Thursday, July 31, 2008
Profits were £992m in the first six months of 2008 , £5m-per-day profits .
"This is a business that has got a million shareholders - a lot of pension funds and people have got their savings invested in British Gas shares and we have to look after them". Centrica's chief executive said.
One-in-three pensioners are likely to be in fuel poverty this winter Age Concern's head of public affairs said.
"Hand crafted in 1974 this noble spirit of rare breeding has been cosseted and nurtured during its long maturation in the beachside warehouses. Undaunted, warmed and comforted by the finest sherry wood, the result is a spectrum of delight with flavours of chewy caramel, crushed hazelnuts, chocolate and warm hints of liquorice, cinnamon and orange peel.
At last this great masterpiece has been awakened for you to enjoy. Sip and savour the very heart of Jura and feel every beat of Island life…
Vintage 1974 / 648 bottles produced / 70cl / 44.5% ABV / £500.00" RD
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Socialists used to say that the capitalist's idea of the perfect worker was one who left school at 15, worked 50 weeks a year for 50 years and dropped down dead the first day he went to collect his pension at the post office. We will have to amend this ideal blueprint in view of the Ugandan official's view. Ideally he would die on the Thursday so that his family could attend his Saturday funeral without missing out on a day producing surplus value for the owning class. RD
Northern Rock has announced that it expects to make about 1,300 staff redundant as part of its plan to restructure the troubled bank.
It hopes to limit the number of compulsory redundancies to 800, while 500 staff will leave voluntarily.
Northern Rock was effectively nationalised at the beginning of this year after it was hit by a shortage of funds as a result of the credit crunch.
People treating themselves to chocolate and sweets as the economy worsens has helped fuel a 28pc jump in profits at Cadbury, according to its chief executive.
The London-based confectionery company, who makes Dairy Milk chocolate and Trident gum, reported pre-tax profits for the first half of £143m on revenues up 14pc to £2,653m.
However, the results were boosted by strong currencies, which increased the total profits growth from 12pc to 28pc. Cadbury's shares rose 1pc to 631.5p, as the company said it was on target to meet analysts' forecasts for full-year sales growth.
"No matter how bleak things look, people will always go for those small, affordable treats," Mr Stitzer said. "We see confectionery as a particularly robust category."
(Observer, 27 July) RD
(Observer, 27 July) RD
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
World trade talks
Marathon talks in Geneva aimed at liberalising global trade are reported to have ended without agreement.
The trade talks collapsed after China,
India and the US failed to agree on import rules.
This politely called "Failure to Agree",is indicative
of the aggressive, competitive nature, of the
capitalist system .When talks turn to trade war
and ultimately real war.
UCATT General Secretary Alan Richie said: "It is exactly this kind of subservience to business which is causing Labour to haemorrage grassroots support"
Monday, July 28, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain.
Meanwhile, products grown overseas are taking circuitous routes to Britain. African-grown coffee is being packed 3,500 miles away in India, Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland, and Bolivian nuts are being packed in Italy.“We are producing food in one corner of the world, packing it in another and then shipping it somewhere else. It’s mad.”
Dawnfresh, a Scottish seafood company that supplies supermarkets and other large retailers, cut 70 jobs last year after deciding to ship its scampi more than 5,000 miles to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to the River Clyde in Scotland and breaded for sale in Britain.
The company said it was forced to make the move by commercial pressures. “This seems a bizarre thing to do but the reality is that the numbers don’t stack up any other way,” said Andrew Stapley, a director. “We are not the first in the industry to have had to do this. Sadly, it’s cheaper to process overseas than in the UK and companies like us are having to do this to remain competitive.”
Haddock is one of the fish most commonly caught by British trawlers, but Tesco sends its Atlantic haddock for processing to Poland where labour costs are lower. It is then driven more than 850 miles to Tesco’s depot in Daventry, Northamptonshire.Traidcraft coffee, sold at Sainsbury’s, is made from beans grown in Bukoba, Tanzania.
Once the coffee is cultivated, it is driven 656 miles to Dar-es-Salaam and then shipped 3,250 miles to Vijayawada in India where it is packed. The coffee is loaded back on the ships and transported another 5,000 miles to Southampton. It is then driven 330 miles to Gateshead and is finally driven to Leeds for distribution to Sainsbury’s stores.
Sainsbury’s organic fair trade rice, produced in the lush foothills of the Himalayas, is shipped to Lille, France, rather than Britain, to be packed. It then makes a second journey to end up on Sainsbury’s shelves.It is not just fair trade coffee that is sent from country to country. Instead of directly importing coffee beans from Costa Rica for their instant coffee, Sainsbury’s and Tesco first send them to Germany. The final product then undergoes another 500-mile lorry journey to get to Britain.Similarly, French-grown walnuts sold in Waitrose are sent to Naples to be packed. The retailer’s Brazil nuts from South America are also transported to Italy before being sent to Britain.
The industrialisation of the food chain means even small firms are being forced to ship their produce abroad for processing. Pilchard fillets, produced by the Pilchard Works in Cornwall, are sent on the overnight ferry to France because there is no suitable processing plant in England. The pilchards are canned in Douarnenez in Brittany, then returned to Cornwall. Similarly, Welsh cockles – produced by Van Smirren Seafoods – are driven across Britain to Dover and then transported to Yerseke in Holland. They are pickled and put in jars before being sent back to Britain.
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MEP, said: “Ultimately, the price is paid by all of us in the shape of higher greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion, and food that is both less tasty and less healthy.”
Friday, July 25, 2008
It relies on customer tips to boost total pay to a lawful level . Staff at Loch Fyne Restaurants say they are on a salary of £5.05 an hour, compared with the legal minimum wage of £5.52. The Unite union called the company's behaviour "appalling", and said all restaurant staff should be on a minimum wage salary, as well as getting a fair share of tips. Restaurants are legally allowed to include tips in the calculation of employees earnings, but the practice has been criticised as unethical.
The BBC also revealed that salaries at the Hard Rock Cafe in London were less than half the minimum wage, with waiters on £2.06 an hour
The lasted development has been the research by the US Geological Survey revealing that the Arctic is estimated to hold 90 billion barrels of untapped oil and has three times as much untapped natural gas as oil.
The figures from the USGS are said to be the first estimate of the energy available north of the Arctic circle. According to the survey, the Arctic holds about 13% of the world's undiscovered oil, 30% of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20% of the undiscovered natural gas liquids. Exploration companies believe the recent rapid ice melt in the Arctic may make it easier to get reserves out of the region.
Hence the importance placed on the competition for territorial rights and sovereignty in the Arctic region .
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Mr Brown was presented with a letter by the archbishop which echoed his fears that the goals to tackle poverty would not be met.
Dr Williams wrote: "Because our faith challenges us to eradicate poverty, and not merely to reduce it, we should all be more alarmed that with the halfway mark to 2015 passed, it is clear that most of these achievable targets will not be met. The cause is not a lack of resources but a lack of global political will." (Telegraph 24th July.)
Capitalism creates poverty, Socialism will eradicate poverty.
Diana Hofman is a woman with the money but so far unable to erect a turbine because
The city does not have a law allowing turbine construction.
The BBC programme “Burn Up” about the Oil Moguls, was excited about the market opportunities available now that the price of oil is making wind power a profitable possibility. This gives them the chance of appearing to care, but, as workers the only way we can get electricity remains as always, no money, no electricity.
The turbine can generate a minimum of 400 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, enough to run Hofman's entire home, she said. Hofman spends about $200 a month on electricity.
After a $4,500 rebate, Hofman will spend about $8,000 on the turbine. She said a number of neighbours and residents have called her to ask about installing their own turbines.
As Mr Copeland has acquired a mansion reputed to be "as big as an hotel", an aeroplane and even an airport; we imagine that his so-called all powerful god will have to submit to the scrutiny of the US taxman. RD
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
“I think it was a mistake,” Mr McGuinness said of the remarks. “In the society that we live in now with many newcomers to our shores, and in many democracies throughout the world, we have a situation where many people within society believe in different things and believe in different gods.
“So what god are we talking about?“Is it the Free Presbyterian god, is it the Church of Ireland god, is it the god that Catholics adhere to, is it the Mormon god, is it the Jehovah’s, the Islamic?”
Monday, July 21, 2008
(Yahoo News, 14 July) RD
Sandy Easton opened up on Friday evening with “The Real Meaning of Religion”. Does religion represent some sinister plot by the ruling class to keep us down, or does it express an earnest attempt by men and women to answer serious and meaningful questions? Will religion uniquely continue to answer a fundamental human need, or is it high time we transcended this psychological baggage of or past? Was all this missing the point anyway, and what is the real meaning of religion?
Mike Foster on the Saturday morning introduced “End Times Beliefs”. Perhaps the most extraordinary book in the Bible is its final one – The Revelation of St. John the Devine. Here, we are given vivid prophecies about the end of life as we know it. And it’s not pleasant. While downplayed by most mainstream Christians in Britain, the events predicted in Revelation have been central to the belief systems of many smaller religious movements. However, this does not mean that End Times beliefs only exist on the fringes of Christianity. The scenario described in Revelation has seeped into our consciousness in many unexpectedly way. And while they may tell us nothing of the future, End Times beliefs tell us plenty about peoples hopes and fears.
Howard Moss, on Saturday afternoon discussed the question of “Is Socialism a Faith?” Is Socialism a replacement religion in the sense that it’s a belief in some kind of absolute? Why is it that people of a religious disposition are not infrequently attracted to socialist ideas, at least until they are told the two are incompatible? Does socialism have a ‘spiritual’ dimension, and will it be able to satisfy spiritual needs?
Gwynn Thomas introduced Saturday’s evening study “Islam, Politics and Revolution”. One in five of the world’s population claim adherence to Islam. What they claim this entails and what this might mean for non-believers. Some politicians and commentators have identified Islamism as one of the most serious challenges facing the world. They point to the threatened and actual use of deadly violence by some Muslim groups. How real is this threat? What motivates the protagonists? Is their dispute with the rest of world theological? Or is it political? A distinction was drawn between Islam as a religion and Islam as an ideology.
The concluding session on Sunday morning introduced by Adam Buick “Evolution and the God Hypothesis” considered the questions, did God create plants on the third day, fishes and birds on the fifth, and land animals and humans on the sixth- more or less in their present forms? Or did all existing (and extinct) life forms evolve through the process of natural selection? The mainstream Christian churches, even including the Catholics, have long accepted evolution through natural selection (for them, God only has the minor role of introducing a ‘soul’ into one species). It is only amongst fundamentalist sects that ‘creation’ survives. In America, to get round the constitutional separation between religion and state, the fundamentalists have invented a pseudo- science they call ‘intelligent design’. But it is only a pseudo-science.
I think we can agree the subject was well explored.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Despite average earnings rising by £22 a week during the past 12 months, the typical family had 6.5% less disposable income in June after meeting all their essential outgoings than they had a year earlier.Households had a monthly income of around £538 per week after paying tax during the month, 3.2% more than they had coming in during June last year.But the rise in pay was more than wiped out by a 6.8% jump in the cost of essential goods, such as food, clothes, utility bills, housing and transport, with households spending around £407 on these items a week.
As a result, people had just £131 of disposable income left after meeting all their bills, £9 less than in June 2007.
The research found that the rise in spending on essentials was driven by a 9.5% jump in food prices, while transport costs have soared by 7.3% during the past year.The typical family now also spends around 7% more on utility bills than they did in June last year.
Friday, July 18, 2008
The number of people living in poverty in the world's 50 least developed countries is rising despite their economies growing at the fastest pace in 30 years, a UN report said
In its annual Least Developed Countries Report, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said that overall growth rates of 7% in the countries between 2005 and 2006 should have provided an opportunity for "substantial improvements" in living conditions. But three-quarters of their people continue to survive on less than $2 (£1) a day and 277 million people live on less than $1 a day, compared with 265 million in 2000 and 245 million in 1995.Low progress in reducing poverty means the countries will not be able to achieve the first of the UN millennium development goals, halving the proportion of those living on less than $1 a day between 1990 and 2015. To achieve this, they would need to cut their absolute poverty rate to 20% by 2015. Unctad said that if current trends continued, they would only achieve 33% of the target by that date.
Unctad believes the global food crisis will worsen the situation. Sharp rises in international food prices in 2007 and early 2008 have led to domestic food costs soaring. In some countries the prices of staples such as maize, wheat and rice have doubled in the past 18 months.Two-thirds of the countries import more food than they export.
Capitalism fails to deliver , just as socialists predicted .
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The importance of money was illustrated by an ethnic breakdown of outcomes in the US. White Americans, who are on the whole wealthier and therefore more able to afford the insurance which underpins the US system, were up to 14% more likely than others to survive cancer.
Meanwhile the report states that the UK had 69.7% survival for breast cancer, just above 40% for colon and rectal cancer for both men and women and 51.1% for prostate cancer.
And "...there were also large regional variations within the UK, which were linked to differences in access to care and ability of patients to navigate the local health services. Both are directly linked to deprivation..."
Now and then a wonderful product comes along that the owning class just love. This may be one of them. "The maker of a new product that combines a treadmill and computer workstation is banking on the notion that companies will invest in products like the "Walkstation" as a way of keeping health care costs down and improving overall fitness levels. The device allows people to work on their computers while walking on a treadmill at a slow speed of up to three kilometers (two miles) per hour, enabling small amounts of movement that supporters say has the potential to reap big health benefits." (Yahoo News, 13 July)
Now all we need is a "Feedstation" that shovels food into your mouth while you work. Oh, Charlie Chaplin already envisaged that in Modern Times didn't he? RD
As these guardians of morality meet to discuss whether it is more ethical to kill a child with poisonous gas, napalm bombs or good old fashioned high explosives we ask ourselves what do sellers of death know of ethics. They are money grubbing killers. RD
We should echo the sentiments of an old song, probably banned in China now. They occur in The Red Flag - "Arise like starvelings from your slumber" Lets hope so! RD
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
1. The US Supreme Court Recently struck down a Washington, D.C. ban on handguns despite the fact that 30 000 Americans are shot to death each year including over 3 000 children. Any thoughts on the involvement of the gun industry in this decision?
2. The Supreme Court gives the go-ahead to proceed at full speed with the construction of the US/Mexico security fence despite the harmful affects on the environment and the animals. Free movement for capital, but not for workers.
3. The new IBM supercomputer is the first to operate at “petaflop” speed – one thousand trillion calculations per second. This great advance will be used by the US department of energy to…keep track of the country’s nuclear stockpile!
4. In Canada, new iPod rules for downloading and sharing songs etc. will bring fines of up to $20 000. An attempt to prevent free access that is guaranteed to fail.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Eighteen people have died from the C.difficile bug at overcrowded Vale of Leven Hospital in six months. The shameful conditions included:
Wards with no working wash basins.
Dirty linen stored next to clean linen.
Filthy toilets and commodes soiled with excrement.
Corridors flooded because of faulty showers.
Holes in flooring and walls.
"The staff try their hardest but the place clearly needs a lot of money spent on it to bring it up to a decent standard."
Michelle Stewart, whose mother-in-law Sarah McGinty died at the hospital in February, said: "We all feel very angry because this was left to go on so long. The response was totally unprofessional and the fact is it risked lives and cost lives.
"People died in Vale of Leven who could have been saved”.
Male life expectancy is 63, which is 14 years below the UK average. Life expectancy is lower than for Palestinian males living in the Gaza Strip according to Channel 4.
Unemployment runs at 25 per cent and about 40 per cent of the constituents live on benefits. About 40 per cent of the children live in workless households.
The teenage pregnancy rate is 40 per cent above the national average.
The east end of Glasgow had Scotland's highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions. An average of 860 people per 100,000 were admitted between 2004 and 2006 in Scotland. But in the east end of Glasgow that rose to 1,505.
In 2002, a United Nations rating system taking account of life expectancy, unemployment, incomes and rates of illiteracy put the Shettleston area as the most deprived in Britain. Nearby Baillieston, also in Glasgow East, was placed seventh.
Nor will changing the MP have any real lasting effect on this poverty regardless of the promises made by the parliamentary contestants .
Saturday, July 12, 2008
"Thirty countries have already seen food riots this year. The ever higher cost of food could push tens of millions of people into abject poverty and starvation. To a large degree, this crisis is man-made — the result of misguided energy and farm policies. When President Bush and other heads of state of the Group of 8 leading industrial nations meet in Japan this week, they must accept their full share of responsibility and lay out clearly what they will do to address this crisis. To start, they must live up to their 2005 commitment to vastly increase aid to the poorest countries. And they must push other wealthy countries, like those in the Middle East, to help too. That will not be enough. They must also commit to reduce, or even better, do away with their most egregious agricultural and energy subsidies which contribute to the spread of hunger throughout the world."
(New York Times editorial, 6 July) RD
Friday, July 11, 2008
(Times, 8 July) RD
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
(Times, 5 July) RD
Monday, July 07, 2008
(Daily Telegraph, 28 June) RD
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Martin Ellis, chief economist at Clerical Medical, said:
"The average cost of living facing pensioners has risen by more than one third over the past decade.The cost of living for pensioners has increased by more than that for all households during the period, particularly in the last five years."
Friday, July 04, 2008
"Many UK consumer segments are feeling the pinch as big rises in household costs outstrip relatively modest wage inflation.Consumers are painfully aware of hikes in petrol and utility bills, but we've also seen some hefty price increases in pension contributions and debt repayments. If we factor in food price inflation, which official figures have placed at 8.7 per cent in the past year, it's clear household budgets are under enormous strain. Add the impact of falling house prices and the consumer economy is undoubtedly on a knife edge."
Worst could still be to come, with utility prices expected to rise by up to 40 per cent this year.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
(Yahoo News, 30 June) RD
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The "minimum income" is enough to cover needs like food and warmth, as well as the occasional film ticket and simple meal out.
The study found that a single person without children needed to spend £158 a week, while a couple with two children needed £370 a week, excluding rent or mortgage.To afford this budget on top of rent on a modest council home, a single person would need to earn £13,400 a year before tax and the couple with two children £26,800.
The report said families without a working adult received about two thirds of the minimum budget in state benefits.Single people without work received less than half of the minimum budget in benefits. The basic state pension gives a retired couple about three quarters of the minimum income, but claiming the means-tested Pension Credit could top their income up to just above the minimum standard, the report said.
Jonathan Bradshaw, professor of social policy at the University of York, said: "Based on these public assessments, almost everyone defined as living below the official poverty line falls short of what people judge to be adequate for their fellow citizens – sometimes by quite a long way."
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
"The combined wealth of the globe's millionaires grew to nearly $41 trillion last year, an increase of 9 percent from a year before, Merrill Lynch & Co. and consulting firm Capgemini Group said Tuesday. That means their average wealth was more than $4 million, the highest it's ever been. Home values were not included in asset totals." (Yahoo News, 24 June) RD