Sunday, August 31, 2008
(Independent, 14 August) RD
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Back in the 1970s Italy was struck by a plague of snakes. These poisonous vipers were such a menace, particularly to holiday makers, that some resort areas decided to do something about them. At first they offered a bounty for every dead snake produced but, inevitably, some smart operators hit on the idea of breeding the snakes and made a substantial profit until the authorities realised they had been outsmarted.
Next, they heard that the number of snakes increased because their natural enemy, the porcupine, was extinct in Italy. Porcupines were acquired from Yugoslavia and let loose in areas infested by snakes. Sadly, word quickly spread among the local hunters that roasted porcupine was delicious and soon the fate of that animal in Italy was sealed once again.
Finally, it was decided that the Italian turkey, with its quickness and sharp beak, would be more than a match for the snakes. Five hundred were ordered but, as their intended use was not specified, the shipper assumed they were destined for the dinner table and clipped their beaks to prevent them damaging one another in transit. In the circumstances the dinner table was where they ended up. So far as we know the problem of Italy's surplus snakes remains unsolved because somehow or other all the plans made to deal with them always went wrong.
All of this is reminiscent of the efforts made by politicians of left, right and centre to reform away capitalism's plague of problems such as war, poverty, racism, crime and unemployment. They forever plan reforms which they fondly imagine will solve all the problems but, just as with the snakes in Italy, the plans never seem to work out in the intended way.
Experience shows that reforms rarely achieve what their supporters hoped they would. For a start, no matter how closely thought out and worded, every reform contains loopholes which will be found by those looking for them. The Equal Pay Act, for example, was supposed to bring women workers the same earnings as men for doing the same job, but many employers found ways of getting around it. They can either slightly lessen the amount of work a woman is to perform or reduce the hours worked by women so that they are classified as part-time workers, a category not covered by the Act. One way and another, the Act has not lessened the gap between what women are paid in relation to men for doing the same work. Indeed the gap has increased. In 1977 women earned on average around three quarters of what men get, but by 1983, the last year for which figures are available, women's comparative earnings are down to around two thirds.
The laws passed to outlaw racial discrimination in employment don't seem to have had any more success. Despite the existence of the Committee for Racial Equality and the passing of the Race Relations Act there is still widespread discrimination against black job applicants. The Policy Studies Institute reported recently that ". . . employers continue to hire people on the basis of the colour of their skin" (Guardian, 26 September). The report adds that breaches of the law by employers are usually invisible to black applicants, who are told that the job has gone to someone better qualified.
Nor has the Incitement to Hatred Act reduced racial violence and abuse. The evidence is that not only are these increasing but they are becoming more respectable and have spread from the inner cities to the suburbs. The reason why reforms fail to deal with this problem isn't hard to find. Racial antagonism is the product of capitalism's competitiveness and insecurity and the fears these characteristics arouse. In this case it is the fears of white workers that blacks and Asians will take their jobs and get preference in the allocation of council housing or, if they are suburban owner-occupiers, that the presence of ethnic minorities in their area will reduce property values. These fears go hand in hand with capitalism's tensions and cannot be simply legislated out of existence.
Besides rarely having the desired effect, reforms often have unexpected and unpleasant side-effects. The policy of rent control adopted by the wartime coalition and postwar Labour and Tory governments was aimed at holding down wage demands in a period of full employment but some of its supporters justified the policy on the grounds that it would protect tenants from greedy landlords. This policy had considerable success on the first count and some on the second, but it also greatly reduced the amount of housing available as many landlords found that the artificially low rents they received didn't make it worthwhile to maintain their properties, which deteriorated so badly that they often had to be demolished.
So in the long run rent control created a situation where rents just had to rise and the Tory Rent Act of 1957 began the process of de-control. But here, too, an unwanted side effect resulted because the act froze tenants' rents for fifteen months unless vacant possession was obtained. This provoked some landlords, including the notorious Peter Rachman, to use violence and intimidation against tenants in order to get them out right away.
Recent government legislation designed to move on young unemployed people living in digs after six weeks is another case in point. Intended to show that the government was determined to stop alleged abuse of DHSS payments by landladies, the measures didn't take into account that many of these youngsters have lived in institutions for much of their lives and are emotionally or mentally disturbed. For some, their digs are the only real home they have ever known and the thought of having to leave produced a spate of suicide attempts, some successful.
Even when the reformists have achieved their objective, they may well face a struggle to prevent the legislation being reversed. Generations of Labourites put a great deal of time and effort into bringing about the National Health Service and the nationalised industries, which they imagined would introduce a golden age of medical care and full employment. Now they watch in dismay as the NHS is eroded and the nationalised industries are once again privatised.
Were a future Labour government to restore the NHS to its pre-1979 condition and, however unlikely, re-nationalise whatever industries had been sold off, there would be no certainty that this would last. Governments must always be looking for ways to economise, even in boom conditions, but in the event of a future slump the government, of whatever complexion, will need to cut its expenditure and the NHS and renationalised industries could be obvious targets, just as they are now
This much is certain: no programme of reforms can ever unite the whole working class. The reforms so earnestly sought by left wingers - such as positive discrimination in favour of ethnic minorities in housing and employment, the unification of Ireland, lower council house rents, the abolition of mortgage relief, and so on - will please some workers but enrage just as many more.
The really vital reforms of capitalism were won a long time ago. The vote gave the working class the opportunity to take its fate into its own hands, and wider educational opportunities made it possible for workers to at least consider the socialist case. These gains, together with the fact that society's productive forces have been developed to the point where an abundance of wealth is now possible, make socialism a practical proposition now. The struggle for even more reforms is irrelevant and only gets in the way.
VICTOR VANNI SOCIALIST STANDARD JANUARY 1986
I think I'll become a reformist. Change society a bit at a time. Erode the edifice of social misery, gradually but surely, and make the world a better place to live in.
It's all very well these revolutionary socialists telling me that the only way to end working-class problems is to abolish the whole system of world capitalism and introduce socialism, but I can't wait for that. Something needs to be done now. If we sit around trying to persuade workers of the need to abolish the cause of their suffering it could take ages. No, I want action now. Tomorrow morning I'm going to sign up in the heroic struggle to reform this evil system.
What shall I start with? I know, I'll begin by dealing with the worst problems and then work my way down the list to the little insignificant ones. My task for the time to come is to deal with the real biggies. War. Mass starvation. I might even deal with the homeless and slum-dwellers if I've got a bit of spare time. And the Third World - I'd better lend a hand in supporting them. Oh, and I almost forgot about pollution, I must make sure that something is done about that. Good. Now I know what my immediate aims are all I need to do is get on with the action.
Right, war. What is the practical way for us reformists to end war? Well, let's be pragmatic - we won't end all wars, but we shall certainly abolish all nuclear weapons. How? To begin with we shall establish a mass movement made up of people who think that nuclear weapons are "a bad thing". Then the government will be forced to listen. True, such a movement has existed in Britain since the late 1950s and it is now larger than ever and the governments have not been forced to accept our demands and most of our members voted to elect the governments which have not accepted our demands, but that must not dispirit us. Having built our mass movement we shall unleash our unstoppable tactic: we shall have a march every year from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square and we shall shout slogans (very loudly) like "Ban the Bomb" or "Jobs Not Bombs". Let them try to ignore that! Well, yes, they have ignored that in the past, but that is quite evidently because there weren't enough of us marching. In addition to that tactic, which will leave us all feeling like a big movement which cannot be ignored, we shall do other practical things like holding hands around Greenham Common and sitting down in the middle of the road in Hampstead. Of course, we must be pragmatic about abolishing nuclear weapons: we would be prepared to settle for a nuclear freeze, I suppose. That means that they keep all the nuclear weapons which exist in the world today (enough to blow us all up several times), but no more can be produced. That would be an achievement. True, there have been more people killed in the non-nuclear war in Iran and Iraq than were killed in Hiroshima, but we must not allow ourselves to be diverted into side-issues. We reformists like to deal with the big issues, like the possibility of a nuclear war in the future, rather than these petty wars which are going on now. (Although I have made a note in my diary to join a campaign to deal with Iran and Iraq - and Ireland - and Israel and the Lebanon - and Afghanistan - and Central America -just as soon as I've solved this nuclear problem.)
After all, the danger of a nuclear war is by far the greatest problem facing humanity today. Admittedly, Oxfam does claim that thirty million people are dying now as a result of starvation every year. And hundreds of millions of people are living in conditions of hunger and diseases caused by malnutrition. There is the equivalent of one Hiroshima every two days as a result of world hunger. Come to think of it, that problem is at least as important as nuclear war. I agree with Bob Geldof: "something" must be done now. What we need is a mass movement made up of people who oppose world hunger. We can appeal to the consciences of the leaders who hold the purse strings. After all, we elect them. And we must organise collections for the benefit of those who are starving. Just think, if every person in Britain gave a fiver each that would amount to £300 million. That would give £10 to each of the people Oxfam says starve to death each year. But then, what about people living in poverty in Britain? They can't afford to donate £5; according to the Child Poverty Action Group one in four children in this country are living under the official poverty line. We shall need to do something about that. I'll join a campaign to make sure the government doubles family allowances. After all, who can be more important than the children? Well, yes, there are the elderly as well: I shan't forget to do my bit for them. I shall join another campaign, such as Help The Aged, which will demand that the government taxes the rich so that pensions are increased. Then there are the disabled. And drug addicts. And victims of domestic violence. I shall need to join a separate campaign to see that each of them gets a fair deal. Then, of course, I shall be joining with my sisters to fight for sexual equality. And I shall also join a separate organisation to demand racial equality. And one more to call for compassion for criminals who ought not to face barbaric penalties just because society has turned them to crime. And I really ought to join with the Women Against Rape who want rapists to be castrated. It wasn't until I decided to become a reformist that I decided quite how much action I had to do.
Well, I have been working at cutting down the list of organisations to join, so that I don't commit myself to too much. There are the anti-war (sorry, anti-nuclear war) ones: CND, END and the Peace Pledge Union. Then the anti-hunger ones: War On Want, Band Aid, Oxfam. Then the CPAG, Help the Aged, Shelter, London Against Racism, the local feminist collective (they won't let me join, so fortunately I'll have one Tuesday evening free every fourth week) and the campaign for "fair trials" for the miners. And I almost forgot Greenpeace. And, of
course, Friends of the Earth. And the Troops out movement. Paying the subscriptions will present a few problems. And I'll need a diary with whole pages for each day so that I can remember which problem I'm solving when. I mean, I'd look a bit daft sitting in an anti-nuclear war meeting talking about the need for a march against unemployment, wouldn't I?
Once joined, the action really starts. We shall pass resolutions which will be sent to progressive" MPs. And we shall organise petitions. It is surprising how willing people are to sign them. True, they are usually filed away in some civil servant's waste paper basket, but at least it's action. Then there are the marches. And it's surprising how many people you meet on one march who you know from the others. Then there's the odd battle for the leadership. Somewhat time-wasting, I admit, but it is all part of practical politics. To be perfectly honest, I have my hopes to become Badge Organiser for Islington Save The Whale. But, of course, I'll have to spend a few nights canvassing support otherwise the post will go to one of those terrible Trots who use reformist organisations by doing all the donkey work.
So, I am in on the action. Unlike those revolutionaries from The Socialist Party, who insist that you cannot eradicate the symptoms without destroying the disease, I am applying many bottles of medicine to the contaminated anatomy of the capitalist system. True, the pills and potions have never been successful in the past. But I have faith. And you need it if you think that reformism is the solution to the horror epic of this problem-packed society.
Canada regulations allowed airlines to use flotation devices instead of life vests within 80km of shore . Jazz spokeswoman said it was a transcontinental airline that never flew over the ocean. However , she didn't explain that they do fly over the Great Lakes and along the eastern seaboard from Halifax to Boston to New York.
Friday, August 29, 2008
(Observer, 24 August) RD
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"social injustice is killing people on a grand scale...The toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible."
Social factors - rather than genetics - are to blame for huge variations in ill health and life expectancy around the world, a report concludes.
For instance, a boy living in the deprived Glasgow suburb of Calton will live on average 28 years less than a boy born in nearby affluent Lenzie.
The average life expectancy in London's wealthy Hampstead was 11 years longer than in nearby St Pancras.
A girl in the African country of Lesotho is likely on average to live 42 years less than a girl in Japan.In Sweden, the risk of a woman dying during pregnancy and childbirth is one in 17,400, but in Afghanistan the odds are one in eight.
The report, drawn up by an eminent panel of experts forming the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, found that in almost all countries poor socioeconomic circumstances equated to poor health.
"The key message of our report is that the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age are the fundamental drivers of health, and health inequity."
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
We no longer live in a gathering/hunting society; we live in a modern capitalist society. This is a society where the majority work for a wage or a salary and a tiny minority live off the surplus value that they produce. Inside this society attitudes towards the elderly are completely different. If they are poor they are looked upon as a burden by the capitalist class and some sort of creature that had they any decency would just disappear.
Away back in 1908 when state pensions were first paid in the UK there was the view that this piece of reform would end old-age poverty. People like David Lloyd George and Charles Booth hailed the legislation as a mayor breakthrough on the abolition of old-age poverty.
"Yet 100 years on, 2.5 million pensioners - more than a fifth of all those aged over 65 - still struggle to pay their bills and keep their home warm." (Times, 31 July) Such is the nature of capitalism and the lick-spittles that operate it that they have come up with a great new idea that will save the owning class millions.
"People will be forced to work until they are aged 70 if the basic state pension is to survive into the next century, according to the Government’s pension supremo. Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the architect of radical reform in which the retirement age will rise to 68 by 2046, said that with no limit in sight for life expectancy, people are going to have to work even longer than he proposed." (Times, 31 July)
When I was very young an elderly man taught me about capitalism. One of the lessons he taught me was - the owning class need young men and women to provide for them, but we don't need them. As in primitive society, we must heed the elderly - knowledge is power.RD
States have rights over their resources - including oil or gas reserves - up to 200 nautical miles from the shoreline.
But the UK wants to extend those rights around Ascension on the grounds that the island's landmass actually reaches much further into the sea underwater.
Ascension Island is part of the British overseas territory of St Helena.
The UK will present its claim on Wednesday to the United Nations Commission for the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Fewer than a half of the world's maritime boundaries have been agreed, so there is big scope for disagreements
Experts say that fewer than half of the world's maritime boundaries have been agreed, and there is significant potential for conflict where more than one country submits claims to overlapping areas.
(Yahoo News, 15 August) RD
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
(Yahoo News, 21 August) RD
Monday, August 25, 2008
(Yahoo News, 21 August) RD
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Some of the UK's top cancer consultants warn that NHS drug 'rationing' is forcing patients to remortgage their homes to pay for treatment. The specialists accuse the government drugs advisory body of 'rationing' too severely and call for a "radical change" in the way decisions are made.
In their letter, the 26 cancer specialists say the decision shows how "poorly" NICE assesses new cancer treatments."Its economic formulas are simply not suitable for addressing cost-effectiveness in this area of medicine," they write. "We have seen distraught patients remortgaging their houses, giving up pensions and selling cars to buy drugs that are freely available to those using health services in countries of comparable wealth."
Defending its policy of restricting palliative medicines .
"There is a finite pot of money for the NHS, which is determined annually by parliament,"NICE's chairman said."If one group of patients is provided with cost-ineffective care, other groups - lacking powerful lobbyists - will be denied cost-effective care for miserable conditions like schizophrenia, Crohn's disease or cystic fibrosis."
Capitalism is at its terminal stage , time to apply euthanasia to such a heartless system .
The report, based on a wide-ranging analysis of government data, finds that children from poor families are at 10 times the risk of sudden infant death as children from better-off homes. And it reveals how babies from disadvantaged families are more likely to be born underweight - an average of 200 grams less than children from the richest families. Poorer children are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer chronic illness when toddlers and twice as likely to have cerebral palsy.
'Poverty is now one of the greatest dangers faced by our children,' said Nick Spencer, one of the report's authors and professor of child health at the University of Warwick. 'If poverty were an infection, we would be in the midst of a full-scale epidemic.'
The End Child Poverty report highlights how socio-economic factors affect the entire life of children born into poverty, from foetal development and early infancy through to teenage years and adulthood.It found that children living in disadvantaged families are more than three times as likely to suffer from mental health disorders as those in well-off families and that infants under three years old in families with an annual income of less than £10,400 are twice as likely to suffer from asthma as those from families earning over £52,000.The report also suggests the health consequences of being born into poverty continue well beyond infancy. For example, adults who came from deprived families were found to be 50 per cent more likely to have serious and limiting illnesses, such as type two diabetes and heart failure.
'From the day they are born, children's health and very survival are threatened by family poverty,' said Donald Hirsch, co-author of the report , 'It is one of society's greatest inequalities that poor health is so dramatically linked to poverty. Children in the poorest UK families are at least twice as likely to die unexpectedly before their first birthdays than children in slightly better-off families. This is a huge injustice for the children in one of the richest nations in the world.'
Saturday, August 23, 2008
In Hebei province, almost 80 billion gallons of emergency water is being sent to the capital through a series of canals hastily built over the past few months so to provide for the Games needs . The construction has displaced farmers, leaving some patches of land so parched that it's difficult for them to grow anything. Shortly after 2002, the central government approved a water diversion project aimed at relieving shortages in Beijing and other parts of the arid north by moving water from the Yangtze, the country's longest river. Two months ago, local authorities cut off access to the mountain reservoir, explaining the water was being saved for the Olympics. Such projects have caused a rift between Beijing and neighboring provinces, including Hebei and Shaanxi. Local officials warned of social upheaval and environmental consequences. But the central government proceeded anyway.Shanxi province, a major coal-producing region, can't even get permission to use the coal it needs. Instead, the resources are being earmarked for Beijing, exacerbating power shortages and resulting in massive blackouts in rural areas.
At the Tianjin port southeast of Beijing, usually one of the busiest in the country, empty ships wait for deliveries from suppliers whose trucks have been held up by roadblocks or whose factories have been closed out of concerns about pollution. With factories shut down, armies of migrant workers who rely on construction and other menial jobs are being sent home for the month without pay. Security concerns during the Games led authorities to prohibit the export of batteries and chemical products, he said; it's hard to get new supplies because factories are closed.
Friday, August 22, 2008
It said: "An immigration removal centre can never be a suitable place for children and we were dismayed to find cases of disabled children being detained and some children spending large amounts of time incarcerated."
Children were detained for too long and left distressed and scared at the Yarl's Wood centre in Bedfordshire . Some families had been transported to and from the centre in caged vans.
It is not the first time child welfare has been criticised at the centre.In July 2005 another HM Inspectorate of Prisons report found children were being "damaged" by their detention there.At the time, Ms Owers said an autistic girl of five had been held at Yarl's Wood and not eaten properly for four days and that education at the centre was "inadequate" and "depressing".
The industry, which is largely based in China, currently employs about 400,000 young people who earn £80 per month on average.
Players in the popular online game World of Warcraft acquire virtual gold by fighting monsters and completing quests.
Some simply buy it from a fast-growing workforce employed to play this and other games. 'Playbourers" , as they are called , sell gold or other virtual goods .
In 2007, it was reported by Edward Castronova, an academic studying the economics of online gaming at the University of Indiana, that the real money trade - people paying real cash for virtual items - was worth around $300-$400m. That estimate is surely much higher now .
Thursday, August 21, 2008
For younger competitors, the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidance on sport suggests that it is unhealthy for children under the age of 12 or 13 to specialise in any one activity.
Yet most young athletes, notably gymnasts, whose balance and flexibility is affected as their bodies develop, are training intensively by eight or 10.
Low body fat can mean late puberty for girls, which in turn can lead to lower bone density and risks like stress fractures and osteoporosis.
"You see people of 16 or 17 years old with the bones of a 60 or 70-year-old," said Jordan Metzl, a physician and co-founder of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
There is little promotion of sport for ordinary people at the Olympics, no halfway ground between athletes driving their bodies to their limits and spectators chomping fast food in the stands while they watch. Some suggest that athletes are also more susceptible to eating disorders, whether in "aesthetic sports" like gymnastics or diving, or those like wrestling, where diuretics are common.
Some personalities, driven by the hope of one last triumph, are also less likely to stop when they should as the financial rewards of success ratchet up.
After the 2004 Games in Athens, veteran Russian diver Dmitry Sautin said it was likely his last Olympics.
"My body has suffered a lot of scars, lots of operations. My health isn't what it used to be," he said. But the 34-year-old was back in Beijing, where he finished fourth in the three-metre springboard final.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
According to a recent Gini co-efficient - a measure that gauges the divide between rich and poor - the gap between the haves and have nots in Hong Kong is the widest in the world. Mr Li says the divide has the potential to hit Hong Kong's competitiveness and social stability.
"If achieving the Hong Kong dream becomes a vanishing hope, then our society will suffer. What would the Hong Kong dream be? It's no different from the American dream whereby an everyday man on the street who works hard, would be able to make good savings and use those savings as equity for their future small business," he explains.
Mr Li is the younger son of Li ka-Shing, Asia's wealthiest man and started by building a media empire with a multi-million dollar investment from his father. His father indirectly bailed him out of a tangled financial transaction involving attempts to sell his stake in PCCW in 2006.
Dubbed "Superboy" by the Hong Kong press for being the son of "Superman" Li .
Yup , a little bit of hard work , and save a little and you too can become a billionaire - just as long as your father is a billionaire and gives you a helping hand of a few million , eh ? Super.
(Observer, 17 August) RD
(New York Times, 4 August) RD
Human rights charity Amnesty International said Scotland had 13.5% of the UK's trade in people.This was despite Scotland having less than 10% of the population.
Amnesty International UK director, said: "To date, most attention has been given to the plight of women trafficked into the sex trade, but we have also found evidence of trafficking into Scotland for domestic and agricultural labour... many victims of trafficking will never disclose their situation to a police officer because they fear shame, deportation or reprisals from their traffickers."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
"The rich are sharing your financial pain — and contributing to it. It may have taken longer and it may not be as acute, but there are early hints that the economic slump is crimping the lifestyles of the wealthy. They are investing more conservatively, spending less on luxury goods and are being more thrifty with their credit cards. Many are asking their personal shoppers and private-jet travel providers to seek the best deals rather than over-the-top extravagances. That news may produce a shrug from many people who have lost their jobs or homes in this economy. The problem is that when the wealthy get stingy, it trickles down to the rest of us." (Yahoo News, 3 August) RD
Monday, August 18, 2008
PATNA, India (Reuters) - A state government in eastern Indian is encouraging people to eat rats in an effort to battle soaring food prices and save grain stocks.
Authorities in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, are asking rich and poor alike to switch to eating rats in a bid to reduce the dependence on rice. They even plan to offer rats on restaurant menus.
"Eating of rats will serve twin purposes -- it will save grains from being eaten away by rats and will simultaneously increase our grain stock," Vijay Prakash, an official from the state's welfare department, told Reuters.
Officials say almost 50 percent of India's food grains stocks are eaten away by rodents in fields or warehouses.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, Bihar's caste and tribe welfare minister, said rat meat was a healthy alternative to expensive rice or grains, and should be eaten by one and all.
"We are very serious to implement this project since the food crisis is turning serious day by day," Manjhi, who has eaten rats, told Reuters.
In Bihar, rat meat is already eaten by Mushars, a group of lower caste Hindus, as well as poorer sections of society.
I suppose the saved grain stocks can be sold for profit as the poor can't buy them, it's a system needing replacing by one that puts people before profit, i.e. Socialism
Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska's Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce — and potential conflict and hazards — like never before.
Meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large ocean-going icebreakers to around 14, launching a conventional icebreaker in May and last year, the world's largest icebreaker named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships. At the same time, the Russians are developing the means to build offshore platforms that can move from field to field, can withstand the new ice conditions of the North and can condense gas on site to a liquefied state ready to be loaded on to carriers. Only the Russians are currently developing ways to ship both oil and gas from Arctic offshore platforms.
But surely the major North American companies must now be looking at the possibility of using a similar system. If they are built on the American side of the Arctic, Canada can expect the sovereignty crisis of 1969 and 1970 to be renewed. There have been no changes in either the American or Canadian position about the passage of tankers through the Northwest Passage. If the Americans develop a shipping capability and decide to send their vessels to the east, they would need to go through Canadian waters. They would probably not be any more willing to ask Canada's permission than they were in 1969.
On the other hand, if the extraction platforms are placed on the Canadian side — and the ice-capable tankers leave from Canadian locations — there will be no sovereignty problem, but Canada will still have a problem of control. Our ability to assert control in our northern waters is limited. Canada's Coast Guard's icebreaking fleet is small and aging; its navy has a very limited ability to go north. The current Canadian government has promised to build six to eight naval Arctic offshore patrol vessels and to replace the largest and oldest Coast Guard icebreakers.
"To be able to protect the Arctic archipelago properly, the waters have to be considered our internal waters. Nobody recognizes that. In order to enforce our position, we need tools to do that," said retired colonel Pierre Leblanc, former commander of the Canadian Forces' Northern Area.
There are already more than 400 oil and gas fields north of the Arctic Circle. Shell has quietly spent $2bn (£1bn) acquiring drilling leases off Alaska. ExxonMobil and BP have spent huge sums on exploration rights off Canada. The US government lifted a 17-year ban on offshore drilling to make the US less reliant on imports. The powers that border the Arctic – Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway and Denmark – have begun jostling for advantage. the United States Geological Survey – suggesting that the region contains about one-third of the world's undiscovered gas and about one-sixth of its undiscovered oil
(New York Times, 9 August) RD
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
(New Scientist, 23 March) RD
Friday, August 15, 2008
(Guardian, 14 August) RD
We have already seen a girl at the opening ceremony being substituted as a singer because she was deemed too ugly.
We have had fake audiences .To fill the gaps the Chinese have been using huge numbers of yellow-shirted 'fans' who occupy blocks of empty seats, clapping and cheering equally for opposing teams.
The spectacular live fireworks on the TV broadcast were pre-recorded. Computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.
Now the children used in a key part of the Olympics opening ceremony, not youngsters from all 56 ethnic groups as claimed but were all from the Han majority , it is reported .
It should be remembered that the torch relay that culminates in the ceremonial lighting of the flame at Olympic stadium was ordered by Adolf Hitler, who tried to turn the 1936 Berlin Games into a celebration of the Third Reich.And it was Hitler's Nazi propaganda machine that popularized the five interlocking rings as the symbol of the Games.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
To socialists the announcement is far from shocking. That is how capitalism operates - if you are rich you have access to the best food, clothing, shelter, education and recreation. Why should it be so shocking to learn that if you are poor you cannot afford the best of medicine either. RD
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline (BTE) carries some six billion cubic metres of gas a year (bcm/y) to Turkey, some of which is then forwarded to Greece. As Azerbaijani gas output grows, the line should reach its full 20 bcm/y capacity by about 2014.The European Union is also backing proposals for development of essentially parallel lines to carry as much as a further 30 bcm/y of gas from Turkmenistan, and perhaps Kazakhstan.The EU calls the route through Azerbaijan and Georgia its "Fourth Corridor" - matching existing supply systems from Russia, Norway and North Africa - with concept projects such as the planned Nabucco pipeline from the Georgian-Turkish border to Austria seen as ways of implementing it.
Because transit through such a corridor bypasses Russia, it offers advantages to both Caspian producers and European consumers.Producers gain direct access to end-consumers at market prices, whereas at present Russia buys gas from Central Asia at one price, and then sells gas to Europe at much higher prices, the difference being far more than pure transportation costs would merit.
Other major lines that currently transit Georgia.
The biggest is the 1.0 mb/d capacity Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which carries crude oil from Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan, from whence it gets transported by tanker to both Europe and the United States.
The next major line is Baku-Supsa, a 150,000 b/d line that has just reopened after undergoing substantial renovation.It carries oil to the Black Sea, but the port of Supsa is just 25 kilometres from Poti, the port which handles most of Georgia's imports and which was bombed and shelled by Russian forces.
Breast cancer survivor Amanda Whetstone says she regularly skips breakfast and lunch to save money to pay for her prescriptions.
"Although my cancer treatment - the surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy - has finished, I still need medication. As a result of my cancer I'm now on three different drugs. They cost me about £44 a month. That may not sound much to some, but I'm struggling financially. I'm now on statutory sick pay because I've been too unwell to work. My income is £360 per month and, quite frankly, I have barely enough money to live on.I budget for everything. I don't go out because I can't afford to socialise. I can't even invite friends over for a meal because I can't afford the food.I don't eat breakfast or lunch. The meals I do buy are ones that are on special offer.I can't afford fresh fruit or meat. I know that isn't healthy, but I simply can't afford to buy healthy food."
"Fighting cancer is hard enough without the terrible financial worry that comes with it.I feel penalised because I have a disease that the government doesn't consider should make me exempt from prescription charges."
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
and Howard Moss (Socialist Party)
Title: Which way the revolution - what are our differences?
Chair: Bill Martin (Socialist Party)
Followed by open discussion
Venue: 52 Clapham High St, London
Saturday 20th September at 6 pm
Refreshments available, also free literature
For further information:
Phone 020 7622 3811
Monday, August 11, 2008
“Using ethics as a guide, his conduct was honourable.” And “King provided the accountability the system has lacked.” The myriad of “news” items like this that everyday are thrust into our faces are obvious propaganda, but who can blame them, it’s working. It is noticeable that Goar fails to mention the millions of workers that have taken pay cuts or lost their source of livelihood through no fault of their own. Are they ‘honourable’ or do they not count? - - Goar knows full well that workers are suffering inthe current recession in the manufacturing sector in central Canada as sales plunge and production is moved to cheaper areas with a more ‘flexible’ work force. A small sample shows 350 layoffs at Dana Corp, auto parts manufacturer; General Motors laying off 1 000workers in Oshawa, Ontario, 1 400 in Windsor, moving an Oshawa truck plant to Mexico, cutting salaried workers by 20%, and cutting health benefits to white-collar retirees; Ford reducing its salaried work force by 15%; Magna Corp auto parts eliminating 400 jobs; progressive Moulded Plastics shedding 2 000 jobs. The list grows daily but no one looks at the vagaries of capitalist production as the culprit and even less the need to rid ourselves of this constant assault on workers’ standards of living. Let’s hope these workers will learn that they only work at the will of capital, no matter what their position may be. John Ayers
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
“What is the common social substance of all commodities? It is labour. To produce a commodity a certain amount of labour must be bestowed upon it. And I say not only labour, but social labour. A man who produces an article for his own immediate use, to consume himself, creates a product but not a commodity. As a self-sustaining producer he has nothing to do with society. But to produce a commodity, a man must not only produce an article satisfying some social want, but his labour itself must form part and parcel of the total sum of labour expended by society…If we consider commodities as values, we consider them exclusively under the single aspect of realized, fixed, or,if you like, crystallized social labour. In this respect they can differ only by representing greater or smaller quantities of labour…But how does one measure quantities of labour? By the time the labour lasts, in measuring labour by the hour, the day etc… We arrive, therefore, at thisconclusion. A commodity has a value, because it is a crystallization of social labour…The relative values of commodities are, therefore, determined by the respective quantities or amounts of labour, worked up, realised, fixed in them.” (Value, Price and Labour, pp31/32). This obviously is part of The Labour Theory of Value from which comes so much of our interpretation of capitalist production.
Friday, August 08, 2008
The number of mortgage holders behind with their payments has also gone up.
That rose by 29% .
One of the most vigorous repossessors has been the Northern Rock bank, now state owned. It revealed this week that its own repossessions had risen by 67% in the past year .
Capitalism expects the system and the government to bail it out but when it comes down to Joe Public requiring financial assistance - no chance .
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