Monday, June 30, 2008


"Africa's AIDS epidemic is so severe that it should be classed as a disaster comparable to floods or famine, the Red Cross said Thursday. In its annual "World Disasters Report", the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that there was "no doubt" that HIV/AIDS matches the UN definition of a disaster. About two thirds of the world's HIV-positive cases are in sub-Saharan Africa. At least one person in 10 is living with HIV in nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia, the report said. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs classes a disaster as a "serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of a society to cope using only its own resources". The Red Cross said such a crisis now exists in Africa."
(Yahoo News, 26 June) RD

Sunday, June 29, 2008


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This is where The Socialist Party holds its Annual Summer School.


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Text in image relates to the Socialist Party Summer School held in Fircroft College,Birmingham,18 - 20 July.It says:

Friday evening - Sandy Easton on 'The Real Meaning of Religion'

Saturday morning - Mike Foster on End Times beliefs

Saturday afternoon - Howard Moss asks 'Is Socialism a Faith?'

Saturday evening - Gwynn Thomas on 'Islam, Politics and Revolution'

Sunday morning - Adam Buick on 'Evolution and the God Hypothesis'

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mug shots

J.Moir Image (Click on image to enlarge depending on your browser)
Wording on image 1.Famine?War?Polution?-Capitalism is the Problem Worldsocialism is the Solution.
Wording on image 2.Only sheep need Leaders.


"British scientists are developing technology that will enable CCTV cameras to "hear" a crime taking place and spin round to capture it on film. Researchers are working on artificial intelligence software that can recognise sounds such as breaking glass, shouting or crowds gathering, and prompt a camera to swing towards the noise in 300 milliseconds - the same time it would take a person to turn their head if they heard someone scream. The software may eventually be able to identify words that suggest a crime is being committed. The three-year project at Portsmouth University's institute of industrial research aims to adapt software that is being developed to identify visual patterns such as someone raising their arm suddenly or running. Dr David Brown, director of the institute, said: "The longer artificial intelligence is in the software the more it learns. Later versions will get cleverer as time goes on, perhaps eventually being able to identify specific words being said, or violent sounds." (Guardian, 24 June) RD


Many TV and film dramas are based on daring bank or jewellery store robberies but we doubt if many scripts based on this growing area of crime is likely to be seen by producers as a rich source of material. "Thieves are raiding allotments across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Rhubarb, potatoes and onions were part of a haul stolen from an allotment near Cannock, while security had to be increased at patches in West Bromich. Allan Rees, of the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardening said: "Families are getting poorer and this is one way of putting food on the table." (Times, 25 June) RD

Friday, June 27, 2008


"Britain was the world’s biggest arms seller last year, accounting for a third of global arms exports, the Government’s trade promotion organisation said. UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) said that arms exporters had added £9.7 billion in new business last year, giving them a larger share of global arms exports than the United States. “As demonstrated by this outstanding export performance, the UK has a first-class defence industry, with some of the world’s most technologically sophisticated companies,” Digby Jones, the Minister for Trade and Investment, said." (Times, 18 June) RD


"A meat company supplying Tesco has been accused of "Dickensian employment practices" by making workers clock off when they go the toilet. The Unite union is now calling on Tesco to intervene to stamp out the practice at Dumfriesshire-based Brown Brothers. One worker said staff felt "angry" that time spent in the toilet was not included in their working week" (BBC News, 26 June) RD

Thursday, June 26, 2008


"Already, some 800 million people around the world suffer from chronic food shortages, and millions more could go hungry because of the widening food crisis. Rising food prices hit the urban poor the hardest, those who throng the slums of sprawling capitals such as Lagos, Nigeria , Manila , Philippines , and Caracas, Venezuela .From 2007 to 2008, world prices for soybeans increased by 29 percent, while prices for wheat grew by 40 percent and rice prices jumped by 53 percent, according to a World Bank study. Yet the problem is long-term, as the world's food-production machine fails to keep up with rising demand. The U.N. organization estimates that the problem won't go away for five to 10 years, and that's only if farmers around the world come up with new technology to increase efficiencies and boost production to meet the rising needs. "The hope is that these high prices will inspire more production around the world," Abbassian said. "During this transition, however, people in poor countries are going to be the most affected." ...In Burundi , where nine in 10 people live on less than $1 a day, a day's serving of rice or beans now costs more than the average daily wage." (Yahoo News, 19 June) RD


"Labour's goal of ending child poverty, emblem of the brave new world a new government intended to build in Britain, is less vision than nightmare these days. Always ambitious, the target now looks unattainable. The government's annual poverty figures, published on June 10th, showed a rise in 2006-07 of 100,000 in the number of children living in poverty, to 2.9m. If the task of halving child poverty by 2010 en route to ending it by 2020 is to be achieved, 300,000 children must be moved out of poverty in each of the four years to 2010-11, a near-impossible task.( Economist, 12 June) RD

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


"British forces in Afghanistan have used one of the world’s most deadly and controversial missiles to fight the Taliban. Apache attack helicopters have fired the thermobaric weapons against fighters in buildings and caves, to create a pressure wave which sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted to the use of the weapons, condemned by human rights groups as “brutal”, on several occasions, including against a cave complex. The use of the Hellfire AGM-114N weapons has been deemed so successful they will now be fired from RAF Reaper unmanned drones controlled by “pilots” at Creech air force base in Nevada, an MoD spokesman added.
(Sunday Times, 22 June) RD

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Getting along wih less to go on

Average families have seen their disposable incomes drop by £8 a week in the past year, research suggests.

Although earnings rose by £23 a week, or 3.6%. that was outstripped by taxes, which rose 6.5%, and higher bills for essential items such as food and fuel. This week government figures showed that higher fuel and food bills had driven annual inflation to its highest level for 11 years.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King , also warned that real incomes would stagnate this coming year.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research said the average family had an income of £633 a week, which was 3.6% higher than May 2007. However, it found taxes and national insurance had risen by 6.5% over that time. Adding in the effect of more expensive essential spending - such as transport fares, utility bills, food, clothes and housing - meant that these families now had, typically, just £131 left to spend on other things - a drop of 6%.

Saving Britain ?

A paid-up member of the National Front, the White Nationalist Party and the British People's Party had four home-made nail bombs, as well as bullets and bladed weapons .

Gilleard was convicted of preparing for terrorist acts and possessing articles and collecting information for terrorist purposes. During the trial, he admitted having a collection of Nazi memorabilia, saying Nazism appealed to him because of the way the Nazis had "rebuilt" Germany.

Gilleard had written that he had wanted to "save" Britain from "multi-racial peril".

Save us from those type of saviors , is all we can say .


"John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, has predicted that Israel could attack Iran after the November presidential election but before George W Bush's successor is sworn in. The Arab world would be "pleased" by Israeli strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. "It [the reaction] will be positive privately. I think there'll be public denunciations but no action," he said. ...Last week, Israeli jets carried out a long-range exercise over the Mediterranean that American intelligence officials concluded was practice for air strikes against Iran. Mohammad Ali Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said this was an act of "psychological warfare" that would be futile. "They do not have the capacity to threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran. They [Israel] have a number of domestic crises and they want to extrapolate it to cover others. Sometimes they come up with these empty slogans." He added that Tehran would deliver a "devastating" response to any attack." (Daily Telegraph, 24 June) RD

Monday, June 23, 2008


"Three times as many people were killed in wars during the second half of the last century than previously estimated, according to a study by the University of Washington in Seattle, which reported 5.4 million deaths between 1955 and 20003 in 13 nations.
(Times, 20 June) RD


"How does Goldman Sachs do it? The bank has emerged almost unscathed from the credit crunch: last week it notched up £2bn in profit in one of the worst quarters in the history of banking. ... Goldman has shown it is ready to exploit the damage that the credit crunch has inflicted on others: its latest figures show that it made over $600m from underwriting fees, money that it has earned from raising capital for financial institutions that have been brought low by credit losses, Goldman has moved to capture hedge fund business from Bear Stearns, which almost collapsed in April, and it has transferred its top dealmakers from comfortable positions in London or New York to Asia and South America, where the markets are still booming. (Observer, 22 June) RD


"If the credit crunch was supposed to have seen a reduction in spending by the country's wealthiest restaurant-goers, someone forgot to tell D & D London. The restaurant chain, half owned by Sir Terence Conran and which includes Bluebird, Quaglino's and the spectacular Skylon overlooking Waterloo bridge, has registered a mouthwatering 18 per cent revenue increase to £71m. Operating profits saw a 10 per cent surge to £4.6m." (Observer, 22 June) RD

Saturday, June 21, 2008


"Two former managers at investment bank Bear Stearns have been charged with fraud related to two hedge funds which collapsed in June last year. Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, who managed the funds, were arrested in New York and later granted bail. It is alleged they knew of the funds' problems but did not disclose them to its investors, who lost a total of $1.4bn (£709m)." (BBC News, 20 June) RD

Friday, June 20, 2008

Capitalism : A Dirty Business

Graham Meldrum Memorial Campaign vigil at Glasgow Sheriff Court August 2007 Glasgow Sheriff Court, 17 June

The Fatal Accident Inquiry into the workplace death of Dr Graham Meldrum heard employer Val Brown admit that he had no knowledge of any employers' legal health and safety responsibilities. Mr Brown was asked four times if he had knowledge of the various different laws which govern health and safety in the field of driving and lifting operations. Four times he replied simply, “No.”

Mr Brown, former boss of the Suzyline agency, was then asked if he was aware of employers' legal obligations under Section 2 of the Health and Safety Work Act 1974, which applies to everyone with a contract of employment. Again he replied “No.”

Dr Meldrum was killed when crushed by the faulty tail lift of an Allied Bakeries delivery truck at their Glasgow depot on 12 July 2005. Both Allied Bakeries and TNT Logistics UK were prosecuted and found guilty, but received only paltry fines of £17,500 and £14,000. Graham's employers, Suzyline agency, were not prosecuted, supposedly because of “lack of evidence”.

Some months after Dr Meldrum's death Mr Brown dissolved Suzyline – and then started up an agency called Staff Depot, based in Uddingston and doing the same work, as an agency supplying drivers.

...'twas ever thus..the nature of business in capitalism is such that the rewards for cutting corners are too great, to be overcome by puny legislation.
Workers need to take over the means of producing and distributing wealth on the basis of supplying needs, rather than as at present, maximising profits, before a sane system of health and safety can be implemented.

More on this story here.
also here


"Iraq is close to signing oil service deals with several major Western oil companies in an effort to boost its output capacity, the country’s oil ministry said Thursday — the first major Iraqi contracts with big Western companies since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The deals, once signed, are something of a stopgap measure to help Iraq begin to increase production until the country is able to approve a new national oil law — now held up by political squabbles among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. But they also could mark the beginning of an important long-term toehold by big Western companies into Iraq’s potentially lucrative oil industry, by giving the companies a bidding advantage over other companies in the future." (MSNBC.Com, 19 June) RD

Thursday, June 19, 2008


At our discussion group last night, among the many subjects raised were parties posing as socialist. Here are some of the comments from members last night.

The Scottish Socialist Party is lucky that there isn’t a political equivalent of the Trades Description Act or they could be prosecuted for fraudulently describing what they are trying to sell as “socialism”.Historically, socialism was generally seen as a worldwide system of common ownership and democratic control in which the watchword would be “From each according to ability, to each according to need”. It would mean the end of the wages system along with money, buying and selling and the capital/labour relationship.This has been watered down over the years until even Tony Blair calls himself a socialist. Compare what socialism originally meant with the SSP’s programme of reforms of the capitalist system. The difference between Blair and the SSP is only in the detail – both are all for patching-up capitalism but cannot agree on how this should be done.

The example of the attempt of the present Scottish government, to curtail the present provisions of the bus pass for pensioners and SSP policy of free transport for all of Scotland, prompted this retort from one of the members

Reformist political parties in opposition always claim how much better everything would be if only they were in power and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is no exception.One of their policy documents tells us they would provide free public transport and that this, on it’s own, would bring fabulous benefits in just about every area of life.Everything would be better: the NHS, the environment, the economy, business efficiency, productivity, road safety, more tourists, etc. On top of all this there would be savings of many millions, even billions, of pounds, giving us all more spending power as well as big savings for businesses.And how is all this to be achieved? By two old leftist illusions; taxing the rich and nationalisation (disguised as public or social ownership). Apparently, nationalisation would be more efficient and cheaper, despite the evidence of past experience, and taxing the rich must mean that we’ll still have them. The source of their riches is the surplus value wrung from the working class but the SSP seem not to have noticed this.We are grateful that the word “socialism” isn’t mentioned once in this document because its contents have nothing whatever to do with socialism. The SSP’s aim is really just the same as all the other reformist parties – they try to solve capitalism’s problems by merely re-organising it. If all their proposed reforms were adopted – nationalisation, the multitude of changes in the tax system, defence budget cuts, etc., we’d still be living in a money-driven, buying and selling economy, still working for wages and salaries, still insecure, being hired and fired, in short, in capitalism.Free transport for all can really only be achieved in a worldwide, moneyless, production for use society in which ALL goods and services would be freely available to everyone. That’s what genuine socialists campaign for and what the SSP NEVER does.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Discussion Group meet Wednesday 18th June















"The day before her husband was deployed to the Middle East by the U.S. Air Force, Marketa Johnson got word that her family would be evicted from their rented home. It did not matter that the Johnsons had never missed a rent payment and had signed a two-year lease. The property owner was facing foreclosure and so Johnson simply packed her bags. But last month, when she got another eviction notice and was ordered to leave her new home, she decided to fight. "We military are good tenants," said Johnson whose husband, Derrick, is an Air Force pilot. "We always take care of the property. We were never late, never. I don't see a reason that we should not stay there." The U.S. housing crisis that has caused a spike in foreclosures has meant not only anguish for delinquent mortgage borrowers but heartache for renters in good standing." (Yahoo News, 15 June) RD


"At a recent cricket match here, Mukesh D. Ambani sat in his private box quietly watching the team he owns, the Mumbai Indians. He seemed oblivious to the others around him: his son cheering wildly, his wife draped in diamond jewelry and a smattering of guests anxiously awaiting the briefest opportunity to speak with him. A minor bureaucrat stood a few rows back, strategizing with aides about how to buttonhole “the Chairman,” as Mr. Ambani is sometimes called. Waiters in baggy tuxedoes took turns trying to offer him a snack, but as they drew near became too nervous to speak. In the last century, Mohandas K. Gandhi was India’s most famous and powerful private citizen. Today, Mr. Ambani is widely regarded as playing that role, though in a very different way. Like Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Ambani belongs to a merchant caste known as the modh banias, is a vegetarian and a teetotaler and is a revolutionary thinker with bold ideas for what India ought to become. Yet Mr. Gandhi was a scrawny ascetic, a champion of the village, a skeptic of modernity and a man focused on spiritual purity. Mr. Ambani is a fleshy oligarch, a champion of the city, a burier of the past and a man who deftly — and, some critics say, ruthlessly — wields financial power. He is the richest person in India, with a fortune estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, and many people here expect that he will be the richest person on earth before long." (New York Times, 15 June) RD


"Two rickety ceiling fans stir the stale air in a cramped room in New Delhi where 10 men hunch over bright fabrics, sewing shorts to be sold overseas. "I get paid 24 rupees [56 cents] for every piece I stitch," says 31-year-old Amjad Ali. "But I'm sure it's very expensive when it sells abroad." Ali works a lot of overtime at this garment subcontractor, with no holidays, yet he can still barely support his wife and son. In another Delhi neighborhood, Sami Alam, 8, tells of escaping earlier in the week from a sweatshop where he'd worked as a cook for nine months. His parents had sent him to Delhi from his native Bihar, in exchange for cash. "I didn't know how to cook, so the owner would beat me," he says, showing scars on his frail arms." (Time, 11 June) RD


"Watching children and young adolescents push loaded wheelbarrows out of the dark corridors of the tin, zinc and silver mines of the Bolivian town of Potosi, it is clear that the harsh reality of adulthood comes far too early. "I work out of necessity," explains 12-year-old driller Ramiro, helmet in hand, as he stands at the entrance of one of the mines that honeycomb the Cerro Rico - meaning Rich Hill - that towers above the town. He feels bad because he knows that working in the mine puts his health at risk, he says, and "that is what every single one of the children that works inside feels; sometimes some die, some survive". Wiping his sweaty forehead, which is covered in dark dust, he adds: "For us, who work inside the mine, it is not good; the mine brings a lot of disease, a lot of death." It is prolonged exposure to that dust that gives the average miner a life expectancy of only 40 years. The culprit is what they call the "mal de mina", the lung disease silicosis. At the entrance to one of the mines, surrounded by grey piles of mineral waste, men can be seen alongside children, chewing coca leaves as a way to stay awake, carrying picks, mattocks and shovels. It seems that childhood is a luxury the poorest residents of this mining area, located 4,300m (14,100ft) above sea level, cannot afford." (BBC News, 14 June) RD


"Imagine bad guys able to fight without sleep. Or enemy soldiers with hardware implanted in their brains that makes them better able to target U.S. troops than U.S. troops are able to target them. How about future foes able to outfox GIs thanks to the "pharmaceutical intervention" that has improved their "brain plasticity" . ...In the inaugural edition of the Pentagon's annual Soviet Military Power booklet, published in 1981, then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger warned: "There is nothing hypothetical about the Soviet military machine. Its expansion, modernization and contribution to projection of power beyond Soviet boundaries are obvious." ...Today's equivalent of Weinberger's Soviet Military Power booklet is titled simply Human Performance, and it was written by the JASONs, a band of top scientists that advises the Defense Department. Completed in March, it has surfaced thanks to Steven Aftergood, who issues a weekly compendium of interesting government documents for the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists. The report warns that potential foes - none is named, although there is a backwards nod to "East German Olympic athletes" - could put better troops on the battlefields of tomorrow through medication, surgery and mind training. While such changes are not imminent, the study says, the science behind them needs to be monitored carefully so the U.S. military can anticipate what it might face in a future war. ...A big battlefield advantage will be gained by the side that wins the race on "the manipulation and understanding of human sleep," the study notes. "Suppose a human could be engineered who slept for the same amount of time as a giraffe (1.9 hours per night). This would lead to an approximately twofold decrease in the casualty rate. An adversary would need an approximately 40% increase in the troop level to compensate for this advantage." (Yahoo News, 16 June) RD

Monday, June 16, 2008


The Scottish Government is to review a concessionary scheme which gives pensioners and disabled passengers free bus travel across Scotland.

Operators have been told that fare reimbursement is to be capped.
Scottish Labour said Alex Salmond could go down in history as the first minister who "shoved Scotland's grannies off the bus".
We socialists have often made the point that any improvements workers manage to get, are always fair game for attack if governments, Scottish or any other brand, find they have to protect the taxpayer( i.e. the capitalist class)

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said "The bus companies have a commercial operation, they will negotiate robustly with government and we will equally make sure that we are protecting the taxpayer."

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Many people see the recent rise in foodstuff as an unmitigated disaster. Millions of poor people see it as a potential death sentence, but we live in capitalism and many capitalists see it as an investment opportunity to make huge profits. "Huge investment funds have already poured hundreds of billions of dollars into booming financial markets for commodities like wheat, corn and soybeans. But a few big private investors are starting to make bolder and longer-term bets that the world’s need for food will greatly increase — by buying farmland, fertilizer, grain elevators and shipping equipment. One has bought several ethanol plants, Canadian farmland and enough storage space in the Midwest to hold millions of bushels of grain." (New York Times, 5 June) RD


It is always difficult if not impossible to predict where the next international conflict will erupt inside capitalism, but this piece of sabre-rattling by a prominent Israeli politician gives us the heebie-jeebies. "An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks "unavoidable" given the apparent failure of sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential, one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's deputies said on Friday. "If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective," Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz told the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. "Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable," said the former army chief who has also been defense minister." (Yahoo News, 6 June) RD


"World military spending grew 45 percent in the past decade, with the United States accounting for nearly half of all expenditure, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said Monday. Military spending grew six percent last year alone, according to SIPRI's annual report. In 2007, 1,339 billion dollars (851 billion euros) was spent on arms and other military expenditure, corresponding to 2.5 percent of global gross domestic product, or GDP -- or 202 dollars for each of the world's 6.6 billion people. The United States spends by far the most towards military aims, dishing out 547 billion dollars last year, or 45 percent of global expenditure. (Yahoo News, 9 June) RD


There are many examples of how capitalism turns human beings into monstrous creatures, but we doubt if a more extreme example than this could be found. "A woman beat her grandmother to death with a garden spade because she feared her inheritance would be spent on her residential care. Joanne Hussey, 33, has been jailed for a minimum of 20 years for the brutal attack on 77 year old Annie Garbutt. ...The jury was told that Mrs Garbutt had the onset of Alzheimer's disease and it had been recommended she be placed in a home. Her savings of around £250,000 would have been dipped into in order to pay for the cost of her care."

(Daily Telegraph, 11 June) RD


"Mr Blair, who is now a peace envoy to the Middle East, told Time magazine that religious belief had given him "strength" while in power. He is launching a "faith foundation" in New York on Friday. Mr Blair, who recently converted to Catholicism, said: "Faith is part of our future, and faith and the values it brings with it are an essential part of making globalisation work." (BBC News, 29 May)
Perhaps your faith will allow you to forget the dead children you ordered to die in a capitalist war, perhaps the tears of their parents will not disturb you, Mr Blair. Globalization is all important to you, what you really mean is capitalism is important to you.and all your slimey politician side kicks. RD


"Now working in the City, Mr Alistair Galloway is also involved in campaigning against the limitations of Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. He hopes that by speaking out he can highlight the plight of men and women accustomed to risking their lives. "Everyone always wants a pay rise. But soldiers really do need to feel appreciated," he said." (BBC News, 5 June) RD


"Hamilton Court — complete with a private school within its gates, groomed lawns and security guards — is just one of the exclusive gated communities that have blossomed across India in recent years. At least for the newly moneyed upper middle class, they offer at high prices what the government cannot, at least not to the liking of their residents. These enclaves have emerged on the outskirts of prospering, overburdened cities, from this frontier town next to the capital to the edges of seam-splitting Bangalore. They allow their residents to buy their way out of the hardships that afflict vast multitudes in this country of more than one billion. And they reflect the desires of India’s small but growing ranks of wealthy professionals, giving them Western amenities along with Indian indulgences: an army of maids and chauffeurs live in a vast shantytown across the street.“A kind of self-contained island” is how Mrs. Chand’s husband, Ashish, describes Hamilton Court. India has always had its upper classes, as well as legions of the world’s very poor. But today a landscape dotted with Hamilton Courts, pressed up against the slums that serve them, has underscored more than ever the stark gulf between those worlds, raising uncomfortable questions for a democratically elected government about whether India can enable all its citizens to scale the golden ladders of the new economy." (New York Times, 9 June) RD


"The new generation of titan "super prisons" are being designed to be overcrowded from the start, the Justice Ministry admitted yesterday. Prison service officials are already looking for a minimum 50-acre Brownfield site in the Greater London area to build the first titan jail. But when it opens in 2012 it will only have 2,100 places for its 2,500 inmates. A consultation paper published by the justice secretary, Jack Straw, said yesterday the sites for the four- or five-storey titans should be suitable for an initial development providing at least 2,100 un-crowded places with the capacity to hold up to 2,500 prisoners "through planned overcrowding". (Guardian, 6 June) RD


"The United States has 2.3 million people behind bars, more than any other country in the world and more than ever before in its history, Human Rights Watch said Friday. The number represents an incarceration rate of 762 per 100,000 residents, compared to 152 per 100,000 in Britain, 108 in Canada, and 91 in France, HRW said in a statement commenting on Justice Department figures also released Friday. (Yahoo News, 6 June) RD


"A silk Persian rug dating from the 16th century or 17th century has sold for a record $4.45 million at auction, or about $729.87 per square inch. The rug was sold by Christie's auction house Tuesday on behalf of the Newport Restoration Foundation. It had been expected to fetch up to $1.5 million. The rug, which measures 7 feet, 7 inches by 5 feet, 7 inches, had been purchased by the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke in 1990. She left it to the foundation when she died. Elisabeth Parker, head of Christie's rugs and carpets department, says there are only two other known rugs like it. She calls it an "amazing work of art" and says it has an intricate floral design and an unusually large number of colors, at 17. Christie's says the buyer prefers to remain anonymous." (Yahoo News, 5 June) RD

Friday, June 13, 2008


"A California company will give five dog owners the chance to have a favourite pet genetically copied and brought back to life later this month. BioArts International has arranged an online auction to decide which dog lovers will qualify: at starting bids between $100,000(£51,000) and $180,000." (New Statesman 5th June) "Every 17 seconds, a child in the developing world dies from water-related diseases. In around the time it takes you to read this paragraph, someone, somewhere, will die. Everyday, people in the world's poorest countries face the dilemma of having to trust their health and that of their children to the consequences of drinking water that could kill them. It's a gamble that often carries a high price - seeing children needlessly dying is simply heartbreaking." (Water Aid leaflet, June) It says a lot about the priorities of capitalism when Water Aid are asking for £2 a month to help save children and someone can spend £90,000 to clone a pet dog! RD


"Oblivious of rumours that famine is gathering again and that the state's food-distribution system is breaking down, the country's pampered elite went on a shopping spree at the Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair, held on May 12th-15th. Originally designed to promote business-to-business contacts, the trade fair, along with a companion event in the autumn, has become one of the few opportunities for North Koreans—or, more accurately, a few thousand residents of the capital—to buy, or gawk at, foreign merchandise. More than 100 Chinese companies, together with some from Taiwan, Indonesia, Britain and North Korea itself, offered up everything from T-shirts to heavy machinery. Cutting-edge technology it wasn't. Duvets, refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, DVD players, cooking pots and cosmetics were the most popular items. More than 15 units of one of the show's most expensive items, a $1,200 refrigerator from Haier, a Chinese company, were snapped up. Counterfeit iPods were also popular, even if downloading is illegal. North Korea's new rich make their money from political connections. But one shortage they don't seem to face is that of American dollars. (Economist, 29 May) RD


"India has some of the highest rates of child malnutrition and mortality in under-fives in the world and Madhya Pradesh state has the highest levels in India. There are around 10 million children in the state. A decade ago 55% were malnourished. Two years ago the government's own National Family Health Survey put the figure for Madhya Pradesh at around 60%."
(BBC News, 10 June) RD

Thursday, June 12, 2008


"On leave from the violence he had survived in the war in Iraq, a young Marine was so wary of crime on the streets of his own home town that he carried only $8 to avoid becoming a robbery target. Despite his caution, Lance Cpl. Robert Crutchfield, 21, was shot point-blank in the neck during a robbery at a bus stop." (Yahoo News, 1 June) RD


"Stephen Batte works in a quarry under the blazing sun, chipping rocks into gravel with a homemade hammer. It's tiring, boring and dangerous. Stephen is 9 years old, and has been on the rock pile since he was 4. "Life has always been hard here," he whispers, carefully positioning a sharp rock before striking it with well-practiced accuracy. "But since my mother died, things have been much harder." His mother, the woman who taught him to smash rocks when he was a toddler, was killed here in a landslide in August. His T-shirt torn and his feet bare, Stephen is one of hundreds of people who work in the quarry on the outskirts of Uganda's capital, Kampala. Their shabby figures sit hunched over their heaps of gravel. The chink of metal against stone bounces off the rock faces. Most of the workers are refugees who fled a civil war in northern Uganda. Now they make 100 Uganda shillings, 6 U.S. cents, for every 5-gallon bucket that they fill with chipped rocks. Stephen works 12 hours a day to fill three buckets. There's no safety code or protective clothing. The children's arms and legs are covered in scabs from flying stones. Stephen says a friend lost an eye." (Yahoo News, 1 June) RD

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


"The Bush administration has worked overtime to manipulate or conceal scientific evidence — and muzzled at least one prominent scientist — to justify its failure to address climate change. Its motives were transparent: the less people understood about the causes and consequences of global warming, the less they were likely to demand action from their leaders. And its strategy has been far too successful. Seven years later, Congress is only beginning to confront the challenge of global warming. The last week has brought further confirmation of the administration’s cynicism. An internal investigation by NASA’s inspector general concluded that political appointees in the agency’s public affairs office had tried to restrict reporters’ access to its leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen. He has warned about climate change for 20 years and has openly criticized the administration’s refusal to tackle the issue head-on."
(New York Times, 4 June) RD


The Prime Minister Gordon Brown was recently criticised by certain elements of the press for being less than enthusiastic about the visit of the Dalai Lama and not being outspoken in criticising China. Behind his stance of course was the economic importance of China to UK capitalism. "And the value of the Chinese economy to the UK should not be underestimated. It is the sixth largest importer and the tenth largest export market by value for UK companies. Both top 10 lists are made up of the USA and eight European countries. Anglo-Chinese trade is growing at a rate almost unmatched by any other major market. In 2007, imports into Britain increased in value by 21% to £18.8bn while exports increased by 15% to £3.8bn."
(Liverpool Daily Post, 4 June) RD

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


"The number of children living in poverty has risen for a second year, a government report says. The government called the rise in poverty levels "disappointing" and the increase may threaten its target of halving child poverty by 2010. The number of children living in poverty rose by 100,000 in 2006-2007 to 2.9 million before housing costs. Pensioner poverty increased for the first time since 1998, rising by 300,000 to a total of 2.5 million. The number of children and pensioners in poverty is greater once costs such as rent and mortgages are taken into account. "This is a disgrace. We are watching more and more pensioners drop further below the poverty line," said Mervyn Kohler of Help The Aged." (BBC News, 10 June) RD


Mrs. Thatcher described Britain as a property owning democracy, even earlier some patriot talked about "an Englishman's house is his castle", but the harsh reality of capitalism paints a different picture. "More than a quarter of young working households are unable to get on to the property ladder because of mortgage difficulties and house prices that remain unaffordable. The worst affected areas are London and the south-west, where more than 40 per cent of young households, aged between 21 and 40, are unable to access the housing market. Overall, more than 28 per cent of young working households are unable to purchase property at the lowest level in their local housing market. The report will add to fears that young home buyers are still priced out of the market in spite of evidence of falling house prices – mostly because of the lack of available finance for first-time buyers, seen as among the more risky borrowers. The study, compiled by Professor Steve Wilcox, of the University of York, based on data from Hometrack, defines young working households as those on incomes too high to claim housing benefit but too low to access the lowest level of the property market in their local area." (Financial Times, 4 June) RD


When Billy Bragg the pop singer started his recent Canadian tour he was interviewed by the local media and revealed why this well intentioned would-be rebel is completely clueless politically. "I learned all my politics the year of the miners' strike," Bragg recalls, from his home in Dorset, England. "I learned from experience, not textbooks. And I've still never read Marx." (The Globe and Mail, 4 June) This would explain why this performer although expressing sympathy with striking worker could welcome the election of a Labour government and later on when disillusioned by their failure support various left wing reforms. A brief study of the works of Marx might have prevented such follies. RD

Monday, June 09, 2008


"In advertising these days, the brass ring goes to those who can measure everything — how many people see a particular advertisement, when they see it, who they are. All of that is easy on the Internet, and getting easier in television and print. Billboards are a different story. For the most part, they are still a relic of old-world media, and the best guesses about viewership numbers come from foot traffic counts or highway reports, neither of which guarantees that the people passing by were really looking at the billboard, or that they were the ones sought out. Now, some entrepreneurs have introduced technology to solve that problem. They are equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database. (New York Times, 31 May) RD


There is much debate in the national media about how many billions of dollars, euros and pounds should be spent on armaments but little on how much should be send in preventing infant deaths from lack of vitamins. "Malnutrition should be the world’s major priority for aid and development, a panel of eight leading economists, including five Nobel laureates, declared yesterday. ...The provision of supplements of vitamin A and zinc to children in developing countries, to prevent avoidable deficiencies that affect hundreds of millions of children, is the most cost-effective way of making the world a better place, the Copenhagen Consensus initiative has found. ... The jury of economists chose to emphasise malnutrition, and micronutrient supplements in particular, because of the major effects that comparatively moderate financial investments could have. Around 140 million children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness, immune system problems and death, or zinc deficiency, which can stunt growth. Supplements of these nutrients, however, are both effective and extremely cheap – at 20 US cents per person per year for vitamin A and $1 for zinc. For just $60m a year, it would be possible to provide capsules of both micronutrients to 80 per cent of undernourished children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia." (Times, 31 May) RD

Sunday, June 08, 2008


"The Burmese government has lashed out at international aid, saying that starving cyclone survivors can live on frogs and fish instead of foreign handouts. Meanwhile camps of survivors are being forcibly cleared by the army and the people trucked back to their villages, without the supplies they need to survive." (Daily Telegraph,30 May) RD


"It's possible that someone has been reading your e-mails, listening to your phone calls, and tracking your Internet use. No, it's not a foreign spy. It's not even your ex—it's your employer. And she doesn't even need to tell you she's doing it. Employers can legally monitor their workers however they want. They can log and review all computer activity as long as they own the machines. The most popular method of keeping tabs on employees is to track Internet use: A whopping 66 percent of companies monitor employee Internet activity, according to a survey released in February by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute."
(PC Magazine, 26 May) RD


"New Orleans— Mayor C. Ray Nagin recently suggested a way to reduce this city’s post-Katrina homeless population: give them one-way bus tickets out of town. Mr. Nagin later insisted the off-the-cuff proposal was just a joke. But he has portrayed the dozens of people camped in a tent city under a freeway overpass near Canal Street as recalcitrant drug and alcohol abusers who refuse shelter, give passers-by the finger and, worst of all, hail from somewhere else. While many of the homeless do have addiction problems or mental illness, a survey by advocacy groups in February showed that 86 percent were from the New Orleans area. Sixty percent said they were homeless because of Hurricane Katrina, and about 30 percent said they had received rental assistance at one time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency."
(New York Times, 28 May) RD

Saturday, June 07, 2008


The callous treatment of the working class in the USA is highlighted by David M Uhlman, professor of law at the University of Michigan. "Employers rarely face criminal prosecution under the worker-safety laws. In the 38 years since Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act, only 68 criminal cases have been prosecuted, or less than two per year, with defendants serving a total of just 42 months in jail. During that same time, approximately 341,000 people have died at work, according to data compiled from the National Safety Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the A.F.L.-C.I.O." (New York Times, 27 May) RD


"The number of prisoners in England and Wales passed 83,000 for the first time yesterday. ...The Prison Officers’ Association predicted that the prison population would reach 100,000 in four years." (Times, 28 May) RD


"The Amazonian city of Altamira played host to one of the more uneven contests in recent Brazilian history this week, as a colourful alliance of indigenous leaders gathered to take on the might of the state power corporation and stop the construction of an immense hydroelectric dam on a tributary of the Amazon. At stake are plans to flood large areas of rainforest to make way for the huge Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu river. The government is pushing the project as a sustainable energy solution, but critics complain the environmental and social costs are too high. For people living beside the river, the dam will bring an end to their way of life. Thousands of homes will be submerged and changes in the local ecology will wipe out the livelihoods of many more, killing their main food sources and destroying their raw materials. For the 10,000 tribal Indians of the Xingu, whose lives have changed little since the arrival of Europeans five centuries ago, this will be a devastating blow." (Independent, 23 May) RD

Friday, June 06, 2008


"Ferrari understands a titan's need to feel special. This month, the Italian exotic carmaker debuts its One-to-One Personalization Program, a dedicated atelier at its Maranello factory. After a private tour of the Ferrari assembly line, patrons meet with a designer and choose all the bespoke details that make a Ferrari a Ferrari, paging through different hides of leather, choosing their favorite seat style and ordering custom-made luggage that fits perfectly in the ever-so-handcrafted trunk. "Think of it as a fashion house where you select all the fabrics, the colors, the trims so that your car is like no one else's," says Ferrari's director of communications Davide Kluzer. "We understand that when you spend this kind of money on a sports car, the last thing you want is to park next to someone who's got the same look." For now the program is reserved exclusively for buyers of Ferrari's $260,000 flagship 612 Scaglietti—a 5.7-liter, V-12, which sprints to 97kph in a thrilling four and a half seconds. The company hasn't suffered a whit from the world's economic jitters; there is a two-year waiting list for a car. If the One-to-One program is a hit, Ferrari will expand the personalized studio to include its other models." (Newsweek, 26 May) RD


"On campuses nationwide, professors and administrators have passionately debated whether their universities should accept money for research from tobacco companies. But not at Virginia Commonwealth University, a public institution in Richmond, Va. That is largely because hardly any faculty members or students there know that there is something to debate — a contract with extremely restrictive terms that the university signed in 2006 to do research for Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest tobacco company and a unit of Altria Group. The contract bars professors from publishing the results of their studies, or even talking about them, without Philip Morris’s permission. If “a third party,” including news organizations, asks about the agreement, university officials have to decline to comment and tell the company. Nearly all patent and other intellectual property rights go to the company, not the university or its professors."
(New York Times, 22 May) RD

Thursday, June 05, 2008


"A new American Cancer Society report shows that education level can have a profound effect on people's health -- including whether they die from cancer and other diseases. According to the report, death rates among the most educated Americans decreased significantly from 1993 to 2001, while those of the least educated leveled off or went up for some causes. The study offers still more evidence of deepening socioeconomic disparities affecting quality-of-life and survival in the United States. "This study shows a real disparity in mortality between the haves and the have-nots in this country," said Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, American Cancer Society Strategic Director, Cancer Occurrence and lead author of the study." (Yahoo News, 18 May) RD


"Philomena Gist understands why it hurts so much to be on food stamps. After all, she's got a master's degree in psychology. "There's pride in being able to take care of yourself," says the Columbus, Ohio, resident, laid off last year from a mortgage company and living on workers' compensation benefits while recovering from surgery. "I'm not supposed to be in this condition." Neither are many of the 27.5 million Americans relying on government aid to keep food on their tables amid unemployment and rising prices. Average enrollment in the food stamps program has surpassed the record set in 1994, though the percentage of Americans on food stamps is still lower than records set in 1993-95. The numbers continue to climb." (USA Today, 18 May) RD

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


In Afghanistan, where people literally live on bread, many are reduced to buying bread crusts by the gram and softening them with water to make their meals. Must be because the harvest failed, right? No, last year was a good harvest but prices have risen sharply on the commodity market putting it out of the reach of ordinary Afghanis. Likewise, in Cambodia, children have to leave school to collect bamboo shoot, frogs and crabs to supplement the family food because rice is scarce in that country – no, it’s actually plentiful but most is exported and what is available is unaffordable. The madness of capitalism! Actually, this is how it works – “The Philippines (govt.) went to the international auction table (for rice) like a high stakes gambler, desperate to win rice for its 88 million people – lots of it, in fact 675,000 tonnes. But when regular supplier Vietnam upped the ante to something close to $1,200 per tonne, The Philippines held its cards and walked away. Gutsy? Or just plain foolish?’ (Toronto Star 11/05/08). This is how food is supplied? Crazy!
John Ayers


Workers produce all the goods, in return they receive a wage, what's the problem with that?
Recently, at one of Canada’s favorite coffee Shops, Tim Horton’s, an employee gave a crying baby a tidbit, a tiny donut worth 16c retail. She was fired by the manager. It turned into a public relations nightmare as the story hit the media and the employee had to berehired but the message is loud and clear – employees have no rights to the product they produce.
John Ayres

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


While cyclone Nargis devastated Burma leaving thousands dead and more destitute, not only did junta leader Than Shwe refuse much needed help (sound like New Orleans?) but went ahead with his daughters’ glittering wedding, “While millions struggle to fill their daily rice bowls, he(Than) celebrated his daughter’s wedding with a multi-million dollar feast, the bride encrusted in jewels and an ocean of champagne flowing for applauding guests” (Toronto Star 17/05/08)
John Ayres


"Ministers are to consider plans for a database of electronic information holding details of every phone call and e-mail sent in the UK, it has emerged. The plans, reported in the Times, are at an early stage and may be included in the draft Communications Bill later this year, the Home Office confirmed. (BBC News, 20 May) RD


"One in four older people are so worried about their future that they are making themselves ill, a survey has suggested. The ICM poll for Help the Aged showed a fifth of over-65s felt their quality of life had worsened in the last year and one in 10 said they were often lonely. The study of Britain's elderly also highlighted ageism, neglect, poverty, isolation and deprivation.
(BBC News, 20 May) RD

Monday, June 02, 2008


The recent cyclone in Burma is estimated to have killed 130,000 people in a few hours but this being capitalism the long term effect of this natural disaster has become a social disaster for thousands of the survivors. Take the case of Daw Aye as reported in The Times (31 May). "There was the disaster of her fisherman son, drowned at sea in a storm that was never noticed outside of Burma. There was the disaster of widowhood: her husband died six years ago of an illness to which Daw Aye cannot even put a name. Cyclone Nargis at least spared the rest of her family, although it destroyed her newly built wooden house along with 300 of the 500 dwellings in the village of Thaungche, on the Rangoon River. Having survived bereavement, flood and homelessness, Daw Aye is now facing a potent and more insidious enemy: crippling debt. She has six surviving children, and in the months since the cyclone she has had only two handouts from the Burmese authorities, a total of no more than a few pounds of rice." Her oldest surviving son works as a farmhand for about £10 a month and her adult daughter earns even less mending fishing nets, so in order to feed her family and build an open-fronted shelter of bamboo and palm leaves in which they now live, she was forced to go to a moneylender. She borrowed about £150 but the village money lending terms are 10 per cent or £15 a month, more than her family can earn. She is faced with the choice of hunger or lifelong debt. Daw Aye's plight is not unique. The latest figures available put the dead and missing at 134,000 and it is estimated that about 750,000 will need long term food aid. This is understandable when it seems that about 280,000 cattle and water buffalo were killed and one million acres of arable land were flooded in southwest Burma. Fish is hardly likely to be counted as a life saver when it is reckoned that 2,649 fishing boats were lost in the storm along with 18,000 fishermen.Brother Thu Sita, a monk from Thaungche monastery, said: "It was hard enough to rebuild their houses. Then the problem is finding enough food to eat. People borrow money, they get into debt to feed themselves. And there is so little from outside. All that we can do as monks is to share a little of our food and help them psychologically. But as far as their future goes, they are on their own." Socialists advocate a completely new society based on production for use not profit, but of course natural disasters like cyclones and earthquake will still occur. The major differences will be that no one will live the hand to mouth existence of Daw Ayre and her fellow villagers. Everyone will work to the best of their ability and take according to their needs. In addition when natural disasters do occur everyone will rush to aid the victims, unlike today where greedy moneylenders exploit their plight and all well-meaning monks can do is offer psychological assistance.R.D.


Socialist Party Discussion Group
18 June 8.30pm, Central Community Halls,
304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow
Socialism as A Practical Alternative
John Cumming of Glasgow Branch Will Open The Discussion For About 10 to 15 Minutes.
The Rest Of The Evening Will Be Taken Up With Your Questions And Points Of View.
Some of The Ideas that Will Be Discussed Are
Is It Possible To Have A World Without Money?
Can Human Beings Behave In A Cooperative Fashion?
Is Human Nature Compatible With Socialism?
Who Makes The Decisions Inside Socialism?
How Do We Deal with Crime Inside Socialism?
Admission Free All Welcome


"The U.N. children's agency said in a statement Tuesday an estimated 126,000 Ethiopian children urgently need food and medical care because of severe malnutrition — and called the current crisis "the worst since the major humanitarian crisis of 2003." The U.N. World Food Program estimates that 2.7 million Ethiopians will need emergency food aid because of late rains — nearly double the number who needed help last year. An additional 5 million of Ethiopia's 80 million people receive aid each year because they never have enough food, whether harvests are good or not." (Yahoo News, 20 May) RD

Sunday, June 01, 2008


"Employees counting donations at a popular Hindu shrine in southern India will no longer have to take off their underpants at work after the local human rights commission intervened. Police and temple authorities imposed the dress code at the Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala five years ago after thefts were reported from the shrine's strong room. Employees in the vault, all of whom were men, were made to work topless wearing only a dhoti -- a cotton wrap worn around the waist -- with nothing underneath." (Yahoo News, 23 May) RD


"Public opinion across Europe, Asia and the US is strikingly consistent in considering that the gap between rich and poor is too wide and that the wealthy should pay more taxes. Income inequality has emerged as a highly contentious political issue in many countries as the latest wave of globalisation has created a “super class” of rich people. (Financial Times, 18 May) RD