Sunday, January 25, 2015

Democracy In Name Only

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Almost half the world’s 167 countries claim to be democratic, but according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest global Democracy Index that is a mirage because popular discontent with democratic governments is growing worldwide.

“Europe is home to the most ‘full democracies,’ but it is here that popular discontent with democracy is most evident,” the Economist reported. “Only 12.5 percent of the world’s population live in a full democracy… More than one-third of the world’s population (some 2.6 billion people) still live under authoritarian rule.”
The United States is at the bottom of the barrel of “full democracies,” ranking 19 out of the 24 countries, just below the Pacific Island country of Mauritius and South America’s Uraguay. Northern Europe is still tops, led by Norway. Canada is seventh.

The survey’s scores are based on “five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.” The biggest overall trend is that across the globe people who governments claim to be democracies are increasingly frustrated, the Economist found.
“Despite the fact that the world economy is growing and six years have passed since the 2008 economic and financial crash, discontent with democracy is on the rise,” said Joan Hoey, editor of the 2014 report. “Popular dissatisfaction with democracy is being expressed in the growth of populist and protest parties, which, in some places, have come to pose an increasing challenge to the established political order. The tendency to dismiss the upsurge of populism in Europe as a protest vote or an anti-austerity backlash is a way of evading some uncomfortable truths about the state of democracy in Europe.”

The Economist didn’t mince words about American democracy, either.
The U.S. remains at the bottom end of the full democracy category,” it said. “U.S. democracy has been adversely affected by a deepening polarization of the political scene, political brinkmanship and paralysis. Popular discontent with the workings of democracy is deep-seated here too.”

Globally, the worst countries are North Korea, Central African Republic and Chad. The least-democratic regions are the Middle East and North Africa, “with 15 (up from 13 in 2013) out of 20 countries being catagorized as authoritarian,” the Economist said, which lists countries as “full,” “flawed,” or “hybrid” democracies or “authoritarian” regimes.
“Only in Tunisia, which has been upgraded from a ‘hybrid regime’ in 2013 to a ‘flawed democracy’ in 2014, has there been any been any recent progress in democratization. Apart from this positive exception, the Arab Spring has given way to a wave of reaction and a descent into violent chaos.”

Clearly, the popular rebellions that prompted the Arab Spring gave way to new repression and worsening circumstances, as evidenced by Egypt's ranking at 138, between Kazakstan (137) and Oman (139).

Only Asia and eastern Europe “recorded a slight improvement” in their scores.
There is a sobering takeaway from the Economist’s report. As popular discontent with the governing classes is growing around the world, the ruling classes, including in many of the world’s supposedly democratic regimes, aren’t giving the public what they want.

Perhaps next year the Economist will rename its survey, "The Democracy In Name Only Index." 

from here




Capitalism, Inane Gender Differentiation, Increased Profits

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If I had a dollar for every time I wished they made earplugs just for women, I’d still have only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. And yet! The marketing world never sleeps and R&D has a job to do, so lady earplugs are a reality. As are a whole range of other genderized products no one ever asked for or needed. And so we present, for your reading pleasure, 10 of the most useless products “for him” and “for her.”

1) Pink Guns and Lady Gun Accessories 


















You love shooting to kill but hate the way blue steel butches up your outfit. No worries! There’s actually a bustling cottage industry built on manufacturing the lady guns you want, which obviously come in pink and lavender and “Tiffany blue.” How will you carry all that adorable firepower? Well, there are a handful of retailers that sell accessories for your pretty pistols, from gun holster bras to conceal-carry purses. One company even makes pink bullets, sales of which they claim help support finding a cure for breast cancer. Because what better way to help save a life than by shooting something to death?

2) Candles for Him, or Mandles
You know how regular candles are like tiny beacons of light, illuminating your shortcomings as a man? Man candles, or mandles, are the opposite of that. Burning them around the house will cause you to spontaneously grow a second nutsack so manly it will fight your old nutsack just for hanging around on its turf. Mmandles come in scents like “Black Leather Jacket” and “Hickory Smoked Bacon.” The “Fart” mandle, which the product description reassures us “smells like a FART” is, sadly, out of stock.



 

We all know the worst thing about regular dryer sheets is that they make you smell like you have ovaries and daddy issues. With Bounce’s dryer sheets for men, you can instead smell like sports and unearned confidence. They’re still totally toxic, but at least they’re not, you know, feminine.





There are more at the link but I have no wish to waste anyone's time, just simply to point out some of the triviality that goes along with raking in more profit from a seemingly unaware pool of consumers.


Coming In From The Cold In Toronto

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Toronto’s mayor says the city will be turning some motel rooms into shelter spaces for the homeless, with at least 90 spaces to open as early as next week.
John Tory says the city will be renting blocks of rooms in two Toronto motels in an effort to make extra space available as needed during the cold weather.
It will cost roughly $100,000 from now until March, but Tory says it’s just a short-term solution.
A report on the city’s homeless shelter system is expected in a few weeks.
Four homeless men died in just over a week in the city, three of them due to the frigid weather.

Meanwhile, Tory announced Friday that Senator Art Eggleton will lead a six-person task force on community housing in Toronto.
Eggleton, a former mayor of Toronto, will be joined by experts from fields including real estate, finance, social policy and social housing.
Tory said while some progress has been made, the system is far from perfect and needs work.
“We simply have to do better on most aspects of the housing file, continuing on as we have been for what I would say is decades in some respects is neither sensible, nor acceptable,” he said.

Earlier this week, Tory said one his top budget priorities is helping the homeless. The budget will be introduced on Jan. 20.
Tory has also said the city’s public housing situation is in crisis mode and that he plans to go to other levels of government for more funding for affordable housing.
“The housing problem won’t be solved with city money alone,” he said. “It needs dialogue with other governments.”
Toronto Community Housing needs $2.6 billion in capital repairs over the next 10 years to keep the residences in fair shape, he said.

from here

Whilst, of course, it's great to be getting homeless people off the streets in the bitterly cold weather one question is why did they wait until now? It's a known fact that there will be homeless each winter, just as throughout the rest of the year, so planning ahead is at the front of this particular cynic's mind. 
Socialists regard homelessness, wherever on the planet, not as a choice but as a result of capitalism's basic principles: first, show us your money. That's the problem that needs fixing to solve the housing problem.




Our blame but you pay

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Retail giant Target recently announced it was closing all its stores in Canada with 17,600 job losses. The severance pay for all those workers who would now have to look for a new job totals US$56.3m (£37.5m) which only totals about $3,198 for each worker.

CEO Gregg Steinhafel was fired last May got a total severance of $61m (£40.6m) – all for himself. Although Steinhafel’s public severance was only $15.9m, he also received a “non-qualified deferred compensation” package, a pension plan that he doesn’t have to pay back and equity worth about $10m. All in all, he walked away with a reported $61m.

Or about 18,000 times more than the average employee who is being made redundant because the company’s senior management, as it admits itself, “tried to do too much, much too fast”.


Is the grass always greener?

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More than three million Germans can barely make ends meet despite being in work, according to a German newspaper. Growing numbers of struggling workers are cutting back on heating and food, an increase of 25 percent in five years.

538,000 low-wage workers were eating a full meal only every second day in an effort to save money on food. About 417,000 were going without adequate heating and almost 380,000 people could not afford to pay their rent on time. Every second low wage worker, some 1.5 million Germans, would not be able to pay for a one-week holiday per year outside their own four walls. About 600,000 workers were forgoing having their own car because they could not afford it.

"The number of workers who earn scarcely or marginally more than the government unemployment benefits (Hartz IV) is alarmingly high," the president of the social association VdK (VdK Sozialverband) Ulrike Mascher said 

King Abdullah V ISIS

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Price Of A Pill: Big Pharma In India

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Ahead of US president Obama’s visit to India, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expressed deep concern over the US government’s heightened efforts  to undermine access to affordable medicines from India—often called the "pharmacy of the developing world." Millions of people across the globe rely on Indian low-cost generics, just as MSF relies on these to carry out its medical work.

The US has been scaling up pressure on India and increasing visits to the country over the last several months in order to aggressively campaign against India’s patent law. The country’s law sets a high bar for what merits a patent in an effort to prevent abusive pharmaceutical patenting practices, such as "evergreening," which put profit over public health by blocking production of more affordable generics. The US is pushing for India to adopt intellectual property (IP) measures similar to those common in the US and EU, which would ultimately result in unaffordable medicine prices for both India and the countries that rely on affordable medicines made in India.

“The alarm bells should be going off for the new Indian government,” said Dr. Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign. “The US is pushing India to play by its rules on intellectual property, which we know will lead to medicines being priced out of reach for millions of people.”

US pressure already appears to be having an impact: the new Indian government has been delaying a decision to allow generic production of an exorbitantly priced patented anti-cancer medicine that is unaffordable in the country—an action recommended by a Health Ministry expert committee to increase access to affordable versions. A "compulsory licence" issued by the Patent Controller in 2012 for an unaffordable cancer drug brought its price down by 97 percent almost instantly.

Also in response to US pressure, the Indian Commerce Minister in November set up a high-level "think tank" to draft national IP policy. The first draft of the policy recently released is alarming. It emphasizes patent monopolies as the key driver of innovation, when such claims have been refuted by numerous studies and experts at the World Health Organization, which have found IP in fact to be a barrier to both access to affordable medicines and innovation for medicines desperately needed by developing countries for diseases such as tuberculosis.

We need the Indian government to pay very careful attention to what the US is up to right now,” said Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for MSF’s Access Campaign. “India has been a leader in promoting access to affordable medicines and new innovation models, but this could all unravel very fast if the Indian government caves in to US pressure. The think tank so far seems to be singing to Big Pharma’s tune of undermining global efforts to finally overhaul today’s system of how medicines are developed and priced.”

At the same time, the Obama visit comes in the wake of a critical decision by India’s Patent Controller to deny a patent to pharmaceutical company Gilead for the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir—an example of how important India’s law is to encouraging price-lowering generic competition. The drug is priced in the US at US$84,000 for a three-month treatment course ($1,000 per pill), though studies estimate its production for a three-month course could cost as little as $101 (about $1 per pill). The UK’s National Health Service is delaying introduction of the drug because of its cost, and protests have erupted in Spain over the drug’s rationing as a result of its price.

Unsurprisingly, discontent is already being expressed, and the patent rejection is likely to be brought up by US officials accompanying President Obama.

“India’s decision to reject the patent for the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir could unleash fierce competition among Indian companies to launch affordable versions of the life saving drug this year," said Leena Menghaney, South Asia Manager of MSF’s Access Campaign. "Let the exorbitant prices being charged for this hepatitis C drug in many countries serve as a cautionary tale to India—this is what could happen here if the US succeeds and gets India to change its policies. India now faces a challenge: future access to essential medicines for millions of people will depend on the new Indian government’s decisions and the kind of patent and innovation system it endorses."

from here



Not The Normal Davos News - A Corporate Criminal Award

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As global elites gather in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, the oil giant Chevron was singled out on Friday for a highly competitive—if unflattering—international distinction: the Public Eye Lifetime Award for its extraordinary corporate irresponsibility, which includes monumental environmental destruction in northern Ecuador.

Granted by grassroots organizations at a public ceremony at a hotel in Davos, the winner of the satirical prize was determined by tens of thousands of online voters. The race was close, with Glencore and Walmart coming in a close second, but voters ultimately determined that Chevron deserves the top distinction. The oil giant, however, declined to attend the ceremony, so Greenpeace Switzerland accepted the award on Chevron's behalf.

"Chevron is uniquely deserving of a lifetime award for the lifetime of misery they have caused the Ecuadorian Amazon," Paul Paz y Miño, of the U.S.-based organization Amazon Watch, told Common Dreams over the phone from Davos. "This is not only because of their original pollution—dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste—but because they have ignored every judicial process to hold them to account, even though they were determined liable for $9.5 billion in court of their own choosing."
"Not only did they refuse to pay," Paz y Miño added, "but they pointed their finger at their own victims, accusing the people that they poisoned of a global conspiracy to commit fraud. It undermines the very fabric of our society because you can't simply evade justice because you have the wealth to litigate in perpetuity."

This is not the first time that Chevron won a Public Eye prize. In 2006, the oil giant won the Public Eye Award for "polluting large areas of pristine rain forest in northern Ecuador." However, the Lifetime Award is a higher distinction, and it marks an end to the Public Eye awards after 15 years.

The prizes have been aimed at casting "a critical and innovative eye on the World Economic Forum," according to a press statement. Numbered among participants and attendees were the famed Yes Men, a European parliamentarian, and even a representative from the WEF.

Past award recipients include Dow Chemical, awarded in 2005, for "using every loophole in the book to avoid its responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, the world’s largest chemical catastrophe in human history." Last year, Gap and Gazprom were both winners of "Awards of Shame."

According to Paz y Miño, Chevron's Lifetime Achievement prize is "particularly important right now because part of Chevron's strategy is to claim they were victimized. International recognition from awards like this are clear demonstration to Chevron that the rest of world understands and acknowledges they are irresponsible."

Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men told Common Dreams that Chevron's bad behavior is distinguished but not unique. "All of the hundreds of companies ever nominated for Public Eye awards, and thousands of others as well, are almost as deserving of this award as Chevron is," said Bichlbaum.

The true winner of the Lifetime Award, he added, "is our insane system—that makes behavior like Chevron's rational. That's the system we've got to change, and luckily there's a movement afoot to do that."

from here

What is it about corporations, whether agricultural, pharmaceutical, food production, textiles, chemical, fossil fuel or manufacture in general, that obliges them to act against the common good? Quite simply it's the bottom line. Profit. Obligation to the share holders to bring the maximum return. Externalities can't be factored in, they are too damaging so they are routinely, and without consent, passed on to the public as social costs. That's the insane system, the capitalist system, that has to go.

 

US Rent Increases Double That Of Wage Increases

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With the economy recovering from the Great Recession, many are still seeing the effects from the housing market crash that sparked it.
According to new reports by real-estate data firm Zillow, the average rental price of U.S. apartments has seen a huge spike in major cities. Within the last year, the price of apartment rentals in San Francisco has jumped 15.4 percent to a median cost of $3,031 a month. Denver rents were up 10.5 percent to $1,817, and even Kansas City spiked to $1,204, an 8.5 percent increase.
Since 2000, rental prices have risen an average of 52 percent nationally, while renters’ incomes have only increased 25 percent.

Read it at Chron

Screwed by the for profits system once again!


 

Winston Churchill: Dead 50 Years - A Look At Some Truths

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24th January

CIVILIZING FATHER

  On this day in 1965 Winston Churchill passed away.

  In 1919, when presiding over the British Air Council, he had offered one of his frequent lessons in the art of war:

  "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas . . . I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes . . . The moral effect should be so good . . . and would spread a lively terror."

  And in 1937, speaking before the Palestine Royal Commission, he offered one of his frequent lessons on the history of humanity:

  "I do not admit that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia . . . by the fact that a stronger race, a higher -grade race . . . has come in and taken their place."

Eduardo Galeano from 'Children of the Days'


What's the Time?

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Too damn close, according to the Doomsday Clock. If you need an alarm call for socialism, this is it.





“Dear Mu’ammar…Best wishes yours ever, Tony

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Blair’s commitment to democracy is once again exposed as a sham.


Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing claims against the British government on the basis of the recovered documents, alleging false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault. And part of the evidence being presented is the collusion of the then prime minister Tony Blair. An attempt by government lawyers to have the case struck out without admitting liability failed when the high court ruled the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

Documents show that the UK’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of joint operations with the Libyan dictatorship and that information extracted from tortured rendition victims was deployed as evidence during partially secret proceedings in London. Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of opponents of Gaddafi who had been granted asylum in the UK. British intelligence officers provided information to their Libyan counterparts about a British man of Libyan origin who had lived in the UK since 1981 and had been granted British citizenship in 1994.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Election campaign gets underway

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The Socialist Party of Great Britain has announced plans to contest ten constituencies at the General Election -- including Swansea West.

The election on Thursday, May 7th, will see the party take on its largest campaign since it first stood a candidate in the 1945 vote.

"The Socialist Party offers the only alternative to the profit system," said prospective candidate Brian Johnson who has been selected to contest Swansea West. "We stand for the common ownership and democratic control of the resources of the world. Production just for use where goods and services are provided to meet people's needs, not for sale on a market or for profit."

The party will also stand candidates in constituencies including Oxford East and West, Canterbury, Folkestone and Hythe and Brighton Pavilion.


South Wales Evening Post

While in the Sunderland Echo , our prospective candidate writes 

Nothing Marxist about Labour
SORRY Mr Brown (January 13) but you go too far.
 You state: “Yet we face the same Marxist, ideological driven agendas under Ed Miliband”.
However, you ignore the important fact that Ed Miliband is not a Marxist, nor is his brother, nor was his father Ralph.
 Moreover, Labour has never advocated, much less instituted, any policy or legislation, that even the most rabid right wing supporter of capitalism (or left wing supporter for that matter) could in any way link to Marx.
 Marx advocated a classless, stateless, exchangeless world society, where the statement “‘From’ each according to ability, ‘to’ each according to need” was the driver and moreover, that this societal change could only come about, when the majority understood it, wanted it and, most importantly, cooperated to bring it about.
 Nothing, I repeat, nothing in the writings of Marx advocated anything that could in any way be linked to Labour.
 Those who continue to claim otherwise can charitably be called confused or mischievous, more seriously, deliberate political wreckers and liars.
Steve Colborn,

When will the US Protect Children?

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Somalia, a “lawless state”, ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) early this week.

It now leaves  two countries in splendid isolation from the rest of the world: South Sudan and the United States.

South Sudan’s absence is perhaps understandable because it was created and only joined the United Nations in July 2011and is in the middle of a civil war yet has taken steps to start the domestic process in ratifying the treaty, probably later this year.

The U.S. government has never submitted the treaty for ratification by the U.S. Senate. Kul Gautam of Nepal, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, told IPS “With the current composition of the U.S. Congress, there is no chance for its ratification.”

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake explained “The central message of the Convention is that every child deserves a fair start in life. What can be more important than that?”

The U.S. objects to ratifying the Convention on two arguments. First, it will undermine the role of parents in raising their children and, second, it will weaken U.S. sovereignty. Ironically, the United States was a leading contributor to the drafting of the treaty and in fact shaped a significant number of provisions. In total, the United States initiated seven articles, including Article 10 (family reunification), Articles 14 (freedom of religion), 16 (right to privacy), 19 (protection from abuse) 13 (freedom of expression), 15 (freedom of association and assembly) and 25 (review of placement.) The provisions contained in the CRC are largely consistent with U.S. law, while additional provisions would be implemented through federal and state legislation in a manner and timeframe determined by the U.S. legislative process. The rights for children in the CRC mirror both the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, at the insistence of the two former administrations – under President Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations – that worked on this treaty. Contrary to U.S. misgivings, the Convention strongly defends the need for families and the importance of parents, say human rights experts. The treaty underscores that a strong family is crucial for children and for societies and there is ample language throughout the CRC to support the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents. In fact, 19 articles of the CRC explicitly recognise the importance of parents and family in the lives of children.

Back in 2008 when Obama was campaigning, he said, “It is embarrassing that the U.S. is in the company of Somalia, a lawless land. If I become president, I will review this and other human rights treaties.” But to date, there has been no “review” of the CRC, an important first step before submitting this to the Senate.

A diverse group of U.S. organisations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association, Child Welfare League of America, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and United Methodist Church – all support U.S. ratification.
Meg Gardinier, chair of the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the CRC, told IPS “The U.S. cannot credibly encourage other nations to embrace human rights for children if it fails to embrace these norms… the CRC protects children, preserves and strengthens families and is unquestionably improving the lives of children,”

This System Isn't A Mistake: How USAID Funnels Cash Back To US Companies

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The corrugated metal fences surrounding construction sites in downtown Port-au-Prince are covered with a simple message: “Haiti ap vanse,” or “Haiti is moving forward.” Where once many thousands of people made tattered tents and makeshift shelters their home, now massive concrete shells and cranes stand tall amidst the rubble. Returning to Haiti, along with much of the world’s major media, for the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 and displaced 1.5 million, it’s impossible not to see some signs that Haiti is in fact “moving forward.” The large camps of internally displaced persons, the most visible sign of the quake’s lasting impact, have for the most part been cleared, though certainly some remain. But beneath the veneer of progress, a more disturbing reality is apparent.

Eighteen kilometers north on the dusty hillsides overlooking the sea is Canaan, an informal city now home to hundreds of thousands of people and, according to the State Department, on its way to becoming the second-largest city in Haiti. “It’s a living hell,” says Alexis, one of the area’s residents, as we sit overlooking a new $18 million sports complex built by the Olympic Committee for Haitian national teams at the foot of the hills. “I’ll stay here because I can’t afford to go anywhere else,” she adds. Like many others here, Alexis received rental support from an NGO to move out of the camps in Haiti’s capital, but when it ran out, she was displaced all over again. While no longer facing the constant threat of eviction, Alexis faces a new set of problems: there are no government services in Canaan, water is scarce, employment even more so.

Five years ago, it took just seconds for hundreds of thousands of homes to crumble and crack. More than a million Haitians took to the streets, sleeping under the stars wherever space allowed, taking comfort that the only thing that could still fall was the sky. Almost just as quickly, the global aid-industrial complex was set in motion; the first no-bid contracts for groups responding to the crisis were awarded just days after. In a few months, the international community would come together, pledging $10 billion in relief and promising that this time would be different. No more of the failed policies of the past, in which the flow of foreign aid undermined the Haitian government; this time Haiti would “build back better.” But after five years and billions of dollars, just 9,000 new homes have been built.
And so, the big question five years later remains: “Where did the money go?” The funds pledged were enough to hand every single Haitian a check for $1,000. Yet compared to the lofty expectations, the internationally led reconstruction process has been a failure. To answer the question, you have to forget the notion that foreign aid is simply an altruistic endeavor to better the lives of those in need.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent more than $1.5 billion in Haiti, explains its goal as “furthering America’s interests.” In a more candid assessment, contained in a document now over a decade old and no longer publicly available, USAID explained that “the principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States.” Evidence from Haiti backs this up. For every $1 that USAID has spent, less than one penny went directly to Haitian organizations, be it the Haitian government or in Haiti’s private sector. More than 50 cents went to Beltway firms—handling everything from housing construction, rubble removal, health services, security and more—located in DC, Maryland and Virginia. As a jobs creator back home, USAID’s Haiti reconstruction effort has been an astounding success.

The single largest recipient of USAID funding in Haiti was a for-profit, DC-based firm, Chemonics International, through USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives. In an earlier contract with Chemonics released through Freedom of Information Act requests, USAID clearly explained: “While humanitarian aid is distributed on the basis of need alone, transition assistance is allocated with an eye to advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives and priorities.”

A relevant example of just that philosophy is that the vast majority of USAID-financed houses were built many hours north of Port-au-Prince, where the need is greatest, in Caracol, the site of a shiny, new industrial park, which received high-level support from Bill and Hillary Clinton. And while the plan had been to build 15,000 houses, only 900 currently have been built. At the same time, a reliance on foreign contractors and imported materials led costs to balloon from $55 million to over $90 million.
 In October 2014, barely a year after the first families moved in to homes in Caracol, USAID awarded $4.5 million to yet another American firm to oversee massive repairs needed to fix the faulty work of the first contractor. This is the damage caused by putting political priorities and American business interests over the needs of those on the ground.
But Chemonics, whose contract with USAID explicitly states that decisions about what programs to fund “will be based upon US foreign policy interests in consultation” with the State Department, worked to further USAID’s objectives of “counter[ing] the destabilizing effects” and the “growing discontent” with the pace of reconstruction. It ran PR for the new industrial park, installing benches and flower planters in nearby areas to “project a positive image.” An audit later noted that the flowers soon died “from lack of care,” while the mayor decried the lack of community involvement. But business was good for Chemonics, whose CEO at the time received a $2.5 million bonus.

If you try to dig deeper into how USAID money is actually spent, you’ll find a black box. While it is relatively easy to look up online how much money Chemonics has received for work in Haiti since the quake (over $200 million), it is impossible to identify the thousands of subcontractors that actually implement the various programs USAID supports. Interested in how much money contractors are able to take off the top for their headquarters back home? Too bad—that information is a tightly protected trade secret that USAID and its contractors refuse to disclose.
When I submitted a FOIA request for more specific information about Chemonics’s work in Haiti, every document I received was heavily redacted. USAID explained that to “release the information…could willfully stir up false allegations…and cause strife within the target communities,” adding, “the release of the information…would likely instigate demonstrations and create an unsafe environment” to work in.

The international aid effort in Haiti has been plagued from the beginning by a lack of transparency and a lack of community participation. A reliance on opaque NGOs and unaccountable contractors has shielded programs from scrutiny. Decisions are expressly guided not solely by the needs on the ground but by powerful actors in Washington, New York and elsewhere. But this isn’t a mistake, it’s the system we’ve created, and it’s time to change it.

from here

 It sure is! We keep saying it and will keep on saying it here and elsewhere - the only way is to build a massive following for world socialism, a global system which puts the decision making into the hands of the people, the vast majority, and removes any possibility of a tiny minority enriching themselves at the expense of the workers globally. World Socialism is the change we need.


Workers Of The World - 28

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Tanneries in Bangladesh

By Tania Rashid

Six years ago, when Mohammad Rahman was just 11, his family couldn't afford to buy food or pay rent. As the eldest among his brothers, Rahman had to assume an adult role and make money fast. So he started work at a local tannery in Hazaribagh, a neighborhood in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Hazaribagh is the country's unofficial leather hub, housing more than 200 factories where many other kids like Rahman process leather with their bare hands and feet.

Over the years, Rahman has developed a series of health problems. Today, he has headaches, chest pain, acid burns, and rashes all over his body. "It's because I drown myself in chemicals when I work," he told VICE News from the same tin hut he grew up in with his family.
Rahman has to apply steroid cream all over his body to reduce his skin flare-ups. Doctors have warned him, however, that his condition will only worsen if he doesn't stop exposing himself to hazardous chemicals. "Everyone is taking medicine around me that works in these tanneries… I'm afraid but what can we do, we have to work. We need to feed ourselves," he said.

There are around 15,000 workers like Rahman who work inside the tanneries and are not given proper attire to protect themselves from the dangerous chemicals they encounter on a daily basis. Employees are paid only $5 a day on average, and most do not have any representation from unions or non-profits.
The laborers are expected to take large of piles of raw cowhides, submerge them inside a giant wooden barrel, and add chemicals such as chromium, chloride, sulfur, and manganese to create pre-processed leather. Continuous contact with such chemicals is known to cause cancer, according to local doctors.

Roughly 90 percent of the treated leather is shipped to 70 countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, where it is used for luxury items such as bags, shoes, and belts. The estimated export profit is a whopping $600 million per year — foreign currency that helps the national economy at the expense of poisoning some residents.
Phillip Gain, a local activist for the non-profit Society for Environment and Human Development, told VICE News that Hazaribagh is one of the five most polluted places on Earth. "They are polluting but they are not treating," he said. "The polluters are not paying and their principle does not work at all. This is unacceptable and in sheer violation of environmental laws."

The government had plans to relocate the tanneries to northern Bangladesh 10 years ago but the move hasn't happened as yet. Anol Chandra Das, the private secretary to Bangladesh's minister of environment and forests, told VICE News that his team plans to move the tanneries within six months.
An estimated 22,000 cubic meters of chemicals and liquid toxic waste from the factories continue to flow every day from the canals of Hazaribagh into Dhaka's main river, the Buriganga. Young fisherman still pull fish from the polluted water, which are later sold to middle-class families at local markets.
"Though the water is bad, the fish are still available," a local fisherman told VICE News. "Even if the water becomes more dark and polluted these fish are still here. We are here to find them."

Neighbors that live around the factories suffer too — all the remaining cow waste from the tanning process is dumped in locally. "Cow bones, and cow shit, and human shit, mud and dust, and everything gets mixed up here," one Hazaribagh resident told VICE News. "In this area everyone has breathing problems."
Rahman plans for a different life in the future. "I can't work like this," he said "I dream of leaving this job. I want to go leave to another country — I'll take up any other work but not working in chemicals."



The Poor Are Getting Richer, and Other Dangerous Delusions

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In January ‘the great and the good’ meet in Davos, Switzerland to discuss how the world is changing, and how corporate executives and senior politicians should respond to these changes. At this meeting, these important people spend a great deal of time convincing each other that they are creating a more prosperous world than we’ve ever seen in history. Without their business practices, their overseas investments, their entrepreneurial talent and their philanthropy, you would easily imagine that we would all be much worse off.

What’s scary to me is that the myths of this elite class have become so deeply engrained in   society that it can be difficult to challenge the power that these elites hold. Ideas like creating markets in endangered species that not so long ago would have been considered pretty wacky, if not downright anti-social, are now so mainstream that they present a serious obstacle to building a fairer, more sustainable world for the vast majority of humanity to enjoy. You’re left with the impression that if we just sit back and let them get on with things, all the poverty, inequality, and environmental destruction created by their out-of-control-capitalism would sort themselves out. What follows is dedicated to challenging these elite myths.

The world will not be ‘saved’ by a tiny group of super-rich who have done incredibly well from putting their economic dogma into practice. Hope lies in challenging the power and wealth of this powerful set, and learning lessons from the millions of different ways this is done around the world at this very moment, to try something different. Something which leaves behind the selfish accumulation of wealth as a primary goal, and is instead guided by the desire for a more equal, sustainable, democratic and just world.

recommended - >> Dangerous delusions interactive infographics


from here with access to a 28 page downloadable report



Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies

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GOOD !!

It's Profitable To Let The World Go To Hell

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This is something we've heard before and no doubt we'll hear it again, and again, causing too many to switch off to the reality but it's not something we can ignore. It won't go away if it's ignored and it won't be thwarted or slowed down in any way by sticking to capitalist principles and modes of business. That must surely be clear now but as "it is cost-effective to postpone global climate action. It is profitable to let the world go to hell."

Death By A Thousand Cuts: Earth Enters The ‘Danger Zone’

Last week, climate researchers at both NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 2014 was the planet's warmest year in the modern record, going all the way back to 1880. The ten warmest years have now occurred since 2000, with the sole exception of 1998 when there was a strong El Niño warming event in the Pacific Ocean.

Climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University put the scale of global warming in stark perspective when she told Associated Press:

'The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years.'    
       
Don Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, who has worked on reports for the UN Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, said:

'We have a clear signal that our climate is changing, and when you look at the evidence it's because of human activities.       
        'The evidence is so strong I don't know why we are arguing any more. It's just crazy.'       

       
In fact, any rational argument about whether dangerous climate change is real, and whether humans are largely responsible, is long-settled. What is needed now is urgent action to cut carbon emissions based on the climate justice principles of precaution and equity.

The stakes could not be higher. In a recent in-depth piece, Dahr Jamail interviewed several scientists, including Professor Paul Beckwith of the University of Ottawa in Canada, a researcher in abrupt climate change. Beckwith warned:
'It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two. Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planet.'
               
Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world's leading climate scientists, says that 'the difference between two degrees and four degrees' of warming 'is human civilisation.'

Jamail noted that a study in Nature in 2013 warned that a 50-gigaton 'burp' of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is 'highly possible at anytime.' Because methane is a much more powerful global-warming gas than carbon dioxide, this methane 'burp' would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (For comparison, humans have released a total of around 1,475 gigatons of carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

Human stress on the Earth's environment has become so severe that the planet has entered the 'danger zone', making it much less hospitable to our continued existence. Researchers warn that life support systems around the globe are being eaten away 'at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years'. It is 'a death by a thousand cuts', shifting the world to 'a warmer state, 5-6C warmer, with no ice caps'.
Professor Will Steffen, of the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is the lead author of two new studies on 'planetary boundaries' being breached by human activity around the globe. He warns that although there would still be life on Earth, it would be disastrous for large mammals such as humans:
'Some people say we can adapt due to technology, but that's a belief system, it's not based on fact. There is no convincing evidence that a large mammal, with a core body temperature of 37C, will be able to evolve that quickly. Insects can, but humans can't and that's a problem.'            
He added ominously:
'It's clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter's generation will find it increasingly hard to survive. History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn't change. That's where we are today.'     
       
Climate expert Jørgen Randers, who co-authored the classic book The Limits to Growth in 1972, is similarly scathing about the current system of economics:
'It is cost-effective to postpone global climate action. It is profitable to let the world go to hell.'
       
from here with more information




       

The Midlands Rich List

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1 Lord Bamford £3.3bn    Manufacturing
2 Lord Paul of Marylebone £2bn    Manufacturing
3 Jacques Murray £1.0bn    Manufacturing
4 Randy Lerner £950m   Banking/Football
5 Ranjit and Baljinder Boparan Singh £800m   Food
6 John Bloor £750m   Manufacturing/Construction
7 Steve Morgan £650m   Construction/Football
8 Sir Peter Rigby £550m   IT/Aerospace
9= Kevin Cash £500m   Property
9= Roy Richardson £500m   Construction
11 Tony Gallagher £475m   Construction
12= Caspar MacDonald-Hall £450m   Property
12= Lord Edmiston £450m   Property/Automotive
12= The Mackie Family £450m   Electricals
15 Kevin Threlfall £320m   Retail
16 Sir Paul Ruddock £300m   Hedge Funds
17 Paul Newey £230m   Finance
18 Richard Harpin £200m   Insurance
19 James Holder £175m   Fashion
20 Keith Bradshaw £172m   Care Homes/Automotive


Lord Bamford – formerly Sir Anthony Bamford – has the formal title of Baron Bamford of Daylesford in the County of Gloucestershire and Wootton in the County of Staffordshire. 

As well as their huge 4,000 acre Wootton estate in Staffordshire, Lord Bamford, 68, and his wife Lady Carole Bamford have homes in Chelsea, Barbados and France and the 2,000- acre Daylesford estate near Stow-on-the Wold. Lady Bamford also runs Daylesford Organics. She founded the company 12 years ago and it is now one of the country’s largest working organic farms, with a long list of celebrity customers. It is one of the most sustainable farms in the UK. The company, which has a vineyard in Provence, also has a store, bakery and café in Tokyo. She also has shops in Pimlico, Notting Hill, Selfridges and Gloucestershire, an organic farm school, a cookery school and a fashion business – Bamford & Sons. 

Lord Bamford moves in exalted circles and has the ear of the Prime Minister, having donated almost £5 million to the Conservative Party since 2002, and is a member of David Cameron’s elite leaders’ group.

In God We Trust

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Since 2009, banks have paid the staggering amount of $178 billion in fines – U.S. banks have paid $115 billion, while European banks $63 billion. But, as analyst Sital Patel of Market Watch writes, these fines are now seen as a cost of doing business. In fact, no banker has yet been incriminated in a personal capacity. All the three biggest Dutch banks – Rabobank, ABN Amro and ING Groep – have been involved in scandals that have hurt consumers, or were nationalised during the financial crisis, costing taxpayers more than 140 billion dollars. Rabobank was fined one billion dollars.

All 90,000 bankers in the Netherlands are now required to take an oath: “I swear that I will endeavour to maintain and promote confidence in the financial sector. So help me God”.

God is now the Supreme Regulator of the Dutch banking system.


And on the US dollar it says “In God We Trust”

Awwwwwwwww...the faith of the capitalist....

Antibiotics doesn't cure the disease of poverty

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Earlier this month, news broke that one of the first new classes of antibiotics in quite some time was discovered. Understandably, the news was met with jubilation. Most of the reporting highlighted pharmaceutical and technological developments, yet fail to remind the public that infectious diseases are largely considered diseases of the poor. After all, it is easier to rally behind a “miracle” technology than it is to rally behind a restructuring of society that prevents multi-drug resistant diseases in the first place. The discovery of a new class of antibiotics does as much to highlight the many economic and social issues in our world as it does to kill deadly pathogens. Drug development has major limitations for curing infections of poverty.

The history of medicine show the same infectious diseases that once killed the Romans of antiquity were the same infections that killed poor Americans until the early 1900s. Only one hundred years ago, Americans were more likely to die from infectious diseases, tuberculosis and the flu, than they were to die from the chronic diseases that now afflict the country. However, with the serendipitous discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, many felt infectious disease would become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the antibiotic pipeline has dried up and dangerously resistant organisms have started to emerge. Health leaders are again recognizing infectious diseases as a leading problem, which explains the excitement that has surrounded the recent discovery.

This new anti-biotic drug that has garnered so much excitement has not yet been put through rigorous clinical trials. These trials can cost well over 100 million dollars, and less than 8% of drugs that begin trials are brought to market. This means that unless there is the potential for a hefty profit, pharmaceutical companies steer clear of testing many drugs in development. It is harder for pharmaceutical companies to recoup an investment in treatments for infectious disease. In this case, it also means that there is still a low likelihood that the antibiotic that made the news last week will be available anytime in the near future.

We’ve seen what happens when a pharmaceutical company decides to get behind a cure for an infectious disease. In 2014, Gilead received approval for the first cure for Hepatitis C, a disease that largely impacts those with less education and living in poverty. However, when Gilead priced their drug regiment at over $80,000, they effectively limited access for the patients with real need. If this new wonder-antibiotic is made available, why should anything different be expected?

Effective treatment of infectious diseases ranging from Ebola to chikungunya does require an understanding of the science behind new antibiotics. However, and equally important, effective treatment also requires an understanding of what it means for an infection to be a disease of poverty. A 2011 Institute of Medicine report revealed alarming data that the poorest of the poor in the United States are disproportionally affected by a host of infectious diseases that preferentially infect those in low-income and middle-income countries. The groups most likely to be afflicted by neglected infections of poverty include minorities; single-family, low-income households; racially segmented cities; the American South; and other groups that live along the fault lines of society. These fault lines within society have deep historical roots in the power relations of class, gender, and race. Our social institutions – political, economic, cultural, religious, and legal – reinforce these unequal power relations.

In commenting on how to treat and prevent the spread of Ebola, for example, infectious disease specialist Paul Farmer notes that, “the only formula we’ve come up with is the following: you can’t stop Ebola without staff, stuff, space and systems.”

One new antibiotic will only buy us time in the fight against the ever-evolving microbes that surround us. The real issue is that infectious diseases are diseases of poverty. The real issue is that new antibiotics alone will not save us from these diseases, but social solutions just might. It is far easier and less expensive to fund research into novel drug discovery than it is to develop a society in which everyone has equal and affordable access to quality care.




Forlorn hopes that capitalism can solve poverty

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This blog has on a few occasions pricked the balloon of those who believed another type of approach by capitalism can solve poverty and deprivation. Much has been claimed about micro-credit and the efforts of such people as Yunus and the Grameen bank and the scores of emulators that followed and this blog has deflated much of their claims.  

Yet again another report has emerged casting doubts on the micro-banking panacea for poverty. Six studies from different parts of the world, published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, all find that microcredit is not an effective tool at helping people escape poverty. The findings corroborate calls that microfinance advocates have oversold the benefits of providing loans to the world’s poor, especially women. Randomized control trials were used to determine what happened when people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Mongolia, and Morocco took out microloans. They were conducted independently of one another and covered a total of 37,000 people. All six showed that loan recipients experienced “modest, but not transformative, improvement” in their lives.
 “One of the things that is interesting is how consistent the findings are, based on very different contexts and even quite different products,” said said Timothy Ogden, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative at NYU.
“These loans do help, but the changes are not transformative, certainly not transformative enough to justify charitable donations to the standard microcredit model. We have seen, though, that these are viable profit-making products, and so investors interested in a double-bottom line should take note,” said MIT economist Esther Duflo, co-author of two of the studies, in a news release.

The studies, conducted by researchers affiliated with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), conclude that while microloans can increase small business ownership and investment, the small, short-term loans generally do not lead to increased income, investments in children's schooling, or substantial gains in women's empowerment for poor borrowers.

"The studies do not find clear evidence, or even much in the way of suggestive evidence, of reductions in poverty or substantial improvements in living standards. Nor is there robust evidence of improvements in social indicators," the introductory paper to the studies reads.

The micro-credit model will still continue despite the disappointing outcomes nevertheless. Lending of this type will still appeal to investors, Ogden said. While cash transfers have emerged as an alternative with significant impact, there are people and organizations looking to make a financial return on investment. That is something loans can provide as opposed to just giving people money. They may well tweak the process by allowing breaks for repayments, shorter loans, changing when loan cycles begin. No doubt charities and various NGOs will still promote such financial service practices as micro-credit, after all, they have to stay in existence themselves.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Primary Amazon Forest Cut For 'Sustainable' Cacao Industry

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Aiming to be the world’s largest purveyor of sustainable cacao, a company is developing a plantation in the Amazon that scientists say comes at the expense of primary forest
 
A cacao grower with roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry has set up shop in the Peruvian Amazon. The CEO of United Cacao has told the international press that he wants to change the industry for the better, and Peru seems to provide the right conditions and climate, both for the plants themselves and the business.
 

But a cadre of scientists and conservation groups charge that United Cacao, through its “wholly owned” subsidiary in Peru, Cacao del Peru Norte, has quietly cut down more than 2,000 hectares of primary, closed-canopy rainforest near Iquitos, a city of about half a million that has the distinction of being the largest city in the world that’s not accessible by road.

Questions about the legality of United Cacao’s operations run counter to the company’s portrayal of itself as a force for positive change in the industry. On United Cacao’s website, Dennis Melka, CEO of United Cacao, references the company’s goal “of becoming the largest and lowest cost corporate grower of sustainable and traceable cacao beans.”

A Czech citizen and resident of the Cayman Islands, Melka built his reputation in the palm oil industry as a “serial plantations entrepreneur,” according to an article by agrimoney.com, and he’s proven he can make money for his investors. Asian Plantations, a palm oil company that he cofounded, sold in late 2014 for £110 million ($167 million), up from a 2009 market value of £20 million ($30 million). 

 

taken from lengthy article here with satellite photo evidence 


 


We Are Enslaved By The Money Makers

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The Politics of Inequality


Stop the presses! Inequality is still getting worse. Last year, prior to the start of the Davos World Economic Forum, Oxfam came out with its briefing paper, Working for the Few: Political Capture and Economic Inequality, stating that “Economic inequality is rapidly increasing in the majority of countries.” We all remember the chilliest of soundbites: 85 people equal 3.5 billion, an almost unimaginable see-saw of inequality, indifference, and greed. Well, this year Oxfam stated that only 80 people equal 3.5 billion. Not exactly the progress most people were calling for.

In this year’s briefing paper Wealth: Having It All And Wanting More, Oxfam added that “Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/healthcare.” It’s as if we’re playing a real-life game of Monopoly.
What is more, one billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day, while the wealth of the richest 80 has doubled since 2009 and now equals almost $2 trillion. That’s correct, 80 people now have a collective wealth of almost $2 trillion, including such household business names as Bill Gates at $80.6 billion, Warren Buffet at $72.7 billion, Christy Walton and family at $41.6, and the Koch brothers at $41 billion each. The ascent of money is paralleled by the descent of man.

The Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima aptly noted: “Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.”

So what can be done? I mean really? In Davos, business leaders, members of governments, academics, and Nobel laureates, have been getting together for their annual meeting since 1971 to discuss such important global issues as the economy. It’s like a state-of-the-world address or a heads-up to the business-minded on what’s coming round the corner.
A record number are attending this year to talk about “Economic Growth and Social Inclusion,” in between the celebrity wine fests. According to one journalist (“Davos uncovered: What really goes on at the Alpine power-fest, The Independent, January 24, 2007), Davos is in fact “the greatest talking shop on earth” with “parties and dinners, not to mention the opportunity to work off the night before with a morning on the slopes.” This year, José Manuel Barroso, Christine Lagarde, Katie Couric, Melinda Gates, Charlie Rose, Ban Ki-moon, Kenneth Rogoff, George Soros, and Mark J. Carney among others are there to talk about new ideas in a “global village that is both moving closer together and drifting further apart” as are Angela Merkel, François Hollande, and Matteo Renzi in special sessions throughout the 4-day forum.

Not to be outdone by all the good talking at Davos, Barack Obama gave his seventh State-of-the Union address to Congress, with no more messin’ around. Clearly Obama doesn’t want to be remembered for “Yes we can,” “Yes we could have,” or “No, unh, I’m sorry, we never did.” This time the kid gloves came off as he proposed a plan to Congress to resuscitate a flat-lining middle class. His deficit-neutral math will in no uncertain terms force the trickle-down from the ultra-high earners to the ultra-low earners, redistributing $320 billion in taxes and fees. Or will it?
His planned changes to the tax code include increasing capital gains tax from 23.8% to 28% for couples earning more than $500,000, taxing inherited securities, and charging a fee to companies with assets of more than $50 billion, while expanding the tax credit to children, giving a $500 tax credit to two-working-parent families, and providing a $60 billion kitty to make community college free. As Obama said to great applause throughout, “Tonight, we turn the page.”
Of course, none of this is likely to happen, but it’s nice talk at the end of the day when all is said and done from a president who is at odds with Congress. The Sloganeer-in-Chief is now the Posturer-in-Chief. Still, it’s nice to see that someone is at least thinking about how to transfer $320 billion from the rich to the poor.

So, do we have a name yet for this new way? How about “neo-soc” as in neo-socialism, a rejigging of the socialism for the rich of the last 20 years? The not-rich will finally get their dues from the not-poor to counter economic stagnation and address runaway inequality.
During his presidency, Ronald Reagan liked to popularize the phrase “trickle-down economy,” where the stalwarts of business created employment for others through their massive wealth, with a little help from their tax-slashing friends in high places and the not-so-funny Laffer curve. Alas, the spoils never quite trickled down to anyone other than those with their hands on the tap, not to mention an unprecedented post-war increase in the national debt under his tenure. In the heat of the Cold War, Reagan’s trickle-down economics was more like the Politburo with a smile. Obama has planned to undo all of the madness with a wink.

What really is the difference between the Left and the Right anymore in modern politics? The Right wants as much as possible for itself deemed mine by right. The Left wants to share with their friends, because life is better with friends. Okay, that’s too simplistic, especially since neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism is all the same now. Let’s call it neo-usury.
Once considered a mortal sin by the Church, usury is now an established way of life. Aristotle wrote, “The most hated sort [of money-making], and with the greatest reason, is usury. … For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase in interest.” More than 1,500 years later, Saint Thomas of Aquinas wrote that usury was “money for money or of things for money, not to meet the needs of life, but to acquire gain. … justly condemned. Today, one has only to turn on the television to hear the moralists of our time shouting at the top of their lungs for us to keep the economy going.

We have become enslaved by the money makers ($10 trillion more now in digital dollars since the advent of the Federal Reserve QE policy) subject to the control of today’s Medicis, Rothschilds, and Rockefellers. Credit card ripoffs, e-banking, payday loan companies using the smallest of margins to take more from those with less. Business schemers all working on ways to make us all spend more to add to their wealth. Go forth, son, and forever be indebted.

Of course, on top of all this talk of change came a statement by the IMF that growth is not expected to be as great as forecast (when is it ever?), this time because of declining oil prices. Indeed, growth is not growth for all, but the rich will now be more interested in keeping their money tanks topped up than thinking about implementing any plans to make a better world for all.
Nothing will really get done to change the state of the world, and this time next year 75 people will have as much wealth as 3.5 billion. Talk doesn’t mean much to the now over 50% impoverished school children in the United States. It doesn’t mean much to the one billion people living on $1.25 a day.

But no one wants to be a negative Nelly all the time. Oxfam also lists 7 excellent ways to help take the world back from those who wish to own more, including clamping down on tax dodgers, a fair tax burden to all, living wages, and a global plan to tackle inequality.
But if you’re worried that business leaders in Davos or government leaders in Washington don’t really have your best interests at heart, we could all try to do with less. We can’t really expect the ultra-rich to care that much. Other people’s wishes for a better world shouldn’t be as good as it gets.

from here by JOHN K. WHITE, an adjunct lecturer in the School of Physics, University College Dublin

" Nothing will really get done to change the state of the world " - certainly not while we continue to accept living, breathing and working within a capitalist system. Isn't it amazing how many can see all this happening, can be living and trying to hold everything together in dire circumstances, can hear the figures bandied about regarding unemployment, poor wages, homelessness and abject poverty and yet they still cling to it as if there's no alternative? It's not negative to promote a world society of common ownership and equal access with all basic needs met for each and every individual. It's not negative to promise everyone the opportunity to contribute their manpower and/or skills for the benefit of the greater community. It's not negative to spend time explaining to fellow workers how much better off we'll all be within a socialist system. 
We're looking to build an enlightened majority in order to bring it into being.  How about you?

    

Morrison’s Chief

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An excellent example which exposes the divide in society between the economic classes was reported in the Times on the 14th January.  The Times announced that Dalton Philips, the chief executive of the supermarket chain Morrisons, had been sacked for failing to revive the company’s fortunes.

Philips admitted to making “strategic errors” in his management of the company, and lamented  ”It’s clearly a sad day.  When you get a tap on the shoulder from the board and the board want’s a change, you absolutely have to accept it.”  – a comment that plainly illustrates where power resides in the capitalist system.


With a likely compensation of nearly £2m, Philips will doubtless survive in comfort, unlike, perhaps workers at parcel-carrier City Link who were unseasonably dismissed over Christmas.  Nevertheless, in spite of his exalted position, the manner of his departure marks him clearly as a member of the working class, a characteristic he shares with the remaining 127,000 employees of Morrisons, who are similarly vulnerable. 

(TIMES 14/1/15)

The Need to Change

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In his documentary ‘The Super-Rich and Us’, Jacques Peretti catalogued how the rich and privileged live in a world of fantasy – of symbols, just as religious fanatics do. They amass money pointlessly, far more than they can ever spend. They store it among the bricks and mortar of empty houses in London, in tax havens, in gold and jewels. What is the point of all this money? How many expensive meals can they eat, how many luxury cars can they drive, how many of their homes can they live in? Just like “holy scriptures,” yachts and private islands are purely totemic. They represent a belief system and an identity. That identity reassures the wealthy that they are virtuous. If it were not so (they tell themselves) they would not be so successful. It also gives them a reason to get up in the morning – to make more money. They don't care about whether people are suffering. They have power and privilege and they don't care about anything else except to simply increase their wealth. If the price of the burden of “solving “ the economic crisis is placed on working class people, on the poor, on the elderly, on the young, it is a price they are happy to pay. What really is the difference between the Left and the Right anymore in modern politics? Both bow down before the market, and loyally serve their corporate masters – the only difference being a matter of degree. If politicians and governments don’t really have your best interests at heart we can’t really expect the ultra-rich to care that much. After all, it is their interests that are being served. It's about money. It's about power. The rich share an allegiance to promoting wealth upward. They share an allegiance to reproducing their own ideology. They share an allegiance to greed. They share an allegiance to a culture of cruelty and deprivation. They don't care about people. Young people are only a long term investment but too many in the system just believe in short-term returns. Any sort of exhortation or pleading with the elected representatives of capitalism to be “nicer” and more “benevolent” to us is going to fail. It can never happen.

The political and economical system is completely dysfunctional and broken. The future demands a new political consciousness. We can't just wait for capitalism to tear apart society and then build from scratch again, for with the fast approaching climate change crisis, there won’t be a world for us to rebuild. Resistance is impossible without education that will provide a radical democracy that is truly participatory and will give power to all people so that they can shape their lives. The Left argument that once contradictions become bad enough, people will act accordingly is nonsense. Unless these contradictions are understood, analyzed, thoughtfully probed, until people have a sense of what those contradictions mean—there's just as much of a chance that they'll move into embracing fascism as there is that they'll move into a more radical conception of democracy itself. Some people will attempt to find solutions in ways that intensify the very conditions that made them disposable and suppress the revolutionary imagination.

Inequality is still getting worse. It used to be 85 people’s wealth equal 3.5 billion, this year it is now only 80 people equal 3.5 billion peoples wealth. Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. While one billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day, the wealth of the richest 80 has doubled since 2009 and now equals almost $2 trillion. That’s correct, 80 people now have a collective wealth of almost $2 trillion, including such household business names as Bill Gates at $80.6 billion, Warren Buffet at $72.7 billion, Christy Walton and family at $41.6, and the Koch brothers at $41 billion each. The issue is not about introducing wealth taxes. The issue is, how do we allocate the wealth that we have? People want and need services. They want roads, they want healthcare. We possess all the resources to furnish them. The question we should be posing is not what level we're going to tax the rich to give you the goods and services you want but about using our natural resources and the creativity of labor to satisfy human needs. That's a very different argument.  The proper perspective is socialism It means re-organizing society to function for the benefit of most of the population, rather than organizing society for the profits of a few.

 If the system is entirely broken how and what are we going to replace it with? This is where the socialist movement must admit it has failed. Unless we create a culture and a consciousness capable of changing the way people think about the common sense assumptions that drive their lives, then they will see no alternative. They will continue to perceive the status quo as the only possible reality. Socialism will remain a wishful fancy for the far-off future. The socialist movement must provide a glimmer of hope for what a democratic socialist society might look like. We must recapture the imagination and the inspiration of the socialist message. We have to dispel ignorance about what socialism is and offer confidence in the means of how we can reach it. Some believe the Occupy movement was a failure because it never gave a list of demands, and it refused to have a hierarchical leadership but that was its strength, not its weakness. It helped create a new language and a new way of understanding exactly how politics leaves people out. What it didn't do put enough emphasis was in building long-term structured organization, a political party, a socialist party. You can't fight power and capture the state machine simply with decentralized informal organization and they don’t need to be top-down leader-led type of parties. It doesn't mean they need to be authoritarian but what they are required to do is exercise authority by being responsible to the majority will.


The Socialist Party is all about producing a realistic and achievable utopia. Informing people about the world's problems opens up the possibility to address them and change them. We have to be critical to be meaningful, to make politics transformative.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Profits Not Lives

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Doctors Without Borders (or Medecins Sans Frontieres) has released a new report criticizing two top pharmaceutical companies for inflated costs of vital vaccines that have proved too steep for poor nations, recommending they adjust prices in order to save lives. The charityhas called on GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to drop the price of the pneumococcal vaccine to $5 per child in the most impoverished countries. The vaccine protects young children against 12 diseases, including sepsis, bacterial meningitis, and pneumonia. Worldwide, pneumococcal disease kills about a million children a year, the group said.

The international medical aid organization said in the report that the cost of vaccinating children in the world’s poorest countries is now 68 times higher than in 2001. Pneumococcal vaccines currently account for 45 percent of that price jump, the report noted. Hospitals in Tunisia pay about $67 for the pneumococcal vaccine while hospitals in France pay about $58.

"A handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries," said Rohit Malpani, policy and analysis director for organization’s access campaign. “Donors will be asked to put an additional $7.5 billion dollars on the table to pay for vaccines in poor countries for the next five years, with over one third of that going to pay for one vaccine alone, the high-priced pneumococcal vaccine. Just think of how much further taxpayer money could go to vaccinate more children if vaccines were cheaper. We think it’s time for GSK and Pfizer to do their part to make vaccines more affordable for countries in the long term, because the discounts the companies are offering today are just not good enough.”

Kate Elder, vaccines policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders’ access campaign said  “Because of the astronomical cost of new vaccines, many governments are facing tough choices about which deadly diseases they can afford to protect their children against. We need to put public health before profit -- life-saving vaccines for children shouldn’t be big business in poor countries.”

GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer had together reported more than $19 billion in worldwide sales of pneumococcal vaccines.