Wednesday, October 29, 2008

40 years of Shelter

Shelter , the campaign organisation which was formed to combat homelessness commemerates its 40th anniversary . 40 years on and still they concede that homelessness is a problem thats not been solved by reforms and legislation .

"I think it would be fair to say this: there was a housing crisis in 1966-1968 when Shelter Scotland was founded and we have today, sadly, a housing crisis of a different nature, but one which impacts on people's lives in really quite harmful ways...." Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland conceded .

As William Morris once wrote "The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side."

According to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which said 11,054 homes were taken in the three months to the end of June, compared with 6,476 during the same period of 2007. A total of 312,000 people were in mortgage arrears at the end of the second quarter , a 16 per cent jump on the same period of 2007.

H0me repossession cases have doubled in Scotland since the start of the credit crunch says the Scotland on Sunday

Nothing like a wee job

Scotland

Statistics of occupational ill health, safety and enforcement

  • Rate of self-reported ill health prevalence per 100 000 people employed in the last 12 months, 2007/08 (LFS) - 4200
  • Rate of reportable injury per 100 000 workers, 2006/07 (LFS, averaged) - 1000
  • Number of fatal injuries to workers in 2007/08p (RIDDOR) - 32
  • Number of major injuries to employees in 2007/08p (RIDDOR) – 2 721
  • Offences prosecuted by HSE, 2007/08 - 140
  • Offences prosecuted by local authorities, 2007/08 - 10
http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/regions/scotland/index.htm

HOW THE OTHER 5% LIVE

"Once it was the Greeks who commanded the best boats. Aristole Onasis's yacht, Christina O, hosted Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Eva Peron and Sir Winston Churchill who were all photographed on board. Then the Arabs became involved. Ten years ago, Diana, Princess of Wales, was photographed sunbathing on Mohamed Al Fayed's yacht the weekend before she died. But in the past five years the Russians have turned it into a different league. Your bog-standard super yacht now costs between £40 and £70 million depending on the interior specification. The running costs tend to be about £5 million a year for the bigger vessels." (Times, 23 October) RD

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

THE BLESSINGS OF RELIGION

"It's the smell I remember. Shahnaz's face -- what was left of it -- reeked of a day old barbeque, left out in the rain. Her flesh was a mess of charred meat: her skin, the soft flesh of her cheeks, and the bones beneath had been burned away. Her nose was gone. Her lips hung down over her chin like melted wax. Her left eyelid couldn't close, so it watered all the time in an endless stream of tears. Shahnaz -- who was 21 years old -- had been punished by having acid thrown in her face. Her crime was to be a Muslim woman who wanted to be treated as equal to a man. Shahnaz loved education -- especially science, and poetry. But when she got married -- at the insistence of her family -- her husband ordered her to stop schooling and start breeding. "You are a woman, that is your only job," he said. But she refused. She wanted to work for herself, and enrich her mind. So she kept going to school, despite his beatings and ragings and threats. So one day her husband and his brothers carefully gathered up battery acid, pinned her down, and hurled it into her face. She ended up in the Acid Survivor's Foundation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I saw her earlier this year. In Bangladesh, acid attacks on "uppity" women are epidemic, peaking in 2002 with more than 500 women having their faces burned off. Fewer than 10 percent of the attackers are ever convicted, because juries and judges say the women bring it on themselves by wearing 'revealing' clothes, or refusing to obey men. Munira Rahman, director of the foundation, explains ..." (Yahoo News, 23 October) RD

A DREADFUL FUTURE

The world is on the brink of an avalanche in the spread of devastating weaponry, a new global non-proliferation group warned Tuesday, saying that a nuclear incident would dwarf the September 11 attacks. The Middle East, particularly Iran, is a potential tipping point, according to Gareth Evans, co-chair of the newly formed International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Evans, a former Australia foreign minister, said the world had been "sleepwalking" on the issue of atomic weapons for a decade. "The devastation that could be wreaked by one major nuclear weapons incident alone puts 9/11 and almost everything else (in) to the category of the insignificant," he said, referring to the attacks inflicted on the United States in 2001. ...Evans told reporters there were between 13,000 and 16,000 nuclear warheads actively deployed around the world and that it was "really a bit of a miracle" that a nuclear catastrophe had not occurred during the Cold War or afterwards.
(Yahoo News, 21 October) RD

Monday, October 27, 2008

A PROPERTY OWNING DEMOCRACY?


"The housing crisis still has a choke hold on America: In September, 81,312 homes were lost to foreclosure, according to a report released Thursday. RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties, said that 851,000 homes have been repossessed by lenders since August 2007. In September, 265,968 troubled borrowers received foreclosure filings - such as default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions. That's a decline of 12% from the record high number of filings in August, but 21% more than in September 2007." (CNNMoney.com, 23 October) RD

POVERTY AND CRIME

"The growing financial crisis is a double whammy for police in many U.S. cities: They face budget cuts as they brace for an expected surge in burglaries, thefts and robberies. "Police departments are going to have do more with less," said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national law enforcement association based in Washington. "I expect police budgets for the foreseeable future to be flat or decline. That will mean less ability to put officers on extended tours and overtime during peak crime hours; it might mean deferring hiring officers for the future," he said. Although there has long been debate over the connection between crime and the economy, most of the criminologists, sociologists and police chiefs interviewed by Reuters forecast a rise in crimes in certain categories in the coming months as the United States heads deeper into recession territory. Crime has increased during every recession since the late 1950s, said Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at the University of Missouri-St Louis."
(Reuters, 21 October) RD

Sunday, October 26, 2008

POVERTY IN THE USA

"The ranks of low-wage working families increased by 350,000 between 2002 and 2006, raising their numbers to nearly 9.6 million, or more than one in four of the nation's working families with children. The report by the Working Poor Families Project, an advocacy group that analyzed census data, defined low-wage families as those earning less than double the poverty rate. For a family of four, that would have been an annual income of $41,228 or less in 2006. The report's author, Brandon G. Roberts, attributed the increase to the growth in low-paying jobs, from health-care aides to cashiers, that form an increasing share of the nation's service-based economy. Many of those families struggle to pay for basics, such as health care, food and housing, a battle that Roberts said has grown more acute in the past two years as the economy has stagnated. "The stark reality is that too many American families have been in economic crisis long before this year," said Roberts, director of the non-partisan Working Poor Families Project, which advocates for state policies to improve the lives of low-income working families. "Even before this year's economic crisis, the conditions for working families were getting worse, not better." The report adds to the growing body of data illustrating that the dynamics of the modern economy have been unkind to many working Americans. Even as the economy grew at a generally robust pace from 2002 to 2006, fewer jobs were created than in previous economic expansions. And some 4.7 million of the jobs that were created paid salaries that would leave a family of four in poverty, according to the report. Overall, the report said, more than one in five jobs in 2006 paid poverty-level wages." (Washington Post, 15 October) RD

Saturday, October 25, 2008

ANOTHER FRAUD EXPOSED

"For as long as man has worshipped a god, there have been forgers, crafty hucksters who seize on a believer's desire to possess material proof of the divine. In Jerusalem, it is a bountiful trade. The old adage is that if all the splinters of the True Cross were gathered from across Christendom, it would yield a wooden crucifix the size of a Manhattan skyscraper. Even back in the Middle Ages, pilgrims visiting Jerusalem told of hawkers who sold counterfeit bones and relics of saints. But indisputable historical evidence that Jesus Christ, or any of the other Biblical prophets, truly existed is something that eludes religious scholars. There was therefore much excitement in 2001 when a reclusive Tel Aviv collector, Oded Golan, announced that a stone reliquary had come into his possession inscribed with the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The discovery of the ossuary was hailed in some quarters as a spectacular archaeological find — solidly circumstantial proof, at last, of Christ's existence. For it would have held the remains of the Apostle James, who was killed in A.D. 62 and is described in the Bible as Jesus' brother. When the James ossuary toured Canada in October 2002, it attracted thousands of the curious and faithful. Some visitors kneeled in quiet prayer. But back in Israel, police detectives, along with a growing posse of biblical scholars, were growing sceptical of the ossuary's authenticity. After a two-year investigation, police in December 2004 charged the antiquities collector and four others of forgery, alleging that the James ossuary was a clever fake and that Golan had masterminded an international ring of thieves that over the past 20 years had duped major museums and collectors out of millions." (TIME, 16 October) RD

Friday, October 24, 2008

A BOOMING INDUSTRY EVEN IN A RECESSION

France's former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua arrives at a Paris courthouse
for the opening of a trial over a vast France-Angola arms scandal that involves
the son of late French President Fran├žois Mitterrand and dozens of businessmen,
politicians and public figures


A recent issue of the magazine TIME (14 October) highlighted the immense profits to be made in capitalism even in a trade recession. " Need to start a war? No problem. While stock markets grate and financial institutions (and even whole countries, like Iceland) teeter on bankruptcy, one global industry is still drawing plenty of high-end trades and profits: weapons."
The article reported the case in a Paris courtroom where 42 officials went on trial for taking millions in kickbacks and organising huge arms commissions from the Angolan government during the mid-1990s. This group, which included a former French Interior minister and the son of the late French President Mitterand, were charged with having supplied almost $800 million worth of arms to Angola, including 12 helicopters, 6 naval vessels, 150,000 shells and 170,000 mines.
The Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos used this huge stockpile to crush the US-backed Unita rebels during Angola's devastating civil war. It is worth noting that Dos Santos is reckoned to have made millions of dollars from the transaction and that he is still in power with no prospect of a fraud trial for him.
The source of this arms hardware was the huge stockpiles of Soviet weapons left behind when the Soviet Union collapsed. The French businessman Pierre Falcone allegedly plied Angolan officials with tens of millions of dollars - some of it stuffed in in suitcases - and deposited other sums in offshore accounts.
You might imagine that these shady dealings having been brought to light could no longer occur, but you would be dreadfully wrong. "Researchers say arms trading has boomed in the decade since the Angolagate scandal was uncovered. That's partly due to hightened supply. As ex-Soviet republics emerged as economic actors in their own right, several countries developed national arms industries, refitting weapons from their stocks and manufacturing new weapons of their own. These industries have taken off in in recent years. Ukraine has about 6 million light weapons from Soviet stockpiles, and has modernised tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and other weaponry, says Hugh Griffiths, an expert on illicit weapons at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute."
"It is very difficult to stop arms trafficing, because there is no control," says Griffiths, who has researched Ukraine's arsenal for the US government. Although NATO funds Ukraine to destroy its stockpiles, "the Ukrainians realize how much money they can make by selling surplus weapons," he says. In an action that broke no laws, the Ukrainians shipped about 40,000 Kalashnikov rifles to Kenya last year during the tense standoff following the country's disputed presidential election."
As the struggle for oil and minerals intensifies inside capitalism we have rebel conflict in Chad, Sudan, Congo and elsewhere. This conflict needs weapons and so the arms trade legitimate or otherwise flourishes. In Africa and all over the world capitalism reigns supreme. The basis of capitalism is production for profit, so in its remorseless drive for profit it leads to conflict, and eventually armed conflict. It is the nature of the beast to maim and kill and all attempts to civilise it by such grandiose titled groups like the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute are doomed to failure. As the expert Hugh Griffiths himself admits - "there are plenty of arms out there - so long as you have the money to pay for it."
RD

Thursday, October 23, 2008

DRIVEL BABY, DRIVEL

"Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Thursday that God blessed the nation with oil and gas resources and other forms of energy that should be tapped to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers. The Alaska governor told supporters at Elon University that she and GOP presidential nominee John McCain will develop new energy sources. "God has so richly blessed this land, not just with the oil and the gas, but with wind and the hydro, the geothermal and the biomass," Palin said. "We'll tap into those." Palin said some of the countries the U.S. relies on for energy use their resources "as a weapon." And she said the billions spent each year on oil imports should be circulated within the country "for the sake of the nation's security." "We need to drill here and drill now," Palin said as the crowd chanted "drill baby, drill." (Washington Times, 16 October) RD

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WAR IS MENTAL

"The number of British military personnel discharged from the armed forces following a “nervous breakdown” has risen by 30 per cent since the start of the Afghan war. More than 1, 3000 have been medically discharged since 2001 when operation first began against the Taliban, new figures revealed. Of these, 770 belong to the army, which has borne the brunt of overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...The rising numbers of service personnel leaving for psychological reasons will fuel concerns that thousands of soldiers face being traumatised by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Health charities claim that as many as one in 10 soldiers will develop a mental health problem from the horrors of combat." (Observer, 19 October) RD

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NOT ONLY THE LAW


A judge has thrown out a Nebraska legislator's lawsuit against God, saying the Almighty wasn't properly served due to his unlisted home address. State Sen. Ernie Chambers filed the lawsuit last year seeking a permanent injunction against God. He said God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents in Omaha, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants." Chambers has said he filed the lawsuit to make the point that everyone should have access to the courts regardless of whether they are rich or poor. On Tuesday, however, Douglas County District Court Judge Marlon Polk ruled that under state law a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a lawsuit to move forward."
(Associated Press, 15 October) Charles Dickens had Mr Bumble declare "the law is an ass - a idiot". If he was alive today perhaps Dickens would have declared US senators and judges equally asinine. RD

Monday, October 20, 2008

ANOTHER MARKET GURU

Mr Brown blames the unregulated stock dealers, Mr Cameron blames Mr Brown and socialists blame the slump/boom cycle of capitalism, but here is someone with yet another explanation.
"From his base in India's financial capital Mumbai, Raj Kumar Sharma has been tracking the turbulence in the world stock markets and has come to one firm conclusion -- it was written in the stars. As an astro-finance specialist, he has made a career on predicting whether the Bombay Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, Dow Jones or FTSE-100 will go up or down by studying favourable or unfavourable planetary alignments. Where many blame banks overstretching themselves or inadequate financial controls and policy, Sharma sees a clash between fiery Saturn and its arch enemy Leo as a key factor in the recent financial turmoil. "Leo is the sign of the sun and the sun is the father in Indian astrology," he told AFP. "But the son (Saturn) and his father (the sun) don't get along, so whenever they are sitting in the same house together, they always fight and create ill-will and danger in the market," he said." (TIME.com, 16 October) RD

Friday, October 17, 2008

POVERTY RECRUITS

"The economic crisis could help the military recruit and retain troops, Pentagon officials said Friday, potentially ending years of extraordinary bonuses and waivers that have become necessary to keep enough troops to fight two wars. "We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society," said David S.C. Chu , undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness." (Yahoo News, 10 October) RD

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A REAL BARGAIN

"Presciently, the high-end Japanese bathroom-fixtures manufacturer Toto chose a time when the economy is circling the drain to launch its newest product - a $5,000 commode with a super-efficient flush. The Neorest 550 seems at first a senseless money tank, but at a swellegant downtown New York City launch party last week, the press and interested parties were almost persuaded that this fixture is more than a very dear john - if used right, it's good for the environment and it could even save you money. How? Consider the following. You'll save on toilet paper. Go ahead, toss the tissue. You're not getting your hands anywhere near your netherlands. The Neorest does it all for you: It offers a squirt of water in the rear, a squirt of water in the front, a squirt of water that pulses or a gentler stream for tough days. You can adjust pressure and direction from the comfort of your seat. Then there's a down under blow drier. No wonder the manufacturers prefer the term "Integrated Personal Cleansing System" to toilet. Or latrine." (Time, 11 October) RD

READ 'EM AND WEEP!

"In These Grim Economic Times, Here's A Gamble That's Tough To Resist. Cartier's Handsome Poker Case, Made Of Sycamore Wood And Decorated With Red And Black Marquetry, Comes With 360 Chips In Five Different Colours, Five Dice And Two Decks Of Cartier Cards. Place Your Bets; There's Already A Waiting List, Despite The $10,100 Price Tag."
(Newsweek, 13 October) RD

Sunday, October 12, 2008

IT’S A MAD, MAD WORLD

"Robert Tchenguiz, the property entrepreneur, lost £1bn in just 24 hours after being forced to offload his stakes in J Sainsbury and Mitchell & Butlers as the fallout of the Icelandic banking crisis hit corporate UK. Mr Tchenguiz lost up to £600m on the sale of a 10 per cent holding in Britain’s third-biggest supermarket chain and about another £400m on his exit from the pub company, making the entrepreneur one of the biggest individual casualties of the credit crunch in the UK. He was said to be taking a philosophical approach to his losses." ( Financial Times, 8 October)
When I was a kid my mother read me the riot act about foolishly spending two shillings (20p) on the Grand National horse race. My mother and I were less than philosophical, but then unlike Mr Tchengiiz we were members of the working class. Lost £1 billion ? I shudder to think what my old lady would have said. RD

BUDDY CAN YOU SPARE A GRAND

Outside in the streets of New York you may be asked by some homeless worker for change, but not everybody in that city is finding capitalism a harsh society. "One of the quietest, most private rooms around is the discreetly deluxe Ty Warner Suite, which literally looks down on Manhattan from the 52nd story of the 52-story Four Seasons Hotel at 57 East 57th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. With its travertine floors, grand piano, health spa and remote-controlled bidet, it is uncontested as the city’s most expensive temporary rental, clocking in at a Bolshevik Revolution-producing price of $30,000 a night."
(New York Times, 6 October) RD

Saturday, October 11, 2008

CAPITALISM IS WORLDWIDE

"The Russian government will start buying stocks next week, spending billions to help prop up stricken markets, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday as parliament approved anti-crisis measures designed to get cash moving quickly into the troubled banking sector. Russia's stock markets remained closed after heavy sell offs."
(Associated Press, 10 October) RD