Saturday, May 31, 2008

HUMAN BEHAVIOUR IN CRISIS

"The dire situations in cyclone-battered Myanmar and quake-tossed southwestern China and the impulse of many to offer relief have a lot to do with human nature. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors likely did it, and non-human primates do it. We are hard-wired to help others, to drop everything in crisis situations, scientists say. "People do really respond in these crisis situations where it's really a short-term matter of life or death," said Daniel Kruger at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. The motivation to give dates back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, he said." (Yahoo News, 19 May)) RD

THE BEAR NECCESSITIES

"The polar bear should be removed from the endangered species list because its protected status will hamper drilling for oil and gas in Alaska, the state's Republican Governor has demanded." (Times, 23 May) RD

Friday, May 30, 2008

MEDIEVAL NONSENSE

"Over the past year alone I have received requests from around 350 people who think they are possessed by an evil spirit," says Father Joerg Mueller, who heads a group of priests, doctors and therapists to deal with the problem. "Therapy hasn't worked for them; they want exorcisms - a prayer that can free them." ... "Father Gabriele Amoth, the Vatican exorcist-in-chief, has performed the ritual more than 40,000 times. The Vatican aim appears to be to place one exorcist in each diocese to ensure that the distressed do not drift away from the Church." (Times, 22 May) RD

MORE MADNESS

"The Harry Winston Opus 8 looks like a seventies LCD watch, but it's actually hand-wound and mechanical, with the elements displaying the time pushed up by a tiny disc. Only 50 were made, from white gold, and they sold out fast. The price? Around £215,000." (Times Magazine, 24 May) RD

ADSPEAK NONSENSE

Joan O'Connor, Coca-Cola spokeswoman, on Glaceau Vitaminwater, the company's first bottled water since the Dasani disaster : "This is not water; it’s an active lifestyle brand." (Times, 24 May) RD

CAPITALIST MADNESS

"Even Giorgi Armani has now designed a pen - all understated black with silver embellishment. The fountain pen will be on sale in Harrod's from June for £2,300." (Times, 23 May) RD

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nature loss 'to hurt global poor'


Damage to forests, rivers, marine life and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for the world's poor, a major report is to conclude.

G8 environment ministers meeting in Japan last weekend agreed a document noting that "biodiversity is the basis of human security and... the loss of biodiversity exacerbates inequality and instability in human society". But the main CBD target agreed by all signatories at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 - to "halt and begin to reverse" biodiversity loss by 2010 - is very unlikely to be met.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A new International

Even in the 19th Century it w2as recognised that capitalism was a world wide system and that the working class required an international workers association to effectively resist the bosses .

Once again trade unions are recognising the global effects of the employers and are re-organising appropriately .

The Finiancial Times reports a historic alliance between Unite, Britain's biggest trade union, and the almost 1m-strong United Steelworkers union in North America is about to create the first transatlantic union, with more than 2.5m working members.

The move is designed to provide greater protection for workers whose jobs are threatened by the spread of global capitalism. The UK and US partners hope unions from other countries will join the alliance, increasing its strength.

Amicus had previously signed co-operation deals with USW and the International Association of Machinists in the US, and the IG Metall union in Germany, while the T&G had forged working relationships in the US with the Teamsters and SEIU, the services sector union.

Previous examples of cross-border union co-operation include T&G's support for the Teamsters' campaign against FirstGroup, the UK-based bus and train operator accused of frustrating attempts by unions to organise workers at its expanding US business.

"One of the main reasons for the merger between Amicus and the T&G was our desire to create an international trade union that would be able to deal with multinational companies on an equal footing and organise working people in even greater numbers," said Derek Simpson, Unite's joint general secretary last year."Multinational companies are pushing down wages and conditions for workers the world over by playing one national workforce off against another. The only beneficiaries of globalisation are the exploiters of working people and the only way working people can resist this is to organise and band together."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

the last post

Mail late ? Lost letter ? Package damaged ? That local post office shut down ?

Never mind . Royal Mail's boss has been rewarded for his efficiency ...at least according to Royal Mail bosses .

Chief executive Adam Crozier earned more than £3m last year.

Mr Crozier got just over £1m in pay and pensions, plus a bonus of almost £2m.

Royal Mail said Mr Crozier had exceeded expectations and met all the targets set for him.

Losses for 2007 had widened to £279m, compared with a loss of £10m a year earlier.

Its stamped letters business made a loss for the first time in the last financial year.

2,500 post offices were being closed to save money

Saturday, May 24, 2008

THE REALITIES OF CAPITALISM

"Dagaari, Somalia - The global food crisis has arrived at Safia Ali’s hut. She cannot afford rice or wheat or powdered milk anymore. At the same time, a drought has decimated her family’s herd of goats, turning their sole livelihood into a pile of bleached bones and papery skin. The result is that Ms. Safia, a 25-year-old mother of five, has not eaten in a week. Her 1-year-old son is starving too, an adorable, listless boy who doesn’t even respond to a pinch." (New York Times, 17 May) RD

LEGAL TAX DODGERS

"Some of Britain's biggest listed companies, including several that have threatened to re-domicile abroad, paid little or no corporation tax in Britain in 2007. Research by The Times shows that the FTSE-100 companies - Cadbury, Standard Chartered and British American Tobacco, which have a combined market capitalisation of £75 billion, employed almost 11,000 UK staff and generated more than £6 billion in global profits, - paid zero corporation tax in Britain last year." (Times, 20 May) RD

Friday, May 23, 2008

AN IMPOSSIBLE DREAM?

Socialists are always told that we are dreamers. That capitalism is the only system possible and that we should accept it. When we talk of the millions that have died in wars, famines and natural disasters we are told that even inside socialism natural disasters will occur. We accept that, but what of the recent natural disasters that have occurred inside China and Burma? Attempts to relieve the effects of the Burmese disaster have been hindered by a ruling clique fearful of their grip on power and in China the evidence seems to point to an awful natural disaster made more awful by capitalism's production of cheap buildings to keep down costs. Inside socialism no one will die of hunger or war and when natural disasters occur we will deal with them in a compassionate fashion. This may appear dream-like to supporters of capitalism, but that is only because they support the nightmare society of capitalism. RD

RYANAIR! WHAT'S RYANAIR?

"Users of private jets have struck on an exciting new way to save the planet. Instead of flying solo on a jet, the super-rich can now team up to share a plane. The brainwave comes from The Private Jet Club, which suggests that its mile high version of the car pool would be ideal for people who desperately need to get to their second home in France, or to a conference or a trade event." (Times, 20 May) RD

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lazy Workers !!!

From the BBC

A 30-year-old Toyota worker who collapsed at one of its plants had died of overwork.
It emerged that the man had worked 106 hours of overtime in his final month, most of it unpaid.

Unions say that companies generally see working unpaid overtime as a sign of loyalty. Toyota has a reputation for using employees' ideas to improve production methods and efficiency and reduce costs.

And they dare call workers lazy

A SENSE OF VALUES?

"The massacre of the silverback Senkekwe, along with five other rare apes, made the cover of US magazine Newsweek under the headline "Gorilla Warfare". In Britain, the "Murders In The Mist" prompted The Sun to launch its own campaign, and around the globe people wrote in to media outlets, telling of the sleepless nights and trauma the images had caused. For Anneke van Woudenberg, the Congo specialist for Human Rights Watch, it was a case of gritting one's teeth. "Kill a mountain gorilla in Congo and it gets much more coverage than five million dead," she says. "It irks me every time." Trawling through the archives of British newspapers for the first four months of 2008, the point is hammered home. The slaughter of elephants in Congo to make ivory chopsticks appears to be the most widely reported story. Another popular item is the arrest of sorcerers suspected of stealing or shrinking human penises. Breaking the trend of wildlife stories and wild tales are Financial Times articles about Congo's vast mineral resources, a Guardian feature on plans to build the world's biggest dam across the Congo river and a report about Kinshasa's vibrant music scene in this newspaper. Conspicuously absent are dispatches about the humanitarian crisis, the legacy of the worst conflict since 1945, and a crisis that is still killing an estimated 1,200 people every day. Although Congo's war officially ended in 2002, malaria, cholera and malnutrition mean that the equivalent of the population of Manchester will be wiped out this year. (Independent, 12 May) RD

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

THE STUPIDITY OF CAPITALISM

"Even if the shot isn't dazzling, now the golf-ball marker can be. Tri Mark Golf's luxe version is handcrafted from 18-karat white gold and studded with diamonds, citrine, amethyst and peridots. It's also highly functional, with a numbered measuring system that lets golfers figure out how many putter heads away the ball is. And when not dressing up the green, it can be put on a chain and worn as a necklace; buy it for $10,500 (trimarkgolf.com)." (NewsWeek, 5 May) RD

A STRANGE KIND OF FREEDOM

"An Afghan journalism student sentenced to death for insulting Islam denied the charges before an appeals court Sunday, saying he only confessed to questioning the religion's treatment of women because he was tortured.. ...Afghan media have flourished since the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime following a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Newspapers and TV and radio stations have opened nationwide. But journalists face violence for news stories that criticize government leaders, warlords and religious clerics or challenge their often authoritarian views. (Yahoo News, 18 May) RD

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

LAND OF THE FREE?

"The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, officials said, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come. The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba." (New York Times, 17 May) RD

Monday, May 19, 2008

WORDS OF WISDOM

"Albert Einstein regarded religions as "childish" and "primitive legends", a private letter he wrote a year before his death has revealed. The great scientist's views on religion have long been debated, with many seizing upon phrases such as "He [God] does not throw dice" as evidence that he believed in a creator. But the newly-unveiled letter, a response to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, has cast doubt on the theory that Einstein had any belief in God at all towards to the end of his life. In the letter, dated January 3 1954, he wrote: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish." (Daily Telegraph, 13 May) RD

Marketing kids and education

David Buckingham, a professor at the Institute of Education, University of London and a leading authority on children and the media, said that the "privatisation" of schools could be affecting children's education...The involvement of commercial companies in the running of schools - that's something which potentially has implications for children's wellbeing," he said.
"From my point of view commercial resources in classrooms - Shell's introduction to the oil industry, Coke machines in schools - there's a continuum from there to commercial companies that provide school meals, to commercial companies being involved in education on all sorts of levels including management...Carphone Warehouse, Microsoft, Dixons and Granada Learning are all running academies. The schools minister, Lord Adonis, has said that every school should be in partnership with a business, and the government is promoting trust schools, which see businesses helping to run and advise schools.
Buckingham said the links went further than academies. Firms were increasingly sponsoring school sport, music classes and homework clubs, in what amounted to "privatising" state schools, he said...Buckingham said there was convincing evidence that the amount of marketing to children was intensifying and it was happening at a younger age.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

THE NEW COLONIALISTS

"Chinese companies will be encouraged to buy farmland abroad, particularly in Africa and South America, to help guarantee food security under a plan being considered by Beijing. A proposal drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture would make supporting offshore land acquisition by domestic agricultural companies a central government policy. Beijing already has similar policies to boost offshore investment by state-owned banks, manufacturers and oil companies, but offshore agricultural investment has so far been limited to a few small projects."
(Financial Times, 8 May) RD

NICE FOR WHOM?

"Britain faces two years of economic pain and could sink into recession, the Governor of the Bank of England has warned. Mervyn King gave notice of a further squeeze on living standards, forecasting that inflation would climb to 3.7 per cent and remain high for two years. "The nice decade is behind us," he said." (Times, 15 May) RD

SAME MAG - DIFFERENT LIFES

"90 per cent of Tanzia's 36 million people live on less than £1 a day." (Page 17)
"No other supercar catches onlookers off-guard as seductively as a Ferrari, finds Polly Vernon. Ferrari F430 Spider F1 - £137,852." (Page 74)
(Observer Magazine, 11 May) RD

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A MODERN THEOLOGIST?

"The current Bishop of Durham, fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England (after Canterbury, York and London), is also its leading evangelical theologian. Time magazine recently described him as "one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought" and "a hero to conservative Christians worldwide". He has also just written a book, Surprised by Hope, in which he spells out a view many will find extraordinary. It is not just that, as an evangelical, he believes forcefully in the authority of scripture and the historical truth of the Gospels. Nor is it that, like most on that conservative wing of the Church, he is strongly opposed to gay priests. The Right Reverend Wright believes in the literal truth of the Resurrection. The day will come, he says, when Christ will come to join the heavens and the earth in a new creation and the dead will rise." (New Statesman, 10 April) RD

Friday, May 16, 2008

PROFIT AND LOSS

A shocking example of capitalism's priorities was recently revealed.
"There is growing concern that the Health and Safety Executive is failing at its job as it struggles with a growing number of workplace deaths. The HSE has reduced the number of its inspectors by around 25 per cent in five years from 916 to 680. Firms on average face an HSE inspection just once every 14.5 years. ... Last year 77 construction workers died, up from 60 in 2006." (Observer, 11 May)
Last year the HSE under spent its budget by £12 million, so from the standpoint of profit and loss what are 77 grieving families? RD

CHRISTIAN DECLINE

"Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests. The fall - from four million people who attend church at least once a month today - means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable. ... According to Religious Trends, a comprehensive statistical analysis of religious trends in Britain, published by Christian Research ..." (Times, 8 May) RD

Thursday, May 15, 2008

UNEXPECTED PRAISE

Socialist are used to journalists parodying the works of Karl Marx and extolling the virtues of capitalism so it comes as a pleasant surprise to read Simon Caulkin, the Management Editor in the Business and Media section of the Observer having something worthwhile to say on the subject.
"Along with creeping monopolies, growing inequalities and the all-absorbing momentum of the capitalist markets, Marx foresaw many of the effects of globalisation, which he called "the universal interdependence of nations", not least the effect of an international "reserve army of the unemployed" in disciplining and depressing the wages of workers in the developed economies. His description of the "cash nexus" foreshadowed the economic rationality at the centre of today's mainstream economic and management theories." (Observer, 11 May) RD

PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION

"In the semi-arid forests of the Chaco region of Paraguay, where summer temperatures top 40C (104F), the continent's last non contacted Indians outside of the Amazon basin are on the run, their traditional forest home increasingly encroached upon by ranchers. ... These formerly nomadic tribes’ people struggle to maintain a semblance of their traditional way of life in camps on the edge of the agricultural colonies that invaded their territory." (Times, 6 May)
This process called by Karl Marx the so-called primitive accumulation of capital was dealt with him in his Das Kapital (1867), mirrors what had happened in Europe at the beginning of capitalism. "In actual history it is notorious that conquest, murder, briefly force, play the great part ...As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic." (Page 668) A view echoed by one of the Indians in the Times - "The whites are violent. They just want land. We are afraid of them, they are very aggressive." RD

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A WARMONGER SPEAKS

"John Bolton, America’s ex-ambassador to the United Nations, has called for US air strikes on Iranian camps where insurgents are trained for war in Iraq. Mr. Bolton said that striking Iran would represent a major step towards victory in Iraq. While he acknowledged that the risk of a hostile Iranian response harming American’s overseas interests existed, he said the damage inflicted by Tehran would be “far higher” if Washington took no action. “This is a case where the use of military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we’re not going to tolerate this is really the most prudent thing to do,” he said. “Then the ball would be in Iran’s court to draw the appropriate lesson to stop harming our troops.” Mr Bolton, an influential former member of President George W Bush’s inner circle, dismissed as “dead wrong” reported British intelligence conclusions that the US military had overstated the support that Iran was providing to Iraqi fighters." (Daily Telegraph, 6 May) RD

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR

"Marxist historian, Professor Eric Hobsbawm, 90, tells the Morning Star, the comrade's bugle, that Communism is finished because "the industrial working class" isn't interested any more. But Communism is flourishing in China where it takes the form of state capitalism."
(Daily Mail, 1 May) RD

AN UPPER CLASS TWIT

On Henry Conway, 25 year-old son of disgraced MP Derek Conway: "We might reasonably have hoped that, having being exposed as receiving £32,000 in parliamentary allowances while an undergraduate at Cambridge, he might have felt chastened and laid low. The more naive among us might even have hoped he would get a proper job, with a view to paying back some of the taxpayer's money. But, no. Last month Conway - who once threw a party called "F*** off I'm rich" - arrived at Mahiki, a naff London cocktail bar favoured by Prince William and Harry, in a horse-drawn carriage and dressed as a Regency dandy." (Times, 8 May) RD

CRISIS! WHAT CRISIS?

"Auction houses Sotheby's and Christie’s are confident of selling up to $1.8bn of Impressionist, postwar and contemporary artworks during the New York season beginning on Monday– 25 per cent more than last year – in spite of signs of nervousness among collectors." (Financial Times, 9 May) RD

Monday, May 12, 2008

BUSINESS AS USUAL

"Burma is still exporting rice even as it tries to curb the influx of international donations of food bound for the starving surviviors of the cyclone that killed up to 116,000 people. Sacks of rice destined for Bangladesh were being loaded on to a ship at the Thilawa container port at the mouth of the Yangon River at the end of last week, even though Burma's "rice bowl" region was devastated by the deadly storm a week ago. The Burmese regime, which has a monopoly on the country's rice exports, said it planned to meet all its contractual commitments."
(Observer, 11 May)
Inside capitalism business is business, and the fact that millions of Burmese risk death by starvation is of no concern. That is how capitalism operates, during the Irish potato famines foodstuffs were still being exported from Ireland. RD

Sunday, May 11, 2008

THE KILLER SYSTEM

Supporters of capitalism claim that it is the most efficient way to run society, but that is a claim that rings hollow to millions of hungry people today, as even one of capitalism's stoutest supporters is forced to admit. "Giant agribusinesses are enjoying soaring earnings and profits out of the world food crisis which is driving millions of people towards starvation,
The Independent on Sunday can reveal. And speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry." (4 May) RD

WORDS OF WISDOM

"What's more, the genomes of complex creatures reveal a lack of any intelligence or foresight. Your DNA consists largely of millions of defunct copies of parasitic DNA. The inescapable conclusion is that if life was designed, the designer was lazy, stupid and cruel." (New Scientist, 19 April 2008) RD

Saturday, May 10, 2008

RELIGIOUS CANT

"The Archbishop of Westminster has urged Christians to treat atheists and agnostics with "deep esteem". Believers may be partly responsible for the decline in faith by losing sense of the mystery and treating God as a "fact in the world", he said in a lecture. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor called for more understanding and appreciation between believers and non-believers. The leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales said that a "hidden God" was active in everyone's life." (BBC News, 8 May)
This hidden god may well be evident to the well fed Archbishop but he remains well hidden to the millions of starving children throughout the world. RD

THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER?

"The number of homeowners facing repossession orders after failing to keep up with mortgage payments is up, says the Ministry of Justice. It says the number of orders made by the courts in England and Wales at an early stage of the repossession process rose 17% in the first quarter of 2008. There were 27,530 orders made, up from 23,438 in the same period of 2007."
(BBC News, 9 May) RD

Friday, May 09, 2008

A DEPRESSING SOCIETY

"Depression symptoms could be a problem for large numbers of teenagers, suggest surveys for the Children's Society. More than a quarter of 14 to 16-year-olds questioned said that they frequently felt depressed. A leading child psychiatrist said more support, and resources, for parents were essential to tackle the problem. (BBC News, 24 April) RD

DIGNITY? NO WAY

"Eight out of 10 nurses say they have left work distressed because they have been unable to treat patients with the dignity they deserve, a poll suggests. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) poll of more than 2,000 UK nurses cited washing and privacy as key issues." (BBC News, 27 April)
The NHS is provided for members of the working class. They are the class that produce all the wealth of the world but being poor can ill afford the best of housing, food or even medical care. Dignity for the only worthwhile class in society is a foreign concept. RD

Thursday, May 08, 2008

WORDS OF WISDOM

"Global food price rises are leading to "silent mass murder" and commodities markets have brought "horror" to the world, the United Nations' food envoy told an Austrian newspaper on Sunday. Jean Ziegler, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, told Kurier am Sonntag that growth in biofuels, speculation on commodities markets and European Union export subsidies mean the West is responsible for mass starvation in poorer countries. Ziegler said he was bound to highlight the "madness" of people who think that hunger is down to fate. "Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time -- just as (Karl) Marx thought. It is rather that a murder is behind every victim. This is silent mass murder," he said in an interview. Ziegler blamed globalization for "monopolizing the riches of the earth" and said multinationals were responsible for a type of "structural violence." "And we have a herd of market traders, speculators and financial bandits who have turned wild and constructed a world of inequality and horror. We have to put a stop to this," he said." (Yahoo News, 20 April) RD

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

KNOCKING SHOPS KNOCKED BACK

"Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest, has been hit by the global credit crunch so badly that it has issued a memorandum to senior executives telling them that brothel visits and adult channels in hotel rooms cannot be claimed on expenses. ...A Deutsche Bank insider said: "In the good old days, you could pass off a trip to a knocking-shop as a restaurant if the name wasn't too obvious. But we're in an uptight, locked-down new Puritanism now, not helped by sub-prime or VW." (Independent, 23 April) RD

THE HORRORS OF CAPITALISM

"The Australian government has launched an investigation into claims that aboriginal children seized from their parents during the 1920s and 1930s were secretly used as guinea pigs for leprosy treatments. The allegations surfaced at a Senate inquiry this week into plans to compensate the "stolen generation" of aboriginal Australians who were taken from their families as part of a government programme. "As well as being taken away, they were used... There are a lot of things that Australia does not know about," Kathleen Mills, a member of the Stolen Generations Alliance and an indigenous elder, told the hearing. Ms Mills said children held at a compound in Darwin were injected with serums designed to be used in the treatment of leprosy – a practice which seriously damaged their health. Her uncle, who worked there as a medical orderly, had told her about the sinister goings-on." (Independent, 20 April) RD

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?

"Walking around the Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie, the annual luxury-watch trade fair in Geneva, Switzerland, it is difficult to get much of a sense of the impending disaster that stalks the world's financial markets. On the first day I was shown a baguette-set tourbillon wristwatch made by Jaeger-LeCoultre, retailing for €409,840; three orders had been taken before lunch—and the fair hadn't even officially opened yet. Across the country, at Switzerland's other, older watch fair in Basel, Jean-Claude Biver, the effervescent boss of the newly resurgent sports brand Hublot, told me he took orders for €159.4 millions' worth of watches, compared with €81.9 million at last year's fair. If anything, the problem that many brands have encountered is managing to deliver all the watches for which they have taken orders." (Newsweek, 12 April) RD

MORE PROFIT MEANS MORE HUNGER

"This year global production of biofuels will consume almost 100 million tons of grain – grain that could have been used to feed the starving. According to the UN, it takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol – enough to feed a child for a year. The UN last week predicted "massacres" unless the biofuel policy is halted. Jean Ziegler, the UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, said biofuels were "a crime against humanity", and called for a five-year moratorium." (Independent, 16 April)
The UN can issue all sorts of pious resolutions, but if is more profitable to produce bio-fuels than food, then that is what capitalism will do. RD

Monday, May 05, 2008

THE DISTORTION OF SCIENCE

Producers of genetically modified foodstuffs often claim that it is the answer to world food shortages but recent research suggest otherwise.
"Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining, repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis. The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields. ...The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available." (Independent, 20 April)
Despite the claims of capitalist firms like Monsanto, GM crops are not the answer. Why do they make such claims? To them profits is the main consideration, not science. RD

100 YEARS OF POVERTY

The columnist Richard Morrison on pensions "The old-age pension is 100 years old. When Asquith introduced it in 1908, it was five shillings a week - a sum that was regarded as shamefully low by progressives in his party. But if even that paltry figure had kept pace with the growth in Britain's GDP, the state pension should now be £161 a week. The actual figure? £90.70p. Some progress." (Times, 30 April) RD

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Indian wealth

According to the BBC , UK developers are heading to India in search of wealthy new customers for their luxury flats. But why would anyone invest in London's wobbly property markets? Because the super-rich still have plenty of cash to spend.

One of the world's most expensive homes is currently being built in Mumbai for Reliance head Mukesh Ambani. His personal skyscraper will boast six storeys just for parking cars, and is expected to cost nearly $2 billion by the time it is complete.

Nick Candy, one half of the design and development firm Candy & Candy, is in Mumbai to drum up interest for his own super-luxury project, One Hyde Park. The central London project is offering apartments - to the right kind of customer - for an average of £20m. Mr Candy is a man used to dealing with the fabulously rich. But he says, "I'm flabbergasted by the amount of wealth in India. It's staggering."
Candy & Candy specialises in strictly top-end property. Its customer base is a roll-call of the super rich: royals, entrepreneurs, private company bosses. It's now looking to open an office in India. India now has more billionaires than any other country in Asia - 36 at the last count. Together they are worth nearly $200bn. India's top three richest people are all successful businessmen, but have made their money in old-economy industries, such as oil and property.
And while they have thrived in India's new economy, they have all built their wealth on fortunes inherited from their parents.

Many of those super-rich are now keen to invest their wealth around the globe. But why would Indian investors want to put money into London's property market now the boom is over?
"It's going to be very tough in America, and I think the UK will probably mirror it six months later," admits Mr Candy. But, he says, this applies only to properties under £2m where buyers need to borrow the money. There, you can expect "serious reductions in prices", according to Mr Candy - "and you're looking at a lot more than 10%." For top-end property - costing more than £5m - he thinks prices will be stable. There are not many people who can afford that level of luxury - and in London, there are still very few properties for them to buy.

Besides, says Mr Candy, "they've still got huge amounts of wealth. Maybe it's come down from $1bn to $500m - or if they've been very unlucky, it's $50m. But it's still huge amounts of wealth."

And of course they are the economic migrants that the government want .

Blair's Riches

Tony Blair have bought a £4 million stately home that once belonged to the late Sir John Gielgud, it was reported . The Grade 1 listed mansion in Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire, has seven bedrooms, a drawing room, ornamental gardens and two paddocks. The house, South Pavilion, built in 1704, is said to have been snapped up by the Blairs before being put on the open market. It has undergone extensive renovation since it was Gielgud's home and now includes a four-bedroom converted outbuilding.

The Blairs' property portfolio already includes two houses in London, two flats in Bristol and a home at Trimdon Colliery, Co Durham, in his former constituency.

Seems as if he has no problem with the credit crunch that his pay-masters in the banking world created .

Saturday, May 03, 2008

tails we win , heads you lose

Before it was rising house prices that left workers unable to get a foot on the housing ladder , now its the refusal of mortgages .

It is reported that Building Societies are now only lending to one in 10 would-be homeowners, compared with a traditional level of almost one in five. A 68% decline means that building societies are scaling back lending as a result of the credit crunch even more severely than major mortgage bank rivals, such as Halifax and Cheltenham & Gloucester.

And for those workers lucky to have a house , prices in the UK are dropping by almost £500 every week . The Halifax said the average home price has fallen £8,136 since the start of the year reaching £189,027 - a fall of £479 a week. Two other surveys - from the Nationwide and Hometrack - also said it was the first time since the mid-1990s that house prices were down year-on-year.

Seema Shah, economist at Capital Economics, said: "The last time we saw two such large falls in consecutive months was during the depths of the housing market crash of the early 1990s, and even those falls fell short of the declines seen in the past two months...With the economy and labour market set to weaken further, our forecast for a 20% fall in house prices by end-2009 is firmly on track,"

Under capitalism , workers just can't win

Friday, May 02, 2008

SOMETHING SMELLS HERE

"To the small town of San Giovanni Rotondo, in Southern Italy, they came in their thousands - devotees of St Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio, whose remains went on display to the public for the first time since his death 40 years ago. ... Padre Pio, was born in 1887 and died in 1968, is Catholicism's most widely and fervently worshipped saint. During his lifetime he was believed to have borne the stigmata - the wounds of the crucified Jesus - on his body, to have performed many miracles of healing, to have had the capacity of being in two places at the same time and to have emitted a strong aroma of wild flowers."
(Times, 25 April) RD

Thursday, May 01, 2008

LABOUR RE-DISTRIBUTES WEALTH!

"The fortunes of Britain's richest 1,000 have risen by £53 billion, almost 15 per cent, in the last year. Their wealth has quadrupled from £99 billion to £412.8 billion since Labour came to power in 1997." (Times, 28 April) RD

Mayday Rallies


SPGB members and sympathisers will be out and about at the Mayday rallies in Edinburgh and Glasgow this coming weekend, distributing Socialist Standards and leaflets .


Details of Saturday's Edinburgh Mayday Rally here


Details of Sunday's Glasgow Mayday Rally here

Mayday belongs to the workers – we have a world to win, and we can win it.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...