Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Socialist Sonnet No. 88



By common consent, inflation’s a curse.

Man may not live by bread alone, it’s said,

But a few slices less if the price of bread

Keeps rising pence on pence, or even worse.

Why should the cost of things keep on soaring?

The wisdom of economic sages

Blames workers demanding higher wages,

A diagnosis it’s worth ignoring.

Because as every worker understands

This would mean the effect precedes the cause,

Like sowing the seed after the plant grows:

It’s high prices that trigger wage demands.

Far better that inflation be ended

Once money and prices are transcended.


D. A.

Hedge Fund Bonanza

 Hedge fund manager Sir Chris Hohn paid himself a record-breaking $690m (£574m) this year which equates to more than £1.5m a day, after his Children’s Investment (TCI) fund recorded a surge in profits.

The dividend payment from TCI Fund Management is 15,000 times the average UK salary.

The hedge fund is ultimately owned by a parent company in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven.

The fund campaigned against Dutch bank ABN Amro, which led to its sale to Royal Bank of Scotland, seen as a key reason for RBS’s near collapse during the financial crisis.

Hedge fund billionaire Sir Chris Hohn paid himself ‘£1.5m a day this year’ | Hedge funds | The Guardian

Poisoned Air

 Almost a million stillbirths a year (almost half of all stillbirths) can be attributed to air pollution linked to exposure to pollution particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), mostly produced from the burning of fossil fuels.

Stillbirths were described as a “neglected tragedy” in a 2020 report published by Unicef. The heavy impact of stillbirths on mothers and their families would mean that action to prevent them would boost women’s health and equality, the scientists behind the new work said.

Air pollution linked to almost a million stillbirths a year | Air pollution | The Guardian

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Philanthropy Capitalism

 We are now treated to regular announcements about benevolent billionaires pledging to share their wealth. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for instance, recently told CNN that he would be giving away the majority of his $124 billion fortune in his lifetime. The truth is, pledges like these may take years, decades or even generations to reach their nonprofit destinations—if ever.

The Giving Pledge, is an initiative founded by Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates to increase charitable giving by the extremely wealthy. As of today, more than 230 billionaires from 28 countries have taken the pledge to give away the majority of their wealth.

Presumably, this means we would see declining billionaire fortunes. But on the 10th anniversary of the pledge in 2020, the Institute for Policy Studies found that the total net worth of the 62 living initial pledgers hadn’t diminished at all. In fact, it had nearly doubled, when adjusted for inflation.

US billionaires have seen their total wealth increase by $1.5 trillion since the beginning of the pandemic. Philanthropists are making money faster than they can give it away.

While billionaires do of course still donate to charities, grand philanthropic pledges are often fulfilled by dumping funds into family foundations or donor-advised funds (DAFs) that could exist in perpetuity. Some 30% of charitable donations now flow through intermediaries like these, outpacing direct donations to many traditional charities. Billionaires may claim enormous tax deductions for parking funds in these intermediaries. But there’s little to no guarantee that money will ever make it to working charities. Foundations are only required to pay out 5% of their assets each year, and most dole out just slightly more than this minimum. DAFs face no annual payout requirement at all. Lax reporting requirements make it difficult to assess their activity, but recent reports suggest that median DAF payouts are shockingly low.

 Taxes subsidize this system. For every dollar a billionaire gives to charity, the taxpayers chip in up to 74 cents of that dollar in lost federal tax revenue as donors claim deductions in their income, estate and capital gains taxes, among others. That makes it even more outrageous that much of this money may never reach a real, on-the-ground charity.

Opinion | Why We Should Be Very Skeptical of the Billionaires Who Vow to 'Give It All Away' | Chuck Collins (

Less Religion than Before


Fewer than half of the population of England and Wales have described themselves as Christian for the first time, the 2021 census has revealed.  The census question broadly asked "what is your religion" - referring to people's affiliation, rather than their beliefs or active religious practices.

People who said they had no religion increased by 12 percentage points.  37.2% of people – 22.2 million – declared they had “no religion”, the second most common response after Christian. It means that over the past 20 years the proportion of people reporting no religion has soared from 14.8%. The places with the highest numbers of people saying they had “no religion” were Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf, all in south Wales, and Brighton and Hove and Norwich in England. They were among 11 areas where more than half of the population are not religious, including Bristol, Hastings and Ashfield in Nottinghamshire

The number of people identifying as Muslim increased by 1.2 million to  3.9 million. 

Some 46.2% of the population said they were Christian - 27.5 million people, compared with 33.3 million in 2011, a drop by 13.1 percentage points from 59.2% in 2011.

England and Wales now minority Christian countries, census reveals | Census | The Guardian

Monday, November 28, 2022

The young and HIV/AIDs

  Around 110,000 children and adolescents (0-19 years) died from AIDs-related causes during 2021, according to UNICEF.

Another 310,000 were newly infected, bringing the total number of young people living with HIV to 2.7 million.

Despite accounting for only 7 per cent of overall people living with HIV, children and adolescents comprised 17 per cent of all AIDS-related deaths, and 21 per cent of new HIV infections in 2021.

Unless the drivers of inequities are addressed, UNICEF warns, ending AIDS in children and adolescents will continue to be a distant dream.

HIV prevention and treatment progress for children, adolescents, and pregnant women nearly flat over past few years – UNICEF [EN/AR] - World | ReliefWeb

Protests across China


Videos that went viral in China last month showed FoxConn workers fleeing factories in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, to escape lockdowns ordered due to COVID-19. FoxConn is a Taiwanese-owned company that plays a large role in global iPhone production and is one of Taiwan’s major tech giants. FoxConn founder Terry Gou is one of Taiwan’s richest men and has made forays into politics in recent years, such as seeking the Kuomintang’s presidential nomination in 2020. 

In light of China’s continuing COVID-zero policies, migrant factory workers at FoxConn’s massive Zhengzhou complex were to be quarantined last month after traveling home by bus. But to avoid quarantines, some workers have instead taken to walking home, trekking across fields and roads on foot. 

For its part, FoxConn stated that it will not prevent workers who want to leave their factories from doing so. Local governments have urged workers to inform them that they are departing, but FoxConn workers feared being tracked down by state security forces. Some local residents set up stations to help traveling FoxConn workers. 

FoxConn has 200,000 workers at the Zhengzhou complex, which is responsible for close to half of global iPhone production. It is not clear how many workers have COVID-19 and are to be quarantined. Zhengzhou has a population of six million. Other cities in central China, including Wuhan, have seen COVID waves in November, as have Hainan and Xinjiang Provinces. 

Since the wave of FoxConn workers fleeing their jobs, however, the situation further escalated earlier this week, with workers clashing with state security forces.  This was in reaction to new regulations requiring workers to stay in their positions until March 2023, working through the Lunar New Year holiday, or else forfeit their bonuses.

The situation facing FoxConn workers illustrates the precarious situation of migrant workers during COVID-19. Given China’s adherence to COVID-zero, migrant workers have been locked away in crowded dormitories, in unsanitary conditions, as a response to clusters of COVID-19 cases. 

This perhaps more broadly points to how migrant workers are treated as disposable sources of labor by capital. Migrant workers were treated much the same way in Taiwan after clusters appeared at electronics factories in Miaoli, with migrant workers remaining confined to their dormitories even after the clusters subsided. There was a clear racial component to this treatment, seeing as migrant workers in Taiwanese electronics factories were mostly from southeast Asian countries. Nevertheless, in either context migrant workers are treated as disposable “low-end populations” to be thrown away when providing for their care proves inconvenient. 

The treatment of migrant workers in China has made international headlines several times in recent years, such as the mass evictions of migrant workers in November 2017. This took place after a fire that killed 17, subsequently used as a pretext for migrant worker evictions at a time when the Chinese government was aiming to institute population controls in Beijing. 

In the case of FoxConn, the Chinese government has intervened to benefit the Taiwanese tech giant by facilitating its mass recruitment of migrant workers. This is a case of collusion between the state and capital at the expense of workers. Indeed, FoxConn simply seeks to maximize its profits at the expense of workers, Taiwanese or Chinese alike. After police told people not to chant “no more lockdowns” they began chanting “more lockdowns” and “I want to do COVID tests”— Vivian Wang (@vwang3) November 27, 2022

Since the Zhengzhou clashes earlier this week, the situation escalated further following a fire killed residents in an apartment block in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Province. People were especially angry that firefighters were unable to enter the building, whose residents were locked inside as part of restrictive quarantine measures. 

In the wake of the Urumqi fire, public outrage has spilled out into demonstrations in major Chinese urban centers. Protests have taken place Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Urumqi, Szechuan, and other places. Many demonstrators have taken to holding blank sheets of paper, seeing as the Chinese government has punished people holding signs with slogans. 

In Shanghai Urumqi Street was a major site of protest. City authorities responded by removing street signs showing the name of the street, evoking much mockery online. Images of the protests have quickly become iconic, including an image of a lone man and woman confronting amassed police. 

Both the Zhengzhou protests and the Urumqi blaze were precipitating events for the current protests. Outrage is directed against the restrictions associated with COVID-zero policies, with protesters calling for an end to testing and lockdowns. Particularly in light of the fact that Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang, the fire also shows how underprivileged groups, such as Uyghurs and migrant workers, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-zero policies.

Some protests have spilled over into demands for democracy and freedom of speech and calls for Xi Jinping to resign. It is probable that multiple demands overlap within the present protest, including more direct opposition to the CCP and specifically an end to COVID-zero. The protests are thought to be the largest demonstrations in China since the 2011 Wuhan protests and perhaps since Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

That the protests have not yet been put down may indicate that the CCP leadership is evaluating its options. Spontaneous solidarity rallies have been held in Taiwan and other countries.  

At this movement in the chilly winter night, Shanghai people are chanting on the downtown street: “We don’t want dictatorship, we want democracy.” After 3 years of suffering from lockdown & control of society, people are angry.

— Vivian Wu (@vivianwubeijing) November 26, 2022

While the Chinese government may be pushed to relax COVID-zero policies, this will necessarily lead to an uptick in cases, which China is less equipped to deal with because the authorities do not appear to have spent the time bought by adhering to COVID-zero to build up medical capacity in preparation for an eventual transition away from COVID-zero and because Chinese-produced vaccines are less effective. Major Chinese cities were already seeing an uptick of cases before the protests broke out. Moreover, the Chinese government has tried to avoid importing more effective Western vaccines – a manifestation of “vaccine nationalism.”

It may have been the hope of the Chinese leadership to maintain COVID-zero indefinitely, since it may fit their purposes to put increasing distance between China and the rest of the world. The economic shockwave that results from the eventual uptick in cases will have large ramifications and deal a further blow to the political legitimacy of the present CCP leadership, which has staked so much on COVID-zero. 

Thus, whatever the outcome of the protests, unrest can be expected to continue.

Source. Brian Hioe, Protests Take Place Across China, New Bloom: Radical Perspectives on Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, 11/28/22. 

Protests across China - World Socialist Party US (

China's Covid Protests

 Chinese police have launched a show of force across the country in an effort to head off the wave of protests that have spread across multiple cities after the death of 10 people in a building fire in Urumqi in Xinjiang. 

Much of the region had been under lockdown for more than three months, and people blamed the lockdown for the deaths.

Demonstrators demanded an end to lockdowns.

 In Shanghai’s Xuhui district, people cheered and applauded as a woman shouted out: 

“We want respect, not lies. We want reform, not a cultural revolution. We want a vote, not a leader. We want to be citizens, not slaves.”

A spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs said “forces with ulterior motives” were linking the fire with zero-Covid measures.

 At one protest on Sunday, protesters appeared to make reference to it.

“The foreign force you talked about – are they Marx and Engels?” shouted one. 

Chinese police out in force in attempt to deter Covid lockdown protests | China | The Guardian

A World in Crisis

 “A toxic mix of crises -- conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war – are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, explained.

Many refugees and internally displaced people are unable to meet basic needs, owing to inflated prices and limited humanitarian assistance precipitated by disrupted supply chains and shortfalls in funding.

Displaced women and girls are often the most vulnerable. Faced with food shortages and surging prices, many women and girls are being forced to take gut-wrenching decisions to survive.

“With savings depleted, many are skipping meals, children are being sent to work instead of school and some may have no options but to beg or engage in the sale or exchange of sex to survive. Too many are facing heightened risks of exploitation, trafficking, child marriage and intimate partner violence,” said Grandi.

There is a shocking, pernicious cycle of hunger and insecurity, each exacerbating the other and fuelling risks to women and girls, as harmful coping strategies are adopted across communities. Reports of girls being forced into marriage to allow the family to buy food are especially shocking. In the East and Horn of Africa, child marriages are on the rise, as a way of alleviating the strain on household income. Sexual violence risks are also aggravated by the drought, with women and girls being forced to trek longer distances to collect water and firewood.

Among refugee populations in Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo and Zambia, UNHCR has recorded serious nutrition concerns. These include acute malnutrition, stunting, and anaemia. Across eastern and southern Africa, more than three-quarters of refugees have seen food rations cut and are unable to meet their basic needs. 

Inside Syria, 1.8 million people in displacement camps are severely food insecure, while nine in 10 Syrian refugees in Lebanon are unable to afford essential food and services.

Across the Americas, half of those forcibly displaced eat only two meals a day, with three quarters reducing the quantity or quality of their food, according to UNHCR data.

 Major deteriorations in food security are projected in Yemen and the Sahel, and millions of internally displaced people in countries like Somalia and Afghanistan live in situations where 90 per cent of the population are not consuming enough food.

UNHCR warns rising tide of hunger, insecurity, and underfunding worsening gender-based violence risks - World | ReliefWeb

Child Brides and Underage Marriage

 According to UNICEF, Pakistan has nearly 19 million child brides. 

The UN children's agency estimates that around 4.6 million were married before the age of 15 and 18.9 million before they turned 18.

Yasmin Lehri, a former lawmaker from Baluchistan's capital Quetta, said almost all girls in rural and tribal areas of the province were married before the age of 18.

"In urban areas, because of growing awareness, girls are married at 18 or older but in the rest of the province the situation is very grim," she said. 

Lehri explained that poverty and economic factors played a significant role, with young girls often exchanged between families to work as laborers.

Pakistani lawmaker Kishwar Zehra said the country's religious right was the biggest opposition to a law stipulating a minimum marriage age.

"When a bill setting an age limit was presented in the national assembly's committee, it was strongly opposed by religious-minded lawmakers," she explained.

Maulana Sherani, a former chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, has publicly opposed any law setting the minimum age of marriage for girls. The council advises the government on the compatibility of legislation with IslamIn 2014, the council declared child marriage restraint laws "un-Islamic."

When a bill establishing a minimum age was presented in the Baluchistan assembly, religious parties also opposed it.

Why underage marriages are still prevalent in Pakistan – DW – 11/27/2022

Roma - 2nd Class Citizens

 "Where is the essence of humanity when every single day Roma people are excluded from society?" European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Roma in Europe have a lower life expectancy and a higher child mortality rate than non-Roma people, according to a new report by the European Roma Grassroots Organization.

It documents the living conditions of Roma and Sinti communities shows they are Europe's largest, and most disadvantaged, minority.

The report notes that Roma experience significantly unequal treatment in the health care sector. One in five members of the Roma community suffers from chronic disease, while one in four does not have health insurance. The data was drawn from national studies and found that the Roma community has severe difficulty accessing health care services in numerous EU member states.

Conditions have not improved since the 2020 EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Political Participation. In fact, the COVID pandemic appears to have exacerbated the situation.

 Living conditions in Roma communities were indicative of how state bodies functioned, said Elvis Memeti, the national Roma contact point for North Macedonia.

"The gap in living conditions, infrastructure, education, organization and functionality of the system in provision of public goods and services between Roma and non-Roma is increasing," he said.

Adriatik Hasantari of the organization Roma Active Albania in Tirana pointed out racism and antiziganism were still prevalent throughout the system and handed down from one generation to the next, independent of political convictions.

"Imagine a kid who was evicted from its home already several times by the age of five," said Hasantari. "How should this person ever build trust in the system or contribute to it later?"

Dejan Markovic from the Serbian Roma Forum in Belgrade pointed to data from the recent report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

"Today still more than half, 61%, of the Romani population has no access to adequate housing or water, one third, 31%, of the children suffer because they don't have proper food to eat," he said. "The reason is the lack of political will to really make a change."

Aleksandra Bojadijeva from the Regional Cooperation Council added that to date, only symptoms — not the root causes — had been addressed.

"It's high time to tackle antiziganism, as it is the root cause of everything that has happened to Roma in the past centuries."

Roma, Sinti report exposes discrimination, political inertia – DW – 11/27/2022

Sunday, November 27, 2022

2023 will be worse than 2022

 The vast majority of households in some vulnerable groups – including some 70% of pensioners – will be spending a tenth or more of their income on fuel from April, when support for energy costs will be reduced. 

However, the number of households paying 30% or more of their income on fuel will double from April, from 1.6m now to 3.8m. 

The number of households paying a fifth of their income on fuel is projected to rise from 3m to 7.5m. 

Overall, two-thirds of British households will be spending 10% or more of their income on fuel within the next six months. 

96% of lone parent families with two or more children and over 85% of all couples with three or more children will be in the same situation by April spending 10% of their income on fuel – seen by some as the benchmark for fuel poverty. 

“People are worse off and 2023 is going to be worse than 2022,”  former prime minister Gordon Brown, warned. The figures produced by York University’s social policy unit he said showed a “scale of the increase is staggering”, and that a “black hole in provision” remained.

Brown said 2023 was shaping up to be a year of far worse hardship across the UK than 2022. “Moving from October’s hardships to even more austerity in April will be very painful for the majority of families,” he writes in a forthcoming pamphlet called How To Survive This Winter.

Nearly 7 million of Britain’s poorest people are paying extra for these basic goods and services. This “poverty premium”, including areas such as the price of credit, prepayment meters and shopping in smaller amounts, could be costing such families about £480 a year, according to a study by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) thinktank. It found that a third of low-income households pay more for their electricity because they use prepayment meters or pay upon receipt of a bill, compared with 20% of all households. They are twice as likely as the average family to shop in pricier small supermarkets. About 29% of those paying at least one poverty premium say they are skipping meals to afford fuel.

Even the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said there was “something deeply unsettling about those with the least having to pay more than those with the most for life’s most basic essentials”

Millions of households will be spending nearly third of income on fuel by spring | Fuel poverty | The Guardian

Profits First


While promising to save the world is increasingly part of the CEO’s job description, two new books make clear that this grandiose notion remains little more than a self-serving fantasy.

No matter how earnestly they proclaim their support for “stakeholder capitalism” – the popular promise that companies now take care of employees, communities, the planet and other “stakeholders”, not just themselves – profits still come first.

New York Times reporter Emily Flitter captures the insurmountable contradictions of stakeholder capitalism in her book, The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America.

In 2014, Flitter recounts, JP Morgan started making philanthropic contributions and “for-profit capital allocations” to the city of Detroit, Michigan, to “address some of Detroit’s biggest economic hurdles”, as Dimon would later phrase it. Accompanying each investment was, Flitter writes, “a media blitz that made it seem like JP Morgan bankers had galloped into a completely deserted hellscape and brought it back to life”.

 Flitter reveals, from sidelining Black employees to offering Black customers inferior lending terms and investment products to promoting predatory practices in predominantly Black communities, such commitments are often little more than empty rhetoric. Empty rhetoric does nothing to address the racism that remains deeply entrenched in finance, but that doesn’t mean rhetoric is pointless – at least for executives. “The anodyne talk of diversity can be used as a shield against discussions of specific and unflattering problems,” Flitter writes, which “also helps keep the topics of racism and representation on the margins of corporate life”. The ultimate outcome of performative anti-racism is the preservation of the status quo – which is, of course, the point.

Over the next five years, the bank directed some $155m to Detroit. That’s not an insignificant amount of money – unless you compare it to JP Morgan’s own earnings or its CEO’s compensation. As Flitter points out, that $155m represented “0.03% of its profits over the same period”. Between 2015 and 2019, roughly the same window as JP Morgan’s work in Detroit, the bank’s board (which Dimon chairs) awarded Dimon more than $135m in compensation.

Rick Wartzman, the author of, Still Broke: Walmart’s Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism, examines Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chairman and CEO. McMillon speaks incessantly about how Walmart is committed to all of its stakeholders, particularly its 2.3 million employees. The company, Wartzman writes, “very much sees itself as part of this new wave of capitalism”.

“If there is one thing that runs as deep in Walmart’s DNA as its devotion to keeping costs down and prices low, it would have to be its antipathy toward organized labor,” Wartzman writes. 

In the 1990s the company “tracked employee attitudes” to generate a “Union Probably Index” that would allow it to better target stores that might be inclined to organize. Walmart hired the elite PR firm, Edelman, to fight labor efforts; one outcome was “Working Families for Walmart”, an astroturf organization paid for by Walmart and “housed in Edelman’s Washington offices”. 

Wartzman also highlights that Walmart was so afraid of the employee organizing initiative Our Walmart that the company “hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group”.

 In 2015, Walmart finally announced that it would raise its minimum hourly wage to $9, with a further increase to $10 the following year. Walmart’s pay bump was a PR bonanza for the company: President Obama called to congratulate McMillon, and the company was named to Fortune’s “Change the World” list. 

Yet as Wartzman’s account makes abundantly clear, the “mantle of social responsibility” that corporate and media elites have bestowed on Walmart does little for the people who depend on it the most: employees. “After all of that – after all the protests and HR focus groups, the headlines and hearings, the self-congratulatory speeches and board meetings – here’s where Walmart landed: as of summer 2022, at least half of its US hourly workers still make less than $29,000 a year, many of them a fair bit less,” Wartzman concludes.

Civil rights activist JoAnne Bland tells Wartzman after she meets with McMillon, “They know people can’t live off those wages. How much profit do you need?”

Whatever promises corporations make about fighting racism or protecting employees, these two books make clear that companies may be willing to make changes at the margins, but they still draw the line at sacrificing control or money.

The savior CEO and the empty promise of ‘stakeholder capitalism’ | JP Morgan | The Guardian

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Carl and Anton


 ‘It is time for mankind to ensure itself of material abundance by establishing a free, self-managed world society of productive labour, thereby freeing its mental powers for perfecting its knowledge of nature and the universe’  - 
Anton PannekoekHistory of Astronomy, 1951.

Always the poor that suffers


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) exposes that the most deprived areas of England are being hardest hit by the cost of living crisis as the consumer prices index inflation rate hit 11.1% in October.

Those in England’s most deprived districts more frequently reported spending less on food and essentials in the fortnight up to 20 November, 58% saying so compared with a third of those living in the least deprived areas.

The ONS used the index of multiple deprivation (IMD) to classify areas into five groups, ranging from the most deprived to least deprived fifth of areas. The IMD takes into account key factors such as income, education, health and crime to determine the deprivation of an area – with cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Hull and London being home to some of the most deprived neighbourhoods.

People living in the most deprived fifth of areas in England were more likely to be worried about the rising cost of living, at 84%, compared with 70% of those in the least deprived areas.

 More than three-fifths among those living in the most deprived fifth of areas of England said they found it difficult to pay energy bills in the latest period in November, and a tenth said they were behind on their bills.

While, just over a third of people living in the most affluent areas said they faced affordability difficulties, and only 2% said they were behind on their bills.

Earlier this month the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, said higher inflation was hitting lower income households harder because a bigger proportion of their spending went on essentials such as food and energy. He said: “Inflation is bad for the least well-off generally and this inflation is particularly bad. The reason is that it’s concentrated on energy and food – these are the essentials of living.”

Cost of living crisis hitting England’s most deprived areas hardest, ONS says | UK cost of living crisis | The Guardian

Friday, November 25, 2022

The American Rail Dispute

 Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world and the CEO of BNSF Railway's parent company, saw his wealth jump by nearly $1.4 billion in a single day earlier this week, a sum that could easily fund 15 days of paid sick leave for every rail worker in the United States.

BNSF is one of the major railroad giants refusing to budge in contract negotiations with rail unions as they fight for 15 days of paid sick leave. 

Bernie Sanders tweeted Wednesday. "The greed of the rail industry must end."

Rail companies' draconian attendance policies punish workers for calling out sick or taking a day off to see the doctor.

"Buffett's BNSF, for example, has started using a convoluted system called 'Hi-Viz' under which workers start with a point balance then lose points if they're unavailable to work because they're sick, have a family emergency, or other reasons," Mother Jones reported in September. "If their balance hits zero, they get a 10-day suspension, and a 20-day suspension if it happens again. Reaching zero for the third time in a two-year period means getting fired."

One Day of Warren Buffett Wealth Gains Could Fund 15 Days of Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers (

A Toxic Atmosphere


Figures for 2020, just released by the European Environment Agency, show Fine particleair pollution led to 238,000 premature deaths in the European Union.

The same report says exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) above the WHO's recommended threshold led to 49,000 premature deaths in the EU in 2020.

Acute exposure to ozone (O3) caused 24,000 people to die early.

In 2020, 96 percent of the EU's urban population was breathing concentrations of fine particles above the WHO's limit of 5 microgrammes per cubic metre of air. Fine particulate matter is the technical term for microscopic dust grains spewed into the atmosphere by car and aircraft engines, and by coal-fired power stations. The tiny size of the particles enables them to travel deep into the human respiratory tract, worsening the risk of bronchitis, asthma and lung disease.

Air pollution kills 238,000 Europeans prematurely (

Heatwave Deaths


Analysis of excess deaths, the difference between the number of deaths that happened and those expected based on historical trends, reveals ore than 20,000 people died across western Europe in this summer’s heatwaves, in temperatures that would have been virtually impossible without climate change.

In England and Wales, 3,271 excess deaths were recorded between 1 June and 7 September, according to the Office for National Statistics – 6.2% higher than the five-year average.

In France, there were 10,420 excess deaths reported during the summer months.

In Spain, there were 4,655 heat-attributable deaths between June and August.

The German government estimates 4,500 people died in the country during the summer months specifically due to extreme temperatures.

Dr Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “Heatwaves are one of the biggest threats posed by climate change. High temperatures are responsible for thousands of deaths across the world every year, many of which go underreported."

Dr Eunice Lo, a research fellow in climate change and health at the University of Bristol, said: “Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense as the globe warms up, so we can expect more and hotter heatwaves in future."

Over 20,000 died in western Europe’s summer heatwaves, figures show | Climate crisis | The Guardian