Monday, August 31, 2009


Japanese high school students wearing masks in Tokyo May 17, 2009
"Catholic churchgoers in Tokyo will have to do without holy water for now as the H1N1 influenza outbreak prompts Japanese churches to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. The Franciscan Chapel Centre in Tokyo is one church that has decided to empty the holy water basins, into which parishioners traditionally dip their fingers and bless themselves by making a sign of the cross." (Yahoo News, 21 August) RD


"Network Rail has revealed plans to cut 1,800 maintenance jobs ... Fujitsu, the computer giant, is cutting 1,200 jobs - one in ten of its workforce in Britain. Lloyds Banking Group is shedding a further 200 posts in a fresh round of cuts that takes its total job losses this year to 7,500. About 850 jobs were lost with the closure of 142 Allied Carpets outlets by administrators. GKN, the engineering group, announced that a further 1,200 workers would be made redundant, in addition to the 2,500 jobs already cut. In the three months to June, unemployment climbed to 7.8 per cent - its highest level in 13 years. Economists are predicting that jobless numbers will soon pass three million to rival the worst levels of the 1980s. (Times, 28 August) RD

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Elsie Poncher is selling her husband's burial spot directly above film legend
Marilyn Monroe so that she can pay off pay off the $1.6 million mortgage on her
Beverly Hills home.
When socialists explain that world socialism is a new society wherein all wealth will be produced solely for use and not sale and that there will be no wages, prices or rent inside socialism we are often accused of madness! To these defenders of capitalism there is something sane about people starving while food is destroyed. We wonder what they make of the following news item though. There are people today trying to survive on less than $2 a day at the same time as some crazed millionaires can get away with this madness. "Even in death, Marilyn Monroe is still snagging millionaires. An unidentified deep-pocketed fan who clearly prefers blonds placed the winning $4.6 million bid Monday in an eBay auction for the crypt directly above the sexy screen icon's grave. Beverly Hills widow Elsie Poncher put her husband's strategically positioned crypt on the auction block with a starting price of $500,000. Bidding soared to $4.5 million three days later." (Daily News, 24 August) Elsie Poncher is selling her husband's burial spot directly above film legend Marilyn Monroe so that she can pay off pay off the $1.6 million mortgage on her Beverly Hills home. RD


"In brief, the number of American non-believers has doubled since 1990, a 2008 Pew survey found, and increased even more in some other advanced democracies. What's curious is not so much the overall decline of belief (which has caused the Vatican to lament the de-Christianization of Europe) as the pattern. In a paper last month in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, Gregory Paul finds that countries with the lowest rates of social dysfunction—based on 25 measures, including rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, unemployment, and poverty—have become the most secular. Those with the most dysfunction, such as Portugal and the U.S., are the most religious, as measured by self-professed belief, church attendance, habits of prayer, and the like." (Newsweek, 31 August) RD

Friday, August 28, 2009


"It's cramped and stale in what Lau Chi-lok calls home: a 20-square-foot portion of an apartment that he shares with 21 other men. For $167 a month, Lau gets the top bunk in what the government euphemistically calls a "bed space," or cubicle dwelling — a tiny rectangular area, partitioned by thin wooden slabs or steel mesh wire to safeguard the resident's belongings, barely large enough for a mattress. At least there's air-conditioning, turned on at 9 p.m. every summer night. For most people in Hong Kong, the lives of Lau and his roommates are a world apart, hidden behind gated doors and dark stairways. But this is home to thousands of Hong Kong's urban slum dwellers, who are barely making ends meet and — in this year's downturn — putting off dreams of a better life. Across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong's central business district, in a neighbourhood of bright neon signs and bustling vendors, 33-year-old Lai Man-law has been looking for a job for the past year while living in a mesh-wire 18-square-foot cage. "It's dirty and hot. There are cockroaches and bedbugs, and the air-conditioning doesn't work," he says. Every major metropolis has its share of slums; the U.N. estimates that one-third of the developing world's urban population lives in them, with nearly 40% of East Asian urban dwellers living in slum conditions." (Time, 21 August) RD

Monday, August 24, 2009


French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie visits the prison of Orleans in
central France. Alliot-Marie.
"France's overcrowded prisons are to be issued with preventive "kits" to help stem an alarming rise in suicide rates among inmates, the justice minister said on Tuesday. Since the start of the year, 81 prisoners have killed themselves in French jails, which are designed for a maximum of 51,000 inmates but currently house more than 62,000, according to official government figures. The International Prison Observatory this month put the figure even higher, at 88, attacking what it called a "worrying" trend in French jails. Under new measures, inmates identified as high risk will receive kits with tear-proof bedding and single-use paper pyjamas to prevent in-cell hangings, which accounts for 96 percent of all suicides." (Yahoo News, 18 August) RD


"More than 2,000 children have been found to have lead poisoning because Chinese factories greedy for profit have spewed out pollutants without carrying out even the most minor environmental monitoring. Officials announced yesterday that 1,354 children under 14, who had been living and going to school for more than two years within a few hundred metres of a manganese smelter, had excess lead in their blood. Local officials said that the numbers could rise when further tests were carried out." (Times, 21 August) RD

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


"It's too bad so many people are falling into poverty at a time when it’s almost illegal to be poor. You won’t be arrested for shopping in a Dollar Store, but if you are truly, deeply, in-the-streets poor, you’re well advised not to engage in any of the biological necessities of life — like sitting, sleeping, lying down or loitering. City officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about the ordinances that afflict the destitute, most of which go back to the dawn of gentrification in the ’80s and ’90s. “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a city attorney in St. Petersburg, Fla., said in June, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.” (New York Times, 8 August) RD

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why the SNP Must Fail

Community Central Hall, 304 Maryhill Rd
. 19 August 8.30pm

Community Central Hall, 304 Maryhill Rd. 19 August 8.30pm

Community Central Hall, 304 Maryhill Rd. 19 August 8.30pm

In his talk Vic will look at the birth of the SNP and why it’s nickname was “ The Tartan Tories” and he will explain how the SNP was transformed from the mere handful it had been until the late 1950s to the major political force it is in Scotland today.

Vic will also look at the conflict which raged in the SNP for decades between the traditionalists and the pragmatists and why the triumph of the latter paved the way for this rags-to-riches transformation.

The SNP can hardly wait for the next General Election when it expects to make the substantial gains, probably at the expense of Labour, which it hopes will be a major step towards their goal of a fully independent Scotland.

Could this happen at some point in the future and would it be in the interests of the working class in Scotland if it did?

Community Central Hall, 304 Maryhill Rd. 19 August 8.30pm


"Feel like you’re working a lot harder these days, putting in longer hours for the same pay — or even less? The latest round of government data on worker productivity indicates that you probably are. The Labour Department said Tuesday that the American work force produced, at an annual rate, 6.4 percent more of the goods they made and services they provided in the second quarter of this year compared to a year ago. At the same time, “unit labour costs” — the amount employers paid for all that extra work — fell by 5.8 percent. The jump in productivity was higher than expected; the cut in labour costs more than double expectations."
(, 11 August) RD


"Recession has shaken nearly every corner of the U.S. economy but Trinity Yachts is still turning out custom-built luxury boats, thanks in part to a sagging U.S. dollar. Trinity, the largest U.S. mega-yacht builder, will deliver eight sumptuously outfitted boats this year from its shipyards in Gulfport, Mississippi and New Orleans. The yachts ooze indulgence, with interiors laden with fine millwork, marble flooring, wine cellars, high-end home theatres and onboard submarines designed for underwater sightseeing. Prices range from $25 million to $80 million." (Yahoo News, 9 August) RD

Monday, August 17, 2009


Even in an economic downturn, preachers in the “prosperity gospel” movement are drawing sizable, adoring audiences. Their message — that if you have sufficient faith in God and the Bible and donate generously, God will multiply your offerings a hundredfold — is reassuring to many in hard times ( NYTimes aug 15th )


Big Brother: It has been revealed that there are 4.2million closed circuit
TV cameras in the UK
"Britain has one and a half times as many surveillance cameras as communist China, despite having a fraction of its population, shocking figures revealed yesterday. There are 4.2million closed circuit TV cameras here, one per every 14 people. But in police state China, which has a population of 1.3billion, there are just 2.75million cameras, the equivalent of one for every 472,000 of its citizens. Simon Davies from pressure group Privacy International said the astonishing statistic highlighted Britain's 'worrying obsession' " (Daily Mail, 11 August) RD

Who owns the North Pole - Part 16

Continuing our Arctic Saga

Canada is launching a series of military exercises in the Arctic far-north region of the country.The so-called sovereignty operation is designed to show a visible presence in the resource-rich area, amid competing claims among other nations.Asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic has been a priority for Mr Harper's conservative government.

Operation Nanook will see the Canadian Armed Forces involved in sea, land and airforce operations in the country's eastern Arctic territory.

Once thought a barren region, a number of countries with competing claims have been carefully mapping the area around the North Pole, thought to be rich in minerals and natural resources.
Canada is also concerned by the melting of ice each year through the fabled Northwest Passage, blamed by scientists on global warming. The United States government has said that it does not recognise exclusive Canadian rights to the waterway, that could be a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

Saturday, August 15, 2009


"Alan Duncan's future in the Shadow Cabinet was in the balance last night after he was forced to apologise for claiming that MPs were living on rations because of the expenses row. ...Mr Duncan, who is paying back £4,000 after details of his claim for gardening was revealed, said: "I spend my money on my garden and claim a tiny fraction based on what is proper. And I could claim the whole bloody lot, but I don't." Asked why people would no longer want to become MPs, he said: "Basically, it's been nationalised, you have to live on rations and are treated like s***." (Times, 13 August) RD


"Last October, Alan Greenspan — who had spent years assuring investors that all was well with the American financial system — declared himself to be in a state of “shocked disbelief.” After all, the best and brightest had assured him our financial system was sound: “In recent decades, a vast risk management and pricing system has evolved, combining the best insights of mathematicians and finance experts supported by major advances in computer and communications technology. . . . The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year.”
(New York Times, 6 August) RD

Thursday, August 13, 2009


8.30 pm



Vic’s talk
In his talk Vic will look at the birth of the SNP and why it’s nickname was “ The Tartan Tories” and he will explain how the SNP was transformed from the mere handful it had been until the late 1950s to the major political force it is in Scotland today.
Vic will also look at the conflict which raged in the SNP for decades between the traditionalists and the pragmatists and why the triumph of the latter paved the way for this rags-to-riches transformation.
The SNP can hardly wait for the next General Election when it expects to make the substantial gains, probably at the expense of Labour, which it hopes will be a major step towards their goal of a fully independent Scotland.
Could this happen at some point in the future and would it be in the interests of the working class in Scotland if it did?


The parrot, using its beak, made random choices from balls representing 30 blue
chips including Samsung Electronics
"Ddalgi (Korean for strawberry), from Papua New Guinea, finished third in the six-week contest which ended on Wednesday, said Paxnet, an online stock market information provider. The bird competed with 10 stock investors. Each started with 60 million won (£29,000) in cyber money and traded 10 million won worth of stocks in each transaction. Human investors picked any stocks they wanted. The parrot, using its beak, made random choices from balls representing 30 blue chips including Samsung Electronics. "The outcome of our contest was amazing. Ddalgi stood third with her investment return standing at 13.7 per cent," Chung Yeon-Dae, the Paxnet general manager, told AFP. Human investors averaged a 4.6 per cent loss, with only two outperforming the parrot - one by 64.4 per cent and one by 21.4 per cent."
(Daily Telegraph, 7 August) RD


Most Reverend gentlemen tell their flocks not to thirst after the material things of life, but a recent obituary highlighted one American bible thumper who couldn't be accused of such nonsense. "One of America's first tele-evangelists, F.J. Eikerenkoetter 11, 74, better known as the Rev. Ike spread his gospel of material wealth to millions of viewers with proclamations like "Jesus was a capitalist". His opulent lifestyle, bankrolled by church donations, included several mansions and a fleet of Rolls-Royces. "My garage runneth over", he once quipped."
(Time, 17 August)
It is true the Good Book promised "In my father's house there are many mansions". We can't recall any mention of Rollers or garages though. RD

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


We are all aware of the Hollywood depiction of Las Vegas as a fun-loving city, full of casinos, nightclubs and good times, but the reality for its growing homeless numbers is far from idylic. As jobs and homes disappear many of the dispossessed street dwellers are subject to attacks of violence. Now even the the streets are being abandoned by the homeless. "Some of the Las Vegas homeless resort to living in a maze of underground flood channels beneath the Strip. There they face flash floods, disease, black widows and dank, pitch-dark conditions, but some tunnel dwellers say life there is better than being harassed and threatened by assailants and the police. “Out there, anything goes,” said Manny Lang, who has lived in the tunnels for months, recalling the stones and profanities with which a group of teenagers pelted him last winter when he slept above ground. “But in here, nothing’s going to happen to us.”
(New York Times, 7 August) In one of the most sophisticated urban areas in the world some members of the working class are living like sewer rats. What a hellish system capitalism is.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greets supporters in Quito, Ecuador, on
Sunday. Chavez has charged that Colombian troops entered Venezuela by crossing
the Orinoco River, a move he warned was a "provocation" by his U.S.-backed
Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe.

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez told his military to be prepared for a possible confrontation with Colombia, warning that Bogota's plans to increase the U.S. military presence at its bases poses a threat to Venezuela.
Chavez has issued near daily warnings that Washington could use bases in Colombia to destabilize the region since learning of negotiations to lease seven Colombian military bases to the United States.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Food for Thought 4

On the poverty front – a Toronto Star article (Put Poverty on the G8's Agenda – for effectiveness, (see Food for thought, How Capitalism Works) described how water was brought to 8 000 people in the Congo for just $40 000 and if only the world's wealthy nations would deliver on their promised $60 billion over five years (see same item again!) then a real dent could be made in aids, health systems, reducing child mortality. Etc. The article does tell us that World Bank statistics show rising food costs could lead to 2.8 million more children dying by 2015; that with some increase for basic health services, annual child deaths fell from 10.9 to 9.2 million, 2002-2007. That still leaves 26 000 per day dying from preventable diseases and hunger. Naturally, the article never once questioned the system that caused the problem and is expected to fix it, if we beg hard enough!

- In the Olympic city of Vancouver, $million dollar condo high rise buildings are rubbing shoulders with homeless shelters and mini tent cities. The former are getting the authorities to close down the latter.Meanwhile, the city has spent $10 million on the athlete's village. Advocates hope that the houses will become low income but at a cost of $440 000 each, the city has to decide whether to sell them at market price, or not. Priorities, priorities in a profit system.

- In environmental affairs, a Toronto Star investigation (4/July 09), revealed that the city's boast of diverting one third of garbage to compost is a sham and grossly inflated. Apparently the compost that is produced will kill plants because of its high salt content (see same item)- In the nether world of religion, an article entitled "Ireland's Holy Stump a Blessing in Tough Times", tells us that a tree cut down resembled, to some, the virgin Mary. The overseer remarked, "People have been crying out for something good to happen and this is all good for the soul." The parish priest said that they were letting their imaginations run wild and they were threatening to violate the commandment about a false god.
Opium of the people, indeed! We can tell them something better that ought to happen.- And in the middle of the Michael Jackson hysteria, the Toronto Star ran Article, "Is Michael Jackson Going to Heaven – he was raised by Jehovah's witnesses, married into scientology and flirted with Judaism and Islam. Now the debate rages over his soul." One gem will suffice
– "One intriguing argument goes that since Jackson never matured beyond childhood, his innocence remains perfectly intact." And this dribble, note, appeared in the section of the paper titled "Insight"!!!
John Ayers

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Councils say they do not have enough funds to pay bus companies
Providing free bus travel for all pensioners is an "inefficient" use of public funds, a report has concluded.
The study by the consultancy Oxera for the Local Government Association says councils would be better off targeting those who were most in need.
Free bus passes for over-60s in England were introduced by the government in 2008, but many councils say the funding arrangements leave them out of pocket. ( BBC NEWS 6th Aug 09)
In times of slump any benefits workers receive are up for grabs. A means test was suggested, back to the good old days?


A method of keeping up the prices is to subsidise the purchase of a new one while making sure your old one is clunkered as the Americans say. Senate opponents of the program, most of them Republicans, question its effectiveness and cost.
President Barack Obama signed a bill extending the popular program into Labor Day and preventing the 2-week-old incentives from running out, the White House said on Friday.
The Senate voted to refill the car incentive program on Thursday, tripling the $1 billion fund that has led to big crowds at once deserted auto showrooms.


"A media committee in Venezuela's parliament is set to begin Tuesday studying a draft law that, if approved, could jail anyone publishing comments that authorities consider a threat to national interests. The controversial text will be weighed just days after President Hugo Chavez's government revoked the licenses of 32 radio stations and two local television stations "to democratize the radio-electric spectrum." The moves were slammed by critics of the firebrand leftist leader and others as a coordinated crackdown on media challenging the president's image and policies, and as signs that freedom of expression is being muzzled."
(Yahoo News, 3 August) RD

Food for Thought 3

- Those who always do very well, continue to do so, even though Ontario's Industry Minister refused do divulge GM or Chrysler executives' pay
– "taxpayers should feel comfortable with government oversight of GM and Chrysler – and don't need to know how much top executives are being paid in Canada. Canada invested $14 billion in those companies.
Apparently, disclosure would frighten top executives away and, in any case, they are too busy selling cars. The arrogance of the capitalist apologists knows no bounds!
A few figures anyway – Citigroup, Merril Lynch and seven other banks paid $32.6 billion in bonuses in 2008 while receiving $175 billion in tax-payer assistance; Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase paid out $18 billion in bonuses while getting $45 billion in Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP – some cover!). The top 200 at Morgan Chase shared $1.12 billion (average 5.6. million); AIG insurance under new government-appointed CEO Ed Liddy paid out $165 million in bonuses after receiving $173 billion; Hey, maybe they are worth every penny? Rick Wagner of GM received $65 million over 5 years while accumulating a staggering $82 billion in debt; Stanley O'Neal collected $233 million for managing Merrill Lynch into the ground; CEO's pay rose 2 per cent in 2008 while Standard and Poor's 500 index lost 27%. Now that's merit pay! In 1980, the typical CEO received 40 times the pay of the average worker. In 2007, that figure was 433 times. "The obvious questions arise" wrote the Toronto Star (26/Jul/09) " Are corporate CEOs 393 times smarter than they were in 1980? Have they been producing 393 times more wealth for shareholders?
Well, no, of course". Did they produce any wealth? Well no, of course!
John Ayers

Friday, August 07, 2009


No deckhands are needed to clamber up the rigging and unfurl the sails, however.
Instead, the Maltese Falcon’s DynaRig system can be sailed by one man from a
computerised control console on the bridge that moves the yards and sails
according to the wind and current
"It required some trimming of the price, but a buyer has finally been found for the largest and most expensive private sailing vessel built. Tom Perkins, the American venture capitalist, is close to completing the sale of his clipper-style super yacht the Maltese Falcon. The 289ft boat — an elegant “hybrid” that can run on giant sails or engines — is believed to have fetched about £60m after being on the market for more than a year."
(Sunday Times, 2 August) RD

Food for Thought 2

On the economic front, we can all breathe a sigh of relief – the governor of the Bank of Canada has declared the recession over. Say what!
The unemployment rate is up (a manipulated 9.6% in Toronto), 467 000 jobs lost in the US (an accompanying picture shows a man outside his home, an old RV – complete with the American flag!); consumer prices in Canada record the biggest slide since 1955 bringing widespread fears of deflation; Britain's economy shrank by 5.6% over the last year; over 750 000 Canadians are drawing unemployment insurance, up 11% since April. The governor did have the good grace to say job recovery is expected by 2014. Now listen to another economist's whitewash of the figures (CBC radio).
The fact that so many Canadians are on unemployment is a good sign. Since only those who actively seek work can draw benefits, this shows that more people are optimistic about finding a job and signing up. I suppose they forego those benefits if they don't think their chances are good. When the figure reaches one million, we can all rejoice. Note that only about one third of workers are eligible for benefits.
John Ayers

Thursday, August 06, 2009


"A rare, 5-carat pink diamond will be sold in Hong Kong this December by Christie's, which expects the stone to hover near world record prices, thanks in part to the buying prowess of top Asian jewelry collectors. The stone, set in a so-called "cushion-cut" ring by famed jewellers Graff Diamonds, is expected to fetch between $5-$7 million, in reach of the current world auction record for a pink diamond -- a 19.66-carat stone that sold in Geneva for $7.4 million in 1994." (Yahoo News, 3 August) RD

Food for Thought

- How capitalism works –
1. Researchers revealed this week that Canadian food products contain up to twice as much salt as those in other countries, even when those products are identical in every other respect. Salt enhances taste, of course, but also is responsible for increased heart and stroke problems. In fact, 30 people die per day in this country because of elevated levels of salt. Checking the food label doesn't help as daily percentages are based on a sodium intake of twice the accepted amount. The government has remained silent.
2. Struggling pig farmers are considering euthanizing healthy pigs as pork prices drop due to the negative publicity of swine flu. Imagine, thousands starving to death every day and pigs are to be slaughtered to keep prices up!
3.Another G8 summit, another waste of time. In the Orwellian titled document "Responsible Leadership for a Sustainable Future", the `leaders' showed no responsibility and did nothing to ensure sustainability, even of profit.
4. Times are tough, go after the workers' benefits. Almost 300 000 unionized grocery workers received a notice recently of `benefit restructuring', specifically in their pensions. The futility of reform!
5. Wal-mart is noted for fighting unionization, poor pay and benefits for their workers. David Olive writes (Toronto Star, 5/Jul/09),
"Wal-mart signaled this week that it's poised to be in the vanguard of genuine health care reform in the US, breaking ranks with corporate lobbies fiercely opposed to it."
Now get up off the floor and read on,
" Reason: Wal-Mart has so improved its health care benefits for employees that it's now at a competitive disadvantage to its rivals." See the logic? That's how capitalism works.
John Ayers

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


The financial journalist Richard Wachman recently wrote an article in The Observer entitled "We're two years older and sadder, but perhap not a great deal wiser".He reviewed the financial collapse that had occured from August '07 to August '09. "What happened two years ago was to lead to a chain of event that involved the nationalisation of about half the major bank in Britain and the United States. It was also to lead to the collapse of emerging markets from Latvia to Pakistan and the biggest ever globally co-ordinated government rescue package, involving trillions of pounds. The world is now an uglier place with mass unemployment, widespread business failure and dramatic falls in world trade." (Observer, 2 August)
Mr Wachman's analyisis of the problem is not particularly revealing but what is of interest in his article is how the crisis has left so-called experts with egg on their faces. Mervyn King (August, 2007) "I don't think there's any real evidence here of a fundemental challenge to the macroeconomic outlook." and then (February, 2009) "The UK is in deep recession ...Restoring both lending and confidence will not be easy and will take time." George W Bush (August, 2007) "The fundementals of our economy are strong ... and we are headed for a soft landing." and then "If money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down." (September, 2008) Alistair Darling (August 2007) "People should have confidence that many of the investment they make will be good investments." and then "Times are are arguably the worst they've been in 60 years... it's going to be more long-lasting than people thought." (September 2008)
Capitalism is a social system based on economic slumps and booms and it makes fools of all the "experts". RD

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


"India will not discuss signing up to legally binding obligations to make absolute cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for at least 10 years, Jairam Ramesh, the country’s environment minister, said on Friday. “In 2020, it’s conceivable that we might look at a limited target. But in 2009, no way,” said Mr Ramesh. The toughening of New Delhi’s stance marks an escalation in the war of words over global warming that India has waged with the developed world ahead of crucial negotiations in Copenhagen in December. The bad-tempered dialogue bodes ill for the success of those talks. Both India and China are unhappy over what they see as western pressure on them to join in a global deal, while the developed world – which bears historic responsibility for global warming – has failed to meet its own emissions targets."
(Financial Times, 31 July) RD


"The Dalai Lama may not be the first person who comes to mind for business advice but, as the Buddhist monk wrote in his new book, capitalism can profit from Buddhism's principles and values. In "The Leader's Way," published this month by Broadway Books, the spiritual leader of Tibet wrote that both business and Buddhism attach importance to happiness and making the right decisions, and a company without "happy employees, customers and shareholders will ultimately fail." Citing Buddhist basics such as good intentions, a calm mind free of negative thoughts and a realization that nothing is permanent, the Dalai Lama and co-author Laurens van den Muyzenberg tackle timely issues such as corporate compensation, malfeasance and the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market...."When I started this project, I was not sure that companies could act in such a way that they could deserve a thoroughly good reputation. Now I am convinced that they can," the Dalai Lama wrote. Profit, for example, is "a fine aim," but not the main role of business, which is "to make a contribution to the well-being of society at large," he wrote." (Yahoo News, 28 July) RD

Monday, August 03, 2009


From left, Deng Yanli, Tian Lihua and Li Xiuying at Jihua Hospital in Jilin. Ms.
Deng told of suffering convulsions and dizziness.
"Jilin City, China — Tian Lihua was just beginning her morning shift when she felt a wave of nausea, then numbness in her limbs and finally dizziness that gave way to unconsciousness. In the days that followed, more than 1,200 fellow employees at the textile mill where Ms. Tian works would be felled by these and other symptoms, including convulsions, breathing difficulties, vomiting and temporary paralysis. “When I finally came to, I could hear the doctors talking but I couldn’t open my eyes,” she said weakly from a hospital bed last month. “They said I had a reaction to unknown substances.” Ms. Tian and scores of other workers say the “unknown substances” came from a factory across the street that produces aniline, a highly toxic chemical used in the manufacture of polyurethane, rubber, herbicides and dyes. As soon as the Jilin Connell Chemical Plant started production this spring, local hospitals began receiving stricken workers from the acrylic yarn factory 100 yards downwind from Connell’s exhaust stacks. On some days, doctors were overwhelmed and patients were put two to a bed. A clear case of chemical contamination? Not so, say Chinese health officials who contend that the episode is a communal outbreak of psychogenic illness, also called mass hysteria. The blurry vision, muscle spasms and pounding headaches, according to a government report issued in May, were simply psychological reactions to a feared chemical exposure." (New York Times, 29 July) RD

Sunday, August 02, 2009


"His birth was marked by a double rainbow and a new star, he hit 11 holes-in-one in his first game of golf, finishing 38 under par, and throughout his life he has performed heroic feats impossible for mere mortals. When he shouts, "huge storms happen". The life of North Korea's ailing leader, Kim Jong-il, has long been extravagantly window-dressed by the state's diligent chroniclers, but now it is about to get the full regal treatment with a new movie chronicling his exploits from childhood to living legend. North Korea's state media said this week that the first part of a multi-series documentary about Mr Kim's birth, childhood and early achievements, when he developed "military ideas and theories and tactics of [his father] President Kim Il-sung", has already been produced. Although other propaganda movies extol Mr Kim's boundless virtues – one records that he came down from the heavens accompanied by a huge snowstorm – this will be the first to "comprehensively deal... with his revolutionary exploits", said the Korean Central News Agency." (Independent, 17 July) RD


"Hotel cleaners in some of London's top hotels are paid less than half the minimum wage to service rooms that cost up to £400 a night. An investigation by The Times has revealed a pattern of ruthless exploitation in which immigrants desperate for work are paid a pittance for their labour at some of the capital's luxury establishments. A number of workers have told The Times that gang masters are fiddling employee's timesheets so that they earn only £100 for a 40-hour week." (Times, 31 July) RD


"People living in the poorest parts of Scotland are 64 per cent more likely to get type 2 diabetes than those in affluent areas, health campaigner have said. The charity Diabete UK Scotland also said those with the condition in deprived areas were more likely to develop complications, Type 2 diabetes usually affect middle-aged or older people, but is more frequently being found in younger people." (Times, 28 July) RD

Saturday, August 01, 2009


"The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state's education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God. Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state's history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America's moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue. ...One of the panel, David Barton, founder of a Christian heritage group called WallBuilders, argues that the curriculum should reflect the fact that the US Constitution was written with God in mind including that "there is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature", that "there is a creator" and "government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual"....Another of the experts is Reverend Peter Marshall, who heads his own Christian ministry and preaches that Hurricane Katrina and defeat in the Vietnam war were God's punishment for sexual promiscuity and tolerance of homosexuals." (Guardian, 22 July) RD