Monday, July 30, 2007

TOUR DE FARCE

The Tour de France has been a spectacular example of how capitalism ruins everything it touches but this is true of all sport not just cycling. The sports writer Simon Barnes summed it up well when he wrote: "The race lost the favourite, Alexander Vinokourov, to a positive drugs test; the leader, Michael Rasmussen, was kicked out because he lied to his team about his whereabouts during training and there are, inevitably, questions about the winner-by-default, Alberto Contador. ... Put on a good show, make the money, keep the wheels turning that's what really matters. ... Is that relevant to other sports? You bet it is. The Tour de France is in potential terminal decline because serious moral and sporting issues were ignored for the sake of financial expedient. There is not a sport in existence of which this is not true. Take football; awash with money, a substance that in sufficient quantities dehumanises people every bit as much as drugs does. The sport is at present dealing with an obscene affair in which a player is owned - as if he was a racehorse - by a private individual." (Times, 30 July) RD

CAN YOU HEAR ME, GRANDMA?

A worker who has worked all her life has found out what an uncaring, miserable society capitalism can be to the old and infirm."A woman of 108 has been told by health chiefs that she must wait 18 months to get a new hearing aid. Olive Beal, one of the oldest women in Britain, is confined to a wheelchair and losing her sight. Being able to communicate and listen to music is her only contact with the outside world, says her family. Mrs Beal, who has six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, has used an old-fashioned analogue hearing aid for the last five years. But she struggles to hear with it and needs a modern digital hearing aid which cuts out background noise. After being told of the wait, Mrs Beal, who lives in a care home in Deal, Kent, said "I could be dead by then." ... Donna Tipping, from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, said "I am afraid this is a common problem. There are more than half a million people waiting for hearing aids in this country." (Daily Telegraph, 30 July) RD

VOTING WITH THEIR FEET

There never was a vote in parliament about British forces invading Iraq but it seems that some service personnel have let their views be known."Army chiefs have been hit by more than 9000 cases of soldiers going absent without leave since 2004 and 1100 are still on the run at a time when the military is being stretched by its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence denied yesterday that the incidents - the equivalent of almost 10% of the entire force - were connected to the current conflicts but admitted that there were almost 1300 cases of soldiers having gone missing in the first six months of this year alone....Figures seen by The Herald show that 3030 soldiers, 185 sailors and 55 RAF servicemen went absent in 2004, 2715, 195 and 35 respectively in 2005, 2330, 155 and 10 in 2006 and 1275, 55 and 15 to the end of June this year....Almost 7000 men and women are believed to have deserted from the US army since the invasion of Iraq." (Sunday Herald, 29 July) RD

BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME

Socialists are always saying that capitalism is a crazy society but the following news item suggests that it is stark raving bonkers! "SAN JOSE, Calif. - John Feigenbaum didn't sleep at all during his redeye flight across country. He's not a nervous flier — he had a dime worth $1.9 million in his jeans pocket. Feigenbaum, 38, of Virginia Beach, Va., is a rare coin dealer, and the dime he was carrying from San Jose to New York is a 1894-S dime, one of only nine known to exist. He picked up the dime, one of only 24 known to be coined in 1894 in San Francisco, on Monday from the seller's vault in Oakland. He delivered it to the buyer's vault the following day, in midtown Manhattan. Feigenbaum said he and the seller's agent will split a 6 percent commission on the deal. Feigenbaum said he put the dime, which is encased in a 3-inch-square block of plastic, in his pocket. Accompanied by a security guard, he drove to the airport." (Yahoo News, 28 July) RD

BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A BED

"Once in khaki dress, gee we looked swell. Full of Yankee doodle dum" goes the old song and it still applies today judging by the treatment handed out to veterans in New York. "The only homeless shelter in New York just for veterans will close in August for renovations, which city officials say will improve conditions there. But the plans are upsetting some of its residents. The shelter, the Borden Avenue Veterans’ Residence, in Long Island City, Queens, is to reopen in November with a little more than half its current number of beds, according to officials, who also say the refurbished facility may charge rent, which it does not do now." (New York Times, 26 July) It is all very well being cheered by the admiring public during a war but the realities of capitalism after it has used you are far from cheering. RD

Science for hire

Achieving headlines throughout the world , Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup improved men's fertility according to researchers after conducting tests involving six healthy male volunteers by the University of Portsmouth . The study found that a fortnight of tomato soup had some effect on semen.
Nigel Dickie, a spokesman for Heinz, said: "It's good to know that Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup could boost your mojo and give guys extra oomph. And for Heinz Ketchup lovers, the tomatoey goodness will put more ketchup in your bottle."

However , The Scotsman contacted fertility experts and the company admitted it had overstated the research, which it had partly funded. In fact, the Portsmouth study found that while lycopene levels rose in semen after a period of soup consumption, there was "no measurable increase" in the sperm's ability to combat damaging free radicals. The scientists said more research was needed to see if higher lycopene levels really would help boost fertility.
A University of Portsmouth spokesman said "But on the basis of this research alone, we cannot say that the lycopene levels in sperm boosted fertility."

Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said although the study found higher lycopene levels in the sperm, it did not find any improvement in its quality to tackle infertility. Dr Pacey, a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, said sperm was produced by the body over three months, so long-term changes to diet would be most effective at improving its quality, rather than a two-week alteration.

So there we have it . Important science and research facilities at universities being hired to promote and market certain products . Commercial companies distorting scientific findings and then publicising inaccurate claims to increase its sales at the supermarket .

Capitalism , instead of using the field of medical research to advance and improve the quality of life simply employs the knowledge and brains of skilled and gifted people to make a fast buck and improve and advance advertising rather than health .

Sunday, July 29, 2007

REFORM UNDER ATTACK

The governments are always out to erode any advantages workers may have won in the course of their struggles; however, they try to present their attacks on conditions as if they were really doing it for your benefit. An example is an attack on the 35 hour week of the French worker.
According to an article in Scotland on Sunday by Elaine Sciolino, French told: work more and think less
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1181162007
In proposing a tax-cut law earlier this month, finance minister Christine Lagarde bluntly advised the French people to abandon their "old national habit".

"France is a country that thinks," she told the National Assembly. "There is hardly an ideology that we haven't turned into a theory. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves."
Citing Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, she said the French should work harder, earn more and be rewarded with lower taxes if they get rich.
The government's call to work is key to its ambitious campaign to revitalise the French economy, abandoning what some commentators call a nationwide "laziness". France's legally mandated 35-hour week gives workers a lot of leisure time but not necessarily the means to enjoy it.
I don’t think working a 70 hour week gives you much time to enjoy your life either.
Reminds me of Matt McGinn’s wee classic ’Three Nights and a Sunday’
Chorus
Three nights and a Sunday double time.
Three nights and a Sunday double time.
I work a’ day and I work all night.
Tae hell wi’ you Jack, I’m all right.
Three nights and a Sunday double time.
We in the Socialist Party are depending on workers thinking for themselves and not relying on leaders to think for them.

...Names will never hurt me

Two of Socialist Courier contributers felt the need to comment on recent health and safety statistics and the rise in deaths at work .

Why increase the expenditure on safety? It cuts profits and capitalism hates that! said RD

The Sunday Herald carries a story with much the same conclusion concerning the weakness of the recently passed legislation governing "corporate killing", which has just received Royal Assent and is expected to become law within months.

In the UK, between 1966 and 2006, more than 40,000 people have been killed in work-related circumstances, according to Gary Slapper, professor of Law at the Open University. 40,000 deaths .

But under the common law of culpable homicide (or manslaughter in England), only 34 companies were prosecuted and only seven convictions were secured. In Scotland, only one company has ever been prosecuted for corporate homicide - utility firm Transco for the Larkhall gas explosion, caused by a leaking main, which killed Andrew and Janette Findlay and their two children in their house in December 1999. Although the company was eventually fined £15 million in 2005 for breaching health and safety laws, the homicide charge failed because, given the disperse communication channels of large companies, the court could not find a "controlling mind" or pin the blame on one senior figure who knew enough to be liable.

The new legislation removes the requirement to find a "controlling mind." Now, it must only be shown that someone in senior management was guilty of "gross negligence". YET , under the new legislation, there are no extra duties that directors must adhere to. The maximum penalties are the same as under existing health and safety laws.

Courts will now also be able to order the company to publicise any conviction. The reputational damage and stigma is thought most likely to act as a deterrent and encourage directors to take health and safety concerns more seriously.

Patrick Maguire, legal adviser to the Scottish TUC who was also a member of the Scottish Executive's expert panel , however interprets the new law as one that simply finds new scapegoats .
"...the need to identify the "controlling mind" has simply been replaced by the need to find a senior management who committed "gross negligence"...It is not the board of directors that makes these decisions on health and safety. They delegate the task to middle and lower management. They are going to say the guy who got it wrong was not a senior manager "

A Labour regime that purports to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime", exempts business from this treatment.

Voicing what the capitalist class thinks - and echoing the words of RD that the a central concern with any proposal which could mean stricter laws coming into force in Scotland, would scare businesses away , David Watt, director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, said: "We don't have different company law across the UK. We don't want bits and pieces of company law pulled out and made more punitive in Scotland. We need all the incentives we can for people to do business here."



Saturday, July 28, 2007

Private schools - only for the richer of us

Marx talks of how capitalism drives those professionals often vaguely called the middle class into the ranks of the proletariat so i note this story in the Herald .

Teachers, engineers, and police officers have been priced out of private education by a 40% rise in fees in just five years, according to the Bank of Scotland.
It now costs an average of £8247 every year to educate a child privately in Scotland compared with £6039 in 2002, and fees are now rising at twice the rate of inflation. Only prices for houses are growing faster. The average earner in a number of occupations, including engineers, journalists and teachers, can no longer afford private education for their offspring. average school fees were now only in the reach of 13 occupations, down from 23 in 2002.

Affordability was measured at a quarter of average earnings for the profession. So a scientist, earning an average of £37,290 a year, would have to give up an unaffordable 26% of his or her income to put one child through school for a year. But an architect, with an average income £42,224, would only be parting with a bearable 23% of their earnings.The professions that could afford fees were company directors, bank managers, accountants, production managers, IT professionals, doctors, pilots, senior police officers, lawyers, architects and customer care managers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

WORKED TO DEATH

We are all familiar with the old saw "hard work never killed anybody", but it just isn't true as can be seen from the following report."The number of people killed at work has risen to its highest level in five year, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Commision, whose strength has been cut by 1,000 over the same period. Of 241 fatalities in the last year compared with 217 the previous year, the greatest number, 77 - up 31% were on building sites. Sir Bill Callaghan, the HSE chair said the increase was disappointing. The TUC general ecretary Brendan Barber, said each death was preventable. "Increasing the likelihood of a visit from a safety inpector would make a real difference." (Guardian, 27 July) Why increase the expenditure on safety? It cuts profits and capitalism hates that! RD

Deaths increase at work

The number of people killed at work has risen to its highest level in five years, according to official figures released today by the Health and Safety Commission .
The figures show that 241 people died in the United Kingdom in the last financial year compared to 217 the previous year.
The largest number of fatalities was on building sites where 77 people were killed - up 31%.

Other high-fatality jobs are in agriculture, waste and recycling where there are large numbers of non-unionised, vulnerable labour, including many migrant workers.

Health and Safety Commission staff and inspectors have been cut by 1,000 .

Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said:
"...ministers have refused to place a specific legal duty for health and safety on company directors, and, with less money than ever at its disposal, the HSE has had to cut its staff, including the number of its safety inspectors."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

LOADS OF MONEY (2)

Sumner Redstone in capitalist terms is a very successful man. He is chairman of Viacom and CBS, a conglomerate that includes MTV, Paramount Picture and Comedy Central. He is reputed to be worth $8 billion, but such is the nature of this money-grubbing society he is hardly an enviable character. He has fallen out with his supposed heir, daughter Shari and is entangled in bitter legal wrangles with his son Brent and his nephew over inheritance rights. This 84 year old billionaire has sacrificed his whole life to the acquisition of more and more money to such an extent he has had a satellite dish fixed to the roof of his limousine so he can always be in touch with the stock market prices. This 84 year old can not hope to spend his billions yet spends his few remaining years trying to accumulate more. Capitalism is a crazy society and it makes people behave in a crazy fashion as can be seen from this press comment. "In his palatial home in Beverley Hills, he sits in his study ... watching the stock prices of his companies and, presumably, contemplating yet another round of legal action with a member of his family that could affect who succeeds him when he's gone." (Times, 25 July) RD

The old are getting poorer

And how does Capitalism treat the old ? Read here

The cost of living for the elderly is rising at more than twice the rate of other households, research shows today. People aged between 65 and 74 found that their annual expenditure increased by about nine per cent a year between 2002 and 2006, more than double the national average of four per cent . The situation is even worse for people over 75, who saw their cost of living soar by about 10 per cent a year during the same period.

The average pensioner income was increasing by only three per cent a year.

Who Owns the North Pole Part 5


Apologies for those readers of Socialist Courier who have no interest in the "Battle" to own the North Pole but since our last post we once again note recent developments .


Russia is sending a mini-submarine to explore the ocean floor below the North Pole and find evidence to support its claims to Arctic territory. Two parliamentarians are part of a team . The expedition's "flagship", the Akademik Fyodorov, will follow the trail of the ice-breaking ship Rossiya as it travels from Murmansk to the North Pole.


Melting ice in the Arctic has raised hopes of accessing energy reserves. Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic, thought to contain oil, gas and mineral reserves, has been challenged by other powers .


"The Arctic is ours and we should demonstrate our presence," Mr Chilingarov , veteran explorer and now politician , told Russian TV.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fancy a drink ?

The businessman's night out with friends started quietly enough with a £25 bottle of wine. It ended a few hours later with a bar bill for £105,805.
In between, the businessman and his circle of friends, which had swelled by closing time, had polished off 80 bottles of champagne, including a six-litre methuselah of Cristal worth £30,000 and a £9,600, three-litre jeroboam . The bill for champagne alone came to more than £80,000. One bottle of vodka cost £1,400.

The celebration took place at Crystal in Marylebone, central London, a nightclub launched with the help of Prince William and Prince Harry's friend Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe.
A favourite with the horsey set, its founding members include Lady Victoria Hervey and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

Consumed: one methuselah of Cristal (£30,000); two jeroboams of Cristal (£9,600), 36 bottles of Cristal (£12,960); six magnums of Dom Perignon (£4,200); 12 bottles of Dom Perignon Rose (£4,200); 15 bottles of Dom Perignon 1999 (£3,600), three magnums of Dom Perignon 1995 (£2,700) and four bottles of Cristal Rose (£2,400) and a nightcap of vodka, a Belvedere Methuselah, the equivalent of eight bottles.

I wonder if it was all tax deductable .

IS HUMAN NATURE A BARRIER?

One of the most common objections to socialism is that it is against human nature. Socialism is based on common ownership where everyone will work to the best of their ability and everyone will take according to their needs. "Impossible" claim our critics because it is human nature to be greedy and selfish. It is certainly true that inside a competitive society like capitalism people often behave in a selfish greedy fashion. This behaviour is conditioned by the society we live in, but even today human beings are capable of behaving in a cooperative fashion. For instance inside the USA the embodiment of capitalism we learn the following. "More than a quarter of Americans spent some of their time lending a helping hand last year. That good news kept the rate of nationwide volunteering at historically high levels: Some 61.2 million people dedicated 8.1 billion hours of service to schools; hospitals; and religious, political, and youth groups in 2006, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS)." (Christian Science Monitor, 17 July) RD

THE CHOCOLATE WARS

We all know that capitalism is a crazy system based on competition and profit, so it comes as no surprise when we have wars over oil in the Middle East, over diamonds in Sierra Leone and timber in Liberia but now we have war over chocolate! "Government and rebel leaders of the world's leading cocoa exporter, Ivory Coast, both siphoned off millions of dollars from the cocoa industry to finance the 2002-03 civil war that divided the once-stable and prosperous country in two, according to a recent report from Global Witness, a London-based group that focuses on resource-fuelled corruption. The government received more than $58 million from institutions and cocoa revenues, while the rebel New Forces pocketed about $30 million since 2004 in taxes and revenues, claims the report titled "Hot Chocolate: How Cocoa fuelled the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire." ...Fighting here ended with the government of President Laurent Gbagbo in control of the south, where 90 percent of cocoa production takes place, and the rebel New Forces in charge of the north." (Christian Science Monitor, 17 July) Truly capitalism is a crazy system! RD

Rich Cars

When it comes to cars, the ultra-rich have never had it so good. More and more manufacturers are crafting ultra-expensive models for them, and the choice available to the plutocrat petrol head is greater than ever., reports the Independent

Last year alone saw Rolls-Royce launch its Phantom Drophead Coupe (yours for £250,000-ish), two new convertibles from Bentley (Azure or GTC, at £230,00 and £130,000 respectively), a brace of new Lamborghinis (£190,000 or so) and the Ferrari 599 Maranello (£172,000). In the next few months, customers can also put their names down for the new Mercedes McLaren SLR Roadster (£320,000) and the crazed Caparo T1 track car (£190,000) , the Maserati GranTurismo (a snip at £80,000) , the Aston Martin Vantage (£90,000) or Jaguar XK/R (£68,000).

* Maybach limousine Price tag: £267,000 Waiting list: Six months
* Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Price tag: £250,000 Waiting list: Five years
* Bentley Azure Price tag: £230,000 Waiting list: Four months
* Ferrari 599 Price tag: £180,000 Waiting list: Three years
* Bentley GTC Price tag: £130,000 Waiting list: One year
* Aston Martin Vantage Price tag: £90,000 Waiting list: One year

Crime figures

People of ethnic minority backgrounds in Scotland are more than twice as likely to be victims of crime as others, according to new police figures. One in 20 victims of crime are from ethnic minorities, despite the fact they make up just one in 50 of Scotland's total population.

men and women - equal rights


Equality between men and women in Scotland could take generations to achieve the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) reported . Their Completing the Revolution report said the part-time pay gap would take 30 years to close, and the full-time pay gap would take 20 years.Women working part-time are said to earn 34% less per hour than men working full-time, and women working full-time are said to earn 14% less than men. The gap between the sexes on flexible working - men are less likely to work flexibly, even though half of them want to work more flexibly - is unlikely to narrow without further action . And in the home, the "chores gap" will never close, with women still spending 78% more time than men on housework, said the report.
It is 30 years since the Equal Pay act became law.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Learn to be rich?

Coutts & Co becomes the latest private bank to launch a formal course designed to help an elite class of the young rich to manage their money.

Forty-five children of some of the bank's wealthiest clients and youthful self-made millionaires - including, it is rumoured, a child actor - will spend their days at Coutts' London headquarters learning how to look after their money. They will also be drilled in life skills of particular relevance to the young and rich, such as how to say no to friends looking for money to invest in harebrained schemes.

"If a friend comes to you saying, 'Give us twenty grand', you need to know how to do the due diligence on that," says Fiona Fenn Smith, head of strategic marketing at Coutts.

JPMorgan private bank, for example, has been running Next Generation programmes for many years. The bank operates in an even higher orbit of wealth than Coutts with clients needing a minimum of $25m (£12m). Their courses also cater for a slightly older group, ranging from 25 to 45 years old. It runs its schemes in glamorous locales around the world, including St Tropez and the Hotel de Russie in Rome.

Who Owns the North Pole Part 4

Socialist Courier is keenly following the story of which nation state will ultimately own or control the North Pole and have reported here , here and here about it . Time magazine has now shown an interest in the new developments that are following climate change and global warming in the Arctic Circle region .

Late last month, Moscow signaled its intentions to annex the entire North Pole, an area twice the size of France with Belgium and Switzerland thrown in — except all of it under water. The ice-frozen North Pole is currently a no man's land supervised by a U.N. Commission. The five Polar countries — Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark — each control only a 200-mile economic zone along their coasts. And none of these economic zones reach the North Pole. Under the current U.N. Maritime convention, one country's zone can be extended only if it can prove that the continental shelf into which it wishes to expand is a natural extension of its own territory, by showing that it shares a similar geological structure.
So, the Russians claimed a great scientific discovery late last month. An expedition of 50 scientists that spent 45 days aboard the Rossia nuclear ice-breaker found that an underwater ridge (the Lomonosov ridge) directly links Russia's Arctic coast to the North Pole. This, they insist, surely guarantees Russia's rights over a vast Polar territory that also happens to contain some 10 billion tons of oil and natural gas deposits.
Russia's first attempt to expand beyond its Arctic zone was rebuffed by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, but Moscow hopes that its "latest scientific findings" will produce a different outcome when the Commission next meets, in 2009.
Moscow is also looking to restore control over a 47,000 sq. km (18,000 sq. mile) piece of the Bering Sea separating Alaska from Russian Chukotka. The territory was ceded to the U.S. in 1990 under the U.S.-Soviet Maritime Boundary Agreement signed by Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. While the deal may have helped ease Cold War tensions, anti-reform Soviet hard-liners always opposed giving up a piece of territory rich in sea life and hydrocarbon deposits, and they and their nationalist successors prevented the agreement's ratification. Today, the Agreement still operates on a provisional basis, pending its ratification by the Russian parliament.
But what had once been a battle cry of the nationalist opposition has now become the official line. In recent weeks, Kremlin-controlled media have berated the Agreement as a treasonous act by Shervardnadze (who later became the pro-NATO President of Georgia). Now, leading pro-Kremlin members of the Russian legislature are publicly demanding that the Agreement be reviewed, with the aim of recovering the country's riches.

In May, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia claiming the hydrocarbon-rich area would be to the detriment of U.S. interests.

Meanwhile here we read dispute Canadian claims to the North West Passage .

Whereas Prime Minister Harper asserts "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it ...It is no exaggeration to say that the need to assert our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity in the North on our terms have never been more urgent...The ongoing discovery of the north's resource riches coupled with the potential impact of climate change has made the region a growing area of interest and concern," Harper said. "

America meantime describes the Northwest Passage as "neutral waters."

"It's an international channel for passage," U.S. Embassy spokesman Foster said .

As global warming melts the passage -- which now is only navigable during a slim window in the summer -- the waters are exposing unexplored resources such as oil, fishing stocks and minerals, and becoming an attractive shipping route. Commercial ships can shave off some 2,480 miles (3,990 kilometers) from Europe to Asia compared with current routes through the Panama Canal.

Canada also wants to assert its claim over Hans Island, which is at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage. The half-square-mile (0.8-kilometer) rock is wedged between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland .
In 1984, Denmark's minister for Greenland affairs, Tom Hoeyem, caused a stir when he flew in on a chartered helicopter, raised a Danish flag on the island.The dispute flared again two years ago when former Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham set foot on the rock while Canadian troops hoisted the Maple Leaf flag.

Let us not be mistaken , many former allies have become rivals when natural resources become a bone of contention

NEW YORK, SAME OLD STORY

Politicians throughout the world at election time project the idea that they can solve the problems of capitalism and trust by the next election the promises will have been forgotten or they can blame some other cause for the problem. "It was a statement born of confidence and boldness. Mayor Michael R Bloomberg declared in 2004 that he would do what no mayor of his era had done: reduce the city’s homeless population by two-thirds by the time he left office. ....But despite a number of initiatives, including computer tracking and prevention programs, the population of homeless families, after dipping in 2005, reached its highest point in two decades in May." (New York Times, 22 July) RD

LOADS OF MONEY

The Wall Street Journal employ Robert Frank to record the comings and goings of the super-rich, so he has decided to publish his findings in his book Richistan; A Journey through the 21st Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich. This was reviewed by Tim Adams who came up with a couple of statistics that should interest all workers. "There are many statistics that attach themselves to Richistan. These are two telling ones; Wall Street's five biggest firms paid out $36 billion in bonuses in 2006; and while in the Seventies the average American chief executive typically took home 40 times the wage of his average employee, he now pockets 170 times that of his typical minion." (Observer, 22 July) As a "typical minion" how do you feel about that? RD

Charity and Philanthropy

The cash-for-honours affair and Tom Hunter's philanthropy merely prove the rich call the shots in an unequal society, says Joan Smith in the Independent

Peter Mandelson remarked nine years ago that Labour ministers were "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich"

During Blair's premiership the wealth of Britain's top 1,000 quadrupled.

The Scottish self-made retail billionaire Sir Tom Hunter, promised to give away at least £1bn to good causes before he dies. Hunter has joined an elite club of people who have made so much money that they are able to give away sums that most of us cannot even visualise ...Hunter is usually mentioned in the same breath as the hedge fund investor Chris Hohn, who has promised £230m to a children's charity run by his wife, and the financial trader Peter Cruddas, who is giving £100m to good causes which include The Prince's Trust and Great Ormond Street children's hospital.

Such donations are usually regarded as non-political, a harmless exercise in what's called "soft" power;...Yet a moment's consideration is enough to demonstrate the lack of democratic oversight at most private foundations, and while wealthy people may choose to support causes of which we all approve,.. they may just as easily make decisions which appear capricious or downright perverse. Some wealthy evangelical businessmen withhold money from organisations that support gay and women's rights...Despite the generosity of men such as Hunter, there is a widespread sense that there is something wrong with a society in which growing numbers of wealthy people are able to use their money to fund pet causes – or keep it for themselves... the fact remains that for every billionaire who decides to do something to combat Aids or malaria, there is another who prefers to buy yachts, wives or football clubs.

...there is compelling evidence not just that we are entering a new age of oligarchy, reminiscent of the US in the 19th century, but that it is corroding public trust in the political process. The names of the men who literally built America – Carnegie, Frick, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller – are familiar to this day; in a striking parallel with contemporary Britain, some of these tycoons had a highly developed sense of social responsibility and gave most of their money away. The Scottish-American steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who was originally from Dunfermline, gave away the equivalent of $4.3bn in his lifetime... There could hardly be a greater contrast than the railroad pioneer Cornelius Vanderbilt, who has been described as the second wealthiest person in American history, with a fortune estimated at the time of his death in 1877 at more than $100m (a staggering $143bn in today's money)... His son William got the bulk of his fortune, with next to nothing going to good causes.

The moral is that wealthy men are no more likely to be generous than poor ones; even such contemporary philanthropists as the Irish rock band U2, whose lead singer Bono never misses an opportunity to lecture political leaders about increasing aid to Africa, were revealed last year to have moved their financial affairs to the Netherlands in order to halve their tax bill. Private philanthropy is unreliable, in other words, and our increasing reliance on wealthy entrepreneurs to fund everything from clean water in the developing world to British political parties is a symptom of profound malaise.

Friday, July 20, 2007

OUTDATED MARXISM?

One of the oppositions to Marxism is that it is so out-dated, it is so 19th century. So let us get up-to-date. "The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is to ballot its members on industrial action over pay, the first time in its 125-year history that such a move has been made. ..The decision to ballot 23,000 midwives, taken at an RCM council meeting last night, follows the government's announcement that midwives and nurses would get a 2.5% pay rise in two stages, amounting to 1.9% across the year." (Guardian, 20 July) It just shows you how outdated Marxism is, after all in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels wrote - "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverend awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourer." How outdated, they never mentioned midwives did they?RD

CAPITALISM AND SPORT

We are all well aware that the Tour de France cycling race has been marred by drugs, even leading to death. Football clubs have been investigated for illegal "bungs" and the once pristine sport of cricket has had its bribery and corruption scandals. Now we find that golf too has been invaded by drug cheats. "Gary Player, one of the legends of golf, has marked the start of this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie by declaring that performance-enhancing drugs are rife among world players. The South African who won three Opens, the first of them at Carnoustie 38 years ago, said he knows several top golfers are developing their physiques by taking human-growth hormones, steroids and creatine, though only the first two are prohibited by international sports bodies." (Herald, 19 July) It seems that everything that capitalism touches it corrupts in its insatiable drive for wealth. RD

DOMESTIC BLISS?

It is the subject of romantic novels and love songs - boy meets girl, wedding bells and domestic bliss, but the reality often proves to be otherwise inside the stressful society that is modern capitalism. "The conviction rate in domestic violence cases has risen dramatically in four years, the Crown Prosecution Service said. A snapshot view found that in 2003 46 per cent of cases ended in conviction. By 2006 this had risen to 66 per cent. In 2003 the CPS dropped 17 per cent of cases. By 2006 this had fallen to 11 per cent. More than 57,000 cases were charged for prosecution in 2006/7." (Times, 19 July) RD

health and the worker

Deprivation is fuelling ill health in Scotland, according to new research. A study of 25,000 men and women across the country found that heart disease was more prevalent in areas with poorer communities. The research found poor health and lifestyle among people with low levels of education, middle-aged men, and women out of work or in low-skilled jobs.
The report by the Medical Research Council (MRC) said that if social and economic conditions improved, many health problems would disappear.

"Glasgow's health is likely to continue to be worse than the rest of Scotland unless there is a considerable change in the circumstances of our poorer communities." Director Professor Carol Tannahill said

Dr Linsay Gray, of the MRC said "... improving Glasgow's health remains closely linked with tackling the problems associated with deprivation and poverty."

Socialist Courier concur that it is change - but revolutionary change - that will be required to improve the health - both physical and mental - of the working man and woman .

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Anyone for Tennis ?- The physical price of fame

A study of 33 young elite players aged between 16 and 23 at a national tennis centre, who represent Britain's best hope for a future Wimbledon winner, found 28 of them had damaged spines. Nine players had stress fractures. Some of the damage was irreparable.

Far from improving fitness, the game could leave them seriously damaged. The demands of modern tennis are so extreme and the competition so intense that young players in training face a high risk of fractures, slipped discs and damaged joints, researchers for the Lawn Tennis Association say. The increased speed and types of strokes used in tennis all boost wear and tear on the lower back.

"...These players have backs like 50-year-olds, not 16-year-olds." - David Connel, of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

The Loony Right

The Conservatives are fighting a claim that a businessman did not know what he was doing when he left the party £8.3 million in his will.

London's High Court heard Branislav Kostic was "deluded and insane" when he willed his money in the 1980s.

He made the will after saying Margaret Thatcher was "the greatest leader of the free world in history" and that she would save the world from the "satanic monsters and freaks".

His son says his father lacked "testamentary capacity" because of his delusional and paranoid mental illness.

Clare Montgomery QC said the Conservatives "only benefited because the testator became mentally ill".

Mr Simmonds , QC for the Conservative Prty , said that while it was accepted that Mr Kostic had a delusional disorder it was not accepted that this made him incapable of making a proper will.

I think Socialist Courier readers will concur with all who say that this individual must have indeed been crazy to believe and trust in Magaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

JESUS AND HARRY POTTER

"The Church of England is publishing a guide advising youth workers how to use Harry Potter to spread the Christian message. ... the Rt Rev John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, said yesterday: "Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners ..." Owen Smith, its 24-year-old author and a youth worker at St Margaret's Church in Rainham, Kent, said: "To say, as some have, that these books draw younger readers towards the occult seems to both malign JK Rowling and to vastly underestimate the ability of children to separate the real from the imaginary." (Times, 18 July) A good point, Mr Smith; what child-like mind having read about healing the lame, making the blind see, bringing the dead back to life and so on could imagine it had anything to do with reality? RD

BLIND INDIFFERENCE

"A pensioner aged 84 is suing an NHS trust over its refusal to pay for drugs to save his sight in the first such case to be backed by Britain's leading charity for the blind. Dennis Devier of Henley-on-Thames has been told by Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust that he cannot have drugs to treat his macular degeneration, the commonest cause of sight loss, unless he can prove he is an " exceptional case". Mr Devier, a war veteran, is the main carer for his disabled wife and is already blind in one eye. He also has diabetes and Paget's disease, which affects the bones. ... The charity said Oxfordshire PCT claimed to consider each case on its merits but had not funded drug treatment for a single patient, despite having more than 70 in need of it." (Independent, 9 July) Why such cruelty towards an old man who will go blind in three months? Could the cost of treatment £9,000 a year for two years have anything to do with it?
RD

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

EUROPEAN HUNGER

"It's 10 o'clock in the morning and Shkelten Daljani, a rambunctious boy of 14 in a tattered "Route 66" T-shirt, should be in school. But if he wants to eat, he has to help his father collect scrap metal to sell. The previous day, he says, there was no metal and no food."If we have food, we eat," Shkelten says with a shrug. "If we don't, we don't."Shkelten and his family live on the outskirts of Albania's capital, Tirana, in the neighborhood of Breju Lumi, which means riverside, though the only nearby water is a dry streambed cluttered with trash. The houses are a collection of concrete blocks and tin shacks without electricity, running water, or sanitation. The streets are little more than dirt lanes.Shkelten's situation – inadequate housing and sanitation, poor medical care, and occasional hunger – is little different from that of millions of children throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But his home is in the heart of Europe. .."We used to say that everybody was equally poor," says Arlinda Ymeraj, a social-policy officer with the UN Children's Fund in Albania. "Now, if you compare, there are big disparities. A few people have gotten very rich, but more have stayed poor or gotten poorer." ..Despite recent economic growth, a third of Albania's children live on less than $2 a day. Ms. Ymeraj says that it is difficult to compare the situation of children today with that during communist times, but that life has deteriorated for the poorest in a number of concrete ways." (The Chritian Science Monitor, 10 July) No matter where you look in the world today Ms Ymeraj's statement "a few people have got rich but more have stayed poor or gotten poorer" applies. RD

THE WASTEFUL SOCIETY

"In proposals which will be hotly disputed in wine-producing countries from France to Bulgaria, Brussels wants to pay producers of unsaleable wines to "grub up" their old vines. And from 2013, national restrictions on the planting of different varieties of vines would be lifted to encourage "competitive" growers to shift to types of wine more in demand from consumers..... Part of the EU budget for supporting the wine industry would be shifted to a campaign to promote European wines on the international market. The distillation of surplus wine into industrial alcohol or disinfectants - which costs €500 million (£340m) a year - would end from 2009. The European Union's annual "wine lake" of unsold wines is more than 13 million hectolitres - equivalent to about 1.7 billion standard-size bottles." (The Independent, 5 July) This gigantic surplus wine lake is a terrible problem inside capitalism, of course inside socialism we would just drink it. RD

More on class divisions

The gap between rich and poor in the UK is as wide as it has been for forty years, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said in a report. Full report here

Since 1970, area rates of poverty and wealth in Britain have changed significantly. Britain is moving back towards levels of inequality in wealth and poverty last seen more than 40 years ago. Over the last 15 years, more households have become poor, but fewer are very poor. Even though there was less extreme poverty, the overall number of 'breadline poor' households increased – households where people live below the standard poverty line. This number has consistently been above 17 per cent, peaking at 27 per cent in 2001 . Already-wealthy areas have tended to become disproportionately wealthier.

There is evidence of increasing polarisation, where rich and poor now live further apart. In areas of some cities over half of all households are now breadline poor. Both poor and wealthy households have become more and more geographically segregated from the rest of society. 'Average' households (neither poor nor wealthy) have been diminishing in number and gradually disappearing from London and the south east. Poor, rich and average households became less and less likely to live next door to one another between 1970 and 2000. As both the poor and wealthy have become more and more clustered in different areas

While in another BBC report , the Centreforum research paper , Tackling Educational Inequality , wants the funds (£2.4 billion) schools in England get to teach pupils from disadvantaged homes to be doubled .

It said low attainment too often stemmed from children's backgrounds, not their abilities.

"Britain is a bastion of educational inequality," said Paul Marshall, chairman of Centreforum, an independent liberal think tank. "The die is cast at an early age and rather than recast the die, the English educational system tends steadily to reinforce the advantages of birth."

Monday, July 16, 2007

ALIENATION IN ABERDEEN

Capitalism is a ruthless and uncaring society, just how uncaring is summed up in this news item. "A man is believed to have lain dead in his flat for almost a year before his body was discovered, a city council said. Debt collectors found the remains when they came to evict the man from his Aberdeen flat. They had called there numerous times in the past but there was never a response, Aberdeen City Council said. It is understood that the man may have died in August last year." (Times, 13 July) RD

Capitalism Shares- Or Does it ?

The proportion of shares owned by small shareholders is down to an all time low of 13 % , reported the Independent.

There are as many as 10 million private investors, and BT, for example, retains about half of the people who bought its shares in 1984, but few have a holding in more than one company. Those who own share portfolios with a value of, say, £50,000 to £100,000 is put at no more than 100,000, or 200,000 people.

Half of the UK stock market was controlled by individuals in 1963, that proportion has fallen steadily to this all-time low. The 12.8 per cent headline figure would be even lower were it not for the privatisations and demutualisations of the 1980s.

It is certainly not the Peoples Capitalism , that the apologists of the free market had hoped for .

Friday, July 13, 2007

East end , Early ends

A "cluster" of suicides among young adults has been identified in one of the most deprived parts of Scotland.They said the cluster , a "persistent and remarkably consistent" geographical concentration of suicides, was focused on the east end of Glasgow. The research showed that the east end of Glasgow has particularly high suicide rates among young adults but that this can be explained by the high levels of deprivation in this area.

Dr Exeter, the project researcher, said: "The finding demonstrates that suicide is particularly high in the most deprived part of Scotland... Factors which are known to influence suicide, such as drug misuse, divorce and unemployment, are likely to be more common in such deprived areas."

Earlier recent research which found that between 1980 and 2000, young people (aged 15-44) in Scotland's poorest areas were more than four times as likely to commit suicide than those in its least deprived areas. Socialist Courier also reported previous that the Irish Travelling Folk also suffered from much higher suicide rates due to worsening living conditions

Days of Cheap Food to End

Mark Hill, food and agriculture partner at Deloitte, the accountancy firm , warned that rising demand for wheat and maize was bound to result in increases in the price of staple foods. The era of cheap, subsidised food, which had lasted since the war, was over, he said. We are going to see sustained price inflation - a general upward trend for staple foods such as grains, milk and meat.

The price of milk, poultry and pork is also expected to increase because of a rise in the cost of livestock feed . Wheat and maize prices are at their highest level in more than a decade.

The growing trend of turning wheat and corn into alternative fuels had come at a time when stocks had been run down. Grain supplies were already under pressure as a result of bad weather that reduced harvests and pushed up prices last year. Population increases and growing affluence in China and India could double global grain consumption within the next 40 years.

Cost-Cutting Cost Lives

Hoping to expand profits has led to the courts for Cadbury chocolate.

A major salmonella outbreak caused by Cadbury chocolate bars followed a decision to change the company's product testing system . The confectionery giant sought to save money and reduce wastage by introducing an "allowable tolerance level" for salmonella in its products . There was no safe level for salmonella cells in ready-to-eat products and that the organism could survive in chocolate for years. Chocolate acts as a protective layer for salmonella organisms, shielding them from acid in the stomach.

Until 2003 Cadbury had destroyed any chocolate which tested positive for salmonella, adopting an approach that "no amount of testing will make a positive result go away."
They then changed it to what they believed to be an allowable tolerance level. Cadbury sought to save money from wastage by allowing a tolerance for salmonella in their food. Large quantities of product were being destroyed and Cadbury's were looking for ways of avoiding that . There is no dispute that there is a linkage between the chocolate that was distributed by Cadbury and the poisoning that took place later on.

Cadbury has pleaded guilty at Birmingham Crown Court to breaching food and hygiene regulations in the summer of 2006 and the scare led to the recall of more than a million chocolate bars.

Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's ministry of food and drug safety , was found guilty of putting cash before food safety has been sentenced to death . Fortunately for Cadbury's directors and management , Socialist Courier does not condone capital punishment .

Thursday, July 12, 2007

a fact of corporate life.

Regular readers of Socialist Courier will be aware that we have been high-lighting the generous incomes paid to those in the commanding heights of industry and commerce , now we read that the chairman of Sainsburys , Philip Hampton , yesterday brushed aside concern over soaring directors' pay, declaring that annual rises in excess of inflation are now "simply a fact of corporate life".

Last month, it emerged that chief executive , Justin King , is to reap the rewards of the failed private equity approach to the supermarket group by receiving a hefty pay rise and other adjustments to a pay packet that topped £2m last year. King will receive a 17% rise in his basic salary of £725,000 - taking it to £850,000 - plus an award of shares

It was also revealed that the Qatari royal family own a quarter of Sainsburys .

Meanwhile at Boots The Chemist , Richard Baker , the chief executive of Alliance Boots , and Scott Wheway, managing director of Boots the Chemists step down . Baker made £6.5m when he exercised his share options as the company was taken private. Wheway cashed in £1.19m.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Capitalist Windfall


Although it posted a slowing in sales growth Marks and Spencers , chief executive Stuart Rose received £3.6 million in salary and bonuses last year, up 68 per cent on a year ago .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Who owns the North Pole part 3

We warned here and here that due to the global warming and the increased accessibility of the Arctic Ocean and thus to the natural resources in the region that a new rivalry for sovereignty has begun in the Arctic .

Canada has announced plans for six naval patrol vessels and deep-water port in the north to assert its claim to territorial waters in the Arctic , all at a cost of $3bn (£1.5bn) .

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the time has come to re-assert Canada's claim to the north to remind other countries - including the US - of Canada's claim to the waters off its northern coast.

The claim could also have serious economic implications. Natural resources including oil, gas and diamonds are thought to lurk - perhaps in abundance - under the Arctic ice. And then there is the North-West Passage - the northern shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that European explorers sought for centuries. With a warming climate, the route may just become viable and lucrative.

Monday, July 09, 2007

CHARITY AS A STATUS SYMBOL

The immense wealth enjoyed by the British capitalist class is well illustrated by their charity donations. "Two tycoons have in the past few days earmarked stupendous sums for charity: hedge fund manager Chris Hohn, a prime mover in the fight to take over ABN Amro, is giving away £230m, and Peter Crudas, the founder of CMC Markets, is donating £100m. ... The rich have complex motivations for their philanthropy; a real desire to do good may be mixed with wallet-waving competition between Masters of the Universe. Some hope to disarm critics who are uneasy at the gap between rich and poor. Others have so much money they genuinely don't know what to do with it." (Observer, 8 July) RD

WHISKY AS A STATUS SYMBOL

Another example of how crazy capitalism has become in a world where millions are surviving on a dollar a day is this item. "Rare malt whisky has become the badge of success for wealthy City bankers. Trendy bars and clubs in London are reporting record sales of expensive whiskies. The most sought-after whisky on offer at the gaming club Fifty in St James’s is Johnny Walker 1805, which costs £1,000 for a dram or £14,000 a bottle. City of London staff were paid £21 billion in bonuses last year." (Times, 9 July) RD

Sunday, July 08, 2007

CLAYMORE CHOPS WORKERS

Today’s exclusive by Norman Silvester in the Sunday Mail reveals plans for the possible stopping of production at the former Motorola semiconductor plant at in East Kilbride under the codename Operation Claymore. Employees were told on Friday that the new Texan owners, Freescale, were putting the giant plant up for sale.
The plant was opened up in 1969, it is thought that Freescale will only keep their research and development arm which would save about 300 jobs at most. However, 900 workers are set to lose employment.
The profit motive has lead to the closure of other fairly long established businesses in East Kilbride such as the Bruce Hotel, which suddenly was closed causing havoc for clients with wedding arrangements as well as staff, the Co-operative opened in the town centre 1970 closed recently and the uncertainty for many families with a mortgage, has MSP Andy Kerr urging the Scottish Executive to act as the closure will have a major blow on the town of East Kilbride and beyond.
Local MP Adam Ingram says he has been told nothing officially by Freescale and would be demanding answers tomorrow.
However, most electronics work is now located in Eastern Europe and Asia where costs and wages are much lower, so the crisis society that is capitalism continues to disorganise the plans and desires of communities, it always has and it always will, lets get rid of it and replace it with a society that doesn’t have a profit motive, Socialism.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

THE CHURCH GOES COMMERCIAL

"A prominent Polish cleric known for preaching against communism and for his anti-Semitic remarks said on Tuesday he planned to launch perfumes, clothing and cafes branded with his image. Father Henryk Jankowski took part in strikes which led to the end of communism in 1989 as part of Solidarity movement. He was later suspended from preaching for a year after insulting remarks about Jews. ... Jankowski, who already has a wine branded with his image under the name "Monsignore," said he would be on the panel for "castings" of waitresses for the 16 cafes he plans to open in major Polish cities." (Yahoo News, 3 July)
Wine making? Cafe owners? What about that story about Jesus casting money changers from the temple? On Sunday mornings priests can preach against materialism but capitalism rules the rest of the week. RD

Drug Pushers

Which? surveyed 200 doctorsDrug companies are bombarding GPs with promotional materials and inducements . GPs received four visits per month on average from drug reps.
They also received five promotional mailings about new drugs a week, and inducements to attend conferences.

25% of the GPs questioned had been sponsored to attend a conference, seminar or training event in the UK in the last 12 months and 5% had been sponsored to attend an event abroad. In just one month, one GP was offered nine conference places and 13 meals, and received nine visits from drug reps, 10 letters, 21 leaflets, two patient information booklets and one training DVD. This amounted to 22 companies contacting her about 31 drugs.

Yet doctors still report a lack of information from independent sources and just only 7% trusted the information they received from drug firms.

Lets not make any bones about it - those in the pharmaceutical industry are in business to make profits and to compete with their commercial rivals .Drug companies will waste resources with duplication of effort for the marketing of their own particular product and leave doctors and other health workers no wiser when the information they receive proves so partisan .

Friday, July 06, 2007

What a world this is

Nearly a third of newly qualified nurses had not found a job six months after qualifying, figures show. And over half of physiotherapist graduates were unemployed, along with one in five midwives, according to a government census in March 2007.

9,000 nurses qualified between May and September 2006, but only 69% were employed six months later, meaning nearly 3,000 were unemployed.

Dr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "I am hearing worrying stories from recently qualified nurses who are unable to get jobs because trusts are freezing entry level posts to save money...it is a waste of new and much needed nursing talent."

Meanwhile,

A group of stressed-out people in Spain have been given a chance to let off steam by demolishing a hotel in Madrid. The 30 winners of a contest were given sledgehammers to smash up the bedrooms and bathrooms of the 146-room hotel in the capital. The participants were selected by psychologists from more than 200 stressed applicants.

And our Fly the Flag Prime Minister

Elsewhere

Under the five-year plan, initiated by EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, winemakers in EU countries will get cash rewards for producing less wine by abandoning some or all of their poorer quality vineyards.

Money goes to money


We have already mentioned the good fortune of Brian Souter of Stagecoach but lo and behold The Herald reports he has added a further £6.4 million to his vast personal wealth after exercising share options in the Perth transport giant. Souter this week bought 4.36 million shares at between 27p and 85.75p apiece under options granted between 2002 and 2004. The exercise netted Souter a paper gain of £6.4m, this being the difference between what he paid for the shares - £2 million - and the value of that holding now, which is £8.4 million .


He recently pocketed more than £100 million when the company returned £700 million to shareholders, and was last week granted deferred bonuses worth nearly £800,000.


Souter retained the shares bought this week and now holds a 14.72% stake in Stagecoach worth £201 million. Souter's sister, fellow Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag, has an 11% stake in the company and pocketed more than £70 million from the recent return of cash to investors .


Souter and Gloag rocketed from ninth to fourth in the league table of Scotland's wealthiest individuals, with an estimated combined fortune of £770 million.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

More migrants die at sea -and ignored

Further to an earlier story , an UN refugee agency official has said 210 illegal migrants were reported drowned or disappeared in the Strait of Sicily in June while attempting to cross from northern Africa into Europe. Migrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa often attempt the treacherous journey in small, rickety boats after paying large sums to smugglers.

Paolo Artini, an official with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Italy stated:-

“When it is a matter of saving lives at sea, a narrow interpretation of what constitutes a distress call, and any protracted discussion on search-and-rescue responsibilities should not be considered ethically acceptable,” .

He criticised “gaps in the legal framework concerning rescue at sea, and insufficient cooperation among states who often hold different views.”
Disputes have erupted recently over which country should take responsibility for migrants rescued in the international waters between Italy, Malta and Libya.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

House Prices

Savills , the estate agent and consultancy group said demand for “super prime” houses continued to rise strongly, with interest coming from international as well as UK purchasers.

The super prime residential market – houses costing £5m or more in London and large country houses – was continuing to benefit from City bonuses but was also “heavily influenced” by international buyers who accounted for about half of purchases.

They are , of course , the people who are largely unaffected if the interest rate goes up . But for the rest of us mere mortals there has been a “a cooling of the UK mainstream” market and some oversupply of new homes, especially flats, in provincial cities .

For a fuller analyse of the property boom and the probability of the bubble bursting read here

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

THE FAILURE OF REFORMISM

"Social mobility is more difficult for children in Britain than for those in most other wealthy countries. A study by the London School of Economics found that poorer children born in 1970 had less opportunity to improve their economic and social status as adults than those born in 1958." (Times, 3 July) Fifty years of reforming British capitalism and the end result is abject failure! RD

BIBLICAL WEATHER FORECASTING

The owning class spend a great deal of money in keeping the Meterological Office running but a reverend gentleman has come up with a super wheeze to save that expenditure."The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops. One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless. ... The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society's moral decadence." (Sunday Telegraph, 1 July) Simple really - read your bible, do what the bishops say and you can close the metrological offices! RD

And not before time

A memorial to workers killed during the construction of the Forth Bridge is set to be officially unveiled. Work began on the one-and-a-half mile bridge in 1883 and at its peak 4,600 worked on it.

The memorial will honour the known 71 men and boys who died during the seven years it took to build the bridge. It is believed the actual figure is much higher. Research into the exact number who lost their lives is still being carried out. The Queensferry History Group has been working to uncover the true extent of the death toll.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

MISSION IMPROBABLE

John Travolta and Tom Cruise are famous film stars who are Scientologists. This is a religion dreamt up by former science fiction writer and con man Ron L. Hubbard. It is difficult to deal with their ideas as they keep them a secret. "Since the full knowledge of the faith is reserved for those who complete the course, there can be no official confirmation to outsiders of what they ultimately believe. According to popular culture Scientology teaches that 75 million years ago the intergalactic tyrant Xenu brought millions of space aliens to earth." (Times,23 June)
It isn't only poor exploited workers that are victims of religious nonsense, even well-heeled people can be conned too! RD

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