Thursday, October 19, 2017

The 1%

The richest one percent of Americans had an average wealth of $14 million in 2009, around the time that the Occupy Wall Street movement formed. They generally have assets in home equity, stocks and other investments, which outpace their cash income. For the vast majority of Americans, this level of wealth feels almost astonishingly out of reach
  • The top 1 percent of earners in West Virginia earn less than they do in any other state. They make, on average, $488,634 per year. That’s a lot of money, to be sure. But, it’s only about one-fifth of what top earners made in the highest-earning state.
  • Earnings for the bottom 99 percent in West Virginia are $34,407 on average. The top 1 percent of income earners here take home 12.4 percent of all the income in the state.
  • The average annual earnings of the 1 percent are the smallest in the states of West Virginia, Mississippi ($565,813), New Mexico ($593,739), Maine ($612,494) and Kentucky ($619,585).
  • The three highest-earning states, as far as the one percent are concerned, are Connecticut ($2,402,339), Wyoming($2,118,167) and New York ($2,006,632).
  • In Connecticut, where the top 1 percent of income-earners make more than anywhere else, the bottom 99 percent earn $56,445 annually. The top 1 percent is taking home 29.7 percent of the income in the state.

According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, income inequality has risen in every single U.S. state since the 1970s. And, in 15 states, the top 1 percent captured all of the income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 24 states, including those 15, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth during those post-recession years. Another 10 states saw a double-digit income-gain for the 1 percent while the bottom 99 percent actually experienced a decrease in income.
These discrepancies are huge. In 2013, the top 1 percent of income earners in the U.S. made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.
Income and wealth inequality around the world is even worse than what’s going on here in the United States. The latest report from Oxfam reveals some startling realities.
  • The wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by 38 percent since 2010.
  • Women are disproportionately impacted by wealth and income inequality on a global scale.
  • Wealth inequality is increasing globally.
  • The wealthiest 1 percent now own more than the entire wealth of the 99 percent.

Hungry for Change

The number of hungry people has grown by the millions. We can’t continue “business as usual.” Hunger is at a crisis level in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Hunger there is extreme. In Kenya, drought means that crops are failing and livestock are producing little milk. Around 370,000 Kenyan children aren’t getting enough to eat.
20 million people are on the edge of starvation right now. More than half the population of South Sudan know life-threatening levels of hunger. In Yemen, 17 million people are at risk of starvation. Somalia’s rate of malnutrition has reached the emergency threshold and hundreds of thousands of children are in critical need of life-saving treatment.

Hunger is the world’s number one health risk, greater than HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. When a person has the hunger for a sustained period of time, he or she can develop malnutrition, either mild or severe, depending on one’s body needs and food intake, it adds. Children who do survive long periods of severe malnutrition experience stunting and brain damage that affect their physical and mental well-being for the rest of their lives. Whether children have the chance to live and grow is based on how we act now.
In India, the number of undernourished people accounts for world’s 14.5% at 190.7 million, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report. The report said that children and women at reproductive ages are most vulnerable. 38.4% of children under five in India are stunted and 51.4% of women in reproductive ages suffer from lack of iron in the blood, the report said. Food wasted in India accounts up to 40% of the total food produced.

Every year, consumers in wealthy nations waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons). And food wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.

More than 42 million people in the United States face hunger, including nearly 13 million children and more than 5 million seniors, according to Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit organization that feeds more than 46 million Americans through pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community outlets. Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky are the states with the highest rates of food insecurity in households — meaning people do not have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food — according to Feeding America.

Although fertility levels worldwide are declining, life expectancy is increasing - and therefore, the global population keeps growing. The United Nations estimates that the world's population is increasing by more than 80 million people every year. The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. So how can we feed all these billions without destroying the Earth? While it won't necessarily be easy to feed 10 billion people sustainably, it is possible, experts believe.

"Today, we would be able to feed many more people than we do," Ralf Südhoff, head of the World Food Program of the United Nations in Berlin. "But we waste too much of the food we produce, and we lack efficient production - particularly in Africa," Südhoff said. Population growth is not the key cause of hunger, Südhoff said - it is rather a lack of efficiency in managing our resources. 

Average productivity in African countries is around 20 percent of its capacity, said Reiner Klingholz, chairman of the think tank Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Farmers in rural areas of some African and Asian countries still lack the necessary means to maximize crop yields, misusing vast areas of land. Experts agree that productivity could be increased through very simple means. 
"Efficiency could be doubled or tripled in African countries by providing basic means such as training, credits and land rights," Südhoff said.

Valentin Thurn, director of the documentary 10 Billion- Whats on your plate? ,Farmers in rural areas are the most affected by hunger - and the ones most commonly left behind. He believes smallholders should get integrated into the modernization processes - until now, only limited to big industrialized farms. Global agriculture currently produces some 4,000 calories per capita per day - the double of what each person needs.  "We are already producing enough for 9 to 12 billion people - but we discard a third of the harvest worldwide," Thurn pointed out. This huge amount of food waste can realistically be reduced by 80 percent, Thurn said. He believes that multinationals like Bayer are not the correct actors for leading global agricultural change. "They always have capital-intensive solutions, and they want to make farmers dependent on buying seeds from them every year," Thurn said.

Unemployment Drops - Wages Fall

UK unemployment fell by 52,000 in the three months to August to 1.4 million, leaving the jobless rate unchanged at 4.3% from the previous quarter. However, pay still failed to keep pace with inflation, with the real value of earnings down 0.3% over the past year.
Bank of England, Dave Ramsden, said there's little sign of wages picking up in response to higher inflation.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady commented: "Britain desperately needs a pay rise. Working people are earning less today (in real terms) than a decade ago.

Low pay Is "endemic"

The richest 10% of British households had an average of £1.32m in net property, pension and financial wealth, five times the wealth of the bottom half of households
A quarter of low paid workers are permanently stuck in poorly paid jobs in the UK with little chance of earning more, according to new research by the Social Mobility Commission, with women more likely to get stuck on low pay  and a particular issue for women in their early 20s and said a lack of "good quality, flexible work" for those with child caring responsibilities was to blame.
It found just one in six low paid workers had managed to escape from poorly paid jobs in the last decade.
On average, people stuck on low pay have seen their hourly wages rise by just 40p in real terms over the last decade, compared to a £4.83 pay rise for those who have permanently "escaped", said the report.
The report defines low pay as hourly earnings below two-thirds of the median hourly wage, which was £8.10 last year. The median hourly wage for an average person across the entire British workforce was £12.10 per hour in 2016.
The industries with the lowest paid jobs are retail and hospitality as some employers in the hospitality and retail industries try to keep overheads down with low-paid jobs
"This lack of pay progress can have a huge scarring effect on people's lifetime living standards," Conor Darcy, a senior policy analyst with think tank Resolution Foundation, which carried out the research, said.

Feeding India

India is the second largest producer of food in the world, and the largest producer of fruits and vegetables, milk, cereal and seafood products.

India also has one of the world's largest population of children suffering from malnutrition, almost double the corresponding number for sub-Saharan Africa. 

 India in the last 10 years has slipped six positions from 94 to 100 (out of 119 countries) on the World Hunger Index.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union minister of food processing industries, said, "India produces enough, but it doesn't reach the people. In other countries, wastage happens on the plate, but in India, it happens at the harvest, transportation and storage stages."

Almost 25-30 percent of agricultural produce is estimated to be wasted in India, while only seven percent of the total perishable produce is processed, compared to countries like the US (65 percent), Philippines (78 percent) and China (23 percent).

 Linking food wastage to hunger is only a small part of the problem and only a partial solution. 

To end hunger and provide ample nutritious food for all contact:

The World Socialist Party (India) 
257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bombs Away?

An analysis by the Arms Control Association of U.S. government budget data projects the total cost over the next 30 years of the proposed nuclear modernization and maintenance at between $1.25 trillion and $1.46 trillion. 

To put this into perspective, this number exceeds the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

This expenditure is not included in the defense budget of $700 billionwhich leads the world in military spending and represents more than the spending of the next seven countries combined – three times what China spends and seven times what Russia spends on defense.

With climate change  and an increasing number of natural disasters, one might think nuclear weapons would lose their place as the top recipient of federal spending. But this is far from the case and there is a reason why.

As long as other countries continue to harbor nuclear weapons, we will do the same. And vice versa. As former Secretary of State George Shultz so eloquently put it, “proliferation begets proliferation.” One state’s nuclear acquisitions only drive its adversaries to follow suit. The reality is adding to our nuclear arsenal will only force our international opponents to defensively order a mad dash for the bomb.

 As Trump said at the start of his campaign, "If countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack." 

The United States currently maintains an arsenal of about 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and Strategic Bombers and some 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in five European countries.

 The Trump administration considered proposing additional, smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs. However, these mini-nukes are not something new. The US have had nuclear weapons capable of being dialed down to the power of "mini-nukes" since the 80's. 

 In August, the Air Force announced major new contracts for a revamp of the American nuclear force: $1.8 billion for initial development of a highly stealthy nuclear cruise missile, and nearly $700 million to begin replacing the 40-year-old Minuteman missiles in silos across the United States.

The Arm Control Association broke down the proposed spending for Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and found the total reached over $128 billion. The costly program, titled Colombia Class, includes 12 new boats for the Navy, and has a projected life-cycle cost of $282 billion. In comparison, free public education in America would cost a mere $62.6 billion dollars.

The third and final upgrade is a modernization of the current B-2 Bomber costing 9.5 billion. However, in accordance with Obama's efforts to decrease the US's quantity of weapons, known as START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the Pentagon announced it would retain 42 deployed and 4 non-deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers. The remainder of the B-52 bombers would be converted to carry only conventional weapons.

 Despite having spent hundreds of billions on strategic missile defenses, most analysts have little confidence that the US can destroy any intercontinental missiles launched against them once they get off the ground. After the most recent failed interceptor test Philip E. Coyle III, who previously ran the Pentagon’s weapons-testing program, stated that the system “is something the U.S. military, and the American people, cannot depend upon.” This is after spending $8 billion a year for the past forty years.

Cheating the system? It is the system

A new report  by U.S. PIRG and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that 73 percent of companies on the Fortune 500 list are taking advantage of overseas tax havens—costing the United States $752 billion in federal tax revenue last year alone.

The new study discovered that, in total, America's most profitable corporations in 2016 had $2.6 trillion deposited overseas in over 9,000 subsidiaries in various locations, including tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The Trump-GOP tax proposals would, if passed, make this bad situation even worse as Congress considers proposals to institute a near zero percent tax rate on profits booked offshore by multinational corporations. Richard Phillips, a senior policy analyst at ITEP, said "Lawmakers shouldn't be discussing how to sweeten the pot and give corporations a huge tax break that amounts to a huge financial reward for engaging in bad corporate behavior."  

The system is working exactly as policymakers designed it. Why should policymakers pause? In reality, they are accelerating. Al Capone was minor-league compared to these guys.

366 of the 500 companies on Fortune's list"operate one or more subsidiaries in tax haven countries." Furthermore, 30 companies with the most money officially booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 2,213 tax haven subsidiaries.
  1. Apple, which "holds at least $246 billion offshore, a sum greater than any other company's offshore cash pile," would owe $76.7 billion in U.S. taxes if this profit was not overseas;
  2. Citigroup, which stashes $47 billion overseas, would owe $13.1 billion in U.S taxes; and
  3. Nike, which holds $12.2 billion offshore, would owe $4.1 billion in U.S. taxes.
These corporations are the real "Benefit Cheats" and “Welfare Queens”. We are at the mercy of mega-corporations. This is just one example.

Fact of the Day

According to the New York Times, the number of Americans killed on battlefields in all wars in history is 1,396,733 

While the number killed by firearms in the US since 1968 is a jaw-dropping 1,516,863.

Most of those firearms deaths are people shooting themselves.

Ignoring modern slavery

The majority of Britain's biggest firms have taken a "tick box" approach to a landmark anti-slavery law, with half providing "no meaningful information" about their actions to stamp out slavery in their supply chains, a survey said. 

Under Britain's 2015 Modern Slavery Act, all businesses with a turnover of more than 36 million pounds ($48 million) must produce an annual statement outlining actions they have taken to combat slavery in their supply chains. The 2015 law was passed in response to revelations that slave labour is being used to produce everything from T-shirts to mobile phones for global consumption.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) only gave 11 out of 100 companies a score of six or more out of 10 for the quality of actions they reported in their modern slavery statement in the six areas suggested by the Act. These include statements on companies' policies in relation to slavery, due diligence in supply chains and staff training. The survey found that 43 companies did not meet the Act's requirement of posting a statement on their website which had been approved by the board and signed by a director.

Police in Britain are ramping up efforts to investigate cases of modern slavery, yet the true scale of the crime is hugely underestimated, Kevin Hyland, the UK's anti-slavery chief said. He was appointed in 2014 as part of Britain's  Modern Slavery Act, called in his second annual report for greater support for slavery victims, and urged businesses to do more to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour. At least 13,000 people are estimated by the government to be victims of modern slavery - from sexual exploitation to domestic servitude - but police say the figure is the tip of the iceberg.

The report called for a complete reform of the system, including immediate support for victims to stop re-trafficking, training for staff to improve identification of victims, and a focus on long-term care to ensure they can rebuild their lives. "The safety of victims is paramount ... their protection is non-negotiable," Hyland said. "Policies and processes mean nothing if they do not keep the victim at the centre."

Anti-Slavery International welcomed Hyland's decision to put the care and protection of victims at the heart of his report. Yet the organisation was disappointed by the omission of foreign domestic workers, its programme manager for the UK and Europe, Klara Skrivankova, said. "One area that should be improved ... is the situation of overseas domestic workers, whose visa arrangements make their status dependent on their employers, and therefore making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse." 

 Electric vehicles are often labelled the "green cars" of the future but rising demand for the raw materials needed to get them on the road could increase the risk of slavery in their production, according to a risk analysis report. British risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft said electric vehicle makers would need to be careful as they cast a wider net to source raw materials ranging from rubber to aluminium and mica needed for the 30,000 or so components in each car. 
"Increased exposure to human rights abuses, environmental degradation and less-than-savoury governments is, therefore, going to be inevitable as the industry's growth accelerates," Maplecroft researcher Stefan Sabo-Walsh said. Sabo-Walsh said businesses would seek new source countries with reserves of key materials such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, the Philippines and South Africa.

In some countries it was hard to trace if their raw materials came from legal, commercial mines or from illegal smallholder mines where forced and child labour are rife. The risks associated with lithium-ion batteries were of particular concern. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the leading global producer of cobalt used in these batteries, but has faced global criticism for human rights abuses. UNICEF estimates 40,000 children work in the warn-torn central African nation's cobalt mines in dire conditions.

"To maintain their clean, green image, they will need to ensure every individual component required for the manufacture of their vehicles is ethically sourced and as untarnished as a new vehicle rolling off the production line," Sabo-Walsh said.

Quote of the Day

 "Among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression," Audre Lorde, 1983

The Inequality of Birth Control

Countless women and girls worldwide are denied a say in decisions about sex and childbirth, leaving them at risk of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.  At least 214 million women in developing nations cannot get access to contraceptives - resulting in 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions each year, says UNFPA. A failure to give the world's poorest women control over their bodies could widen inequality in developing countries and thwart progress towards global goals aimed at ending poverty by 2030, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

Access to birth control allows women to delay and space births, reducing mother and child deaths, boosts economies by freeing up women to work, and leads to smaller families with parents able to spend more on children's health and education. Yet many of the world's poorest women - particularly the youngest, least educated and those living in rural areas - are missing out because such services are too few, too costly, or frowned upon by their families and communities, experts say. This can widen the gender gap, reinforce inequality between the poorest and richest, and ultimately weaken economies, UNFPA said in its annual flagship 'State of World Population' report.

"Inequality today is not only about the haves and have nots ... it is increasingly about the cans and cannots," UNFPA's executive director, Natalia Kanem, said in a statement. "Poor women who lack the means to make their own decisions about family size or who are in poor health because of inadequate reproductive health care dominate the ranks of the cannots," she said ahead of the launch of the report in London.

The report comes at a time when the United States, one of UNFPA's top donors, having said in April it would stop funding the agency. The United States contributed $69 million in 2016. In one of his first actions as president, Trump reinstated a policy known by critics as the "global gag" rule, which withholds U.S. funding for international groups that perform abortions or tell women about legal options to do so.
 Kanem observed,"There is nothing more unfair than having a woman or girl, and her desires, relegated to the bottom of the heap."

Other international donors vowed to help the fill the funding gap at a summit on family planning in July, pledging $207 million. Yet UNFPA says it still needs an extra $700 million by 2020. Kanem said she feared this gap would hinder UNFPA's ability to deliver services to those most in need - mainly rural women.  The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative aims to give 120 million more women worldwide access to birth control. Universal access to reproductive health services would lead to economic benefits of $430 billion a year, experts say. 

"When people talk about inequality, they often think about money and wealth ... but economic inequality is just the tip of the equality iceberg," said Richard Kollodge, senior editor of the UNFPA report. "A new perspective which focuses on sexual and reproductive rights can help level the playing field," 

Centre Court for Bangladeshi Workers

The Bangladesh Accord was signed in 2013 after the Rana Plaza disaster when more than 1,100 people were killed in the collapse of the building complex, as an independent, legally-binding agreement between global brands and trade unions to establish a fire and building safety programme for workers in the textile industry.

Trade unions hailed a landmark ruling allowing complaints to proceed against two global fashion brands for allegedly violating an agreement. Two cases will be the first that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague judges under the accord.

"For any brand that isn't in compliance, this decision sends a message that they cannot shirk their responsibilities to worker safety," said Jenny Holdcroft of IndustriALL Global Union, one of two unions federations to lodge the complaints.

"This decision is a win for worker safety and for accountability in Bangladesh's garment industry," said Christy Hoffman, deputy secretary general of the UNI Global Union. "The legally-binding nature of the Accord is a central pillar of its effectiveness."

The complaints allege that the two brands failed to compel their suppliers to improve their facilities within the mandatory deadlines, and did not help them to cover the costs to do so. The names of the two fashion brands accused must remain confidential, according to the PCA.

Bangladesh, which ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to Western countries, relies on apparel for more than 80 percent of its exports and about 4 million jobs. Under the accord, more than 118,500 fire, electrical and structural hazards have been identified at 1,800 factories which supply at least 200 brands.

The Rana Plaza disaster prompted fashion retailers to work more closely together to protect workers and ensure the safety of buildings in the South Asian nation, and legislation was introduced to ensure greater supply-chain transparency. Yet campaigners say the progress by retailers in fixing problems in the supply chain has been slow - with long hours, low pay, poor safety standards and not being allowed to form trade unions common complaints from garment workers.

The Changing of the Red Guard


The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) gets underway.

The constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) lays emphasis on the principle of "collective leadership," whereby senior officials of the party take decisions collectively. In practice, this collective consists of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The Standing Committee represents the apex of political power in China.  In CPC's internal language, this collective is currently the "party central office with comrade Xi Jinping at its core." But since the start of the year, the word doing the rounds in the party has been only "Xi core," without any mention of the party central office. China's official Xinhua news agency recently reported that the party's constitution could be changed at the upcoming congress. It is speculated that the principle of collective leadership could be scrapped to allow Xi to become chairman of the CPC.
There has even been a change in the way Chinese soldiers greet Xi. When the Chinese leader visited a People's Liberations Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong in June and then on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA in July, troops broke with a tradition dating back over 30 years to offer a more personalized welcome to Xi. Instead of shouting "Greetings, commander," as would be the usual case at official inspections, PLA troops roared "Greetings, chairman," referring to Xi's position as head of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). While Xi is chairman of the CMC, the soldiers' greeting could also point to his potential new role as chairman of the CPC. From 1945 to the 12th CPC congress in 1982, the party constitution stipulated the position of a "Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China." As party chairman, Xi would no longer be the "first among equals." Instead, he would have even more authority in the seven-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau.
Any move by Xi to install himself as chairman could fail due to opposition from sections of the CPC, especially from the older generation. Still, there are other ways for Xi to tighten his grip on power in the long run. This could be done, for instance, by reducing the number of seats on the Standing Committee from the current seven to five. It is likely that five of the seven members currently serving on the committee will have to retire at the convention for reasons of age. And up to 12 of the wider Politburo's 25 seats, as well as nearly half of the spots on the 205-member Central Committee, are also up for grabs. This gives Xi the opportunity to pack these bodies with his loyalists and augment his power. Some of the top favorites up for promotion to the Standing Committee are relatively young and could, therefore, remain in their posts beyond the next congress in 2022.
"Xi will install his loyalists and trusted allies in the politburo even if they are not high-ranking party officials," China expert Zhang Lifan told DW, adding that the "decisions in this respect have been taken.”
 54-year-old Hu Chunhua, party secretary of the economically strong southern province of Guangdong and thus automatically a member of the Politburo. He has experience managing unrest-prone regions like Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
Li Shulei, 53, is another official expected to be promoted. Li was Xi's speechwriter when the latter served as head of the elite Central Party School that trains the CCP's cadres. Li is a major ally of Xi in his anti-corruption campaign, which has ousted over 250 senior officials from the CPC and the military as well as placed up to two million lower-level officials under investigation.
 57-year-old Chen Miner, who has been party secretary of the central city of Chongqing since July.
 69-year-old Wang Qishan, Xi's anticorruption tzar who chairs the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. In this capacity, he oversaw, among other things, the proceedings against former senior officials like Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai, who were ousted from the party and jailed for life following conviction on corruption and other charges. Although the rule book says Wang will have to leave, it is possible that Xi would find a spot in the highest political body for his loyal ally and protect him from the numerous enemies he has made through his anti-corruption work. Some even speculate that Wang could get the post of premier if he advances from number 6 to 2 in the hierarchy on the Standing Committee.

Australian Energy Policy - "A Mistake and a Disaster"

Australia's government has rejected a clean energy plan that would have forced electricity companies to source a percentage of their power from renewables. The government also said it would scrap incentives and subsidies for wind and solar generators from 2020 to lower costs. Conservation groups say the decision is a huge mistake, warning it signals a damaging shift away from renewables in a country that relies heavily on its abundant coal reserves for power and export revenues.

The plan, known as the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), is notably different to the Clean Energy Target (CET) that was recommended by the country's chief scientist following a landmark review of the energy sector. The CET would have forced power companies to provide a certain percentage of their energy from renewable, low emission sources such as wind and solar to help Australia meet its obligations under the Paris climate change agreement.

The Climate Council, an Australian non-profit, described it as a "disaster for both energy prices and pollution...Any policy that doubles down on old polluting power at the expense of clean energy is a barrier to progress," the organization said.

Mark Wakeham from conservation group Environment Victoria accused the government of rejecting "a clean energy target in favor of a coal energy target." And adding "Australia joins Donald Trump's United States as one of only two major national governments to remove support for investment in renewable energy and redirect it to aging and polluting power stations."

 John Grimes from the Australian Solar Council told ABC that ending subsidies for renewables could cost the sector more than 10,000 jobs.

Many scientists say that the 1.5 degree goal is fast slipping out of reach because of insufficient action by all nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The World Socialist Movement has always asserted that capitalist governments would place national interests before the welfare and the well-being of people and the planet.

Brazil's Dams

 Northern Mato Grosso, where the land is the current source of local incomes and wealth, which is now based in agriculture, livestock farming and mining, after being based on timber, has now discovered the value of its water resources. Its energy use is imposed to the detriment of traditional users, just as the land was concentrated in export monoculture to the detriment of food production. New hydropower stations are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso into a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef.They change in the natural flow of the Teles Pires river.  The river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season. It is reducing fish catches, which native people living in the lower stretch of the basin depend on as their main source of protein. 

“The fish die, as well as the turtles, because the water has gotten dirty from the works upstream.” said 27-year-old Isaac Waru. 

Since the vegetation in the river began to die off after the river was diverted to build the dam, fish catches have shrunk, said Solange Arrolho, a professor of biology at the State University of Mato Grosso in Alta Floresta, where she is head of the Ichthyology Laboratory of the Southern Amazon. The researcher, who said she has been “studying fish for 30” of her 50 years, led a project to monitor fish populations in 2014 in the area of influence of the Colider hydroelectric power station. "These works affect fishing by altering the river banks and the river flow, reducing migration of fish, and cutting down riverbank forests, which feed fish with fruit and insects that “fall from the trees into the water,” said Arrolho . “The fish do not adapt, they migrate,”

Local indigenous people avoid drinking water from the river, even bathing with it, after cases of diarrhea, itchy rashes and eye problems, said the three students who come from three different villages. 

Patxon Metuktire, local coordinator of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government body for the protection of indigenous peoples in Brazil. “The companies believe that our problem is just one of logistics, that it is just a matter of providing trucks and fuel, and they forget that their projects damage the ecosystem that is the basis of our well-being and way of life,” he told IPS.
Julita Burko Duleba, president of the Sinop Colony of Fisherpersons and Region (Z-16), based in the city of Sinop, the capital city of northern Mato Grosso. “Fish catches in the Teles Pires basin have dropped: we used to catch over 200 kilos per week, but now we catch a maximum of 120 kilos and on average only between 30 and 40 kilos,” she said

Past their shelf-life

Sainsbury’s is axing 2,000 store and back office roles as the supermarket chain looks to slash costs by £500m.

Tesco is shedding 2,300 staff as part of its cost-cutting programme.

Asda has axed nearly 300 jobs at its head office as part of a cost-cutting drive.

the number of jobs in the UK retail sector slumped by 62,000 in the second quarter of 2017 (partly because of the collapse of BHS, which sparked 11,000 job losses.)
It has been predicted that there will be 900,000 fewer jobs in the sector by 2020

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When silence is approval

The US government knew people were being "delivered for slaughter" during a political purge in Indonesia during the 1960s, declassified documents reveal.
At least 500,000 people were killed between 1965 and 1966 and it is thought as many as three million could have lost their lives within a year. It was one of the worst massacres of the 20th century, but America and other nations remained silent.
US diplomatic staff describe the "slaughter" and "indiscriminate killings", exposing an intimate knowledge of the Indonesian army's operations to "completely clean up" the Communist Party and leftist groups. According to one from US embassy staff in East Java, dated 28 December 1965, "victims are taken out of populous areas before being killed and bodies are buried rather than thrown in river" as they had been previously. The telegram says prisoners suspected of being communists are also "being delivered to civilians for slaughter". Another document compiled by the US embassy's first secretary detailed a list of the communist leaders across the country and whether they had been arrested or killed.
A December 1965 cable from the US consulate in Medan in Sumatra said that Muhammadiyah preachers were telling people it was a religious obligation to "kill suspected communists". They were the lowest order of infidel, "the shedding of whose blood is comparable to killing chicken", the report said. The US cable said this was being interpreted as a "wide licence for killing".
Another telegram notes that people with no connection to the Communist Party were being killed by the youth arm of Nahdlatul Ulama because of "personal feuds". Other memo s mention  ethnic Chinese being killed in the violence and their businesses being burnt down.
Brad Simpson, founder and director of the Indonesia and East Timor documentation project, pushed for the files' release
"These documents show in great detail just how aware US officials were of how many people were being killed," said Mr Simpson, noting "the US stance at the time was silence".
Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono also says his extensive research has found no public comments from the US government at the time about the killings.

Safe water in Bangladesh

Arsenic cannot be seen or smelt; the first signs of its impact are skin lesions which only emerge once the poisoning has taken place. The poisoning can set off a range of heart diseases and cancer and the external symptoms look a lot like.
Human Rights Watch says up to 20 million people are at risk from arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh and estimate 43,000 people die each year in Bangladesh from illnesses caused by arsenic poisoning.
Millions have already suffered from what the World Health Organisation calls "the biggest mass poisoning in human history".
Millions of "tube-wells" have been dug across Bangladesh since the 1940s. The simple pumps were rolled out across the country by the government and NGOs from the 1970s onwards as a way of delivering cost-effective bacteria-free water. However during the 1980s cases of arsenic poisoning began to emerge. While the government has made efforts to replace the wells, in many rural areas they are still the primary source of water especially as many families have dug their own tube wells.
In Bangladesh one in every five deaths was associated with unsafe drinking water.
A particular type of resin technology removes arsenic and other harmful substances from water and once it has been used Drinkwell filters the water through a series of other tanks to take out other harmful substances. The water is sold locally by "Drinkwell" entrepreneurs and the money raised is used to maintain the system. According to the United Nations, 30% to 50% of all water projects fail after huge investments because of a failure to maintain the facilities.  Drinkwell includes operational and maintenance costs. The pricing is set depending on location but a monthly subscription costs anywhere between $0.05 (4p) and $0.12 for 20 litres (4.4 gallons) a day. There are now 30 Drinkwell filtration plants in India and Bangladesh serving more than 100,000 people.
Imagine if the Drinkwell system was freed from the need to make a financial return and implementation of the scheme prioritised around the world.

Fact of the Day

An estimated 35% to 45% of wealth is inherited rather than self-made.

 The Brookings Institution’s Richard V Reeves and Kimberly Howard have called this a “glass floor”, one element that protects the wealthiest from ever losing their mobility.

This inherited wealth can be passed on to one’s family members tax-free unless it’s larger than $5,430,000 – an extremely generous arrangement. (This means that fewer than 1% of all estates are taxed.)