Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fact of the Day

Bill Gates is in possession of $60,000 million. If he sat perfectly still and did nothing, his income at a nominal 5 per cent a year would equate to $3,000 million a year. That’s roughly $8 million a day.

Friday, September 28, 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 Meisling, head of the China desk at the Bech Bruun law firm in Copenhagen, which represents many of them. A huge iron ore mine under development near Nuuk, for example, is owned by a British company but financed in part by a Chinese steel maker. Chinese mining companies have even proposed building runways for jumbo jets on the ice in Greenland’s far north to fly out minerals until the ice melts enough for shipping.

High-level Chinese diplomats have visited Greenland, where Chinese companies are investing in a developing mining industry, with proposals to import Chinese work crews for construction. Greenland’s minister for industry and mineral resources was greeted by Vice Premier Li Keqiang in China last November. A few months later, China’s minister of land and resources, Xu Shaoshi, traveled to Greenland to sign cooperation agreements. Western nations have been particularly anxious about Chinese overtures to this poor and sparsely populated island, a self-governing state within the Kingdom of Denmark, because the retreat of its ice cap has unveiled coveted mineral deposits, including rare earth metals that are crucial for new technologies like cellphones and military guidance systems. Michael Byers, a professor of politics and law at the University of British Columbia, said“Despite the concerns I have about Chinese foreign policy in other parts of the world, in the Arctic it is behaving responsibly,” he said. “They just want to make money.”

European Union vice president, Antonio Tajani, rushed here to Greenland’s capital in June, offering hundreds of millions in development aid in exchange for guarantees that Greenland would not give China exclusive access to its rare earth metals, calling his trip “raw mineral diplomacy.”

“We are treated so differently than just a few years ago,” said Jens B. Frederiksen, Greenland’s vice premier, in his simple office here. “We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly discovered that Inuit are nice people.”

Thomas R. Nides, United States deputy secretary of state for management and resources, said the Arctic was becoming “a new frontier in our foreign policy.”

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 "Russian Ocean" and this week it was announced that MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft will be based in the region by the end of the year.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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 million in 2009-10 to £199m in 2011-12, with further cuts planned. Its staff numbers have been reduced by 22% from 3702 in 2010 to 2889 in June this year. The Sunday Herald reported that the number of industrial sites inspected by Scottish Environment Protection Agency had been cut by one-third in a year.

 The HSE is becoming a "threadbare" agency, say the report's authors, Professors Rory O'Neill and Andrew Watterson, from Stirling University's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group: "Workplace safety inspections are now so infrequent it is unlikely most workers will ever encounter an inspector in a working lifetime...Between the catastrophes, the slow disaster of more routine environmental and workplace harm continues unabated and largely unpoliced" 

Prospect, the trade union that represents HSE inspectors and specialist staff, has warned that cutbacks have reduced proactive inspections of high-hazard sites by one-third, while most workplaces are exempt from unannounced, preventive inspections.

 Efforts by the health and safety watchdog to prevent the 8000 deaths caused each year by work-related cancers have been condemned as "feeble" according to Professor Andrew Watterson. An HSE board meeting report said cancers were to blame for 8000 of the 12,000 deaths a year due to occupational illnesses.

In addition, there were 14,000 new cases of workplace cancers registered every year. By far the biggest killer is asbestos, which is responsible for nearly 4000 deaths a year. Up to 1.8 million tradespeople are at risk of getting mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx and stomach from exposure to asbestos in buildings. But the HSE, a government body, has recently ended its "hidden killer" campaign aimed at highlighting the dangers. Up to 800 deaths a year are caused when stonemasons, quarriers, foundry workers and others inhale silica dust. More than 600 deaths are attributed to exhaust emissions from diesel engines, including of drivers, miners and construction workers. There is evidence that the stress of prolonged night shifts can trigger more than 500 fatal breast cancers a year. Other major causes of occupational cancers are paints, welding, a toxic chemical used in dry cleaning and radon, a radioactive gas.

 Watterson wants the HSE to crack down on companies that expose workers to cancer risks. He accused the HSE of failing to respond to repeated calls for action since the 1980s, saying: "It appears to lack expertise and staff to address this subject, partly due to the rundown of its occupational medicine staff and the massive Westminster cuts that it has received." Inspectors are being pulled back from checking on plants packed full of cancer-causing chemicals, Watterson alleged.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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."

Monday, September 24, 2012

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)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

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 Philosophique (1764)

"It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars" - Arthur C. Clarke, "The Exploration of Space" (1951)

"Our true nationality is mankind." - H.G. Wells

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world." - Eugene V Debs

"The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The workers have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got" - Communist Manifesto

“A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and a common fear of its neighbors.” - W.R. Inge

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing.  But why should love stop at the border?"   - Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist and composer

If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." - E.M. Forster

Dr. Samuel Johnson said "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Oscar Wilde said "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious."

"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." - George Bernard Shaw

“Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy” - George Bernard Shaw

“Patriotism is as fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave, blind as a stone, and irrational as a headless hen” - Ambrose Bierce, American writer

“Patriotism is a kind of religion; it is the egg from which wars are hatched.” -  Guy de Maupassant, French writer

"Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill and calling for larger spurs and brighter beaks.” - "The Colonel's Daughter" by Richard Aldington

"Tell people that patriotism is bad and most of them will laugh and say: ‘Yes, bad patriotism is bad, but my patriotism is good!’ ” - Leo Tolstoy

“Patriotism is a superstition, one far more injurious, brutal and inhumane than religion.” - Gustave Herve

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition." -  Emma Goldman, "What is Patriotism?" (1908)

"Humans fighting over who owns the land is like fleas fighting over who owns the dog" - Crocodile Dundee.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

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 Florida says 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 myth of the 'self-made man' while minimizing the many other factors that enable wealth, such as tax policies, other government policies that favor the wealthy, and the importance of being born to the right family, gender and race."

According to the report: The net worth of the Forbes 400 grew fifteen-fold between the launch of the list in 1982 and 2011, while wealth stagnated for the average U.S. household. The richest 0.1% receive half of all net increases in capital gains. The racial wealth divide is starkly apparent from the overwhelming whiteness of the list. The 2011 Forbes 400 had only one African American member. Women accounted for just 10% of the 2011 list, and of the women on the list nearly 90% inherited their fortunes.

 Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. If a poor guy robs a 7/11 for $20, he'd get 20 years in jail. If a Wall Streeter, steals a billion through fraud; he'd get special tax breaks! In the early days of the American Civil War J.P. Morgan purchased 5,000 dangerously defective Hall's Carbines being liquidated by the U.S. Government at a cost of $3.50 each. The rifles were later resold to the government as new carbines at a cost of $22.

Friday, September 21, 2012

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 extra help for low-paid workers was given short shrift by union leaders. They said it would probably affect only about 15,000 people out of more than 500,000 who work in Scotland’s public sector.

The 1 per cent pay deal is set to be a focal point for an anti-austerity march organised by the unions next month in Glasgow and London. Union leaders said strike action would then be considered in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK. The leader of Unison, Dave Prentis, has already warned that, if negotiations to boost pay and conditions are not successful, there will be “co-ordinated action”.

 Local government chiefs, who set pay for teachers and other council workers, said they were to begin talks on their 2013 pay package, with no guarantee even the 1 per cent deal could be matched.

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 be able to protect those borders.” Under maritime law, countries can assert sovereignty up to 200 miles from their coast line. Article 76 of the UN convention allows states to extend control if they can prove their continental shelves – underwater geological formations - extend further than 200 miles. So far, the battle for unclaimed land has focused more on geological charts, rather than nuclear submarines. “It will be difficult to balance the desire for economic gains with strong environmental stewardship,” Conley said. If one adds in competing claims from rival states and rising sea levels due to melting ice, things in the Arctic are likely to heat up, just like global temperatures.

The Arctic Council, a body established in 1996 to discuss environmental and policy issues, includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the US. Some NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund, have permanent observer status on the Council. China wants permanent observer status on the council, but it has yet to be granted. "China has a great interest in northern sea routes being opened for trade,” Christian Le Miere, a maritime security expert in London, told Al Jazeera. “It has built a second nuclear icebreaker, which shows it is looking at Arctic transit and has been making a diplomatic push on Iceland, which it sees as a potential transport hub.”
 There are obvious tensions. Countries, “Russia and Canada especially”, are using nationalist rhetoric in the far north, but that is likely linked to politicians who want to look tough for domestic audiences, maritime analyst Le Miere said. There are, however, clear moves for states to assert their presence in areas where they previously paid scant attention.
“There are some increases in military capacity” but mostly in patrolling and surveillance. Northern countries are trying to create a “new security state” to manage warming territory, he said adding that the “increase to project power outside of national territory is quite limited” said Kristofer Bergh, an analyst at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden. One potential flash point could be the Lomonosov ridge, a 1,240-mile underwater mountain range with potential resource riches, claimed by Canada, Russia and Denmark.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

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 spectrum the government is happy to sit back and let the bonus culture go on. It is time to tackle this divided Britain and put an end to this damaging pay freeze.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fact of the Day

More than half of Germany's privately-owned assets are held by the country's richest 10%. Meanwhile, less than 1% is owned by the bottom 50%, according to a new German government report.

 40% of full-time employees suffered a decline in wages once inflation was factored in.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fact of the day

Britain possesses 10,100 multi-millionaires who have a combined wealth of £690 billion,

Glasgow has 158 “ultra-high net worth individuals” and Edinburgh 134, according to research firm Wealthinsight.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fact of the Day

Earth’s richest 1,000 individuals now control as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people on the planet. This capitalist class uses its vast wealth to control the media, influence politicians, and bend laws to their favour.

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 Vietnamese military base. And here I am thinking the American capitalists are all heart, until I hear the Vietnam and the US are getting chummy in order to boost trade and counter China's rising influence in the disputed South China Sea. This area is believed to be rich in oil and natural resources. The US says protecting peace and freedom of navigation in the sea is in its natural interest. Sure, they're all heart.

The soothsayers tell us that the US economy is in recovery, yet only 56% of Americans laid off between January 2009 and December 2011 have found jobs and more than half of them took jobs for lower pay. One third took pay cuts of 20% and more. It's nice to know we are in recovery. Next they will tell us the market corrects itself! John Ayers

Saturday, September 15, 2012

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 means simply trying to protect its trade routes and its citizens abroad but, rather, is determined to assert its territorial claims, push back the US' influence in the Pacific and underline its status as a global military power

Friday, September 14, 2012

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 they are waiting to go into residential care. But then, when they go into care many are kept on them and remain on them. No-one checks to see if they still need them. Some of these individuals and their families will know about them taking them, but there is evidence some won’t." He said the use of the drugs, known as psychotropic medication, which includes anti-psychotics, was a growing concern to health officials. Dr McCowan said guidelines for the use of the medication stated they should not be used, in most cases, for more than six months. He also said previous research had shown many of the anti-psychotics being prescribed to patients were likely to be having “very little beneficial effect” and could usually be gradually stopped without side effects.

Dr Donald Lyons, chief executive officer of  Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland – an independent body set up to safeguard the interests of people considered to be mentally disordered, said: “Anti-psychotic drugs are unquestionably being overused, more so in care homes but also, to a lesser extent in hospitals. The bottom line is more needs to be done to reduce the number of these drugs being prescribed. The rates are too high...At the end of the day, patients should only ever get any drug if it is for the benefit of their health, not for any other reason, not least to keep them more manageable."
The commission said providing more adequate outside space and stimulating environments were some of the ways to help people cope. Dr Lyons added: “Yes, this costs money, money to pay for the right environment and additional care but surely that is money well spent in the long run."

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 millions of dollars per year. Where there's a mill(ion) there's a way!

A group of nuns in North America is being disciplined by the Vatican. Apparently, their organization, representing more than 80% of the 57 000 (!) nuns on our continent, has been doing nefarious things, like harbouring radical feminist ideas, putting too much energy into social justice, and too little into fighting abortion, contraception, gay rights etc. They have also dared to discuss women's ordination, priestly marriage, and US health care (vehemently opposed by the Catholic powers). A spokesperson for the nuns said, "It [their response] entails resisting rather than colluding with abusive power." Imagine!

When the South African police opened fire on the striking miners, killing 34 and wounding 78, it brought back memories of the Sharpeville massacre of the 1960s. Only then, it was done by a white racist government. This time, it was done by a mostly black controlled government. This clearly shows that no matter what government you have, they will always put the interests of capital first.

In the last week The Toronto Star ran the following headlines: 300 000 jobs lost in Canada last month. Relief too late for Corn Crop J.C. Penny posts loss, but sees improvement. Asian economies -- Report paints bleak picture. Brookfield profit falls, revenue goes up. Housing market cools -- home sales in Toronto down in July. Scorching summer dries up hydro- power. Water based power output falls by 20%. Bigger the IPO, the harder it may fall -- think you are going to make money by getting in early? Think again. John Ayers

Thursday, September 13, 2012


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 exploits and degrades members of the working class it can often lead them to suicide. RD


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. His five-year contract with Adidas, signed three years ago, was worth as much as $5 million (£3.2 million), pushing his earnings last year both on and off the court to $12 million (£7.4 million), according to Forbes. Capitalism distorts everything and it should come as no surprise that a university has a subject entitled "Sport business and management". RD

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 economic interests around the coltan business,” stressed Jean-Bertin. In the meantime, in the DRC, “the killings are real. The blood is everywhere.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


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

Fact of the day

In Scotland some 15 per cent of adults and 220,000 children living in poverty today.

 A 17-year-old school-leaver is entitled only to a basic minimum wage of £3.68 per hour. Even working full-time they would only earn £128.80 a week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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 complaining that tourists should be able to pack weapons to defend themselves. Then in Colorado, the scene of two mass shootings in recent years, the University in Boulder thinks it has the answer to guns. Those packing weapons will be confined to just one dormitory on campus. Come on! It's a handy thing to have when you are studying! John Ayers

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 going to support them. That's the sort of action we need to take to challenge this Government."
There were also growing signs there will be a fresh round of public sector strikes this autumn. The TUC general council announced it would back a call to consider the practicalities of a general strike – not seen in the UK since 1926 – while members of England's two biggest teaching unions announced industrial action short of a strike later this month.

Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, told delegates they had to band together to take on the Government. "If you spit on your own you can't do anything," he told a fringe meeting on co-ordinating action, "but if you all spit together you can drown the bastards"

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 and statements – and follow whatever line is laid down for them.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

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 expects the teachers to pay for educational services out of their wages. This is another example of the recent pit-bull attacks on workers and their wages and benefits, which is what we would expect in any recession.

While we are on the far right, The New York Times reported that Tom Morello, of the metal rap band Rage Against the Machine, described Romney's pit bull, Paul Ryan thus, " He is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lot of rage in him; a rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically, the only thing he is not raging against is the privileged elite he is grovelling in front of for campaign contributions." Nuff said!

John Ayers

Sunday, September 09, 2012

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 of taking lunch are long gone. An inspired colleague stands up and says, “I’m going with her.” The music swells, he tears off the lanyard around his neck and adds, “I don’t want to be chicken, I want to eat it.”

The appeals to downtrodden workers keep coming. If a mere lunch break or a weeklong vacation is not enough of a respite, workers can enter a contest called “Take the Year Off,” sponsored by Gold Peak Tea, owned by Coca-Cola, will pay $100,000 to the winner to take a year off work to do whatever he or she pleases. The Facebook page features pictures of office workers under various states of duress. In one photo, a man in a suit rests his head in his hands as paperwork piles up around him. In another, a woman is seen kneeling against a file cabinet, her mouth open in a scream of desperation.

 A television ad for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, called “Take Back Your Summer.” shows a woman who has had enough. Amid ringing phones and clicking keyboards she climbs up on her desk and shouts through her speakerphone: “I have 47 vacation days. That’s insane.” “Let’s take back our summer!” she yells as she raises a sign over her head with the phrase “Vacation Now” on it. “Who’s with me?”

“It’s an effort by management to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street spirit and redirect it to promote its product,”
said Harry Katz, dean of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “They are using it in a somewhat manipulative way.”

Friday, September 07, 2012


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

Thursday, September 06, 2012


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

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


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