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Showing posts from October, 2009


A crop of genetically modified canola grows in a field in Lake Bolac, in
the Western District of Victoria, Australia, Sept 29 2009
With food prices remaining high in developing countries, the United Nations estimates that the number of hungry people around the world could increase by 100 million in 2009 and pass the one billion mark. A summit of world leaders in Rome scheduled for November will set an agenda for ways to reduce hunger and increase investment in agriculture development in poor countries. What will drive the next Green Revolution? Is genetically modified food an answer to world hunger? Are there other factors that will make a difference in food production? ( New York Times, 26th October ) RD


Michael R Bloomberg, the Wall Street mogul whose fortune catapulted him into New York's City Hall, has set another staggering financial record: He has now spent more of his own money than any other individual in United States history in the pursuit of public office. Newly released campaign records show the mayor, as of Friday, had spent $85 million on his latest re-election campaign, and is on pace to spend between $110 million and $140 million before the election on Nov 3. That means Mr. Bloomberg, in his three bids for mayor, will have easily burned through more than $250 million __the equivalent of what Warner Brothers spent on the latest Harry Potter movie. The sum easily surpasses what other titans of business have spent to seek state or federal office. New Jersy's Jon S Corzine has plunked down a total of $130 million in two races for govenor and one for United States Senate. Steve Forbes poured $114 million into his two bids for President and Ross Perot spent $65 millio…


Women spreading wet rice to dry in Bangladesh after record rains in July
Scientist and development experts across the globe are racing to increase food production by 50% over the next two decades to feed the world's growing population, yet many doubt their chances despite a broad concenus that enough land, water and experise exists. The number of hungry people in the world rose to 1.02 billion this year, or nearly one in seven people, according to United Nations Food and Argriculture Organisations, despite a 12 year concentrated effort to cut the number. The global recession added at least 100 million people by depriving them of the means to buy enough food, but the numbers were inching up even before the crisis, the United Nations noted in a report last week. "The way we manage the global agriculture and food security system doesn't work" said kostas G Stamoulis, a senior economist at the organisation. " There is this paradox of increasing global food production…



"Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Corvette, Lotus -- you can name all the ultra high-end sports vehicles in the auto industry and none of these cars hail from Japan, home of the Camry, Corolla, Civic and other family-oriented models. But the Lexus LF-A is finally ready for production after nine years in development. Just 500 units of the most powerful and most expensive car Toyota has ever produced will be available worldwide. The car offers 560 horsepower, a top speed of 202 miles per hour (325 kilometers per hour), your choice of 12 shades of leather and a price tag of over €255,000." (Independent, 22 October) RD


Chris Kelsey, right, director of the C.R. England truck driving school in Burns
Harbor, Ind., received several hundred applications for an administrative
assistant position that was eventually filled by Tiffany Block, 28. "As soon as the job opening was posted on the afternoon of Friday, July 10, the deluge began. C.R. England, a nationwide trucking company, needed an administrative assistant for its bustling driver training school here. Responsibilities included data entry, assembling paperwork and making copies. It was a bona-fide opening at a decent wage, making it the rarest of commodities here in northwest Indiana, where steel industry layoffs have helped drive unemployment to about 10 percent. When Stacey Ross, C. R. England’s head of corporate recruiting, arrived at her desk at the company’s Salt Lake City headquarters the next Monday, she found about 300 applications in the company’s e-mail inbox. And the fax machine had spit out an inch-and-a-half thick stack of résumés bef…

It often takes over three years following the death of a construction worker before a company is brought to trial and convicted.

Trade Unions are continually forced to pursue a reassessment of Health and Safety legislation. The employers in the Building Industry Management are again under scrutiny by the building workers’ union UCATT, here are a couple of extracts from the Autumn issue of the ‘Building Worker’ which only demonstrates once again that while we continue to live in capitalism, ‘running fast to stay still ‘ will always be no solution for workers.
Another young Scottish construction worker killed
UCATT Regional Secretary Harry Frew was shocked and saddened to hear of a young worker killed on a construction site in Troon, Ayrshire
" We will await the results of the HSE investigation but it is clear from the recent fatality figures that the construction industry is just as dangerous as at the time of the major health and safety summits called by the government in 2001 and 2004, we hope the upcoming summit will bring about a cultural change in the industry to health and safety. This only adds to the …

Vatican thumbs up for Karl Marx after Galileo, Darwin and Oscar Wilde

Karl Marx, who famously described religion as “the opium of the people”, has joined Galileo, Charles Darwin and Oscar Wilde on a growing list of historical figures to have undergone an unlikely reappraisal by the Roman Catholic Church.
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said yesterday that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making.
“We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system,” Professor Sans wrote. “If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?”
(Times 22nd October 09)


Sheri West operated a shelter for homeless people, but last year she lost her
home in Cleveland and had to sleep in her car. We are all familiar with the awful figures of unemployment and the re-possession of homes of the working class but behind these statistics lie the real shock of the lack of confidence to the personality of the people involved. Here is a particular nasty example of the trauma that can be experienced by even relatively comfortable workers who lose their jobs and their homes.
"Cleveland — The first night after she surrendered her house to foreclosure, Sheri West endured the darkness in her Hyundai sedan. She parked in her old driveway, with her flower-print dresses and hats piled in boxes on the back seat, and three cherished houseplants on the floor. She used her backyard as a restroom. The second night, she stayed with a friend, and so it continued for more than a year: Ms. West — mother of three grown children, grandmother to six and great-grandmother to one —…


"Aided by a bleak job market, the U.S. military met all of its recruitment goals in the past year for the first time since it became an all-volunteer force in 1973, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. Military services have been stretched thin by conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, giving added weight to recruitment efforts as President Barack Obama considers sending another 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year. The United States already has 67,000 troops in Afghanistan and about 119,000 in Iraq. Pentagon officials said recruitment gains were fueled by the deepest U.S. recession since the Great Depression and an unemployment rate nearing 10 percent." (Reuters, 13 October) RD


Reuters – BYD (Build Your Dreams) president Wang Chuanfu sits inside
the BYD E6 Electric Car "China's super-rich have bounced back from the financial crisis with a vengeance, and China now has more known dollar billionaires than any other country bar the United States, according to a new report released on Tuesday. The annual Hurun Report said China has 130 known dollar billionaires, up from 101 last year. The number in the United States is 359 while Russia has 32 and India 24, according to Forbes magazine. China's rich are getting richer, with the average wealth on the list $571 million, up almost one-third from last year, said compiler Rupert Hoogewerf." (Reuters, 13 October) RD

Food for Thought

Reading Notes
"Competition is the complete expression of the battle of all against all which rules in modern society. This battle, a battle for life, for existence, for everything, in case of need a battle of life and death, is fought not between the different classes of society only, but also between individual members of these classes.
Each is in the way of the other, and each seeks to crowd out all who are in his way, and to put himself in their place. The workers are in constant competition among themselves. The power-loom weaver is in competition with the hand-loom weaver, the unemployed or ill-paid hand-loom weaver with him who has work or is better paid, each trying to supplant the other. But this competition of the workers among themselves is the worst side of the present state of things in its effect upon the worker, the sharpest weapon against the proletariat in the hands of the bourgoisie.
Hence the effort of the workers to nullify this competition by associations, hence…


"Yesterday the UN's annual report on global food security confirmed that more than a billion people - one sixth of the world's population - are undernourished and said that the number was growing even before the economic crisis, which had only made the situation worse."
(Times, 15 October) RD


Capitalism is a ruthless society; nothing must stand in the way of profit making. The original dwellers of North America were slaughtered and driven off the land they had inhabited for thousands of years. The fate of the indigenous tribes of Australia were likewise crushed and marginalised, but in the Amazon region of South America we have this lust for profit carried to even more awful extremes - the complete destruction of the Akuntsu people. A once proud group of several hundred now have only five survivors. "Much of the Akuntsus' story is – for obvious reasons – undocumented. For millennia, they lived in obscurity, deep in the rainforest of Rondonia state, a remote region of western Brazil near the Bolivian border. They hunted wild pig, agoutis and tapir, and had small gardens in their villages, where they would grow manioc (or cassava) and corn. Then, in the 1980s, their death warrant was effectively signed: farmers and loggers were invited to begin exploring the region,…

No work , No hope

Almost one in three households in Glasgow have no wages coming in, official statistics have revealed.Figures released by the Scottish Government show 62,000 households in the city - 28.9% of all homes - had no working-age adult in employment last year. That puts Glasgow behind the national average of 24%. The stats also reveal a shocking 22,900 children in Glasgow live in a workless home. The director of the Glasgow-based Poverty Alliance, branded the figures a "scandal"."There is little doubt that unemployment means that people will struggle to afford the basics in life. For these families heating their home and putting food on the table is the challenge. In the 21st century that is quite clearly a scandal. We know that children in workless households, living in poverty, will have less chance in life than children from better-off backgrounds.We know that their education will be adversely affected and they are more likely to suffer health problems. The danger is that w…


"Tens of millions of the world's poor will have their food rations cut or cancelled in the next few weeks because rich countries have slashed aid funding. The result, says Josette Sheeran, head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), could be the "loss of a generation" of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabilisation. "We are facing a silent tsunami," said Sheeran in an exclusive interview with the Observer. "A humanitarian disaster is unrolling." The WFP feeds nearly 100 million people a year." (Observer, 11 October) RD


"A company producing swine flu vaccine for Britain has paid millions of pounds in out-of-court settlements after being accused of fraudulently overcharging for medicine. Baxter, the US pharmaceutical giant, reached at least seven huge settlements over the past 12 months, some of them for multimillion-dollar sums. The company has been accused of fraud amid allegations that the company had overpriced medicines by as much as 1,300%." (Observer, 11 October) RD


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been sparring with President
Obama over whether Iran is developing the technology nuclear weapons. "The Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer. The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb's "development and testing", and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers. The notification was tucked inside a 93-page "reprogramming" request that included a couple hundred other more mundane items. Why now? The notification says simply, "The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON." It further states that the request is endorsed b…


Church and the City: bankers are said to have lost their way, with the financial
crisis being partly blamed on a culture of greed

Banking, insurance companies and the myriad financial off-shoots that make up the City of London are central to the running of modern capitalism. They produce nothing of course but then neither do the industrial capitalist class. It is probably a bit unfair to say the City produces nothing. It certainly produces nothing useful, but it certainly produces hypocrisy in large doses. "As bankers last month began gearing up for a bumper bonus season, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican church, bemoaned their lack of repentance.
“We haven’t heard people saying, ‘Well, actually, no, we got it wrong and the whole fundamental principle on which we worked was unreal, empty’,” Mr Williams told bankers in September. Such rhetoric echoes that of Lord Turner over the summer, when the chairman of the Financial Services Authority spoke in…


An oft repeated criticism of the ideas of world socialism is that it is based on a 19th Century critic of capitalism - Karl Marx. What could he know of the developments of 21st Century society ask our ultra-modern opponents.
If they had switched on their super duper plasma TV screens (or do they view on ipod now?) on Friday 9 October they would have seen a Channel 4 programme entitled Unreported World, Peru: Blood and Oil. It depicted the bloodshed and military violence that has accompanied the Peruvian government’s decision to auction off large parts of the Amazon countryside that has been used for thousands of years by the indigenous people.
"For the first time isolated indigenous groups are uniting to fight the government's plans to auction off 75% of the Amazon - which accounts for nearly two thirds of the country's territory - to oil, gas and mining companies. ... These would allow companies to bypass indigenous communities to obtain permits for exploration and extract…


Every day in the newspapers and on the TV we are confronted by earnest politicians who assure us that they are doing everything possible to lessen the prospects of another nuclear horror story like Hiroshima or Nagasaki. A great deal of concern is being shown by these politicians as to whether Iran has a nuclear bomb. This concern seems a trifle ludicrous when the USA has 9,400 nuclear warheads and Russia has 13,000 of them. In fact when they are being frank, as the writer of this newspaper report is, they know that nuclear disarmament is an impossibility inside capitalism.
"Later this month United Nations inspectors will visit Iran's secret nuclear facility near Qom to find out if the Islamic republic is about to become the world's tenth nuclear power. Whatever they find, the world already has enough nuclear weapons to destroy every single nation on the planet. With approximately 23,000 warheads, there is enough deadly material for 2.3 million blasts the size of Hiroshima…


"For all the recent uproar over Iran's nuclear program, little attention has been paid to the fact that the country which first provided Tehran with nuclear equipment was the United States. In 1967, under the "Atoms for Peace" program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran's government a 5-megawatt, light-water type research reactor. This small dome-shaped structure, located in the Tehran suburbs, was the foundation of Iran's nuclear program. It remains at the centre of the controversy over Iranian intentions, even today."
(Yahoo News, 2 October) RD


"Castles in France. Islands in the Caribbean. Private jets. With a collective $1.27 trillion at their disposal, the members of The Forbes 400 could buy almost anything. How about a country? A quick glance at the CIA Fact Book suggests the individual fortunes of many Forbes 400 members are as big as some of the world's economies. Bill Gates, America's richest man with a net worth of $50 billion, has a personal balance sheet larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 140 countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Bolivia and Uruguay. The Microsoft (MSFT) visionary's nest egg is just short of the GDP of Tanzania and Burma. Warren Buffett, who lost $10 billion in the past 12 months and is this year's Forbes 400 biggest dollar loser, still has a fortune the size of North Korea's economy at $40 billion." (Yahoo Finance, 2 October) RD

Food for Thought 2

How capitalism works 1 – Hope for cheap HIV drugs dims reports the Toronto Star (19/Sept/09).
Canada's Access to Medicines Regime is now five years old but only one country, Rwanda, has benefited. Progress at a glacial pace is one way to prevent change.
2 – Apparently Osama Bin Laden's ex body guard told The Toronto Star that he, Laden, didn't target civilians. He hit targets and civilians happened to be around! But wait! Isn't that exactly what "collateral damage" is that our `leaders' use to excuse murder? Seems they're all the same, surprise.
3 - More obfuscation – The news is that US taxpayers are now profiting from the bailouts of the financial system( New York Times). They are touting $4 billion in profits but ignore that trillions were spent in the first place. Sounds good anyway.
4 – Despite the well-earned reputation of the dirtiest site on earth for the Alberta tar sands oil project, the Canadian government is expected to formulate its climate c…


Modern Slave"After crossing half of Africa and surviving a perilous boat trip from Libya in search of a better life in Italy, Boubacar Bailo is now contemplating suicide. One of an army of illegal immigrants hired to harvest tomatoes in the Puglia region, Bailo squats in a fetid cardboard shack restlessly waiting for a call to the fields. Every year thousands of immigrants, many from Africa, flock to the fields and orchards of southern Italy to scrape a living as seasonal workers picking grapes, olives, tomatoes and oranges. Broadly tolerated by authorities because of their role in the economy, they endure long hours of backbreaking work for as little as 15-20 euros ($22-$29) a day and live in squalid makeshift camps without running water or electricity."
(Reuters, 28 September) RD

who owns the north pole - part 18

The Northwest Passage should have a more Canadian name to assert Canada's claim over the Arctic waterway, says Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell.Bagnell presented a motion in the House of Commons this week, calling on the government to rename the route the Canadian Northwest Passage or the Canadian Arctic Passage.A name change could make to clear to the rest of the world that the Northwest Passage is part of Canada, Bagnell said.
"We claim it to be part of our internal waters, which gives us a lot more authority and control over it," he told CBC News

The United States and Europe have claimed that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, while Canada has held its position that it's an internal passage.


"As India's rich get richer; the child death rate soars in the slums. Despite living in the world's fastest-growing economy, millions of Indian mothers do not have access to the care their children desperately need. India's growing status as an economic superpower is masking a failure to stem a shockuing rate of infant deaths among the poorest people. Nearly two million children under five die every year in India one every 15 seconds - the highest number anywhere in the world. More than half die in the month after birth and 400,000 in their first 24 hours." (Observer, 4 October) RD

Bankruptcy Millions

Oct. 5: For decades, Simmons Bedding Company, an iconic American business, was a
prized holding for top private equity firms. But the mattress maker has fallen
into bankruptcy for the first time in 133 years.
For most of the 133 years since its founding in a small city in Wisconsin, the Simmons Bedding Company enjoyed an illustrious history.
Presidents have slumbered on its mattresses aboard Air Force One. Dignitaries have slept on them in the Lincoln Bedroom. Its advertisements have featured Henry Ford and H. G. Wells. Eleanor Roosevelt extolled the virtues of the Simmons Beautyrest mattress, and the brand was immortalized on Broadway in Cole Porter’s song “Anything Goes.”
Its recent history has been notable, too, but for a different reason.
Simmons says it will soon file for bankruptcy protection, as part of an agreement by its current owners to sell the company — the seventh time it has been sold in a little more than two decades — all after being owned for short periods by a parade of d…

Food for Thought

- Quebec leads the way in fighting poverty (Carol Goar, Toronto Star, 09/Sept/09) with a 40% reduction over the last decade. The province now strives to lift the remaining 875 000 above the poverty line, and is winning the war according to UQTR professor who assembled the statistics.

- Other places can't make that claim. Canada, as a whole, saw poverty reduced in 2007, but the expectation is that 2008 figures will climb back to where they were previously, or worse. Women, as usual, lead the way, especially women living on their own.

- The summer job picture was so bad that many students will have to take on increased debt to continue their studies. U of Toronto has seen a 12% increase in financial aid applications.

- Labour Day 2009 dawned with 500 000 more jobless Canadians than last year, and job losses are expected to continue.

- And that's the way it goes under capitalism. Gains in one area are sure to be lost in another, and so it will continue until private ownership is defe…


The Pope and other religious zealots always hark back to a supposed golden age when Christianity was all-powerful throughout the world. The trouble with modern society according to them is down to the lessening of Christian morals. Here is the latest example of this fallacy.
"Brno, Czech Republic – Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that all of Europe — and not only this ex-communist country — must acknowledge its Christian heritage as it copes with rising immigration from other cultures and religions. The second day of Benedict's pilgrimage to this highly secular country was marked by a joyous open-air Mass that drew tens of thousands of pilgrims and a sober message for the entire continent. "History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," Benedict said." (Associated Press, 27 September)
Ah, the good old days of Christian supremacy. The burning of so-called witches, the torture of here…

Who Owns the North Pole - part 17

Our Nordic Saga simply carries on and on , as the war drums continue to beat .Further to previous post we now have a Times article reporting that competition for resources in the Arctic Circle could provoke conflict between Russia and Nato, a newly appointed commander at the alliance warned yesterday. Admiral James Stavridis said that military activity and trade routes would be potential sources of competition around the polar cap.

His assessment comes after warnings from Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary-General, who said this week that climate change had “potentially huge security implications” for Nato. The thinning ice cap is opening up a new Northwest Passage trade route, while it is estimatedthat previously inaccessible oil worth $90 billion (£56 billion) lies beneath ice in the Arctic Circle.


Gore Vidal, novelist and essayist in press interview. "I would have liked to have been president, bit I never had the money. I was a friend of the throne. The only time I envied Jack was when Joe (JFK's father) was buying him his Senate seat, then the Presidency. He didn't know how lucky he was." (Times, 30 September) RD


This overview shows the district of Mongkok in Hong Kong. "Home prices in overcrowded Hong Kong have traditionally been high, but when it comes to having the most expensive residential properties in the world, the Chinese metropolis has never seriously challenged cities like New York, London and Tokyo. Until now. In another demonstration of how the recession is shaking up the global financial order, two luxury Hong Kong apartments have just gone on the market for a stunning $38.7 million each. If the developer, Sun Hung Kai, finds buyers at that price, the three-level penthouse dwellings, perched atop the 93-storey Cullinan towers with sweeping views of Hong Kong's harbour, could well qualify as the world's most expensive apartments." (Time, 24 September) RD