Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Another Failing Climate Target

 The UK government’s “jet zero” plan to eliminate carbon emissions from aviation relies on unproven or nonexistent technology and “sustainable” fuel, and is likely to result in ministers missing their legally binding emissions targets, according to a report from Element Energy.

The study from Element Energy says instead of focusing on such unreliable future developments, ministers should work to reduce the overall number of flights and halt airport expansion over the next few years. It comes as five regional airports are in the process of seeking approval to expand. In addition, Gatwick and Luton have announced they will be submitting major applications later this year, while Heathrow has not abandoned its plans for a third runway.

The report adds weight to concerns about the viability of the government’s plans, stating that it is unclear how the Department for Transport would “deliver the technological improvements” it was relying on in terms of sustainable fuel and aircraft efficiencies. It concluded that ministers should instead aim to reduce the number of flights now – halting airport expansion plans, expanding carbon pricing and taxing frequent flyers and kerosene.

The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) policy director, Cait Hewitt, said the findings showed the government’s plan amounted to “sitting back and allowing both airports and emissions to grow in the short term while hoping for future technologies and fuels to save the day”.

“These expansion plans will generate millions of tonnes of additional CO2 each year,” she added. “Until the government sets out a realistic net zero trajectory for the sector, and the industry is on track to outperform it, additional airport capacity should be off the agenda.”

Johnson’s ‘jet zero’ plan unrealistic and may make UK miss CO2 targets – report | Airline emissions | The Guardian

The cost of living crisis

 Hard-up families are skipping meals, wearing coats indoors to stay warm, and living in the dark because they can’t afford to switch on the lights, according to the leading children’s charity, Action for Children.

Current levels of severe and persistent hardship among families supported by the charity’s children’s centres, triggered by cuts to universal credit and rising energy bills, were among the worst it could remember, said Action for Children’s director of policy, Imran Hussain.

“The worst pain and misery of the cost of living crisis is being felt by children in low-income families, yet the government is refusing to target help for these children or accept that it needs to rethink its huge cut to universal credit,” he said.

A children’s hardship fund set up by the charity two years ago to provide one-off help to struggling families during the pandemic has evolved into a “permanent crisis fund” helping thousands of families. Analysis of the crisis fund showed that half of families accessing it for help reported stress, anxiety or mental health concerns among the adults or children. One in five applications highlighted the £20 cut in universal credit last October as a trigger for the families’ difficulties.

Poor families skipping meals and unable to afford heating, charity says | Poverty | The Guardian

Monday, May 16, 2022

Child Labour Grows

 A mere 35 billion US dollars per annum – equivalent to 10 days of military spending – would ensure all children in all countries benefit from social protection. Satyarthi said the 35 million US dollars was far from a big ask. Nor was the 22 billion US dollars needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco over six days.

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the increase in child labour since 2016, after several years of decline in child labour numbers.

An estimated 160 million kids are child labourers, and unless there is a drastic reversal, another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.

The G7, the world’s wealthiest countries, had never debated child labour.

It’s Time To Globalise Compassion, Says Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

More Foreign Aid Cuts

 The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) first strategy paper on overseas assistance since the merged department was formed and large-scale cuts were implemented in 2020,  has been condemned as a “double whammy to the world’s poor”.

It is dominated by a near halving of UK aid to multilateral bodies, including the UN the World Bank, and a renewed focus on aid as an adjunct to trade.

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, claimed that reliable private sector investments will challenge “malign actors” and bring countries into the orbit of free market economies, a clear reference to the challenge posed by China’s large aid programme.

The 20-page development paper sets out the high-level goal of cutting the proportion of UK aid going to multilateral bodies from 40% of the budget to 25% by 2025. 

The UK aid budget has been cut by £4bn since 2020. The UK has already cut £1.5bn from a World Bank programme to help poor countries recover from Covid.

Sarah Champion, chair of the Commons international development committee, said: “The foreign secretary’s strategy has two main thrusts. It advocates aid for trade – linking the provision of aid to access for UK goods and services. And it says more of our money should go on direct government-to-government spending rather than spending through international bodies such as the United NationsI fear that adds up to a double whammy against the global poor.” She added: “Supporting the poorest in the world should not be conditional on a trade deal or agreeing to investment partnerships. The UK has rightly been hugely critical of China for such an approach, so I fail to see why we are following down the same road. It is depressing and disappointing that the UK would devise a strategy like this.

UK’s new aid strategy condemned as ‘double whammy to world’s poor’ | Global development | The Guardian

Baby formula and breastfeeding

 This article considers the reasons for the current shortage of baby formula and also the factors that influence mothers in choosing whether to breastfeed their newborn babies or to feed them with baby formula.

Why the shortage of baby formula?

The main immediate cause of the shortage of baby formula is the suspension of production at the huge Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan following evidence of bacterial contamination. 

So one reason for the shortage is an excessive concentration of production in a few giant plants. This is a tendency inherent to capitalism, for ‘one capitalist swallows many’ (Marx). 

But the situation should also be viewed in the context of successful lobbying by the baby formula industry to weaken bacterial safety testing standards [Lee Fang, May 13].

Another factor is protectionism. The US strictly limits imports of European brands, which according to studies meet high safety and nutrition standards. 

Yet another factor is so-called ‘lean’ or ‘just-in-time’ management of production and inventory. This practice minimizes storage costs by producing and ordering goods just in time to satisfy anticipated demand. Thus there is no spare productive capacity or stocks to hedge against unpredictable contingencies. (‘Just-in-time’ management also contributed to the shortage of medical supplies during the Covid crisis.)

For all these reasons serious shortages will be much less likely to arise in a system of production for use not profit, although the possibility cannot be wholly excluded.

Baby formula or breastfeeding?

Even though baby formula, like most other products, will be freely available in a socialist society, demand for it will be quite low. It will be used mainly when there is a medical reason not to breastfeed. 

There is a scientific consensus in favor of breastfeeding. Breast milk provides babies with the best combination of nutrients for their health and development. It is safer than formula and easier for babies to digest. 

Formula has to be mixed with water, so it should not be used where clean water is not available, as in much of the Third World, where two billion people drink water from sources contaminated with feces. Nevertheless, manufacturers ruthlessly market formula even in such areas, killing thousands of babies a year. 

George Monbiot describes how they do it in the Philippines, dressing their saleswomen in nurses’ uniforms to gain the confidence of young mothers (The Guardian, 6/5/2007). The Philippines government tried to restrict promotion of baby formula, but the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Association of the Philippines, representing the manufacturers and backed by the US government and Chamber of Commerce, thwarted the attempt by means of lobbying, diplomatic pressure, legal action, and even – so some suspect — assassinations.

In the US three quarters of mothers breastfeed for a time, though only 43% continue for six months and only 22% for a full year. The main reason why there is not greater reliance on breastfeeding is that most working families need full-time earnings of both parents to get by. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees only up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Only 7% of civilian workers have access to childcare at or near the workplace – and even those are not necessarily free to take breastfeeding breaks. 

This is not to deny that some mothers who might otherwise breastfeed are deterred by negative feelings related to body image. Breasts are central to the sexual objectification of women’s bodies. Some women fear that breastfeeding will make their breasts sag, contributing to loss of their sex appeal and making it more likely that their husbands will abandon them. Members of a socialist society will relate to one another no longer as objects but as whole human beings. 

Stephen Shenfield

World Socialist Party of the United States

Baby formula and breastfeeding – World Socialist Party US (wspus.org)

Ominous Warning

 Apologising for sounding "apocalyptic", Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England governor has warned the war in Ukraine was affecting food supplies.

Bailey warned that that a "very big income shock" from the increase in global goods prices would hit demand in the economy and push up unemployment.

He also said that difficulties shipping out food supplies from Ukraine could hit world supplies of wheat and cooking oil. World wheat prices have risen 25% over the past six weeks.

"There's a lot of uncertainty around this situation," Mr Bailey said. "And that is a major, major worry and it's not just I have to tell you a major worry for this country. There's a major worry for the developing world as well. And so if I had to sort of, sorry for being apocalyptic for a moment, but that is a major concern."

He insisted that most of the above-target inflation was due to global prices not domestic factors.

"80% of the overshoots over the target... is due to energy and tradable goods," he said.

Asked whether he has felt helpless given the situation, Mr Bailey admitted he had.

"It's a very, very difficult place for us to be in," he said.

The surge in the cost of living has led to households cutting back their spending, which is hitting growth.

Bank governor in 'apocalyptic' warning over rising food prices - BBC News

Oil Refinery Pollution


Benzene is a known carcinogen that is highly toxic. 

An estimated 6.1 million people in the US live within three miles of a refinery, with low-income people and people of color represented at rates nearly twice that of the general population.

A dozen US oil refineries last year exceeded the federal limit on average benzene emissions. Among the 12 refineries that emitted above the maximum level for benzene, five were in Texas, four in Louisiana, and one each in Pennsylvania, Indiana and the US Virgin Islands, a new analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project revealed.

Out of 129 operable oil refineries in 2021, 118 reported benzene concentration registered at or near the site, otherwise known as the fence-line. Nearly half of these refineries released benzene levels above 3 micrograms per cubic meter, which the Environmental Integrity Project defines as a long-term potential health threat. The EPA requires facilities to take action if they exceed an average 9 micrograms per cubic meter, or above “action level” emission of benzene.

Marathon Petroleum’s Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City had the highest average net benzene levels in 2021, according to the analysis of the self-reported data. Roughly 37,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the refinery. Among them, 62% are people of color and 47% are low-income. 

“This analysis provides important insight into why the Houston area is an industrial cancer hotspot,” said Leticia Gutierrez of advocacy group Air Alliance Houston.

“People living near these facilities have greater exposure to lifetime cancer risk than any other part of the state, yet the regulatory agencies responsible for protecting us continue to approve permits for these facilities,” Gutierrez said.

Environmental Integrity Project notes that its analysis did not measure concentrations of benzene within neighborhoods adjacent to refineries, and does not reflect the actual levels of benzene within the communities.

US oil refineries spewing cancer-causing benzene into communities, report finds | Pollution | The Guardian

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Latin America and Food Inflation

In Mexico City, tortillas prices have soared by one-third in the past year. Mexico's food inflation is hardly alone. Latin America’s sharpest price spike in a generation has left many widely consumed local products suddenly hard to attain, without any relief in sight.

The COVID-19 pandemic and then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent fertilizer prices sharply higher, affecting the cost of agricultural products including corn. Global fuel prices jumped, too, making items transported by truck to cities from the countryside costlier. 

Latin America as a whole is suffering from “sudden price spikes for necessities,” the World Bank’s President David Malpass said during an online conference Thursday. He noted that energy, food and fertilizer prices are rising at a pace unseen in many years. Last year, the World Bank estimated that the region’s economy grew 6.9% as it rebounded from the pandemic recession. This year, Malpass said, it’s projected to grow only 2.3%.

“That’s not enough to make progress on poverty reduction or social discontent,” he added.

In Chile, annual inflation was 10.5% in April, the first time in 28 years the index has hit double digits. 

Colombia’s rate reached 9.2%, its highest level in more than two decades.

 In Argentina, whose consumers have coped with double-digit inflation for years, price increases reach 58%, the most in three decades. Last year, the average Argentine consumed less than 50 kilograms of beef for the first time since annual data were first collected in 1958.

Brazil’s inflation has topped 12% — its fastest pace since 2003.  The price of tomatoes, for example, has more than doubled in the past year. Ground coffee has become so expensive that shoplifters have started focusing their sights on it. A daily espresso cost has shot up 33% since January, to 8 reais ($1.60).

It has been decades since the region’s countries simultaneously suffered soaring inflation. A key difference now is that the global economies are much more interconnected, said Alberto Ramos, head of Latin America macroeconomic research at Goldman Sachs. “It will take at least a couple of years of relatively tight monetary policy to deal with this,” Ramos said.

That means belt-tightening and going without some consumer staples, for now, is likely the new norm for the poorest members of society in the notoriously unequal region. More than one-quarter of Latin America’s population lives in poverty — defined as living on less than $5.50 a day — and that’s expected to remain unchanged this year, according to a World Bank study. 

Pricey tortillas: LatAm's poor struggle to afford staples | AP News

Oil Profits


War and climate breakdown have proved lucrative for the world’s leading oil and gas companies, with financial records showing 28 of the largest producers made close to $100bn in combined profits in just the first three months of 2022. 

Shell made $9.1bn in profit from January to March, almost three times what it made in the same period last year.

Exxon raked in $8.8bn, also a near threefold increase in 2021.

Chevron upped its profits to $6.5bn

BP reveled in its highest first-quarter profits in a decade, making $6.2bn

Coterra Energy, a Texas-based firm, had the largest relative windfall of the 28 companies, with a 449% increase in profits on last year, to $818m.

The profits prompted several of the companies to return billions of dollars to shareholders via share buybacks and dividends.

Ben Van Beurden, chief executive of Shell, said that the company’s performance “has been helped by the macro and the macro has been impacted by the war in Ukraine”. He added that this situation means “we do have a better company, we do have a better performance, and yes indeed our shareholders will benefit from that as well”.

“The greed of these companies is staggering,” said Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power, an advocacy group. “We’ve heard their executives bragging about how much the agony of inflation and the tragedy of the war in Ukraine has allowed them to raise prices. These profits are going right into their pockets.”

António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, said in April.

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

Largest oil and gas producers made close to $100bn in first quarter of 2022 | Oil | The Guardian

Hunger Looms for Many Millions

 Millions of people will starve to death unless Russia allows the export of Ukrainian grain from blockaded ports, foreign ministers from the G7 have said.

The G7 governments said the Russian president was pushing 43 million people towards famine by refusing to allow cereals to leave Ukraine via Black Sea ports.

Canada’s foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, told reporters: “We need to make sure that these cereals are sent to the world. If not, millions of people will be facing famine.”

Before the war, Ukraine and Russia accounted for a third of global wheat and barley exports. Since Russia’s  invasion, Ukraine’s ports have been blocked and civilian infrastructure and grain silos destroyed.

Adding to the problem, India, the world’s second largest producer of wheat, has banned all exports with immediate effect after a heatwave affected the crop. In addition, India’s vast stocks of wheat, a buffer against famine, an extensive food welfare programme that usually feeds more than 80 million people, have been strained by distribution of free grain during the pandemic to about 800 million people, 

The rise in global prices for wheat was threatening the food security of India and neighbouring and vulnerable countries. A key aim is to control rising domestic prices. Global wheat prices have increased by more than 40% since the beginning of the year.

India had set a goal of exporting 10m tonnes of the grain in 2022-23, looking to capitalise on global shortage of wheat supplies from the war and find new markets for its wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia. Much of that would have gone to other developing countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

India bans all wheat exports over food security risk | India | The Guardian

The Battle of Isms (short story)

 A Short Story from the August 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Hyam Eezi was much younger, he used to wonder what all this talk of Liberalism and Conservatism and other ‘isms was about. He was puzzled. You would not have called him a deep thinker at all. He just wondered and pondered, and occasionally asked questions. “What is the difference, the real difference, between Liberalism and Conservatism?” he would ask. He was told that one believed in Chinese slavery and the other was opposed to it. The arguments both for and against Chinese slavery were then flung at him, and in the heat of discussion he was not at once aware that his original question remained unanswered. So that, like so many of us, he unconsciously shelved it until a more convenient season. A few years later, in one of his pondering moods he became dimly aware that he had never really got at the heart of this mystery, and he again pursued enquiries into the essential difference between the two creeds. He was surprised to learn that Chinese slavery was no longer a touchstone, but that now one was strongly advocating Tariff Reform; the other what they called Free Trade. He found himself in the midst of a deluge of technical jargon, in which imports, exports, taxation, revenue, invisible exports, and what not, battered him into mild bewilderment.“But what is Liberalism in itself,” he would ask? “What is the essential Conservatism?” he would enquire.

No one could tell him. Liberal newspapers or Liberal orators would say they stood for Land Reform, or Rating Reform, or House of Lords Reform, or something of the sort. They were reformers, anyway. And then he would read Conservative newspapers, or hear Tory speakers, and be assured that Conservatism stood for taxing the foreigner, for a big navy, for Imperial expansion, for Imperial preference, for restoring the Lords’ veto, and for a number of other higfh-sounding things. Hyam’s difficulty was that neither seemed to stand for the same thing long, and that when one tried to get behind their high-sounding slogans, one was soon lost in a bewildering maze of detail. When, he thought, a man is described as an electrician, or as a dentist, or as a navvy, I know what he will do, although I may not know how he does it. Furthermore, I know that, although methods alter, there is a certain measure of consistency between what a dentist, an electrician or a navvy did twenty years ago and what he is doing to-day and what he will do twenty years hence. But when I try to analyse what is meant by Liberalism or Conservatism, in the light of what they said or did forty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago, and to-day, I feel there is something missing.

Someone suggested to him that he was wrong in judging a political party as he would an individual or an occupation. But he reflected, Is it not as individuals they are presented to me? Does not the candidate at an election placard the constituency with photographs of himself and deliver shoals of leaflets telling of his outstanding personal qualities, his reputation, his residence in the constituency, his devotion to his leaders, and so on. And then his leaders ; is it not as persons they are presented to me ? How this one smokes a pipe and is fond of gazing at pigs; and that one covers one eye with a monocle and has a most dignified bearing; another wears strange hats; another fuzzy hair; or has a silvery, witty tongue. No ! I think I do right to judge them in the way they are presented to me ; for I seem as far off as ever from finding the essential difference between Liberalism and Conservatism.

And then, quite accidentally, he saw a definition of Conservatism quoted in a journal. It was attributed to a rich man named Lord Hugh Cecil, and ran as follows :
1) Distrust of the unknown and love of the familiar;
2) The defence of Church and King, the reverence for religion and authority.
3) A feeling for the greatness of the country and for that unity which makes for its greatness.
If the truth must be told, Hyam Eezi was not profoundly impressed by this definition. He felt that, if the first was true, he was a Conservative; the second seemed to apply equally to all the Liberals he knew; the third did not seem to fit in with his own conception of bodily comfort.

It was about this time he caught sight in a periodical of a cartoon portraying a Liberal omnibus labelled to go to a place called Westbury. The side of the ‘bus was placarded with a large notice : Peace, Retrenchment and Reform. One of his Liberal friends told him that was as good a definition of Liberalism as he would get; had done duty for years in fact. Peace, thought Hyam, yes, I’m in favour of Peace. One-third a Liberal. Retrenchment ! He had to look that word up in a dictionary, and found it meant either cutting down or part of a fortification. He gathered that a Peace party could hardly be in favour of fortifications, and deduced therefore the Liberal Party were for cutting things down. Involuntarily Hyam’s thoughts flew to wages, in his experience the thing’s most often in process of being cut down. In this he was nearer to fact than he knew, but let that pass. Reform ! Yes, he understood what that meant. Reform meant putting things right. And plenty of room for it too, thought Hyam. But then, in talking things over with his acquaintances, he found Conservatives in favour of Peace and Retrenchment and Reform. So he appeared to have discovered after all that, as the Irishman is alleged to have said, the only difference between them was that they were both alike, only one more so than the other.

But his great discovery followed a casual meeting with a fellow in a workman’s train. Their conversation had drifted from the weather to work, from work to no work, or unemployment, from that to the Government, and then to politics generally. He confided the result of his ponderous thinking to his fellow traveller, who listened attentively, and then said : “Will you listen to me for a quarter-of-an-hour?” Hyam agreed; whereupon the stranger began :

” If you were a slave on a sugar plantation, what would for ever be uppermost in your mind? ”

” Getting free,” replied Hyam.
” But supposing you had been born a slave, the son and grandson of slaves; if your chains did not gall you too much ; if your slavery were explained to you as perfectly natural, quite normal ; the best system, in fact, that man had yet discovered; would your freedom be quite so insistent a question?”

On reflection, Hyam admitted it would not.

“Then I hope you can conceive of a time when, in order to obtain their willing’ consent to their slavery, the slaves are allowed to elect their own masters, and to agree on the conditions of their slavery.”

Hyam could see this.

“Now, not to push the analogy too far—for these things never took place under chattel slavery—if, before the desire for liberty had been stifled or lulled to sleep, the slaves were invited to vote for their masters on some such question as Taxation of Land Values or Reform of the Upper House, what would have been their probable reply?”

“To hell with your catch-phrases. Give us our liberty,” said Hyam.

“You are right,” said the stranger. “And it is only because our fellows nowadays are unconscious of their slavery that they are caught so easily with these tags. The difference between Liberalism and Conservatism is very slight, and may be compared to two friends have have different views on methods of gardening. The Liberals have one theory of taxation, the Conservatives another. The one believes in the desirability of reforms as much as the other; but they differ a little as to the most urgent reforms. The essential difference you have been looking for does not exist. They have one ‘ism in which they both believe—Capitalism. And it is in Capitalism you should interest yourself. You were telling me how at one time you found their differences to reside in varying views of Chinese slavery; at another in Free Trade versus Protection, and at another in the Lords’ Veto. May I call your attention to one thing that was constant—your own condition. You were a workman all the time. All through the many elections that you have seen in your lifetime, all through the terms of office of Liberal Governments, Conservative Governments or Labour Governments, you have remained a workman. These various questions that have been dangled before you only assumed any prominence in your eyes because you were not conscious of your slave condition. Not once throughout all these years have you demanded your liberty. Not that you would have got it; for those who want liberty will have to fight for it. But that you have not demanded it shows you are unconscious of your slave position. That is the first thing to realise then, that you are one of a vast class in society that is held in subjection by another and smaller class. How are you held in subjection? By one simple feature. You are a human being and must eat in order to live, clothe yourself in order to defy the elements, shelter yourself that you may not perish. Under capitalism you can obtain them in but one way apart from stealing. You must find a master who wishes to hire human labour-power, for you must remember human labour-power is the most wonderful thing you have heard of. Your master will bargain with you and hire your wonderful labour-power for such a sum as will enable you to buy food, clothes and shelter. With your labour-power you and your fellows will proceed to build him houses, ships, bridges, palaces, parks, railways, motor cars, hotels, roads, and a thousand things, all infinitely more valuable than the price of your labour-power. But you will not be permitted to touch them. You have been paid for the hire of your energy. And when you have filled the world so full of wealth that no more is needed, the price of your hire is discontinued, and you are given the sack. This process is believed to be the best possible by both Liberals and Conservatives. Anyone who dares to criticise it is ignored as long as possible, called unpleasant names and lied about when he can no longer be ignored; hunted and imprisoned if he appears to endanger the continuance of the system. Liberals and Conservatives would each have differing views on the best way to allay the miseries attending on the state of being- without a master, unemployment, as it is called. In this sense both are reformers. But neither would abolish it.

“So that, in brief, Hyam, Liberalism and Conservatism are slightly different viewpoints in the administration of Capitalism. In the defence of that system, Liberals are as conservative as the Conservatives. In dealing out reforms to keep the workers contented with things as they are, the Conservatives are as liberal as the Liberals. To judge of the value of reforms to the workers, you cannot do better than read the leading article in the Daily News of May 27. I’ll read the commencement of it to you.

” ‘The National Liberal Federation on its fiftieth anniversary can congratulate itself that, with the exception of land reform, every one of the reforms that year by year used to litter the agenda paper is now on the Statute Book. But the reformer is always in the position of a mountaineer. He reaches what he conceives to be the goal of his journey, only to find that there are more precipitous rocks ahead. The agenda of this year’s conference is just as packed with subjects requiring urgent legislation.’”

“There, Hyam, how’s that for half a century of progress? Perhaps in another half-century or so the reforms will come so thick and fast you will actually be conscious of improvement. But, again, as the perspicacious leader-writer says, the reformer’s life is one long surprise packet. Every rock he scales only gives him a view of more rocks. Do not follow this geological party, Hyam, or, as they plainly tell you, fifty years of that sort of progress only lands you on the rocks, and there is no finish.

“When the Socialist Party gains sufficient adherents their contribution to the Statute Book will be brief, but you will notice it. It will enact that on and after a certain date private property in the means whereby we all live shall cease, and they will be taken over in the name of the people to be democratically owned and controlled for the benefit of the whole community. And that’s all for to-day, Hyam.”

W. T. Hopley

Fact of the Day

 The International Labour Organization estimates more than 160 million children are in child labour globally.

UNICEF says approximately 12 percent of children aged 5 to 14 years are involved in child labour – at the cost of their childhood, education, and future.

Of the 160 million child labourers worldwide, more than half are in sub-Saharan Africa, and 53 million are not in school – amounting to 28 % aged five to 11 and another 35 % aged 12 to 14

Outer Space Resources

 The future of space could be a gold rush for resources – and not everyone will benefit even though the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the founding document of space law, says that space should be used “for the benefit and in the interests of all countries.” In the not-so-distant future, the ability to extract resources from the Moon and asteroids could become a major point of difference between the space haves and have-nots.

Asteroids hold astounding amounts of valuable minerals and metals. Later this year, NASA is launching a probe to explore an asteroid named 16 Psyche, which scientists estimate contains over $10 quintillion worth of iron.

Tapping huge resource deposits like this and transporting them to Earth could provide massive boosts to the economies of spacefaring nations while disrupting the economies of countries that currently depend on exporting minerals and metals.

Another highly valuable resource in space is helium-3, a rare version of helium that scientists think could be used in nuclear fusion reactions without producing radioactive waste.

While there are considerable technological obstacles to overcome before helium-3 is a feasible energy source, if it works, there are enough deposits on the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system to satisfy Earth’s energy requirements for several centuries. If powerful spacefaring countries develop the technology to use and mine helium-3 – and choose not to share the benefits with other nations – it could result in lasting inequities.

Existing international space laws are not well suited to handle the complicated web of private companies and nations competing for resources in space.

Countries are organizing into groups – or “space blocs” – that are uniting on goals and rules for future space missions. Two notable space blocs are planning missions to set up bases and potential mining operations on the Moon: the Artemis Accords, led by the U.S., as well as joint Chinese and Russian plans.

Right now, the major players in space are establishing the norms for exploiting resources. There is a risk that instead of focusing on what is best for everyone on Earth, competition will drive these decisions, damaging the space environment and causing conflict. History shows that it is hard to challenge international norms once they are established.

Wealthy Nations Carving Up Space & Its Riches – Consortium News

The Napalpí Massacre in Argentine

 “Truth trials” are not a novelty in Argentina. The purpose is not to hand down a conviction, but to bring visibility to an atrocious event that occurred almost a hundred years ago in northern Argentina and was concealed by the State for decades with singular success: the massacre by security forces of hundreds of indigenous people who were protesting labor mistreatment and discrimination.

“We are seeking to heal the wounds and vindicate the memory of the indigenous peoples,” explained federal judge Zunilda Niremperger, as she opened the first hearing in Buenos Aires on May 10 in the trial for the truth of the so-called Napalpí Massacre, in which an undetermined number of indigenous people were shot to death on the morning of Jul. 19, 1924.

Today, the site of the Napalpí massacre is called Colonia Aborigen Chaco and is a 20,000-hectare plot of land owned by the indigenous community where, according to official data, some 1,300 indigenous people live, from the Qom and Moqoit communities, the most numerous native groups in the Chaco along with the Wichi.

In 2019, mass graves were found there by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team,

The Argentine province of Chaco forms part of the ecoregion from which it takes its name: a vast, hot, dry, sparsely forested plain that was largely unsettled during the Spanish Conquest. Only at the end of the 19th century did the modern Argentine State launch military campaigns to subdue the indigenous people in the Chaco and impose its authority there.

Once the Chaco was conquered, many indigenous families were forced to settle in camps called “reducciones”, where they had to carry out agricultural work.

“The ‘reducciones’ operated in the Chaco between 1911 and 1956 and were concentration camps for indigenous people, who were disciplined through work,” said sociologist Marcelo Musante, a member of the Network of Researchers on Genocide and Indigenous Policies in Argentina, which brings together academics from different disciplines, at the hearing.

“When indigenous people entered the ‘reducción’, they were given clothes and farming tools, and this generated a debt that put them under great pressure. And they were not allowed to make purchases outside the stores of the ‘reducción’,” he explained.

Historian Nicolás Iñigo Carrera said it was common for indigenous people in the Chaco to go to work temporarily in sugar mills in the neighboring provinces of Salta and Jujuy, but the scenario changed in the 1920s, when the Argentine government introduced cotton in the Chaco, to tap into the textile industry’s growing global demand.

“Then the criollo (white) settlers, who often had no laborers, demanded the guaranteed availability of indigenous labor to harvest the cotton crop, and in 1924 the government prohibited indigenous people, who refused to work on the cotton plantations, from leaving the Chaco, declaring any who left subversives,” Carrera said.

Anthropologist Lena Dávila Da Rosa said the Jul. 19, 1924 protest involved between 800 and 1000 indigenous people from Napalpí, and some 130 police officers who opened fired on them, with the support of an airplane that dropped candy so the children would go out to look for it and thus reveal the location of the protesters they were tracking down.

“It’s impossible to know exactly how many indigenous people were killed, but there were several hundred victims,” Alejandro Jasinski, a researcher with the Truth and Justice Program of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, told IPS.

“The official report mentioned four people killed in confrontations among themselves, and there was a judicial investigation that was quickly closed. All that was left were the buried memories of the communities,” he added.

Of the population of Chaco province, 3.9 percent, or 41,304 people, identified as indigenous in the last national census conducted in Argentina in 2010, which is higher than the national average of 2.4 percent.

Census data reflects the harsh living conditions of indigenous people in the Chaco and the disadvantages they face in relation to the rest of the population. More than 80 percent live in deficient housing while more than 25 percent live in critically overcrowded conditions, with more than three people per room. In addition, more than half of the households cook with firewood or charcoal.

One Hundred Years On, Argentine State Acknowledges Indigenous Massacre in Trial | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

Venezuela's 'silent genocide'

 According to the 2011 census, at least 720,000 of Venezuela’s 28 million inhabitants are indigenous, belonging to some 40 native peoples, and close to half a million live in rural indigenous areas, mainly in border regions.

Although the largest indigenous group (60 percent) is the Wayúu, an Arawak-speaking people who live on the Colombian-Venezuelan Guajira peninsula in the north, most of the native peoples are in the south of the country. Some groups have thousands of members but others only a few hundred, and their languages and ancestral knowledge are at risk of dying out.

The voracious search for gold in southern Venezuela, practiced by thousands of illegal miners under the protection of various armed groups, represents the greatest threat today to the lives of indigenous peoples, their habitat and their cultures, according to their organizations and human rights defenders. 

In this part of the Amazon jungle, “mining, violence, habitat destruction, death from disease and forced migration make up a context that indigenous people are calling a silent genocide,” researcher Aimé Tillet, who has worked in the area for many years, told IPS.

At the other end of the country, along the northwest border with Colombia, indigenous people are fighting for their territories, which has led to clashes and deaths in their attempts to recover ancestral lands, while they are often reduced to destitution.

There are common features of life in border regions that are home to indigenous peoples, such as neglect by the government, which fails to fulfill its duties in health, education, security, provision of food, fuel and transportation, supplies, communications and consultations with native peoples regarding the use of their land and resources.

The government foments mining activity and in 2016 decreed the “Orinoco Mining Arc” on the right bank of the Orinoco river – an area of 111,844 square kilometers, larger than Bulgaria, Cuba or Portugal. In parallel, it established an armed forces company, Camimpeg, to spearhead the mining of gold, diamonds, coltan and other conventional and rare minerals, in which the country is rich.

The local press has reported on the involvement of military and police units in the region in incidents related to mining activity that have sparked protests by indigenous people and human rights activists, ranging from deaths of native people in altercations to massacres in which “unknown groups” have killed dozens of people. Artisanal and illegal mining, in hundreds of deforested areas and along rivers contaminated with mercury used to extract gold from ore, are often controlled by criminal gangs that call themselves “syndicates” and that traffic in gold and supplies, as well as in people who work in the mines, who are often subjected to forced labor.

According to human rights groups, for some years now another danger has been Colombian guerrillas, particularly the National Liberation Army (ELN), which is involved in mining and other illegal activities in the southern state of Amazonas, as well as dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which laid down its arms under a 2016 peace deal. In the Sierra de Perijá mountains, home to three native peoples and part of the northern border between Colombia and Venezuela, the ELN has made inroads into indigenous communities, setting up camps, collecting “vacunas” – taxes or protection payment – from cattle ranchers, overseeing cattle smuggling and recruiting young people as guerrilla fighters.

In the “currutelas” or mining villages, young men and boys work extracting gold-rich sands, while women are employed to cook, sweep, wash and clean the camps, and are exploited sexually.

This situation, seen in the hundreds of mining camps in Amazonas and the southeastern state of Bolívar, which covers some 238,000 square kilometers, is aggravated in the case of indigenous peoples, lawyer Eduardo Trujillo, director of the Andrés Bello Catholic University’s Human Rights Center, which is conducting several studies in the area, told IPS.

“Under the control of armed groups, dynamics of violence are generated, with confrontations and deaths, and conditions of modern-day slavery, where omission translates into acquiescence on the part of the Venezuelan State,” Trujillo added.

In particular, indigenous women recruited to work in the camps “are caught up in a dynamic of violence: their work is not voluntary, sometimes they are not paid, and they are subjected to risks to their health and lives,” he said.

Mining in Venezuela contributes to the figures of the International Labor Organization (ILO), according to which more than 40 million people around the world are victims of modern-day slavery, 152 million are victims of child labor and 25 million are forced laborers.

The environmental organization Provita reports that 380,000 hectares have been deforested south of the Orinoco in the last 20 years, while the area dedicated to mining increased from 18,500 to 55,000 hectares between 2000 and 2020.

Riverbanks and headwaters have been especially affected, many in areas theoretically protected as national parks. Tillet stressed that, in addition to the environmental damage they suffer, these are areas of limited resources for subsistence, for which indigenous communities and miners are now competing.

“Because they depend on mining for an income, indigenous people are forced to abandon their traditional activities of planting, fishing and hunting, their diet deteriorates, malnutrition and diseases such as malaria increase, and they are forced to say goodbye to their land, to move and migrate,” said Tillet. The researcher said that health services, which are the responsibility of the State, have practically disappeared, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, while education has collapsed as teachers move away and migrate, with the result that “children who should be in school now work in exploitative conditions in the mines.”

The Yanomami and Ye’kuana organizations said they were victims of selective killings, contamination of water with mercury, contagion from diseases and, in short, “a silent cultural genocide.”

Mining Destroys the Lives of Indigenous People in Venezuela | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

Friday, May 13, 2022

Tesco CEO Bumper Bonus

 Tesco's  chief executive Ken Murphy’s pay package included a £3.21m bonus, while the finance director, Imran Nawaz, earned a £1.24m bonus – taking his total to £5.4m for the year, including a £3.5m “golden hello” relating to bonuses he lost out on in leaving his former employer, Tate & Lyle.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: "A Tesco customer assistant would have to work for 267 years to get what the Tesco boss was paid for just one year. "

Murphy’s and Nawaz’s pay is dwarfed by the total of £10.5m paid out to Tesco’s former finance director Alan Stewart in the past year, including £8.58m from cashing in share awards related to historic performance by the business that matured on his exit on top of £1.95m in pay. Former chief executive Dave Lewis also continues to benefit from his time at Tesco, with £1.89m from a deferred bonus and share award paid out last summer.

Tesco criticised as chief pockets £4.75m amid soaring prices | Tesco | The Guardian