Tuesday, June 30, 2009

POVERTY? AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

"Responding to the global recession, former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit this year will focus on ways for companies to profit from tackling poverty, climate change, health and education. To keep companies engaged in fighting the world's problems amid an economic crisis that has seen millions of people lose their jobs, summit organizers said the meeting had to evolve from an event where corporate chiefs showed up and just wrote checks to support humanitarian work. "We recognized that the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) of old was no longer going to be a feasible model to move forward on," said Edward Hughes, CGI's deputy director and director of program for the fifth annual summit this September." Companies couldn't simply treat us as a place where their foundation would come and write checks to NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), but rather for them to remain engaged, (CGI) had to deliver value to their core bottom line, to their business operations," he said. "We needed to justify this as being a real value-return exercise." ... This year, the Clinton Global Initiative will concentrate on four new areas -- harnessing innovation for development, strengthening infrastructure, developing human capital and financing an equitable future. It says each of those areas offers companies investment opportunities, while at the same time tackling world ills."
Yahoo News, 23 June) RD

Monday, June 29, 2009

OWNERSHIP AND KNOWLEDGE

When technology makes knowledge globally available, reshaping the economics of
buying and selling it becomes crucial



"Ten years ago, a piece of software called Napster taught us that scarcity is no longer a law of nature. The physics of our universe would allow everyone with access to a networked computer to enjoy, for free, every song, every film, every book, every piece of research, every computer program, every last thing that could be made out of digital ones and zeros. The question became not, will nature allow it, but will our legal and economic system ever allow it? This is a question about the future of capitalism, the economic system that arose from scarcity. Ours is the era of expanded copyright systems and enormous portfolios of dubious patents, of trade secrecy, the privatisation of the fruits of publicly funded research, and other phenomena that we collectively term "intellectual property". As technology has made a new abundance of knowledge possible, politicians, lawyers, corporations and university administrations have become more and more determined to preserve its scarcity. So will we cling to scarcity just so that we can keep capitalism?" (New Scientist, 24 June) RD

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SORRY, BUT NO MONEY

"The Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution and the latest attempt by the federal government to take responsibility for 2.5 centuries of slavery. "You wonder why we didn't do it 100 year ago", Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. "It is important to have a collective response to collective injustice. The Senate's apology follows a similar resolution passed last year by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-simmering issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution. The House is expected to revisit the issue next week to confirm its resolution to the Senate version." (Washington Post, 19 June) RD

HARD TIMES

"For a royal who was once rumoured to ask his valet to squirt toothpaste on to his toothbrush for him, the idea of belt-tightening may seem alien. But even the Prince of Wales is feeling the pinch from the recession. Despite being one of the country's richest landowners, with a £600m estate to bankroll everything from his eco-friendly Aston Martin sports car to ski holidays in Klosters, the heir to the throne responded to the economic crisis by slashing his personal spending last year by £500,000, according to figures published in an annual review. By ordinary standards, the cutbacks could hardly be described as brutal, but they suggest a prince who is at least attempting to economise. He has, the review revealed, opted to take holidays with his wife at his home in Scotland rather than travelling to Switzerland on expensive ski trips as he has done in previous years. The Duchess of Cornwall did not take a sailing holiday with friends in the Greek islands as she has often done and wears the same dresses several times, a recycling habit also picked up by the prince who said to be getting more wear out of his suits, courtiers said." (Guardian, 23 June) RD

THE LORD WILL PROVIDE?

"The Church of England is to debate trimming the number of bishops and other senior clergy, amid falling investment returns and a £352m pension deficit. The measure, proposed by the diocese of Bradford, will be discussed at next month's meeting of the General Synod, the church's legislative body. In a paper the diocese said that despite a "large decline" in church membership and full-time paid clergy there had been no serious consideration given to the need to reduce the number of senior posts and the structures around them. In 2008 the church commissioners, who manage investments for the Church of England, spent £7.3m maintaining houses for diocesan bishops and £14.5m in grants for bishops' support staff, office and working costs. At a briefing yesterday the synod general-secretary, William Fittall, said the church was experiencing "acute" financial pressures: "We are not in a situation of panic but we are in a situation of real pressure and a huge increase in pension costs is a real problem." (Guardian, 23 June) RD

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

381 x $140 MILLION, WOW!

"Washington – A top Air Force general, crossing swords with Pentagon leadership, says a proposed cap on the number of F-22 stealth fighters puts America at "high risk" of compromising military strategy. In a June 9 letter to a senator, Gen. John Corley, commander of the Air Force's Air Combat Command, wrote: "In my opinion, a fleet of 187 F-22s puts execution of our current national military strategy at high risk in the near to mid term." General Corley's letter, obtained by the Monitor Thursday, came in response to a query from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia, where parts of the F-22 Raptor are built. The 187 cap is the symbolic centrepiece of Defence Secretary Robert Gates's budget request, which aims to rein in defence procurement costs. He has said it is time to wrap up the program to buy the $140 million-a-copy plane. The Air Force had long disagreed, calling for as many as 381 planes as recently as last year, in apparent defiance of Mr. Gates." (Christian Science Monitor, 18 June) RD

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

THE ADVANCE OF CAPITALISM

Behind the flowery rhetoric of reformist politicians on so-called "green" issues there lies the brutal reality of capitalism's need to expand. Capitalism is a highly competitive society, with each national group in a fierce battle for markets. Here is a small example of how the expansion of capitalism is deforesting the planet. " Uganda has lost nearly a third of its forest cover since 1990 due to expanding farmlands, a rapidly growing human population and increased urbanisation, a government report said on Friday. In 1990, the east African nation had more than five million hectares of forest cover but by 2005 only 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) remained, the report, published by Ugandan's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), said. If deforestation continues at the present rate Uganda will have lost all its forested land by 2050, it warned." (Yahoo News, 19 June)
Only a society with production solely for use can save the forests, the oceans and eventually humankind itself. RD

AN UPSIDE-DOWN SOCIETY

"A collection of more than 3,000 inverted stamps has sold at auction in New York for more than $5 million. The two-day auction by Spink Shreves Galleries ended Friday. The collection was amassed by Pittsburgh stockbroker Robert H. Cunliffe, who died last year. Charles Shreve, president of the Dallas-based gallery, says it was the most comprehensive collection of inverts ever formed. Inverted stamps result when different colors and elements are printed in separate press runs and a sheet gets flipped upside-down between press runs."
(Associated Press, 19 June) RD

Monday, June 22, 2009

LAND OF THE FREE?


Kenneth L. Wainstein testified about surveillance in Fall 2007 at a Senate
committee hearing.
"Washington — The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said. The agency’s monitoring of domestic e-mail messages, in particular, has posed longstanding legal and logistical difficulties, the officials said. Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation."
(New York Times, 17 June) RD

Sunday, June 21, 2009

ONE BILLION REASONS FOR SOCIALISM

"One billion people throughout the world suffer from hunger, a figure which has increased by 100 million because of the global financial crisis, says the UN. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the figure was a record high. Persistently high food prices have also contributed to the hunger crisis. The director general of the FAO said the level of hunger, one-sixth of the world's population, posed a "serious risk" to world peace and security. The UN said almost all of the world's undernourished live in developing countries, with the most, some 642 million people, living in the Asia-Pacific region." (BBC News, 20 June) RD

"EXPERTS" IN ACTION”

" an economics profession that had wandered down so many blind alleys in recent decades that, in the United States between 1985 and 2000, out of 7,000 academic articles produced under the aegis of the National Bureau of Economic Research, only five mentioned fiscal policy, and the consensus was that markets were so perfect that crisis such as we have recently been experiencing simply could not happen." (Times, 14 June) RD

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Capitalism is working as normal.


Capitalism is working as normal.

1.02 billion people hungry.



The faces behind the numbers.


One sixth of humanity undernourished - more than ever before.



19 June 2009, Rome - World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1 020 million people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by FAO today.The most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment. This has reduced access to food by the poor, the UN agency said."A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions.""The present situation of world food insecurity cannot leave us indifferent," he added.Poor countries, Diouf stressed, "must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome poverty and hunger and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth."
Full report below.
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Capitalism is working as normal.Let us work to get rid of this foul system and establish a free access society of socialism/communism.Production for use based upon, voluntary labour, access to its produce based upon, self determined need.
A democratic society without nation states ,elites,leaders,markets and their corolary, buying and selling.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

RECESSION RECRUITMENT (2)

"Annapolis, Md. – Applications have surged at the nation's three top military academies as tough economic times coincide with stepped-up recruiting efforts by the Army, Navy and Air Force schools, making the prospect of free college and a steady job look sweeter. The recession has already helped drive higher military recruitment and retention. Stronger student response to recruiting campaigns by the three academies, who want to increase minority ranks in the officer corps, comes as the recession has reduced college scholarships and other financial aid. As of this week, the U.S. Naval Academy was out in front with a 40 percent increase in applications compared with last year. Annapolis received about 15,300 applications for about 1,230 positions — the highest number of applications the academy has received since 1988."
(Associated Press, 16 June) RD

Thursday, June 18, 2009

PRICEY, BUT A NICE EXHAUST NOTE!

"Is this the best Aston ever? Just maybe. By fitting a mighty 6.0-litre V12 engine into its petite Vantage, the company has created a car few machines can rival for character and driver appeal. The £135,000 model is also well engineered, and a treat to spend time in. Squeezing into the figure-hugging driver's seat is no mean feat, but immensely rewarding. And we can't think of anything with a better exhaust note! (First Post, 17 June) RD

A SENSE OF VALUES?

"A rare Abraham Lincoln stamp that was stolen from Indiana in 1967 and surfaced 39 years later in Chicago has sold at auction for more than $430,000. The stamped envelope was auctioned Saturday at Manhattan's Robert A. Siegel galleries. The buyer is Arthur K.M. Woo, a doctor who would reveal nothing more about himself. He paid $431,250 for the 90-cent stamp, against a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 to $400,000, including the buyer's premium." (Associated Press, 14 June) RD

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

THE HIGH COST OF DYING

"Execution by firing squad will be halted in Beijing by the end of the year, to be replaced by lethal injection. The ruling is designed to make the death penalty less cumbersome and to reduce the trauma to all involved, including executioners and family, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. One legal expert said: "The execution process is rather bloody, placing great pressure both on the criminal and on those involved in carrying out the sentence." China has been slow to switch to lethal injections because of the extra costs - each dose of potassium cyanide costs 300 yuan ($5.48)" (The Australian, 17 June). RD

ITS A MAD, MAD WORLD

"Such is the lack of work that the £80 million transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo ranks as 31st in the league table for UK mergers and acquisitions this year by Thomson Reuters. I wonder about such deals: it's a bit like when you read that some idiot has paid £10,000 for an exotic goldfish - you think, what if it dies? I am told that footballers such as Ronaldo are insured. But if they suddenly hit a run of bad play? There must be some temptation to arrange an "accident" for the insurance money, surely?" (City Diary by Martin Walker, Times, 16 June) RD

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE POOR GET POORER

"The burden of rising unemployment in England is falling mainly on the most deprived areas and threatens to undermine the government’s anti-poverty drive, Financial Times research has shown. An analysis of people signing on for the jobseeker’s allowance in the first four months of this year indicates nearly two-thirds of the 344,000 increase was in areas with above-average levels of deprivation. This confirms other data suggesting this downturn, far from being a mainly middle-class recession focused on south-east England, is primarily hitting low-income workers in the traditional industrial heartlands such as the Midlands and northern England. Even though there are signs of a modest return to growth nationally in manufacturing and services, parts of these regions may take longer to recover. Unemployment, currently at 2.2m, is likely to continue to rise for several months." (Financial Times, 15 June) RD

RECESSION RECRUITMENT

The quality of new soldiers is increasing as a lack of civilian jobs prompts fitter, smarter men to opt for a career in uniform. The influx of "recession recruits" has pushed the drop-out rate on the infantry's gruelling, basic-training course below 30 per cent for the first time. Brigadier James Stevenson, Commandant of the School of Infantry, said that economic slumps historically boosted army recruitment." (Times, 15 June) RD

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A SHAMEFUL WASTE

"China spent $84.9 billion (£53 billion) on is military last year, second only to the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Its report said that France moved into third place in spending with Britain fourth. Military spending worldwide rose by 4 per cent to $1.46 trillion, the report said." (Times, 9 June) RD

BABY, IT'S COLD INSIDE

"The government was today urged to offer more help to the millions of families in fuel poverty due to rising energy prices. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee said ministers had failed to meet statutory obligations to end fuel poverty and called on them to set up an action plan to help people struggling with energy bills as a matter of urgency. It warned the resources available for tackling fuel poverty were "inadequate and getting worse". Anyone spending at least 10% of their income on heating and lighting their home is deemed to be living in fuel poverty. ...Jonathan Stearn, energy expert for Consumer Focus, said it was "outrageous" that there were still more than 5 million vulnerable households struggling to afford to heat and power their homes. He added: "The government's energy efficiency schemes are simply not up to scratch. Immediate investment is needed in a radical and co-ordinated action plan if we are to lift millions of the poorest pensioners, families and disabled people out of fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions." Michelle Mitchell, charity director for Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: "The report sounds a loud wake-up call for the government, whose strategy to tackle fuel poverty is miles away from reaching its targets." (Guardian, 10 June) RD

Thursday, June 11, 2009

HOME OF THE BRAVE?

"Brunswick, Maine - The old, run-down trailer in the backcountry near Norridgewock wasn't much to look at, but it was home. That was before the landlord died, setting in motion events that left Michelle DeStoop, Bobby Landry and their six children without a place of their own. After losing their home, they sold their car to a junkyard when they couldn't afford to have it repaired. Without a car, they couldn't get around. Low on money, they lost their meager possessions when they couldn't pay the bill for storage. Homelessness often means life in soup lines and on city streets, but as a new study commissioned by the state shows, it isn't confined to cities. It also can be found across rural areas, so concealed that some people are surprised it exists at all, the study finds." (Associated Press, 6 June) RD

GUNS YES, HEALTH NO

"The health service will face the most severe and sustained financial shortfall in its history after 2011, a report by NHS managers warns. The NHS Confederation report says the health service in England will not survive unchanged, the BBC has learned. Managers at its conference will be told they face an "extremely challenging" financial outlook. ...The report, to be published on Wednesday, warns any modest cash increases could be outstripped by rising costs within the health service. This would leave the NHS in England facing a real-terms reduction of between £8bn and 10bn over the three years after 2011." (BBC News, 10 June) RD

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reading Notes

- "It was the first time I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically any building of any size had been seized by the workers. Every shop and café had an inscription saying it was collectivized; even the boot blacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black.Waiters and shop walkers looked you in the face and treated you as equals. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. There were no private cars; they had all been commandeered. It was the aspect of the crowds that was the queerest thing of all. In outward appearance it was a town in which the wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist.Above all there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in a capitalist machine." George Orwell, describing the workers' Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War in "Homage to Catalonia. Not quite socialist yet (boot blacks? Waiters?) but a hint of the feeling when the real socialist revolution comes along!
For socialism, John Ayers

THE PRICE OF OIL

"Royal Dutch Shell and the families of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an executed Nigerian opposition leader, and other activists hanged by the military government in 1995, on Monday agreed a $15.5m settlement in a New York court case stemming from allegations the oil group was complicit in the executions. The settlement, in which Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary denied any liability, ended a 13-year campaign by relations and supporters of Saro-Wiwa to hold the company accountable. A spokesman for the plaintiffs said $5m of the settlement to be paid by Shell would be put into a trust fund to promote education and welfare in the Ogoniland region of the Niger delta. The balance would be shared among 10 plaintiffs after legal costs were met. Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists were hanged after leading a campaign against Shell’s activities in the region and the then military-led government. ...Oil production stopped in Ogoniland in 1993 when Shell ceased operations amid mass protests led by Saro-Wiwa against the environmental damage alleged to have been inflicted by the company’s operations. The plaintiffs had alleged that at the request of Shell, and with its assistance and financing, Nigerian soldiers used deadly force and massive, brutal raids against the Ogoni people throughout the early 1990s to repress a movement against the oil company." (Financial Times, 9 June) RD

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Food for Thought 4

- The number of homes repossessed by banks in Toronto rose 44% from March 2008 to this March.
- Further afield, the star economy of the neo-cons, Ireland, has crashed and burned further and faster than any European economy, posting the biggest drop in GDP of any industrialized nation since the Great Depression. The C.D. Howe and Fraser Institutes praised Ireland in 2003 for aggressive tax reduction that `yielded enormous benefits'. Prosperity was founded on low-cost labour, an advantage it soon lost. (Toronto Star, 3/May/09).
- On the health front, the good news is that the swine flu has disappeared. Unfortunately, it reappeared as H1N1, renamed by the World Health Organization in deference to the pork industry. Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers calls it NAFTA flu and argues multi nationals are getting away with dire conditions not allowed north of the Mexican border. The first case occurred near the hog farms of US giant Smithfield Farms ($12 billion annual sales). In the US, Smithfield was fined $12.6 million in 1997 for dumping raw sewage into a river. Do you see a pattern here?
- Fast food companies are adding vitamins to their food so they can advertise them as healthy eating. So French fries cooked in trans fat but containing vitamin C are healthy. Will these guys ever quit trying to circumvent good practices in the name of profit? No, and we can't expect them to do so while the profit system is in tact.
- Similarly, the Canadian government is getting worried as California passed a climate change bill with a low carbon fuel standard, and other states may follow. After failing to influence Arnold Schwarzenegger, claiming that targeting the oil sands would divert money to oil rich countries that fund terrorism and threaten our security (as if the US would fall for that one – they made it up in the first place!), our government has started an intense education program for our top diplomats so that they will be able to present Canada as a clean energy super power. That's the dirtiest project on earth we are talking about!
- Michelle Obama showed support for the poor by showing up at a Washington food bank wearing sneakers, $540 sneakers by the Paris house of Lanvin! The fact that people were lining up to receive handouts while she was able to spend that kind of money on casual shoes was apparently lost on her. She should have thrown the shoes to the crowd. One shoe would have fed a family for a month. Hell, a lace would have fed them for a week!
John Ayers

Monday, June 08, 2009

Food for Thought 3

- The auto manufacturers continue to go after workers' benefits during these difficult economic times, as we expect. After reaching a deal two months ago, the US government ordered the contracts re-opened and further cuts to benefits. The workers lose another $15/hour in wages and benefits, on top of the $6/hour already taken. They lose cost of living allowances, one week of paid vacation, a $1,700 Christmas bonus, $3,500 in one-time holiday pay, school tuition assistance and semi-private hospital care. Pensioners lose cost of living increases. Today, GM filed for bankruptcy, will receive further government funds ($20 billion) to restructure and come back firing 21 000 employees and closing many dealerships (and firing their employees). Not to be outdone, Ontario Premier McGuinty, rejected a call for executive pay at companies receiving government money to be capped at $400 000, but he was not slow in joining other governments in insisting on pay cuts for workers. Let's hope the workers in that industry become a bit more class conscious through all this turmoil. John Ayers

A SENSE OF VALUES?

"A legendary rare stamp, a 'Post Office' Mauritius One Penny Red, sold Friday at an auction in Germany for 210,000 euros (277,000 dollars), disappointing its previous owner, who had been expecting more. Ullrich Schulze had mislaid the ancient postage stamp in one of his albums 20 years ago, forgetting where he had put it. But he stumbled on it recently and put it up for sale. There are thought to be only 15 of the stamps in existence."
(Stamp Collection News, 25 May) RD

EDUCATION'S REAL ROLE

There is a widespread illusion that the purpose of education, especially higher education, is to produce well-rounded human beings who are equipped with a basic thirst for knowledge and curiosity about the world around them. It is a wonderful concept but like most of capitalism's ideas it is a complete fraud. "England's department for higher and further education has been scrapped, just two years after its creation. The prime minister has created a new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under Lord Mandelson. Universities do not figure in the name of the new department, whose remit is "to build Britain's capabilities to compete in the global economy". Number 10 said it would invest in a higher education system committed to widening participation. The role would include "maintaining world class universities, expanding access to higher education, investing in the UK's science base and shaping skills policy and innovation". (BBC News, 5 June)
Far from being concerned about an individual's intellectual development, inside capitalism the purpose of education is dictated by the industrial and commercial needs of the owning class. The UK must compete for world markets therefore it needs an educated working class. RD

Sunday, June 07, 2009

OUTDATED MARXISM?

We are all aware of the critics of Karl Marx who say that he may have had something to say about early capitalism but his criticisms are old-fashioned and out of date. Away back in 1867 Marx wrote about the "so-called primitive accumulation of capital" wherein he showed how the capitalist class in England had obtained its great wealth by such acts as the enclosure acts to throw peasants off their land. Today a similar process is taking place in Peru. "President Alan Garcia labored Saturday to contain Peru's worst political violence in years, as nine more police officers were killed in a bloody standoff with Amazon Indians fighting his efforts to exploit oil and gas on their native lands. The new deaths brought to 22 the number of police killed — seven with spears — since security forces moved early Friday to break up a roadblock manned by 5,000 protesters. Protest leaders said at least 30 Indians, including three children, died in the clashes. Authorities said they could confirm only nine civilian deaths, but cabinet chief Yehude Simon told reporters that 155 people had been injured, about a third of them with bullet wounds." (Associated Press, 6 June)
Far from being outdated Marx's view on the development of capitalist ownership is being re-enacted in today's newspaper headlines. RD

Food for Thought 2

- Perhaps religion has the pension answer. Preacher Tin La Haye tells us re collapsed retirement savings, " Don't worry about it – I don't think we are going to be spending our retirement. The upper-taker (Jesus) is going to catch us first. If He's coming, He better hurry and get here before the federal government. Every morning you can wake up and say, `Lord, is this the day?'And don't worry about it, no matter how young or old you are – you are not going to miss a thing. Because what's ahead is much better than we've got now – particularly after the last election…Personally, I've never been a lover of socialism."
OK then, we don't have to worry about old age. However, it didn't stop La Haye exhorting his following to write out checks to support him and his traveling entourage and keep them in a life of luxury. (Toronto Star, 16/May/2009). John Ayers

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Food for Thought

- As workers lose their pension money, in RSPs or from failing employers, and six out of ten Canadians have no company pension, The Canadian Labour Congress once again shows its `work with capitalism' stance by calling for a new pension model, not an end to the employment system.
- Along with the auto industry (projected 2009 loss at $2.1 billion), and the stock market (down $34 billion), the Canada Pension Plan has lost $23.6 billion. No worry for the managers, though, as the top four executives of the plan not only take home paychecks of $300 000 to $500 000, they also get bonuses of $7 million to share, for losing the $23.6 billion. The average CPP benefit for workers is $501.82/month!
- The federal government has announced that its budget deficit will be $50 billion, not $34 billion as previously announced and just a few months after finance minister Flaherty predicted a small surplus. The bailouts are the excuse but it seems money is slow to trickle down to where it is needed as the old ploy of requiring provincial and local matching funds has been used. Either they can't match it or the funds get tied up in the red tape of three government levels. Either way, for the unemployed it will be a long, desperate wait for work and the means of living. For example, the Toronto Star (17/May/09) reported that a machinist laid off after two years work in an auto parts plant qualified for just 28 weeks @ $284/week, less than half his regular (low) pay. Capital chews you up and spits you out.
John Ayers

Friday, June 05, 2009

MAKING A "KILLING"

"Britain and other EU countries sold military equipment worth millions of pounds to the Sri Lankan Government in the last three years of its bloody civil war with the Tamil Tigers, The Times has learnt. Britain approved commercial sales of more than £13.6 million of equipment including armoured vehicles, machinegun components and semiautomatic pistols, according to official records. ...The approval of the sales still raises the question of whether weapons from the EU were used in the last five months of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, during which UN officials estimate that 20,000 civilians were killed." (Times, 2 June) RD

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEKEEPERS?

"A former US Marine, Pastor Ken Pagano of New Bethel Church of Louisville, Kentucky said the church would celebrate the Fourth of July and "our rights as Americans". Rev Pagano said he wanted responsible handgun owners to attend this service openly wearing their sidearm, on 27 June, the Saturday preceding Independence Day. The move would be symbolic, however: the firearms must be unloaded and in a secure holster. The priest said he would also invite gun shop owners to attend the service in order to tell about their services. There would be patriotic music along with a presentation about the right of Americans to own firearms, including military-style automatic machine guns." (Daily Telegraph, 5 June) RD

Thursday, June 04, 2009

LAZY WORKERS?

"More than 1,800 people turned up at an hotel where a recruitment day was being held to hire 25 people to work in a new shop that is opening in a former Woolworths store. The discount store QD is due to open in Wellingborough, Nothamptonshire, later this month."
(Times, 3 June) RD

GREEN SHOOTS?

"US companies cut more than half a million jobs last month as the recession continued to chip away at the country’s labour market, while the service sector shrank more than expected. Private companies cut 532,000 jobs from their payrolls in May, according to a survey by ADP Employer Services. Although that was fewer than the revised 545,000 jobs slashed in April, the number was worse than many predicted and pushed shares lower on Wednesday morning." (Financial Times, 3 June) RD

IMPROVING CAPITALISM?

"A UN report says hunger in South Asia has reached its highest level in 40 years because of food and fuel price rises and the global economic downturn. The report by the UN children's fund, Unicef, says that 100 million more people in the region are going hungry compared with two years ago. It names the worst affected areas as Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The report says South Asia's governments need to urgently increase social spending to meet the challenge. It says that climate change and urbanisation also need tackling. According to the World Bank, three quarters of the population in South Asia - almost 1.2 billion people - live on less than $2 (£1.2) a day. And more than 400m people in the region are now chronically hungry.
(BBC News, 2 June) RD

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

THE PRICE OF GOLD

"The bodies of another 25 people have been found in a disused South African gold mine, where 36 illegal miners were killed in a fire at the weekend. "The bodies are not burnt. It seems more of a case of gas or smoke inhalation," said Tom Smith from Harmony, which owns the Eland mine. He said the bodies had been found by other miners, as the abandoned shaft was too dangerous for the firm's staff. Harmony says nearly 300 illegal miners were arrested in the area recently. Illegal mining is rife in South Africa where prospectors often sneak past security at one mine and then exit from a different shaft, miles away. The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the authorities have launched an investigation to establish how many people have died. Mr Smith said the bodies had been recovered from depths of up to 1.4km (0.9 miles) underground, reports the Reuters news agency. (BBC News, 2 June) RD

MEGA-DEATH MARKETPLACE

"The annual Asia Security Conference, a forum for discussion, brought together some of the world's main arms-makers with military chiefs nervously eyeing their neighbours' moves and looking to upgrade defences in a region full of long-running insurgencies, potential maritime disputes and growing wealth. "Defence suppliers find it very important to be here to make a set of contacts," said Jonathan Pollack, professor of Asian and Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College. Japan's defence minister told the gathering that the country, anxious about North Korea's latest nuclear test, would not strike first but it was still looking to boost its air force with Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets. Top executives from firms such as Boeing, the Pentagon's No.2 defence supplier, flew to Singapore to rub shoulders with potential clients, as they look to expand foreign sales at a time when the Obama government is starting to cap defence project spending." (Yahoo News, 31 May) RD

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GLOBAL DISASTER

"The first comprehensive report into the human cost of climate change warns the world is in the throes of a "silent crisis" that is killing 300,000 people each year. More than 300 million people are already seriously affected by the gradual warming of the earth and that number is set to double by 2030, the report from the Global Humanitarian Forum warns. "For the first time we are trying to get the world's attention to the fact that climate change is not something waiting to happen. It is impacting seriously the lives of many people around the world," the forum's president, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told CNN" (AOL News, 29 May) RD

Monday, June 01, 2009

CAPITALISM IN ACTION

"Early this year, the king of Saudi Arabia held a ceremony to receive a batch of rice, part of the first crop to be produced under something called the King Abdullah initiative for Saudi agricultural investment abroad. It had been grown in Ethiopia, where a group of Saudi investors is spending $100m to raise wheat, barley and rice on land leased to them by the government. The investors are exempt from tax in the first few years and may export the entire crop back home. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is spending almost the same amount as the investors ($116m) providing 230,000 tonnes of food aid between 2007 and 2011 to the 4.6m Ethiopians it thinks are threatened by hunger and malnutrition." (Economist, 21 May) RD

A DEPRESSING SYSTEM

"British workers are experiencing panic attacks and insomnia because of stress associated with the economic downturn, a survey has suggested. Norwich Union Healthcare polled 200 GPs, 200 business leaders and 1,000 employees for its Health of the Workplace survey. Half the workers admitted to being stressed, while one in five is suffering depression. A leading GP said people now had better access to talking therapies. The annual Norwich Union healthcare study found workers are putting increasing amounts of time and effort into their jobs. About half are going into work when they are ill and working longer hours, while just over a third are not taking lunch breaks." (BBC News, 29 May) RD

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