Monday, November 24, 2014

The Double(Whopper) Whammy

Not only do 805 million people go to bed hungry every day, with one-third of global food production (1.3 billion tons each year) being wasted, there is another scenario that reflects the nutrition paradox even more starkly: two billion people are affected by micronutrients deficiencies while 500 million individuals suffer from obesity.

The double burden of malnutrition is a situation where overweight and obesity exist side by side with under-nutrition in the same country”, according to Anna Lartey, FAO’s Nutrition Director. “And we are seeing it in lots of the countries that are developing economically.”

“While under-nutrition still kills almost 1.5 million women and children every year, growing rates of overweight and obesity worldwide are driving rising diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes”, Francesco Branca, Director of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organisation (WHO), explained

Flavio Valente, who represented civil society organisations at the Second International Conference on Nutrition remarked that “the current hegemonic food system and agro-industrial production model are not only unable to respond to the existing malnutrition problems but have contributed to the creation of different forms of malnutrition and the decrease of the diversity and quality of our diets.”

This position was shared by many speakers, who stressed the negative impact that advertising of unhealthy food has, mainly on children. According to a participant from Chile, calling obesity a non-communicable disease is misleading, because it spreads through the media system very effectively. Chile, a country where 60 percent of people suffer from over-nutrition and one obese person dies every hour,  currently risks being brought before the World Trade Organisation by multinational food companies for its commitment to protect public health by regulating the advertising of certain food.

Wot Recovery?

 “We are concerned that the economic recovery we face will still have so many people living in poverty." - Julia Unwin, Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive.

Young adults and people in work are now more likely to be in poverty in Britain following a huge increase in insecure employment such as zero hours contracts, an influential study warns today. The study, conducted on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by the New Policy Institute, found that while employment was close to a historic high, millions of Britons were struggling to cope with a reality of insecure work and incomes which have fallen on average by 9 per cent in the five years to 2013.

The JRF says as many people in working families as in unemployed ones now live in poverty, after a decade of labour market upheaval which means a job is no longer a guarantee of an end to poverty. Half of all people in poverty now live in a family with someone in paid work, with some 40 per cent of adults in employment now also in poverty. Its annual report says the rise of part-time work and low-paid self-employment has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the number of under-25s living below the breadline as they struggle to cope with falling incomes, poor prospects and high costs from housing to food.

A lack of affordable housing also means those living in poverty are now as likely to be in private, usually rented, accommodation – at higher risk of eviction and homelessness – as in local authority or social housing. Some 13 million people in the UK are classified as living in relative poverty – meaning their household income is below 60 per cent of the average. The reliance of many on private rented accommodation with insecure tenancies means that the number of landlord repossessions – 17,000 – is now higher than mortgage repossessions – 15,000.

The prevalence of zero hours contracts – of which there are now some 1.4 million – and part-time work has contributed to a situation where two-thirds of people who moved from unemployment into work in the past year are being paid less than the living wage – the amount needed to cover basic costs of living. Many are also effectively trapped in low-paid work, with only 20 per cent of employees having left that income bracket after a decade in employment. The average self-employed person now earns 13 per cent less than they did five years ago. The report found that without tackling core problems such as low pay and the high price of essentials, in particular housing, poverty would not diminish. The failure of wages to keep pace with costs means the number of working people claiming housing benefit is rising while average hourly pay has fallen in five years from £13.90 to £12.90 for men and from £10.80 to £10.30 for women.

The study also found that claimants of jobseeker’s allowance are now more likely to be punished for not attending the Government’s welfare-to-work programme than to find employment through it.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “This comprehensive analysis paints a bleak picture. Families have long been told by politicians that work is the answer but are finding that it isn’t. As long as the only work they get is insecure and low paid, they will continue to face hardship and financial misery.”

The nationalist state

 Arab Muslims and Christians make up 20% of Israel’s population but now a bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet but still requires the Knesset’s approval to become a law. The new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist. The bill is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.

According to many critics, the new wording would weaken the wording of Israel’s declaration of independence, which states that the new state would “be based on the principles of liberty, justice and freedom expressed by the prophets of Israel [and] affirm complete social and political equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”. The new law would effectively give greater emphasis to Israel’s Jewish character at the expense of its democratic nature. A number of Israeli basic laws use the term “Jewish and democratic”, giving equal weight to both. The new law would enshrine only the Jewish character of the state.

Among those to voice their opposition was the finance minister, Yair Lapid, who said he had spoken to the family of Zidan Saif, a Druze policeman killed in last week’s deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. “What will we tell his family? That he is a second-class citizen in the state of Israel...”

From here 

The Food War

The accountancy firm Moore Stephens said supermarkets are squeezing producers in order to cut check-out prices and boost profits. This year 146 food producers have entered insolvency, up from 114 last year. Moore Stephens said the rise in food producer insolvencies was in contrast to the 8% fall in company liquidations generally in the 12 months to the end of September.

Tough competition in the supermarket sector has intensified with the rise of discounters such as Lidl and Aldi.

Duncan Swift, a partner at the firm, said: "The supermarkets are going through the bloodiest price war in nearly two decades and are using food producers as the cannon fodder. Supermarkets have engaged in questionable buying practices for years, but it's getting worse and clearly wreaking havoc on the UK food production sector." Despite being squeezed, food producers are reluctant to speak out, Mr Swift said. "The fear of losing business from supermarkets means that food producers rarely - if ever - complain about clear breaches of agreed industry standards. That means there is no check on the highly aggressive buying practices of the supermarkets."


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Socialists confront Mr Tony Benn

From the January 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tony Benn may be the next Labour Prime Minister of Great Britain. Almost alone among the Labour leaders, sunk in a gloom as they are after their party's defeat last May, he offers a plan for Labour's future, with an optimism that they will one day once again get power over British capitalism.

So we were surprised when he agreed to be interviewed by the Socialist Standard about his policies and attitudes as he expresses them in his recent book Arguments for Socialism. Defenders of capitalism are notoriously difficult to persuade to match their case against ours. The interview (which Tony Benn preferred to call a debate) lasted an hour and our published account of it has needed to be abridged.

In truth, Benn's plan for Labour's revival is little more than a paper thin assumption that, with a few constitutional changes, his party will be able basically to alter its nature. It will, he hopes, be able to throw off its past as a party which has run capitalism firmly in the interests of the capitalist class and begin to run society in the interests of the majority. There is no evidence to support this assumption; indeed after every electoral failure Labour tries to bolster its confidence by telling itself, and us, that it can and will change.

Benn's political ideas are basically that if there are enough small reforms imposed upon capitalism the system will, in a way which has yet to be explained, suddenly stop being capitalism and become socialism. In the case of Benn, even this shaky argument might have been a little stronger if he had been able to give any idea of what socialism is or even to know whether the Labour Party stood for socialism.

He claims that reforming capitalism is "doing something", as opposed to socialists who are "pure" and "impotent". This is a familiar, not to say exhausted, argument - one which continues to exist only because those. like Benn, who put it forward do so by ignoring reality and experience.

The working class have had plenty of time to become familiar with Labour governments and with Labour politicians who - no matter what the effect of their anti-working class policies, no matter how obvious their failures to eliminate capitalism 's problems tirelessly assure us that a vote for Labour is a vote for a better society. This, again, flies in the face of reality.

One final point. Benn, as we have said, is a leading politician But his justifications for capitalism, and his objections to the principles of revolutionary socialism which are uncompromisingly put forward by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, were exactly the same as those we confront all the time, wherever we are and whenever we state the case for the new society of common ownership.

TransCanada's Propaganda Plan - Leaked

Internal strategy documents prepared by a public relations firm on behalf of Canadian pipeline giant TransCanada reveal details of an enormous and well-organized effort by the oil industry to neutralized the transnational grassroots movement which has grown up around the industry's effort to expand tar sands mining and the building of huge infrastructure projects designed to get "the world's dirtest fuel" to market.

Obtained by Greenpeace and given to The Guardian newspaper, the documents show that TransCanada—which has proposed building a pipeline called Energy East to bring tar sands from Alberta to New Brusnwick through the largest such pipeline ever built—is aligned with other oil and gas companies placing serious resources of time, money, and personnel into countering the growing climate justice movement which has so far successfully delayed building the Keystone XL pipelein and affirmed its commitment to stopping similar projects in the name of fighting global warming and the resulting threat of climate change.

"These tactics are as dirty as the oil the pipeline would transport," said Mark Calzavara of Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut regional organizer with the Council of Canadians, one of the groups named in the corporate documents.
"Filling Energy East would mean the climate pollution equivalent to adding 7 million cars to our roads. It threatens over 1000 waterways along the route with a devastating diluted bitumen spill."

Read the complete strategy document here (pdf).

from here

Anti-Union Employer's Campaign Just Failed

If you’d like a sense of what a boss’s campaign to try to destroy a union looks like in the 21st century, take a look at a recent NLRB decision against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

On Friday, November 15, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the UPMC has engaged in a series of discriminatory practices against workers who have been trying to organize a union since 2012.
In the wide-ranging 123-page decision, one can see how a sophisticated anti-union campaign is run. The decision outlines in detail how the multi-billion dollar Pittsburgh hospital chain repeatedly violated the law in order to sow fear of organizing. Employees were surveilled and photographed, interrogated and threatened with discipline and arrest. Four were fired.  The decision also found that UPMC helped create and support a “company union”- an employer-dominated labor organization - in violation of federal law.

With more than 20 hospitals, 400 outpatient sites, more than 62,000 employees, and a health insurance division that had $10 billion in operating revenue in 2013, UPMC is the largest private sector employer in Pennsylvania.

In 2012, the nonclinical support staff at two of UPMC’s hospitals began an organizing campaign through the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which would include approximately 3,500 workers. The employer began violating workers’ rights almost immediately, launching an anti-union campaign that often straddled the line between legal and illegal.

In addition to the captive audience meetings that have become a standard (and legal) anti-union practice - in which the employer explains in no uncertain terms that it is against the employees organizing - UPMC sought to create an environment of fear and intimidation. The hospital chain posted a document on its internal website called “UPMC Cares,” which contained sections such as “Why Unions Aren’t Necessary.”

When the organizing drive began, UPMC placed screensavers on employees’ computers throughout the hospital which scrolled through anti-union messages such as “You can say NO to the SEIU. It’s your right”; as one walked around the hospital, idle computers displayed in all caps, “NO” and “SEIU.”
Though these practices are technically legal, employees cannot miss the overwhelming message that their employer does not agree with their right to unionize. The judge found that while the behavior was legal, it was proof of the employer’s open opposition to the union, which provided context for the other illegal activity that the company engaged in like firings as a result of union activity.

read more here

We need a farmers' revolution

Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world's farmland and produce 80% of the world's food. But on the ground - whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain - rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land. All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture and it's justified by the need to 'feed the world'. The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world's farmland - or 17% if you leave out China and India. GRAIN's report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast. How, then, can FAO claim that family farms occupy 70 to 80% of the world's farmland? In the same report, FAO claims that only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world's farmland, a figure much more in line with GRAIN's findings.

What is a 'family farm'? The FAO roughly define them as any farm managed by an individual or a household. Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO's count of 'family farms'. As would be, the sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country's battle for agrarian reform since decades. Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in. It allows FAO to paint a rosy picture and conveniently ignore perhaps the most crucial factor affecting the capacity of small farmers to produce food: lack of access to land.

Small food producers' access to land is shrinking due a range of forces. One is that because of population pressure, farms are getting divided up amongst family members. Another is the vertiginous expansion of monoculture plantations. In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares - the size of almost all the farmland in India - has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. And this trend is accelerating. In the next few decades, experts predict that the global area planted to oil palm will double, while the soybean area will grow by a third. These crops don't feed people. They are grown to feed the agro-industrial complex. Other pressures pushing small food producers off their land include the runaway plague of large-scale land grabs by corporate interests. In the last few years alone, according to the World Bank, some 60 million hectares of fertile farmland have been leased, on a long-term basis, to foreign investors and local elites, mostly in the global South. While some of this is for energy production, a big part of it is to produce food commodities for the global market, instead of family farming for local communities’ needs. Much of what the small family farmer produces doesn't enter into trade statistics - but it does reach those who need it most: the rural and urban poor.

Despite having so little land, small producers are feeding the planet, is that small farms are often more productive than large ones. If the yields achieved by Kenya's small farmers were matched by the country's large-scale operations, the country's agricultural output would double. In Central America, the region's food production would triple. If Russia's big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six. According to one UN study, active policies supporting small producers and agro-ecological farming methods could double global food production in a decade and enable small farmers to continue to produce and utilise biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and local economies, while multiplying and strengthening meaningful work opportunities and social cohesion in rural areas.

The wages struggle

Though nine out of ten Americans perceive blue-collar jobs as "good jobs" and policymakers tout the benefits of expanding the country's manufacturing base, the truth is that factory wages now rank in the bottom half of those for all jobs in the U.S., according to a new study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Their report, Manufacturing Low Pay: Declining Wages in theJobs That Built America’s Middle Class, explains "Manufacturing jobs are... highly sought after by our federal and state policymakers, lauded as 'advanced industries' that generate investments, create a high number of direct and indirect jobs, enhance worker skills, and generate additional economic activity in related industries." But goes on to reveal that while the manufacturing sector has experienced a rebound in recent years, in fact "the quality of too many of the returning jobs is low and fails to live up to workers’ and the overall public’s expectations." The jobs that are returning are not the ones that were lost: wages are lower, the jobs are increasingly temporary, and the promised benefits have yet to be realized.

The study finds that:

(1) More than 600,000 manufacturing workers make just $9.60 per hour or less and more than 1.5 million manufacturing workers—one out of every four—make $11.91 or less;
(2) Real wages for manufacturing workers declined by 4.4 percent from 2003 to 2013—almost three times faster than for workers as a whole.
(3) In the largest segment of the manufacturing base—automotive—wages have declined even faster. Real wages for auto parts workers, who now account for three of every four autoworker jobs, fell by nearly 14 percent from 2003 to 2013—three times faster than for manufacturing as a whole, and nine times faster than the decline for all occupations.
In particular, new jobs in the auto industry pay less than the jobs that were lost. New hires in auto earn less than $10 an hour.
(4) Heavy reliance on temporary workers hides even bigger declines in manufacturing wages. About 14 percent of auto parts workers are employed by staffing agencies today. Wages for these workers are lower than for direct-hire parts workers and are not included in the official industry-specific wage data cited above.

The report concludes "If the wage trends continue, manufacturing jobs will not deliver on the promise of creating livable jobs with positive economic revivals in communities and families."

The Campaign for America's Future blog offers the standard nationalistic commentary, blaming globalization and so-called free-trade pacts for exacerbating—if not directly causing—the issues raised in NELP's report.

"American factory jobs used to provide reasonable pay and benefits—largely because of unions and democracy. So how do you make manufacturing jobs more 'efficient?' You can move the factory to a country that doesn’t allow unions. Our country used to recognize this game and 'protected' the good wages and benefits that democracy provided people with tariffs that raised to price of goods made in places that allowed exploitation of working people. Solution: 'free trade' that pits our democracy against thugocracies with few or no protections for people or the environment.
Free trade' worked—to force unemployment up and wages down. We lost more than 6 million manufacturing jobs and 60,000-plus factories between 2000 (the year before China entered the World Trade Organization) and 2010”

Yet this is the true nature of that thing called COMPETITION in a capitalist system. The primary purpose of that thing called competition is to drive costs lower so as to maximize profits. In order to do this wages must be driven lower. Further to that and more importantly, in order to sustain growth and profits the manufacturing industry MUST find more markets for those goods. They compete with other nation states for those same markets. They strip the world of its natural resources in order to produce those goods. With cheaper resources harder to find input costs climb meaning in order to maintain profitability wages must be driven even lower or more workers replaced by machines. The Environment bears those costs through the havoc wreaked upon it for resources and the worker bears the cost with lower wages. Those “high paying” manufacturing jobs of the past can never return because in the past a country like the USA and or Europe were the only countries that were industrialized and could export their goods the world over. Now that more countries can make these same goods can be made anywhere and can be made by machines, there no longer a premium paid for that worker. Free trade agreements do not CAUSE this. They are in fact a symptom of a failed economic system that is called capitalism.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More of the Leigh Burr-Parti cartoon strip


How The Media Normalises War

On November 16, ABC World News anchor CeciliaVega asked this question:
Martha, these numbers they are absolutely staggering: About 800 airstrikes so far against ISIS. Why isn't this working?
What makes a seemingly innocuous question like that noteworthy is the assumption that airstrikes are supposed to "work" in the first place.
One doesn't need to have a deep understanding of military history to know that this assumption is flawed, to say the least. There were more than 29,000 bombs dropped on Iraq in just the first month of the invasion in 2003, along with a massive ground invasion. Yet this devastating violence did not "work" to eliminate resistance to the US occupation. The same could be said for Afghanistan.
The answer to Vega's question, from correspondent Martha Raddatz, suffers from a similar flaw:
Well, these airstrikes, which have cost about $1 million per airstrike, are meant to hold back ISIS from taking over more towns, more territories. And they have had some success with that–look at the city of Erbil. But that is a temporary fix. You will need ground troops, Iraqi ground forces and Syrian rebel ground forces, to try to do anything more.
Again, the "need" for ground troops to "do anything more" is a given–if one wants to see success in defeating ISIS, one must be willing to carry out more violence. Reporters like Raddatz would likely tell you that they're not expressing an opinion about policy, but are simply conveying an obvious truth about what it would take to defeat ISIS.
But comments like this are a sign of how war is normalized, where the default option for combating violence is to commit other acts of violence. And this isn't the first time. Back in 2011, Afghan government officials were condemning a NATO airstrike that killed civilians, and Raddatz went on the air to defend such attacks (FAIR Blog, 6/6/11):
I mean, they simply have to carry out airstrikes over there. It's a very rapid response. It's real-time intelligence. It's certainly flawed at some points.
But I've been on these missions. I've been on a combat mission in a fighter jet. I've seen all the very, very careful steps they take…. I think you will see a real fight over these restrictions, but the airstrikes and these night raids just simply have to continue if they're going to go after the enemy.
"They simply have to carry out airstrikes over there." If that's your attitude, why would you want to have anyone on who thinks there's a different way to solve problems?

from here with links

Low Wage Economy, Multi-Generational Living


Multi-generational living is here to stay in a low wage economy: Over 57 million Americans live in multi-generational households.

The Great Recession might be officially over on paper, but the social impact continues to be felt today. The structural changes are deep and profound and have caused a major rise in multi-generational households. Many young Americans burdened by low wage jobs and college debt may have no other option but to move back home with parents.

 The number of people living in such households has doubled since 1980. More than 18 percent of the population now lives in this arrangement. A large push has come from those 25 to 34 given that 1 in 4 now live in a household with multiple generations. Money is tight and rising living expenses including rents have kept many from venturing out on their own. The economy has been adding jobs but many of these jobs are coming from the low wage sector and are simply not providing a base for moving out. This latest election was driven by people unhappy with the economy but also wanting higher wages.

more here

Lebanon's Syrian Burden

Since the start of Syria’s civil war in March 2011, over 1.2 million Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon, where they now account for almost one-third of the Lebanese population. Particularly since May, the Lebanese government has increasingly introduced measures to limit the influx of Syrian refugees into the country. Before May this year, Syrians could usually enter Lebanon as “tourists” and obtain a residency visa for six months (renewable every six months for up to three years), although this process cost 200 dollars a year, which already was financially prohibitive for many refugee families. Under new regulations Syrians are only permitted to enter Lebanon in exceptional or humanitarian cases such as for medical reasons, or if the applicant has an onward flight booked out of the country, an appointment at an embassy, a valid work permit, or is deemed a “wealthy” tourist.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Oct. 23, Information Minister Ramzi Jreij announced that the government had reached a decision “to stop welcoming displaced persons, barring exceptional cases, and to ask the U.N. refugee agency to stop registering the displaced.” Lebanon is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and, as a result, is not obliged to meet all obligations resulting from the Convention. Being registered with UNHCR in Lebanon can provide some legal protection and is important for access to services. But it does not grant refugees the right to seek asylum, have legal stay or refugee status.

Current legal restrictions affect the admission of newcomers, renewal of residency visas and the regularisation of visa applications for those who have entered the country through unofficial border crossings. Fear of being arrested often forces those without legal residency papers to limit their movements and also their ability to access various services, to obtain a lease contract or find employment is severely limited. It could also impede birth registration for refugees -with the consequent risk of statelessness, or force family separations on the border. Accompanying the increasing fear of deportation from Lebanon, Syrian refugees have also been forced to deal with routine forms of discrimination. Over 45 municipalities across Lebanon have imposed curfews restricting the movement of Syrians during night-time hours, measures which, according to Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Director Nadim Houry, contravene “international human rights law and appear to be illegal under Lebanese law.”

Myanmar Moves Forward?

Myanmar is rarely out of the news for long. Obama has visited the country twice since 2011, most recently this month for the 9th annual East Asia Summit. Beneath the veneer of a nation in transition, on the road to a prosperous future, lies a people deep in poverty, struggling to make a living, some even struggling to make it through a single day. The commercial capital, Yangon, is in the midst of a construction boom, yet there are clear signs of lopsided and uneven development. In downtown Yangon foreign investments and tourist arrivals are pushing up land prices.

The World Bank estimates that the country’s 56.8-billion-dollar economy is growing at a rate of 8.5 percent per year. Natural gas, timber and mining products bring in the bulk of export earnings. Still, per capita income in this nation of 53 million people stands at 1,105 dollars, the lowest among East Asian economies.

The richest people, who comprise 10 percent of the population, control close to 35 percent of the national economy. According to the World Bank’s country overview for Myanmar, “A detailed analysis – taking into account nonfood items in the consumption basket and spatial price differentials – brings poverty estimates as high as 37.5 percent.” The country’s poor spend about 70 percent of their income on food, putting serious pressure on food security levels.The World Bank estimates that at least 32 percent of all children below five years of age in Myanmar suffer from malnutrition. More than a third of the nation lacks access to electricity. The national unemployment rate, especially in rural areas, could be as high as 37 percent according to 2013 findings by a parliamentary committee. Over half the workforce is engaged in agriculture or related activities, while just seven percent is employed in industries.

The war mongers

The military industrial complex and the homeland security-industrial complex has created a revolving door of opportunity for government bureaucrats, military personnel, and elected officials.

A recent study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Brave New Foundation found that “70 percent of recently retired three and four star generals left the Pentagon for employment by major defence contractors.”

A Washington Post report that found there are “more than 1,200 government organisations and nearly 2,000 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence programs,”
A 2011 Pentagon study that found “during the ten years after 9/11, the Defence Department had been given more than $400 bn to contractors who had previously been sanctioned in cases involving $1 mn or more in fraud.”

New York Times investigative reporter, James Risen in “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War,” reveals  “During the war on terror, greed and ambition have been married to unlimited rivers of cash and the sudden deregulation of American national security to create a climate in which clever men could seemingly create rogue intelligence operations with little or no adult supervision.” He goes on to say “These contractors are hired to help Washington determine the scale and scope of the terrorist threat; they make no money if they determine that the threat is overblown or, God forbid, if the war on terror ever comes to an end,” writes Risen. “Opportunities that would disappear if America was suddenly at peace. To most of America, war has become not only tolerable, but profitable, so there is no longer any great incentive to end it.”

Corporations are not formed to serve national interests. They are formed to pursue and maximise profit. Corporations lie, steal, and cheat in the pursuit of profit, and if national interests must be sacrificed to achieve said profit, then so be it. The outsourcing of the military to private corporations has put the corporate profit motive before national security interests.

It’s impossible to discern the difference in the way the respective Obama and Bush administrations have executed the war on terror. “The war now has a bipartisan veneer and “it shows no signs of slowing down; hustlers and freebooters continue to take full advantage, and the war’s unintended consequences continue to pile up.”

Half a victory

Right-wing Republicans are aghast at Obama taking presidential executive action to end a deportation threat to millions or nearly half of the undocumented immigrant population currently living in the United States. 

But Arturo Carmona, executive director of, the online Latino advocacy organization, describes it as only "a partial solution." Seven million immigrants, he said, "were left out of today’s proposal all together, ensuring more deportations, separated families, and the continuation of detention for nearly 34,000 immigrants, including children, as a result of a profit-generating bed mandate for private prisons. On top of all of that, border and immigrant communities are being terrorized on the border every day, facing violence and outright murder. This militarization of our border must end."
Ryan Campbell, communications director for the DREAM Action Coalition, an advocacy and lobbying group also had reservations that Obama’s legislation “left out millions who will face more enforcement from those angered by Obama’s policy."
Cristina Jimenez, co-founder and managing director at United We Dream said  "But real talk? Today’s victory is historic but it is incomplete."

The plan does not include a path to citizenship or access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. While the deferral program does apply to the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, it does not include a way for the parents of Dreamers—people brought into the country as children—to gain legal status. It directs more resources to border security in what in what the ACLU described as "more boots on the throats of border residents", with an emphasis on deporting new arrivals. According to the Pew Research Center, deportations reached a historic high of nearly 440,000 in 2013, even though the president acknowledged Thursday illegal border crossing are currently the lowest since the 1970s.

Although the AFL-CIO, pointed out that the plan still leaves more than 6 million workers unprotected by explaining "… more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation,"  but Richard Trumka, president of the labor alliance unfortunately marred its case with the nationalististic American jobs for American workers when he added in its statement “…we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.” 
In 2013, only 44,000 work visas for "skilled and unskilled" labor were issued, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data.

Over the last decade, the Republican-controlled state capital in Arizona - with voter support as well as support from out-of-state groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - created dozens of anti-immigration laws. At their heart was the principle of "attrition through enforcement", the idea of creating laws to make Arizona so inhospitable for undocumented immigrants that they would leave the state. Arizona made headlines in 2010 when Republican Governor Jan Brewer enacted a bill sponsored by Pearce, SB 1070, one of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the country and led to the "show me your papers" portion of SB 1070 that made it mandatory for police to question someone about their legal status if the police have "reasonable suspicion" that person is in the country illegally helped deport two million people.

According to Ray Ybarra, a civil rights and criminal defence attorney, explains "We are seeing a reversal, the state of Arizona finally realises they've been spending too much money doing something that is outside their realm and against the constitution." The manner in which these and other laws were passed and enforced by local authorities in Latino neighbourhoods created a toxic climate of fear for immigrants but appear to have backfired.

In 2012, the US Supreme Court struck down three provisions of SB 1070, including the one that made it a crime to be illegally present in the state. In the past weeks, federal courts overturned two state laws that Arizona authorities used to target undocumented immigrants. One made it a state crime to knowingly transport unauthorised immigrants and another denied bail to all undocumented immigrants accused of certain crimes so they would have to stay in jail until their trial dates.  A third law that makes using a false identification for work a crime currently is being challenged in federal court. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who rose to national fame for his iron-fisted approach in dealing with undocumented immigrants, had to limit his crackdown on immigration after a federal judge ruled his officers violated civil rights of Latinos during his immigration sweeps. Now his agency is under the close watch of a court imposed monitor who supervises the way it conducts enforcement to ensure his officers don't discriminate. Republican Senator Russell Pearce, the mastermind behind many of the laws, role in the immigration crackdown partially led to his being voted out of office in a special recall election in 2011, which had the support of conservative Republicans concerned by the negative economic impact the laws had on their communities.

Friday, November 21, 2014

More of Leigh Burr-Parti


Communities As Counterparties


In an analysis of almost 73,000 concessions in eight tropical forested countries, more than 93 percent of these developments were found to involve land inhabited by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. According to the research, conducted by The Munden Project, the total amount of land handed over by governments to the private sector for mining, logging, oil & gas drilling, and large-scale agriculture includes at least 40 percent of Peru and 30 percent of Indonesia.

“When governments sell the land, forests and other natural resources out from under the people who live there, local conflict becomes inevitable,” said Andy White, coordinator of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), which commissioned the research. “All of these conflicts—and the financial risks that investors confront—are avoidable. The companies and governments implicated need to first fully respect and involve Indigenous Peoples and forest communities in all aspects of proposed investment, not as bystanders who can be pushed aside.”

Property rights in many emerging or frontier markets are dysfunctional to the point that ownership of land can be granted without the knowledge or consent of the people who live or depend on that land,” said Leonardo Pradela of The Munden Project. “Generally tied to their land for many generations, these people have little interest in moving to urban areas and are practically impossible to relocate. The risk of conflicts emerging with local populations is obscure but important, and it has more in common with conventional counterparty risk than it does with externalities. Treating local people as counterparties will allow operators a clearer path to both understanding the risks and managing the relationships effectively.”

In the analysis,' Communities as Counterparties: Preliminary Review of Concessions and Conflict in Emerging and Frontier Markets,' The Munden Project mapped out natural resource developments, or concessions, in eight emerging or frontier markets (EFMs): Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Indonesia, Liberia, Mozambique, Peru and the Philippines. These concessions almost always generated conflict with the people who live on the land that was targeted for development. The report examines 100 of these conflicts and looks for patterns in how and why these troubles emerge.

See more here
See full report here

The People Speak

La Via Campesina and URGENCI, jointly with other Social movements, gathered in Rome for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), where Member States of FAO and WHO are discussing and adopting a framework for action on nutrition. This event, organised jointly by FAO and WHO, is happening 22 years after the first ICN, 22 years in which no improvements have been made by the international community; 22 years in which the private sector has captured nutrition as a business opportunity to provide a never-ending list of  “nutrient-enriched” and GMO pseudo-solutions to consumers. Transnational corporations have no place in trade agreements or our food systems!

As movements of small-scale farmers and consumers, LVC and URGENCI feel the need to remind the Member States that the problem of malnutrition is not just a technical issue, but a systemic one. It is not possible to have healthy and culturally appropriate nutrition without food sovereignty. Teikei, the original Japanese CSA movement was founded in the 1970s as Japanese housewives’ answer to the problems caused by industrial heavy metal pollution of their food. These issues, as well as those of land-,water- and ocean grabbing, mono-cropping and pollution from agrochemicals have become much worse in the last 40 years.

As Marciano Da Silva, a member of the movement of small-scale farmers in Brazil says “The people of the world could all be well fed, if peasant agricultural systems were protected by States. Nutrition can not exist without food in all its diversity”

Tianle Chang, of the Beijing Farmers’ Market says that “ China, there is an emerging movement of small organic producers working with local consumers to create sustainable food communities together. Initiatives like farmers' markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) have proved to be good solutions to nutrition while supporting the health of environment and communities”

The issue of building and defending sustainable local food systems is central for producers and consumers alike. Agroecology combined with alternative food distribution systems and economic change are central to achieving nutrition, the right to food and food sovereignty!

Nutrition should be grouped together with food and jointly covered under the auspices of the CFS (Committee on World Food Security) within the inclusive framework of the CFS. Public Institutions and States’ policy on food and nutrition must also remain separate and independent from all private business interests.

Nutrition is not for profit!

from here

Patriarchy and the Dysfunction of Society


With much talk of paedophilia plus the physical and sexual mistreatment and abuse of women in the news just lately (if largely because of the number of well known individuals called into question) it set me thinking about the perpetrators and why it is that so many males are drawn towards violence of this kind. What is it about the make-up of societies around the world that spawns and breeds ongoing generations, some of whose offspring have a propensity for what the majority view as antisocial? For we are talking about a global phenomenon here; neither nationality nor religion seem to make a difference.

Patriarchy is the common factor. Nation states and wildly differing cultural societies from all continents are mostly male-oriented and hierarchical throughout. From politics and state institutions, business structures and workplaces to schools, universities  and sports organisations – all know their place and the majority rarely question it. What we have is the perpetuation of patriarchy right through society. What happens to ego, personality and character when individuals are automatically and without consideration slotted into their place in such artificial constructs? Why should one individual or a small group of individuals have so much power over so many others, creating a false perception of worthiness, ability or status? When this relates to earnings capacity or 'standing' in one's own recognised social group, community or place of work how does it affect self-esteem? Does this contribute to an individual's perception of themselves as victims of society or of a system? And how does this apply differently, if it does, to male and female?

Within the hierarchy women still, as a group, fall well below the station of men in opportunity to reach the top levels in employment and in wages or salary and they still carry the greater burden of 'unpaid' work such as that done in the home, including child care and parental care. And with this knowledge  there is still a reluctance or refusal in many societies by some men to take on a share of day to day necessary chores which, presumably, they'd have to do if living alone? Why is there still this lingering culture of certain jobs being 'women's work'?

As for the men, who have been culturally indoctrinated in the belief that, for one reason or another, they are superior or more important, more entitled (than women), whilst at the same time being intensely aware that their place in the hierarchy is pretty low, affecting self-esteem, ego, etc., is this possibly a trigger to, or an excuse for, the use of violence against women, against children – their own or others' and to other men physically weaker than they are? And why would a woman choose to stay with a partner who regularly uses violence of any kind against her? Has she, too, been indoctrinated to feel that it is down to her worth, that she deserves it?

Whatever the truth for individual examples of givers and receivers of violence something is seriously amiss in this outlook and attitude to coexistence in any kind of community or relationship. The dysfunction of so much of society is a result of unwritten laws and accepted norms of which we had no part in the making but which we are expected to accept and adopt as our own so-called customs and traditions, as our supposedly 'cultural heritage.'
The system we were born into - grew up in as children, studied in, succeeded in, failed in, struggled in, worked in, built relationships in, produced children in - shaped us and we accepted or rebelled, became acquiescent or antagonistic and we observe the results in all those around us.

Changing the conditions for ourselves and future generations means changing the system. The first priority for peaceful and productive coexistence would surely require a huge expectation of individual acceptance of and satisfaction with one's own existence and overall place within the wider community.  A strong feeling of self-worth would flow from the freedoms fought for and gained. Worth not granted from above, bestowed by a now defunct hierarchy but coming from the inner self because of personal choices made from the unlimited options available in a society built on common ownership and free access. This is truly a paradigm shift which requires much individual consideration. It is the only way ahead for an intelligent life force intent on achieving its full potential in harmony with Gaia.

London's real capital

“If you have capital in this country,” Alex Hilton, director of the advocacy organization Generation Rent, told me, “you can get other people’s money.” Without capital, those of us who do not own property resign ourselves to running in an exploitative rat race. The race is rigged, of course, because some can never win. London was always a city where extreme poverty lived cheek by jowl with extreme wealth, but the contrasts are starker than ever where a majority is scrambling to make ends meet while a wealthy minority treats the city purely as an asset base for investment.

The average home in London costs nearly 20 times the average salary in Britain. The imperative to get a return on that capital investment is passed on to the renter. According to the housing charity Shelter, Londoners spend nearly three-fifths of their monthly income on rent.

In Stratford, the East London site of the 2012 Olympics, a new postcode has appeared. E20 used to be the made-up postcode of the fictional London borough Walford, from the BBC’s hugely popular soap opera “EastEnders.” Now, it’s the postcode of the East Village, which was briefly home to the athletes competing in the Games. The village’s cluster of affordable homes was available to rent at 80 percent of market rates, which meant that they cost between £1,244 and £1,688 a month (about $2,000 to $2,700). The average annual salary is £26,500 ($42,600). Preparation for the Olympics saw lavish construction of new motorways and roads, complete with segregated cycle lanes and rows of new housing. The imposing £1.4 billion ($2.25 billion) Westfield shopping center was built in 2011.

Tower Hamlets has experienced waves of migration, and is one of the most multicultural areas in London. It’s also still one of the most deprived, with half of the borough’s children living in poverty. Social mobility has become social stagnation. With housing at a premium, London rents are eye-wateringly expensive in comparison with the rest of the country. Tenants turn to the state for help, but these are not welfare cases: Nationally, over 90 percent of all new claims for housing benefits are from households where at least one adult is working.

MPs of course, are lax on the issue. That may be because a third of them are buy-to-let landlords. It has long been the consensus that young people today will never enjoy the easy circumstances that the generation before us could take for granted. But this isn’t just a generational issue; it is a class issue. Day-to-day living is precarious for those not born into wealth. Those without London’s capital find themselves at the mercy of it. London’s housing is no longer for those who need it but for those primarily concerned with accumulating capital.

Feed The World

Agribusiness abound with dire warnings about unsustainable population growth and looming resource constraints. How can we produce enough food to feed this growing population?
“Between now and 2050, we need to double the food supply,” said Dr. Robert Fraley, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto, “That's probably the greatest challenge facing mankind.” But offering policies and practices that have changed little. That is in part because they are the old tried-and-failed solution of increasing commodity food production. For companies like Monsanto that sell agricultural inputs, producing more is indeed the solution to just about everything; after all, that lets them sell more seeds and chemicals. It is not surprising that Monsanto and other agribusiness firms might overstate the situation. Increasing the global supply of agricultural commodities might bring food prices down for a while, but it won’t feed the hungry.

The claims about the need to double food production are unfounded, according to ActionAid’s report, “Rising to the Challenge: Changing Course to Feed the World in 2050.” Solutions to the world's food insecurity lie not in the rush to increase industrial food production but in supporting sustainable and productive farming practices among small-scale farmers – particularly women – in developing countries while while halting the diversion of food to biofuels and reducing the obscene levels of waste and spoilage that keep one-third of the world’s food from nourishing anyone. Reliable international projections from the United Nations suggest the need to increase global agricultural production – not food production – by 60 percent, not 100 percent, to feed a population of 9.3 billion by 2050. What’s more, they estimate that, with important caveats, we are on track to do just that with yield improvements and land use changes.

The hungry are not hungry because the world lacks food. We grow enough food right now to feed about 10 billion people, yet according to the U.N. nearly one billion of today’s seven billion people are chronically undernourished and well over one billion suffer from significant malnutrition, in a world of plenty. They are hungry because they are poor. Seventy percent of the hungry live in rural areas and rely primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods. A U.N. report confirmed the consensus that the best area to invest in agriculture is small-scale farming, where the “yield gaps” are the largest and where hunger in the most prevalent.

Yet policymakers and multinational firms continue to promote large-scale industrial agricultural projects – some denounced as “land grabs” – such as those encouraged by the G8 countries’ New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Many displace small-scale farmers without their consent to grow export crops that offer few jobs and contribute nothing to local food security.

There is no question that socialism will we need to continue to develop appropriate technologies to enhance productivity, reduce environmental damage (including greenhouse gas emissions), and adapt to climate change if we’re going to achieve the goal of zero hunger. It can be done by increasing the availability of land and food by reducing biofuel production, getting more of the food we grow to the table by reducing food waste, and helping the most important food producers in the world: small-scale and family farmers. It is time to stop the Malthusian fear-mongering. We can feed the world in 2050 if we change the system at its roots.

The Mexican Divide

Inequality that reigns in Mexico, a country of 118 million people. According to official figures, Mexico’s economically active population totals 52 million, of whom more than 29 million work in the informal sector. The official unemployment rate stands at 4.8 percent and underemployment at seven percent. The current minimum wage of around five dollars a day is the lowest in Latin America, followed by Nicaragua, Haiti and Bolivia, according to the Observatory. Article 123 of the Mexican constitution states that “the minimum wage in general should be sufficient to meet the normal needs of the head of the family, in material, social and cultural terms, and to provide obligatory education for the children.” In Mexico, 53 million people are poor, according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policies. By contrast, the number of billionaires in Mexico grew from 22 to 27 and their combined income increased from 137 billion to 169 billion dollars.

“The issue of wages is a question of inequality,” said Miguel L√≥pez, a member of the Observatory of Wages at the private Iberoamerican University of Puebla, a city in central Mexico. “Wages can be a mechanism to mitigate inequality. But there are more workers and they get a smaller piece of the pie. It’s a problem of redistribution.”

In its 2014 report, published in April, the Observatory underlined that “the absolute impoverishment of the working class is reflected in the reduction of the cost of labour, the more intense exploitation of the working day, and the growing precariousness of working conditions, housing and living conditions in general.”

But the most worrisome aspect is the enormous wage gap, as reflected by a 2013 study by the global management consultancy, Hay Group, on the difference between the pay earned by senior employees and new workers.

According to the report, the base salary of an executive in Mexico City is 10,000 dollars a month, just 417 dollars less than what an executive in a similar company in New York earns. But in the United States, the federal minimum wage is 7.25 dollars an hour, compared to 5.05 dollars a day in the Mexican capital. The Multidisciplinary Research Centre says the minimum wage needed to cover a basic diet would be 14 dollars a day, while the Mexico City Federal District government sets it at 13 dollars a day. The Presidents’ Compensation Study by the international human resources consultancy Mercer found that in Mexico the CEO of a large company earned 121 times the minimum wage – the biggest gap in Latin America.

Ernesto C. earns nearly 5,000 dollars a month, plus a productivity bonus, at one of the largest private banks in Mexico. “The pay is good, it’s at the same level as other banks in the country and is similar to what is earned by colleagues from the United States who I deal with,” said the 34-year-old executive, who lives with his girlfriend in an upscale neighbourhood on the west side of the city. Ernesto drives the latest model SUV and spends nearly 300 dollars on an evening out, said he obtained financing to study abroad. “When I came back, it wasn’t like I had expected – it was actually hard for me to find a good job. But I finally found one and I managed to climb up the ladder quickly,” he said.

A study by the Multidisciplinary Research Centre (CAM) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico found that 4.4 million workers in Mexico earn from one to three times the minimum wage.
 The report, “Factory of the Poor”, published in May, adds that just over two million workers earn from three to five times the minimum wage. According to the report, the number of Mexicans who earn up to two times the minimum wage grew nearly three percent from 2007 to 2013, while the number of those who earned three to five times the minimum wage shrank 23 percent – a reflection of the impoverishment of those on middle-income.

Alicia Puyana, a researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico, says “There has been no in-depth effort to tackle the causes of the poverty that comes from the poor distribution of income, and the concentration of wealth and of capital in general. The approach is to attack the final effects, one of which is wages,” she said. "Raising the minimum wage 15 or 20 percent is just a crumb."

St. Anthony

The process of the canonization of Tony Blair continues when he was recognised for his humanitarian work by Save the Children.

 A spokesman said Blair had been chosen for the Global Legacy award on account of his work while serving as Prime Minster, including setting up the Department for International Development and hosting two G8 summits. 

So it wasn’t the enforcement of the inhumane sanctions policy against Iraqis which killed according to the UN around half a million children. Or the illegal invasion that resulted in tens of thousands of children dying. The Iraq legacy has been:
 In March 2013, the charity War Child released a report entitled ‘Mission Unaccomplished’. This report documented how:
51% of 12-17 year olds do not attend secondary school
One in four children has stunted physical and intellectual development due to under-nutrition.
In 2011 a survey found up to 1 million children have lost one or both parents in the conflict.
In 2010, 7 years after the conflict began, it was estimated that over a quarter of Iraqi children, or 3 million, suffered varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Between December 2012 and April 2013, An estimated 692 children and young people have been killed in conflict related violence, and more than 1,976 children and young people have been injured.
These figures are almost certainly underestimates.

Nor was it for his Afghanistan invasion. Or the host of dictators he has endorsed and supported.

This award will no doubt sit alongside his Philanthropist of the Year Trophy.

Perhaps he was chosen because of his influence within Save The Children. In 2004 Justin Forsyth was recruited to Number 10 by Tony Blair where he led efforts on poverty and climate change, and was one of the driving forces behind the Make Poverty History campaign. He was appointed as Chief Executive of Save the Children in September 2010.

Even nice guy Gary Lineker was aghast 'People will be greatly concerned and wonder if this was the right decision,' he tweeted. A polite understatement.

Turning nationalism into religious hatred

An article on the Al Jazeera website offers a more insightful view of the brutal and bloody incidents taking place in Israel.

After the knife/axe attack on the Jerusalem synagogue, Netanyahu and many of Israel's leaders, including Finance Minister Yair Lapid, blamed Abbas for the attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, slamming PA incitement and insinuating he was working with Hamas to incite violence against Israelis. Abbas has condemned Sunday's deadly attack, but his Israeli naysayers claim past comments calling on Palestinians to "defend al-Aqsa" are to blame. The terrorists who carried out the attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem have no previous security records and did not operate within the framework of any organization, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen told members of a Knesset committee after the incident. "Abbas is not interested in terror and is not inciting to terror. He's not even doing so behind closed doors," Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs andDefense Committee.

According to the Shin Bet head, the central factors behind the current violence, was the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir - who was killed by Jewish vigilante in retribution for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens last June - and attempts by Israeli legislators to change the status-quo on the Temple Mount. Visits by right-wing Members of Knesset and attempts to introduce legislation which would change the status quo on the flashpoint holy site were the main factors for rising tensions in East Jerusalem as it incites anger among the Palestinians.

Many in government circles have not just tolerated but actively supported a movement agitating for "Jewish prayer rights" at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif - a sacred site to both Muslims and Jews. There has been a tendency in some quarters to see the prayer issue as a kind of harmless coexistence campaign focused on equal rights. It is not. This movement goes against a long-established status quo agreement, whereby non-Muslims can visit, but not worship ‘. Israel's housing minister, Uri Ariel, has said that he supports such a project as demolishing the Dome of the Rock mosque and building a “Third Jewish Temple”.

Aided, abetted and funded by the Israeli government, extremist settlers has been colonising swaths of East. It isn't just Jewish neighbourhoods in the occupied east that are continually expanding; settlers have also taken properties in Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and non-Jewish parts of the Old City - throwing Palestinian families quite literally out onto the streets. And it is the same movement that - fully supported by the government and the mayor of Jerusalem - has commandeered crucial sites.

Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specialising in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem, explains that the accelerating, rightist-driven changes in the city have meant that Palestinians "feel vulnerable and threatened - and they are not being paranoid. The anger is understandable and derives from serious sources".

Defining the recent conflict as a "religious war", serves a clear political purpose. It means the Israeli government can bind its cause with the "war on terror", claiming that Palestinians are just like ISIL in their motivation - a hyper-violent, hyper-fundamentalist jihadi mission. It deprives Palestinians of cause or motivation, save for just one factor: religious hatred. It implies that there is no way out and no solution; that the violence is inevitable.

Never mind that the Palestinians in Jerusalem have lived under a punitive occupation for decades. Never mind that they are blatantly treated as second-class citizens, subjected to intense surveillance, harassment and arrests (900 in East Jerusalem since July); that they routinely deal with settler violence, house demolitions, chants of "Death to Arabs," and curtailed access to religious sites. Never mind the prevailing and overriding message that their lives count less than others. For if the horrifying spate of attacks in Jerusalem are exclusively about innate hatred for Jews - well, how can anything else even matter?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The First Socialist Comic Strip


Workers of The World - 16

Global Day of Action by Walmart Workers

Today is the "Global Day of Action for Decent Work at Walmart."
Walmart workers in 10 countries are holding demonstrations to highlight the company's poor labor practices from its retail stores throughout the entire supply chain, and to call for a living wage for Walmart's global workforce and countless supply chain workers.

Coordinated by UNI Global Union, a global union federation representing 20 million workers worldwide, Walmart workers and their supporters in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, India, South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere are protesting for respect for freedom of association, living wages, consistent scheduling and employment security.
Walmart has become the poster child for the immiseration of workers in the Global North and the exploitation of workers in developing countries. While less publicized than protests in the United States, the international component of the campaign for workers' rights at Walmart is critically important, and the past year has seen several important developments.

Labor Activism at Walmart in South America

Along with being the largest private-sector employer in the United States, Walmart is the world's largest retailer and largest private-sector employer with 2.2 million employees. Walmart has fought aggressively against unions throughout North America, but workers have independent unions at Walmart stores in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere. South American unions involved in the UNI Global Union Alliance @ Walmart have supported US workers, and have engaged in protests of their own to improve standards. These actions show Walmart workers and their US supporters that they are part of a larger international struggle, and that workers in these countries are succeeding.

European Pension Fund Activism

Workers' protests have not gone unnoticed by large European investors in Walmart. In October 2013, a number of Swedish pension funds worth a combined total of $140 billion announced they were divesting from Walmart because of its "systematic abuses of workers' rights . . . [Walmart] denies employees their right to join trade unions." The divestment followed meetings with members of the organization of US workers, Our Walmart.
The decision of major European pension funds to divest from Walmart because of its labor rights abuses in the United States is hugely important. Previous divestment decisions had been based on labor and human rights abuses in Walmart's global supply chain. The capital strategies campaign at Walmart has also enjoyed some domestic successes - persuading investors that the failure to invest in workers is hurting the bottom line - and the divestment decisions have helped solidify Walmart's reputation as the poster child for labor rights violations.

Bangladesh Factory Safety Accord

In its global supply chain, Walmart has been at the center of controversy concerning labor standards in the Bangladesh textile industry. The building collapse at Rana Plaza in April 2013, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 workers, resulted in the creation of the landmark "Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh," a legally binding agreement involving labor rights NGOs, the global union federations IndustriALL and UNI Global Union, and over 150 (mostly European) brands and retailers.

Along with The Gap, Walmart spearheaded a fundamentally different plan for factory safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance, which has the outward trappings of independence and obligation, but none of the reality. Only 26 brands and retailers, mostly from the United States, have signed up to the Alliance. The Alliance is a unilateral initiative that does not provide for participation by worker representatives, or even allow workers to refuse dangerous work. Its safety inspections are not independent, and it does not commit funding for safety repairs. Most importantly, unlike the Accord, it is not legally binding. It is a continuation of the voluntary system of corporate self-regulation established over the past two decades, which has resulted in numerous deadly fires in Bangladesh. Since April 2013, further deadly fires have occurred in factories that are supplying Walmart and other Alliance companies, exposing their failure to remedy the fundamental problems in these factories.

This year's Black Friday protests at Walmart stores in the United States will likely be the largest in the history of the company. But this Wednesday's Global Day of Action shows that the struggle for respect for labor rights at Walmart is an international struggle involving workers on several continents. Global action will be key to winning the campaign.

 taken from here

Whilst not endorsing the terms 'decent work' or 'fair pay' we can certainly offer solidarity to workers worldwide in our common struggle against the capitalist system. Our call is for wider global action to win total freedom from wage slavery for all workers.


No-Wage Wage Slaves

  With no apparent sense of irony, a charity opposing the exploitation of workers is advertising for three volunteer interns - unpaid, of course.
  The three positions last six months each and involve spending two to four days a week in the offices of the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, a legal support charity which provides representation and advice for victims.
  A footnote to the job ad explains that since the role is voluntary with no compulsory responsibilities, it's not covered by minimum wage legislation, allowing the lawyers to pay their interns nothing besides travel expenses of up to £10 a day.

Thanks to Private Eye no.1378

Meat free?

Recent blog posts on the SOYMB blog have not been an attempt to promote the eradication of meat from the personal diet, but to present an argument for the preservation of the environment, which includes a decrease in current levels of consumption, as well a change in farming practices,  that we feel will be an inevitable in a rational socialist society.

Most people are not aware that beef production is directly responsible for producing vast levels of greenhouse gases and expanding deforestation, especially in the Amazon forest region. In fact, in the past 25 years forests with an area the size of India have been cleared in Central and South America. Although demand for beef has stagnated in the U.S. and certain Latin American countries, worldwide consumption continues to expand, and producers in the Western hemisphere are eager to supply. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that beef production and consumption will double by 2050, a situation that can ultimately be costly to the environment. According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Over the last 30 years, the number of farm animals – and that includes both four-footed livestock like cattle and pigs and goats and sheep, as well as poultry – has increased about 23 percent since 1980.”

There are two predominant techniques employed to raise cows. One method, called grazing, allows cattle to wander throughout enclosed grasslands. Grazing is considered more humane; cows are free to roam the land before heading to the slaughterhouse. Grazing methods imply that cows eat mostly grass and are not given antibiotics, hormones, or supplements. Of course, there are variations to these methods, such as feeding cows with grains and vitamins during the final stages of their lives to accelerate growth. Raising livestock naturally is an extremely slow process and utilizes large amounts of water and land in order to achieve an optimal beef weight. It takes much longer to raise a cow naturally, and consequently more resources are used for its growth. In the past 40 years, vast areas of forests have been destroyed to give way to agriculture and cattle ranching. In addition, cows produce large amounts of natural waste that contains methane, a greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment. Methane accounts to 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, and livestock waste is three times more potent than human waste. At least through grazing, cows sequester carbon emissions on the pasture and this results in better air and water quality than feedlots.

Grazing requires vast tracts of land that are utilized solely for the cows’ livelihood, but yield little production as they take years to mature. As a result, farmers are encouraged to use the land to plant corn or soy, products that have a higher demand. Instead of grazing, they turn to feedlots, which confine the cows in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), the second technique. Cows in feedlots are fed on a corn and soy diet, amongst other grains, even though these are not part of a natural diet for cattle. In many feedlots, cows are administered hormones and antibiotics to speed growth. The total lifespan of the cow is shorter, which means less use of water, food, and land. However, cows produce methane and large concentrations of these gases harm the environment. In addition, a shorter lifespan means more beef is produced, since this allows more cows to move through the feedlots.

Studies show that red meat is linked to heart disease and cancer. In a study, heavy consumers of red meat were associated with low physical activity, smoking, and higher body mass. Corn is not the natural food of cows, and therefore grain-fed beef contains about 22-39 percent more cholesterol. Grass-fed beef is healthier because it has higher levels of linoleic acid and omega-3. There is no perfect way to raise cattle, but given the choice, grass-fed is healthier and friendlier to the environment.

Changing farming practices can increase the fertility of the land and reduce gas emissions. One example is Estancia Grass-fed Beef that works with the traditional Argentine model of cattle grazing. It involves a rotating system of 5-7 years of cattle ranching followed by 1-2 year crop cycle. Their model maintains the fertility of the soil and avoids monoculture, a dangerous method that deprives the soil of its nutrients.

rich and poor


With 2008 as a natural baseline, there is no doubt that the financial crisis hit households hard. Real wages or incomes – after adjusting for whatever inflation rate you choose – are significantly lower today. To give a sense of the scale of the drop in real pay, the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, published on Wednesday, shows median full-time gross weekly earnings down 8.8 per cent between 2008 and 2014 after adjusting for consumer price inflation. Overall real median pay fell 1.6 per cent in the year to April.

The biggest squeeze occurred in 2011, when households were hit by large rises in food and energy prices. The fall in real wages for those aged 18 to 25 has been so extreme, they are now back to levels last seen in 1988. If you are young it's going to get worse. Then worse. Then worse. And finally worse.

But for the super-rich it is good news and the figures are always too mindboggling to comprehend.

The global population of ultra high net worth (UHNW) individuals who hold more than $30 million in assets is 211,275. According to the study the average ultra-high net worth individual spends $1.1 million on luxury goods and services every year

Simon Smiles, chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, warned of the risks the wealthy few face. "This report finds that UHNW individuals hold nearly 25 percent -- an extremely high proportion – of their net worth in cash,"

It is predicted that the global UHNW population will reach 250,000 individuals in the next five years with combined wealth surpassing $40 trillion. To put that in context, the gross domestic production of the whole U.S. in 2013 was $16.8 trillion.

  Europe’s ultra-high net worth population rose to a record 61,820 individuals during 2014, representing an increase of 3,755 people on last year’s level. The combined net worth of those people — defined as having at least $30 million in net assets — rose to $8.355 trillion, 8.9% up on last year. Germany continued to head up the European league table, as home to 19,095 ultra-rich, followed by the U.K. with 11,510 and Switzerland with 6,635.

In fact, Switzerland’s super rich now account for 0.08% of the country’s total population. That’s 30 times more than the proportion for the rest of the world, where the super-rich account for just 0.003% of total population.