Thursday, October 23, 2014

US Military and Climate Security Budgets Compared

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As the U.S. debates the President’s plan for new military engagement, hundreds of thousands converged on New York to urge the world’s nations to take stronger action against the threat of climate change.  A new report connects these two issues, and finds that the gap between U.S. spending on traditional instruments of military force and on averting climate catastrophe has narrowed slightly.  Between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of security spending on climate change grew from 1% of military spending to 4%.
The report argues that a change from 1% to 4% of security spending is not commensurate with the role U.S. military strategy now assigns to climate change: as a major threat to U.S. security. Nor is it remotely sufficient to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control.

The U.S. balance between military and climate security spending compares unfavorably to the record of its nearest “peer competitor,” China.  Although China’s environmental record is unquestionably problematic, it strikes a far better balance than the U.S. in the allocation of its spending on military force and on climate change.  Its climate security spending, at $162 billion, nearly equals its military spending, at $188.5 billion.
Other Key Findings:
  • The balance in the area of international assistance has not improved.  The U.S. actually increased its military aid to other countries from 2008-2013, relative to the help it gave them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For the price of four Littoral Combat Ships — currently there are 16 more in the budget than the Pentagon even wants — we could have double the Energy Department’s entire budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. currently spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined. The disparity between U.S. military spending and the countries presumed to be threats to our security is even more extreme.
Download the full report.

from here

The opium pipedreams of an ex-general

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 The former head of the British army Gen Sir Peter Wall said on a BBC documentary: "The lasting impact we will have had is not just to sanitise the threat to allow the development of governance and economy, but to be a witness to and stimulus for very significant social change, with an improving economy, with jobs, with much developed farming opportunities in contrast to narcotics.”

This is an example of crass denial which is a persistent and constant feature of UK military history.

 The LA Times reports that there was a record harvest of opium last year and John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction has concluded that the counter-narcotics strategy is failing badly. The amount of land used to grow poppies in 2013 eclipsed the previous record set in 2007, producing nearly $3 billion in profits, up from $2 billion in 2012. He stated in a report "The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability" of the U.S.-led counter-narcotics program.”

Several areas once declared poppy-free by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are now awash in opium. Afghanistan provides 80% of the world's opium. Much of it is grown in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, strongholds of Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan. Nangarhar province also produces a significant crop.  Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, was declared poppy-free in 2008 and cited as a model for successful interdiction. The province saw a fourfold increase in opium production in 2013. "Poppy production is on the increase and is a significant threat to U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan," the Pentagon said.

Rather than the growth of farming opportunities claimed by Gen. Wall, high opium prices and a cheap and skilled agricultural work force, much of the newly arable land has been dedicated to poppy cultivation. Part of the reason is affordable deep-well technology that has provided ample water for poppy plants, the US report says. The wells have turned 494,000 acres of desert land into arable agricultural areas over the last decade in southwestern Afghanistan, the center of the country's opium cultivation.

In 2013, Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 516,000 acres of opium poppy, surpassing the previous record of 477,000 acres in 2007, according to the U.N. drug office. Sopko's report predicts further increases in production for this year's harvest.

Wall is simply another example of a soldier who wants to rewrite history to hide failure. But we hardly expect the BBC to correct him.


Water - Everyone's Basic Need Or Profits For A Few?

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 Big institutional investors are being encouraged to get a slice of the $1.6 billion market in annual water trading. Since water titles were split from property titles, irrigators have been trading water, sometimes for greater returns than growing a crop that year. But Australian superannuation funds have been very reluctant to get into agriculture.
 For $100 million, a super fund could buy just a small number of farms, grow only a couple of commodities, and be exposed if prices collapsed. Or, for the same amount of money, super funds could invest in water, across 350 different irrigation areas from the Murray and Murrumbidgee, to the Burdekin in Queensland or the Ord in the Northern Territory, with a vast range of commodities - from rice to almonds, vegetables, cotton, dairy cattle, prime lambs and beef.

 Blue Sky Water Partners managing director Kim Morison says because water is so scarce, and demand for food is growing, the investment is sound. "Tree crops that at the moment are performing extremely well are things like almonds and walnuts, with demand from Asia with higher per capita wealth. "The three-year drought in California, which produces 80 per cent of the world supply ,has enabled Australia to capture that market. "It might surprise you to know one of the best performers on the Australian Stock Exchange this year is an almond company. Water is being used efficiently to produce a high value crop." 

Mr Morison says on current estimates almond growers are getting returns of $1,500 per megalitre gross margin for the water, while rice might be $120-150 per megalitre or cotton around $300-500 per megalitre. But despite promising a 10 per cent return on investment, per year, over seven years, Blue Sky Water Partners is still waiting for the flood of calls from superannuation funds. Blue Sky has raised less than its target of $100 million over the past two years to trade in water. 
 Mr Morison says it's early days. "What we've been working on at Blue Sky is tapping into passive long term institutional capital that exists in big pools in Australia and offshore and how to deploy it into agriculture. "We're looking at the ownership of a portfolio of water rights, so the water is then traded to farmers, so they can access it by leasing it or buying it, as another input in their business." 

Tom Chesson, chief executive of the National Irrigators Council, agrees big super funds have been reluctant to get into the multi-billion water trading market. He says the price is high right now as farmers get their crops in. "We're in dry times at the moment. A lot of people are looking for water, but it could flood next month and water could be worth nothing. "Water trading allows farmers to manage that risk. "Agriculture is one of the growth industries. You can never be without a feed. "But if you're investing in agriculture or water, you need to understand the risks. "Super funds and anyone should look at agriculture and irrigation."



The Global Elite Grows Richer

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The “ Global Annual Wealth Report,” released by investment giant Credit Suisse, analyzes the trend of growing wealth inequality around the world. What the researchers find is that global wealth has increased every year since 2008, and that personal wealth seems to be rising at the fastest rate ever recorded, much of it driven by strong equity markets. But the benefits of this growth have largely been channeled to those who are already affluent. While the restaurant workers in America struggled to achieve wages of $10 an hour for their labor, those invested in equities saw their wealth soar without lifting a finger. So it goes around the world.

The bottom half of the world’s people now own less than 1 percent of total wealth, and they’re struggling to hold onto even that minuscule portion. On the other hand, the wealthiest 10 percent have accumulated a staggering 87 percent of global assets. The top percentile has 48.2 percent of the world wealth.  The scary thing about the wealth of the super-rich is what French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in his book, Capital in the 21st Century. Once they’ve got a big chunk of wealth, their share will get bigger even if they sit by and do absolutely nothing. The rich will grow inevitably richer and the poor poorer.  We are returning back to the days of 19th-century Britain or 18th-century France, where great dynastic fortunes ruled and everybody else fought for scraps.

While the global elite zip around the world in private jets and watch their stock portfolios expand on computer screens from within their gated mansions, the bottom half stays awake at night trying to think of how to pay for medicine for a sick child. The things that give life dignity and meaning, like a quality education, a decent job, and the security of knowing you have a roof over your head and a doctor to care for you when you are ill grow further and further out of reach. Anxiety never leaves because one unforeseen mishap can push you down into poverty, and if you’re already there, you spend much of your time searching, often fruitlessly, for a way out.

Taken from here

Awwww...what a shame...

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Bad News Day for the Rich

Nelson Bunker Hunt has passed away and was briefly a candidate for the title of the world’s richest man.  He owned vast acreages of oil and ranchland around the globe, as well as the Circle T Ranch, 30 miles outside Dallas. For some, Nelson was JR Ewing of the eponymous TV series made flesh.  He was a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who loathed communism and the federal government in equal measure. He was a council member of the radical right-wing John Birch Society. He was also a certified Bible Belt, evangelist Christian, whose positions included chairman of the Texas Bible Society and head of the Campus Crusade for Christ International.

Then came a disaster beside which even the loss of the Libyan interest paled. In the early 70s the brothers began to amass vast quantities of silver futures, at first ostensibly as a hedge. But by the end of the decade the buying had turned into a bid to corner the world market in silver whose price, following that of gold, soared in early 1980 to more than $50 an ounce. By some estimates the Hunts controlled up to half the world’s deliverable silver, worth more than $7bn. But on 27 March 1980 – a date that has gone down in the annals of market disasters as “Silver Thursday” – the speculative edifice collapsed, and with it most of the Hunts’ money. The Federal Reserve had drastically raised interest rates to fight inflation and the silver bubble burst. That day the Hunts failed to meet various margin calls, and a $7bn paper asset turned into a $1.7bn debt. Fines, claims and lawsuits consumed much of the Hunts’ remaining wealth. The choicest family assets were sold and Nelson Bunker was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy, emerging in 1989 reportedly with a bare $10m to his name. [still not exactly a pauper, though, SOYMB]

But even without Nelson Bunker, the epic story of the Hunts continues – indeed, it may be said to have come full circle. Oil made the family fortune in the first place, and now oil is resurrecting that fortune. In 2012, William Herbert Hunt sold his company’s stake in the Bakken Field for $1.45bn, lifting his net wealth to an estimated $3bn or more. For the first time in a quarter-century, a Hunt, now aged 84, is back on the lists of America’s richest men.

Meanwhile, we should shed a tear for Warren Buffet, presently the third richest man in the world. Having last week confessed a bad investment decision in putting money into Tesco which has seen its share price more than halve in the past 12 months following a series of profit warnings.his bet on Coca-Cola and American tech giant IBM have cost him more than $2 billion in just three days.

On Monday, Buffett lost nearly $1 billion after shares in IBM plummeted to a three-year low after it badly missed third-quarter earnings estimates and announced it would pay $1.5 billion to ditch its loss-making chip division. That’s bad news for Buffett considering his investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway, is the largest investor in IBM. Yesterday, another vehicle for Buffets capitalism, Coca-Cola, saw its shares plummet six per cent in New York trading after it reported flat sales and lowered its guidance for the year.

SOYMB hope he loses the lot. Are we supposed to have sympathy for this leech who makes money off the backs of the workers without ever lifting a finger?


Heartless Austerity

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More than a third of people with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are having their benefits slashed because the Department for Work and Pensions deems they will recover enough to look for work.

Thousands of those with diseases that only worsen with time - and who have become too ill to work - are being denied full Employment Support Allowance. Instead they are assessed as suitable for work-related activity which is designed for people likely to recover to the point where they can seek employment. People in The Work-Related Activity Group receive less money and the threat of sanctions if they do not attend regular sessions. Many also have this benefit removed after a year as an added “incentive” to find employment.

When people with illnesses and disabilities are assessed for ESA they are either paid full support, told they are fit to work or, if they are deemed likely to recover, put into a third Work-Related Activity Group to apply for jobs and prepare for the workplace. Almost 8,000 people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis have been put on this third, lesser benefit. Of these, 5,000 were put into the category despite assessors explicitly recognising on reports that their prospect of working is “unlikely in the longer term”.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: “These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s. To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce. These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”

Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: “To continue to regularly reassess claimants with progressive conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, is absurd and unnecessary. We know that most people with Rheumatoid Arthritis want to work for as long as they possibly can and will only claim ESA as a last resort.”

The MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Motor Neurone Disease Association, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and The Cystic Fibrosis Trust - are calling for people deemed unlikely to return to work in the longer term to be automatically placed in the support group.

Over the last five years seven out of 10 new claimants with a progressive condition have been reassessed two or more times on the same claim, which health experts say causes unnecessary stress and anxiety for people who are already unwell. Atos healthcare has come under staunch criticism for the way it conducts the assessments and has pulled out early of a DWP contract to provide the service.

Tax-free Facebook

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Facebook paid no UK corporation tax for the second year in a row in 2013, while employees received shares in the company worth tens of millions of pounds. Facebook UK incurred a corporation tax charge of just £3,169, and received a credit of £182,000.

The world’s largest social media company reported a pre-tax loss of £11.6m in the UK last year, despite its US parent company reporting a net profit of $1.5bn (£900m).

UK revenues rose from £34.6m to £49.8m. The company made £371m in advertising revenue last year, a 67% year-on-year rise from the £222m in 2012.

The company employed an average of 172 UK staff, who were paid £40.8m last year, almost double the 2012 figure of £21m. This is because of a £15.5m payment cost for “share-based payments”. UK staff received 1.52m free Facebook shares worth $118m at their current share price of about $78. There were also 2.2m shares worth more than $170m “outstanding” as at 31 December.

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/oct/22/facebook-uk-corporation-tax

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

News of Thailand

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  Claiming that he staged the coup to save Thailand from falling into a political abyss,  Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised to implement sweeping reforms and prepare the country for elections. But there have been no indications of serious progress on democratic development. On the contrary, the democratic space continues to shrink as the military entrenches itself in politics.  The international community should not be misled by pledges of political reform and elections; these have never been a top priority of the generals. The professed aim of the government is to cleanse Thai politics of corruption, supposedly nurtured by the controversial regime of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. But this owes more to expediency than to real intentions. The underlying truth is that the military is here to stay, and is busy working on a governmental infrastructure that will allow it retain political power.

From writing an interim constitution that empowers the military, to appointing allies in the National Legislative Council, the National Reform Council and the Cabinet, the military has set out to fashion its own control network. Even ostensibly independent agencies have been drawn in. The National Anti-Corruption Commission has targeted key figures in the Thaksin-backed Pheu Thai Party, in large part to prevent them returning to compete in elections. The result is clear: even if forced from the frontline of politics, the military will remain able to pull the strings of power through legal means.

Imagine world socialism

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Squeezed Workers Versus Power And Wealth

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The Supreme Court kicked off its 2014-2015 term with a case called Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk. The issue in the case is whether employees who do work for Amazon had a right to be paid for time they spent waiting - for as long as 25 minutes - to be screened for theft.
Or, to be more accurate, this is a case in which Amazon was not named as a party in the case, because other corporations acted on Amazon's behalf. In this case, the named defendant was Integrity Staffing Solutions (ISS).
The Integrity Staffing Solutions website clearly shows that it is an agent of Amazon who acts on Amazon's behalf. For example, the website says, "Here's where to find Amazon warehouse jobs, light industrial work, temporary and seasonal jobs, part-time employment and a job to make you proud." Indeed, Integrity Staffing's website advertises a number of jobs, but it has specific links only to jobs at Amazon.

What This Case Is About
No doubt, there are many ways to think about this case. It is certainly fair to say that this is a case involving a powerful and wealthy corporation that uses its power and wealth to squeeze workers who have little-to-no power and no wealth. What evidence do we have that Amazon has used that wealth and power in this case? According to www.oyez.org:
At the end of each day, all the workers were required to pass through a security clearance checkpoint where they had to remove their keys, wallets, and belts, pass through a metal detector, and submit to being searched. The whole process could take up to 25 minutes. Similarly, up to ten minutes of the workers' 30-minute lunch period was consumed by security clearance and transition time. In 2010, Busk and Castro sued Integrity and argued that these practices violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as well as Nevada state labor laws.
Amazon is known for creating systems that generate as much revenue as possible for Amazon and that do so by squeezing every penny out of Amazon's system.

Amazon Is Not a Party to the Case or Is It? 
The American Bar Association's website for this case - and all Supreme Court cases - includes links to the parties' briefs and to amicus briefs. In the Amazon case, notice that, although the plaintiff-employees were doing work for Amazon and Amazon was calling the shots, Amazon was not the focus of this case. In fact, Amazon was not even a party in the case.
The parties are plaintiffs Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, and the defendant is Integrity Staffing Solutions, not Amazon. It may seem odd that Amazon was not a party when the work was carried out on Amazon's behalf, and the outcome of this case could affect Amazon in the future.

In fact, even though there is almost no mention of Amazon, Amazon's interests were well represented. Amazon's subcontractor - Integrity Staffing Solutions - was the defendant and effectively represented Amazon's interests.
Amazon's interests were also represented by most of the organizations that filed amicus briefs in support of Integrity Staffing Solutions, including briefs by National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, US Conference of Mayors, Government Finance Officers Association, International Municipal Lawyers Association, National Public Employer Labor Relations Association, and the International Public Management Association For Human Resources, National Retail Federation, the Retail Litigation Center, Inc., Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, Society for Human Resource Management, National Association of Manufacturers, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, and the United States.

Only two amicus briefs were filed on behalf of the plaintiff employees, one filed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the other filed by the National Employment Lawyers Association.

What Is at Stake in This Case?

It appears that Amazon, that is, Integrity Staffing Solutions, has chosen to be a thoroughly modern, cost-cutting corporation that uses every angle to pay its workers as little as possible. For example, Integrity's workers have an unpaid, half hour lunch, during which the workers must also spend roughly 10 minutes being scanned and searched.
If the plaintiff employees win this case, their employer will no longer be able to get free work, and the employer will have an incentive to hire more workers to speed up the time it takes the workers to go through the security line during their lunchtime and at their shift's end.

taken from here

Whilst recognising the seemingly 'unfair' aspect of extra time spent on work premises without pay - another benefit for the employer - the employer is always able to 'get free work', and every day does 'get free work' from ALL employees.
Ask 'where does the wealth come from?'


" How does profit arise from the exploitation of workers? Workers are paid (generally and more or less) the full value of what they sold – their labour-power – yet are still exploited because the exercise of their labour-power produces a greater value than that of their labour-power. This “surplus value” is the source of their employer’s profit and of all capitalist property incomes."
(See here for full explanation)



US Inequality

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1) 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. This ratio has been verified by Politifact and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich . To put it into context, last year the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were over 316 million people living in the United States. That means 400 Americans have more money than over 158 million of their fellow citizens. Their net worth is over $2 trillion , which is approximate to the Gross Domestic Product of Russia.
One explanation for the vast discrepancy in wealth is the definition of “worth,” which includes everything a person or household owns. This means savings and property but also mortgages, bills and debt. Poorer households can owe so much in debt that they possess a negative net worth.

2) America has the second-highest level of income inequality, after Chile. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studies thirty-four developed countries and ranks them both before and after taxes and government transfers take effect (government transfers include Social Security, income tax credit and unemployment insurance). Before taxes and government transfers, America ranks tenth in income inequality. After taxes and transfers, it ranks second. Whereas its developed peers reduce inequality through government programs, the United States' government exacerbates it.

3) Non-union wages are also affected by the decline of unions. The Economic Policy Institute claims that 20 percent of the growth in the wage gap between high-school-educated and college-educated men can be attributed to deunionization.
Between 1978 and 2011, union representation for blue-collar and high-school educated workers declined by more than half. This has also diminished the “union wage effect,” whereby the existence of unions (more than 40 percent of blue-collar workers were union members in 1978) was enough to boost wages in non-union jobs - in high school graduates by as much as 8.2 percent. Not only did unions protect lower- and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they also established norms and practices that were then adopted by non-union employers. Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare.
Today, about 13 percent of workers belong to unions, which has reduced their bargaining power and influence.

4) Tax cuts to the wealthiest have not improved the economy or created more jobs. Krueger also revealed that the tax cuts of the 2000s for top earners did not improve the economy any better than they did in the 1990s (meanwhile, income growth was stronger for lower- and middle-class families in the 1990s than in the last forty years).
Tax rates for the top income earners in America peaked in 1945 at 66.4 percent. Following decades of gradual reductions, they have since been cut in half . During the same time, the payroll tax has increased since the 1950s and individual income tax has bounced between 40-50 percent through the present day. Conversely, corporate tax declined from above 30 percent in the 1950s to under 10 percent in 2011.
All of these tax cuts are made ostensibly to improve the economy and create jobs. However, the National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that it is young companies , “regardless of their size,” that are the real job creators in America. Tax cuts to the wealthiest do not create jobs .

5) Incomes for the top 1% have increased (but the top 0.01% make even more). Between 1979 and 2007, the average incomes of the 1 percent increased 241 percent . Compare that to 19 percent growth for the middle fifth of America and 11 percent for the bottom fifth. Put another way, in 1980 the average American CEO earned forty-two times as much as his average worker. In 2001, he earned 531 times as much .
Average income across the 1 percent is actually stratified into widely disparate echelons. Compare the $29,840 average income for the bottom 90 percent to the $161,139 of the top 10 percent. Compare the $1 million average income of the top 1 percent to the $2.8 million of the top 0.1 percent. Yet both still pale beside the $23 million average income of the top 0.01 percent.

6) The majority of Congress does not feel your pain. Empowered by the Constitution to represent their constituents, United States Congress members are, for the first time in history, mostly millionaires . The 2012 financial disclosure information of the 534 current Congress men and women reveals that over half of them have a net worth of $1 million or more.
After the past seven facts it is difficult to read this last one and believe that these 268 legislators have the best interests of the remaining 99 percent at heart. But if that is too presumptuous a leap, it is not too bold to say that wealthier donors, lobbyists and special interest groups enjoy greater access to these lawmakers than the average American.
In January, Congress failed to extend emergency benefits for unemployment , leaving 1.3 million people without federal aid. Congress then went on a weeklong recess that kept them from debating the issue until the end of the month. The bill was too divisive for Republicans and Democrats to reach an agreement on, though unemployment was then above 7 percent nationally.
Thankfully, the unemployed have their Congress working for them. And at $174,000 annual pay , those representatives are sure to return from their vacations committed to fresh solutions.

Taken from here

Also watch video here

Cost Advantage - The Crazy World Of Import/Export

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Not able to get the right price for tomatoes, farmers often resort to throwing away the produce -- The Hindu pic


On a visit to a food processing unit in Sonepat district in Haryana, I was shocked when I was told that tomato paste is being imported in large quantities from China. In fact, most of the big brands of tomato ketchup and tomato puree are using imported paste and pulp from China. This is happening at a time when farmers are repeatedly being forced to throw tomatoes onto the streets for want of buyers. This year too, when food inflation was at its peak, reports of dumping of tomatoes by farmers had poured in from several parts of the country, including Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

With tomato prices crashing to Rs 2 (and at several places to Re 1 per kg) farmers had no choice but to feed it to cattle or to throw it away.
(£1 = 99 rupees, $1 = 61 rupees)

This was happening at a time when the tomato processing industry was merrily importing tomato paste and up mainly from China. While politicians, TV commentators, editorial writers stressed on the need to strengthen food processing, not many know that the existing tomato processing industry was relying heavily on cheaper import of pulp and paste. This is not the first year for such imports, a review of reports on Google showed that such imports are continuing over the years.

Not many know that the popular brands of tomato ketchup, tomato puree and even tomato juices that we consume at home are made from tomatoes imported from China, Nepal, Italy, USA and the Netherlands. In other words, we are inadvertently helping tomato farmers of the countries from where we import while our own farmers are left to die.

Just in one month, between Aug 28, 2014 and Sept 28, 2014, India imported US $ 376,009 worth of dried tomato and tomato products (like paste, pulp and juice concentrate) from China, followed by US $ 94,057 worth of imports from Nepal, and US $ 44,160 from the Netherlands. Some more research, and I find that in 2010 when traders were eyeing the market opportunities in Pakistan arising from devastating floods, the Indian processing industry was busy importing tomato paste from China. A news report in the Economic Times (Oct 20, 2010) quoted Pradeep Chordia, managing director Chordia Food Products Ltd saying: "We can't afford the high local prices so we imported 80 per cent of our requirement of tomato paste from China this year."

Another food processor, Akshay Bector of the Ludhian-based Rs 400-crore Cremica Group said: "There is a cost advantage in buying from China versus India where prices fluctuate." This company supplies to McDonalds, Taj Group, ITC Group, Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, and chains such as Barista, Cafe Coffee Day, Pizza Hut, Domino and Papa John's.

Go back a little more, and you find a lot of Indian companies importing tomato paste way back in 2005, and even before. No wonder, tomato farmers in India have been at a great disadvantage for several years now, if not decades.

from here

Above is just one example of the waste, worldwide, connected to the system of production in capitalism. Wasted food, wasted labour, wasted fuel for transnational and transcontinental shipments - all in the pursuit of monetary profit, the be all and end all of capitalism's logic.
Crazy, illogical system!
If we look at the negative impacts of such transactions, in terms of unnecessary use of fossil fuels for instance and those ramifications, plus the impacts on people's lives and livelihoods, it is easy to see that by removing the financial aspect from the 'business' of food production and processing, etc., living in a socialist system will have many advantages for both people and planet.
JS


 

The Migrant Myths

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Fourteen kings of England weren't even born here, and some didn't even speak English! Facts are the enemy of the anti-immigration brigade, because they usually prove them wrong. It's much easier to whip up fear and loathing without actually presenting evidence. It's why anti-immigrant feeling is strongest in areas with incredibly low cultural diversity. The simple fact is that everything which is blamed on immigration is actually the fault of the economic system. Low wages, increased job insecurity, out-sourcing etc. Not to forget the decline of the unions, the hire and fire attitude and zero hour contracts... ‘Its all the immigrant`s fault..I tell you’...

All of these stem from the "profit is good" culture. It's just immigrants are a useful hate-plank, mostly because they have little voice to fight back. Don't let immigrant hate distract you from the real people to blame - the bankers, the industrialists and super-rich.  Don't blame the poor who strive for a better life elsewhere. We're all human, who would not want a better life for themselves and families?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fact of the Day

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Struggling to pay your household bills out of your wage?

Microsoft boss Satya Nadella has been given a pay package worth $84.3m (£52m)

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29705418

A FREUDIAN DRIP! (poem)

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End Abuse Of Workers' Pay And Conditions By Abolishing Wage Slavery

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When subcontractors, freelancers and independent contractors get hurt or abused on the job, these workers are finding it harder to hold employers accountable. This is no accident - it's a direct result of a neoliberal labor agenda.
 
In 2011, Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc., a corporate partner of the Marriott hotel chain, used a general contractor that it had hired to renovate guest rooms at the Host-owned Copley Marriott in Boston. A convoluted web of subcontractors emerged, as the general contractor subcontracted the work to several other companies, and some of that subcontracted work was then further subcontracted, with more than a dozen firms working on the same project.

A state-led, multi-agency investigation found that 15 contractors on the project committed a wide array of labor law violations. Workers from a church-sponsored rehabilitation project in Philadelphia were paid only four dollars an hour—just half the state minimum wage—and no overtime, though they were required to work 12-hour days and more than 60 hours per week. All told, contractors failed to report or pay taxes on more than $1 million in wages, and at least one of them failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance policies for the hazardous work. They misclassified many of the workers as independent contractors, thus evading tens of thousands of dollars more in unemployment insurance taxes, workers compensation premiums, and employer-side taxes, while stripping workers of basic workplace rights.


Because so many layers of contractors were involved in the project, investigators had difficulty determining which ones could be held responsible for the violations. Host Hotels, which ultimately benefited from the sub-minimum wages and tax evasion, asserted that it had no legal obligation to the workers and should not be held liable for any of the violations committed by the subcontractors or their subcontractors.

Companies at every possible level of the project avoided accountability for the mistreatment of the workers.  Despite having found that 15 companies had broken the law and abused their workers, authorities only held three subcontractors to the most immediate sanction—Stop Work Orders. The general contractor neither faced significant penalties nor admitted wrongdoing.

As a summary of the investigation put it, “The issue of which entity was legally the employer and responsible for the wages was never resolved.”

As corporations continue to look for ways to skirt government regulations and increase their profit margins, many will continue to hire intermediaries or misclassify workers as a way of outsourcing their responsibility and escaping liability. This shift is part of neoliberalism’s broader political realignment towards deregulation of markets and the empowerment of corporations.

 taken from here

The article goes on to discuss possible ways of enforcing stricter measures of regulation to prevent such abuse of workers but also notes, as in the final paragraph above, that there are always ways of side-stepping such regulations. 
Here at SOYMB we would call any such proposed regulations reforms, ie  measures which tinker around the edges of issues related to workers' conditions without addressing the fundamental cause.
Call it 'neoliberalism' or call it 'capitalism' business based on profit (capitalism) must be abolished in favour of production for use (socialism) to bring about the demise of abuses like those described above. 
JS


 

Health Insurance Cuts Planned For 30,000 Walmart Workers

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International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde opined earlier this month that the “staggering rise in inequality” over recent decades may well “haunt us” deep into the 21st century. We agree. And we suspect that the ghost of Sam Walton will figure somewhere in the haunting.
Sam Walton founded Walmart back in the 1960s and went on to leave billions to his heirs. Those heirs have spent the last 20 years growing their inheritances. Four of them now rank among the ten richest people in the world. They control, journalist David Cay Johnston noted last week, about half of Walmart’s shares.

Sam’s heirs don’t just hold these shares. They squeeze out of them every possible penny. An apt stat that lays bare that squeezing: Dividends to Walmart shareholders have over the last decade soared 60 percent faster than Walmart’s earnings. Meanwhile, for those without stock, Walmart has cuts. The retailer has just announced plans to axe health insurance coverage for some 30,000 workers.

 from here

Wot Recovery?

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 Has the UK economy really fully recovered?

We keep hearing that national income is higher than at the pre-crisis peak of the first quarter of 2008. However, in the meantime the population has grown by 3.5 million (from 60.5 million to 64 million), and in per capita terms UK income is still 3.4% less than it was six years ago. And this is even before we talk about the highly uneven nature of the recovery, in which real wages have fallen by 10% while people at the top have increased their shares of wealth.

But can we not at least say that the recovery has been “jobs-rich”, creating 1.8m positions between 2011 and 2014? The trouble is that, apart from the fact that the current unemployment rate of 6% is nothing to be proud of, many of the newly created jobs are of very poor quality.

The ranks of workers in “time-related underemployment”, doing fewer hours than they wish due to a lack of availability of work – have swollen dramatically. Between 1999 and 2006, only about 1.9% of workers were in such a position; by 2012-13 the figure was 8%.

Then there is the extraordinary increase in self-employment. Its share of total employment, whose historical norm (1984-2007) was 12.6%, now stands at an unprecedented 15%. With no evidence of a sudden burst of entrepreneurial energy among Britons, we may conclude that many are in self-employment out of necessity or even desperation. Even though surveys show that most newly self-employed people say it is their preference, the fact that these workers have experienced a far greater collapse in earnings than employees – 20% against 6% between 2006-07 and 2011-12, according to the Resolution Foundation – suggests that they have few alternatives, not that they are budding entrepreneurs going places.

So, in between the additional people in underemployment (6.1% of employment) and the precarious newly self-employed (2.4%), 8.5% of British people in work (or 2.6 million people) are in jobs that do not fully utilise their abilities – call that semi-unemployment, if you will.

Taken from here

Detroit's Water War Continues

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UN human rights officials have condemned local authorities of the US city of Detroit for cutting off water supplies to thousands of residents over unpaid bills. De Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, arrived in Detroit to conduct an inquiry into the city’s water shut-offs.

“We were shocked, impressed by the proportions of the disconnections and by the way that it is affecting the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable,” Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said during a news conference on Monday.

Detroit has closed the taps for more than 27,000 people this year, with as many as 10,000 households at present without running water. Hundreds of thousands of more people are at risk of having their water connections disconnected.

UN special rapporteurs de Albuquerque and Farha said that water bills are becoming increasingly unaffordable, forcing residents to make impossible choices between paying their bills or their rent. They added that the situation is worsened by gross errors on water bills and costs of leakage from crumbling infrastructure.

"It is contrary to human rights to disconnect water from people who simply do not have the means to pay their bills," de Albuquerque said.


Food and Farming and Famine

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Despite the traditional perception that there is a green and pleasant land outside the grey, barren landscape of our cities, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that on average urban plots of soil were richer in nutrients than many farms. Sampling local parks, allotments and gardens in urban areas, Dr Jill Edmondson showed that the ground was significantly healthier than that of arable fields. Allotment soil had 32% more organic carbon, 36% higher carbon to nitrogen ratios, 25% higher nitrogen and was significantly less compacted.

Intense over-farming means there are only 100 harvests left in the soil of the UK’s countryside, a study has found. Meanwhile we are also seeing a sharp decrease in bio-diversity in the UK which has a disastrous knock-on effect on our wildlife. Lack of pollinators means reduction in food.

Professor Nigel Dunnett, also of the University of Sheffield, said that in order to ensure we can produce food for future generations we must start to see towns and cities as the future of farming. “We need to dramatically rethink our approach to urban growing and use the little space we have as efficiently as possible.  Cities must become places of food production.”

The problem is not lack of food, rather its distribution. Access to food is dictated by wealth and profit rather than need. "Free trade" is promoted over the Right to Food. Half the world’s grain now feeds factory-farmed animals and a huge proportion of food crops are turned into bio-fuels to fuel cars, taking food from the hungry.

The Refugee Odyssey

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 Abraham Russom counts himself as one of the lucky ones; lucky to survive a shipwreck in which 366 fellow passengers died. His journey from the Horn of Africa to Scandinavia took the best part of six months. “I crossed the desert on foot. I was four days in Khartoum. Two months in Libya. Two months in [the Italian island of] Lampedusa. In Rome, I ran away. And nobody stopped me, thank God. I arrived in Frankfurt by train, then by bus to Stockholm, where I made a request for political asylum.”

Jimi Petros’s journey took 557 days. He walked away from his desert village in Eritrea with nothing but sandals on his feet. “There were two of us,” he said. “We followed a trail in the dark. The guide told us: ‘Don’t speak and do not turn on your cell phone.’” So they didn’t. “Even the smallest of lights could have caught the army’s attention. We were risking prison.” They arrived in Khartoum days later. Petros spent a year sweeping the streets to earn money for his journey northwards. He paid $5,000 to five human traffickers.

Bahjat Murad’s journey, which started in Aleppo last year, was no less bewildering. Having scrambled across the border with Turkey he paid $6,000 for the first leg of a voyage with no clear destination. “I was hurried to the bottom of the ship and locked in a tiny cabin for a week. I lived on biscuits and juice. I had no idea where the ship was going until a Turkish guy came one night and just said ‘Libya’.”

The global people-trafficking business is worth at least $7bn (£4bn) annually. People smugglers can charge as much as $10,000 (£6,200) to move a person from A to B, even if B is the bottom of the ocean. The breakdown of law and order in one of the principal conduits for migrants – Libya. Libya’s people-smuggling business is highly organised and hugely profitable. Traffickers offer two kinds of service. For the richer customers, mostly Syrians, $5,000 buys a crossing by Zodiac to France, a longer journey than Italy but a safer one because there are no naval patrols. For everyone else, $1,000 buys a place on a cramped fishing boat. Libya’s people smugglers make big profits. A boat full of migrants each paying as much as $1,000 can rake in $250,000, easily enough to write off the cost of the boat should it founder. And they often do.

The journey to Europe does not go in a straight line. There are no timetables, reservations or 12-hour layovers in an airport hotel. This is an odyssey in the original sense of the word – protracted, circuitous, not necessarily bound to end. If it doesn’t work out, you don’t get your money back.

By late August, 2,500 people who have died or are missing feared dead after trying to get into Europe across the Mediterranean this year. It’s also a record year for arrivals – 160,000 in the first nine months of the year, already more than double the total for the previous record in 2011. More than 90,000 people have been fished out of the water by the Italian navy. Why is 2014 proving such a terrible year? The answer is a combination of factors: war, revolution, bad governance, dead-end economies, climate change, poverty, persecution. Or, as migrants themselves put it:

“I had problems with the Taliban and had to leave Afghanistan in a hurry.” (Mohamad Ajub, 22, a farmer from Ghazni province)

“My house was confiscated by a Chechen jihadi after the advance of the Islamic State through Riqa.” (Ahmed Salih, a Syrian from Riqa)

“All Yazidi want to leave [Iraq] but most don’t have the money to get out.” (Salar Faez, 23, a Yazidi from northern Iraq)

”I have to get to Europe – it is the only way I can help my family.” (A Ghanaian stacking shelves in Tripoli)

“It was obvious that the regime’s grip was getting tight around my neck with the capture of two of my siblings within a fortnight.” (Bahjat Imam, a Syrian from Aleppo)

It doesn’t matter where they come from. There is no shortage of broken states. They could be from Damascus or Dakar or Kabul . They may be Somali or Sudanese, it doesn’t matter. We call them all migrants. It doesn’t convey the scale of a group of more than 200 million souls. If migrants populated one country it would be the fifth biggest in the world. Eritrea is one of Africa’s most rapidly emptying countries. An estimated 200,000 Eritreans have left in the past decade – more than 3% of the population. “Many of the Eritrean women come here pregnant, we have to help,” said Sister Inma Moya, a Spanish nun. “Why so many pregnant? Because if you are a woman, in these situations, you need a man for protection for the journey, and so she travels with him, and so she becomes pregnant.”

“We asked early on … whether other countries would contribute money. But there was nothing. From anyone,” said an Italian diplomat in Brussels.

“There is an unspoken truth that too many countries just don’t want refugees in Europe at all,” said one of the highest ranking EU officials dealing with migration.

Full article, more human stories, at link
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/20/-sp-migrants-tales-asylum-sea-mediterranean

Suffer Little Children

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A child is killed by violence every five minutes in the world, says the UK's branch of the UN children's agency Unicef. Most of those deaths occur outside war zones. It says those living in poverty are more likely to be the victims of violence. An adolescent boy in Latin America is 70 times more likely to be murdered than one in the UK.  Unicef says 95,000 children and teenagers - most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean - were murdered in 2012 alone. Nigeria had the highest number of child homicides - 13,000, while the US had the highest homicide rate among countries in Western Europe and North America.

Research showed that violence was "detrimental to all aspects of a child's growth... with sometimes lifelong repercussions." 30% of who are victims of violence are likely to develop long-lasting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The report says no nation is currently able to provide children with the full protection they need.

This report can be added to earlier research about the exposure of children to violence.

About 120 million girls around the world - slightly more than one in 10 - have been raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 20, a UN report says. Boys also report experiences of sexual violence, but to a lesser extent than girls.

Of the countries surveyed, nearly half of all girls aged 15-19 believed that a husband was justified in hitting his wife under certain circumstances, the study added.

 One in four children experts say will witness domestic violence by the age of 18.  It is claimed by the Early Intervention Foundation, this can have "significant consequences" for those children not not getting the support they need.

Six out of 10 children aged between two and 14 are physically punished by carers

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fellow Travellers Towards Socialism

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 "From space I saw earth - indescribably beautiful - but with the scars of national borders gone." - Mohammad Faris, Astronaut

If we are to save ourselves and each other, we must get out of the twin clutches of both corporations and nation-states. Neither of them are at their core either person- or earth-centered. Instead we must desperately and thankfully reach across the illusory - paranoia fixed in place - borders of nations to find the greater, more fulfilling personhood of our common humanity and of the common interconnected life-purpose of all life on Earth. We must break the state and corporation-manufactured chains which keep us from our true freedom; we must no longer allow murder and ecocide to be perpetrated in our name for the false assurances of security without freedom; we can no longer countenance economic growth for the owners at the expense of both the planet and human communities.
What could be more apparent than that the leaders, government and industry both, bestriding the world and proclaiming themselves wise and knowing, are neither? The great world conflicts, when analyzed, decocted, and boiled down to their essential bones, amount to this: very young children arguing amongst themselves, each one saying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!" and none of them yet having learned the profound simplicity of sharing. We must be the mothers who take their deadly playthings away.

To the corporate leaders, we must say, "Enough is enough, you have too much already, now you must share." To our political leaders who are drunk on their self-importance, we must say, "When you grow up and begin to think about someone besides yourself and your little circle of false friends, you may again be given some small amount of responsibility." As is well understood now, these so-called leaders mostly have the personality characteristics of psychopaths and sociopaths; indeed, the higher they've risen, the more they earn, the more likely they are to be lacking in empathy.

So why then do we allow psychopaths to tell us what we must have in order to be happy? Why do we allow sociopaths to wave their flags and tell us who we are? Surely, if we are anything, we are wonderfully varied life-forms on a planet with many different forms of life, all intimately interrelated and all intricately depending on each other for their very existence. But we are now tearing this fabric of being in twain, turning a teaming miracle planet into a dead zone. Time is very short if we are to save what is left before it all unravels into drought-ridden chaos. Now is the time to escape from psychopathy and sociopathy, and hopefully, humanely, use every means of nonviolent resistance possible for the preservation, creation and sustenance of a community of life on a living earth. For this to be possible, beyond peaceful civic disobedience, we must also remove our funds and personal energies from the psychopathic and sociopathic systems that are destroying us and move them into alternate systems of energy, finance, food, governance and energy and water security. It is sanity, plain and simple.

These are the final paragraphs of an article by a former US Department of State foreign service officer which I have taken unashamedly from here.
Socialists also recognise the need to remove finance from the equation too, but apart from that - - -
- As Stan Parker frequently reminded us 'There are more of us than you think.'
JS



Britain's Inequality

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A report from Oxfam shows that the country's five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population. A handful of the super-rich, headed by the Duke of Westminster, have more money and financial assets than 12.6 million Britons put together. In a report, a Tale of Two Britains, Oxfam said the poorest 20% in the UK had wealth totalling £28.1bn – an average of £2,230 each. The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth £28.2bn.

The most affluent family in Britain, headed by Major General Gerald Grosvenor, owns 77 hectares (190 acres) of prime real estate in Belgravia, London, and has been a beneficiary of the foreign money flooding in to the capital's soaring property market in recent years. Oxfam said Grosvenor and his family had more wealth (£7.9bn) than the poorest 10% of the UK population (£7.8bn).

Oxfam said the wealth gap in the UK was becoming more entrenched as a result of the ability of the better off to capture the lion's share of the proceeds of growth. Since the mid-1990s, the incomes of the top 0.1% have grown by £461 a week or £24,000 a year. By contrast, the bottom 90% have seen a real terms increase of only £2.82 a week or £147 a year.

The charity said the trends in income had been made even more adverse by increases in the cost of living over the past decade. "Since 2003 the majority of the British public (95%) have seen a 12% real terms drop in their disposable income after housing costs, while the richest 5% of the population have seen their disposable income increase."

Oxfam said that for the first time more working households were in poverty than non-working ones, and predicted that the number of children living below the poverty line could increase by 800,000 by 2020. It said cuts to social security and public services were meshing with falling real incomes and a rising cost of living to create a "deeply damaging situation" in which millions were struggling to get by.

Duke of Westminster (Wealth: £7.9bn)
Gerald Grosvenor and his family owe the bulk of their wealth to owning 77 hectares (190 acres) of Mayfair and Belgravia, adjacent to Buckingham Palace and prime London real estate.
As the value of land rockets in the capital so too does the personal wealth of Grosvenor, formally the sixth Duke of Westminster and one of seven god parents to the new royal baby, Prince George.
The family also own 39,000 hectares in Scotland and 13,000 hectares in Spain, while their privately owned Grosvenor Estate property group has $20bn (£12bn) worth of assets under management including the Liverpool One shopping mall, according to leading US business magazine Forbes.

Reuben brothers (£6.9bn)
Simon and David Reuben made their early money out of metals. Born in India but brought up in London, they started in local scrap metal but branched out into trading tin and aluminium.
Their biggest break was to move into Russia just after the break-up of the Soviet Union, buying up half the country's aluminium production facilities and befriending Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch associate of Nat Rothschild and Peter Mandelson.
The Reuben brothers are still involved in mining and metals but control a widely diversified business empire that includes property, 850 British pubs, and luxury yacht-maker Kristal Waters. They are also donors to the Conservative party.

Hinduja brothers (£6bn)
Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja co-chair the Hinduja Group, a multinational conglomerate with a presence in 37 countries and businesses ranging from trucks and lubricants to banking and healthcare.
They began their careers working in their father's textile and trading businesses in Mumbai and Tehran, Iran but soon branched out by buying truck maker, Ashok Leyland from British Leyland and Gulf Oil from Chevron in the 1980s, while establishing banks in Switzerland and India in the 1990s.
The family's London home is a mansion on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking St James Park and just along from Buckingham Palace, which is potentially worth £300m. They have links with the Labour party.

Cadogan family (£4bn)
The wealth of the Cadogans family is built on 90 acres36 hectares of property and land in Chelsea and Knightsbridge, west London.
Eton-educated Charles is the eighth Earl of Cadogan and ran the family business, Cadogan Estates, until 2012 when he handed it over to his son Edward, Viscount Chelsea.
Charles, who is a first cousin to the Aga Khan, started in the Coldstream Guards before going into the City.
He was briefly chairman of Chelsea Football Club in the early 1980s and his family motto is: "He who envies is the lesser man."

Mike Ashley (£3.3bn)
Ashley owns Newcastle United football club and became a billionaire through his Sports Direct discount clothing chain which he started after leaving school.
He was the sole owner of the fast growing business, which snapped up brands such as Dunlop, Slazenger, Karrimor and Lonsdale, until it floated on the stock market in 2007. He now owns 62%.
Ashley is a regular visitor to London's swankiest casinos but is famously publicity-averse.

The UK study follows an Oxfam report earlier this year which found that the wealth of 85 global billionaires is equivalent to that of half the world's population – or 3.5 billion people.

Global Inequality

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Capitalism can't surmount inequality as the system itself creates the curse that humanity struggles to defeat. Crisis not only generates inequality and poverty in capitalism. Crisis also aggravates inequality-situation although the system fattens with profit.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in a recent report. “It is hard not to notice the sharp increase in income inequality experienced by the vast majority of countries from the 1980s. There are very few exceptions to this”, said the report.  Three years ago OECD Secretary-General informed: “Income inequality in OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century.  The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%  across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago.” He was presenting Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising , an OECD study report, in December 2011. The Secretary-General said: Inequality increased further in the US , Germany , Denmark , Sweden , Israel . It has “fallen in Chile and Mexico , but in these two countries the incomes of the richest are still more than 25 times those of the poorest.”

The OECD finds, “the distribution of “market income” (gross earnings and capital income) kept widening … Measured by the Gini coefficient (which is 0 when everybody has the same income and 1 when one person has all the income), market income inequality rose by 1 percentage point or more in 20 OECD countries between 2007 and 2011/12.” (OECD 2014)

 “Lower income households”, the OECD finds, “either lost more during the crisis or benefited less from the recovery. Across the OECD countries, real household disposable income stagnated, and the income of the bottom 10% of the population declined from 2007 to 2011 by 1.6% per year. Focusing on the top and bottom 10% of the population in 2007 and in the latest year available shows that, on average across the OECD, the drop in income was twice as large for the bottom 10% compared with the top 10%. Out of the 33 countries where data are available, the top 10% has done better than the poorest 10% in 19 countries.”

In Australia , poverty is on the rise. More than one million Australians are in severe poverty, with access to less than 30 percent of national median income. More than 2.5 million people, and one in six children, are struggling to fulfill their daily basic needs. More than 600,000 children, and one-third of children in single parent families, lived below the poverty line. A significant number of Australians remained in “deep and persistent” poverty for extended periods, often for more than five years. More than 40 percent of all people on social security benefits fell below the poverty line. More than 100,000 persons are homeless. Adult working-age Australians are more likely to be homeless than any other age group, constituting 44% of all homeless persons nationally. Children have the second largest representation among those classified as homeless, with more than 1 in 4 homeless, children. (Cassells, R., Dockery, M., and Duncan , A (2014), Falling through the cracks: Poverty and Disadvantage in Australia , Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and Poverty in Australia 2014 , the Australian Council of Social Services)

The ACSS report cited the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Income and Expenditure Survey that asked people about their actions because of a shortage of money. Actions taken by the respondents over the last year due to a shortage of money included “Pawned or sold something”, “Sought financial help from friends/family”, “Unable to heat home”, “Went without meals”, “Could not pay gas/electricity/telephone bill on time”.

Australia, it was claimed during the financial crisis, was not facing the crisis as the economy was happily cashing on coal export.

Taken from here 

Fracking - the false hope

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Fracking, horizontal drilling and other techniques have led to surging gas production, especially in the US. Global deployment of advanced technology could double or triple global natural gas production by 2050. The widespread use of shale gas continues to attract policymakers. In the UK, a senior Conservative politician, Owen Paterson, former Environment Secretary, is urging more fracking to increase Britain‘s shale gas supplies. Paterson argues against wind power and for “investment in four possible common sense policies: shale gas, combined heat and power, small modular nuclear reactors, and demand management”. Paterson also said that the UK should suspend or scrap its Climate Change Act, which commits it to cutting CO2 emissions by more than 80% on 1990 levels by 2050, unless other countries follow suit.

The journal Nature recognises that technologies such as fracking have triggered a boom in natural gas. But the authors say this will not lead to a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Although natural gas produces only half the CO2 emissions of coal for each unit of energy, its growing availability will make it cheaper, they say, so it will add to total energy supply and only partly replace coal. Their study, based on what they say is “an unprecedented international comparison of computer simulations”, shows that this market effect nullifies the advantage offered by the lower pollution content of the gas. This might eventually mean not lower CO2 emissions, but emissions by the middle of the century up to 10% higher than they would otherwise be. Not only could this lead to an overall increase in energy consumption and in emissions, but increased gas production would mean higher emissions of methane from drilling leakages and pipelines.

 Haewon McJeon, staff scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Maryland, said: “The upshot is that abundant natural gas alone will not rescue us from climate change.”

One of the co-authors, Nico Bauer, a sustainable solutions expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany, said : “The high hopes that natural gas will help reduce global warming because of technical superiority to coal turn out to be misguided because market effects are dominating. The main factor here is that an abundance of natural gas leads to a price drop and expansion of total primary energy supply.”

The research groups projected what the world might be like in 2050, both with and without a natural gas boom. They used five different computer models, which included not just energy use and production, but also the broader economy and the climate system.

“When we first saw little change in greenhouse gas emissions in our model, we thought we had made a mistake, because we were fully expecting to see a significant reduction in emissions,” said James Edmonds, chief scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute. “But when we saw all five teams reporting little difference in climate change, we knew we were on to something.”

From here

Notes on India

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1) India generates 1,27,486 metric tonnes of waste every day
2) 13 of the world’s top 20 dirtiest cities are in India, according to the World Health Organisation’s statistics
3) Only 12 of 497 cities with a 1,00,000-plus population have anything like adequate infrastructure to deal with garbage and human and organic waste
4) Two out of every three rural households have no access to toilets. Less than 12 per cent homes have latrines connected to a piped sewer system.
5) Nearly 20,000 people die every year due to diseases spread by rodents and stray dogs feeding off garbage dumps.

 India is on the cusp of an urban revolution with as many as 337 million Indians already living in cities and the number projected to increase to 600 million in the next decade-and-a-half. Now forget waste management and recycling, imagine finding the land-fills to handle the garbage generated by such cities put together with unregulated construction boom.

 http://www.outlookindia.com/article/Dump-Struck/292142

In India diabetes is a growing problem. Insulin, discovered in 1922, is still not available to hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, including in India. In India most people with Type 1 diabetes die because they can't afford insulin. In many remote areas in India 80 percent of children with Type 1 diabetes do not reach their 18th birthday.

A 23-year-old woman arrived. She had Type 1 diabetes since the age of 5 and already had numerous diabetes complications, including the inability to straighten her fingers. Under the care of her previous doctor, for almost 20 years, she'd been sent to a lab once a month to have her blood sugar checked. Why did he not tell her to get a home glucose meter where she could check her blood sugar multiple times a day, as is the recommendation for Type 1 diabetes? Because her doctor received a kickback from the lab every month.

 29 year old, Reghunath Varma, a young man, could afford insulin yet died for lack of it. He was told by an acupuncturist to stop taking his insulin -- the medicine that keeps people with Type 1 diabetes alive -- because the acupuncturist's treatment would cure him. Reghunath Varma was a "Young Leader in Diabetes." He was working to raise diabetes awareness and education in his country. Yet cultural forces persuaded him to listen to a quack who said he didn't need his insulin.

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/riva-greenberg/corruption-and-culture-in_b_5897042.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

Is Australia a good neighbour?

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Climate Change Warriors from 12 Pacific Island nations including Fiji, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Micronesia, Vanuatu, The Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Niue paddled canoes into the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia.

“We want the Australian community, especially the Australian leaders, to think about more than their pockets, to really think about humanity not just for the Australian people, but for everyone,” Mikaele Maiava from Tokelau said. “We’re aware that this fight is not just for the Pacific. We are very well aware that the whole world is standing up in solidarity for this. The message that we want to give, especially to the leaders, is that we are humans, this fight is not just about our land, this fight is for survival.”

On Oct. 13, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that “coal is good for humanity.”

Mikaele questioned Abbott’s position, asking, “If you are talking about humanity: Is humanity really for people to lose land? Is humanity really for people to lose their culture and identity? Is humanity to live in fear for our future generations to live in a beautiful island and have homes to go to? Is that really humanity? Is that really the answer for us to live in peace and harmony? Is that really the answer for the future?”

Mikaele said “We are educated people, we are smart people, we know what’s going on, the days of the indigenous people and local people not having the information and the knowledge about what’s going on is over. We are the generation of today, the leaders of tomorrow and we are not blinded by the problem. We can see it with our own eyes, we feel it in our own hearts, and we want the Australian government to realise that. We are not blinded by money we just want to live as peacefully and fight for what matters the most, which is our homes.”

The Pacific Islands Forum describes climate change as the “single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.” Pacific Island leaders have recently stepped up their language, challenging the Australian government to stop delaying action on climate change.


Brief History of Anti-Chinese Racism

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 Because very few white men were willing to engage in the grueling work of the railroad and instead, preferred working in the hills mining for gold, at least 50 percent of the labor was performed by Chinese immigrants. By 1865, the rail-roads realized they had a major labor problem. When it called for 5,000 construction workers, few Californians answered the call. Most white men were unwilling to work in the snows at $35 per month and preferred mining.

Charles Crocker who headed the construction part of the Central Pacific tried an experiment and used Chinese workers on the heaviest of the work, finding that they worked quickly, tirelessly, accepted less money (between 60 to 90 percent what the whites were offered), and were willing to accept a lower standard of living in terms of housing and food. By the end of the year, the Chinese composed two-thirds of the Central Pacific's labor force. Somewhere between 10,000-12,000 were eventually employed to build the RR - many of whom were recruited directly from China. When their task was completed, many moved to San Francisco and established a Chinatown within the city limits. Chinatown was a small square block between F and E Streets, bounded by 3rd and 4th Streets. It was located in the heart of what is now the business and tourist district of Old Town Eureka. The Chinese did not give up their customs or religion. They celebrated their holidays and interacted with each other within their distinct community. For the most part, they kept to themselves. There, they clustered in relative safety from the anti-Chinese sentiment that was growing across the nation and the state.

War Profiteers

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The respected war correspondent, Robert Fisk, writes that share prices are soaring in America for those who produce the coalition bombs and missiles and drones and aircraft participating in the latest war in Syria and Iraq.

Shares in Lockheed Martin – maker of the Hellfire missiles – are up 9.3 per cent in the past three months. Lockheed Martin makes the rockets carried by the Reaper drones, famous for destroying wedding parties over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by Iraqi aircraft.

Raytheon – which has a big Israeli arm – has gone up 3.8 per cent. When the Americans decided to extend their bombing into Syria in September – to attack President Assad’s enemies scarcely a year after they first proposed to bomb President Assad himself – Raytheon was awarded a $251m (£156m) contract to supply the US navy with more Tomahawk cruise missiles. On 23 September, American warships fired 47 Tomahawk missiles. Each one costs about $1.4m.

Northrop Grumman shares swooped up the same 3.8 per cent. And General Dynamics shares have risen 4.3 per cent.

Dan De Luce’s dispatch on arms sales for the French news agency,Agence France-Presse . “The war promises to generate more business not just from US government contracts but other countries in a growing coalition, including European and Arab states… Apart from fighter jets, the air campaign [sic] is expected to boost the appetite for aerial refuelling tankers, surveillance aircraft such as the U-2 and P-8 spy planes, and robotic drones… Private security contractors, which profited heavily from the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, also are optimistic the conflict will produce new contracts to advise Iraqi troops.”