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Showing posts from August, 2010

GOD'S ADVISOR? BIG HELP?

JERUSALEM — An influential Israeli rabbi has said God should strike the Palestinians and their leader with a plague, calling for their death in a fiery sermon before Middle East peace talks set to begin next week. "Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this earth," Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual head of the religious Shas party in Israel's government, said in a sermon late Saturday, using Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's popular name."God should strike them and these Palestinians -- evil haters of Israel -- with a plague," the 89-year-old rabbi said in his weekly address to the faithful, excerpts of which were broadcast on Israeli radio Sunday.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments and said Israel wanted to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians that would ensure good neighborly relations."The comments do not reflect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's view or the position of the go…

A NICE LITTLE RUN-AROUND

"Lotus has unveiled the ultimate track-day car - a Formula One-inspired racer called the Type 125. The British sports car company will show its consumer-focused F1 clone at this weekend's annual Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance in the United States, with plans to build only 25 examples from next April. The 125 will cost much less than a real Formula One car but the price tag is still expected to be about $1.1 million." (Drive, 11 August) " RD http://tinyurl.com/39h64jc"

A DESIREABLE RESIDENTIAL BARGAIN

"A penthouse in one of London's most opulent developments has sold for a record-breaking £140 million, as the market for "trophy homes" bucks the wider property slump. The six-bedroom apartment at One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, stretches across two floors and boasts bullet-proof windows, a panic room and views across the Serpentine. The new owners who have already exchanged contracts will also have access to 24-hour room service from the neighbouring Mandarin Oriental hotel, and protection from SAS-trained security guards." (Daily Telegraph, 10 August) RD

the poor decay

A third of three-year-olds living in poverty in Scotland suffer from poor dental health, a new study has suggested. The research team from the University of Glasgow Dental School assessed children living in Greater Glasgow for decayed, missing or filled teeth. They found evidence of decay in at least 25% of cases. However, amongst those from deprived areas, the incidence of decay was even higher, with a third of those surveyed exhibiting evidence of cavities.

Andrew Lamb, Scottish director of the British Dental Association, said"...this study highlights the depressing fact that poor dental health and inequality are closely linked from very early in life... it's unacceptable that social deprivation is still such a strong marker of poor dental health."

THE PRICE OF OIL

We are often told by social commentators that capitalism with its wonderful technology and scientific endeavours has made the modern world a vast improvement on the past, but the human cost in injury and death is always soft-pedaled by capitalism's supporters. Almost unnoticed in the panes of praise for the profit system is this short news item. "Employers in the offshore oil and gas industry were urged yesterday to improve their safety record after a big increase in the number of workers killed or seriously injured. The Health and Safety Executive said that 17 workers died in off-shore-related incidents and there were 50 severe injuries in the past year, a "stark reminder" of the hazards. The combined fatal and severe injury rate almost doubled, coupled with a "marked rise" in the number of hydrocarbon releases - regarded as potential precursors to a major incident." (Times, 25 August) RD

BUSINESS IS BOOMING

It is common nowadays to read of growing unemployment, businesses folding and widespread bankruptcy ,but there is one trade that is booming - pawn broking! "Pawnbrokers will soon be as common on the high street as coffee shops and banks, according to the chief executive of Britain's biggest operator. John Nichols, of H&T, said eventually there would be pawnbrokers in every town centre." (Times, 25 August) His forecast was made as his firm announced a 71 per cent leap in its profits over the last six months. It is worthwhile noting what the source of this high street boom is put down to. "Slightly more than half of pawnshop customers use the cash to pay for daily essentials, such as food and groceries, while about six out of ten are not in work, according to Bristol University research released yesterday." RD

capital fuel poverty

Nearly one in four Edinburgh residents fear they will be unable to afford to heat their home, in another sign of the impact of the economic downturn and rising energy bills said an authoritative survey of more than 1000 residents commissioned by the city council.

Elizabeth Gore, a spokeswoman for Energy Action Scotland, the national charity that aims to eliminate fuel poverty, said:
"It is a worry, especially as people start to think ahead to the winter. We would be concerned about people not being able to afford to heat their homes." She said that, while elderly groups and parents with young children remained the groups affected most by "fuel poverty", many other groups - such as young people in rented accommodation - were also struggling to pay their bills.

THE $MILLION SHIT HOLE.

This article from Scotland on Sunday makes one wonder if used condoms, sanitary towels and excreta of the famous is worth keeping. Who says the money system is crap?A TOILET described as once having belonged to US author JD Salinger has been put on sale on the online auction site eBay for $1 million (£644,000).The vendor said he obtained the "used toilet commode" from a couple who now own the former home of The Catcher In The Rye author.

It comes "uncleaned and in its original condition", the online advertisement states. "Who knows how many of (his] stories were thought up and written while Salinger sat on this throne!", it adds.

The toilet comes with a letter from Joan Littlefield, attesting that it was removed during renovations to her and her husband's house in Cornish, New Hampshire, formerly owned by the reclusive author.

Who owns the North Pole - Human Flag-poles

Socialist Courier continues its North Pole saga by reporting moves highlighting the growing tensions among countries with Arctic borders as global warming makes rich mineral and energy deposits increasingly accessible and opens its ice-covered seas to shipping. Russia, Canada, the U.S., and Denmark all have claims before a U.N. commission to extend their undersea boundaries into ice-blocked areas

"Let me be clear, the number one priority of our northern strategy is the promotion and protection of Canadian sovereignty in the north," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling it "non-negotiable."

Canada claims a large swath of the Arctic including the Northwest Passage, which could become an important shipping link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as climate change melts away the northern ice cap. It claims that the Northwest Passage is a domestic waterway.Russia continues to compete for the North Pole and the Northern Sea Route -- a passage that stretches from…

MODERNITY, BUT AT AN AWFUL COST

The advance of capitalism has led to many improvements in technology. None of us would like to imagine a world without mobile phones, computers or digital cameras, but this being capitalism such advances have led to social disaster for some. A major source of the essential ingredients for such technology is the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is from here that gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum originate. It is also from here that we have had the deadliest conflict since the Second World War with an estimated death rate of 5.4 million people. "International agencies have described how paramilitary groups in the region control many of the mine producing gold and the "3Ts" where locals including children are forced to work for as little as $1 a day. The same groups then help to smuggle the minerals out of the country, where they eventually end up in laptops, mobile phones and video game consoles." (Times,18 August) When The Times investigators queried the …

New poverty figures for Scotland

Across Scotland, 450,000 households, or 860,000 individuals, are in relative poverty (People living on less than 60 per cent of average income are regarded as being in "relative poverty". That is equivalent to a couple with no kids living on £248 a week or less.) The numbers include 180,000 to 200,000 youngsters.
John Dickie, of Child Poverty Action, said: "Behind the statistics are tens of thousands of families trying to give their children the best start despite hopelessly inadequate wages and benefits."

A quarter of households (25%) in the Western Isles were classified as being in relative poverty, while Dundee was just behind at 24%. The Scottish average for relative poverty is 19%.The figures found increases over the past four years in a number of areas.Higher than average levels of "relative poverty" were also recorded in 19 of the 32 local authorities.

reforms fail to reform

On the 40th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act figures have been released to show that women in Scotland will have to wait another 33 years before they are paid the same as men. Male managers earned on average £9,841 more than female colleagues.Even at junior management level, the pay gap still existed, with men being paid £797 more than female executives in Scotland.

Concerning the UK stats generally a spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women can still expect to earn less than 85 pence for every £1their male colleagues earn. In some sectors the pay gap is far worse."

Socialist Courier can only comment that it once more demonstrates the failure of those that advocate reformism.

old and starving

Almost twice as many pensioners in the Lothians are admitted to hospital with malnutrition than anywhere else in Scotland, figures have shown. Latest figures show six malnourished people over the age of 65 are now being treated every week, a rise of around a dozen on last year. A mixture of care cutbacks and the increasing number of elderly residents in the area have been suggested for the cases.

Experts said the majority of victims would be elderly people who lived alone and were "under the radar" as far as local authority support services were concerned.

Phyllis Herriot, acting secretary of the Scottish Pensioners' Forum, said: "This is a very sad figure, and quite awful for those involved. It's horrible to think that this can happen in this day and age. There have been a lot of cutbacks, not just in Edinburgh but across the board. Sheltered Housing complexes are losing their wardens, home-help visits that used to be an hour are now cut to half an hour, and thos…

BOSSES' PREPARATIONS FOR THE COMING STRUGGLE

This is an article from the august Labour Research, which demonstrates only to well, that the employers know that advantaged as they are in exploiting the working class, a helping hand from the government is always the cherry on the cake. Unions denounce government plans for tougher strike laws.Union leaders lined up last month to condemn government plans to toughen up the UK's already restrictive strike laws. The Times newspaper reported that ministers had held secret talks over measures to inhibit lawful strike action in the face of massive planned public sector job cuts. The key change mooted is to raise the proportion of workers required to vote for a strike to 4O% of those who would be affected by industrial action, rather than a simple majority of those voting. This proposal was called for in June by the CBI employers' organisation, and condemned by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber as "a demolition job" on the rights of workers. However, The Tim…

PAY DAY PENURY

"The number of people taking one out has quadrupled since 1996 according to the watchdog Consumer Focus. That is despite some companies charging interest rates of more than 2,500% a year. The organisation is now calling on the industry to bring in more safeguards to protect vulnerable borrowers. ''Payday loans are a valid form of credit and it's much better for people to take one out rather than go to a loan shark," said Sarah Brooks, head of financial services at Consumer Focus. But we do think there needs to be a limit on the number of loans people take out and how many loans they are able to roll over." Research by Consumer Focus suggests that 1.2 million people are now taking out a payday loan every year, borrowing a total of £1.2bn." (BBC News, 14 August) RD

A BLEAK FUTURE

"Millions of Britons face a "hell of a shock" when they reach retirement because of their failure to save. In his first major interview, the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, admitted that the basic state pension of £97 a week is "not enough to live on", and confirmed that the Government would raise the state retirement age to 66 earlier than planned. He said that around seven million people are currently not saving enough to meet their retirement aspirations." (Independent, 29 July) RD

AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB

"The membership in TIGER 21 (an acronym for The Investment Group for Enhanced Results in the 21st century) is exclusive. Members must have a minimum of $10-million in investable assets (in practice, many are billionaires). Annual dues are $30,000 a year, and members must be able to commit to meeting for at least 10 eight-hour sessions a year. That's a significant commitment of both time and money." (Globe and Mail, 4 August) RD

Another saint ?

The Herald carries a report on Keir Hardie , the Labour Party pioneer. He’s been called Labour’s greatest hero and the party’s most inspirational leader but could Keir Hardie also be in danger of being forgotten? The Socialist Party though have not forgotten about him. The insincerity and double-dealing of the Labour “leaders” are plain.

From the formation of the Labour Party the S.PG.B. opposed it, holding that its doctrine of changing class relationships through social reforms and its hope of abolishing war through international expressions of goodwill were founded in error about the nature of capitalism and socialism.

An article on Hardie can be read here

CHEATING AS A BENEFIT

Politics is about taxation, and what the taxes are spent on, the government is warning that it will come down heavily on tax dodgers, the government have been concentrating on what they call benefit cheats, lots of people agree with the government, after all, they are paying taxes, so they must be the ones being cheated. Most workers can't do much about taxation; they see it as a number on the pay slip, not much they can do about it, however, as this article in the summer magazine of the building workers' union shows, there are richer tax dodgers out there, under the pretence that they are "offering freedom and flexibility " not bogus self-employment as the union suggests.UCATT has written to Lesley Strathie, Chief Executive of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), requesting an urgent investigation into the conduct of construction employment agencies who are deliberately avoiding paying millions of pounds in taxation. The union's approach has been made a…

protests silver linings

Some Socialist Courier readers will remember the Make Poverty History and G-8 protests of 2005. Members of the Socialist Party attended many of the events to present the socialist view.

The Scotsman reports that although some Edinburgh retailers may have lost money due to the protests, businesses had benefited to the tune of £64.7 million. The city's economy was said to have benefited from the number of participants who visited for the Make Poverty History march and the concert staged at Murrayfield Stadium.

PRIVATE EFFICIENCY?

The present government like others before them present a case for the privatisation of the public services, (usually implying that the private sector is more efficient). Another tactic is to tell workers they only need to get on their bikes and find an employer out there who can't find the local necessary labour.This item from the Building Workers' summer magazine illustrates that the contractual nature of privately run capitalist society has its inefficiencies. Privatisation gone mad in the Probation ServiceMillions of pounds are being wasted by the National Probation Service (NPS) because of incompetent building maintenance contracts, says a report published in January by Napo, the probation officers' union. Two years ago NPS's National Offender Management Service maintenance contracts were centralised and privatised. The union's report cites numerous examples of contractors travelling hundreds of miles to fulfil simple tasks where previously the j…

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

"Young children are supplying an increasing demand from foreign tourists who travel to Brazil for sex holidays, according to a BBC investigation. Chris Rogers reports on how the country is overtaking Thailand as a destination for sex tourism and on attempts to curb the problem. Her small bikini exposes her tiny frame. She looks no older than 13 - one of dozens of girls parading the street looking for clients in the blazing mid-afternoon sun. Most come from the surrounding favelas - or slums. As I park my car, the young girl dances provocatively to catch my attention. "Hello my name is Clemie - you want a programme?" she asks, programme being the code word they use for an hour of sex. Clemie asks for less than $5 for her services. An older woman standing nearby steps in and introduces herself as Clemie's mother. "You have the choice of another two girls, they are the same age as my daughter, the same price," she explains. "I can take you to…

THE MARCH OF CAPITALISM

"China, the world's most prodigious emitter of greenhouse gas, continues to suffer the downsides of unbridled economic growth despite a raft of new environmental initiatives. The quality of air in Chinese cities is increasingly tainted by coal-burning power plants, grit from construction sites and exhaust from millions of new cars squeezing onto crowded roads, according to a government study issued this week. Other newly released figures show a jump in industrial accidents and an epidemic of pollution in waterways. The report's most unexpected findings pointed to an increase in inhalable particulates in cities like Beijing, where officials have struggled to improve air quality by shutting down noxious factories and tightening auto emission standards. Despite such efforts, including an ambitious program aimed at reducing the use of coal for home heating, the average concentration of particulates in the capital's air violated the World Health Organization…

BARGAIN BASEMENT EXPLOITATION

"Indian workers are paid just 25p an hour and forced to work overtime in factories used by some of Britain's best-known high street stores. ... Some of the biggest names on the British high street are at the centre of a major sweatshop scandal. An Observer investigation has found staff at their Indian suppliers working up to 16 hours a day. Marks & Spencers, Gap and Next have launched their own inquiries into abuses and pledged to end the practice of excessive overtime, which is a flagrant breach of the industry's ethical trading (ETI) and Indian labour laws." (Observer, 8 August) RD

HOW THE OTHER 5% LIVE

"A flamboyant self-styled lord who entertained the rich and famous was yesterday banned from holding lavish parties at his £20million mansion. Monaco-based Edward Davenport, 44, regularly hosted raucous all-night events for A-list stars that were littered with celebrity guests including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Paris Hilton. The High Court heard that no expense was spared for the parties. At one event last December brandy maker Courvoisier turned the swimming pool into a gigantic punchbowl by filling it with 1,000 litres of cognac - at an estimated cost of more than £30,000." (Daily Mail, 31 July) RD

THE LAW AND THE CLASS STRUGGLE

STRIKE BALLOT REFORMSThe recent High Court decisions preventing industrial action by amongst others, Unite and RMT members, have caused consternation in the trade union movement. Employers were easily able to exploit minor balloting irregularities to win injunctions. This has led to renewed calls for the reform of the law governing strikes. Although the last Labour government did introduce some amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992 (TULRCA) through the Employment Relations Act 1999, they were to little effect. In particular, the allowance given for small and accidental failures in the balloting process under section 232B has proved only to be of limited use as a defence against employers. In an attempt to stop bosses using technicalities to block action, John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, is sponsoring a bill designed to reinforce and extend the exemption for small and accidental failures. Under the Lawful Industri…

The will to work

Following on from the previous post, the Prince's Trust has released a report that the vast majority of young people from jobless families have struggled to find work and many simply expect to live off state handouts. 73 per cent of youngsters with parents who do not have a job in Scotland have found getting work difficult, and one in five reported feeling anxious about their future prospects because of their parents' unemployment. According to official UK government statistics, 16 per cent of Scottish children live in a family in which nobody has a job and the new findings have led to calls for more to be done to end a "cycle of worklessness" among Scottish youngsters.

Geraldine Gammell, the director of The Prince's Trust Scotland, which works with young people to help them into work, said: "Too many young people in Scotland are facing a cycle of worklessness and can't see a way out. It is a tragedy to think that so many feel condemned to a life of unemp…

DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

"The Prince of Wales says he believes he has been placed on Earth as future King "for a purpose" - to save the world. Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: "I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose. "I don't want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, "Why the hell didn't you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was. That is what motivates me. I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside... We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity." (Daily Mail, 30 July) RD

"LAZY" WORKERS?

"Only two thirds of the world's workers take all their holidays - and the most likely to use them are the French with 89 per cent taking all their entitlement, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey of 12,5000 people in 24 countries. Second were Argentineans at 80 per cent, then Hungarians at 78 per cent, and the British and Spanish at 77 per cent. Those least likely to use all their holidays were the Japanese, with only 33 per cent taking all the time given. Australians and South Africans followed at 47 per cent, South Koreans at 53 per cent and those in the United States at 57 per cent."There are lots of reasons why people don't use up vacation days but most often it's because they feel obligated to their work and put it over other important things, including their own health and welfare," said John Wright, of Ipsos. "Workers should remember that there are graveyards full of indispensable people." (Times, 7 August) RD

THE GROWTH OF INEQUALITY

Many of the great fortunes of American history - those of the Rockellers, AndrewCarnegie and the Fords - are now mighty foundations that have long outlasted their founders. Recent years have seen the greatest disparity of wealth in America since the Golden Age of the 1920s. A recent study found that the top one per cent of Americans now receive 15 per cent of the country's total income - about double the rate of the 1960s and 1970s." (Times, 5 August) RD

Food for thought

A third independent inquiry into the stolen emails of climate scientists that were made to look as if data had been manipulated to emphasize climate change, concluded that the scientists acted with integrity and did not manipulate data. The climate skeptics were strongly critical of the skeptics' attacks. This appeared on page 13, whereas the leaked emails and the manipulation charges were all over the front pages of the media.

The queen's recent visit to Canada evoked this gem from the media,
"What is astounding about her is how that sense of humour, that sense of the absurd, that sense of comedy of life has survived sixty years of grueling public life." I wonder how the writer would describe forty years in a factory or down the mines!

We know that FIFA (the soccer body) sells sponsorships to the big companies for billions of dollars and protects their rights by banning other advertising, especially `ambush advertising', not just from the…

Food for thought

There's a big bru ha ha in Canada over making the census long form mandatory instead of compulsory. The critics say we won't get vital information such as where the poverty is so we can give income support and other social programs.
We have had the census and the required information for over a hundred years but we still have poverty. Something doesn't add up here.
A couple of months ago it was reported here that Frank Stronach, head of Magna Auto Parts was getting out with $863 million. Make that $1 billion now. His utilities bills must have gone up last month.

The Toronto Star editorial of June 27 noted how the G8 countries have failed their own test, "The gap between the G8's compassionate rhetoric and its readiness to help was especially striking. 'Hundreds of thousands of women' and "nearly nine million children" die needlessly every year, said the G8 communiqué. "These deaths profoundly concern us and underscore the need for…

Food for thought

A recent Toronto Star headline screamed, `Economy Booms in June'. The figures were unemployed rate went from 8.1% to7.9%; number unemployed went from 1 506 400 to 1 475 200; number working went from 17 096 600 to 17 189 800. Hardly a `boom', but if you say something often enough maybe people will believe you. Latest figures show stagnation. In any case, a government strapped for cash can go out and spend $16 Billion on 65 first strike short range fighter planes at $140 million apiece plus service contracts. Just what we need in the second largest country in the world with no other capabilities to strike a match. Said fighters would have to be refuelled in the air and wait hours for bombers to come with the fuel.

Oh well, health care and poverty can just wait!

REFORM UNDER ATTACK

The Building Worker's summer edition was illustrating this old cartoon to demonstrate that the Tories are a class apart while campaigning that thing can only be better under a Labour Govt.

"As our economy begins to strenghten, Government revenues pick up. We are able to pay off the deficit. Most sensible economic advisers will tell you that this would be the best way to deal with the problem........"

So there you have it. The problems is solved, you just have to run faster to stay right where you are, or maybe you could give the idea of common ownership of the means of production a thought or two.

drugs

A new study has revealed Scotland has some of the worst drug abuse rates in the world, and the situation is getting worse. The international survey by the UN includes results from 200 countries, and shows greater per-head use of heroin, ecstasy and cocaine in this country than almost any other.Figures show that almost 4%of the population is regularly using the class A drug cocaine – the highest rate recorded anywhere. Around 1.5% of Scots adults inject or smoke opiates – almost three times the world average. It is estimated that there are now around 50,000 heroin and 750,000 cocaine users across Scotland.Another international study by the UN published in February this year found there were 656 drug offences per 100,000 people in Scotland. Second-placed Iran recorded 619 per 100,000. The figures, which compared drug-related crime, possession and abuse across more than 70 states, put Scotland’s drug crime rate at more than double that of England and Wales, and six times the worldwide av…

Overworked, underpaid — and relieved?

The shoddy economy is leaving many workers feeling overworked, underpaid — and yet relieved to be employed at all."Fewer workers are doing more and more," said Brett Good, a district president with staffing firm Robert Half, which has surveyed workers on this topic. "You've got a lot of people that are working harder, making less money — and you're getting to a point of frustration."Employers have cut millions of jobs since the recession began in December 2007, driven by a drop in business and a desire to shore up costs and boost profits. Although the cost-cutting has helped propel a spate of strong earnings in recent weeks, pleasing Wall Street, it has left those who are still employed struggling to pick up the slack.Fifty-six percent of Americans have taken on extra duties at work over the past two years because of staff cuts, according to insurer MetLife's Study of the American Dream, which was conducted in April and released last week.Em…

FRIENDLESS FIRE

"More American soldiers are dying at their own hands than in combat, an army report has concluded, blaming official negligence for a surge in suicide and self-destructive behaviour. The 300 page report was released as the US Army recorded the highest number of suicides in one month for more than 30 years. Thirty two soldiers committed suicide in June, more than one a day, a rate only just matched during the Vietnam War. ... While 160 active-duty personnel and 79 reservists committed suicide during 2009, a further 146 soldiers died from high-risk behaviour associated with combat stress, including drink-driving and drug overdoses. The number of deaths is higher than the total combat toll for the same period." (Times, 31 July) RD