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Showing posts from September, 2012

who owns the north pole - part 53

In August, China sent its first ship across the Arctic to Europe and it is lobbying intensely for permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, the loose international body of eight Arctic nations that develops policy for the region, arguing that it is a “near Arctic state” and proclaiming that the Arctic is “the inherited wealth of all humankind,” in the words of China’s State Oceanic Administration. Its scientists have become pillars of multinational Arctic research, and their icebreaker has been used in joint expeditions. In Canada, Chinese firms have acquired interests in two oil companies that could afford them access to Arctic drilling. During a June visit to Iceland, Premier Wen Jiabao of China signed a number of economic agreements, covering areas like geothermal energy and free trade. In Greenland, large Chinese companies are financing the development of mines that are being developed around discoveries of gems or minerals by small prospecting companies, said Soren Meisli…

Who owns the North Pole - Part 52

A Russian Orthodox bishop has lowered a "holy memorial capsule" into the sea at the North Pole in an attempt to "consecrate" the Arctic and reassert Moscow's claims to the territory. The service was held by Bishop Iakov on the ice alongside the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya during a polar expedition titled "Arctic-2012", organised by the country's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. The metal capsule carried the blessings of the church's leader, bearing the inscription: "With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the consecration of the North Pole marks 1150 years of Russian Statehood." Bishop Iakov, who is thought to be the first Russian priest to visit the pole, emphasised that the consecration symbolised efforts "to restore Russia's position and confirm its achievements in the Arctic".

 A conservative Moscow think-tank suggested in July that the Arctic Ocean should be renamed …

The climate change death toll

Findings contained in the “Climate Vulnerability Monitor”—a study sponsored by 20 nations and conducted by the humanitarian and development research organization DARA—point to unprecedented harm to human society and current economic development if runaway carbon emissions are not contained and new models of energy generation and consumption are not pursued. The study estimates human and economic impacts for 184 countries in 2010 and 2030 across a wide range of separate effects. Indicators of impact range from issues such as hunger and skin cancer, to permafrost thawing and sea-level rise, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and fisheries, biodiversity and forest deterioration.

 The cost will be 100 million dead.

workers health and safety - not a priority

Thousands of people are being killed or seriously injured at work because of drastic cutbacks at the UK Government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE), experts are warning. An 80-page report by Stirling University blames a steep rise in major workplace injuries on deep cuts in funding, staff, inspections and enforcement. Just one in 20 major injuries are now investigated by the HSE, and only one in 170 results in prosecution.

Over the past five years the number of major and fatal injuries at work in the UK has increased by 2700 per year, the report says. In the same period, the proportion investigated by HSE has fallen from 8% to 5%, while those prosecuted dropped from 1% to 0.6%. Scotland suffers higher workplace sickness rates than the rest of the UK, yet only 1% of the 2500 fatal and major injuries per year results in prosecutions. The HSE has only one part-time medic to cover Scotland's 2.5 million workers

The HSE's budget has been cut by 13% from £228 mil…

second class citizens

A committee of MSPs has said it is "appalled and horrified" by the discrimination suffered by Gypsies and travelling people in Scotland. The Equal Opportunities Committee said there had been repeated failures on access to health and social care for the travelling community. Many encampments were of poor quality and located beside landfill sites. Its report said very little had changed for travellers over the past 15 years.

The committee's convener, Mary Fee MSP, said: "If we were to substitute any other ethnic minority instead of Gypsy/travellers in our report there would be uproar at the obvious racial discrimination."

dirty glesgae

Glasgow is the most polluted city in the UK – and the fifth worst in Europe – for key traffic-related emissions, according to a new report.

It was the only city in Britain, except Leicester, shown to be failing European standards on nitrogen dioxide, which is caused by exhaust fumes and industrial pollution. The report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) ranked Glasgow at No5 for the toxic gas out of nearly 400 cities assessed. It is one of only ten places that breached the NO2 limit in 2010, the year it was supposed to be met.

The deadly dioxide exacerbates lung disease and related respiratory problems. The EEA warned that poor air-quality levels were wiping two years off people’s lives in the most polluted cities. WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “This report identifies that nitrogen dioxide is causing health problems for people in Glasgow and bringing forward their deaths. It is killing people."

health rationing

Heart attack patients in Scotland are repeatedly being denied the latest life-saving treatments to save money, a leading cardiologist has warned.  Professor Keith Oldroyd, director of research and development at the flagship Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, said Scotland lagged years behind the rest of the UK and Europe when it came to introducing new drugs and techniques.

Professor Oldroyd said cardiologists had been waiting for 18 months to start using a drug called ticagrelor, which has been shown to increase the survival chances of heart-attack victims. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has only agreed to its use in a small number of exceptional cases. Professor Oldroyd explained : "There is a single reason for this restriction and that is cost containment..." (our emphasis)

the poison of nationalism

Thousands of people took part in a pro-independence march and rally in Edinburgh yesterday. In response Socialist Courier posts some relevant quotations from various famous figures.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."  -  Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, 1934

Political scientist Benedict Anderson describes nations as socially constructed "imagined communities," because "the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion."

"So it is the human condition that to wish for the greatness of one's fatherland is to wish evil to one's neighbours. The citizen of the universe would the man who wishes his country never to be either greater or smaller, richer or poorer." - Voltaire, "Fatherland" in "Miracles and Idolatry" (Selections from the Dictionnaire Philosophi…

Fact of the Day

Men from low socio-economic backgrounds living in deprived areas are ten times more likely to die by suicide than men from high socio-economic backgrounds living in the most affluent areas.

Read more at:

the capitalist myth

America is famed for its principles of equality but researcher Richard Floridasays America is plagued by wider class divisions than many other nations. "The likelihood that a person will remain in the same income bracket as his or her parents is greater in the United States than in France, as well as Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Singapore -- and even Pakistan," 

A report by United for a Fair Economy on the 2011 Forbes 400 rich-list reveal 40% of the individuals received a "significant economic advantage in their lives by inheriting a sizeable asset from a spouse or family member." Strikingly, more than a fifth received sufficient wealth to make the list from this inheritance alone. The truth is that Americans have never had an equal opportunity to become wealthy. Too much attention is paid to stories of personal success, without noting that these are the exception, not the rule.

"Each story calculatedly glamorizes the…

The SNP - Tories in Kilts!

The SNP finance secretary John Swinney confirmed civil servants and NHS staff would have to accept another year of real-terms pay cuts, as he unveiled his spending plans to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government deal means a third year of falling salaries for many public sector staff, who have already endured a two-year freeze imposed by ministers and local government chief

Unions accused Mr Swinney of “slavishly” following the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s austerity plans, saying he could have juggled his spending priorities to give public-sector workers in Scotland a better deal. Lynn Henderson, the PCS union’s Scottish secretary said his proposals made him look like “George Osborne in a kilt... It is time for Mr Swinney to pay up and time for the Scottish Parliament to utilise the powers it has to invest in the economy and protect public services, not rob Peter to pay Paul.”. He sought to sugar the pill by guaranteeing he would commit to the £7.50-an-hour living wage but that …

who owns the North Pole - part 51

Arctic ice is melting faster than ever expected, according to new data, leading oil companies and northern countries to jockey for position to access newly accessible wealth unlocked by global warming. In the past four years energy giant Shell alone has spent more than $4.5bn trying to develop offshore fields near Alaska’s sometimes frozen coast. Along with unlocking new resources, melting ice of the Arctic could open up profitable sea routes.

“The economics of the Arctic are going to be the driving force of how the region is shaped for years to come,”
Heather Conley, an Arctic expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Al Jazeera. “Platinum, oil and gas, and rare earth minerals are shaping how the Arctic will develop...This rapidly transforming Arctic means coastal states have new borders [due to melting ice] they have to pay attention to,” Conley said. “In the past two or three years, coastal states have had to reposition their security forces to…

Unequal wages

Banking and insurance industries windfalls accounted for 36 per cent of the £37 billion of bonuses across the economy, the ONS revealed, despite just 4 per cent of total employees working in the finance and insurance industry. Workers in the banking and insurance industries pocketed average bonuses of £12,000 in the last financial year dwarfing payouts in the wider UK economy, where bonuses averaged £1,400. (although we should realise that averages does not mean ordinary bank workers achieved such high bonuses which were reserved for the City financiers)

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It is a disgrace that the lure of big bonuses fuelled the recession and yet today’s figures show finance workers still bringing home more in bonuses than many public service workers get paid in a year. The pay freeze is having a devastating impact on the families of nurses, home care workers, paramedics, dinner ladies and millions more public service workers. At the other end of the spectr…

Fact of the day

Food for thought

In the Target Zone -- many former Zellers' employees looking for work with retail giant. OPG blames profit decline on faltering equity market. Is it possible, even faintly, that capitalism may be in a crisis?The British Royal Family in crisis! The government has cut funding to the monarchy to stay in line with wide-ranging budget cuts. In 2011 they had to manage on $50 million and now face a 25% cut. But don't worry folks, her majesty and her cronies have decided to raise admission prices for tours of Buckingham Palace to make up the difference. I'm sure the millions who have to live on a dollar a day will be greatly relieved.In the Vietnam War, the US dumped 75 million litres of agent orange on about a quarter of former South Vietnam, killing two million hectares of forest about the size of Massachesetts. Now the US is involved in a massive clean-up to remove the dioxin contained in agent orange from a nineteen hectare site that is now a Vietna…

Capitalism - A war fear system

China and the US seem to be on a collision course in the Pacific. Beijing is significantly bolstering its navy, and Washington is shifting its military focus to the Asia-Pacific Region. Many fear it could alter the balance of power in a region rich in oil and crucial for global trade. It is difficult to overstate the economic and military importance of the South China Sea, which connects the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. Over half the annual tonnage of all the world's merchant navies is shipped through adjacent sea routes here, and the region sees a third of the world's maritime traffic. Eighty percent of China's crude oil imports pass through here, and the seafloor holds an estimated 130 billion barrels of crude oil and 9.3 trillion cubic meters (328 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas.  A US congressional study published on August suggests that the United States considers the modernization of China's navy an aggressive act. According to the study, Beijing is by no me…

The other drug problem

A study found almost half of elderly people may be kept on sedatives that make them “easier and more convenient to manage” for much longer than necessary. Research has shown people with dementia who take these drugs are at a much higher risk of stroke.

The report by Dundee University and NHS Fife, carried out over a two-year ­period in Tayside, found two in five elderly people in care homes were taking the drugs – compared to just one in six who still lived in their homes in the ­community. It also found that seven in ten people who were taking the drugs when they went into the care homes were then never reassessed to see if they still needed them.

Dr Colin McCowan, deputy director of the Health Informatics Centre at Dundee University, and one of the authors of the report, said: “Some elderly people are taking these drugs to make it easier and more convenient for people to manage them and for them to cope. Often this could start when they are living at home, on their own, and when th…

Food for thought

Spare a tear and some sympathy for the world's richest, the top 40 of whom lost a combined total of $3.7 billion in last week's stock market decline. Worst was Carlos Slim, telecommunications mogul who dropped $1.7 billion. Not to worry too much though, comrades, he retains $73 billion to tide him over. How ridiculous can this system get?You gotta love those capitalists. They can smell money from a million miles away. To help slow climate change, the UN rated greenhouse gases based on their power to warm the atmosphere. The more dangerous the gases, the more manufacturers in developing nations would be compensated as they reduced emissions. But some soon figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but more than eleven thousand credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in manufacturing coolant gas. The credits could be sold on the international market earning tens of mi…


A growing number of global and European health bodies are warning that the introduction and intensification of austerity measures has led to a sharp rise in mental health problems with suicide rates, alcohol abuse and requests for anti-depressants increasing as people struggle with the psychological cost of living through a European-wide recession. "No one should be surprised that factors such as unemployment, debt and relationship breakdowns can cause bouts of mental illness and may push people who are already vulnerable to take their own lives," Richard Colwill, of the British mental health charity Sane, told CNBC. "There does appear to be a connection between unemployment rates and suicide for example," he said, referring to a recent study in the British Medical Journal that stated that more than 1,000 people in the U.K. may have killed themselves because of the impacts of the recession." (CNBC, 4 September) Capitalism not only explo…


THIS SPORTING LIFE Sport according to most dictionaries is usually defined as "to amuse, recreate, to take one's pleasure", but we live in capitalism and it should probably be more accurately defined as a "business opportunity". When Andy Murray, the tennis player won a tournament in New York the press and TV speculated on how much it was worth. "Scott Barclay, a lecturer in sport business and management at the University of the West of Scotland, predicted that Murray will enter the Forbes rich list next year and that the win moved him "away from the celebrity clutter". ... "Without a doubt, next year he'll appear in the Forbes rich list, among the likes of [Roger] Federer, [Maria] Sharapova, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi, [Rafael] Nadal." (DailyTelegraph, 12 September) Murray, 25, who already has lucrative contracts with Adidas, Royal Bank of Scotland and Jaguar, may also sign deals with other companies.…

Bloody mobiles!

With the much hyped release of Apple's i-Phone 5 perhaps it is timely to remember that "It’s possible that two children died so that you could have that mobile phone,” according to Jean-Bertin, a 34-year-old Congolese activist.

 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has at least 64 percent of worldwide reserves of coltan, the colloquial African name for a dull black ore composed of two minerals, columbite and tantalite. Tantalum, the metal extracted from this ore, is a rare, hard, blue-gray, lustrous transition metal that is highly corrosion resistant. It is used in the production of capacitors for electronic equipment such as mobile phones, computers and tablets. The extraction of coltan contributes to maintaining one of the bloodiest armed conflicts in Africa, which has led to more than five million deaths, massive displacements of the population, and the rape of 300,000 women in the last 15 years, according to human rights organisations.

 “There are many econ…


One of the constant themes pursued by the owning class is that workers should be proud of "their" country and if necessary from time to time take part in wars to protect it. However a recent example of this patriotism not necessarily extending to the owning class was recently revealed. Frances richest man Bernard Arnault (reputed to be worth £32 billion) has applied for Belgian citizenship. "He says the switch is for personal reasons. But few doubt that the "personal reasons" amount to a desire to insulate his wealth from the punitive taxes being threatened by Francois Hollande, France's new Socialist president. These taxes include a promised 75 per cent super-levy on annual incomes over ! million euros." (Times, 11 September) When it comes to protecting their immense wealth the owning class have little time for patriotism. RD

Food for thought

Canada lost 300 000 jobs in July. There will be more to come caused by the impending arrival of the American chain, Target, taking over Zellers leases for almost $2 billion. Both are almost identical stores in merchandise and prices. Although Target posted earnings of $704 million for the last quarter, they did not take all the Zellers, especially those that are unionized and they will have to close down. Crazy system! That's $2 billion of social wealth squandered!In the midst of the recession, the banks have some good news(?). Canada's top five banks posted profits of over $8 billion for the last quarter, a record for two of them. Nice work if you can get it.Americans and guns seem inseparable. A police officer from Kalamazoo, Michigan, on holiday in Calgary, wrote to the Calgary Herald that he felt threatened when two locals approached him and his wife and offered suggestions for sight seeing, including tickets to the Calgary Stampede. He was compla…

Fight the good fight

Union leaders have called for a mass campaign of civil disobedience against the cuts. Communities should take direct action to block roads and occupy services earmarked for closure in a show of resistance, union bosses said.

Dot Gibson
, of the National Pensioners' Convention, which represents 1.5 million affiliated members, called on the public to "sit down in the road [and] take direct action" to fight the cuts. She predicted greater "radicalisation" across the country as the effects of the cuts started to be felt by ordinary people and said her organisation was already seeing a growing militancy in rural areas, where people were more reliant on disappearing services such as post offices.

Matt Wrack
, general secretary of the Fire Brigades' Union, also called on communities to take matters into their own hands. "When they want to close down a youth centre, when they want to close down a school or a hospital, if communities want to occupy them we are go…

We wuz robbed

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said,“Despite the crash, the economy has almost doubled in size over the last thirty years..." He added that the average full-time worker is now paid nearly £26,000 a year and if wages kept up with the growth of the economy, excluding the gap between high and low salaries, the average worker would now be earning £33,000 a year, making a £7,000 rise in pay.

Sadly, the trade union leader calls for what he describes as fair pay and declares this as a solution to the present recession.

The Party Line

Jim Sillars, a former deputy leader of the SNP, accused the current leadership of operating the most authoritarian regime in British politics by exerting “totalitarian” control over backbenchers.

Sillars pointed to the absence of dissent within SNP ranks over the recent legislation to create a single national police force, adding there had been an “astonishing spectacle” over “many years now of no rebellion against leadership policy and opinion.” He added: “If I did not know better, I would easily believe the leaders had been schooled in the old communist party, where the top, the elite, made the decisions and the rest fell into step automatically, with not a word of dissent. Totalitarian would be a fair description of Scotland’s majority party.”  It was “not possible” for all the SNP’s MSPs to be “in total agreement with Salmond, Sturgeon and Swinney, yet no-one has dared tell them to get lost. Those willing to be told to shut up seem happy to wait until the leadership issue edicts …

Food for thought

The futility of reform -- the Liberal government of Ontario has convened early from its summer recess to pass an education act that forces the teachers to show up on September 4th for the start of school, that forces a contract on them that invokes a pay freeze and loss of benefits such as sick days, that ignores the collective bargaining process entirely, and that suspends the right to strike. After a stormy education scene with the preceding Tory government, the Liberals entered a period of calm and Premier McGuinty actually calls himself the education premier. Many teachers say they feel betrayed but as the economic climate bites, what would you expect. The Liberals have crossed the line into neo-liberal policy. They have given the act the Orwellian title, The Putting Students First Act and have emphasized that they cannot raise wages and deliver all-day kindergarten at the same time, among several other things. The usual claptrap that sounds good but really…

false friends

McDonald’s and Coca-Cola prove capitalism can co-opt anything … even worker uprisings.

“Marketers are adopting the theme of workers’ rights at a time when unions themselves are confronting declines in membership and influence,”
notes the New York Times.“In effect, some labor experts say, they are turning a pro-worker theme on its head to serve the corporate interest.”

Advertisers are urging workers to commit small acts of so-called rebellion — like taking a vacation, or going on a lunch break.nThat’s the message McDonald’s sent this spring with a campaign called, “It’s your lunch. Take it.” Meant to promote the Premium Chicken Sandwich and the Angus Third Pounder Deluxe burger, it included tag lines like “A lunch revolution has begun,” “It’s time to overthrow the working lunch” and “A sesame seed of revolt has been planted.”  In one television advertisement, a woman gets up from her desk and announces, “I’m going to lunch.” Her co-workers try to dissuade her, telling her that the days …


It is now two years since the horrific explosion that led to the deaths of 11 oil rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico and the largest oil spill in US history but it is still being fought over in US courts. "The Department of Justice filed a sharply worded brief with a court in New Orleans yesterday that accused BP of systematic management failures and a "corporate-driven, profit over safety" culture." (Times, 6 September) There is a lot at stake in this legal battle. If the events of the oil spill are judged to be an accident BP could be fined £4.5 billion but if its employees are found guilty of gross negligence BP could be fined £21 billion, followed by almost unlimited punitive damages. Behind the niceties of the legal struggle one thing should be apparent though. Every company inside capitalism has a "corporate-driven, profit over safety" culture. RD


Gina Rineheart, the Australian billionaire said to be worth A$29 bn. is not shy about boasting about her wealth. She is said to make nearly A$600 (£393) a second and blames Australian workers poverty on too much drinking and smoking. "Australian mining magnate Gina Rineheart has criticised her country's economic performance and said Africans willing to work for $2 a day should be an inspiration." (BBC News, 5 September) The news that a useless parasite such as Rineheart has an income of £393 a second should inspire workers throughout the world to get rid of the capitalist system. RD


The present economic downturn is worldwide but Greece would appear to be suffering particularly at present. "One in three shops has been forced to close, and national unemployment has reached more than 20%. The number of down-and outs has increased by 25% over the past three years, while prostitutes work the streets of the city centre in broad daylight. Cases of HIV/Aids have exploded at a rate 1,450% since 2010 - a result of the growing sex trade and and a crumbling health-care system, which has suspended needle-exchange programmes used by drug addicts. The number of suicides in Athens rose by more than 25% last year." (Sunday Times Magazine, 2 September) Needless to say this modern Greek tragedy only affect the working class, the owning class in Greece continue to enjoy their usual affluent lifestyle. RD


Capitalism is going through one of its recession, so politicians have got to find ways to cut expenditure. Cut the billions spent on armaments? Fat chance! Here is a more attractive prospect. "The NHS is putting patients' health at risk by denying them drugs and operations because of growing rationing being imposed to save money, the new leader of Britain's doctors has warned. The drive to meet demanding efficiency targets is so serious that the NHS is offering some GPs surgeries extra money if they send fewer patients for tests and treatment in hospital — a move condemned as "morally wrong" by Dr Mark Porter, the British Medical Association's recently elected chair of council." (Guardian, 1 September) Capitalism has nothing to do with "morals", it is only concerned about profit margins. RD