Thursday, April 30, 2009


"Washington – The Army has approved new guidance to military commanders in an effort to stem the rising toll of soldier suicides, officials said late Thursday. The plan includes hiring more mental health workers and tightening the way officials handle drug testing, health screening and a host of other long-standing procedures that in some cases became lax, according to officials, as the Army focused on fighting two wars. Army leadership has become more alarmed as suicides from January through March rose to a reported 56 — 22 confirmed and 34 still being investigated and pending confirmation. Usually, the vast majority of suspected suicides are eventually confirmed. The 2009 number compares to 140 for all of last year, a record blamed partly on strains caused by repeated deployments for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
(Yahoo News, 23 April) RD

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


You have just received a leaflet from an organisation called "WaterAid" . It could break your heart. Here is what it says
"Every 17 seconds a child in the developing world dies from water-related diseases. In around the time it takes you to read the next paragraph, a child somewhere will die. ...In just two minutes, seven more children will have died. Please help now."
It is powerful stuff but of course it is pointless. Socialist for over a hundred years have pointed out that charity does not help the problems of capitalism - it keeps them going. If you really wish to help the underprivileged, poor, starving and thirsty children of this world you will organise for a new society that makes charity impossible. We call it socialism. RD


"Hundreds of millions of people will become victims of climate change-related disasters over the next six years, Oxfam said Tuesday, urging governments to change the way they respond to such events. The British-based aid and development charity estimated the number of people affected by climatic disasters would rise by 54 percent to 375 million people a year on average by 2015, based on data on similar disasters since 1980. In a new report, it warned that humanitarian aid spending and the way it was allocated was far from prepared to meet the challenge." (Yahoo News, 21 April) RD

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A mosquito net over the door of 10 Downing Street, home of the British Prime
Minister to mark World Malaria day.

Every year billions of dollars are spent on the research and production of more and more powerful weapons. Inside capitalism it is essential to keep ahead of your trade rivals. Research into diseases or even the simple production of medicine or mosquito nets is of a very low priority compared to arms production. "Malaria is a preventable and curable disease, yet every 30 seconds, a child in sub-Saharan Africa dies from the disease, according to the World Health Organization. The Roll Back Malaria partnership has pledged money for nets, anti-malarial treatments and research for a vaccine. Last year on April 25, the World Malaria Day initiative was launched to raise awareness of the disease and efforts to control malaria around the world, as part of the Roll Back Malaria partnership -- a global group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments" (, 24 April)
So a child dies every 30 seconds? So what? Capitalism needs weapons - that is the priority! RD

Monday, April 27, 2009


"It is only when darkness falls on the streets of London that the plight of many veterans of the Armed Forces become fully apparent. More than 1,000 of them are homeless. Until a couple of months ago Ray (not his real name) was one of them living on the streets. He had enlisted in the Royal Green Jackets (Light Division) in 1993 and saw service in Northern Ireland. He left the Army in November 2001 but found Civvies Street a harsh place. ..."You think after serving your time in the Army society will accept you," he says, "but they don't and no one helps."
(Times, 25 April) RD


After a few pints of beer on a Saturday night some London workers may be tempted to warble
" Maybe its because I'm a Londoner, that I love London town". Behind that tipsy loyalty though lurks a sinister fact. "Pollution kills thousands of people every year in London, far more than previous estimates, an official report will warn this week. The capital's poor air quality leads to at least 2,905 premature deaths annually, and "probably many thousands", according to a study by members of the London Assembly's environment committee. Their findings far exceed the figure of about 1,000 fatalities, which until now has been accepted. People die earlier than they should because exposure to dangerously high levels of substances such as nitrogen dioxide, fine particulates and ground-level ozone leads to heart and lung diseases, and also affects those who are already ill with an unrelated condition, according to the report." (Observer, 26 April)
If this is the case in London think how much greater the problem must be in such cities as Peking and Calcutta. Truly capitalism is a killer society. RD

Sunday, April 26, 2009


You may be threatened by unemployment and repossession of your home in the present economic turn down, but spare a thought for the plight of the billionaires and millionaires and their losses. According to the Sunday Times Rich List Indian and Russian billionaires have suffered badly and some of the UK-born have also felt the pinch.
"Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is reported to have lost 56% of his wealth, shedding £1.5bn and is now worth £1.2bn. Meanwhile, Formula 1 motor racing Chief Bernie Ecclestone lost £934m, leaving him at £1.46bn, the list reported. The richest British-born billionaire is the land and property owning Duke of Westminster, who has seen his wealth shrink to £6.5bn from £7bn. In fourth spot are Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli: the former Miss UK winner and her husband have a £5.6bn fortune based on pharmaceuticals. Their fortune has shrunk by a relatively modest 12% over the year. But it is not all gloom - the former boss of supermarket chain Morrison, Sir Ken Morrison, has seen his fortune increase by 11%, making him worth £1.6bn. The wealth of Peter and Denise Coates, owners of Stoke-based online sports betting website Bet365, has gone up by 33%, to £400m. And Harrods boss Mohammed al-Fayed has benefited from a cheap pound - his fortune stands at £650m, up 17% on last year." (BBC Times, 26 April) RD

Friday, April 24, 2009


Capitalism is a very dangerous society with the threat of wars, world hunger, unemployment and crime a constant menace, but here is another less obvious peril.
"The nuclear test grounds in the wastes of the Gobi desert have fallen silent but veterans of those lonely places are speaking out for the first time about the terrible price exacted by China’s zealous pursuit of the atomic bomb. They talk of picking up radioactive debris with their bare hands, of sluicing down bombers that had flown through mushroom clouds, of soldiers dying before their time of strange and rare diseases, and children born with mysterious cancers. ...New research suggests the Chinese nuclear tests from 1964 to 1996 claimed more lives than those of any other nation. Professor Jun Takada, a Japanese physicist, has calculated that up to 1.48m people were exposed to fallout and 190,000 of them may have died from diseases linked to radiation." (Sunday Times, 19 April)
Even in so-called peace-time the competition between capitalist nation states can lead to death and disease. RD

Thursday, April 23, 2009


"The global economy will contract sharply this year and recover only sluggishly in 2010, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday as it called on governments to sustain or even increase fiscal stimulus next year. The IMF said that world output would contract by 1.3 per cent this year and grow by just 1.9 per cent the year after in what it described as a “substantial downward revision” of its January forecasts, when it said that the global economy would grow by 0.5 per cent this year and spring back to 3 per cent growth in 2010."
(Financial Times, 22 April) RD


"While Russia's two-legged population feels the financial pinch, designer lines from sportswear to mink coats, evening gowns to bootees are being snapped up... for the nation's dogs. For mankind's four-legged friends the rigours of the Russian winter have long required some extra layers to keep out the cold. But the jewel-encrusted, over-the-top creations on offer today, together with perfumes, facial masks and Swarkovski-studded leads, go way beyond the imaginings of, say, the 19th century writer Anton Chekhov, who touched on the phenomenon of women and their dogs in "Lady with Lapdog." Unlocking the commercial potential of the instinct to pamper one's pooch are designers like Svetlana Abramova, who in 2004 launched her own brand, Very Stylish Dog (, and is now breaking into the foreign market." (Yahoo News, 18 April) RD

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The Metropolitan Police have recently come in for much criticism for their conduct at the recent London G20 demonstration, but compared to the police in China they must seem almost benign.
"In dealing with the subject, take care to leave no blood on the face, no wounds on the body, and no people in the vicinity,"
states the manual, entitled Practices of City Administration Enforcement. The book was reportedly designed as a training guide for the Chengguan, a type of police force that is charged with targeting anyone it feels is disrupting the peace, ridding China's cities of illegal street hawkers and unlicensed taxi cabs, and checking permits." (Daily Telegraph, 22 April)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


It used to be said by SPGB speakers on the outdoor platform that the perfect worker as far as a capitalist was concerned was the following. Left school at 16 years of age went to work for the next 49 years, seven days a week, never a day off for sickness and earned a gold watch on his last day. On the Monday when he went to collect his first Old Age pension he dropped dead at the PO counter. The perfect worker! This may be looked on as a parody but it is not too far from the truth when we learn what is happening to old workers "fortunate" enough to live beyond the OAP.
"Elderly and vulnerable residents in almost half of Scotland's care homes are not receiving the palliative care, care to which they are entitled, according to a report. An investigation by the Care Commission found that 43 per cent of care homes did not realise that they should be providing palliative and end-of-life care. It also found that most care homes had failed to train staff to discuss death and dying with patients." (Times, 17 April) RD

Monday, April 20, 2009


From time to time everybody receives a charity appeal. It may be posted through your door or a leaflet in a newspaper. We receive so many of them that we tend to become a bit blasé about the whole charity thing, but a recent appeal from the Plan charity contained some particularly harrowing statistics.
"It's a tragic reality that one in five children born in the poorest countries won't live to see their 5th birthday. ...600 million children worldwide live on less that 70p a day - that's ten times the UK population. Working for more than 70 years and with over 100,000 child sponsors in the UK alone, Plan aims to help more children realise their full potential - and improve the lives of future generations."
Despite the sincerity and undoubted humanity of the Plan people the problem has got worse in the last 70 years. Workers contributing a pittance, to relieve the problem of world hunger are pointless. What we need is a transformation in the basis of society to one where all food, clothing and shelter are produced solely to satisfy human needs not to make a profit. RD


"Like those before him, Barack Obama is certainly reaping the benefits of high office. According to annual tax returns released by the White House today, he and his wife Michelle earned $2.66m in 2008, a figure that dwarfs the $400,000 salary he receives as president. Most of the money came from royalties for sales of Obama's books. His political tract, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, was published in 2006 and has remained on the New York Times best-seller list for 67 weeks. While his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, has been on the list for 142 weeks and is currently at number eight." (First Post, 16 April) RD

Sunday, April 19, 2009


"Would you pay 145 pounds ($215) for a slice of very stale cake? That's what an antiques fair in Birmingham hopes to earn Thursday when people bid for the remnant from one of Britain's most controversial royal weddings. The cake is thought to be the only surviving item from the 1871 wedding of Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, Princess Louise, to the Marquis of Lorne. It went on sale for 145 pounds ($215) Thursday at the Antiques for Everyone fair in Birmingham. The seller is antiques dealer John Shepherd. He bought the slice from a private seller who is a descendant of a noble family from Kent." (Yahoo News, 16 April) RD

Saturday, April 18, 2009


"Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today. The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.
"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine "Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well." ....Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association: "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death." (Independent, 15 April) RD


"Falling house prices have pushed more than 900,000 homeowners into negative equity, according to the industry body representing mortgage lenders. The latest data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders issued yesterday, reveals that the north-east of England has the highest proportion of people trapped in properties worth less than their mortgages. There, one in 10 owner-occupiers are in negative equity. By contrast, in East Anglia and Scotland it is one in 100. The council said that its latest national estimate compares with the more than 1.5 million homeowners left struggling under the weight of their home loans following the early 90s housing market crash." (Guardian, 17 April) RD

Friday, April 17, 2009


"Soldiers have warned the Government they must not be turned into strike-breakers if other public sector workers take industrial action against the proposed cuts in take-home pay. Pdforra, the association representing soldiers, sailors and air crew in the Defence Forces, is to seek an assurance from Defence Minister Willie O'Dea that the military will not be deployed to replace striking workers." (Irish Independent, 5 February) RD


In reviewing the BBC documentary Deliver Us From Evil shown the previous evening Andrew Billen the journalist had many shocking things to say about the Roman Catholic diocese of Los Angeles.
"There are an estimated 100,000 victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests living in the US today. Having spent millions fighting their claims, the diocese has, since the films release in America, paid out some $60 million in reparations to 45 victims, leaving another 500 cases pending." (Times,15 April)
The suffering and trauma experienced by these children can only be imagined. Capitalism is a cruel and heartless system and the RC church is one of its most bestial pillars of support. RD

Thursday, April 16, 2009


"It's become a depressingly predictable event. Every few months, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the US Department of Justice, releases new figures showing that the US prison and jail population has grown yet again and has reached a new all-time high. The latest statistics, released last week, show that as of June 30, 2008, more than 2.3 million people were behind bars in this country -- an increase of almost 20 percent just since 2000. This gives the United States an incarceration rate of 762 per 100,000 residents - the highest rate in the world, dwarfing those of other democracies like Great Britain (152 per 100,000), Canada (116), and Japan (63). (Yahoo News, 9 April) RD

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


"A pill which could prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from heart disease, the biggest killer across the Western world, has been shown to be safe and effective in its first trials on humans. The magic bullet, containing five medicines in a single capsule, sharply reduced cholesterol and blood pressure levels and has the potential to "halve cardiovascular events in average middle-aged individuals", the researchers say. The finding is a major boost for a medication with huge potential against the worldwide epidemic of heart disease and stroke. Doctors say that, if further trials prove successful, all men aged over 50 and women aged over 60 should be offered the pill in what would be the first example of mass medication for the middle-aged in Britain. Yet no Western pharmaceutical company has shown interest in developing the so-called polypill because it does not promise big profits. It would sell for pennies because its five constituent medicines are cheap, have been around for decades and their patents have expired." (Independent, 31 March) RD


"The NHS is today castigated for providing "inadequate" psychiatric help to vulnerable patients, as new figures reveal an average of four deaths a day among those in its care. Data collected by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) shows that 1,282 people in England died in what it calls " patient safety incidents in mental health settings" in the period 2007-08. Another 913 patients - more than two a day - suffered what is termed severe harm, or permanent injuries, in such incidents." (Observer, 12 April) RD

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


"Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s camp was told last year that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) would raise up to $5 million in campaign cash for the ex-governor if he was appointed to President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. The overture came from at least two members of the local Indian community who approached the Blagojevich fund-raising team last fall, sources say." (Chicago Sun-Times, 13 April) RD


"Global shipping rates are set to fall by 74 per cent this year as commodity demand continues to fall in Asia and the massive glut of vessels ordered during the boom years finally takes to the seas. The expected collapse in rates, which could push dozens of ship-owners close to bankruptcy, comes after a 92 per cent decline in the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) of shipping rates over the course of last year. The misery is expected to continue well into 2010, with a further 15 per cent drop in rates before any rebound brings relief to fleet-owners. The closely watched gauge of world trade in iron ore, coal and other bulk cargoes has fallen for 19 consecutive days, the same rate of decline that occurred after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank, and the catastrophic freezing of trade finance. The stark warning of a continuing collapse in the BDI, issued by analysts at Nomura Securities in Hong Kong, comes after industry predictions of multiple order cancellations by ship-owners and forecasts that record numbers of vessels may be put into storage." (Times, 9 April) RD

Monday, April 13, 2009


"More than 2,300 people died from malnutrition in NHS hospitals in England over the 10 years to 2007, according to official figures revealed yesterday to the Conservatives in a parliamentary answer. The data, from the UK Statistics Authority, showed the poorest performing regions were the West Midlands, where 409 people died from malnutrition, and the south east, where 388 died. Across England, the number of deaths increased from 209 in 1997 to 242 in 2007. Stephen O'Brien, the shadow health minister, said: "The least that patients should be able to expect is to be fed properly." (Guardian, 8 April) RD


"It has often been said that water is "blue gold" and the next resource wars will be fought, not over oil, but over water. Maude Barlow, senior advisor to the United Nations on water issues, wrote that the way in which we view water "will in large part determine whether our future is peaceful or perilous." There is no doubt that the world's supply of drinkable fresh water is threatened. An astounding one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water today and that number is likely to reach 2.8 billion in only two decades. Will these challenges result in an all-out "water war"? "The British non-profit International Alert released a report identifying forty-six countries where water and climate stresses could ignite violent conflict by 2025, prompting the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to affirm, "The consequences for humanity are grave. Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict." (The Nation, 31 March) RD

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Who owns the North Pole - part 15

Much news coverage of the Russians creating military units for a possible Arctic war as reported by Socialist Courier previously but of course they are not the only nations reinforcing their military might . We read of Canadian plans .

The First Battalion, The Royal New Brunswick Regiment is one of four reserve units from across the country designated to form the spine of a new Arctic force to be created over the next five years. Joining the 1RNBR will be the Voltigeurs de Quebec, Ontario's Grey and Simcoe Foresters, and Royal Winnipeg Rifles. To complement the creation of the unit, the military will continue with its plans to expand the Canadian Rangers, a group composed of First Nations and Inuit reservists. By 2012, those numbers are expected to reach 5,000 personnel. Should an incident occur in the Arctic, the soldiers would be available to respond.

Col. Greg MacCallum, commander of 37 Brigade Group , said the strategic significance of forming the new units is to exercise sovereignty and ownership of the Arctic.

"You do that, at least in part, by being able to project military forces into that region to show a presence and to show a capability and intent to exercise ownership of it."

Saturday, April 11, 2009


"Oxfam is warning that the economic downturn is creating more poverty in the UK, making life tougher for the fifth of the population already struggling to get by. Kathleen Carter lives in poverty. At her home in Stockton-on-Tees, she cares full-time for her disabled son and husband. Her life is a constant round of cleaning, cooking, preparing medication and shopping on a very tight budget. The only income is from her pension and a small amount of benefits. She says: "It can be very soul-destroying. I've got to think of everything I buy; life is a real struggle because all the time you are thinking about what you are spending." Mrs Carter is one of the so-called Freds. It is a term Oxfam has created standing for Forgotten, Ripped-off, Excluded and Debt-ridden." (BBC News, 8 April) RD

Friday, April 10, 2009


Carol Houlder, a substance abuse counselor, waited a year for surgery on her
injured ankle to be approved. “I was in so much pain and felt so hopeless for so
long,” she said.
"Dr. Hershel Samuels, an orthopaedic surgeon, put his hand on the worker’s back. “Mild spasm bilaterally,” he said softly. He pressed his fingers gingerly against the side of the man’s neck. “The left cervical is tender,” he said, “even to light palpation.” The worker, a driver for a plumbing company, told the doctor he had fallen, banging up his back, shoulder and ribs. He was seeking expanded workers’ compensation benefits because he no longer felt he could do his job. Dr. Samuels, an independent medical examiner in the state workers’ compensation system, seemed to agree. As he moved about a scuffed Brooklyn office last April, he called out test results indicative of an injured man. His words were captured on videotape. Yet the report Dr. Samuels later submitted to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board cleared the driver for work and told a far different story: no back spasms, no tender neck. In fact, no recent injury at all. “If you did a truly pure report,” he said later in an interview, “you’d be out on your ears and the insurers wouldn’t pay for it. You have to give them what they want, or you’re in Florida. That’s the game, baby.” (New York Times, 31 March) RD

Thursday, April 09, 2009

home sweet home , or is it ?

The BBC reports that a total of 7,500 Scots are set to lose their homes this year.

That is 20 a day.

The Council for Mortgage Lenders had already raised the forecast from 48,000 to 75,000 repossessions across the UK.

"I think if things continue to get worse in the wider economy, it's going to get an awful lot worse and I think that's a real problem. We have to remember, you have two hundred thousand people in Scotland on housing waiting lists already. If you have people coming out of their own homes, they'll have to join those lists which is going to put even greater demand on housing. If the number of repossessions rises to seven and a half thousand as may well be predicted or, or even greater, apart from just the individual what impact would this have on communities?" - Shelter Scotland chairman Graeme Brown said

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Food for Thought 3

- On Sunday, March 8th. International Women’s Day, The Toronto Star reported,” Seventy per cent of the poorest people on the planet are women and girls, and even in a wealthy country like Canada they are the majority of the poor.” Progress is slow in this system, to say the least.

- In his Toronto Star article, “To Justify Degradation, Just Cite the Economy”, Peter Gorrie shows just how “green” governments are. The federal Conservatives have tied measures that gut environmental laws to the stimulus package that must be rushed through at all costs. New Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, who promised to scrutinize everything the Tories did in exchange for allowing the minority government to continue, has ordered a quick passage of the bill and no opposition from the Liberal-dominated senate. Changes that undermine the Navigable WatersProtection Act have been rushed through and, in the next step, environmental assessments for 90% of the “Building Canada” stimulus package have been eliminated. Gorrie writes, “ The general impression (of the stimulus projects) is of an incoherent mishmash aimed more at enhancing Conservative fundraising and election prospects than Canada’s economic and environmental health.”
Would we expect anything else from an institution that is there to serve the capitalist system.
John Ayers

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


"Morocco has become one of the largest winemakers in the Muslim world, with the equivalent of 35 million bottles produced last year. Wine brings the state millions in sales tax, even though Islam appears to be on the rise politically. "Morocco is a country of tolerance," said Mehdi Bouchaara, the deputy general manager at the Celliers de Meknes, the country's largest winemaker, which bottles over 85 per cent of national output. "It's everybody's personal choice whether to drink or not." The Celliers have flourished on this tolerance. The firm now cultivates 2,100 hectares (5,189 acres) of vineyards, bottling anything from entry-level table wine to homemade sparkling wine and even a high-end claret, Chateau Roslane, aged in a vaulted cellar packed with oak barrels imported from France. The winery now dwarfs virtually any other producer in Europe. On paper, wine is "Haram," or forbidden to Muslims. But Bouchaara said the firm's distribution is all legal since it only sells to traders authorized by the state, who in turn officially sell exclusively to non-Muslim tourists. Statistics, however, show that Moroccans consume on average one litre (a quarter of a gallon) of wine per person each year, and the Moroccan state itself is the largest owner of the country's 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) of vineyards." (Associated Press, 6 April) RD


"The Washington Post has just dropped its separate City section and runs financial coverage in with the rest of the news. The New York Times is about to do the same.
What? Downgrade the importance of economics, bailouts and bust banks just as they grip the world by the windpipe? Was there ever such a decision so out of time? Two comments. Whole sections of expertise didn't help readers to see what was coming. And since its come, there isn't the advertising left to make them fly away." (Observer, 5 April) RD

old and in the way

A quarter of UK pensioners feel their lives are getting worse.

Michelle Mitchell from Age Concern and Help the Aged said: "Loneliness, depression, poverty and neglect blight the lives of millions of older people and for many, evidence shows the situation is getting worse, not better...."

Yet all the charities can do is make plaintive pleas to government for reforms . To be frank, campaigning charities like Age Concern and Help the Aged have got no chance at all of getting governments to change their practice of putting profits before people. And it is not because they believe merely in lobbying that dooms them to failure. As long as the capitalist system continues to exist, its economic laws will operate to put profits before people, and governments will have no choice but to dance to this tune.

Monday, April 06, 2009


"Although most City eateries suffered a drop-off in lunchtime trade, three bankers from Deutsche Bank spotted at the Coq d'Argent clearly were determined not to let the great unwashed prevent them from having a decent lunch. A contact on a neighbouring table claims the trio drank their way through three bottles of wine at £120 a time." (Times, 2 April) RD

Food for Thought 2

- Bernard Madoff’s wife was able to withdraw $10 million dollars the day before he surrendered. The feds said,
“ The process (of scrutinizing the money) gives us the right to look at all of it to try to prove that Mrs. Madoff did not earn this money on her own”.
Now, let’s see, @ minimum wage, $10/hour, that would take her…500 years! Either she’s a very old lady, or she must have earned more than the minimum wage!

- In the recession news, the unemployed number in the US has officially hit 12.5 million and construction has soared, of tents, that is. A recent picture in the Toronto Star showed people and tents beside a railway line. A locomotive is passing close behind them with a fluttering American flag and the Union Pacific flag painted on the side and the words, “Building America” beside them. Ironic indeed!

- In Ontario, it’s up and down for the 1.3 million poor, as usual. On the good side, the minimum wage increases 75 cents per hour to $9.50, and the child tax credit doubled to $92 per child per month. The bad news is that on that basis you would still be well below the poverty line and the premier is hinting that next year’s planned increase in the minimum wage may have to be shelved until the economy improves, by which time any gains would be more than wiped out by inflation. Back to the old treadmill!

- And the ridiculous? The Ontario Energy Board has put aside money to be more flexible with those who can’t pay bills, i.e. not to charge interest on unpaid bills, and to help those people to become more energy efficient and have lower bills in the future. Only problem is the poor don’t own their houses and the landlords are not interested in refits because they don’t pay the utilities.
John Ayers

Sunday, April 05, 2009


"Mary Merchant, 72, who died of natural causes in her locked house in 25 acres of land, lay undiscovered with her dog, which died of thirst, for 18 months in South Carolina. Her house was sold for tax arrears before her body was found." (Times, 2 April) RD

Malnutrition in the UK ?

“We think we are heading towards malnutrition happening here in the UK.” - Save the Children’s Colette Marshall told the BBC. "Benefits simply haven’t been enough and with rising food costs it means that families cannot afford to give children proper decent food. "

Children are being deprived of dietary staples and instead are being raised on cheap packaged food high in fat, salt and sugar. The Grocer magazine shows food prices rising by almost a fifth over the past year, with basic essentials such as rice and milk among the worst hit.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Food for Thought

- Some of the rich are hurting, too. The top 5 American banks Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, and HSBC Bank, lost a combined total of $587 billion just on derivatives in 2008.

- The City of Gold, Dubai, is cancelling 1 500 work visas per day, and 53% of current construction projects, worth $582 billion are on hold.

- Warren Buffet had to make do with just $175 000 in pay for 2008, the same as the year before. He also lost $25 billion in net worth as it plunged from $62 billion to just $37 billion. How do they get by!

- Banks can recoup some of their losses through the usual immigrant practice of sending money home, by charging foreign exchange and service fees for the transfer, which amount to $2 billion per year.

- The AIG bonuses of $220 million for running their company into the ground are well publicized, but Canada’s Nortel beats that story. After laying off 1100 employees, they sought, and got, bankruptcy protection so they didn’t have to pay them severance packages, but just a couple of weeks later, they awarded themselves $45 million in bonuses, 8 senior executives taking home $7.3 million collectively. Not bad for failing, wonder what they would have got for succeeding!

- Manulife’s retiring CEO pulled in $13.25 million for 2008 (down From $17 million in 2007) and $12.6 million for 2009 even though he will retire in May
John Ayers

Thursday, April 02, 2009


"Although almost 4,000 military staff annually are found to have some form of mental disorder, in just over three years only 115 British personnel or veterans were compensated for the psychological injuries of war. Under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme any soldier or veteran who can show a service-related mental disorder lasting at least six weeks is eligible for a £3,000 payout." (Times, 28 March) RD


"Los Angeles – The widow of producer Aaron Spelling is placing "The Manor" in the exclusive Holmby Hills neighbourhood on the market for a jaw-dropping $150 million, making it by far the most expensive home for sale in the U.S. The French chateau-style mansion has 56,500 square feet of space on more than 4.6 acres and is the largest home in Los Angeles County. Among the neighbours are the Los Angeles Country Club and, not too far away, the Playboy Mansion." (Yahoo News, 27 March) RD

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


"Weighing just 79 pounds and barely four feet tall, the 9-year-old girl, from Alagoinha, a town in the northeast, underwent an abortion when she was 15 weeks pregnant at one of the 55 centres authorized to perform the procedure in Brazil. Abortion is legal here only in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is at risk. The doctors’ actions set off a swirl of controversy. A Brazilian archbishop summarily excommunicated everyone involved — the doctors for performing the abortion and the girl’s mother for allowing it — except for the stepfather, who stands accused of raping the girl over a number of years. “The law of God is above any human law,” said José Cardoso Sobrinho, the archbishop, who argued that while rape was bad, abortion was even worse." (New York Times, 27 March) RD