Tuesday, August 31, 2010

GOD'S ADVISOR? BIG HELP?

JERUSALEM — An influential Israeli rabbi has said God should strike the Palestinians and their leader with a plague, calling for their death in a fiery sermon before Middle East peace talks set to begin next week.

"Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this earth," Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual head of the religious Shas party in Israel's government, said in a sermon late Saturday, using Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's popular name.

"God should strike them and these Palestinians -- evil haters of Israel -- with a plague," the 89-year-old rabbi said in his weekly address to the faithful, excerpts of which were broadcast on Israeli radio Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments and said Israel wanted to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians that would ensure good neighborly relations.

"The comments do not reflect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's view or the position of the government of Israel," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The Iraqi-born cleric has made similar remarks before, most notably in 2001, during a Palestinian uprising, when he called for Arabs' annihilation and said it was forbidden to be merciful to them.

He later said he was referring only to "terrorists" who attacked Israelis. In the 1990s, Yosef broke with other Orthodox Jewish leaders by voicing support for territorial compromise with the Palestinians.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Yosef's latest comments were tantamount to calling for "genocide against Palestinians." The rabbi's remarks, he said, were "an insult to all our efforts to advance the negotiations process."

    (msnbc.com 29 August , 2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

A NICE LITTLE RUN-AROUND

"Lotus has unveiled the ultimate track-day car - a Formula One-inspired racer called the Type 125. The British sports car company will show its consumer-focused F1 clone at this weekend's annual Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance in the United States, with plans to build only 25 examples from next April. The 125 will cost much less than a real Formula One car but the price tag is still expected to be about $1.1 million." (Drive, 11 August) " RD http://tinyurl.com/39h64jc"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A DESIREABLE RESIDENTIAL BARGAIN

"A penthouse in one of London's most opulent developments has sold for a record-breaking £140 million, as the market for "trophy homes" bucks the wider property slump. The six-bedroom apartment at One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, stretches across two floors and boasts bullet-proof windows, a panic room and views across the Serpentine. The new owners who have already exchanged contracts will also have access to 24-hour room service from the neighbouring Mandarin Oriental hotel, and protection from SAS-trained security guards." (Daily Telegraph, 10 August) RD

the poor decay

A third of three-year-olds living in poverty in Scotland suffer from poor dental health, a new study has suggested. The research team from the University of Glasgow Dental School assessed children living in Greater Glasgow for decayed, missing or filled teeth. They found evidence of decay in at least 25% of cases. However, amongst those from deprived areas, the incidence of decay was even higher, with a third of those surveyed exhibiting evidence of cavities.

Andrew Lamb, Scottish director of the British Dental Association, said "...this study highlights the depressing fact that poor dental health and inequality are closely linked from very early in life... it's unacceptable that social deprivation is still such a strong marker of poor dental health."

Friday, August 27, 2010

THE PRICE OF OIL

We are often told by social commentators that capitalism with its wonderful technology and scientific endeavours has made the modern world a vast improvement on the past, but the human cost in injury and death is always soft-pedaled by capitalism's supporters. Almost unnoticed in the panes of praise for the profit system is this short news item. "Employers in the offshore oil and gas industry were urged yesterday to improve their safety record after a big increase in the number of workers killed or seriously injured. The Health and Safety Executive said that 17 workers died in off-shore-related incidents and there were 50 severe injuries in the past year, a "stark reminder" of the hazards. The combined fatal and severe injury rate almost doubled, coupled with a "marked rise" in the number of hydrocarbon releases - regarded as potential precursors to a major incident." (Times, 25 August) RD

Thursday, August 26, 2010

BUSINESS IS BOOMING

It is common nowadays to read of growing unemployment, businesses folding and widespread bankruptcy ,but there is one trade that is booming - pawn broking! "Pawnbrokers will soon be as common on the high street as coffee shops and banks, according to the chief executive of Britain's biggest operator. John Nichols, of H&T, said eventually there would be pawnbrokers in every town centre." (Times, 25 August) His forecast was made as his firm announced a 71 per cent leap in its profits over the last six months. It is worthwhile noting what the source of this high street boom is put down to. "Slightly more than half of pawnshop customers use the cash to pay for daily essentials, such as food and groceries, while about six out of ten are not in work, according to Bristol University research released yesterday." RD

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

capital fuel poverty

Nearly one in four Edinburgh residents fear they will be unable to afford to heat their home, in another sign of the impact of the economic downturn and rising energy bills said an authoritative survey of more than 1000 residents commissioned by the city council.

Elizabeth Gore, a spokeswoman for Energy Action Scotland, the national charity that aims to eliminate fuel poverty, said:
"It is a worry, especially as people start to think ahead to the winter. We would be concerned about people not being able to afford to heat their homes." She said that, while elderly groups and parents with young children remained the groups affected most by "fuel poverty", many other groups - such as young people in rented accommodation - were also struggling to pay their bills.

Monday, August 23, 2010

THE $MILLION SHIT HOLE.

This article from Scotland on Sunday makes one wonder if used condoms, sanitary towels and excreta of the famous is worth keeping. Who says the money system is crap?

 

A TOILET described as once having belonged to US author JD Salinger has been put on sale on the online auction site eBay for $1 million (£644,000).

The vendor said he obtained the "used toilet commode" from a couple who now own the former home of The Catcher In The Rye author.

It comes "uncleaned and in its original condition", the online advertisement states. "Who knows how many of (his] stories were thought up and written while Salinger sat on this throne!", it adds.

The toilet comes with a letter from Joan Littlefield, attesting that it was removed during renovations to her and her husband's house in Cornish, New Hampshire, formerly owned by the reclusive author.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Who owns the North Pole - Human Flag-poles

Socialist Courier continues its North Pole saga by reporting moves highlighting the growing tensions among countries with Arctic borders as global warming makes rich mineral and energy deposits increasingly accessible and opens its ice-covered seas to shipping. Russia, Canada, the U.S., and Denmark all have claims before a U.N. commission to extend their undersea boundaries into ice-blocked areas

"Let me be clear, the number one priority of our northern strategy is the promotion and protection of Canadian sovereignty in the north," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling it "non-negotiable."

Canada claims a large swath of the Arctic including the Northwest Passage, which could become an important shipping link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as climate change melts away the northern ice cap. It claims that the Northwest Passage is a domestic waterway.Russia continues to compete for the North Pole and the Northern Sea Route -- a passage that stretches from Asia to Europe across northern Russia.

Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, has wrapped up his participation in Operation NANOOK 10, the centrepiece of three major sovereignty operations conducted every year by the Canadian Forces (CF) in Canada's North explaining that "Exercising Canada's Arctic sovereignty is a key element of the Canada First Defence Strategy, and operations such as NANOOK enable the Canadian Forces and our whole-of-government partners to better deal with challenges in the North. Operation NANOOK 10 enhances the Canadian Forces' interoperability with other government departments and agencies and builds our collective capacity to respond, in a timely and effective manner, to safety and security threats or emergencies."

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters Canada's claim to be an Arctic power is based on its having historically had people living in the Far North, as well as its more recent economic development, environmental efforts and military patrols.

Between 1953 and 1956, 87 Inuit members of 19 families were plucked from homes and familiar lives around Inukjuak, on the northeast shore of Hudson Bay, and plunked down 2,000 km farther north, in empty places now known as Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord. Behind some official nonsense spouted at the time in praise of hardy self-reliance lurked Ottawa's real motive: demonstrating Arctic sovereignty by populating the terrain.“The Government of Canada recognizes that these communities have contributed to a strong Canadian presence in the High Arctic,” Federal Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan said

These people were forced to move from a land where they lived off game such as caribou, and were dumped unceremoniously in an area without housing and any kind of food supply where there was so little food that some of them died, and where they had to make it through the winters in igloos and muskox-hide tents. The Inuit knew little of the land where they were resettled. They had to adapt to the constant darkness of the winter months and temperatures 20 degrees colder than the community they left. Nor were they aware that they would be separated into two communities once they arrived in the High Arctic

Duncan delivered an official apology. Those words were empty, as all such apologies are. Saying "we're sorry" on behalf of people now dead to people who are no longer around to hear, amounts to no more than sanctimonious and politically-correct cant. Nothing will undo the psychological trauma done to those people and the ripple effect it has had down the years through their descendants

MODERNITY, BUT AT AN AWFUL COST

The advance of capitalism has led to many improvements in technology. None of us would like to imagine a world without mobile phones, computers or digital cameras, but this being capitalism such advances have led to social disaster for some. A major source of the essential ingredients for such technology is the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is from here that gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum originate. It is also from here that we have had the deadliest conflict since the Second World War with an estimated death rate of 5.4 million people. "International agencies have described how paramilitary groups in the region control many of the mine producing gold and the "3Ts" where locals including children are forced to work for as little as $1 a day. The same groups then help to smuggle the minerals out of the country, where they eventually end up in laptops, mobile phones and video game consoles." (Times,18 August) When The Times investigators queried the supply of such materials with industrial giants such as Apple, Sony, Noika, Dell, HP and Nintendo that were very evasive, best summed up by Microsoft's reply "It's very hard to reliably trace metals to mine of origin."

It is even harder for them to let their rivals have exclusive access to this cheap source! RD

New poverty figures for Scotland

Across Scotland, 450,000 households, or 860,000 individuals, are in relative poverty (People living on less than 60 per cent of average income are regarded as being in "relative poverty". That is equivalent to a couple with no kids living on £248 a week or less.) The numbers include 180,000 to 200,000 youngsters.
John Dickie, of Child Poverty Action, said: "Behind the statistics are tens of thousands of families trying to give their children the best start despite hopelessly inadequate wages and benefits."

A quarter of households (25%) in the Western Isles were classified as being in relative poverty, while Dundee was just behind at 24%. The Scottish average for relative poverty is 19%.The figures found increases over the past four years in a number of areas.Higher than average levels of "relative poverty" were also recorded in 19 of the 32 local authorities.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

reforms fail to reform

On the 40th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act figures have been released to show that women in Scotland will have to wait another 33 years before they are paid the same as men. Male managers earned on average £9,841 more than female colleagues.Even at junior management level, the pay gap still existed, with men being paid £797 more than female executives in Scotland.

Concerning the UK stats generally a spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women can still expect to earn less than 85 pence for every £1their male colleagues earn. In some sectors the pay gap is far worse."

Socialist Courier can only comment that it once more demonstrates the failure of those that advocate reformism.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

old and starving

Almost twice as many pensioners in the Lothians are admitted to hospital with malnutrition than anywhere else in Scotland, figures have shown. Latest figures show six malnourished people over the age of 65 are now being treated every week, a rise of around a dozen on last year. A mixture of care cutbacks and the increasing number of elderly residents in the area have been suggested for the cases.

Experts said the majority of victims would be elderly people who lived alone and were "under the radar" as far as local authority support services were concerned.

Phyllis Herriot, acting secretary of the Scottish Pensioners' Forum, said: "This is a very sad figure, and quite awful for those involved. It's horrible to think that this can happen in this day and age. There have been a lot of cutbacks, not just in Edinburgh but across the board. Sheltered Housing complexes are losing their wardens, home-help visits that used to be an hour are now cut to half an hour, and those that were half an hour are now 15 minutes. All these things can contribute to someone not getting what they need, and perhaps because of all this some people aren't getting picked up by the services who would have been before"

The next closest health board for malnutrition numbers was Glasgow, where there were 166 cases. In neighbouring Fife there were 67 cases and 38 incidents in the Borders

BOSSES' PREPARATIONS FOR THE COMING STRUGGLE

This is an article from the august Labour Research, which demonstrates only to well, that the employers know that advantaged as they are in exploiting the working class, a helping hand from the government is always the cherry on the cake.
 

Unions denounce government plans for tougher strike laws.

 

Union leaders lined up last month to condemn government plans to toughen up the UK's already restrictive strike laws. The Times newspaper reported that ministers had held secret talks over measures to inhibit lawful strike action in the face of massive planned public sector job cuts. The key change mooted is to raise the proportion of workers required to vote for a strike to 4O% of those who would be affected by industrial action, rather than a simple majority of those voting. This proposal was called for in June by the CBI employers' organisation, and condemned by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber as "a demolition job" on the rights of workers.  However, The Times also reported that the CBI was pushing for other rules on industrial action to be changed. These include abandoning the law which stops employers from replacing striking workers with agency employees, and reducing the time before strikes can be dismissed without another action ballot from 12 to eight weeks. The CBI also wants unions to be liable for the costs of strikes. Tory "envoy to the unions" Richard Balfe told Labour Research before the election that the Tories had no plans for further anti-union legislation, saying that "it is a measure of how little the Labour government has done that there is nothing to repeal".  However, this view seems to have changed abruptly, with a Tory source telling The Daily Telegraph that the Cabinet is "feeling inclined to be very bullish and aggressive" about confronting strikes. GMB general union leader Paul Kenny said it was typical that the Cameron government should be "attacking the rights of ordinary workers rather than the bankers who caused the recession". And PCS civil service union general secretary Mark Serwotka said it was not surprising that the threat came "just as public sector unions are planning co-ordinated industrial action to fight massive spending cuts". The leader of the RMT transport union, Bob Crow, accused the government of "declaring war" on unions because they know that "by far the biggest campaign of resistance to their austerity and cuts plans will come from the trade unions". The TUC's deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said that "I would hope the government will not want to be seen in the pocket of business".

Monday, August 16, 2010

PAY DAY PENURY

"The number of people taking one out has quadrupled since 1996 according to the watchdog Consumer Focus. That is despite some companies charging interest rates of more than 2,500% a year. The organisation is now calling on the industry to bring in more safeguards to protect vulnerable borrowers. ''Payday loans are a valid form of credit and it's much better for people to take one out rather than go to a loan shark," said Sarah Brooks, head of financial services at Consumer Focus. But we do think there needs to be a limit on the number of loans people take out and how many loans they are able to roll over." Research by Consumer Focus suggests that 1.2 million people are now taking out a payday loan every year, borrowing a total of £1.2bn." (BBC News, 14 August) RD

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A BLEAK FUTURE

"Millions of Britons face a "hell of a shock" when they reach retirement because of their failure to save. In his first major interview, the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, admitted that the basic state pension of £97 a week is "not enough to live on", and confirmed that the Government would raise the state retirement age to 66 earlier than planned. He said that around seven million people are currently not saving enough to meet their retirement aspirations." (Independent, 29 July) RD

AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB

"The membership in TIGER 21 (an acronym for The Investment Group for Enhanced Results in the 21st century) is exclusive. Members must have a minimum of $10-million in investable assets (in practice, many are billionaires). Annual dues are $30,000 a year, and members must be able to commit to meeting for at least 10 eight-hour sessions a year. That's a significant commitment of both time and money." (Globe and Mail, 4 August) RD

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another saint ?

The Herald carries a report on Keir Hardie , the Labour Party pioneer. He’s been called Labour’s greatest hero and the party’s most inspirational leader but could Keir Hardie also be in danger of being forgotten? The Socialist Party though have not forgotten about him. The insincerity and double-dealing of the Labour “leaders” are plain.

From the formation of the Labour Party the S.PG.B. opposed it, holding that its doctrine of changing class relationships through social reforms and its hope of abolishing war through international expressions of goodwill were founded in error about the nature of capitalism and socialism.

An article on Hardie can be read here

CHEATING AS A BENEFIT

Politics is about taxation, and what the taxes are spent on, the government is warning that it will come down heavily on tax dodgers, the government have been concentrating on what they call benefit cheats, lots of people agree with the government, after all, they are paying taxes, so they must be the ones being cheated. Most workers can't do much about taxation; they see it as a number on the pay slip, not much they can do about it, however, as this article in the summer magazine of the building workers' union shows, there are richer tax dodgers out there, under the pretence that they are "offering freedom and flexibility " not bogus self-employment as the union suggests.

UCATT has written to Lesley Strathie, Chief Executive of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), requesting an urgent investigation into the conduct of construction employment agencies who are deliberately avoiding paying millions of pounds in taxation. The union's approach has been made after evidence was collected that in many cases agencies offer two rates for the same job: a higher rate paid for workers on CIS ,,self-employed" terms and a lower rate for those on PAYE. Under the CIS construction industry tax scheme, agencies and gangmasters do not have to pay employer's National Insurance contributions of 12.8 per cent of a worker's earnings. This translates into millions of pounds of lost revenue each year.

The HMRC has clear rules about whether workers should be paid directly or via the CIS tax scheme, such as whether a worker can choose their hours, decline work, disobey orders and set their own prices for work.

Confederation

Meanwhile, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the largest trade association for employment agencies, is backing a national campaign to block Treasury plans to stamp out bogus self-employment. The campaign is an alliance of housebuilders and some other construction companies who oppose proposals to "deem" the majority of bogusly self-employed workers to be employees for taxation purposes. Anne Fairweather, REC's Head of Public Policy, commented: "Many people in all sectors of business, in both the public and private sector, want freedom and flexibility offered by self-employment."

Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of UCATT, responded: "The comments by REC demonstrate a blinding ignorance of the construction industry and are deeply worrying. Workers don't freely choose to be bogusly self-employed so that they can be stripped of holiday pay, sick pay and basic employment rights. They have to accept these employment conditions in order to find work and feed their families."

protests silver linings

Some Socialist Courier readers will remember the Make Poverty History and G-8 protests of 2005. Members of the Socialist Party attended many of the events to present the socialist view.

The Scotsman reports that although some Edinburgh retailers may have lost money due to the protests, businesses had benefited to the tune of £64.7 million. The city's economy was said to have benefited from the number of participants who visited for the Make Poverty History march and the concert staged at Murrayfield Stadium.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PRIVATE EFFICIENCY?

The present government like others before them present a case for the privatisation of the public services, (usually implying that the private sector is more efficient). Another tactic is to tell workers they only need to get on their bikes and find an employer out there who can't find the local necessary labour.

This item from the Building Workers' summer magazine illustrates that the contractual nature of privately run capitalist society has its inefficiencies.

Privatisation gone mad in the Probation Service

Millions of pounds are being wasted by the National Probation Service (NPS) because of incompetent building maintenance contracts, says a report published in January by Napo, the probation officers' union.

Two years ago NPS's National Offender Management Service maintenance contracts were centralised and privatised. The union's report cites numerous examples of contractors travelling hundreds of miles to fulfil simple tasks where previously the job would have been done locally. Among the examples are:

·        A hostel in Norwich needed a toilet seat repairing and a plumber travelled from Birmingham to do the job. This was a round trip of 320 miles.

·        Staff in Winchester needed strip lighting changing. The electrician came from Wembley which was a round trip of over 15O miles.

·        A hostel needed an electrical switch mending and a new cover to an entrance light and an electrician travelled to the West Midlands from Newmarket, a two-and-a-half hour drive each way and a round trip of over 200 miles.

·        Workers travelled from London to Wrexham to fit a new bathroom in a hostel.

·        Electricians from Manchester travelled all the way to Aberystwyth to change light fittings.

·        Other staff report that the window cleaners in Leicester came from Preston and were involved in an overnight stay before going on to Lincoln for the next job. This involved over seven hours of travelling.

Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo, said it was clear that millions were being wasted on incompetent maintenance contracts. "It is now costing four to five times more than it did when contractors were hired from round the corner. This is the price of centralisation and privatisation."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

"Young children are supplying an increasing demand from foreign tourists who travel to Brazil for sex holidays, according to a BBC investigation. Chris Rogers reports on how the country is overtaking Thailand as a destination for sex tourism and on attempts to curb the problem. Her small bikini exposes her tiny frame. She looks no older than 13 - one of dozens of girls parading the street looking for clients in the blazing mid-afternoon sun. Most come from the surrounding favelas - or slums. As I park my car, the young girl dances provocatively to catch my attention. "Hello my name is Clemie - you want a programme?" she asks, programme being the code word they use for an hour of sex. Clemie asks for less than $5 for her services. An older woman standing nearby steps in and introduces herself as Clemie's mother. "You have the choice of another two girls, they are the same age as my daughter, the same price," she explains. "I can take you to a local motel where a room can be rented by the hour." (BBC News, 30 July) RD

THE MARCH OF CAPITALISM

"China, the world's most prodigious emitter of greenhouse gas, continues to suffer the downsides of unbridled economic growth despite a raft of new environmental initiatives. The quality of air in Chinese cities is increasingly tainted by coal-burning power plants, grit from construction sites and exhaust from millions of new cars squeezing onto crowded roads, according to a government study issued this week. Other newly released figures show a jump in industrial accidents and an epidemic of pollution in waterways. The report's most unexpected findings pointed to an increase in inhalable particulates in cities like Beijing, where officials have struggled to improve air quality by shutting down noxious factories and tightening auto emission standards. Despite such efforts, including an ambitious program aimed at reducing the use of coal for home heating, the average concentration of particulates in the capital's air violated the World Health Organization's standards more than 80 percent of the time during the last quarter of 2008."

 (New York Times, 28 July) RD

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BARGAIN BASEMENT EXPLOITATION

"Indian workers are paid just 25p an hour and forced to work overtime in factories used by some of Britain's best-known high street stores. ... Some of the biggest names on the British high street are at the centre of a major sweatshop scandal. An Observer investigation has found staff at their Indian suppliers working up to 16 hours a day. Marks & Spencers, Gap and Next have launched their own inquiries into abuses and pledged to end the practice of excessive overtime, which is a flagrant breach of the industry's ethical trading (ETI) and Indian labour laws." (Observer, 8 August) RD

HOW THE OTHER 5% LIVE

 "A flamboyant self-styled lord who entertained the rich and famous was yesterday banned from holding lavish parties at his £20million mansion. Monaco-based Edward Davenport, 44, regularly hosted raucous all-night events for A-list stars that were littered with celebrity guests including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Paris Hilton. The High Court heard that no expense was spared for the parties. At one event last December brandy maker Courvoisier turned the swimming pool into a gigantic punchbowl by filling it with 1,000 litres of cognac - at an estimated cost of more than £30,000." (Daily Mail, 31 July) RD

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

THE LAW AND THE CLASS STRUGGLE

STRIKE BALLOT REFORMS

The recent High Court decisions preventing industrial action by amongst others, Unite and RMT members, have caused consternation in the trade union movement. Employers were easily able to exploit minor balloting irregularities to win injunctions. This has led to renewed calls for the reform of the law governing strikes. Although the last Labour government did introduce some amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992 (TULRCA) through the Employment Relations Act 1999, they were to little effect. In particular, the allowance given for small and accidental failures in the balloting process under section 232B has proved only to be of limited use as a defence against employers. In an attempt to stop bosses using technicalities to block action, John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, is sponsoring a bill designed to reinforce and extend the exemption for small and accidental failures. Under the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill, which had its first reading on 30 June and will have its second on22 October, section 232B TULRCA is to be strengthened. However, agitation for change is not just in favour of liberalising the law. Anticipating popular resistance to their impending savage spending cuts, the coalition government is considering tightening the law, for example, by introducing a requirement for 4O% of eligible voters to participate in ballots.

AUGUST 2OlO LABOUR RESEARCH

The will to work

Following on from the previous post, the Prince's Trust has released a report that the vast majority of young people from jobless families have struggled to find work and many simply expect to live off state handouts. 73 per cent of youngsters with parents who do not have a job in Scotland have found getting work difficult, and one in five reported feeling anxious about their future prospects because of their parents' unemployment. According to official UK government statistics, 16 per cent of Scottish children live in a family in which nobody has a job and the new findings have led to calls for more to be done to end a "cycle of worklessness" among Scottish youngsters.

Geraldine Gammell, the director of The Prince's Trust Scotland, which works with young people to help them into work, said: "Too many young people in Scotland are facing a cycle of worklessness and can't see a way out. It is a tragedy to think that so many feel condemned to a life of unemployment when there is a real will to work."

DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

"The Prince of Wales says he believes he has been placed on Earth as future King "for a purpose" - to save the world. Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: "I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose. "I don't want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, "Why the hell didn't you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was. That is what motivates me. I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside... We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity." (Daily Mail, 30 July) RD

Monday, August 09, 2010

"LAZY" WORKERS?

"Only two thirds of the world's workers take all their holidays - and the most likely to use them are the French with 89 per cent taking all their entitlement, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey of 12,5000 people in 24 countries. Second were Argentineans at 80 per cent, then Hungarians at 78 per cent, and the British and Spanish at 77 per cent. Those least likely to use all their holidays were the Japanese, with only 33 per cent taking all the time given. Australians and South Africans followed at 47 per cent, South Koreans at 53 per cent and those in the United States at 57 per cent."There are lots of reasons why people don't use up vacation days but most often it's because they feel obligated to their work and put it over other important things, including their own health and welfare," said John Wright, of Ipsos. "Workers should remember that there are graveyards full of indispensable people." (Times, 7 August) RD

Sunday, August 08, 2010

THE GROWTH OF INEQUALITY

Many of the great fortunes of American history - those of the Rockellers, AndrewCarnegie and the Fords - are now mighty foundations that have long outlasted their founders. Recent years have seen the greatest disparity of wealth in America since the Golden Age of the 1920s. A recent study found that the top one per cent of Americans now receive 15 per cent of the country's total income - about double the rate of the 1960s and 1970s." (Times, 5 August) RD

Friday, August 06, 2010

Food for thought

A third independent inquiry into the stolen emails of climate scientists that were made to look as if data had been manipulated to emphasize climate change, concluded that the scientists acted with integrity and did not manipulate data. The climate skeptics were strongly critical of the skeptics' attacks. This appeared on page 13, whereas the leaked emails and the manipulation charges were all over the front pages of the media.

The queen's recent visit to Canada evoked this gem from the media,
"What is astounding about her is how that sense of humour, that sense of the absurd, that sense of comedy of life has survived sixty years of grueling public life." I wonder how the writer would describe forty years in a factory or down the mines!

We know that FIFA (the soccer body) sells sponsorships to the big companies for billions of dollars and protects their rights by banning other advertising, especially `ambush advertising', not just from the stadiums, but for miles around each one and thus throttling the small cottage industries that make a few dollars. All, it may be said with the compliance of the African government that is supposed to look after its people. Well, the dispossessed are fighting back. The most popular T-shirt going around is FICK FUFA. Another says, WELCOME TO THE FEEFA 2.010 WHIRLD CUP. Yes, there is a dot between 2 and 0 as FIFA has got the rights FIFA World Cup 2010.

There's always a way around. Let's hope they can also find a way around the root of the problem and circumvent capitalism altogether. John Ayers

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Food for thought

There's a big bru ha ha in Canada over making the census long form mandatory instead of compulsory. The critics say we won't get vital information such as where the poverty is so we can give income support and other social programs.
We have had the census and the required information for over a hundred years but we still have poverty. Something doesn't add up here.
A couple of months ago it was reported here that Frank Stronach, head of Magna Auto Parts was getting out with $863 million. Make that $1 billion now. His utilities bills must have gone up last month.

The Toronto Star editorial of June 27 noted how the G8 countries have failed their own test, "The gap between the G8's compassionate rhetoric and its readiness to help was especially striking. 'Hundreds of thousands of women' and "nearly nine million children" die needlessly every year, said the G8 communiqué. "These deaths profoundly concern us and underscore the need for urgent collective action." Yet when called upon to deliver, the leaders' profound concern came up short. $50 billion in aid was promised in 2005 but eventually came up short by $20 billion. $30 billion may sound like a lot but this is the rich club that generates close to $40 trillion in wealth.
Once again, the oppressed class waits for crumbs that do not come from the rich class. (Last sentence not part of the editorial, in case you were wondering!).
Also, this is a group that spent $1 billion on security for their meeting – could have saved a lot of lives! John Ayers

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Food for thought

A recent Toronto Star headline screamed, `Economy Booms in June'. The figures were unemployed rate went from 8.1% to7.9%; number unemployed went from 1 506 400 to 1 475 200; number working went from 17 096 600 to 17 189 800. Hardly a `boom', but if you say something often enough maybe people will believe you. Latest figures show stagnation. In any case, a government strapped for cash can go out and spend $16 Billion on 65 first strike short range fighter planes at $140 million apiece plus service contracts. Just what we need in the second largest country in the world with no other capabilities to strike a match. Said fighters would have to be refuelled in the air and wait hours for bombers to come with the fuel.

Oh well, health care and poverty can just wait!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

REFORM UNDER ATTACK

The Building Worker's summer edition was illustrating this old cartoon to demonstrate that the Tories are a class apart while campaigning that thing can only be better under a Labour Govt.

"As our economy begins to strenghten, Government revenues pick up. We are able to pay off the deficit. Most sensible economic advisers will tell you that this would be the best way to deal with the problem........"

So there you have it. The problems is solved, you just have to run faster to stay right where you are, or maybe you could give the idea of common ownership of the means of production a thought or two.

drugs

A new study has revealed Scotland has some of the worst drug abuse rates in the world, and the situation is getting worse. The international survey by the UN includes results from 200 countries, and shows greater per-head use of heroin, ecstasy and cocaine in this country than almost any other.Figures show that almost 4%of the population is regularly using the class A drug cocaine – the highest rate recorded anywhere. Around 1.5% of Scots adults inject or smoke opiates – almost three times the world average. It is estimated that there are now around 50,000 heroin and 750,000 cocaine users across Scotland.Another international study by the UN published in February this year found there were 656 drug offences per 100,000 people in Scotland. Second-placed Iran recorded 619 per 100,000. The figures, which compared drug-related crime, possession and abuse across more than 70 states, put Scotland’s drug crime rate at more than double that of England and Wales, and six times the worldwide average.

Only five nations – including Afghanistan, where the majority of heroin is cultivated – recorded higher levels of abuse than here. The others were Iran, Costa Rica, Russia and Mauritius. Scotland’s ecstasy problem is a third higher than in England and Wales. The nation also tops the European table for the highest level of drug-related deaths. The British Medical Journal in 2008, estimated that around 32% of excess mortality in Scotland was due to drug abuse, with drug users 12 times more likely to die than those in the general population.

The escapism of drugs has become a feature of so many lives. Whether it’s a joint at home, or ecstasy in a nightclub, many of us use drugs to unwind or enhance our experiences. However, heroin addiction is causing countless damaged lives. There’s often a fine line between using drugs for enjoyment and using drugs to escape the pressures of society. When drugs to numb the pain of the daily rat race become the norm, then society is in serious trouble. The dispossessed youth of the inner cities and sink council housing estates are right to think there is no hope within the present system, but wrong to sit back and wallow in its excesses. Socialists say that society can be better than this.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Overworked, underpaid — and relieved?

The shoddy economy is leaving many workers feeling overworked, underpaid — and yet relieved to be employed at all.

"Fewer workers are doing more and more," said Brett Good, a district president with staffing firm Robert Half, which has surveyed workers on this topic. "You've got a lot of people that are working harder, making less money — and you're getting to a point of frustration."

Employers have cut millions of jobs since the recession began in December 2007, driven by a drop in business and a desire to shore up costs and boost profits. Although the cost-cutting has helped propel a spate of strong earnings in recent weeks, pleasing Wall Street, it has left those who are still employed struggling to pick up the slack.

Fifty-six percent of Americans have taken on extra duties at work over the past two years because of staff cuts, according to insurer MetLife's Study of the American Dream, which was conducted in April and released last week.

Employees also are cramming more work into each day. Labor productivity has moved steadily higher over the past two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Vote: Taking on more work in weak economy?

While many employees have been happy to assume extra duties in exchange for having a job at all, there are signs of growing frustration, or weariness.

More than one-third of college-educated professionals surveyed by Robert Half do not believe they have been fairly compensated for the extra work they have had to take on because of the weak economy.

That may be one reason up to 50 percent of workers say they plan to look for a new job once the economy improves, up from 25 to 35 percent in more prosperous times, said Good.

"Look around your office," Good said. "About half of those people are passive jobseekers."

Of course, some people may be eager to switch jobs for other reasons, such as because they were forced to take a pay cut or a position beneath their qualifications because of the weak job market.

Still, the fact that people say they want to find a new job doesn't mean they will actually do it, Good said.

For one thing, with the unemployment rate at a high 9.5 percent, there still aren't that many jobs out there. As of May there were about 4.7 jobseekers for every job opening, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Also, with the economic situation still fairly uncertain, many people may feel it is too risky to move to another company, where the situation could be even worse or they could end up being first in line for a layoff, Good said.

Building skills, fearing change
Robert Burgett, 39, is one of those who has been working harder for less money during the recession. Over the past several years the San Francisco-based graphic designer has been asked to take on more responsibilities, including coming up with marketing ideas and writing copy. Meanwhile, he's had a 20 percent pay cut, seen his health care costs rise and watched as about half of his colleagues have been let go.

In better economic times, that might have prompted him to look around for other opportunities. But in this economy, he worries that a new job would end up being even less secure than the one he has now. And after watching his partner and roommates all go through job losses this year, he doesn't feel like it would be worth risking what he has now.

Instead, Burgett has tried to see the recession as an opportunity for reinvention. By taking on more responsibilities, he believes he has a much broader wealth of expertise, which could help  if he does get laid off.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

FRIENDLESS FIRE

"More American soldiers are dying at their own hands than in combat, an army report has concluded, blaming official negligence for a surge in suicide and self-destructive behaviour. The 300 page report was released as the US Army recorded the highest number of suicides in one month for more than 30 years. Thirty two soldiers committed suicide in June, more than one a day, a rate only just matched during the Vietnam War. ... While 160 active-duty personnel and 79 reservists committed suicide during 2009, a further 146 soldiers died from high-risk behaviour associated with combat stress, including drink-driving and drug overdoses. The number of deaths is higher than the total combat toll for the same period." (Times, 31 July) RD

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