Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dictators 'R' Us

Americans were told the US had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. It had to bomb Libya because Muammar Gaddafi was an evil dictator. Today, Americans are told that we should support jihadists in Syria because Bashar al-Assad is an evil dictator and that North Korea's Kim Jong-un and Russia's Vladimir Putin, too, are evil dictators.

According to Freedom House's rating system of political rights around the world, there were 49 nations in the world, as of 2015, that can be fairly categorized as "dictatorships." 

As of 2015, the last year for which we have publicly available data, the United States had been providing military assistance to 36 of them. The United States currently supports over 73 percent of the world's dictatorships!

Quack Cures

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), an umbrella organisation representing 29 national academies in Europe, including the Royal Society in the UK, branded homeopathy “nonsense” and warned the “promotion and use of homeopathic products risks significant harms”.

In a 12-page statement, the group summarised extensive scientific research and concluded that homeopathy is scientifically implausible and produces nothing more than a placebo effect in patients. The EASAC said homeopathic remedies can be dangerous because they may delay patients from receiving conventional medical treatment.

The body recommended that EU states set up regulations to quash what it claims are misleading advertisements by homeopaths, remove homeopathic treatments from public health provision, and require that homeopathic product labels clearly identify ingredients and their amounts.

The treatment has grown in popularity in the western world, with the homeopathy industry valued at around €1 billion in the EU in 2015 with an annual growth rate of around 6 per cent.

A House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy found that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are “scientifically implausible”.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Rich Are Destroying the Planet

Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of the world’s population is poor, living on $10 a day or less, and 11 percent (767 million people, including 385 million children) live in what the World Bank calls “extreme poverty” (less than a $1.90 a day). Meanwhile, Oxfam reliably reports that, surreal as it sounds, the world’s eight richest people possess among themselves as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire human race.

Six of the world’s eight most absurdly rich people are U.S. citizens: Bill Gates (whose net worth of $426 billion equals the wealth of 3.6 billion people), Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Michael Bloomberg (former mayor of New York City). 

Seven heirs of the Walton family’s Walmart fortune have among them a net worth equal to that of the nation’s poorest 40 percent. Half the U.S. population is poor or near-poor, and half lacks any savings.

Just over a fifth of the nation’s children, including more than a third of black and Native American children, live below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, while parasitic financiers and other capitalist overlords enjoy unimaginable hyper-opulence. One in seven U.S. citizens relies on food banks in “the world’s richest country.” Many of them are in families with full-time wage-earners—a reflection of the fact that wages have stagnated even as U.S. labor productivity consistently has risen for more than four decades.

 Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University determined that the U.S. political system has functioned as an oligarchy over the past three-plus decades, in which wealthy elites and their corporations rule. As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo, “Ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”

After the crash, the government under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama bailed out the very financial predators who pushed the economy over the cliff. The Obama administration, populated by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup operatives, left the rest of us to wonder “Where’s our bailout?” as 95 percent of the nation’s new income went to the top 1 percent during his first term.

“Natural disasters” such as Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and Irma—crisis moments allow wealthy interests to rack up huge profits almost overnight while much of the population is too shocked and distracted to respond. As Susan Zakin notes in the Los Angeles Review of Books, “Handing out billions for hurricane reconstruction will shore up [Donald] Trump’s faltering support on Wall Street and among major corporations profiting from a bonanza expected to top $100 billion.” Katrina provided precisely such a business opportunity to corporate America.

Environmental ruin lies at the heart of the system, intimately related back to class rule. As Le Monde’s former ecological editor Herve Kempf noted in his aptly titled 2007 book, “How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth,” the oligarchy sees the pursuit of material growth as “the solution to the social crisis,” the “sole means of fighting poverty and unemployment” and the “only means of getting societies to accept extreme inequalities without questioning them.” “Growth,” Kempf explained, is meant to “allow the overall level of wealth to arise and consequently improve the lot of the poor without—and this part is never spelled out—any need to modify the distribution of wealth.”

“Capitalist democracy” is an oxymoron and a mirage. So is the curious notion of “inclusive capitalism”—a term taken up by the corporate right wing of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton’s closest economic advisers, in 2015. This is the Orwellian name...

This extract from an article by Paul Street can be read in full here

The Real Refugee Problem

According to Oxfam, six of the wealthiest countries host less than 9 percent of the world’s refugees.

Though Germany has welcomed far more refugees than the other richest nations, a major gap remains as low and middle-income countries continue to provide for the vast majority of refugees. Trump  reduced its refugee admission cap from 110,000, set by the previous administration, to 50,000. The figure is the lowest since 1986. Trump is also proposing to cut the Refugee Assistance budget from 3.1 billion dollars to 2.7 billion for next year.

Assistance to such countries has also been lacking, leaving refugee-hosting nations alone to shoulder the costs.
As conflict rages in South Sudan after a peace agreement fell apart in July 2016, over one million refugees have flocked to the neighboring nation of Uganda.It is the biggest exodus of refugees in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and has contributed to the creation of the world’s largest refugee camp. Strained for resources, Uganda requested two billion dollars for the immediate crisis and long-term development solutions. However, world leaders have thus far contributed less than a quarter of the appeal.  

Labour Party Conference - Confronting our class enemies

This year’s Labour Party Conference in Brighton is likely to be the biggest ever. Also, compared with previous years there is more interest in the word “socialism”, no matter how vaguely it is defined. We of The Socialist Party of Great Britain have cherished no fond delusions concerning the Labour Party. From our inception, we have consistently opposed it Every one of the measures introduced by the Labour Party during its governments has been completely compatible with the structure of capitalist society. As a party, the Labour Party is now a battle ground for the careerist professional politician seeking after power, privilege, and prestige.

The party of socialism in this country is the Socialist Party which made socialism its one and only Object. The Socialist Party recognises that only a class-conscious working class can build socialism. Its task, therefore, is the advancement of an unadulterated, uncompromising socialist programme.

The Labour Party conference takes place from Sunday 24 September to Wednesday 27 September and Socialist Party members will have a presence, distributing our literature.

What foreigners?

A new study shows that while Muslim immigrants integrate well in their countries of residence in the EU, they still experience a lot of discrimination. The study focuses on first- and second-generation immigrants – for example, people who were born in another country and moved to Germany and their children, who were born in Germany. The people surveyed have roots in many different regions around the world: North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Turkey. 

The majority of Muslims in the European Union feel at home in the countries they live in is one of the key findings in a study released by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) . 

"Our survey results make a mockery of the claim that Muslims aren't integrated into our societies," FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty said. "On the contrary, we see a trust in democratic institutions that is higher than much of the general population."

76 percent of participants said they felt strongly attached to the country they live in. Many also report having a strong trust in institutions like the police and parliament. Only around 2 percent of all participants reported not feeling attached at all. Second-generation immigrants report slightly higher levels of attachment – they feel at home in the country where they were born.

The majority of survey participants reported they feel at home in the place where they live now. In Sweden, the average answer came up to almost 5, the highest score representing a very strong attachment. In Italy, Muslim immigrants were the least enthusiastic, reporting an average attachment to their home country of only 3.3.

Almost 40 percent of Muslims surveyed for the FRA study said they had experienced discrimination in their daily life over the past five years. Areas, where discrimination occurred, include the job and apartment hunt, work, and contact with teachers. 

Numbers vary strongly from country to country, however. In Malta, only 3 percent of Muslims polled said they had been discriminated against because of their religion, but 18 percent reported discrimination based on their ethnic origin or immigrant background. Ten percent of Muslims in the UK had experienced discrimination based on their immigrant background. In Greece, that number was 52 percent. In Germany, 16 percent of Muslims polled had experienced discrimination because of their religion, and 17 percent because of their immigrant background.

The Digital Tax-Haven

The European commission is looking at ways to capture tax from companies that may have no offices, shops or other physical presence in a country, but are accruing profits through large numbers of online users or customers.
The EU is pushing ahead with plans to rewrite tax rules for technology companies, aimed at increasing governments’ take from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon.
report published by the commission  said technology companies paid less than half the tax of bricks-and-mortar businesses.
A digital business with international operations typically pays a 10.1% tax rate in the EU, compared with a 23.2% rate levied on traditional companies, said the report. 
In reality, many technology companies pay far less than their high street rivals. Amazon’s corporation tax bill in the UK is 11 times smaller than that of British bookstores, a recent study found. In Ireland, the European commission concluded that Apple paid 0.005% to Irish tax authorities in 2014, far below the corporation tax rate of 12.5%. Apple continues to fight the ruling.

The Police State

Banks and building societies are to carry out immigration checks which are to be carried out quarterly on 70m current accounts from January in the biggest extension of Theresa May’s plans to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in Britain, the Guardian has learned. Banks have been told to adopt a default position of telling customers to take up the matter with the Home Office if a mistake has been made, even if they provide a passport or biometric residence permit showing they are lawfully present in Britain. Also, banks have also been told there is no requirement on them to contact account holders or require additional documentary evidence as part of the check.
The Home Office expects to identify 6,000 visa overstayers and failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders facing deportation in the first year of the checks. Status checks are required by anyone opening a new bank or building society account under the Immigration Act 2014, but no measure has previously required checks on the scale of every current account in Britain.
The accounts of those identified will be closed down or frozen “to make it harder for them to establish or maintain a settled life in the UK”. Officials say freezing accounts that hold significant sums “will create a powerful incentive to agree to voluntary departure” so they can secure their money once they have left the country.
Welfare campaigners warned that the Home Office’s recent record meant it could not be trusted to implement this new system without errors and that migrants with every right to be in Britain were likely to be hit by mistakes in the imposition of the checks.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, criticised the move: “The government’s own record shows it cannot be trusted even to implement this system properly. Immigration status is very complex, and the Home Office consistently gives out incorrect information and guidance. Migrants and ethnic minorities with every right to be here will be affected by the imposition of these new checks.”
An official Home Office impact assessment acknowledged “the proposed measures may have the potential to impact on the appetite of firms to offer banking services to legal migrants who do not have permanent leave to remain in the UK”
Another official Home Office impact assessment acknowledges that rather than encouraging illegal migrants to go home it could simply drive them even further into the “hidden economy”.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

West London Peace Market (23 Sept)


Saturday, 23 September
10:30am - 4:00pm
The Party will have a stall at this event
 Directions: Nearest tube station isTurnham Green on the Piccadilly and District lines
What is the socialist attitude to war? It is that war as we know it is produced in the main by the conflict between the interests of capitalists of various nations. It is born of the rivalry between sellers of goods for profit, and it can only die when selling for profit is abolished. In other words, socialist theory holds and capitalist practice proves that only by ending the entire capitalist system can war with all its attendant horrors cease.
All sorts of appeals are made to the Socialist Party to join forces with  "anti-war” organisations, but we are deaf to all such calls. Not because we do not yearn for the cessation of the war. By no means so. Socialists above all others fully understand the horrors of war. We know and feel the wreckage of human life, the sorrow and suffering arising from the brutal carnage. But there are two important reasons why we cannot associate with the various "Peace" and "Stop the War" organisations.
Firstly, because we abide by the dictates of the class struggle. Because we stand for socialism and many pacifists do not. We refuse to associate with those who support the capitalist class during times of "peace".  We refuse to lower the socialist red flag to march with the enemies of socialism knowing full well that the very men who seek our help for "peace" now would be amongst the first to "war" on the working class.
The second reason for which we cannot unite with the stop the war movement is that it is impotent. They propose to leave in power the makers of wars, the capitalist class. They intend to continue the profit-making system which itself produces commercial rivalry and inevitably international warfare. Surely it is not now doubted that wars are born of the fight for spoil between capitalists. The economic objects of the various wars have stood out so clearly as to compel even capitalist writers to admit it.
If you wish to stop all wars you must stop all capitalist competition and rivalry and to do this you must work for socialism.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Housing Crisis and the Young

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

There is hope

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

Arms Control - What went wrong?

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

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

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

What went wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Land is OUR Land

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

Bears Ears

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

Grand Staircase-Escalante

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


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

Gold Butte

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

Katahdin Woods and Waters

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

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts

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

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

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

Pacific Remote Islands

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

Rio Grande Del Norte

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

Rose Atoll

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

Robotics - the optimistic report

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

London Kids and Air Pollution

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

When the halo falls

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