Friday, September 30, 2022
"Syria is fast becoming a forgotten conflict”, says Lukas van Trier, Country Director for War Child’s Syria Response.
The 11-year conflict remains one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Millions of Syrians have fled across borders, making them also the largest group of refugees globally. Many of those who remain live in squalid, overcrowded conditions and are routinely exposed to all forms of violence.
Violence has intensified in recent months. Over 100 people - including children - have been killed by airstrikes since June, resulting in the largest displacement recorded since March 2020.
“Airstrikes - often on buildings where displaced families are sheltering - have become more regular”, says Adel Aldahien, War Child Child Protection Specialist. “People are living by the day, in a constant state of fear. Children are dropping out of school and going out to work in a desperate bid to feed their families”, she continues.
Senegal - “We call for de-escalation and a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, as well as for a negotiated solution, to avoid the catastrophic risk of a potentially global conflict.”
Tulum is the jewel of Mexico’s Riviera Maya where ancient ruins perch above white-sand beaches. Tulum was declared a “world yoga capital” in 2017. Almost 4 million more tourists arrived into the state’s airports in July and August, compared with the same period in 2019. The opening of a new international airport in Tulum next year will drive up visitor numbers even further. Unrestricted development has largely cut off public access to the 80-mile stretch of beaches, leaving the local Maya people – who work mostly as builders, cleaners, chefs and taxi drivers – isolated from their ancestral sites of natural beauty as they cannot afford to visit the seaside cafes and restaurants.
The 12,000-strong community who live in the 137-hectare (340-acre) hamlet of 2 de Octubre are facing eviction as developers forge ahead with plans to build on land sold by the Quintana Roo state government to meet demand for high-end property in the popular beach town. Condos primed to replace the simple dwellings could each sell for up to $300,000 (£280,000) – putting them far beyond the reach of local people, many of whom earn about $20 a day amid some of Mexico’s starkest disparities of wealth and an absence of social housing. Indigenous people are being forced further away from the most desirable areas to make way for foreigners who can afford the high prices. Nor can they bear the costs of buying their own land in a town dominated by foreign capital.
Tensions are brewing in step with rapid gentrification and social change, which has seen the poverty rate jump to 62% – the highest in the country. While there is no shortage of low-paid service-sector jobs, the threat of eviction hangs over the local people who helped transform Tulum from wilderness to a thriving town of at least 50,000 people.
“It is a mockery: these are the hard-working people whose hands have built Tulum,” says Rafael Barajas, president of a local community organisation. “Violence in the state is deep-rooted and a modern apartheid keeps communities isolated and in poverty." he pointed out, “Lands have been effectively stolen and sold to unscrupulous investors and hotel owners, who operate with impunity”. The businesses want the Mayans to do their shifts but then disappear at night,” adds Barajas. Leaders of a campaign started this year to resist eviction have refused reported offers of land about 10 miles away, not least because commuting to work each day would eat into already meagre paypackets.
Attempts by police to evict locals have met resistance, including people building barricades that often end up ablaze. In late July, almost 100 police officers descended on the hamlet – which sits in the shadow of a recently built luxury development and lacks drainage or running water – and fired teargas while a bulldozer attempted to knock down homes.
Thursday, September 29, 2022
The number of families struggling to manage their telecoms bills has doubled over the last year – from 15% to 29% of customers nationwide – the highest level the regulator has recorded.
8 million UK households are facing problems paying their mobile, broadband, pay-TV and streaming bills, prompting the media regulator to call on the biggest telecoms companies to reconsider the inflation-busting price rises planned for the spring.
Ofcom found in its annual affordability survey that one in seven families have cut back spending in other areas, such as on food and clothing, to afford their communication services, while 9% have cancelled a service.
Ofcom called on telecoms providers to scrap the formula used for annual price rises in April. The mechanism – used in some form by many providers including BT, TalkTalk, Shell Energy and Vodafone – increases bills by the rate of inflation in January as measured using the consumer prices index, plus 3.9%.
“The cost of living crisis is putting unprecedented strain in household budgets,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director. “This includes a much stronger emphasis on offering and promoting social tariffs, as well as thinking carefully about whether significant price rises can be justified at a time when the finances of their customers are under such pressure.”
“Restricting the services of someone who is particularly reliant on them, to push them into paying outstanding bills, should be avoided or limited,” said Ofcom. “Disconnection should only ever be used as a last resort.”
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
In 33 US states, clergy are exempt from any laws requiring professionals such as teachers, physicians and psychotherapists to report information about alleged child sexual abuse to police or child welfare officials if the church deems the information privileged. Efforts to rid state laws of the privilege have been successful in only a handful of states, including North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia.
This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials. In many of these cases, the privilege has been invoked to shield religious groups from civil and criminal liability after the abuse became known to civil authorities.
The Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege, and influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s Witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.
“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, speaking of several religious groups. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”
Sen. Victoria Steele, a Democrat from Tucson, on three occasions, proposed legislation to close the clergy reporting loophole in Arizona. Steele said that key Mormon lawmakers including a former Republican state senator and judiciary committee chairmen thwarted her efforts before her proposals could be presented to the full Legislature.
“It’s difficult for me to tell this story without talking about the Mormons and their power in the Legislature,” Steele said. “What this boils down to is that the church is being given permission to protect the predators and the children be damned. … They are trying with all of their might to make sure this bill does not see the light of day.”
In Montana in 2020 the state Supreme Court ruled that church leaders were under no obligation to report, citing the state’s clergy-penitent privilege.
A bill seeking to rid Maryland of the privilege in child abuse cases evoked a strong rebuke from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then the powerful archbishop of the Diocese of Washington, D.C.
“If this bill were to pass, I shall instruct all priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who serve in Maryland to ignore it,” McCarrick wrote in a Catholic Standard column. “On this issue, I will gladly plead civil disobedience and willingly — if not gladly — go to jail.”
The bill never emerged from committee. Similar legislation proposed in 2004 suffered the same fate. Today, the clergy-penitent privilege in Maryland remains intact, even though McCarrick has been defrocked for sex crimes.
An analysis, End Austerity: A Global Report on Budget Cuts and Harmful Social Reforms, estimates that 85% of the world population will be living under austerity measures by next year as tens of millions face hunger, homelessness, and health crises. Around 6.7 billion people are expected to feel austerity's impacts in 2023, with the impacts falling disproportionately on the poor and other vulnerable populations
The report finds that "a long list of austerity measures is being considered or already implemented by governments worldwide," including budget cuts targeting key social programs, privatization of public services, and wage caps for teachers, healthcare workers, and others. The report shows that 143 countries—94 of which are developing nations—are pursuing austerity, often at the urging of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has imposed punishing loan terms on low-income countries throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The IMF and other global financial institutions often recommend targeting social programs only to the extreme poor in an attempt to justify budget cuts, "a typical neoliberal policy" with damaging impacts that have frequently spurred mass uprisings.
"Despite the cost-of-living crisis, governments in developing countries, often with their hands tied by international financial institutions, are putting big corporations ahead of the people," said Matti Kohonen, director of the Financial Transparency Coalition. "Nearly 40% of Covid-19 recovery funds went to big companies, meaning that those most impacted by the pandemic have been left behind."
Aggressive means-testing "is often justified as an 'improvement,' including in many low- and lower-middle-income countries such as Central African Republic, Eswatini, Gambia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, and Uganda, where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line," the report continues.
"In the worst of times, austerity is the worst possible choice. It should not even be on the agenda," argued Nabil Abdo, Oxfam International's senior policy adviser. "Austerity is designed to dismantle public healthcare and education and labor regulations. It enriches the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Choosing austerity over many other ways to reduce deficits or even boost budget revenues, like taxing wealth and windfall profits, is not only economically disastrous—it’s deadly."
Titled Billionaire Enabler States: How U.S. States Captured by the Trust Industry Help the World's Wealthy Hide Their Fortunes, the new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) estimates that the United States is host to $5.6 trillion in trust and estate assets belonging to super-wealthy elites, both foreign and domestic.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Tuesday published Trends in the Distribution of Family Wealth, 1989 to 2019, a report revealing that while the total real wealth of U.S. families tripled over those 30 years, the growth was dramatically unequal.
Patriarch in robes sown with gilded thread
Before his glistering altar stands,
Holding the Gospels in jewelled hands
Firmly proclaiming what those scriptures said
About swords, plough shares and the Prince of peace,
While praising the president and his state
And damning their enemies to their fate,
His cheek unturned. It is time to release
The apostles of war to bless with shell
And shot hospitals, nurseries and schools,
Wherever the innocent or such fools
Seek refuge in such a Christian hell.
This prelate seeks power as his word dies
On his lips, with him being Lord of the Flies.
"The price of food and necessities is increasing. Only our wage rate is decreasing,"
Selim Raihan, an economics professor at the Bangladesh University of Dhaka and executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, said, "Poor people are already in danger. A large population is now at risk of becoming extremely poor," he said.
With the government increasing fuel prices 50% in August, inflation on the rise and the economy slowing, for Bangladeshis just getting by is now much harder. The rising cost of living is taking a heavy toll on the world's poorest and most vulnerable, including many already struggling to survive after climate change-fuelled disasters have claimed their homes and land. Bangladesh's inflation rate is now about 7.5%, according to the country's central bank, after the government dramatically boosted fuel prices in the face of rising global fossil fuel costs, in part as a result of the Ukraine conflict. It has sent prices of food and other commodities surging even as daily electricity outages slowed productivity.
Workers are particularly feeling the pinch.
Arzina Begum, 50, who works in a garment factory in Hemayetpur, west of Dhaka, and lives in a damp little rented room, said her salary of 15,000 taka a month no longer is enough to support herself and her son.
Taslima Akhtar Beauty, a leader of Garment Workers Rights Movement, said salaries need to rise to 20,000 or 25,000 taka a month for families to make ends meet - something there is so far little sign will happen.
In some parts of Bangladesh, rising and increasingly unaffordable prices are leading to protests.
"I do not want to be carried home in a zinc-lined coffin or stain my hands with somebody’s blood because of the war of one person that wants to build an empire.”
It is estimated that almost 200,000 Russians have fled to neighbouring nations to avoid being called up for military service in Ukraine.
The Interior Ministry of Georgia said over 53,000 Russians have entered the country since last week, while Interior Ministry officials in Kazakhstan said 98,000 crossed into that nation. The Finnish Border Guard agency said over 43,000 arrived in the same period. Media reports also said another 3,000 Russians entered Mongolia, which also shares a border with the country.
The essential features of capitalism are:
1. the ownership of the means of wealth production by a propertied class which lives by owning;
2. the sale of their labour-power by the property-less majority for salaries or wages;
3. the production of goods for sale.
The Labour Party does not propose abolishing these essential features of the capitalist economic system. We say that only with socialism will the poverty and insecurity of the workers be brought to an end. The risk of war will be removed only with the removal of the commercial rivalries of capitalism. The Labour Party programme will fail, not because of the personal merits or demerits of its leaders, but because it is wholly a programme of reforms of capitalism.
The Socialist Party has been telling fellow workers for years, not merely that the Labour Party does not believe in socialism, but that they are an organisation which hopes and attempts to reform capitalist society. It neither understands the basic structure of capitalism which it wants to modify, nor socialism which it claims as its objective.
The Labour Party can govern and can administer capitalism— only in the interests of the capitalist class. Past Labour governments are ample demonstration of this. The Labour Party can govern; it can and must make promises which induce the electorate to give it support—but can it keep them?
The Socialist Party is not organised for the purpose of relieving the more or less obvious results of poverty. Our object is to abolish the cause of poverty, not to waste our time and energies in futile attempts to mitigate some of the more glaring effects.
Convict leasing was essentially a new form of slavery that started after the Civil War and went on for decades across the South. States and companies got rich by arresting mostly Black men and then forcing them to work for major companies.
The 13th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, banned slavery and involuntary servitude. But it made an exception for people convicted of a crime, offering legal cover for convict leasing. Many states adopted similar language in their constitutions that still exists today.
The racial makeup of prison populations changed almost overnight after the Civil War. In Tennessee, during slavery less than 5 percent of the prisoners were Black. In 1866, after emancipation, that number jumped to 52 percent. And by 1891 it had skyrocketed to 75 percent. Black codes are laws passed by states that targeted African Americans for minor crimes such as vagrancy, jumping a ride on a train car or not having proof of employment. In Tennessee, people were sentenced up to five years of hard labor in the coal mine for having interracial relationships.
“The reality is that it is 2022 and in the United States, slavery is still legal,” said Bianca Tylek, founder and executive director of the non-profit Worth Rises.
A report published by the American Civil Liberties Union in June 2022 found about 800,000 prisoners out of the 1.2 million in state and federal prisons are forced to work, generating a conservative estimate of $11bn annually in goods and services while average wages range from 13 cents to 52 cents per hour. Five states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas – force prisoners to work without pay.
The report concluded that the labor conditions of US prisoners violate fundamental human rights to life and dignity.
Johnny Perez made sheets, underwear and pillowcases working for Corcraft, a manufacturing division of New York State Correctional Services that uses prisoners to manufacture products for state and local agencies. His pay ranged between 17 cents and 36 cents an hour.
“We have a system that forces people to work and not only forces them to work but does not give them an adequate living wage,” said Perez. “Slavery by any name is wrong. Slavery in any shape or form is wrong.” Perez emphasized that in prison, individuals aren’t provided adequate basic necessities such as food, toiletries, clothing and office supplies, and that the measly wages paid by these jobs don’t cover these extra expenses. Refusing a work assignment can also have adverse consequences, he said, ranging from being placed in solitary confinement to having any work issues placed on your record which affects parole and status within a prison that determines what privileges you receive. Workers in prison do not get any paid time off and are often forced to work even when sick unless an infirmary affirms they are not able to work.