Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Urban Farming - Beyond the Allotment

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 Urban agriculture, the researchers say, could help feed a world that may face future challenges in industrial agriculture as a result of climate change.

“We’ve known there are benefits to having these small plots of land in our cities, but we found that the benefits extend well beyond having fresh food in the hands of those who consume it,” explained lead author Nicholas Clinton of Google Inc.

A study by the National Science Foundation (NSF)Arizona State University (ASU) and Google researchers has used a data-driven approach to assesses the value of urban agriculture and quantify its benefits at a global scale.

“For the first time, we have a data-driven approach that quantifies the ecosystem benefits from urban agriculture,” said Matei Georgescu, a geographer at ASU and corresponding author of the paper. “Our estimates of ecosystem benefits show the potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings, and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff.”

“Analysis of the food-energy-water nexus sometimes leaves the impression that benefits are concentrated in one place and costs in another,” added Tom Torgersen, program director for NSF’s Water, Sustainability and Climate program, which supported the research. “But that’s not always the case. Urban agriculture is an underdeveloped industry that could sequester nitrogen in cities, generate energy savings, help moderate urban climate, reduce storm water runoff, and provide more nutritious foods.”

They projected an annual food production of 100 to 180 million tons, energy savings of 14 to 15 billion kilowatt hours (from insulation properties provided by rooftop urban agriculture), nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 tons, and avoided storm runoff of 45 to 57 billion cubic meters annually.

Looking toward the future, Clinton said that countries with the most incentives to encourage urban agriculture have two main characteristics — a large enough urban area to support agriculture, and a mixture of crops that lends itself to urban cultivation.

“Relatively temperate, developed or developing countries with the right mix of crops are expected to have the greatest incentives for urban agriculture,” he said. “That would include China, Japan, Germany and the U.S.”

https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/63966/value-urban-agriculture/

Who is the war-monger?

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 Obama signed a defense authorization bill of $725 billion for the 2011 fiscal year, more than $150 billion of which funded continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In contrast, Trump’s war budget expenditures were only $626 billion, of which only $66 billion were earmarked for foreign wars. Adjusted for inflation Obama’s spending compared to Trump’s would be greater still.

Two-tier Citizenship

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India is the world’s largest exporter of migrant labor; 1 in 20 migrant workers worldwide are Indian-born — a number that has rapidly risen in the past 25 years. Indian émigrés sent home $69 billion in 2015, making their country the world’s top recipient of remittances. But many of those who travel, especially those who provide cheap, unskilled labor, are very vulnerable to exploitation. To protect workers, India requires unskilled migrants to get clearances from the Indian government before traveling to a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia and Yemen. But people who have graduated high school, or the 2 percent of Indians who pay income tax, don’t need to get clearances for travel, as skilled or educated workers are less likely to be exploited abroad. Those who need emigration checks are identified on the last page of their passport.

India’s Foreign Ministry issued new rules saying that citizens who require emigration checks will now carry new orange passports, while those who don’t will carry blue ones. Critics argue that the orange and blue color coding could lead to discrimination against poor and illiterate workers and effectively render millions of Indians second-class citizens.

Nitin Pai, director of a Bangalore-based public policy think tank, criticized the new rules. “...the move to create different coloured passports for different kinds of travelers, it is wrong and must be reconsidered. Already officials treat citizens differently based on their class … different passport colors will worsen it,” he wrote.

Oomen Chandy, former chief minister of the southern state of Kerala, said, “If this becomes a reality, the moment an orange color passport holder lands in a foreign country, he will be treated with disdain, and it will have a telling impact on such people's character and individuality. This should not happen at all.”

India is one of the world's most unequal societies. Oxfam's India chief executive in 2017 said that just 57 billionaires control 70 percent of the nation's wealth.

The Claimant Fraud Witch-hunt

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More than 280,000 "shop-a-scrounger"public tip-offs on benefit fraud in the past two years have resulted in no action being taken against a claimant due to lack of evidence, The Independent can disclose.
over the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17, 332,850 cases were closed following reports by members of the public. Of these, 287,950 were found to have no or little evidence to substantiate the claim – or 87 per cent.

In March 2017, for example, out of 18,200 allegations from members of the public closed by the department, 16,050 led to a “no result outcome”. This means that around 88 per cent of the total allegations made in one single month had little or no evidence of benefit fraud having taken place and the cases were dropped.

The public are overestimating the issue of benefit fraud in Britain and that the Government’s policy of using tip-offs is much less effective than many are led to believe. 

According to Government data in 2017, fraud in the benefit system accounted for 1.2 per cent of the entire DWP budget, amounting to just over £2bn. 

Carillion Bosses Still Get Paid

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The Institute of Directors, the main lobby group representing UK bosses criticised the “highly inappropriate” pay packets awarded to directors running the now-collapsed construction giant Carillion.

The Institute of Directors also accused directors and shareholders of the stricken firm of failing to provide “appropriate oversight” of the company, which is involved in a host of major government projects and vital public services and slumped into compulsory liquidation on Monday.
"The relaxation of clawback conditions for executive bonuses in 2016 appears in retrospect to be highly inappropriate. It does no good to the reputation of UK business when top managers appear to benefit in spite of the collapse of the organisations that they are responsible for.” Roger Barker, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, said. His comments on clawback refer to a change in the company’s pay policy made in 2016 that limited the criteria under which the company could demand the repayment of executive bonuses. Previously the firm could ask for cash back if the business went bust but the revised policy said it could only do so in the event of gross misconduct or if the financial results had been misstated.

Richard Howson, Carillion’s former chief executive from 2012 until a shock profit warning last July resulted in his stepping down. Howson earned £1.5m in 2016, including £591,000 in bonuses. He continued to work for the firm until last autumn after stepping down as chief executive and is due to stay on the payroll, receiving his £660,000 salary and £28,000 benefits for another year, until October 2018.
Howson’s replacement, the interim chief executive, Keith Cochrane, was a Carillion non-executive director who joined the company in July 2015. He was due to step aside in favour of a new permanent chief executive next week – but Cochrane is also set to keep on receiving his £750,000 base salary until July.
The former finance director Zafar Khan, who stepped down last September from his £425,000 a year job, is also due be paid until July.

THE ‘FREE’ BREXITEERS! (weekly poem)

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THE ‘FREE’ BREXITEERS!
(Apologies to Alexandre Dumas)

Mrs May's decision to replace the existing red British passport
by a patriotic True-Blue one has brought cheers from Brexiteers.

I stroll through EU Customs now,
In the new 'slow-track' queue;
There's long delays, but I am thrilled,
My passport is True-Blue!

Of course now when I sail across,
To Europe's nearest shore;
The hold-ups at each border-post,
Are something of a chore.

But all this doesn't faze me 'cos,
I meet these foes with glee;
My Union Jack underwear,
Declares my sovereignty!

I'm proud now to be British as,
My world was one long void;
Although I cannot speak for all,
The extra unemployed.

Quite soon I'll be invited to,
A 'do' at Number Ten;
It's never happened up to now,
It's just a case of... when!

I'm patriotic to the core,
It fills life with romance;
As do our sweatshops who now make,
My 'Empire' underpants!

© Richard Layton


India in numbers

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The top 1 per cent of Indian adults, a rich enclave of 8 million inhabitants making at least $20,000 a year, equates to roughly Hong Kong in terms of population and average income. 

The next 9 per cent is akin to central Europe, in the middle of the global wealth pack.

The next 40 per cent of India’s population neatly mirrors its combined South Asian poor neighbours, Bangladesh and Pakistan. 

The remaining half-billion or so are on a par with the most destitute bits of Africa. 

India has done a relatively okay job at getting those earning below $US2 a day to $US3, but it has not matched other countries’ records in getting those on $US3 a day to earning $US5, those at $US5 a day to $US10, and so on.  If nearly 300 million count as middle class, as HSBC has proclaimed, some of them make about $US3 a day.

 Even for someone in the top 10 per cent of Indian earners, an annual Netflix subscription can cost over a week’s income; the equivalent in America would be around $US3000. Apple ads may plaster Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, but for only one in 10 Indians would the latest iPhone represent less than half a year’s salary. 

The top 1 per cent of earners pocketed nearly a third of all the extra income generated by economic growth between 1980 and 2014.

The well-off are 10 times richer now than in 1980; those at the median have not even doubled their income.

Only 3 per cent of Indians have ever been on a plane; only one in 45 owns a car or truck. Scooters have grown fast, but only after prices tumbled.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/indias-chances-of-a-middle-class-to-rival-china-throttled-by-inequality/news-story/4678a506f5ce4657b2606a1289349aab

Quote of the Day

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 "So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes." - Martin Luther King Jnr.

"The trouble is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. ... That's the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we're going to have to change the system." —Martin Luther King Jr

Monday, January 15, 2018

Yemen? Who Cares?

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During a cabinet discussion on the Yemen civil war, Boris Johnson said:“We have got to do something about the Saudi war on Lebanon…”

Thinking it a momentary slip, fellow Ministers let him continue, but he repeated the mistake 

The Prime Minister intervened “Sorry to butt in here, but I think you mean Yemen, not Lebanon.”


 Johnson checked his notes and apologised.

The UK Arms Trade

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Prior to his resignation last year, former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon vowed at the world’s largest arms fair in London that Britain would “spread its wings across the world” with increased weaponry and equipment sales.

Fox’s Department for International Trade said he will “personally lead on helping the defence and security industries to export”.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/uncategorized/arms-sales-britain-increases-exports-worlds-repressive-regimes-nearly-third-since-brexit-vote/


Britain has dramatically increased the value of weaponry and defence equipment it sells to the world’s most repressive regimes since vows by senior ministers to expand arms exports.

 Figures show that the Government cleared export licences worth £2.9bn in the 12 months after June 2016 to 35 countries considered “not free” by Freedom House, a respected international think-tank. Critics argue Britain is turning a blind eye to abuses in some of its export markets.

Among the countries to which ministers have given the green light for military equipment sales are Equatorial Guinea, considered to be one of the most corrupt and repressive countries in the world. Licences worth £1m were also granted for Azerbaijan, accused by human rights campaigners of conducting a vicious campaign against freedom of expression, while Uzbekistan, which is rated by Freedom House as one of the least free countries in the world, was granted a licence to import military vehicle components worth nearly £200,000.


But campaigners claim that official figures for defence export licences raise worrying questions that Britain is “prioritising arms sales to tyrants” as it seeks new markets abroad. Much of the increase in sales to authoritarian countries is accounted for by a £1.1bn deal signed with Oman last June for combat aircraft and components. But the data shows that the UK also granted licences to sell tear gas to the Gulf country, which is accused of cracking down on freedom of assembly, as well as anti-riot equipment to Thailand and crowd control ammunition to the United Arab Emirates. Despite a military coup in Thailand in 2014 and subsequent criticism of heavy-handed army control, UK military exports to the country quadrupled to £16m last year.

Britain biggest single export market remains Saudi Arabia, with licences worth £1.12bn granted last year amid continuing condemnation of British weaponry by the kingdom in its bombing campaign in Yemen.

Among the largest arms sales increases was a doubling to £31m of export licences to Bahrain, which has been criticised for its repression of  pro-democracy protests, and a year-on-year increase of £90m in sales to the UAE.


Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a member of the select committee on arms control exports, explained, "In value, Britain’s arms exports are worth about the same as its exports in beverages. This plan is less a plan for improving British public finances in the wake of Brexit but more one for lining the pockets of the shareholders of British arms dealers. It is another policy designed to benefit the few over the many.”

Britain has also been reinforcing its military ties with the controversial leadership in countries including Turkey and the Philippines. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox this weekend visited Turkey, with which Britain signed a £100m military aircraft deal last year.


https://inews.co.uk/uncategorized/arms-sales-britain-increases-exports-worlds-repressive-regimes-nearly-third-since-brexit-vote/



White Privilege

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Many poor white people have been denigrated as “white trash.” A lot of people now criticise the idea that poor white people experience white privilege. This seems to be an echo from the past when organized skilled workers were described as a "labor aristocracy" but when you are being squeezed by austerity you do not want to hear that you are somehow privileged. It is a mistake to get into comparative victimology and have some sort of league table about who is exploited the more. Poor white folk and poor black and brown people are all victimised by the 1 percent. They compete for crumbs from the table. "White privilege” is unhelpful to understanding this.

The fact that black people experience compounded deprivations does not minimize the class oppression poor white people experience. It does not have to be one or the other, and black people and white people should not be set against each other as is the method of the alt-right and neo-Nazis. Those hate groups try to appeal to white people on the basis of their skin color.

 The largest mass lynching in U.S. history took place in New Orleans in 1891 – and it wasn’t African-Americans who were lynched. . . . It was Italian-Americans. After nine Italians were tried and found not guilty of murdering New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy, a mob dragged them from jail, along with two other Italians being held on unrelated charges, and lynched them all. The New York Times referred to the victims of the lynchings as “sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.”

Jay Dolan, of Notre Dame University, noted the Irish in America in the 1840s and ’50s “were preferred to the slaves when it came to working on the docks, because, as one official put it, ‘The niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard, or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything.”

Today, 17.3 million white Americans (about twice as many as African Americans) are listed as living in poverty. More than 4 million white children live in poverty. These unprivileged white people live desperately with widespread alcoholism, teen pregnancy, drug abuse and unemployment. Their children can only dream of a college education. Is it a white privilege to be called “trailer trash”?

Class remains the dirty, unacknowledged secret of American politics. We have been conditioned to think of America as a classless society, which is an absolute lie. Class remains a significant and often determinative fact of life. Poor white people are not oppressed because of their skin color. Their oppression has everything to do with their class position in American society.

http://www.concordmonitor.com/The-myth-of-white-privilege-13988254

Educating Sweated Labour

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In Australia, discount department stores are selling school uniforms and Oxfam Australia alleges the women making them are being paid poverty wages. 

Oxfam labour rights manager Joy Kyriacou alleged underpayment by the clothing sector is a serious issue.
“The women in Asia making clothes for these household name Australian brands are trapped in poverty by pittance wages – often left with no other choice but to live in slums, in some cases separated from their children – and struggling to provide the essentials for their families,” Kyriacou said.
Research showed that on average, just four per cent of the price of a piece of clothing sold in Australia goes towards workers’ wages in garment factories across Asia. In Bangladesh – where wages are extremely low – an average of just two per cent of the price of an item of clothing sold in Australia goes to factory workers’ wages.
“This means that for a $5 school polo top made in Bangladesh, an average of just 10 cents is paid to the factory workers who made it,” Kyriacou said. “But the research also estimated that if the price of clothing was increased by just one per cent – just five cents for a $5 school shirt – brands could afford to pay a living wage. Oxfam believes with the profits being made by factory owners, wholesalers, and retailers in the fashion industry, the cost of paying workers a living wage can realistically be absorbed in fashion supply chains.”
Machine operator in a Dhaka factory,  Nahida had dreams of studying and becoming a doctor, but her family was entrenched in poverty and she told Oxfam she had to leave school at age 13 to work in the garment industry. Today, Nahida works six days a week and earns as little as $115 a month. 

The Police State

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Banks and building societies have started immigration checks on holders of millions of current accounts under a government crackdown.
The scheme was introduced by ministers as part of attempts to create a “hostile environment” for those staying in the UK unlawfully. It requires banks and building societies to check the immigration status of all current account holders against details of known illegal migrants held by authorities.
Where an illegal migrant is found to be operating an account, this will be flagged to the Home Office. Officials will instruct the bank or building society on what action to take, which could include shutting the account.
 Chai Patel, legal policy director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, claimed “What is shocking about this system is that people’s bank accounts, which they rely on for their jobs, their homes and every aspect of life, can be closed with no clear means of redress or compensation in case of errors,” he said, adding: “this places people affected at even greater risk of exploitation and of being driven into a cash-only economy at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and landlords.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Golden State

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According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in the cost of housing, food, utilities and clothing, and which includes noncash government assistance as a form of income, California has nearly one out of five residents classed as poor. 

More than four in 10 households spent more than 30% of their income on housing in 2015. 

California energy costs are as much as 50% higher than the national average. In 2012, nearly 1 million California households faced energy expenditures exceeding 10% of household income. In certain California counties, the rate of energy poverty was as high as 15% of all households,  the rate could exceed 17% of median income in some areas.

The Forest People

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Forests account for nearly 30 percent of the world’s surface. That’s a staggering 3.04 trillion trees. 

 The world's forests continue to shrink, cut for timber and converted to farms for soybean, palm oil, and other food resources.
An estimated 18 million acres of forest—an area roughly the size of Panama—are lost each year. 
At the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rainforests will begin to disappear within the next 100 years.
Imagine a world without trees. The results are alarming. In addition to flash floods and food shortages, humanity would also have to deal with widespread animal extinctions, accelerating climate change and the loss of materials.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Capitalism is a sick society

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 Treatment of the mentally unwell during the 19th and early 20thcenturies were neither precise or specific, and were often harmful, including blood-letting, trepanation, organ removal, and lobotomies. The discovery of antipsychotics and antidepressants in the 1950s resulted in less harm, but their effects were neither specific or precise, and did not result in better efficacy. Sad, but true even in 2018.
Many parts of the U.S.A. struggle to find beds for the mentally ill, and we struggle with the opioid epidemic and increasing rates of depression and suicide. In the decades following the 1970s, mortality rates and outcome in schizophrenia worsened, despite the flood of antipsychotics and other treatment modalities.
one reason for this rather dismal picture is the rapid growth of socioeconomic inequality that began in the 1970s. Higher levels of income inequality are correlated with higher levels of suicide, depression, substance abuse, as well as other social ills. Indeed, migration alone carries a 250% increase in the risk for schizophrenia, considerably larger than the genetic risk, yet imaging and genetic studies often neglect the social status of their subjects.
The outlook for the United States is one of worsening income inequality and a diminishing safety net, leading to predict that the future of the mentally ill will worsen.



As others see it

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The US definition of poverty varies, but a commonly used measure from 2015 is an annual income of US$12,082 (S$16,100) or less.
Forty-one million Americans live in poverty - 12.7 per cent of the country's population. Some 46 per cent of those live in "deep poverty" - on an annual income below US$6,165. Among them are 1.5 million households, including 2.8 million children, who live in extreme poverty or on less than US$2 per person per day. "These are people who cannot find work ... who do not qualify for any other (welfare) programmes or who may live in remote areas. They are disconnected from both the safety net and the job market," Dr Premilla Nadasen, author and professor at Barnard College in New York City, wrote.

Philip Alston, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, explained "In a poor country, there are two starting points - that there are social rights, and citizens have a right to healthcare, a right to education, a right to food," Dr Alston told The Straits Times in an interview in his book-lined office at New York University

"Second, the only thing standing in our way is resources; we just don't have the money."

"In the US, it's the exact opposite," he said. "There's no such thing as social rights. If people are living in abysmal conditions, it's their fault because we have equality of opportunity.
"Secondly, it's not a resource problem. We just found US$1.5 trillion to give to the super rich. The money would have been there to eliminate poverty if there had been any political will. But there isn't."
In Los Angeles, he found that the objective for the local authorities was to raise the standard of Skid Row, an area less than a square kilometre but containing many hundred homeless, to that of a Syrian refugee camp. "One of the richest countries in the world, and we're aiming to meet the standards of a Syrian refugee camp for a large population in one of our richest cities," he said. "It is sort of stunning."
"Caricatured narratives" drive the debate on poverty and homelessness in America, according to Dr Alston. The rich are seen as "industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic, and the drivers of economic success". The poor are "wasters, losers and scammers". "As long as you have the mindset that we're all on our own, it becomes possible that when my own brother falls off the cliff, I'm able to say, 'Well, he had the same opportunities as me. He's failed, he has to cope with it,' instead of saying, 'I can't let that happen. I've got to do something,'. "
America's wealth gap has been steadily widening. On average in 1981, the top 1 per cent of adult Americans earned 27 times more than the bottom 50 per cent. Today, they earn 81 times more. Meanwhile, since the 1970s, the safety net has been considerably diminished.
 Dr Nadasen wrote, "Labour regulations protecting workers have been rolled back, and funding for education and public programmes has declined. The poor have been the hardest hit." She added: "The shredding of the safety net led to a rise in poverty. The United States has the highest child poverty rates - 25 per cent - in the developed world."
Alston saw houses in rural areas of Alabama surrounded by pools of sewage. "The state health department had no idea how many households exist in these conditions, nor did they have any plan to find out, or devise a plan to do something about it," he says in his statement. He could not help noticing that most of the area's residents were black. But while racial divisions are not far below the surface, it would be misleading to assume that poverty is generally worse in the Native American and African American minorities. It cuts across all ethnicities. There are eight million more poor white people than black people.





MSNBC Neglects the Yemen War

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The popular US cable news network MSNBC did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017. Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the US-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history.

FAIR conducted a thorough analysis of MSNBC‘s broadcasts archived on the Nexis news database.  In 2017, only 82 broadcasts used the words “Yemen,” “Yemeni” or “Yemenis” in the entire year. Moreover, the majority of the 82 MSNBC broadcasts that mentioned Yemen did so only once and in passing, often simply as one nation in a longer list of nations targeted by President Trump’s travel ban.

Of these 82 broadcasts in 2017, there was only a single MSNBC news segment devoted specifically to the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen. On July 2, the network ran a 3-minute segment on Ari Melber’s The Point (7/2/17) entitled “Saudi arms deal could worsen Yemen crisis.”   It stood alone in the entire year. In the six months after this July 2 broadcast, the network did not devote another segment specifically to the war in Yemen.

MSNBC only noticed airstrikes in Yemen when they were aimed at Al Qaeda. MSNBC did report on Houthi attacks on Saudi warships of the coast of Yemen. In his show MTP Daily (2/1/17), Chuck Todd favorably covered the anti-Iran posturing of Trump and National Security advisor Michael Flynn. He spoke of the Houthis as Iranian proxies and gave former US diplomat Nicholas Burns a platform to claim, “Iran is a violent troublemaker in the Middle East.” MSNBC was eager to highlight attacks by US official enemies, yet the tens of thousands of air sorties Saudi Arabia has launched in Yemen—with weapons, fuel and intelligence from the US and UK—were made almost entirely invisible by the network.

Years of Saudi coalition bombing and blockade of Yemen likewise decimated the poor country’s health system, plunging it into a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands of people and broken all previous records. MSNBC did not once acknowledge this catastrophe either, according to a search on Nexis and MSNBC’s websiteCholera was only mentioned on MSBNC in 2017 in the context of Haiti, not Yemen.

While MSNBC did not bother to mention Yemen’s cholera epidemic, it did express lots of interest in a disastrous Navy SEAL raid President Donald Trump approved in the country, which left an American dead. Particularly early in the year, the network devoted substantial coverage to the January 29 raid, which killed dozens of Yemeni civilians and one US soldier. A search of the Nexis database shows that MSNBC mentioned the Trump-approved US raid in Yemen in 36 distinct segments in 2017. But after this raid left the news cycle, so too did Yemen. A search of Nexis and the Yemen tag on the MSBNC website shows that, excluding Ari Melber’s lone July segment, the latest segment MSNBC devoted specifically to Yemen in 2017 was the Rachel Maddow Show‘s March 6 report on the SEAL raid. The conclusion that only Americans’ lives are newsworthy is confirmed by the fact that Trump launched another disastrous raid in Yemen on May 23, in which several Yemeni civilians were once again killed. But American soldiers did not die in this raid, so MSNBC had no interest. The network did not devote coverage to this second botched Yemen raid.

While MSNBC did not have a segment devoted specifically to the war in Yemen other than Ari Melber’s lone July broadcast, the country was sporadically mentioned in passing. Chris Hayes briefly acknowledged Yemen a few times, although he did not devote a segment to it. In the May 23 broadcast of All In, the host did point out, “We have been arming and supporting the Saudis as they pursue a proxy war in Yemen against Shia rebels, the Houthis.” Aside from the fact that the supposed Saudi/Iran proxy war in Yemen to which Hayes apparently alludes is a misleading talking point that has been fueled by the US government and intelligence agencies and obediently echoed by corporate media (FAIR.org, 7/25/17), Hayes still did not recognize the US/Saudi coalition airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians. On July 5, Chris Hayes spoke using extreme euphemisms, stating, “Since taking office, the president has been swayed to take Saudi Arabia’s side in its dispute with Yemen.” Looking beyond the fact that “dispute” is an outrageous understatement for a brutal war that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands, Hayes failed to point out that former president Barack Obama, like Trump, staunchly supported Saudi Arabia as it bombed and besieged Yemen. It was a Democratic president—Barack Obama, a favorite of MSNBC—who first oversaw the war in Yemen for nearly two years before Trump entered office. 

Lazy Liberal Thought

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A refreshing read from Paul Street on Counterpunch website.

It is well worth quoting from.

"Liberals and other Democrats are getting dumber by the day...It’s all about Trump. It’s Trump this, Trump that. All day long. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, and Trump some more...There’s no social and power structures that matter. There’s no underlying class rule or longstanding capitalist ecocide, no dominant oppressive institutions, no ideologies that matter….no history that matters.


Racism? It’s cuz of Trump.
Sexism?  Trump did it.
Threat of nuclear holocaust?  Blame Trump.
Inequality and plutocracy?  The handiwork of Boss Tweet, that bastard.
Climate change?  You know the answer: big stupid Trump.
Liberals have fallen prey to what one of my Canadian correspondents, Gabriel Alan, calls “the Trump Effect of whitewashing and absolving this rightwing system.”...
 “Their fixation on Trump,” Vivek Jain writes me from Virginia, “allows them to ignore the wickedness of capitalism and of the US government.”
“Trump is a great distraction,” Tom Wetzel writes me – a “cover for elite interests: ‘if only there wasn’t some obviously racist clown in the white house everything would be cool.’”..
...things would be just super if the Wall Street War Hawk and arch-elitist “Queen of Chaos” was back in the White House. You betchya!...The solution to everything wrong in the world for liberals is getting a corporate military Democrat in the White House...maybe Oprah Winfrey. Or Michelle Obama.
The whole "Lazy Liberal" article should be read. It gets us angry at those who others seek to forge alliances with.

After that then read "Oprah for President. Really?"  by Mike Whitney on the same website.


US Arms The Globe

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Shares of the five biggest military corporations—Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics—have more than tripled over the last five years and currently trade at or near all-time highs, so they are literally making a killing on killing.
Additionally, foreign military sales in fiscal year 2017, under the purview of both Obama and Trump, climbed to $42 billion, compared to $31 billion in the prior year, according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. And global arms sales in 2016 rose for the first time since 2010, with 57.9 percent of global arms sales coming from U.S. companies.
Military corporations have engaged in extremely aggressive lobbying over the past several years, spending a total of more than $1 billion on lobbying since 2009 and employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year. To put that in perspective, the arms industry has employed significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress each year.
 Examples of Trump’s industry-heavy administration include Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a former board member at General Dynamics; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who worked for a number of military firms and was an adviser to Pentagon contractor DynCorp; former Boeing executive and now Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan; former Lockheed Martin executive John Rood, nominated as undersecretary of defense for policy; former Raytheon Vice President Mark Esper, newly confirmed as Secretary of the Army; Heather Wilson, a former consultant to Lockheed Martin, who is Secretary of the Air Force; Ellen Lord, a former CEO for the aerospace company Textron, who is Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition; and National Security Council Chief of Staff Keith Kellogg, a former employee of the major military and intelligence contractor CACI.
As 46 million people in the U.S. live in poverty, as funding is stripped from vital life-affirming sectors and services, and as the country falls deeper into despair, the American public would do well to wake up to the fact of the blatant transformation of the U.S. government into the largest arms dealer in the world.

The Industrial Food Model

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Today, the world produces—mostly from low-input, smallholder farms—more than enough food: 2,900 calories per person per day. Per capita food availability has continued to expand despite ongoing population growth. This ample supply of food, moreover, comprises only what is left over after about half of all grain is either fed to livestock or used for industrial purposes, such as agrofuels.

Despite this abundance, 800 million people worldwide suffer from long-term caloric deficiencies. One in four children under five is deemed stunted—a condition, often bringing lifelong health challenges, that results from poor nutrition and an inability to absorb nutrients. Two billion people are deficient in at least one nutrient essential for health, with iron deficiency alone implicated in one in five maternal deaths.

The industrial model of agriculture—defined here by its capital intensity and dependence on purchased inputs of seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides—creates multiple unappreciated sources of inefficiency. Economic forces are a major contributor here: the industrial model operates within what are commonly called “free market economies,” in which enterprise is driven by one central goal, namely, securing the highest immediate return to existing wealth. This leads inevitably to a greater concentration of wealth and, in turn, to greater concentration of the capacity to control market demand within the food system.

Moreover, economically and geographically concentrated production, requiring lengthy supply chains and involving the corporate culling of cosmetically blemished foods, leads to massive outright waste: more than 40 percent of food grown for human consumption in the United States never makes it into the mouths of its population.

The underlying reason industrial agriculture cannot meet humanity’s food needs is that its system logic is one of disassociated parts, not interacting elements.

 About 40 percent of the world’s food depends on irrigation, which draws largely from stores of underground water, called aquifers, which make up 30 percent of the world’s freshwater. Unfortunately, groundwater is being rapidly depleted worldwide. In the United States, the Ogallala Aquifer—one of the world’s largest underground bodies of water—spans eight states in the High Plains and supplies almost one third of the groundwater used for irrigation in the entire country. Scientists warn that within the next thirty years, over one-third of the southern High Plains region will be unable to support irrigation. If today’s trends continue, about 70 percent of the Ogallala groundwater in the state of Kansas could be depleted by the year 2060.

Industrial agriculture also depends on massive phosphorus fertilizer application—another dead end on the horizon. Almost 75 percent of the world’s reserve of phosphate rock, mined to supply industrial agriculture, is in an area of northern Africa centered in Morocco and Western Sahara. Since the mid-twentieth century, humanity has extracted this “fossil” resource, processed it using climate-harming fossil fuels, spread four times more of it on the soil than occurs naturally, and then failed to recycle the excess. Much of this phosphate escapes from farm fields, ending up in ocean sediment where it remains unavailable to humans. Within this century, the industrial trajectory will lead to “peak phosphorus”—the point at which extraction costs are so high, and prices out of reach for so many farmers, that global phosphorus production begins to decline.

Beyond depletion of specific nutrients, the loss of soil itself is another looming crisis for agriculture. Worldwide, soil is eroding at a rate ten to forty times faster than it is being formed. To put this in visual terms, each year, enough soil is washed and blown from fields globally to fill roughly four pickup trucks for every human being on earth.

The industrial model of farming is not a viable path to meeting humanity’s food needs for yet another reason: it contributes nearly 20 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, even more than the transportation sector. The most significant emissions from agriculture are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide is released in deforestation and subsequent burning, mostly in order to grow feed, as well as from decaying plants. Methane is released by ruminant livestock, mainly via their flatulence and belching, as well as by manure and in rice paddy cultivation. Nitrous oxide is released largely by manure and manufactured fertilizers. Although carbon dioxide receives most of the attention, methane and nitrous oxide are also serious. Over a hundred-year period, methane is, molecule for molecule, 34 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas, and nitrous oxide about 300 times, than carbon dioxide.

Our food system also increasingly involves transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, storage, wholesale and retail operations, and waste management—all of which emit greenhouses gases. Accounting for these impacts, the total food system’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, from land to landfill, could be as high as 29 percent. Most startlingly, emissions from food and agriculture are growing so fast that, if they continue to increase at the current rate, they alone could use up the safe budget for all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The seed market, for example, has moved from a competitive arena of small, family-owned firms to an oligopoly in which just three companies—Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta—control over half of the global proprietary seed market. Worldwide, from 1996 to 2008, a handful of corporations absorbed more than two hundred smaller independent companies, driving the price of seeds and other inputs higher to the point where their costs for poor farmers in southern India now make up almost half of production costs. And the cost in real terms per acre for users of bio-engineered crops dominated by one corporation, Monsanto, tripled between 1996 and 2013.

These dire drawbacks are mere symptoms. They flow from the internal logic of the model itself. The reason that industrial agriculture cannot meet the world’s needs is that the structural forces driving it are misaligned with nature, including human nature. The system logic of industrial agriculture, which concentrates social power, is thus itself a huge risk for human well-being. At every stage, the big become bigger, and farmers become ever-more dependent on ever-fewer suppliers, losing power and the ability to direct their own lives.

Not only does the industrial model direct resources into inefficient and destructive uses, but it also feeds the very root of hunger itself: the concentration of social power. This results in the sad irony that small-scale farmers—those with fewer than five acres—control 84 percent of the world’s farms and produce most of the food by value, yet control just 12 percent of the farmland and make up the majority of the world’s hungry.

The industrial model also fails to address the relationship between food production and human nutrition. Driven to seek the highest possible immediate financial returns, farmers and agricultural companies are increasingly moving toward monocultures of low-nutrition crops such as corn—the dominant US crop—that are often processed into empty-calorie “food products.” As a result, from 1990 to 2010, growth in unhealthy eating patterns outpaced dietary improvements in most parts of the world, including the poorer regions. Most of the key causes of non-communicable diseases are now diet-related, and by 2020, such diseases are predicted to account for nearly 75 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Abridged and adapted from here
https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/01/12/farming-small-planet

What the article's author calls "industrial model", the simpler way to describe it is as capitalism. The article goes on to suggest replacing this "industrial model" with agro-ecology, which may well be a better way of farming, but it won't solve the food problem. Only replacing capitalism with the socialist system can do that.