Monday, May 30, 2016

Curing Death

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Everyone knows life expectancy globally is not only rising but rising at a rate unprecedented in human history. It is one of humanity’s great success stories, albeit one that seems to be curiously under-appreciated by the population at large. We should, of course, be celebrating the dramatic rises in longevity already seen. The UN forecasts global average life expectancy, just 48 years as recently as 1950, to rise to 77.1 years by the middle of this century. 

A report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch “The Silver Economy — Global Ageing Primer”, came up with the startling suggestion that “life expectancies of 300-400 years or even an infinite extension of life expectancy may be within reach in our lifetimes”. Even if there is just a grain of truth to them, the consequences could be profound.

 in North America, at least, a one-year increase in longevity “could more than double the amount of aggregate pension underfunding”. Given that the deficit in US public pension funds alone has been estimated at $3.4bn by the Hoover Institution, a think-tank at Stanford University, that could get a little messy. BofA estimates that, worldwide, annuity and pension-related longevity risk exposure is already a “worrying” $15tn-$25tn, about three months’ worth of global gross domestic product.

BofA presents a picture of workers readying for their extended retirements by squirrelling away ever-larger sums of money. It quotes figures from PwC, the professional services firm, suggesting that global pension assets will rise from $33.9tn in 2012 to $56.5bn by 2020. However, against a backdrop of static real median wages in the developed world; decent wage growth, but from a very low base, in most emerging countries; and the likelihood of extremely low interest rates for some time to come, it seems implausible that the average worker (or their government on their behalf) will be able to save enough to generate adequate income for a lengthy retirement. Higher retirement ages — thereby keeping the ratio of years in work to years in retirement constant — are the obvious answer, particularly considering that the rise in life expectancy is being pretty much mirrored by a rise in the years of healthy life the typical person can expect.


SOYMB is reminded of a short story written by the late Richard Montague, “The General Immunity Serum” and how capitalism could not cope with the end of death. 

Feeding the Corporations

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For sure, the environment activist, Vandana Shiva, doesn’t have all the answers, just as Naomi Klein and many others don’t either. But collectively, they offer an insight into the ecological problems we face today. It is the socialists who present an alternative feasible and sustainable economy.

In this interview, Shiva highlights some of the failures of the capitalist system in reaching any solution.

“Fifty percent of all greenhouse gases are contributed by corporate-industrial chemical agriculture and globalized trade. The chemical system is in fact a fossil agriculture, since it is dependent of fossil fuels. Nitrogen fertilizers, which are produced from fossil fuels, emit nitrogen oxide, which is 300 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Chemical industrial agriculture increase mechanization and use of fossil fuels. Long distance transport adds "food miles" and carbon emissions. The destruction of diversity and increasing dependence on a few globally traded commodities has led to deforestation in Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia. Deforestation related to agriculture contributes to 15 percent of the GHGs.”

“Corporate propaganda that chemicals and GMOs reduce hunger is wrong because chemicals promote nutritionally empty monoculture commodities, which create a hidden hunger of nutritional deficiencies. It is wrong because high cost inputs make farmers indebted, and farmers in debt are hungry farmers. Of the 1 billion hungry, 500 million are farmers…Finally, it is wrong because this model produced commodities, not food. The largest expansion in GMOs has been in corn and soya. Most of the corn and soya goes for biofuel and animal feed. Only 10 percent goes to food.Commodities feed profits of corporations, not people.”

Socialists accept that it is capitalist corporate power and its lust for profit which is the real enemy of humanity and the planet. They set and implement the policies that shape our lives and distort our views of reality. Hopefully, with the help of activists like Vandana Shiva and the growing disparities between reality and the fairy tales, we are beginning to see through the deception. But it requires a socialist analysis to understand fully what must be done to end the environmental rape of our planet

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lies and counter-lies

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Letter published in Friday's Richmond and Twickenham Times:

“Big Business or Little England? That's the choice in the referendum the Tory Party has organised to try to settle its internal differences. So, to that extent, it is not the concern of the rest of us. The trouble is that, if things go wrong and there's an unexpected vote to Leave, we risk being collateral damage in the temporary economic and financial crisis that would follow. The nostalgic dreams and rosy future promised by the Leave campaign won't happen. On the other hand, leaving wouldn't be as dramatic a change as the Remain side is suggesting -- it can't be as the British capitalist economy is so intertwined with that of the rest of the EU that it can't withdraw from it. So there'd be a deal with Britain ending up something like Norway. The rest of us won't notice the difference.”

Both sides of the debate are being criticised for exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims, but what do people expect? The protagonists on both sides are professional politicians used to telling lies and making false promises. They are not going to change their spots just because it's a referendum and not an ordinary election. All this is grist to our mill and publicity for our up-coming public meeting. 

The EU referendum campaign: lies and counter-lies
Sunday, June 19,
3:00 PM
The Socialist Party of Great Britain Head Office
52 Clapham High Street,
London SW4 7UN

With speakers Adam Buick and Bill Martin

Adam Buick

UK - Dealer in Death

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The UK, the second-largest arms exporter in the world, approved licences for the sale of £7.7bn of arms last year.

The UK is selling record quantities of arms – including missiles, bombs and grenades – to countries listed by the Foreign Office as having dubious human rights records. Several have been accused of war crimes or suppressing popular protest.

More than £3bn of British-made weaponry was licensed for export last year to 21 of the Foreign Office’s 30 “human rights priority countries” – those identified by the government as being where “the worst, or greatest number of, human rights violations take place”, or “where we judge that the UK can make a real difference”. Listed countries that last year bought British arms and military equipment include:
Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of perpetrating war crimes in Yemen.
Bahrain, which used troops to quell protests following the Arab spring.
Burundi, which is being investigated by the UN for human rights violations.
The Maldives, which in 2015 jailed its former president, Mohamed Nasheed, for 13 years following what critics said was a politically motivated show trial.

In 2014 the UK licensed just £170m of arms to 18 of the 27 countries then on the “priority countries” list. The massive increase in sales was largely attributable to sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The largest export licence granted was for £1.7bn of fighter jets, agreed in May 2015. In July 2015 the UK approved the export of £990m of air-to-air missiles. In September, it approved the sale of £62m of bombs to the country. All three sales took place after the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, prompting concerns that civilian buildings have been targeted in widespread human rights violations.

In 2015 the UK also approved licences of £84m of military equipment to Egypt, despite concerns about the country’s direction since the July 2013 coup that ousted its elected president, Mohamed Morsi. Figures show that in July 2015, a month after the UK refused export licences for the sale to Egypt of components for machine guns and training small arms ammunition, it approved the sale of sniper rifles, ammunition, pistols, body armour and assault rifles.

 “This is a clear case of the government saying one thing and doing another, and exposes the blatant doublespeak and hypocrisy that lies at the heart of UK foreign policy,” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). “These arms sales are going to countries that even the Foreign Office accepts are run by some of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world,” he said. “The humanitarian situation in many of these countries is only getting worse, and yet the arms sales are increasing. They aren’t just providing military support for human rights abusers; they are sending a strong political support too.”


Divide and Rule

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Anti-immigration tactics amount to a “divide and rule trick”, Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister and former professor of economics, said. He explained that the British establishment was trying to use fear of immigrants to distract from the effects of austerity.

“Lest we forget: turning the native poor against migrant labour is a variant of the old divide and rule trick that the British establishment honed ages ago to dominate the empire,” he said. “Today the establishment uses the same trick to dominate the domestic natives to hide austerity’s effects and to deflect anger towards the ‘other’ – the migrant, the foreigner.”





Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ferries not Frontex

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From January 1 to May 25 this year, at least 1,475 died making the journey to Europe by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Alarmphone is one of the NGOs trying to help. The transnational network of activist and migrant groups is located on both sides of the Mediterranean and provides a 24-hour hotline for refugees in distress at sea.

"We still see recent fatalities where the exact number of drowned people is not clear because the EU is keeping up its border and visa regime, closing borders and erecting fences," a spokesman from Alarmphone told Al Jazeera. "Although the EU spends a lot of money on the EU border agency Frontex and border controls, they are not willing to spend money on saving refugees' lives," he added. "If only there were legal and safe migration routes, nobody would have to die at sea …In this sense, we say: ferries, not Frontex," said the spokesman. 


The EU-Turkey deal, which effectively closed the eastern Mediterranean route, would spur more to find other ways to reach Europe. "Increased border controls and increased militarisation do not solve the bigger problems faced by those people who are forced to move," Niels Frenzen, director of the Immigration Clinic at USC Gould School of Law said. "And the closing of borders, detaining of migrants and asylum seekers, the focus on smugglers and destroying smuggler boats, are tactics that are not humanitarian or legal in nature."

Critique of Paresh Chattopadhyay’s “Twentieth Century Socialism”

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Paresh Chattopadhyay once visited me at my rented residence after we launched our party, the World Socialist Party (India) here in Calcutta (now Kolkata), 1-3 March 1995. He listened to my long speech via audio cassette of Bishnupur public meeting and highly appreciated it. After a detailed discussion he agreed to send articles in the event we published a journal in Bengali which however didn't mature. At that time he was sympathizing with the Trotskyists. I wanted to know why he should support the Trotskyists at all. His answer was that this gave him the opportunity to meet and speak to them at their annual gathering in Paris and that's all. The matter ended there.
Recently he came to Calcutta and delivered a lecture at Presidency College. Subsequently, he wrote an article titled "Twentieth Century Socialism A Minority Rule" published as a “Special Article” in the Economic and Political Weekly EPW May 14, 2016. It is claimed that this article has benefited from a discussion on certain points with friends in the Kolkata Marx Circle.
The article is “Dedicated to the memory of the great libertarian George Orwell,”
Paresh Chattopadhyay (paresh@videotron.ca) is with the Department of Political Economy in the Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada.
In much of  his article he is spot on in carefully recounting some of the heinous misdemeanors perpetrated by Lenin, Trotsky and their Bolshevik coterie in Russia and contrastingly upholds some pertinent positions and principles of Marx and Engels that are in opposition to them. After his long interesting and informative criticism and citations he concludes his narrative with the Kronstadt revolt and massacre, wherein he affirms, “The Kronstadt sailors and toilers called this incident the “Third Revolution,” after February and October.” This he just cites without any comment presumably because of a “libertarian” perspective which sees movement as more important than the goal. But Libertarianism, be what it may, is not Marxism. As world socialists we evaluate situations from a Marxist point of view. For argument’s sake, even if the Kronstadters happened to be victorious, it was not going to be a socialist revolution anyway. You cannot achieve socialism without an exclusively clear-cut socialist goal and class-wide revolutionary organization within a matured revolutionary situation. The Kronstadters had no socialist agenda and organization and circumstances were non-socialist. Anyway, they were asking for some liberal democratic rights only.
He says nothing about what we socialists have to do today to end the rule of capital.
‘Twentieth Century Socialism’ is the name he gives to Leninism-Bolshevism as the most prominent form of socialism in the last century. This term is ill-conceived as it suggests that not only was Leninism-Bolshevism a form of socialism but that all who worked under the same name ‘socialism’during the twentieth century, whether to educate or mislead, to organize or disarrange the working class were as well. This use of the term ‘socialist’ is one-sided and misleading and has to be contested, as no doubt it would by Marx and Engels were they alive today.
It ignores the fact that, in opposition to all the sundry ‘socialists’, there were, and till today are, the genuine socialists in the same sense as Marx and Engels – the  Socialist Party of Great Britain (ever since 1904) and the other Companion Parties of the World Socialist Movement, of which Professor Chattopadhyay is quite aware, being personally acquainted with us and  familiar with our Movement’s relentless presence in the socialist milieu. We are Marxist, we are world socialists and we are present here in India.
Professor Chattopadhyay creates an amalgam “party-state” and equates this with the Leninist construct and frame. This is to confuse these two very different and vital but transient institutions. True, the Leninist “party-state” was a form of ruthless state capitalist dictatorship. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that party and state are of no use for the working class. Both are necessary and useful even during the “political transition” (Marx) from capitalism to socialism, though  certainly not in their present-day capitalistic forms. These organs will have to be revolutionized, transformed and converted from their present repressive formation into participatory democratic formation – as agents of emancipation in the hands of the victorious working class. Marx and Engels were neither against nor for the state and the party as such. As scientists of the working class they analyzed their dynamics – their origin, evolution, and eventual ultimate demise.
As Engels aptly remarked, in Part 3, Chapter 2, of Anti-Dühring:
“The interference of the state power in social relations becomes superfluous in one sphere after another, and then ceases of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. The state is not "abolished", it withers away.”
And in Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State:
“The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong – into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.”
To accomplish this revolutionary historical task the workers possess only two effective weapons at their disposal – universal knowledge of history and a class-wide revolutionary organization i.e., a participatory democratic party and movement. This is indispensible. Without such a party and movement the workers are nothing but defenseless, wretched, competitive, alienated and mutually hostile wage slaves. When workers unite for higher wages and reforms they are merely a class-in-itself. They become a class-for-itself when permeated with socialist knowledge about their common radical cause and by uniting themselves politically “to win the battle of democracy” (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto) by unseating the bureaucratic ruling elites everywhere.
“It is true that Marx did not believe in drawing up recipes for the cookshops of the future, but he did describe the basis of the society he thought was going to replace capitalism: “an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common” (chapter 1 of Capital); “a co-operative society based on the common ownership of the means of production” (Critique of the Gotha Programme); “abolition of private property”, “the Communistic abolition of buying and selling”, “the conversion of the functions of the State into a mere superintendence of production” (Communist Manifesto); “abolition of the wages system” (Value, Price and Profit). In short, a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society based on the common ownership of the means of production.” (Socialist Standard, November 2012).
According to Marx, the dynamic principle of socialist production and distribution will be: from each according to ability, to each according to need. (Critique of the Gotha Programme). This will usher humanity in a new era of equality and freedom replacing pre-history of men with their history proper.
The working class will have to get it done by applying their franchise in elections state-wise and world-wide more or less simultaneously to seize the reins of states, get them transformed to use to dispossess the capitalist class, by loppimg off their repressive organs, dismantling the bureaucratic-military structure, democratizing and absorbing its useful organs into the new socio-economic formations of production for use in place of production for profit – rearranging administration of affairs of life on local, regional and global organizational scales.
As Marx brought home the point to the working class:
“Considering
That the emancipation of the productive class is that of all human beings without distinction of sex or race;
That the producers can be free only insofar as they are in possession of the means of production;
That there are only two forms under which the means of production can belong to them:
1.      The individual form which has never existed generally and which is being more and more eliminated by the process of industry;
2.      The collective form whose material and intellectual elements are being formed by the very development of capitalist society.
Considering
That this collective appropriation can only be the outcome of the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat – organized in a separate political party.
That such organization must be pursued by all the means, which the proletariat has at its disposal, including universal suffrage, thus transformed from the instrument of trickery, which it has been up till now into an instrument of emancipation.” [Emphasis added]
Written on about May 10, 1880         
Printed according to L'Égalité, No. 24, June 30, 1880, checked with the text of Le Précurseur
First published in Le Précurseur, No. 15, June 19, 1880. Translated from the French


BINAY SARKAR

The World Socialist Party (India): 
257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,
E-mail: wspindia@hotmail.com

Invent A Disease Inc.

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Big Pharma sells us medicines we don’t need for disorders it made up that we don’t have. What's more, the drugs involved can be costly, can carry serious health risks, and often do not work. Relatively common aspects of everyday life have been turned into formal disorders, a process known as medicalization. There is a drug for everyone and someone for every drug.

As many as 16 million Americans are prone to screaming and pounding on the dashboard when someone cuts them off in traffic. Another 7 million are fully capable of devouring a whole box of cookies in front of the TV. There are 14 million men with low testosterone, 9 million women with low sexual desire -- and tens of millions of people with bladders that are too active and blood sugar that's a little too high. The common thread: All have non-life-threatening conditions that for most of the 20th century were not considered a part of mainstream medicine. Some did not exist at all as formal disorders.
Each of the conditions, from intermittent explosive disorder to overactive bladder disorder, is the product of a new or expanded definition. These definitions come from medical societies or researchers who get money from drug companies. And those corporations stand to profit when millions of people are labeled as unwell.

In 2003 and again in 2010, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) tinkered with the definition of a condition known as prediabetes, which independent doctors say is an unneeded label that has led to overtreatment with drugs, exposing patients to risks without proof of real benefit. The changes, which twice lowered the threshold for hemoglobin A1C, increased the number of people fitting the diagnosis from 17 million to 87 million. Indeed, a March report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimated that 46% of Californians -- 13 million people -- had prediabetes. An investigation found the ADA has long received more than $7 million in current annual funding. In addition, nine of the 14 experts who authored the 2010 change worked as speakers, consultants or advisers to companies that marketed diabetes medicines.

in 2006, just before the term "Low T" became a familiar term to many Americans thanks to a barrage of TV commercials, a pharmaceutical company that markets a testosterone replacement funded a national study of men conducted in doctors' offices. Suddenly, 38% of men age 45 and older were said to have the condition. The five authors of that study all had financial ties to the testosterone company.

1. Too angry? It's IED, intermittent explosive disorder.
2. Too hungry? It's BED, binge-eating disorder.
3. Are you a woman with a low sex drive? It's HSDD, hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
4. Having trouble focusing at work? It's ADHD, adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
5. Have a frequent urge to urinate? It's OAB, overactive bladder disorder.
6. Can't function at some times of the month? It's PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Those eight physical or psychiatric conditions alone affect more than 180 million Americans. Independent experts say the numbers are suspect at best, the product of medical societies and advocacy groups that get pharmaceutical industry funding, researchers aiming to advance careers, or drug companies trying to boost sales.
"There are powerful interests that want the numbers to be inflated," said Allan Horwitz, PhD, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and author of Creating Mental Illness. "All of these estimates push the numbers upward."

There's a guide for selling disease, said Carl Elliott, MD, PhD, professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota. "You de-stigmatize the condition, broaden it to include a much larger patient population, rebrand it or give it a name that is less embarrassing to people -- people would rather have overactive bladder than be called incontinent," he said. "Then you're all set for selling your treatment."

It was in the late 1990s that a condition once known as incontinence or "unstable bladder" became the nicer-sounding "overactive bladder." Two urologists thought the new name was "more intuitive" and sounded less like a psychiatric disorder. They convinced the International Continence Society to give it a new definition, and pushed related research that the new condition affected 33 million people. One of the two urologists, Alan Wein, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, now acknowledges the estimates "overstate the market." Kari Tikkinen, MD, PhD, a urologist and clinical epidemiologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland, researched overactive bladder and found the estimates of how many have it -- 17% of adults -- were vastly inflated. In his view, the real figure is less than half that. While bigger numbers may lead some people to get earlier treatment, inflated numbers also can cause healthy people to think they are sick, said Tikkinen. That can lead to the unnecessary use of drugs that might not be effective and subject patients potential harms and added cost, he said.

For drug companies, bigger numbers mean larger markets and can put more pressure on the FDA to approve new products. For advocacy groups and medical societies, many of which get pharmaceutical funding, having more people with a condition can make it seem more mainstream. And for university researchers, coming up with a big number can be good for your career. That's according to Daniel Carlat, MD, professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and author of “Unhinged: the Trouble with Psychiatry, a Doctor's Revelation about a Profession in Crisis.” He said,  "The more of a splash they make, the more likely they are to get papers published, to get hired by universities or to get promoted and the more likely they are to get research funding."

When it comes to psychiatric conditions, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is considered the Bible for practitioners. In the fifth edition of manual, which came out in 2013, binge-eating disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and adult ADHD were all altered in a way that increased the number of people with those conditions. Nearly 70% of the experts of the task force that produced that document had financial ties to the drug industry, according to a 2012 analysis in the journal PLoS Medicine. "It's not about research fraud," study co-author Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, a bioethicist at the University of Massachusetts. "It's just that we have a wealth of data now that clearly shows industry-funded researchers draw industry-friendly conclusions."

Until we have a rational society, until there is a fundamental change in our economic system these gross financial incentives for disease mongering will continue. Sophisticated snake-oil selling.





A limited welcome

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Home Office reveals 1,602 people have been resettled so far under plan to accept 20,000, with only 33 housed in London. Scotland has welcomed more Syrian refugees than any other part of the UK under the government’s official resettlement scheme, accepting 610 arrivals, including 68 in Renfrewshire, 58 in Argyll and Bute and 53 in Edinburgh alone.

The most welcoming council in the country is Coventry, where 105 Syrians. Councils in Yorkshire and the Humber have taken in 171 and 159 have gone to the West Midlands. Of the 33 London boroughs, by contrast, only Camden, Islington, Barnet and Kingston-upon-Thames have taken any refugees in the period. No councils in the north-west, including the 10 in Greater Manchester, accepted any refugees. Welsh councils have resettled 78 people, and Northern Ireland 51.

Abdul Khan, the deputy leader of Coventry city council, told the Guardian the refugees who have come to the city include those with “significant medical needs”. He added: “We have accepted them because it is the right thing to do. The refugees have experienced some of the worst aspects of human behaviour, and when in September 2015 we were asked to offer further places to the national scheme, we did so.”

Sabir Zazai, director of the Coventry refugee and migrant centre, who himself came to the city as a refugee from Afghanistan in 1999, said the community had been very supportive of the council’s welcoming stance. “Coventry is a city that has gone through war, that is turning its own experiences of conflict and war into love, care and compassion for others. When we first had these discussions, the general response was, if we can help, why shouldn’t we help? There wasn’t any hesitation.”

Eight months ago leaders in Greater Manchester agreed to take 1,500 Syrians on the VPR scheme over a five-year period but none have yet arrived in the region. Ivan Lewis, the MP for Bury South who is seeking the Labour nomination for Greater Manchester mayor, criticised the combined authority in the region for not doing its bit. Lewis said: “I am very disappointed that Greater Manchester despite securing funding has so far failed to take one Syrian adult refugee. This is not acceptable and I am calling on the combined authority to take action as a matter of urgency. Greater Manchester has a long and proud tradition of welcoming refugees. It is now urgent we show leadership and fulfil our moral obligation to victims of a bloody civil war.”


But no refugees were accepted in the six-month period by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, in which the constituency of the home secretary, Theresa May, is located, or by Watford borough council, home to the constituency of the Home Office minister responsible for resettling refugees, Richard Harrington. There were no acceptances in the boroughs in which several other senior ministers’ constituencies are found, including George Osborne (Cheshire East), Philip Hammond (Runnymede) and Michael Gove (Surrey Heath). Cameron’s local authority, West Oxfordshire, has taken 10.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Forgotten Horror: The Great Tokyo Air Raid

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Barack Obama is set to arrive in Hiroshima and become the first serving US president to visit the Japanese city since the 1945 nuclear bombing. Obama will not be issuing an apology for the nuclear attack.

The world's first nuclear bomb attack, on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, killed at least 140,000 people. Two days later a second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 74,000. But little attention will be given to the conventional bombing of Japan. The atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have dominated the WWII history, but, as a single attack, the bombing of Tokyo was more destructive.

The Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9–10 March 1945 was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in history, dropping 1,665 tons of bombs on Tokyo. The bombs were mostly the 500-pound (230 kg) E-46 cluster bomb which released 38 napalm-carrying M-69 incendiary bomblets. Approximately 15.8 square miles of the city was destroyed and some 100,000 people are estimated to have died. A million were maimed and another million were made homeless. The Great Tokyo Air Raid should not be blotted out of people’s memory as it was a cruel wartime act that testifies to the great suffering the Pacific War brought to Japanese civilians.

American commander, Curtis LeMay, adopted a policy of indiscriminate “low-altitude” bombings against Japan’s urban areas. LeMay thought that since most buildings in Japan, even in urban areas, were made of “wood and paper,” using incendiary bombs would be effective. The US military had waited for a clear and windy night to inflict maximum damage. He justified the indiscriminate bombing by noting that many households in Japan’s cities were producing small parts that were used in armaments and should, therefore, be regarded as weapons factories. It is considered the single most deadly bombing raid in history. Curtis leMay said the US military "scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night ... than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined".

Masahiko Yamabe, chief researcher at the Tokyo Air Raid and War Damages Resource Center explained that “Most of the victims were ordinary citizens. Most were not involved in war industry at all – they were just regular people going about their lives.”

Survivor, Haruyo Nihei, said American claims that the bombings targeted factories were false. "There were no big military factories in the areas they bombed on March 9. They did it as punishment," Nihei said. "I believe they should be held accountable for war crimes too." 

The firebombing of Tokyo was designed to terrorise and bomb the Japanese into surrender. It was also seen as payback for the Pearl Harbour attacks and the mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war. Curtis LeMay acknowledged that if he had been on the losing side, he would be charged with war crimes.

Lobbyists And Corporate Profits

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Profits are up. Operating margins for firms publicly listed in the US show a substantial and sustained rise. Corporate valuations are up as well.

Much of this result is driven by the role of regulation, so it is important to understand the link between regulation and profits. Lobbying and political campaign spending can result in favorable regulatory changes, and several studies find the returns to these investments can be quite large. For example, one study finds that for each dollar spent lobbying for a tax break, firms received returns in excess of $220.

Critics of the regulatory state regularly decry the costs imposed by regulations. Yet even regulations that impose costs might raise profits indirectly, since costs to incumbents are also entry barriers for prospective entrants. For example, one study found that pollution regulations served to reduce entry of new firms into some manufacturing industries.

Even when regulators try to reduce prices, firms can benefit. For example, in 1992 Congress passed the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act in response to high cable TV rates. Regulators expected cable prices to fall by 10%. Instead, however, cable companies changed their programming bundles, prices did not fall, and corporate valuations increased. Instead, hows that the aggregate market value of cable companies relative to assets (Tobin’s Q) rose following the Act, compared to valuations of other firms. Firms experiencing major regulatory change see their valuations rise 12% compared to closely matched control groups. Smaller regulatory changes are also associated with a subsequent rise in firm market values and profits.

Research supports the view that political rent seeking is responsible for a significant portion of the rise in profits. Firms influence the legislative and regulatory process and they engage in a wide range of activity to profit from regulatory changes, with significant success. The link between regulation and profits is highly concentrated in a small number of politically influential industries. Among non-financial corporations, most of the effect is accounted for by just five industries: pharmaceuticals/chemicals, petroleum refining, transportation equipment/defense, utilities, and communications. These industries comprise, in effect, a “rent seeking sector.” Concentration of political influence among a narrow group of firms means that those firms may skew policy for the entire economy. For example, the pharmaceutical industry has actively stymied efforts to address problems of patent trolls that affect many other industries.

While political rent seeking is nothing new, the outsize effect of political rent seeking on profits and firm values is a recent development, largely occurring since 2000. Over the last 15 years, political campaign spending by firm PACs has increased more than thirtyfold and the Regdata index of regulation has increased by nearly 50% for public firms. However much political rent seeking has affected economic dynamism and inequality so far, the effect is likely to be greater in the near future.




Socialists are not surprised by such reports as the above. The State, after all, according to Marx, is merely the executive committee of the capitalist class. 

Poverty in work

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36 per cent of the emerging and developing world live in poverty – on a daily income of less than $3.10 says the International Labour Organisation (ILO). ILO’s Special Adviser on Social and Economic Issues Raymond Torres explained that the world’s 30 per cent poor hold two per cent of the global income.

It stated: “It is estimated that almost a third of the extremely or moderately poor in developing economies have jobs. However, their employment is vulnerable in nature. They are sometimes unpaid, concentrated in low-skilled occupations and, in the absence of social protection, rely almost exclusively on labour income. Among developed countries, more workers have wage and salaried employment, but that does not stop them from falling into poverty”.

It is estimated that, in 2012, over 300 million people in developed countries were living in poverty (defined in relative terms on the basis of incomes representing less than 60 per cent of the median income). In emerging and developing countries, more than half of all children under the age of 15 live in extreme or moderate poverty. In developed countries, 36 per cent of all children live below the relative poverty line.

Almost one-third of the extreme and moderate poor in emerging and developing countries actually have a job. However, these jobs are vulnerable in nature: they are sometimes unpaid, concentrated in low-skilled occupations and, in the absence of social protection, the poor rely almost exclusively on labour income. In addition, two-thirds of the jobs are in typically low-productivity agricultural activities.

In fact, more than 80 per cent of the working poor in developed countries are in wage and salaried employment. Without an adequate supply of decent work opportunities, it will be difficult for the working poor to improve their working conditions, acquire a career and thus lift themselves and their families out of poverty.



The persistence of India's poverty

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We read that less than a third of India’s households have convenient access to piped water, showing very little improvement since 2005. Only 2 out of 5 households have access to improved sanitation facilities and an overwhelming 44% of the population practises open defecation. In fact, India lags behind neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in improving access to sanitation and eradicating open defecation.

Child under-nutrition remains high and endemic. Roughly 2 in 5 children under the age of 5 are ‘stunted’ — that is they are shorter than the desired height for their age. While child under-nutrition in India is similar to comparable countries in South Asia, nationwide estimates hide wide disparities between states. In Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh for instance, roughly half of all children under 5 are stunted. Even relatively prosperous states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra fare poorly in this regard.

India’s infant and child mortality rates are higher than countries at comparable, or even lower, levels of per capita income. In fact, not only do Cambodia, Nicaragua and Vietnam perform better on infant and child mortality than India, but neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal do, too. This is the case despite starting out at roughly similar levels as Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal on both metrics two decades ago. And when we compare India’s infant, child and maternal mortality rates to the other BRICS nations, we find that the country has a lot of catching up to do.



WORKERS!

The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,
E-mail: wspindia@hotmail.com

Website: http://www.worldsocialistpartyindia.org/

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Forever Doom and Gloom

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Calamitous global conflict as a result of climate change will produce hundreds of millions of refugees by 2100, said France's environmental minister Ségolène Royal.

"Climate change issues lead to conflict, and when we analyze wars and conflicts that have taken place over the last few years we see some are linked to an extent to climate change, drought is linked to food security crises," Royal said. "The difficulty of having access to food resources leads to massive migration, south-south migration," she said, referring to migration between developing countries. The African continent is particularly hit by this south-south migration," Royal continued. "If nothing is done to combat the negative impact of climate change, we will have hundreds of millions of climate change migrants by the end of the century."

Royal's remarks came only a day after the Italian coast guard announced that it had rescued 5,600 refugees in 48 hours who were attempting the treacherous sea journey from North Africa to Europe.

When making predictions, scientist tend to keep to the more moderate. The trend among scientists has been to underestimate the effects of global warming. Just about all aspects of climate change seem to be happening at least several decades before they were predicted to happen. Scientists are extremely hesitant about speculations of such things as a possible catastrophic rise in sea level.

The Military's War Chest

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The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year—more, that is, than was spent at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup, and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined.  And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total.  As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans’ affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries, and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches $1 trillion.

In recent years, keeping tabs on how the Pentagon spends its money has grown even more difficult thanks to the “war budget”—known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. The use of the OCO as a slush fund began in earnest in the early years of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and has continued ever since.  It’s hard to put a precise number on how much money has been slipped into that budget or taken out of it to pay for pet projects of every sort in the last decade-plus, but the total is certainly more than $100 billion and counting. The House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, proposed taking $18 billion from the war budget to cover items like an extra 11 F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon hadn’t even asked for.  This was great news for Lockheed Martin for its troubled F-35 program, already slated to be the most expensive weapons system in history, and for Boeing, which has been lobbying aggressively to keep its F-18 production line open in the face of declining orders from the Navy. 

The war budget is just part of the problem.  The Pentagon has so many budding programs tucked away in so many different lines of its budget that even its officials have a hard time keeping track of what’s actually going on, much less the rest of us, who are essentially in the dark.  The Security Assistance Monitor, tries to track such programs and has identified more than two dozen of them worth about $10 billion annually.  Combine them with similar programs tucked away in the State Department’s budget, and the U.S. is contributing to the arming and training of security forces in 180 countries.  (To put that in perspective, there are at most 196 countries on the planet.)  Who could possibly keep track of such programs, no less what effect they may be having on the countries and militaries involved, or on the complex politics of, and conflicts in, various regions? The Pentagon is the only government agency providing foreign assistance that does not even have to submit to Congress an annual budget justification for what it does.  As a result the public does not know how much the DoD is spending in a given country and why.

The Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists recently put the size of the intelligence portion of the national security state’s “black budget“—its secret spending on everything from spying to developing high-tech weaponry—at more than $70 billion. That figure includes a wide variety of activities carried out through the CIA, the NSA, and other members of the intelligence community, but $16.8 billion of it was requested directly by the Department of Defense.  And that $70 billion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secret spending programs, since billions more in secret financing for the development and acquisition of new weapons systems has been squirreled away elsewhere.

The largest recent project to have its total costs shrouded in secrecy is the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber. Air Force officials claim that they need to keep the cost secret lest potential enemies “connect the dots” and learn too much about the plane’s key characteristics. Ronald Walden of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office claimed that there was “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” This, he suggested, might make it “decisively easier” for potential opponents to guess its range and payload. The price of a system tells you just that—its price—and nothing more.  Otherwise, with its classic cost overruns, the F-35 would have a range beyond compare, possibly to Mars and back. The real rationale for keeping the full cost estimate for the B-21 secret is to avoid bad publicity.  Budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates it could cost more than $100 billion to develop and purchase.

The bomber, of course, is just part of a planned $1 trillion splurge over the next three decades on a new generation of bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-based nuclear missiles, part of an updating of the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal.  And that one trillion dollars is simply an initial estimate before the usual Pentagon cost overruns even begin to come into play. The Pentagon has come up with yet another budgetary gimmick.  It’s known as the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” or as Taxpayers for Common Sense more accurately labels it, “the Navy’s submarine slush fund.” The ideais to set up a separate slush fund outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding budget. That’s where the money for the new ballistic missile submarine program, currently slated to cost $139 billion for 12 subs, would go. Not to be outmaneuvered, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has now asked Congress to set up a “strategic deterrence fund” to pay for its two newest nuclear delivery vehicles, the planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

The Pentagon’s budget labyrinth wants its complicated budget practices to leave Congress, any administration, and the public too confused and exhausted to actually hold it accountable for how tax dollars are being spent.

Every day we read one article or another that tells us that our entire political system is rotten and corrupt to its core. Nevertheless, the majority of the herd keep it going because they are told that they have no other choice than to vote for one of two of the more effective evils. And that is precisely what they keep doing. Be it endless war for profit, the looting of social services, the subliminal brainwashing tells you to keep giving your power away to the Bushes, Trumps, Clintons, et al, and your life is diminished, your rights taken away, your earning power decreased, and your hours increased at work for less pay. Ever consider saying 'no' to the establishment?



US Income Inequality

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Associated Press analysis finds that median compensation for top executives in 2015 was $10.8 million, up from $10.3 million the CEOs took in the year before.

The median CEO pay raise was 4.5 percent from 2014—and that jump alone, nearly $470,000, is about ten times what the average U.S. worker makes in a year.

The CEO of Expedia, Dara Khosrowshahi, was both the highest paid CEO in 2015, raking in $94.6 million, as well as the CEO with the biggest raise, up 881 percent from the year before.

AFL-CIO's most recent figures on its Executive PayWatch, showing that the average CEO of an S&P 500 company in 2015 brought home 335 times more money than the average worker.

While the Economic Policy Institute noted last year that "inflation-adjusted CEO compensation increased from $1.5 million in 1978 to $16.3 million in 2014, or 997 percent," compared to the inflation-adjusted compensation for the "average private-sector production and nonsupervisory worker [which] rose from $48,000 in 1978 to just $53,200 in 2014, an increase of only 10.9 percent."


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared last week. "We must stop Wall Street CEOs from continuing to profit on the backs of working people." 


Pharma Profits

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Wall Street’s drive for profits is depriving society of the benefits of new life-enhancing medications for which companies can charge patients hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Gerard Anderson, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, calculated that most of the recent sharp increase in U.S. drug spending are from the rise of specialty drug prices, not increased utilization. Americans believe in the free market. However, the pharmaceutical market in this country is a stunning example of market failure. Anderson found that the U.S. pays twice as much as other countries for most brand-name drugs.

In the last 20 years, pharmaceutical companies have developed novel, effective treatments, sometimes even cures, for some of the worst illnesses dogging humanity: HIV, hepatitis C, leukemia and other cancers, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, the new so-called specialty drugs are often safer and less toxic than older ones. The bad news is that the prices of the new drugs are high and rising. Kalydeco, a drug for cystic fibrosis patients with a particular genetic mutation, for example, costs over $300,000 a year, and this drug is taken for life.

The most notorious of the new drugs is Sovaldi, which cures hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV plagues more than 3 million Americans: for 20 or so years it is asymptomatic, but it silently damages the liver; eventually 20% of patients develop cirrhosis, of whom 20% go on to liver cancer. The prior HCV treatment -- interferon and ribavirin -- had toxic side effects, with only mediocre results in American HCV patients. By contrast, Sovaldi, along with a combination product, Harvoni -- both oral drugs marketed by Gilead -- cure about 90% of patients, in 12 weeks with fewer side effects. Miracle drugs indeed. The price tag? For Sovaldi, $84,000 for a 12-week course, or $1,000 per pill. Enough to bankrupt a patient. The sky-high price bear no relationship to costs; instead, they say we should pay based on the value of the drugs -- Gilead should get $84,000 because that's less than a liver transplant.

In the specialty drug market, the manufacturers receive a legal monopoly so they can set prices where they wish, even if many patients cannot afford to pay. Wall Street demands increasing profits every quarter, ever more "blockbuster" drugs, quick extraction of maximum "shareholder value" by whatever means necessary. The companies that don't produce the profits are taken over by those that do.

Poverty is cancer causing

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Hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths around the world may have occurred as a result of the recession of 2008, experts have said.

Unemployment and austerity were associated with more than 260,000 extra deaths of cancer patients in countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a study has shown. Those countries with universal health coverage (UHC), such as the UK, and a record of increased public health spending, had fewer casualties.

Lead scientist Dr Mahiben Maruthappu, from Imperial College London, said: “Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide so understanding how economic changes affect cancer survival is crucial. We found that increased unemployment was associated with increased cancer mortality, but that universal health coverage protected against these effects. This was especially the case for treatable cancers including breast, prostate and colorectal [bowel] cancer.”

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, looked at links between unemployment, public health care spending, and cancer deaths in more than 70 high- and middle-income countries. The data included fatality rates for several “treatable” cancers including breast, prostate and bowel cancer, and other more deadly cancers such as those of the lung and pancreas.

Higher unemployment was associated with increased mortality from all the different cancer types, especially treatable cancers, between 2008 and 2010. Lack of access to care may have been a factor that contributed to these excess deaths, researchers said.

An estimated 260,000 more cancer deaths than would have been expected without the recession occurred in the 35 member states of the OECD alone. In countries with universal health coverage the link between unemployment and excess cancer deaths disappeared. These were countries where UHC was enshrined in law and where 90% of the population had access to health care.

Of the OECD countries, 26 had universal health coverage while nine including Russia and the US did not.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Poverty is genetically damaging

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Being poor can change your genes and increase your chances of depression. Living in poverty can cause changes to people’s DNA that make them more likely to become depressed, anxious and possibly take drugs, according to a ground-breaking new study.

Researchers in the United States found that teenagers from deprived backgrounds tended to undergo changes to a gene that increases the activity of a part of the brain involved in the ‘fight or flight’ response and panic attacks. This increased activity in the amygdala has been linked to a greater risk of depression.

They also found that a low socio-economic status was associated with low levels of serotonin, sometimes referred to as the happiness hormone.

In recent years, studies have shown that not only can genes be changed by the environment and even social interactions, but these ‘epigenetic’ changes can then be passed on to the next generation.

In a new paper in the journal, Molecular Psychiatry, scientists from Duke University in the US described how this might help explain why depression appears to run in some of the poorest families.

Deprivation was associated with “a host of negative outcomes including poorer general health and increased risk for mental illness including depression, anxiety, and addiction”, they wrote.

“Low socio-economic status may confer risk through a variety of mechanisms, including higher levels of perceived and objective stress and cumulative environmental risk such as poor housing quality, noise pollution, and exposure to violence,” the researchers added.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Johnna Swartz, said their work had shown how these kinds of problems were affecting the genes of the people concerned.

“This is some of the first research to demonstrating that low socio-economic status can lead to changes in the way genes are expressed, and it maps this out through brain development to the future experience of depression symptoms,” she said.

“These small daily hassles of scraping by are evident in changes that build up and affect children’s development.”

They studied changes involving a specific gene, called SLC6A4, in 132 adolescents aged between 11 and 15 over a period of two years. People from poor backgrounds were found to accumulate greater quantities of a chemical tag on or near the gene that made their amygdala more responsive to photographs of fearful faces that were shown to then while their brain was being monitoring by an MRI scanner.

Study co-author Professor Douglas Williamson said: “The biggest risk factor we have currently for depression is a family history of the disorder. Our new work reveals one of the mechanisms by which such familial risk may be manifested or expressed in a particular group of vulnerable individuals during adolescence.”

And Ahmad Hariri, a Duke professor of psychology and neuroscience, added: "As they enter into young adulthood they are going to be experiencing more problems with depression or anxiety - or maybe substance abuse. "The extent to which our measures of their genomes and brains earlier in their lives continue to predict their relative health is something that's very important to know and very exciting for us to study.

Selling Repression

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Despite the suspension imposed after more than 600 anti-coup protesters were killed by security forces in Cairo in August 2013, 12 EU members, including Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK remain among Egypt’s main suppliers of arms and policing equipment, flouting an EU-wide suspension on arms transfers to Egypt a human rights group said in a statement. They risk complicity in a wave of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, according to Amnesty International. The items that have been sold to Egypt by the EU states through exports and brokering have included: small arms, light weapons and ammunition; armoured vehicles; military helicopters; heavier weapons for use in counterterrorism and military operations, and surveillance technology.

"Almost three years on from the mass killings that led the EU to call on its member states to halt arms transfers to Egypt, the human rights situation has actually deteriorated," said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim deputy Middle East and North Africa programme director at Amnesty International.

"We would like to see an embargo on all items that are used by the internal security forces in these sorts of serious violations," Brian Wood, head of arms control and human rights at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera. "We want perpetrators to be brought to justice because you cannot have a secure country without respect for human rights and the rule of law," Wood said. "The Egyptian government is on a completely wrong course." 

In 2015 alone, rights groups recorded more than 1,250 forced disappearances and 267 alleged extrajudicial killings, in addition to 40,000 political prisoners.

El Salvador's Suffering

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When we talk about all the children from Central America being sent to the US by their parents, alone across hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, you have to ask why.

Here's one explanation from El Salvador. The country is facing a record wave of murders — 22 killings a day, on average, in the first three months of 2016. For years, the nation has been considered one of the deadliest on earth.

Rape at the hands of relatives and a lack of sex education (El Salvador has no formal curriculum on sex education, and schools are not required to provide it) are driving pregnancies among girls in El Salvador, which is struggling to stem one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America. More than a third of all pregnancies in the Central American nation are among girls aged 10 to 19, and girls as young as 9 have become pregnant. Rape and incest at the hands of grandfathers, fathers and other relatives is often the cause of pregnancies in girls aged 10 to 14, although there are no official figures.

"With adolescent pregnancies there's always a component of violence through either incest, or violence in the family, or domestic violence," Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza, explained. "Fathers migrate, leaving mothers to be the sole breadwinner. Mothers find work in the garment factories and work all day so children are free, left alone," he said. "They are completely vulnerable." 

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among teenage girls worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Latin America, the risk of maternal death is four times higher among girls under 16 compared to women in their early twenties.


Initiatives to develop a nationwide curriculum on sex education have been opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and some evangelical groups. In 2008, the church blocked a manual for teachers, created by the education ministry, from being used to teach sexual health in schools.

The Non-Event World Summit

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The two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off on May 23 in Istanbul. Do you recall the media headline reporting? There were  5,500 participants, 55 head of states, in this first-ever summit solely focused on the humanitarian crises facing the world today.  With the exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (and she was there to negotiate with Turkey on the return of refugees in return for an end of visas for Turks coming to Europe), no other leader from the richest countries or of the UN Security Council attended. Nor could the Summit mobilise the much-needed resources it had hoped for. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong “disappointment” on the absence of leaders of the most powerful countries.

Although they reiterated their appeal for solidarity to aid the most vulnerable people on Earth – 130 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters, none of the attendees could hold out or offer any hope soon. The resources required to rescue the lives of tens of millions of human beings represent only 1 per cent of the total world military expenditure. 80 per cent of the UN humanitarian resources is spent on man-made crises. The funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates but to put it in perspective the world is producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a leading humanitarian organisation with over 5000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries explained humanitarian assistance does not reach thousands of victims who are among the most vulnerable of all. “In Fallujah, Iraq, there are now over 50,000 civilians who are besieged, prey to the Islamic State (IS), Engeland cited as an example. “Nobody is helping them, nobody is reaching them, he warned. The Iraqi government is not helping them, the humanitarian organisations cannot reach them.” There are thousands of victims like them who are in dire need but are not reached. In Yemen, Engeland said, there are 20 million civilians among the most vulnerable, while stressing that coalitions supported by Western countries are attacking civilians. Egeland expressed hope that leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children. Fighting parties, be they governmental or militias or opposition or rebels, still get weapons that they use to blow up hospitals and kill civilians, he warned. “Let’s blacklist that armed group and that army and that government…We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct,” Egeland added and then emphasized that “all borders should be open… in Europe, in the Gulf states… in the United States…As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?” 

Oxfam attended the event but decried the "conspicuous absences" of key world leaders who "dodged their responsibility to protect civilians from the ongoing suffering of wars and natural disasters," executive director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement. Oxfam's country director for Turkey, Meryem Aslan, told CBC News the organization was disappointed that "lip service" continued to be paid in some areas. "We were hoping for a stronger commitment to accountability and ending impunity," she said. "There were no such bold actions."

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned, “the less we help in conflict zones, the more people will move,” and that “sticking people in camps is not the solution.”

The "political communiqué" signed by summit participants is not legally binding. Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) criticized the event as nothing but a "fig-leaf of good intentions" and pulled out earlier this month, in part over the world's failure to protect civilians in conflict zones and the failure of the UN to hold states accountable. 
"States increasingly and shamelessly brush aside legal frameworks that once ensured a minimum of hope and humanity for people caught up in crises and war, and for those fleeing violence and despair," Stephen Cornish, executive director of Doctors Without Borders Canada, told CBC News in an email Tuesday. "The World Humanitarian Summit could have been an opportunity to address these vital issues but failed to do so."

Benefit sanctions lead to self-harm, crime and destitution

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Benefit sanctions lead claimants to self-harm, crime and destitution, warns internal research, commissioned by Salford City Council, suggests that a sudden loss of income by removing benefits could damage mental health. It adds that evidence provided by Salford Central Food bank, run by the Trussell Trust, shows that 62 per cent of referrals for emergency food in 2014 were made by claimants who had received a benefit sanction. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has always strongly denied a link between sanctions and food banks.

Contrary to the DWP’s insistence that the threat of sanctioning encourages social security claimants to move from benefits into work, the system at present causes “damage to the wellbeing of vulnerable claimants and can lead to hunger, debt and destitution”, the report’s authors claim.

“People on benefits are already struggling to afford food, heating and essential costs. They can’t save so they have no financial safety net. They live in dread of being sanctioned  which isn’t the right frame of mind for job hunting, volunteering or going back into education,” said City Mayor, Paul Dennett.

The new report also places a particular emphasis on the plight of Salford’s young people, claiming that the 18 to 25 age group are most the affected by sanctions. The council commissioned Connexions – the Government agency tasked with providing advice and guidance to young people – who highlighted “significant” numbers of young people were moving away from state support.

 “This impacts on them financially but also denies access to programmes of education, training and employment therefore exacerbating the issue. Their families are also negatively impacted as they may be feeding and clothing the young person from a limited household income,” the report claims.

The report, DWP Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – One Year On, continues: “Despite the drop in numbers in Salford receiving a benefit sanction for those who are sanctioned the impact is devastating. A ‘financial shock’ such as a sanction causes both immediate and longer term impact as most people do not have the means to save, so have no safety net. This presents an emergency need for money to buy food, pay for heating and essential travel costs.”


The report says that the rate of people being sanctioned in the area has not reduced over the previous 12 month period. But, critically, it adds: “Register sizes are decreasing and we believe this is in part due to a growing number of ‘disappeared’. These are claimants who drop their benefit claim or who move off benefit but do not take up employment. The Government has refused to publish destination data.”

It concludes: “From the wide range of responses we have received from Salford agencies working with claimants, despite the fall in sanctions, the impact of sanctions both on claimants and services within the City cannot be overstated and the harsh regime will be expected to include additional groups as Universal Credit rolls out nationally this year.”

The report follows on from an interim study, published in October 2014, which suggested that sanctioning could lead to extreme hardship, reliance on loan sharks, shoplifting and depression. The fresh findings appear to reinforce this bleak picture of life on a benefit sanction in the City of Salford.

Rebecca Long Bailey, the Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, said to The Independent that the research "shows charities are increasingly having to step in to support claimants who are thrown into crisis due to delays and sanctions".  Ms Bailey added: “As an MP, I have seen some truly horrific cases, where the effects have been severe damage to my constituents’ mental and physical health, as well as the tragic case of David Clapson, who was found dead in his flat from diabetic ketoacidosis, two weeks after his benefits were suspended. His sister discovered her brother’s body and found his electricity had been cut off, meaning the fridge where he stored his insulin was no longer working. They must know that sanctioning people with diabetes is very dangerous but the system treats people as statistics and numbers. This report shows where we are in Salford today, one year on from the original report. Sadly, it illustrates the devastating impact sanctions have on the lives of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.”