Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Housing Crisis and the Young

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Young people in Britain are spending three times more on housing than their grandparents did, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.
They also have to cope with less space and longer commutes to get to work.
While their parents typically bought their own home in their 30s, young people will soon have to wait until their 40s.
Those now in their 70s and 80s spent just 7% of their annual income on housing at the age of 30, it says. The baby-boom generation - now in its 50s and 60s - spent 17% of income at the same age. However, millennials - those now in their 20s and 30s - spend 23% of everything they earn on housing costs.
By the time the millennials reach the age of 40, they will each be spending an extra 64 hours a year commuting to work, compared with their parents, as they struggle to find housing they can afford.
Since 1996, the average floor space occupied by someone under 45 has fallen by 4%. 
 Lindsay Judge, one of the report's authors, said, "The big danger today is that young people are having to settle for lower quality, longer commutes and less security in order to afford a place to live, despite spending a record share of their income of housing."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

There is hope

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Human destruction of natural habitats, unbridled economic development, pollution and climate change are among the threats to plant and animal life, on land and underwater. Preserving biological diversity is an uphill fight.  Experts say failing to protect the essential diversity in the natural world would cost billions, creating global repercussions of disease, hunger, poverty and diminished resilience to climate change.
"It doesn't have to be humans versus nature, it can be humans and nature," ecologist Greg Asner, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But to do that well, you have to know where the biodiversity is, what its condition is and how it's changing so that you can work with it...The answer rests in where and how you place that development. Imagine a future where we could map out the biodiversity of the planet every two weeks and understand it, see it changing and engage governments," he said.

Arms Control - What went wrong?

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Four years ago, the U.S. and the UK signed a landmark treaty to restrict the sale of arms to rights abusers. So why are they still profiting off the atrocities in Yemen?


On April 2, 2013  the UN General Assembly adopted a new treaty establishing “the highest possible common standards” for regulating the “international trade in conventional arms.”

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was variously described as a “landmark agreement” (by British Prime Minister David Cameron), “ground-breaking” (by Oxfam), and “a direct win that will help save thousands of lives” (by Amnesty International).

What went wrong?

Article Six of the ATT declares that a state should not transfer conventional arms if it has knowledge “that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.”

No fewer than 19 state parties and three signatories continue to export “arms, ammunition parts, and components to Saudi Arabia” despite “mounting evidence” of war crimes. Britain and the United States have led the way.

In April 2014, Britain ratified the ATT, with the government promising that it would build on the UK’s “robust” licensing regulations. Britain licensed $3.7 billion worth of arms sales in the first year of the Saudi air campaign, the United Nations documented 119 Saudi-led sorties violating international humanitarian law, including airstrikes on targets such as refugee camps, weddings, buses, medical facilities, schools, and mosques. At the same time, as the director of Physicians for Human Rights has put it, the Saudi-led coalition has sought to “weaponize” disease by imposing a harsh blockade which has deepened Yemen’s cholera and malnutrition crises.

In May 2017, President Trump sealed the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia, helping the State Department to set an all-time record for arms sales in the 2017 fiscal year.

Yet President Obama — who signed the ATT and attempted to get it through Congress — was if anything even more complicit in the destruction of Yemen, providing the Saudis with almost unquestioned support from March 2015, when the bombing started, to the end of his second term.

During the Obama era, Human Rights Watch cited numerous examples of U.S.-produced weapons striking civilian targets in Yemen, including a March 2016 attack on Mastaba market, which killed at least 97 civilians, and an October 2016 attack on a funeral hall which killed over 100. By the time he left office, President Obama had “overseen more sales of military weaponry than any other president,” Mother Jones reports. Saudi Arabia was among the top five customers.

With such obvious disregard of its core principles, the Arms Trade Treaty is looking toothless. Critics anticipated this in 2013, pointing to the treaty’s lack of proper enforcement mechanisms. This is a charge that can be made against all international treaties, which ultimately rely on the actions of self-interested and often duplicitous governments.

There’s a deeper problem with the ATT: its insistence on distinguishing between the “legitimate” and “illicit” arms trade. The treaty pledges to “eradicate” the latter, while protecting the former.

Although the black-market gun runner makes for a good movie plot, the biggest and most lethal arms dealers are governments. Legal sanctions don’t make a missile less deadly — as any Yemeni will tell you.

 Twenty-six countries legally sold weapons to both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, as the two countries nearly bled each other to death.

 And — at least according to the UK high court — there’s nothing illegal about selling weapons to the Saudi regime as it crushes its far poorer neighbor.

This Land is OUR Land

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 10 US national monuments are in the Trump administration’s sights to be either resized or repurposed, in order to allow activities such as mining, logging and grazing within their borders. 


Bears Ears

Designated in December 2016 by Barack Obama, Bears Ears national monument is a 1.35m-acre expanse of mesas, buttes and Native American archaeological sites that sprawls across south-eastern Utah. Its many splendors include a series of stunning rock bridges as well as the aptly named Grand Gulch, an intricate canyon system thick with thousand-year-old ruins.

Grand Staircase-Escalante

1.9m acres, south-central Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante was set aside by Bill Clinton in 1996 and is the largest terrestrial national monument in the US. It contains a series of gigantic plateaus and cliffs, the Grand Staircase, as well as a string of deep gorges known as the Escalante River Canyons.

Cascade-Siskiyou

The first national monument established solely to protect its rich biodiversity, Clinton deemed the Cascade-Siskiyou an “ecological wonderland” when he protected it at about 52,000 acres in 2000. 

Gold Butte

Covering nearly 300,000 acres of remote desert north-east of Las Vegas, the Gold Butte monument was created by Obama in December 2016. Its chiseled red sandstone towers, canyons and mountains contain a treasure trove of rock art and are an important habitat for species such as the Mojave desert tortoise, bighorn sheep and the mountain lion.

Katahdin Woods and Waters

Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt’s Bees cosmetics, and her foundation purchased tracts of land in the northern reaches of Maine with the purpose of creating a national park. When this plan was opposed by various state and federal politicians, Obama stepped in to create a 87,000-acre national monument, dominated by mountains and lush forests.

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts

Another Obama creation, the marine monument was designated in September 2016 and sits off the New England coast. The area was protected to safeguard an ecosystem of deep-sea corals, three species of whale and an endangered species of sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

A huge monument, spanning nearly 500,000 acres and proclaimed in May 2014. There are several hundred known archaeological sites in this mountainous stretch of New Mexico, including some of the earliest-known native American settlements. In the 1960s, US astronauts used the area to train for lunar missions.

Pacific Remote Islands

Declared by President George W Bush in 2009 and expanded by Obama in 2014, the monument covers 480,000 square miles in marine areas to the south and west of Hawaii. The scattered reserve contains rare birds, trees, and grasses as well as largely untouched coral reefs.

Rio Grande Del Norte

Found at an average elevation of 7,000ft, this New Mexico monument was created in 2013. The area is riddled with volcanic cones, with the Rio Grande flowing through an 800ft gorge in the layers of volcanic basalt flows and ash. The monument has several archaeological sites and is considered a key wildlife corridor for migrating animals.

Rose Atoll

The enormous 8.5m acre monument in the south Pacific was declared by Bush in January 2009. Rare petrels, shearwaters and terns are found there, as well as giant clams, reef sharks and rose-coloured corals. It is considered by the Fish & Wildlife Service as the most important seabird habitat in the region.

Robotics - the optimistic report

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Four million jobs in the British private sector could be replaced by robots in the next decade, according to business leaders asked about the future of automation and artificial intelligence.
The potential impact amounts to 15% of the current workforce in the sector.
Jobs in finance and accounting, transport and distribution and in media, marketing and advertising are most likely to be automated in the next decade, the research says.
The Royal Society of Arts prediction of the impact of robotics on working lives is lower than some other estimates. Four years ago, academics at the University of Oxford predicted 35% of jobs could be rendered obsolete by new technology, while the Bank of England predicted in 2015 that up to 15m jobs in Britain were at risk from robots “hollowing out” the workforce.
The RSA is also more optimistic about the potential of robots and artificial intelligence than US tech billionaire Elon Musk, who has said AI was “the scariest problem” and “our biggest existential threat” because, he predicts, they will be able to do everything better than humans.
Research by the University of Oxford and Deloitte last year predicted more than 850,000 public sector jobs could be lost by 2030 through automation.
Asda operates a fully automated distribution warehouse in west London; white-collar tasks are being automated by PwC, the accountancy firm, and Linklaters, the law firm, which have been developing software robots that use artificial intelligence to learn to do research tasks usually undertaken by junior accountants and lawyers. Care homes are also trialling robots. One in Lincoln plans to use one to help residents remember daily necessities such as taking medication. The robot will also monitor their movements and habits as a nurse would. A care company in London, Three Sisters Home Care, will soon trial the use of robots for lifting people so only one care worker will be needed rather than two.
The RSA warns that artificial intelligence and robotics will “undoubtedly cause the loss of some jobs, whether it is autonomous vehicles pushing taxi drivers out of business or picking and packing robots usurping warehouse workers”. But it argues that new technologies could phase out mundane jobs, raise productivity levels and so deliver higher wages and “allow workers to concentrate on more human-centric roles that are beyond the reach of machines”.
The report also warns that increasing automation could deepen economic inequality and “demographic biases could become further entrenched”. It argues that to avoid this policymakers should take control of the development of the technology by creating an ethical framework to guide the behaviour of AI and to encourage investment in “benevolent technology that enriches the worker experience”.
It found that business leaders largely believed that new technologies were more likely to alter jobs rather than eliminate them. Benedict Dellot, the author of the report, said “AI and robotics could solve some of the gaps and problems in the labour market with low-paid, dull, dirty, dangerous jobs that nobody really wants to fill,” Dellot said. “The technology has the potential to fundamentally improve productivity levels in the UK.”
The prediction that millions of jobs will be lost to robots led the Trades Union Congress to warn against “shredding good jobs”.
“The UK must make the most of the economic opportunities that new technologies offer,” said Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC. “Robots and AI could let us produce more for less, boosting national prosperity. But we need to talk about who benefits – and how workers get a fair share. The productivity gains must be used to improve pay and conditions for workers.”

London Kids and Air Pollution

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Tens of thousands of the poorest children in London are facing a cocktail of health risks including air pollution, obesity and poverty that will leave them with lifelong health problems, according to a new report.
The study found that schools in the capital worst affected by the UK’s air pollution crisis were also disproportionately poor, with high levels of obesity.
Saul Billingsley, from the FIA Foundation, an international environmental and road safety charity which carried out the study, said: “Children from some of London’s most socially deprived areas are not only affected by unacceptable levels of air pollution around their schools, they also face compounding health risks.”
The report found:
  • 85% of the schools most affected by air pollution have pupils that come from deprived neighbourhoods
  • Almost nine in 10 of the secondary schools most affected had levels of obesity higher than the London average
  • 86% of worst affected primary schools were in catchment areas with lower than average car ownership
  • Jonathan Grigg, professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said the health consequences for these children could be “very serious”.
    “This is going to have major consequences not just in childhood but over the whole of the life course.” Professor Grigg, a founding member of the Doctors Against Diesel campaign group, said children from disadvantaged backgrounds often did have access to green spaces but when they did go outside, they were more likely to be breathing dangerously polluted air.
    “This is a dangerous combination of factors … childhood is a critical time in terms of health. Children should have the right to breathe air that does not cause them harm.”
  • Pollution from diesel traffic causes 23,500 of the 40,000 premature deaths each year attributed to air pollution, with young people particularly vulnerable, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

When the halo falls

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Amnesty International has accused Aung San Suu Kyi and her government of "burying their heads in the sand" and telling "untruths" over what it described as ethnic cleansing of minority Rohingya Muslims in Burma. 
The charity has denounced the Nobel Prize Laureate over her response to the crisis which has seen at least 400,000 members of the Muslim ethnic minority flee to Bangladesh to escape a brutal crackdown by the military.
Reports have emerged of mass rape and murder by the armed forces and mobs of Buddhist ethnic majority villagers in the western Rakhine state in what the United Nations has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". 
Suu Kyi defended her country from international criticism and said "more than half" of  Rohingya villages were not affected by the violence and invited diplomats and foreign observers to visit them to see "why they are not at each other's throats in these particular areas".
James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said: "Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming. There is overwhelming evidence that security forces are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces in this. Aung San Suu Kyi’s claims that her government 'does not fear international scrutiny' ring hollow. Myanmar has repeatedly said it will not co-operate with the UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission established earlier this year. If Myanmar has nothing to hide, it should allow UN investigators into the country, including Rakhine State. The government must also urgently allow humanitarian actors full and unfettered access to all areas and people in need in the region."  Gomez said the Rohingya had been "trapped in a cycle of abuse and derivation for decades" and were "essentially segregated in Rakhine State, effectively denied citizenship and face severe barriers in accessing health care and other basic services".

Our Hot Planet

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Hurricane Harvey drowned south Texas in a year's worth of rain in just a few days, it left behind an estimated $150 billion in damage to sodden homes and inundated factories and claimed about 60 lives. Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma hit Florida, killing at least 33 people there and causing billions more in damages - as well as brutal loss of life in the Caribbean. But these storms may not be 2017's deadliest U.S. disaster. Instead, that title may go to a largely unseen killer: rising temperatures.
Over the last 30 years, increasingly broiling summer heat has claimed more American lives than flooding, tornadoes or hurricanes, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. And the problem has not been limited to the United States. More than 35,000 people died during a European heatwave in 2003, and tens of thousands perished in Russia during extreme heat in 2010.
Experts say heat remains underestimated as a threat by governments, aid agencies, and individuals. That's both because it's an invisible, hard-to-document disaster that claims lives largely behind closed doors - and because hot weather just doesn't strike many people as a serious threat.
"If you have a natural disaster like a cyclone or an earthquake or a flood, the impacts are immediate. Things get washed away, people drown. But heat is a silent killer," said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate change researcher at Australia's University of New South Wales. "In Australia, heatwaves kill more people than any other natural disaster - but no one realises the destruction they can cause. The attitude is, 'It's hot, suck it up, get on with it'."
Around the world, heat is a neglected and poorly understood disaster, in part because few of the deaths it produces are directly attributed to heatwaves. Victims - many elderly, very young, poor or already unhealthy - often die at home, and not just of heat stroke but of existing health problems aggravated by heat and dehydration. In India, for instance, a major risk factor for women - who die of heat far more often than men, researchers say - is the lack of an indoor toilet. To avoid embarrassment or harassment, many women refrain from drinking water during the day to limit their trips to the toilet - a potentially deadly strategy during heatwaves.
"These deaths are recorded as normal deaths. But they wouldn't have happened if it wasn't so hot," said Gulrez Shah Azhar, an Indian heat researcher who works for the RAND Corporation, a global think tank.
To find the true rate of deaths during heatwaves, health officials look at "excess" deaths - how many more people died than would otherwise be expected during that period.
In places used to dealing with hot conditions, there is a "diagnostics failure" in recognising the risks of extreme heat, noted Eric Klinenberg, an American sociologist and expert on a deadly 1995 Chicago heatwave.
In steamy cities like Miami, "there's a sense we know how to deal with heat here, while everybody else is complaining", he said. "There's a will not to see the risk."
City dwellers, from Bangkok to Cairo, face particular - and growing - risks. In many rural areas, trees and open land planted with crops help daytime heat subside at night, providing some respite.
But in cities, acres of concrete and asphalt absorb warmth during the day and radiate it back at night, creating heat islands that can be nearly as hot at night as during the day.
During Chicago's three-day heatwave in 1995, more than 730 people died, many of them older people living alone and already facing health problems. With city services overwhelmed, hospitals turned away emergency cases, and the city's morgue had to rent refrigerated trucks to store the dead.
With more than half the world's population now living in cities - and two-thirds of people expected to live in them by 2050 - finding ways to reduce urban heat will be crucial to saving lives as climate change ramps up heat extremes.
India alone has 300 million people without a power connection, which means they cannot turn on a fan or air conditioning when temperatures soar. In New Delhi, some of the poorest of the poor, living on the streets, sleep near the curb of busy roads at night, hoping to catch a breeze from passing cars.
When Azhar was growing up in the Indian city of Lucknow, in a home without electricity, "there was no escape" from debilitating summer heatwaves. "You're trapped and there is literally nothing you can do," he said.
Experts say one clear way to reduce growing health risks from heatwaves is to provide more of the world's population with access to power, particularly in the hottest areas.
"The best way to mitigate (heat deaths) is to get electricity" to run fans or air conditioning, said Steven J. Davis, a University of California, Irvine earth system science professor and one of the authors of a 2017 report that predicted a growing risk of widespread deaths during Indian heatwaves.
Global efforts, including as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, to bring power to those without it could play a significant role in reducing heat deaths, experts say. But if action to curb climate change is not robust enough, heatwaves could more often overwhelm or breakdown power grids, leaving rich and poor without help to cool down, they warn.
Despite an international agreement to curb climate change reached in Paris in 2015, cuts in the use of fossil fuels around the world are not yet ambitious enough to meet the accord's goal of keeping warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Instead the world is on a path towards at least 3 to 4 degrees Celsius of warming by the turn of the century, scientists say.
"How is the global community going to respond to that?" Ibrahim asked. "Are we just going to accept millions of deaths? We do now around drought, but will we do that around heat exhaustion? And how are we going to manage the migration flows? We are not at all prepared globally for the big numbers that will be affected," she said.
An analysis by Climate Central, a U.S. non-profit science and media organisation, found that Houston by 2030 is likely to face "heat danger days" - when combined heat and humidity make temperatures feel like 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) - 110 days a year. Miami will face 126 such days each year by 2030, it noted.
"A one-off every now and then we can recover from," said Perkins-Kirkpatrick. "But we'll be seeing this almost every summer in the next 40 or 50 years. We need to do something about it."

UK - Morally Repugnant

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The Government has been forced to repeatedly defend the trade amid evidence of war crimes and civilian deaths in Yemen, where Saudi-led bombardment is worsening a hunger crisis and cholera epidemic. Evidence found at the scene of massacres suggests some were carried out by British-made weapons, including Raytheon’s laser-guided Paveway IV smart bomb, which is manufactured in Fife. In two years of civil war in Yemen, an estimated 1,300 children have been killed and 2,000 more injured, with 212 schools attacked and medical facilities destroyed and millions at risk of famine and cholera.

British arms companies have earned more than £6bn from their trade with Saudi Arabia during the ongoing war in Yemen, new research has found.

The charity, War Child UK, accused private manufacturers including BAE Systems and Raytheon of “profiteering from the deaths of innocent children” by selling missiles and equipment to the Saudi-led coalition. Rocco Blume, a conflict and humanitarian advisor at War Child, said Britain is not only selling arms to Saudi forces but assisting with the maintenance of them as well.
War Child said there was a disparity between the economic benefit to the British public versus the profit for private firms inside the arms industry, which is estimated at almost £600m.
A spokesperson said: “Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia generated just £13m in corporation tax in 2016, yet during 2017, the UK will spend £139m in humanitarian aid to Yemen. This means the Treasury is spending over four times in aid what it is getting back in tax.”
But Rob Williams, the CEO of War Child UK, said it was “morally repugnant that the UK government is allowing companies to make killer profits from the deaths of innocent children. Thousands of children have died and millions more are at risk,” he added. “The British Government is shamefully complicit in their suffering and justifies it with promises of economic prosperity, which this report embarrassingly discredits.”

Modern Slavery

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An estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016, a quarter of them children, according to new global slavery statistics from the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation.
 24.9 million people across the world were trapped in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage last year. Children account for 10 million of the overall 40.3m total.
The 2017 Estimates of Modern Slavery report calculates that of 24.9 million victims of forced labour, 16 million are thought to be in the private economy, 4.8 million in forced sexual exploitation and 4.1 million in state-sponsored forced labour including mandatory military conscription and agricultural work.
“What is startling about these new estimates is the sheer scale of the modern slave trade and the fact that we have 40 million people across the world in some form of modern slavery is simply not acceptable,” said Fiona David, executive director of global research at the Walk Free Foundation. “When you have 24.9 million people working under threat or coercion in farming, fishing and construction or in the sex industry and yet according to the United Nations only 63,000 victims of slavery were reported to the authorities last year, the gulf between the problem and the insufficient global response becomes very clear.”
Many forced labourers reported violence or threat, the majority of them are exploited through debt bondage and non-payment of wages.
“We found that 50% of the 24.9m people in forced labour are in debt bondage, often arriving at a job with high recruitment debts to pay off or forced to take a job to pay off debt and with 7% of forced labourers saying their employers are forcing them to pay fines while at work,” said Michaëlle de Cock, senior statistician at the ILO. “How forced labour affects the whole family is also very clear with 18% of male forced labourers surveyed saying that their employers directly threatened their families or children.”
These figures are a marked increase from the ILO’s previous estimates of 21 million people in forced labour worldwide. The ILO and Walk Free attribute the rise to better reporting and research methodologies and the inclusion of forced marriage as a form of modern slavery.
“It isn’t clear why forced marriage has often been overlooked as a form of slavery in data reporting,” said David. “If you have a situation where someone is sold into marriage and is providing free domestic labour and has no sexual autonomy, then when you take the label of marriage away from this situation it’s often nothing less than slavery and we need to shine a light on this so that people can see it for what it is.”

UNIMPEACHIBLE BEHAVIOUR? (weekly poem)

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UNIMPEACHIBLE BEHAVIOUR?

President Trump continues on his high-handed way
to alienate many people during his period of office.

A President without a clue,
On his high-handed way;
Who’s full of praise for cronies who,
He'll sack the coming day!

A monarch who tweets the inane,
Contemptuous of all;
Who's reign could well be on the wane,
To an impeachment fall.

There's Senate and Congressional,
Investigations on;
A leader who's obsessional--
A Mafia-type Don.

And then there is another row,
That haunts the USA;
The Viet Nam War was then but now,
The Yemen of today. (1)

Arms contracts with the Saudis seem, (2)
To be worth more than lives;
The US war machine's regime, (3)
Is how God's nation thrives.

So folk in the 'democracies',
That make up all the West;
Just think of Trump’s hypocrisies,
And all those he’s oppressed.

(1) Both Britain and the US are selling weapons to Saudi Arabia
which are being used to kill thousands of civilians in the Yemen.

(2) Trump recently visited Saudi Arabia to sell $120m worth
of arms in exchange for the Saudis investing $200m in the US.

(3) America spends more on armaments than Russia, China and
all the other nations of the European Union put together. Its Air
Force uses between one third and half of all the world's jet fuel.

© Richard Layton

Another sign of the housing crises

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A National Housing Federation report highlights how money spent on housing benefit rose from £16.6bn in the mid-1990s to £25.1bn in 2015-16.
It added that since 2011, no government money has been made available to build homes in England for low paid people to rent.
The federation, which represents housing associations and social landlords, says housing someone in a private rented property costs £21 a week more than housing them in a social rent property, on average.
Its chief executive David Orr said. "We know we need more, better quality social housing. And yet, rather than putting public money into building the homes we need, we are propping up rents in a failing market."
The report pointed out that after the government decided to halt the funding of social rented housing in 2011, the building of such properties fell from 36,000 to 3,000 the next year. This was despite the fact that there are more than a million families on housing waiting lists, the report said. The report concluded: "Not only is it more expensive to house someone in the private rented sector than social housing, but none of that money increases the supply of new homes. "Social landlords do reinvest in new homes, building a third of all new homes last year including for social rent from their own funds, but the same does not happen in the private rented sector."

Monday, September 18, 2017

The US Black/White Divide

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Despite a supposedly more enlightened and inclusive society than we saw in the 1970s, the economic situation in black households has worsened

The wage gap is growing between black and white Americans, and today, the gap is the widest it's been in 40 years. 

In 1979, the average black man in America earned about 80% of the average white man ($15 versus $19 per hour). By 2016, this gap had grown such that the average black male worker earned just 70% of the hourly wage of the average white male worker.

In 1979, the average black woman earned about 95% of the average white woman. But nearly continuous divergence in earnings since that time has opened a more sizable gap; in 2016, the average black woman earned about 82% of what the average white woman earned.

The Golden Passports

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The government of Cyprus has raised more than €4bn since 2013 by providing citizenship to the super rich, granting them the right to live and work throughout Europe in exchange for cash investment. More than 400 passports are understood to have been issued through this scheme last year alone.

Launched in 2013, Cyprus’ current citizenship-by-investment scheme requires applicants to place €2m in property or €2.5m in companies or government bonds. There is no language or residency requirement, other than a visit once every seven years.

The US Oligarchy of Plutocrats

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Many of today’s super-rich never did a day's work in their lives. Six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive today are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.
Rich millennials will soon acquire even more of the nation’s wealth.

America is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate and then leave the bulk of them—which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable—to their own heirs, tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation's wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand families. It puts economic power into the hands of a very small number of people who have never worked, but whose investment decisions will have a significant effect on the nation's future. It creates a self-perpetuating capitalist aristocracy. 

The estate tax applies only to estates over $11 million per couple. And wealthy families stash away dollars above this into "dynastic" trust funds that escape additional taxes.

If the wealthy hold on to assets such as stocks, bonds, mansions, and works of art until they die, the tax code allows their heirs to inherit them without paying any capital gains taxes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this loophole saves heirs $50 billion a year.

The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.


Meet North London Branch

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Thursday, 21 September  - 8:00pm
Thursday, 19 October  - 8:00pm
Thursday, 16 November  - 8:00pm
Thursday, 21 December  - 8:00pm
Venue: Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Avenue. NW5 2RX

The Socialist Party's aim is to persuade fellow-workers to become socialist and act for themselves, organizing democratically and without leaders to get rid of the profit system and establish real socialism. Over the years the Socialist Party has seen hard times and good ones; we have seen many so-called working class parties rise and fall. It is a tribute to our members that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is still in existence.

Class consciousness was never more needed than now.  Today humanity lives under a shadow without precedent. The working people of the world have it in their hands to end poverty, fear, hatred environmental destruction, and war.  For the Socialist Party, class consciousness is the breaking-down of all barriers to understanding. Without it, militancy means nothing. The conflict between the classes is more than a struggle for each to gain from the other: it is the division which reaches across all others. Class-conscious work ers knows where they stand in society. Their interests are opposed at every point to those of the capitalist class; their cause can only be the cause of revolution for the abolishing of classes. Without that understanding, militancy can mean little. It is not mere preamble that the Socialist Party's principles open by stating the class division in capitalism: it is the all important basis from which the rest must follow.

The Socialist Party’s proposition is the only practical one. Class-conscious people need no leaders. The single, simple fact which all working people have to learn is that capitalism causes capitalism's problems so that the remedy – the only remedy – is to abolish capitalism. In that knowledge they must take hold of the powers of government – for one purpose only: that the rule of class by class shall end. Socialism is not a benevolently-administered capitalism: it is a different social system. Reform is no answer, even though at times – rare times – it benefits working people. From the beginning, the Socialist Party has been intractable in its opposition to reformists. Working class action, in fact, must be revolutionary. That is the real message for people all over the world. The workers of Britain have common cause with the workers of every other country. They are members of an international class, faced with the same problems, holding the same interests once they are conscious of them. There is only one way of realizing those interests: the immense productive powers of the world must become the common property of every man, woman, and child.


The need for socialism grows more urgent each day. It awaits the conscious will of the workers of the world, and nothing more; when they desire it, it can be. In the clamour of rivalry between factions and nations, the voice of the socialist is a small one, but it must be heard. Exploitation and conflict must be ended; the catastrophe of worker killing worker must be prevented.  There are many who are with us but not of us. The struggle for socialism is a long and arduous one, needing the help of every class-conscious man and woman. We urge the need to work for socialism within the Socialist Party. To spread socialist understanding is the great task of our time: every fresh adherent to the Socialist Party principles is another step towards the emancipation of mankind.




The joke's on him

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Hat-tip DarenO

Fight the Right with right on your side

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Some seek to stop the growth of right-wing, neo-fascist white supremacist hate-group ideas by fists and boots, hoping to restrict them from being expressed. Attacking such a strategy as being counter-productive and anti-democratic risks socialists being accused of being apologists to racists.

  This article by Janet Contrusi on Dissident Voice came to the attention of SOYMB blog and it is well worth a read. 

Some extracts

"First, as a tactic violence can, at best, bring short-term gains, but those have to be weighed against long-term consequences. In other words, we don’t want to win the battle but lose the war."

"Violence, it seems, provided free publicity for the fascists...And the fascists were quick to make the best of their notoriety. They cast themselves in the role of victim and hammered home the charge that the Left was interfering with their right to free speech and assembly."

"What does work [is] swamping their propaganda with truth. This requires a long-term organizing strategy beyond the occasional demonstration or peace march"