally to all children, irrespective of their circumstances.”

Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “Many of these children and young people have fled war and persecution and witnessed often unimaginable scenes. They arrive on our shores frightened and traumatised. For them to then be moved into hotels and holding facilities and left without the care, accommodation and health checks they need is beyond shocking.”

MPs also visited the Atrium facility – “essentially an office space with a large central room and several adjoining offices” – where asylum seekers were held while awaiting ongoing travel, often for several days at a time and in some cases for up to 10 days.

Cooper said the Home Office had confirmed to the committee that one of the individuals held in the Atrium facility for over 10 days was an unaccompanied child. They also said: “One girl was sleeping on a sofa in an office, as the only available separate sleeping accommodation. For children, this kind of accommodation for days on end is completely inappropriate.” She added: “It is extremely troubling that a situation has been allowed to arise, and persist, where vulnerable children, families and young people are being held in this manifestly inappropriate office space for days and even weeks.”

MPs decry ‘shocking conditions’ at facilities for asylum seekers | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian

Capitalist Class Highs


UK companies announced bumper payouts to investors with a combined £7.2bn in dividends and share buybacks as the economy rebounds and Covid fears recede.

Big oil and miners dominated the dividend bonanza, with mining firm Anglo-American revealing the largest payout, worth a total of $4.1bn, after reporting its strongest half-year profit in the company’s 104-year history.

 It followed similar moves by Shell, drinks company Diageo and Lloyds Banking Group, which helped round out a bonanza day for shareholders.

Rising commodity prices, which lifted miners and oil majors, as well as the Bank of England’s gradual removal of Covid dividend caps for the UK’s largest banks, fuelled the increase.

Quarterly dividend payouts – based on when they were distributed rather than when they were announced – have already grown 51.2% to £25.7bn in the three months to June, compared to 2020.

Soaring global oil prices helped Shell report its highest profit in two years, allowing the board to raise its dividend by nearly 40% and launch share buybacks worth $2bn.

Meanwhile, the house buying boom and the return of consumer spending raised economic forecasts at Lloyds Banking Group, which swung back to profit and announced the resumption of dividends, with an aggregate £473m payout to shareholders.

Drinks company Diageo – which owns brands like Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka – announced share buybacks and dividends totalling £1bn.

 Rio Tinto announced the largest interim dividend in its history, saying it planned to pay shareholders $9.1bn.

 Barclays, meanwhile, said that it planned to buy back up to £500m of shares from its investors, while also paying a half-year dividend of 2p a share, resulting in a total £800m return for investors.

Danni Hewson, a financial analyst at AJ Bell, said. “Amidst all the gloom and angst of the last months, this is the kind of day investors will have been hoping for."

“Companies that have seen a strong rebound in their earnings and cash flows have returned to good levels of dividends earlier than our initial expectations,” David Smith, fund manager of Henderson High Income Trust, said. “Also with the significant growth in dividends from the mining sector and restrictions on payments from banks removed, the outlook for aggregate market dividend growth for the rest of the year is positive.”

UK-listed companies report combined £7.2bn in dividends and share buybacks | Oil | The Guardian

Working Class Lows


The sight of families queueing for a hand-out of food was once treated as shocking to see. Now it is common and has been normalised. 

The number of food banks has grown in recent years – there are now more than 1,300 such places in the Trussell Trust’s network, compared to fewer than 100 in 2010 as well as hundreds more run by local charities and churches.

Draconian changes to social security entitlements, low wages, zero-hour contracts and high rents have left 2.4 million people in destitutionBritain has now an entire system devoted to charity to meet our basic needs, filling in where the Welfare State served.  This is the new outsourcing – where government departments and social services fail families and hand responsibility for them over to the local food bank and voluntary organisation. Applying for a charity hand-out dehumanises. But the shame is upon the ruling class for the economic system that permits such travesties to exist.

The pandemic made things worse. Almost one in eight adults in the UK have received support from a charity since the coronavirus crisis began in March 2020, more than half of them had never expected to need such help before. 

The Trussell Trust handing out 2.5m food parcels during the pandemic’s first year. Meanwhile, the Hygiene Bank – a network that provides toiletries for people who can’t afford them – reports it has distributed over 400 tonnes of products over the last 12 months, up 155% from the previous year.

While the poor struggled,  Britain’s richest 10% increased their wealth by an average of £50,000 during the pandemic.

The truth is that millions of people simply do not have enough money to live on. And it is going to get worse. The finish of government coronavirus support in September, the end of furlough relief, as well as the £20 boost to universal credit being stopped, on top of cuts to funds to help tenants facing homelessness, will create large swathes of the population plunged into insecurity. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found the £20-a-week cut to universal credit alone will leave out-of-work families with children barely half the income needed to achieve a socially acceptable basic standard of living, while those with a job who rely on benefits as a top-up to poverty wages will fare little better.

Adapted from

Millions of destitute Britons rely on charity handouts, yet ministers feel no shame | Frances Ryan | The Guardian

Saving the planet or saving profits


According to Daniel Bressler, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University's Earth Institute whose peer-reviewed journal article, "The Mortality Cost of Carbon," was just published in Nature Communications 74 million lives could be saved this century if the emission of heat-trapping gases is cut to zero by 2050.

Bressler acknowledged that his projections of excess deaths from carbon emissions may well be 'a vast underestimate' as they only account for heat-related mortality rather than deaths from flooding, storms, crop failures, and other impacts that flow from the climate crisis.

The study builds upon a concept called the "social cost of carbon," a measurement created by Nobel prize-winning economist William Nordhaus to estimate the economic and environmental damage associated with pumping one metric ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

"Nordhaus came up with a fantastic model, but he didn't take in the latest literature on climate change's damage upon mortality," said Bressler, who added that "there's been an explosion of research on that topic in recent years."

According to Nordhaus' DICE model, the 2020 social cost of carbon is $37 a metric ton, but when Bressler accounts for the mortality cost, this figure climbs to $258 a ton.

Another study on fossil fuel-related air pollution—not extreme heat—published in February found that exposure to particulate matter from dirty energy emissions killed an estimated 8.7 million people in 2018 alone, accounting for 18% of total global deaths that year.

A study published in 2021 found that about a third of heat-related deaths worldwide can be directly attributed to human-caused climate change.

 A 2020 Lancet report warned that climate change is the biggest global public health threat of the century."

Those findings, however, have not been factored into one of the three major computer models that scientists, economists, and the federal government use to calculate" the social cost of carbon, meaning that "policymakers may be underestimating the cost of climate change to human life." Bressler's research seeks to fill that gap.

After analyzing the temperature-related mortality impacts of carbon pollution, Bressler concludes that for every 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020, one person will die prematurely from a heat-related illness between 2020 and 2100. He notes that "4,434 metric tons is equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 3.5 average Americans, 146.2 Nigerians, and 12.8 average world people."

In a study last year on "carbon inequality," Oxfam and the Stockholm Environmental Institute found that the world's richest 1% emit more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50% of humanity. While 63 million people were responsible for 15% of global emissions between 1990 and 2015, 3.1 billion were responsible for just 7%.

 But given the high levels of inequality within rich countries—and the presence of a small class of "super-emitters" as well as the U.S. military's enormous "carbon bootprint" —it would be misleading to suggest that every person in the Global North contributes equally to causing the climate crisis.

Taking one coal-fired power plant offline and replacing it with a zero-emissions alternative for just one year would save 904 lives over the century. “That would be a lot more impact than a personal decision,” Bressler commented. Bressler explained that ordinary working people "shouldn't take their per-person mortality emissions too personally. Our emissions are very much a function of the technology and culture of the place that we live."

For that reason, the focus should be on implementing society-wide changes rather than perpetuating high-carbon forms of individual consumption.

Eliminating Carbon Emissions by 2050 Would Save 74 Million Lives This Century: Study | Common Dreams News

Feeding the World Without Meat


Americans will eat about 2 billion chicken nuggets, those reconstituted bits that are left over after the breast, legs and wings are lopped off the 9 billion or so factory-farmed chickens slaughtered in the US every yearbillions of genetically indistinguishable chickens live and die in squalid misery in supersized facilities designed around high efficiency and low margins. Three major processing companies – Tyson, Perdue and Koch – control the majority of the US market for chicken meat. The industry either functions as a quasi-monopsony, with a small number of buyers imposing prices and conditions on producers, or in some cases is vertically integrated so that Big Chicken directly controls most of the supply chain.

Chickens had not previously been a staple of the American diet, but they proved to be particularly well suited to industrialisation because they reproduce quickly and their size and egg-laying capacity are easily modified through breeding. Meat companies set about creating a market for chicken meat through relentless advertising campaigns, and the factory-farming model soon spread to pigs and influenced the development of ever-larger indoor factory farming for cattle. 

This gives the industry tremendous economic power over farmers, workers and consumers. Farm owners on contract with major processors are forced to compete so hard against one another that many are lucky if they barely break even. Chicken processing is gruelling, low-paid, dangerous work on high-speed slaughter lines that kill 140 birds a minute. A 2015 Oxfam report on the industry told stories of workers forced to wear nappies on the line because they were denied toilet breaks, and of others crippled by repetitive motion injuries. Meanwhile, chicken giants including Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride recently settled nine-figure lawsuits for price fixing brought by supermarkets, restaurants and individual consumers. The size and wealth of these companies have also given them remarkable political heft. One of the most potent recent examples of this came in April 2020 when, at the industry’s urging, then-president Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to keep abattoirs open, even as thousands of workers fell ill with Covid-19.

Chicken nuggets are of dubious quality and not even primarily meat, but mostly fat and assorted viscera – including epithelium, bone, nerve and connective tissue – made palatable through ultra-processing. Chicken nuggets are emblematic of modern capitalist bite-size food that extracts as much value as possible from nonhuman life and applying human labour to transform flesh into a homogenised form. Capitalism keeps the price of meat artificially low by operating at huge economies of scale and shifting the costs of this production to people, animals and the planet. The meat industry deforests the land, releases hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, creates terrible working conditions at abattoirs, and necessitates abhorrent animal treatment on farms, all while engaging in price-fixing, lobbying for environmental and labour deregulation, and pushing for unconstitutional anti-whistleblower ag-gag laws.

The problem is that most people enjoy meat, and global production and consumption is growing with little sign of mass vegetarianism on the horizon, despite meat-eating being obviously detrimental to the environment. It is a diet that is politically and socially entrenched. Our current animal farming policies and practices do immense damage to the planet.

Americans spend just under 10% of their disposable income on food, among the lowest rates in the world, and eat a whopping 122kg of meat each a year, including 55kg of chicken. The UK numbers are at about an equally unsustainable 80kg of meat per person, including 32kg of chicken. Cramming animals into factory farms and clearing land for more feed crops has increased the likelihood of outbreaks of zoonotic diseases such as swine flu, avian influenza or Covid-19. The system disables and kills even more people through non-infectious diseases: in the past 60 years, changes in diet have contributed to extraordinary increases in the number of Americans with obesity, diabetes and heart conditions.

Vat-grown cellular meat substitutes seem to offer a potential technological option that could eliminate much of the damage the food system causes, without requiring consumers to give up meat. The entire animal kingdom is ready for replication. Optimists see a future of widely available “clean meat”, as ecologically and ethically superior to the original as solar power is to coal. 

There was nothing predestined about the forces that drove the food system to ever-intensifying mechanisation, labour exploitation and environmental ruin in the past century; it happened because of economic choice.  The whole food industry is a profit-led drive for ever-increasing efficiency, resulting in a proliferation of agricultural policies that, in the USA in particular, with innumerable government subsidies, but with much less any labour or environmental regulations. The whole system has been engineered primarily for the benefit of the owners of farmland and huge agribusiness firms to accumulate capital at the expense of the public.

Meat companies such as Tyson and Cargill are not philanthropic enterprises feeding the world out of the goodness of their hearts. The liberal progressives propose breaking up the food giants and downsizing or diversifying farms by applying anti-trust legislation.  Breaking up big operations could simply generate more smaller factory farms.  Building a system around small farmers engaged in more holistic practices, that are more environmentally sustainable, protect jobs and keep local stores stocked with juicy heirloom tomatoes and humanely raised beef and that is economically viable simply is not feasible under capitalist conditions. Experts as a response to the ongoing ecological crisis on the environmental impacts of the food system concur that we need to eat much less meat and propose vegetarian and vegan diets as solutions. However, people don’t want, can’t afford or don’t have access to organic, free-range, farm-to-fork meat and produce.  Therefore, that leaves litte else except outright bans on factory-farmed meat and government edicts on diets which is, is a political non-starter.

Lab-produced meat can produced chickenless nuggets echoing an observation in 1931 by Winston Churchill that technology would one day allow humans to “escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”.

It is all actually a fairly straightforward process. 

It begins with stem cells, usually harvested from live animals via biopsy. The cells are placed in a bioreactor – a temperature- and pressure-controlled aseptic steel vat filled with a nutrient-dense growth medium that is basically a broth of sugars and proteins. Under these conditions, the cells proliferate and differentiate to form tissue. Fresh from the bioreactor, you’ll have an edible, if not yet appetising substance called “wet mass”, which must then be processed in various ways to produce nuggets, ground beef and so on. Mimicking more complex cuts of meat – a filet mignon, say – requires additional techniques, such as growing muscle and fat cells on “scaffolds” made of a material such as collagen. It’s structural engineering, but at a microscopic level.

This technology uses far less land and water, and have a smaller carbon footprint, than beef and dairy. If powered with clean energy they could have less environmental impact. Cellular-manufactured fish could have even greater ecological benefits, through relieving pressure on endangered ecosystems and reducing the extensive pollution caused by the fishing industry.

It would prevent the torture and killing of billions of creatures every year, and also greatly reduce the risk of diseases spreading from animals to humans. It would render abattoirs obsolete would also end their inherently abusive labour practices.  It leads to returning lands to dispossessed indigenous peoples and back to Nature by rewilding and conservation initiatives. Sustainable ecological farming, small and local, now become more feasible

There is, of course, parallel development of plant-based animal product alternatives. Given that those processes can be made with existing technology and widely grown plants, and can scale up and reduce costs quickly. But no matter how it resembles real meat, it isn't real meat.

Adapted and abridged from here

Man v food: is lab-grown meat really going to solve our nasty agriculture problem? | Meat industry | The Guardian

Police Reform Failed

report by the home affairs committee has heavily criticised the lack of progress made in the 22 years since the Macpherson report into why the white killers of Stephen Lawrence were allowed to go free, which blamed “institutional racism”It condemns “deep-rooted and persistent racial disparities” and finds guidelines and recommendations ignored over the past two decades, or not followed through.

In a key passage, setting out the challenges policing needs to meet, the report says: “We have also found persistent, deep-rooted and unjustified racial disparities in key areas.

The report castigates the police for failing to reform themselves, and successive governments of both main parties for failing to take racial justice seriously enough.  Racial disparities affecting black and minority ethnic (BAME) people, especially black Britons, remain and cannot be explained or justified, the report says.

The report describes as “unjustified inequalities” the fact that black people remain nine times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched in England and Wales, with most found to be innocent. Black people are more likely to be stopped for drugs but are less likely to use them, the report says.

The committee described as “wrong” a big expansion by the Met in its use of stop and search in London during the first months of lockdown in 2020. That saw the equivalent of one in four of all black males aged between 15 and 24 searched, and found to be doing nothing wrong.

The report says: “It should never have been possible for the equivalent of one in four black males between the ages of 15 and 24 in London who were not committing a crime to be stopped and searched during a three-month period.

“This finding undermines arguments that stop and search was being used judiciously during this time.”

Yet just on Tuesday, Boris Johnson could claim stop and search as “loving”, as he launched a new crime strategy to make stops without suspicion easier.

One rationale offered for the racial disparity in stop and search figures is the challenge of tackling knife crime. The committee rejected this argument: “We recognise the importance of the police being able to take action against knife crime and their concern that victims and perpetrators of knife crime are disproportionately black, but we also note that this does not explain the fact that there are significant racial disparities in stop and searches in every force in the country, with some of the highest levels of disproportionality in areas with very low levels of knife crime.”

The report also found the recruitment of ethnic minority officers was too slow and it is “inexcusable” that forces would take decades to be representative of the areas they police. Currently, 7% of officers are from ethnic minorities compared with 14% of the population, with demographic predictions for the Guardian projecting that the race gap will grow even bigger. Retention of BAME officers who have joined is also a problem and they are twice as likely to be dismissed as their white counterparts.

MPs rebuke police for ‘systemic failure’ to improve record on race | Police | The Guardian

Wolves at the door


UK’s plans to reach net zero emissions at risk, a study by the Common Wealth thinktank, and research by climate journal Desmog have warned.

More than a third of the licence blocks in the North Sea now have a private or foreign state-backed controlling interest, with fossil fuel firms from China, Russia and the Middle East playing an increasingly dominant role. Unlike the oil majors, many of these companies do not face public scrutiny, are not accountable to shareholders and are not required to have the same degree of corporate governance as leading listed businesses. 

 BP and Shell have begun to retreat from the North Sea, leading to a sharp rise in private equity firms and state-backed companies taking up licences,

 Mathew Lawrence, Common Wealth’s director. “Who owns the UK’s oil and gas assets is changing dramatically and with it, how we secure a fossil-free future.” Lawrence said these companies are “typically less transparent and insulated from public pressure”

 In 2010, private companies’ collective share of production in the North Sea was just 8%, but this jumped to 30% in 2020.

Channel 4 News uncovered tweets from Steve Brown, the chief executive of North Sea oil Orcadian Energy, which claimed that the global drive to meet the Paris Accord target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is “insane”.

The Common Wealth report highlights the involvement of several large state-owned entities in the North Sea, including Korea National Oil Corporation, Equinor from Norway, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Russian firm Gazprom and the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA). Among the private companies involved are Ineos, the chemicals firm owned by one of the UK’s richest people, Jim Ratcliffe. Others include Neo Energy, Tailwind and Siccar Point. 

Siccar Point is the majority owner of the Cambo oil licence near Shetland, alongside the oil company Shell, which is the subject of a brewing legal battle over plans to explore for extra reserves to extend the project. Greenpeace has threatened to take legal action against the government if it approves the plans after promising to put an end to new oil exploration licences that do not align with the UK’s climate goals.

As socialists have previously stated, there will always be unscrupulous capitalists and corporations who will ignore the damage to the environment for short-term gains. Nor can national legislation adequately regulate those businesses. 

Foreign control of North Sea oil licences threatens UK’s net zero goal | Oil | The Guardian