Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The writer of that article stated, "I'm fascinated by the intersection between religion and technology, as are some well-known science fiction writers. For example, if a machine can say a prayer for you, why not have a fully robotic pope and clergy?" The choir boys would certainly be safer! RD
Monday, March 30, 2009
"The music industry is a bloody nightmare. The egos, the slightly criminal elements, the betrayers, the ones who want to screw you." (Observer, 29 March) RD
Sunday, March 29, 2009
(Times, 25 March) RD
Saturday, March 28, 2009
“We estimate that about 130 million people were pushed into poverty from the food crisis and if you add the financial crisis on top of that we are estimating that about 53 million more people could be pushed into poverty as a result of the financial crisis,” World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said
"A couple from Detroit pleaded guilty to killing their two-year-old son and trying to cremate him on a barbecue grill so that they could collect his welfare benefit. Sentences are due to be passed next month." (Times, 25 March) RD
(Yahoo News, 18 March) RD
Friday, March 27, 2009
Russia has announced plans to set up a military force to protect its interests in the Arctic. In a document published on its national security council's website, Moscow says it expects the Arctic to become its main resource base by 2020.
The document foresees the Arctic becoming Russia's main source of oil and gas within the next decade. In order to protect its assets, Moscow says one of its main goals will be the establishment of troops "capable of ensuring military security" in the region.
With an estimated 90 billion untapped barrels of oil, Russia's strategy is likely to cause concern among other countries with claims to the Arctic.
"New York – A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman has sold for $317,200 in an Internet auction. The previous owner had bought it for less than a buck. It's one of the highest prices ever paid for a comic book, a likely testament to the volume's rarity and its excellent condition, said Stephen Fishler, co-owner of the auction site ComicConnect.com and its sister dealership, Metropolis Collectibles." (Yahoo News, 14 March) RD
Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson said "Tenants who have kept their side of the bargain by paying their rent are being thrown out on to the street because their landlords have defaulted on the mortgage."
Leslie Morphy, of Crisis, said "We risk forgetting that tenants of private landlords are extremely vulnerable to the recession,"
Thursday, March 26, 2009
"Barack Obama has told Americans he sees signs of economic recovery, but urged them to be patient and look beyond their "short-term interests" The US president said his draft budget would build a stronger economy which would mean America did not face a repeat crisis in 10 or 20 years." (BBC News, 25 March)
This of course contradicts another "expert" on the economic scene."The world economy is set to shrink by between 0.5% and 1.0% in 2009, the first global contraction in 60 years. In its gloomiest forecast yet, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that developed countries will suffer a "deep recession". The global economic body says "the prolonged financial crisis has battered global economic activity beyond what was previously anticipated". (BBC News, 19 March)
To illustrate than none of the experts have a clue this is the same IMF that was predicting just two months earlier that world output would increase by 0.5%! In fact capitalism is an economic system that is based on slumps and booms and no amount of political "spin" can govern its unpredictability. RD
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Lev Leviev London, England Net Worth: $1.5 billionRank: 468
"Computer mogul Michael Dell claims to live simply yet built a 33,000-square-foot manse in Austin, Texas, in 1997. Called "the castle" by locals for its high walls and tight security, the home sits on a 20-acre spread a mere stone's throw from Dell headquarters. It's not so simple for other members of the billionaires club. Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison, a hard-core Japanophile, blew an estimated $100 million building a 23-acre, 10-building, Japanese-inspired imperial villa in Woodside, Calif. But it doesn't stop there. In recent years, he has spent an estimated $200 million snapping up a dozen commercial and residential properties in the ritzy beachside enclave of Malibu, Calif. In January 2008, Russian-Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev bought the Palladio, an extravagant 17,000-square-foot manor outside London, for $65 million. (That works out to $3,823 per square foot, roughly twice the average in Greater London.) The home includes a bullet-proof front door, gold-plated pool, indoor cinema and hair salon. (Yahoo News, 13 March) RD
Scottish Water's chief executive, Richard Ackroyd earns a basic salary of £263,000 plus a 40 per cent bonus.
Junior employees at Scottish Water have bonuses limited to around 5 per cent of their salary.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Lewis winner of The X Factor in 2006, is meant to be concentrating on producing her second album, but took time out to perform seven songs – astonishingly, her longest-ever concert. And, at £140,000 a track, her most lucrative.
Meanwhile, the South African entrepreneur Sol Kerzner shelled out for his (fourth) wife Heather's 40th birthday celebrations at the Dorchester last week – serenading the fourth Mrs K were Donna Summer and Natalie Cole.
If anyone interested , Rod Stewart can be hired for £750,000.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Having recently forgiven Galileo for his view that the Sun and not the Earth was the centre of the solar system (it took over 350 years) we imagine it might take the infallible one a few years before changing his position about condoms aggravating the spread of Aids. Infallibility is a difficult position to defend, as the millions of Roman Catholics who practice birth control by the use of condoms might one day convince the infallible one. RD
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Shelter Scotland's director Graeme Brown said: "A decent, warm, safe home is crucial to all aspects of children's well being. Yet the facts show thousands of Scotland's children have to wake up every day in cold, damp, overcrowded homes, uncertain about their future."
In a separate study, researchers from Glasgow University suggested homeless people were four times more likely to die prematurely. More than 6,000 homeless adults in Glasgow were tracked over a five-year period and their mortality compared with 13,500 non-homeless residents. By the end of the study, 7% of the homeless group had died compared to 2% of the non-homeless group. The most common causes of death among the homeless subjects were drugs, alcohol, circulatory diseases and suicide.
Dr David Morrison, from the research group, said: "This study has shown we have a large population of young, vulnerable homeless people who are in terrible health."
The study indicated Glasgow residents living in the most deprived areas were three times more likely to die than their affluent counterparts. Being homeless increased the risk of death another threefold.
Got a lot of commuter travelling time between home and work ? Don't worry , House of Parliament will pick up the bill . Or they do for the Labour Party Minister of Employment , Tony McNulty , who has been claiming second-home expenses on a London house where just as it happens his parents live.
The MP lived in the house in Harrow with his parents before then moved into her home about eight miles away in Hammersmith, west London. Under parliamentary rules Mr McNulty can claim an allowance for a second home in his constituency even though it is only 11 miles from Westminster. The MPs' Additional Costs Allowance of up to £24,000 a year goes to MPs from outside inner London to cover the cost of staying away from their main home when carrying out parliamentary duties.
McNulty and his wife, Christine Gilbert, the chief schools inspector, have a combined annual income of more than £300,000 and between them own two London homes worth £1.2m.
he compared the defence of his actions to the excuses given by Nazi war criminals, who said they were “only obeying orders”.
“It is not against the rules – though I suppose you might say that is the Nuremberg defence,” he is reported to have said. He said he had decided to stop claiming the second-home allowance in January after he had “reflected” on the issue.
Another Labour Party mnister , Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, is under investigation for claiming £20,000 a year in expenses, arguing that a home she shares with her sister in London was her “principal residence”.
And what the hell , lets keep it all in the family . One third of government ministers employ a member of their family at taxpayers' expense, an official document revealed today. Jacqui Smith employs her husband Richard Timney as a Commons researcher based in her Redditch constituency.
The Labour Party - the party where all the members have their sticky fingers in the pie .
Saturday, March 21, 2009
"Liverpool draw Chelsea in Europe again. Gerrad assault charge is dropped. Man City faces Hamburg in Uefa cup." (BBC News, 20 March)
Please wait more than 15 seconds and go back to items about children dying and millionaires. We need you. Please test my 15 seconds experience; it may vary from town to town. RD
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"We are witnessing the death of capitalism, according to various excitable commentators, some alarmed and some drooling at the prospect. Neither need get worked up Capitalism will survive. And it will do so because it is natural - not, as some claim, an alien system imposed on gullible people." (Daily Mail, 11 March)
Mr Alexander then goes on to use the hoary, old fairy tale about a shipwrecked crew on a tropical island exchanging coconuts for fish and claims this would lead to the invention of money. It is a view that completely ignores the real history of humankind. The first period of human history had no concept of private property and the invention of money is a very late development in that history. There is plenty of evidence that society has developed through various stages of primitive communism, chattel slavery, feudalism and then capitalism. Far from being "natural" capitalism is just another stage in private property society. Mr Alexander is correct in one respect though. People who imagine that the latest slump in capitalism means its termination are completely wrong. Capitalism by its very nature has slumps and booms. Its abolition will only come about with the conscious political action of the working class. RD
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Startling new figures have revealed that on average there are 10 jobseekers for every vacancy advertised in the UK. In one area of the south-east, 60 workers are available for each job. This week, as unemployment is expected to burst through the 2 million barriers, The Observer can reveal that the spectre of mass unemployment is forcing the government to reinforce job centres, with civil servants diverted from child maintenance and disability claims."
(Observer, 15 March) RD
Monday, March 16, 2009
The planet we live on has been arbitrarily divided into some two hundred nation states. In all of these states, the very richest and the poorest, there are people who die from the effects of poverty and, conversely, there are those who are immensely rich.
In the UK there is some disagreement about the number of people who die prematurely because they are poor, though the figure of an average of some four thousand per annum for hypothermia is generally accepted. For example, the death certificate may say `pneumonia' in the case of an elderly person who in fact dies of hypothermia because their income does not allow them a sufficiency of food and heat to keep them alive. Again, there are thousands denied the necessary medication to keep them alive while life-long poverty itself has an incalculable effect on human longevity.
The singer, Elvis Presley, sang:
"If Living was a thing that money could buy,
Then the rich would live and the poor would die."
In actual fact, the rich do live on average longer and, certainly, better lives, and in millions of cases every year throughout the entire world of capitalism the poor do die, not because the food, medicine or shelter they need is not available but because they are poor; because they do not represent a market that promises profits for capitalism.
Same economic regime
Admittedly, the numbers who die of poverty diseases in most of the developed countries are minuscule by comparison with the tens of thousands who die every single day in those very `poor' countries that are normally referred to as `undeveloped' or `developing'. Still, someone dying from the effects of poverty or medical neglect in this country or, say, the USA, is a victim of the same economic regime that causes that horrible phenomenon that the media refer to as the `Third World'.
In a grotesque way, it is comforting to think of the `Third World' as a number of far-away geographic locations. It gives people in the developed world a sense of misplaced gratitude to think that, however bad things might be where they are, they are worse in other places. As we have noted, the numbers vary dramatically between the `poor' nations and the `rich' ones but the basic problem, the reality of riches and poverty, demonstrates that `Third World' syndrome is a general economic consequence of capitalism rather than specific parts of the earth.
According to one United Nations Human Development Report, four men between them own more wealth than forty-seven of the poorest nations on earth. The same report claims that a mere four percent of the aggregated wealth of three of these men could provide food, clean water, medication and basic education for all those currently denied these necessities.
The problem, then, seems to be a simple one: there are a number of greedy bastards holding the very lives of millions of people in their hands. The UN Report mentions only four of these but there are hundreds of billionaires - people who have ownership of wealth in excess of one thousand million dollars - in the world.
So a chastising lecture on charity to these `greedy' people and a whip round with plastic buckets, and the problem of world hunger could be resolved in a flash. That is what the myriad competing charities imply when they seek alms - except that most of their donations come from the poor. At another level, that is what reformist political parties traditionally aimed to do by taxation and the argument seems justified when we consider what could be done with a mere four percent of the wealth of three of the billionaires. There are thousands of fabulously rich people who, however extravagantly they live and whether or not they engage in any useful activity, are likely to continue to get richer for the rest of their lives.
But the problem does not reside with greedy bastards; nor can it be resolved either by charitable donations or by the action of reforming governments. The problem is caused by the economic system which gives rise to the rich, the millionaires and billionaires, and as a consequence, also gives rise to those who endure mere want or deadly, killing poverty.
Charity is a popular, and we have to say, a cynical pastime for the rich. Lady Layabout's charity ball is an important item on the social calendar, like croquet on the lawn. Sometimes it may take the form of a fashion show where the well-heeled can see the sort of clothes only they can afford. The residual funds from these expensively organised, posh affairs may be donated to the deserving poor where it will no doubt offer momentary, ephemeral relief to some facet of poverty. Nowadays the charity industry - itself a big employer of labour - has proliferated and diversified but so, too, have the problems.
Not so dumb
Of course it is easy to think of a person with billions or even millions of pounds, euros or dollars as a greedy bastard. That person lives on the same planet as the rest of us; he or she knows about world hunger, about the extremes of lifestyles between themselves and the overwhelming majority around them. They can't be so dumb as to believe they could have earned their fabulous wealth by doing what the rest of us have to do, selling our mental or physical labour power for a wage or salary, and they know that however idly and extravagantly they live, their wealth is likely to continue increasing.
But they do not face a moral dilemma, nor should they. In a way, indeed, they are like the millions of poor people who dream about winning the lottery, except that in the case of the rich capitalists they have their own moral apologia and the power through their wealth to enforce that apologia on the rest of society.
Investment with a view to profit and capital accumulation is the powerhouse of capitalist society; without investment, production and distribution would stall, workers would have no jobs. This is the reality of capitalism from which springs the justifications that capitalists advance for their system.
Acceptance of those justifications is general and almost unchallenged throughout capitalist society. Media, churches, politicians, et al sing the praises of the `job creators'; nobody but the socialist questions motive or points out that capital invests in job creation purely for the purpose of generating profit through the exploitation of workers and that capital disinvests and relocates if it can find a place where it can intensify that exploitation. That is the nub of the question, not whether or not the millionaires and billionaires are moved by the miseries they create to give sums large or small to charity or whether they are forced by taxation to effect some amelioration of those miseries.
Riches and poverty are two sides of the same relationship and can only be ended when that relationship is ended; when society takes over the ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution and institutes a system of social organisation in which production and distribution are democratically administered in the interests of the needs of society as a whole.
As far as blaming `greedy bastards' is concerned we workers should remember that capitalists are not in a position to effect real change even if they wanted to - which, of course, they don't. Only the majority, the working class, can do that.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Leon Toffel estimates that five per cent of his business comes from sources in crematoria. "We processed it like any other scrap," he said "When people retire, that's a classic time when they pass on stuff . To a certain extent, it's like a little pension pay-out."
In just two years, six workers at a crematorium in Nuremberg earned more than £100,000 by selling gold teeth to a local jeweller. Under German law, they could not be charged with theft because the gold was not said to belong to anyone after the process of cremation. For some, the story raised painful associations with The Holocaust.
Friday, March 13, 2009
- Buying flowers seems like an innocent thing to do. In Canada, they may arrive from Columbia where women and children as young as ten work like slaves, long hours for low pay, no rights, and health problems that include infertility and lung disease.
- Capitalist development is coming to Cambodia. In Phnom Penh, ramshackle neighbourhoods are being bulldozed for commercial development without the inhabitants’ permission. It’s no good protesting as the machines arrive with military police, the riot squad and one hundred hired thugs with crowbars, i.e. supported by the government. As international aid floods into Cambodia, the rich elite are growing ever more powerful, while the poor are being pushed aside. Welcome to capitalism.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
- It seems the economy is biting everywhere. Recently an evangelical Church charity lost its status when it was audited and it was found that donations were being used for trips to Hawaii, high fashion products, and personal expenses – caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
- Is the current economic crisis affecting poverty reduction? While the increases in the minimum wage are going ahead (up to $9.50/hour by March 31st.) the Toronto Star showed that the present Ontario government is long on promises, pledges, indications, but action on their 25 in 5 plan (25%poverty reduction in five years) is sorely lacking or waiting for a willing federal partner. The attitudes of the poverty bashing Harris years persist. Recently, Human resources Minister, Diane Finley rejected demand to pay unemployment insurance to all those who pay the premiums, saying,
“we do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it.”
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
"Carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are acidifying the oceans and threaten a mass extinction of sea life, a top ocean scientist warns. Dr Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory says it is impossible to know how marine life will cope, but she fears many species will not survive. Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 emissions have already turned the sea about 30% more acidic, say researchers. It is more acidic now than it has been for at least 500,000 years, they add. The problem is set to worsen as emissions of the greenhouse gas increase through the 21st Century. "I am very worried for ocean ecosystems which are currently productive and diverse," Carol Turely told BBC News. "I believe we may be heading for a mass extinction, as the rate of change in the oceans hasn't been seen since the dinosaurs. "It may have a major impact on food security. It really is imperative that we cut emissions of CO2." (BBC News, 11 March)
Inside a socialist society where production is solely for use not profit, human beings can plan rationally for our children's future without destroying the eco-system. RD
"Scientists will warn this week that rising sea levels triggered by global warming, pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. There is now a major risk that many coastal areas around the world will be inundated by the end of the century because Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than previously estimated. Low-lying areas including Bangladesh, the Maldives and the Netherlands face catastrophic flooding, while in Britain, large areas of the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary are likely to disappear by 2100. In addition cities including London, Hull and Portsmouth will need new flood defences." (Observer, 8 March)
What kind of a nightmare world is capitalism bequeathing to our children? RD
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
So what we now have is a system, which is capable of producing on a massive scale everything we need and require to live a useful and healthy life, but the nature of capitalist distribution ,it is restriced to produce only when it is profitable to do so,means that access is rationed to those who can buy the goods and services produced.If demand, expressed in paying customers,falls,then production is choked off.
Only Socialism, as the next stage of historical development, as its organising tenet describes, "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs", can then satisfy needs adequately, as production would not be switched off. or over. until "needs",the socialist "demand" is met.
A society without restrictions upon access to wealth produced, is then placed to harmonise production and distribution, into a steady state economy, with no winners and losers, such as we have today in capitalism or their state capitalist equivelent.
- Is there a food shortage in the world?
There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has noted that 78 per cent of the world’s malnourished children live in countries with food surpluses... There is enough food to go around now and for at least the next half-century. The world is not going to run out of food for all.
Ending hunger and food insecurity is not simply a matter of growing more food. Recent studies have shown that four out of five malnourished children in the developing world live in countries that boast food surpluses.... The key elements of a strategy for building a hunger-free world exist. What has been lacking until now is the political will to put them into practice.
Scientific and technical advances in agriculture have yielded an era in which harvests are now outpacing population growth, resulting in unprecedented food abundance.... Inefficient distribution of food and inequities in income leave many without enough to eat. But today hunger is less the result of absolute food shortages than of political situations and policy decisions.
Myanmar, once known as the rice bowl of Asia, still boasts a surplus of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rice and maize. Yet a tenth of the population is going hungry,
That is from a 10 min google search , you could have done the same and answered your question yourself . But do you see what the common thread is in all those links ...its not the technical side of food production , we can produce enough ...it's the distribution ...thats the real problem and thats the problem that free access socialism is equipped to address .
Monday, March 09, 2009
Harvard Medical School students like Kirsten Austad, left; Lekshmi Santhosh, Kim.
Sue and David Tian, members of the American Medical Student Association, object
to the influence of drug companies in the school’s educational curriculum
Sunday, March 08, 2009
“Labour costs clearly did not cause this worldwide crisis in the auto industry, and labour concessions cannot possibly solve that crisis but we can’t ignore the precarious financial state of these companies, the extraordinary government offers of aid and our need to remain fully competitive for future investment”.
In otherwords, we go with the system without much of a fight. It’s like we say, wages tend to rise in boom times, and fall in times of recession. Now we’ll spend the next twenty years trying to regain what we have lost. The futility of reform, the solution is revolution.
The BBC's Mark Sanders said the announcement was, in effect, an acknowledgement by the government that mental health problems could be caused by the recession.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
- Canada continues to bleed jobs. A Toronto Star report (21/Feb/09) showed a loss of 322 000 manufacturing jobs between 2004 and 2008 and a loss of a staggering 129 000 total jobs in January, the largest decline in 30 years. There are now 1 310 100 officially unemployed in Canada, although we know that this is a highly manipulated number and is really much higher.
"The US jobless rate jumped in February to 8.1%, according to official figures from the Labour Department. The number of people out of work rose by 651,000 during the month. Both figures were bigger than expected. ...President Obama said that the number of jobs lost so far in the recession was "astounding". Speaking in Ohio, he added: "I don't need to tell the people of this state what statistics like this mean," saying that he had signed his economic stimulus package in order to save jobs. The extra 161,000 jobs added to December and January's figures mean that almost two million jobs have been lost in the past three months." (BBC News, 6 March)
Think what this means, two million workers are being debarred from producing things that are necessary for human existence. Why? Because it isn't profitable enough. Two million workers and their kids are being impoverished not because of some failing on their part but because of this awful society we all live in. Don't you think it is time that those 2 million workers in the US thought of an alternative society? Shouldn't you? RD
Friday, March 06, 2009
An Oprah show focused on home foreclosures, showing how those who lost their houses, had to leave everything behind and wander the streets, living in tent cities. The banks hire crews to clear the houses entirely, throwing everything into a dumpster, most of which is in good condition. So we have thousands of homeless people in tents and thousands of empty homes waiting for tenants. Could anything be crazier!
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
I search for a reason, and find a wild defence; a defence against a capitalism which plunders lives and resources to generate the goods it sells in the markets it invades, if necessary by its own use of terrorism. And so the response; a violent attack on profit; destroying confidence, destroying the market by random acts of great violence, involving the deaths of innocent civilians far away; just as the machinations of capitalism involve the deaths of innocent civilians far away. For Manhattan, read Chile; for Bali, read East Timor. For what other response is available? What fear does greed know, other than the fear of lost profit?
I do not want a harsh world of religious fundamentalism and intolerance. Nor do I wish to see a global strip mall, a world in which warplanes are purchased in order to safeguard the jobs of the workers who make them, a world in which greed is the control mechanism.
You put your question: would I trust a nation that has invaded two neighbouring states, that has chemical and biological weapons and may be developing nuclear weapons, which it may one day use?
Let me ask the other questions.
Would you trust a nation that has weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological - and has already used all three against other nations? Would you trust a nation that has given arms to both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussain?
Would you trust a nation that has sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua and El Salvador, that has overthrown the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile in favour of the murderous regime of Augusto Pinochet, that has overthrown the democratically elected regime in Guatemala for the benefit of the United Fruit Company of Boston, Massachusetts? Would you trust a nation that gave training in terrorism in Honduras and at the School of the Americas that gave training in chemical warfare at Fort McClennan?
Would you trust a nation that gave support to the Khmer Rouge, that dropped half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia and two million tons on Laos while it was at war with neither, that gave support to both Papa Doc & Baby Doc in Haiti, and to Marcos in the Philippines? And which gave support to Israel, a land made by terrorism and maintained by terrorism that wears a uniform?
Would you trust a nation that refused to sign a global treaty banning landmines, on the grounds that it infringed freedom of trade, a nation whose landmines are sown indiscriminately across south East Asia and are still killing and maiming?
Would you trust a nation that refused to sign a UN protocol on torture on the grounds that it limited states' rights? Would you trust a nation that (understandably) refuses to accept an international court of justice?I did not want September 11, nor the explosion in Bali. Nor did I want Sabra, Shatila, My Lai, Santiago, the killing fields.........
I want freedom. I want equality. And I want honesty. Here, and in all the faraway places. Thus far, the ballot paper has offered none of these things. When it does, perhaps we will have peace. Here, and in all the faraway places.
Les Barker - 2003
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Rescuers removed the body of a victim from the Tunlan Coal Mine in China’s.
Shanxi Province, where an explosion killed dozens of miners
"At least 74 people died early Sunday after a mine explosion in northern China, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. Dozens were still trapped in the mine on Sunday evening in the deadliest coal-mining accident in the country in more than a year. The miners were working in the Tunlan Coal Mine in Shanxi Province, the coal mining heartland of China, when the blast occurred at 2:17 a.m., Xinhua reported. The mine is in city of Gujiao and is run by the Shanxi Coking Coal Group, one of China’s largest producers of coking coal, which is used in steel production. ...The death toll on Sunday was the highest in a coal mine accident since December 2007, when an explosion in the city of Linfen in Shanxi Province — often called the most polluted city in China because of the relentless haze from coal production — killed 105 miners, The Associated Press reported, citing the State Administration of Work Safety. That explosion was set off by an accumulation of gas in an unventilated tunnel. The mining industry in China has a poor safety record. The government, which has been trying to improve safety standards by closing illegal mines, reported last month that about 3,200 people died in mining accidents last year, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year. ...But mining is lucrative for those at the top. The owners of large mining companies are among China’s wealthiest people." (New York Times, 23 February) RD