Sunday, March 01, 2015

Health Inequality

Poverty seems to have nothing to do with developed countries, such as the United States, the economic powerhouse. However, as it turned out, this is indeed a problem for the world's largest economy.

According to an article by Carol Graham, an expert with the Brookings Institution, although the living standards of the poor in the U.S. now have been improved compared with those in 1970s, poverty is still exacting a high cost - not in terms of water and power bills, but in terms of stress, unhappiness, and pain. The expert found that compared with wealthy people whose monthly household income is larger than 7,500 U.S. dollars, the levels of stress, worry, physical pain, sadness, and anger are all significantly higher among low income cohorts whose monthly household income is lower than 2,000 dollars. The low income group's satisfaction with life as a whole is also significantly lower than wealthy ones. Of these problems troubling the U.S. poor, stress, worry and physical pain are the top three difficulties experienced by the poor. Nearly 45 percent of the poor surveyed experienced stress, over 40 percent reported worry, and about 38 percent of the poor said they experienced physical pain.

A study by Ronald Anderson, a professor at University of Minnesota, said that those with incomes below the poverty line were twice as likely to report chronic pain the mental distress as those earning more than 75,000 dollars in annual income.

micro-capitalism is a failure

Microcredit is no panacea for lifting millions of people from poverty, leading economists said on Friday in releasing research from seven countries that challenges a key development tool.
For over 15 years, extending microloans to very poor people has been hailed as a path out of poverty, especially for women. Microcredit, pioneered by Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and winner of the 2006 Nobel peace prize, has been promoted by development agencies as a route to self-improvement for very poor families considered too risky by traditional banks. Microfinanciers make tiny loans to small-scale entrepreneurs, who usually belong to a borrowers' club that guarantees repayment. The idea is a family will invest in its business, generate more income and break out of aid dependency. The industry, which has expanded dramatically since 1997, had reached 137.5 million families by 2010, according to Microcredit Summit Campaign, a non-profit which brings together microfinance practitioners.

But economic studies spanning four continents and seven countries conducted between 2003 and 2012 found that microcredit fell well short of its promise, and there was no clear evidence it reduces poverty. Business profits, household living standards, women's empowerment and poverty levels were little changed for entrepreneurs who took out loans. Demand for loans was weaker than bankers expected and there was no sign of more money spent on child welfare, economists Abhijit Banerjee from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dean Karlan of Yale University and Jonathan Zinman of Dartmouth College, said.  The findings should prompt a rethink by donors on how they tackle poverty, they added.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Vote Socialist Party (GB)

Indian Women and Domestic Violence

A 2006 government survey, the last time the state collected comprehensive household data, stated that 40 percent of Indian women faced domestic violence. Considering that women comprise over 48 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion people, this means that hundreds of millions of people are living a nightmare in what is considered the world’s largest democracy.

However many experts believe that a 2003 survey conducted by a non-profit and supported by the Planning Commission of India that threw up a figure of 84 percent paints a more accurate picture.

“It tells us that many cases are going unreported,” says Rashmi Anand, a domestic violence survivor who runs a free legal aid and counseling service for victims in the capital, New Delhi, in collaboration with the police. Interestingly, figures for domestic violence reported in crime statistics in many states are significantly higher than those that find their way into national-level databases.

In a 2013 study by the New Delhi-based think tank National Council for Applied Economic Research, over half of the married women surveyed said that they would be beaten up for going out of the house without permission (54 percent); not cooking properly (35 percent) and inadequate dowry payments (36 percent). Indian law bans dowry, but the practice remains widespread.

A 2014 report in Population and Development Review, a peer reviewed journal, shows that women who are more educated than their husbands are at higher risk of domestic violence as men see in it a way to re-assert their power and control over their wives.

The last government study done in 2006, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), revealed that over 51 percent of Indian men didn’t think it wrong to assault their wives. More shockingly, 54 percent of the women themselves felt such violence was justified on certain grounds.

The fight for land in Brasil

In Brazil, one of the countries with the highest concentration of land ownership in the world, some 200,000 peasant farmers still have no plot of their own to farm. Social movements had hoped that Rousseff, who belongs to the left-wing Workers’ Party like her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, would take up the banner of democratisation of land ownership. But her government’s economic policies have focused on incentives for agribusiness and agro-industry, mining and major infrastructure projects.

“There was a fall in the numbers of new rural settlements and of land titling in indigenous territories and ‘quilombos’ (communities of the descendants of African slaves), while on the other hand, investment in agribusiness and agro-industry grew,” said Isolete Wichinieski of the Brazilian Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a church-based organization. The conflict over land has intensified, according to the CPT, with the expansion of livestock-raising and monoculture farming of soy, sugarcane, maize and cotton, and growing speculation by large landowners with close ties to politicians.

According to the CPT report, during the first Rousseff administration (2011-2014), 103,746 families were granted land under the government’s agrarian reform programme. But that figure is actually misleading, because in 73 percent of the cases, the land settlement process was already in progress before the president took office, and the families had already been counted in previous years. If only the new families settled on plots of their own during Rousseff’s first administration are counted, the total shrinks to 28,000. The government reported that in 2014 it regularised the situation of just 6,289 families – a number considered insignificant by the CPT. In order for land reform to be effective, the CPT argues, more settlements must be created and the concentration of rural property ownership must be reduced in this country of 202 million people. But the organisation does not believe Rousseff is moving in that direction. Agrarian reform was not on the agenda of the campaign that led to the president’s reelection in October, and the new government includes names from the powerful rural caucus in Congress, which represents agribusiness and agro-industry.

The agriculture minister is former senator Kátia Abreu, the president of the National Confederation of Agriculture. She surprised people when she stated in an interview that there are no “latifundium” or large landed estates in Brazil.
“Abreu has backwards, outdated views of agriculture,” complained Wichinieski. “She denies that there is forced labour in the countryside, she isn’t worried about preserving the environment, and she argues in favour of the intensive use of agrochemicals in food production.”

One example is the case of the 20,000-hectare Agropecuaria Santa Mônica estate, 150 km from the national capital, Brasilia, in the state of Goiás, part of which has been occupied by families belonging to the MST. The property belongs to Senator Eunício Oliveira, considered the wealthiest candidate for governor in Brazil in the last elections. In the Senate, Oliveira heads the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, Rousseff’s main ally in Congress. He served as communications minister under Lula in 2004-2005 and last year lost the elections for governor of the state of Ceará. Valdir Misnerovicz, one of the leaders of the MST, told IPS that the estate is unproductive and that its only purpose at this time is land speculation. Strategically located between the municipalities of Alexânia, Abadiânia and Corumbá, Santa Mônica represents the largest land occupation by the MST in the last 15 years. It all started on Aug. 31, when 3,000 families marched on foot and in 1,800 vehicles to the estate, part of which they occupied. Since then, more than 2,000 men, women, children and elderly persons have been living in a camp and control 400 hectares of the estate. They are determined to win a portion of the land to farm. In November, a court ruled that Oliveira has the right to recover the property.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Disgrace of the Gaza Blockade

Reconstructing Gaza could take an entire century, if Israel doesn’t stop the siege, Oxfam warned. And that’s just the time frame for essential projects. The NGO’s regional director calls the situation “deplorable.”

“Only an end to the blockade of Gaza will ensure that people can rebuild their lives,” Regional Director Catherine Essoyan said. With it in place, the flow of construction materials in and agricultural produce out is having a crippling effect on the lives of Palestinians. According to the NGO, new figures reveal a drop last month in construction materials, which are vital to the efforts. "Less than 0.25 percent of the truckloads of essential construction materials needed have entered Gaza in the past three months," the statement also said. In pure figures, over 800,000 truckloads of such materials are still required to repair the infrastructure damaged in last summer’s operation alone.

About 100,000 of these people still live in shelters and other makeshift or temporary accommodation because of this lack of materials. Tens of thousands more are living in badly damaged homes.

“Families have been living in homes without roofs, walls or windows for the past six months. Many have just six hours of electricity a day and are without running water. Every day that people are unable to build is putting more lives at risk. It is utterly deplorable that the international community is once again failing the people of Gaza when they need it most,” Essoyan continues. A further problem concerns food. “Exports of agricultural produce from Gaza have fallen in the last year to just 2.7 percent of the level before the blockade was imposed. Fishermen are still restricted to an enforced fishing limit of 6 nautical miles – far short of where most fish are – farmers are restricted from accessing much of the most fertile farmland.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Corrupt Malcolm Rifkind (video)

As others see us

Amnesty International noted the rise of discriminatory, nationalistic policies in Britain. It warned “nationalist, thinly veiled xenophobic attitudes” were instrumental in an increasingly restrictive migration policy and anti-EU rhetoric, which targets human rights. "The UK is leading the charge against basic human rights." its annual report stated. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


    By  Richard Montague

  Who invented the wheel? Was it the person who first discerned that a tree trunk, shorn of its branches, would facilitate the movement of other branchless tree trunks? Or was it the person who conceived of an axle carrying at either end circular pieces cut from a tree trunk? Or was it... ?

  It was, of course, all those who contributed to the primitive discovery and the subsequent evolutionary refinement of the wheel we now know it in all its diverse forms. That is the way with all ideas and it is something that one side was anxious to avoid during the lengthy legal battle over GIS.

  Originally there were seven people involved in the claim to the discovery of what has come to be known as GIS or General Immunity Serum. Three were medical doctors two of whom had been engaged in research work at the Brussels laboratories of Ziglap International and one who had been employed in a research capacity by Kwelph Medical in their Zurich headquarters, Two were research chemists both of whom had, at different times, been employed by Ziglap and by Kwelph. A sixth man, Ernest Kroller, later said to be the brains behind what the papers presented as a monumental piece of fraud and industrial espionage, had no obvious direct connection with the venture while the seventh man was a laboratory assistant who was employed by the other six and not, therefore, directly involved with the alleged scam.


The not-so-good news

A study, based on figures by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility warns that on current trends:

The number of children in poverty in Britain will rise by 1.2 million by 2030
The income of high income households will rise 11 times faster than low income ones over the next 15 years. The real disposable income of middle income households will rise by 9 per cent but that of low income groups by only two per cent.
The total number of people who would be living in poverty would rise from 10.2m to 13.8m by 2030 meaning that one in five would then be below the poverty line.
The number of poor pensioners would rise from 1.95m to 2.59m.
The number of lone parent households living in poverty would grow from 463,000 to 1.08m.
The number of “poor” in-work households rising from 1.7m to 2.23m.

Andrew Harrop, co-author of the report said: “The picture of Britain painted by this report is hard to stomach. Our projections show that poorer families will see their incomes frozen for the next 15 years, even if the economy does well. The numbers in poverty will rise and many more families will find themselves unable to make ends meet. Emergency food banks would move from being a temporary phenomenon of the economic crisis to an entrenched feature of British life.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015


It is time to draw some lessons from the past and apply them now. One of the most important lessons concerns class and how many workers fail to act in their own interest. People increasingly appreciate that capitalism is the key problem of our time, but they see no solution that can overcome the limits of the present political discourse.

Ed Miliband not our friend. He is not our ally. He is not fighting for us. If there are two people and the first one of them is openly hostile, abuses you at every turn and is obviously working for interests diametrically opposed to your own, you would have to be crazy to consider them a friend. But if the other person keeps telling you that they are on your side, sympathises about how awful the first person is being, and says you should trust them instead – while all the while they are pursuing interests just as opposed to yours and will proceed to stab you in the back at the first opportunity – then who is your real friend? Neither of them is the answer, of course, though we can say that you are less likely to be deceived by the openly hostile one. The function performed by the Labour Party is always to appear as the benign friend to the workers in distinction to the “wicked” Tories. Hoping that the Labour Party will behave differently is an unrealistic – indeed utopian – expectation.

If our goal is the eradication of capitalism, then supporting the Labour Party is just completely delusional. The object of socialists is to assist in the emancipation of the workers from its enslavement to the capitalist class. To those who support the Labour Party we would appeal to reconsider their position. What does its boasted achievements amount to after all? With many on the Left calling for the re-formation of a Labour party, members of the Socialist Party ask "why bother?"  In office and out, Labour is a party for capitalism. It is a party that has regularly and routinely acted against the working class. Yet we are constantly told not to give up hope. Every time an election comes round the different left wing groups tell us to vote Labour. Can Labour be changed? We think that its history proves the impossibility of changing Labour. Labour long ago gave up any pretence at wanting to get rid of capitalism.

The Labour Party has always tried to make capitalism work for the people. And every time that it has been in office, it has failed miserably to do so. The reason Labour – and indeed the Tories who also talk of a “people’s capitalism” – fail to make capitalism work for the people is that this is an impossible mission. Capitalism just cannot be made to work in the interest of all. It is a profit-making system that can only work as such, in the interest of those who live off profits.

The Labour Party has failed, so let’s start a new one. That’s what some trade unionists and lef-twingers are saying. But why? Surely one of the lessons we have learned has been that Labourism is a dead end. It can’t succeed. Not because its leaders are insincere or incompetent or corrupt or not resolute enough. It fails because it sets itself the impossible mission of trying to gradually reform capitalism into socialism. This can’t be done, as experience, not just theoretical understanding, has confirmed. The last thing that is needed today is a non-socialist, trade-union based “Labour” party. We have seen the past and it doesn’t work.

The Labour Party are simply a party of capitalist maintenance, with objectives of some form of new society being not just shunted into the background but completely out of existence. They are now more dedicated than ever to running with optimal efficiency the very system that creates poverty, misery, homelessness and war. As for those old Labourites who blame all on the mistakes of the past and present on certain leaders, this simply adds to the argument against leadership. In any case, the leader as a individual is irrelevant. Knocking one leader out of office and replacing them with another won’t change the system, and it’s the system that all attention should be focused on if we desire a radical change in the way we live. Trading one group of pro-capitalist apologists and careerist politicians for another can never be the answer. Changing society’s economic structure is the answer.

Labour Party reformists prefer to define class in terms of the unequal social distributions of wealth (rich versus poor) and/or power (rulers versus ruled) so they devote their efforts to equalise wealth disparity and democratise power. But they are blind to the most important aspect of class. This definition focuses precisely on production, on who produces and who gets the surplus, that is, the inequality separating those who produce the surplus value in society from those who take and live off the surplus value they did not help to produce. In slave systems of production, masters exploit slaves. In feudalism, lords exploit serfs. In capitalism, employers exploit workers. In the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, state officials or party functionaries displaced private individuals (boards of directors elected by shareholders) as corporate employers. Yet by occupying precisely that position, state officials likewise exploit workers, hence the term, "state capitalism." Ending exploitation means changing and transforming social relations.

Power of the Vote


Marxist Theory

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Join the SOCIAList PARTY

Workers United - Join The Union

Conservatives love to trash unions by saying they’re corrupt and do nothing but damage the economy. However, the progressive Economic Policy Institute put together a chart using data compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau. The EPI illustrated a strong correlation between the dwindling number of union membership and income inequality. Union membership is now at its lowest since 1936, with only 11 percent of American workers being union members. As membership increased after 1936 during the Great Depression, peaking at 33.4 percent in 1945 and staying about the same until 1960, the top 10 percent’s share of wealth fell. At a height of 46.3 percent in 1932, the share of wealth held by the richest tenth fell to 31.5 percent by 1944, remaining stable till about 1980. As union membership steadily declined after 1980, the wealthiest Americans saw their share of riches surge.

Wielding the threat of strikes and work slowdowns, organized labor helped generations of Americans. The main way that unions helped workers get better pay was because unions gave those workers a louder voice in politics. Unions exerted considerable political clout, sustaining other political and economic choices (minimum wage, job-based health benefits, Social Security, high marginal tax rates, etc.) that dampened inequality. With unions, there really is power in numbers. American workers used unions to have their voices effectively heard by those in Washington. Now that union membership is at a near-all-time low, American workers aren’t being heard.

But things are changing.
After years of avoiding confrontation, the labor movement is reasserting itself. From the ports of Los Angeles to the car plants of Detroit, unions are saying it is payback time.  Since 2009, management compensation has grown about 50 per cent faster than union workers’ income. In the auto industry, real wages have declined 24pc since 2003, according to the Centre for Automotive Research.

Oil workers have walked off the job for higher wages and better working conditions. Dock workers have snarled West Coast ports. Personnel staffing oil terminals at the Port of Long Beach, California, are threatening to strike. In Detroit, union leaders girding for contract talks this year will push for the first raise veteran autoworkers have received in a decade. Union leaders are taking advantage of a tightening labour market and favourable political environment. With wages stagnating and the rich getting richer, income inequality has become a rallying cry.

“Employers seem to think that they can push unions, the roots of the American working class, off a cliff,” said Dave Campbell, whose union local represents oil-terminal workers at the Port of Long Beach. “Well, these corporations have made a significant miscalculation in our ability to fight back. There’s a lot of labour strife now, and they could have a major confrontation on their hands.”

Pat Patterson, 60, is on strike for the first time in 35 years working as a pipefitter at Tesoro Corp’s refinery in Carson, California. Patterson said his union helped the company survive the recession and now should share the wealth it has since accumulated. “Their whole driver is greed,” he said. “Tesoro is making record profits. There’s more profit, and they don’t want to share it with the workers.”

Fly the Red Flag

Palestine a capitalist society with an especially great divide between rich and poor, but the rich are intimately tied to Israeli and international capital. As Ali Abunimah documents in The Battle for Justice in Palestine, “a small Palestinian elite has continued to enrich itself by deepening its political, economic and military ties with Israel, the U.S., often explicitly undermining efforts by Palestinian civil society to resist” (p78). PADICO, the Palestinian Development and investment Company, founded by rich Palestinians such as the Masri family and dominated by Gulf state capital, owns 78% of the Palestinian Stock Exchange. Bashar Masri, with Qatari and US support, has funded construction of the new city of Rawabi, priced for the well-to-do. Much of the construction material was bought from Israel, and nearly 500 acres of village land were involuntarily seized. Other Masri family members also have many deals with Israeli tycoons. Industrial zones run by Turkey, Japan and France, in which workers will have few rights, are in the works. In the last 30 years, credit (mostly to buy Israeli goods) has been so massively increased that half of all Palestinians are in significant debt, while unemployment is over 20%, wages are low, and one third suffer food insecurity. The West Bank is policed by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA security sector today employs almost half of the 145,000 people on the PA payroll and consumes $1 billion of the PA’s $3.9 billion budget — roughly the same amount as health and education combined.

Israel, too, is a capitalist and highly unequal society. Eighteen ruling families have incomes equal to 77% of the national budget in 2006 and take in 32% of the profits from the 500 largest companies. The three largest banks preside over 80% of the market and take 70% of the profits. The income gaps between the 90th and the 50th percentiles, and between the 50th and the 10th are the highest in the world. Since most job growth is in the high tech sector, inequality in education and lack of social mobility, especially for the Arab minority, insure the growth of these differences. Since 2001, tax cuts have benefited the wealthy, industry has privatized and unions have lost their clout. So dire is the situation that 80% of the population supported the massive 2011 protests against unemployment and unaffordable housing. In Israel, inequality is the 4th highest in the world and growing

Do Palestinian and Israeli workers have more in common with these exploiters and enforcers than they do with other workers in the rest of the world? An examination of liberation movements of the last century reveals that this nationalist thinking has dominated struggle in many countries and has yet to lead to significant betterment of the lives of ordinary citizens. Instead, it has merely led to changing the ethnicity of the local exploiters, whose strings often continue to be pulled by former colonial powers. We can examine the stories of Sierra Leone, Algeria, El Salvador, Haiti, South Africa and many others to see that despite long and bloody liberation struggles, the maintenance of a capitalist system and ties to international monetary institutions has not led to significant economic betterment of the vast majority of the population. Overt apartheid-like regulations may have disappeared, but class distinctions have not. In fact, the movement for equality and better living conditions is usually dissipated, at least temporarily, by nationalist victory. The workers of the oppressor nations are likewise suffering. In the U.S., as in the nations of Europe, in Russia and in China, millions live with poverty, racism, food insecurity, and poor health care, although the particularities may vary widely. The American capitalist system could not survive without the $600 billion it saves by paying lower wages to black workers. Europeans berate but depend on the cheap labor of their immigrant populations. China steals land from its farmers, condemns thousands to slave in internationally owned economic zones, and kills workers with pollution and shoddy construction.

Despite their calls for national unity, the members of various ruling classes are always able to unite when workers’ movements threaten them. As far back as the Paris Commune, when workers seized the city for ten weeks in 1871, the French army united with its former Prussian enemy to crush them. Terrified by the Bolshevik victory in the former Soviet Union, ten governments, from the US to Italy to Japan, launched an invasion in 1918. Today, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund unite and protect the world’s moneyed interests around the globe.

What is the alternative to waving the nationalist flag, the banner of the ruling class of whatever nation? Let us raise flags and banners of worker and student solidarity across borders, for the demands for which we fight. Let us not falsely depend on or unite with our so-called state leaders who, universally in the world today, have more in common with each other than they do with us. Let us not be bamboozled by patriotic or nationalist rhetoric; let Arab and Jewish and American workers fight together for what we need. The One State Movement for historic Palestine could be a huge step in this direction, but it must do more to consider the political and economic nature of the society it seeks to create. Let us be part of an international movement for an anti-racist, non-capitalist world.

Jihadists Have Chemical Weapons?

“Before his death, Gaddafi left approximately one thousand cubic tons worth of material used for manufacturing chemical weapons and about 20,000 cubic tons of mustard gas,” the military source said.
The destruction of some of Libya’s chemical weapons arsenal began after the country joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2004. Due to the uprising against Gaddafi’s rule in 2011, the source maintained, only 60 percent of the chemical stockpiles have been destroyed. The quantity of chemical weapons taken is not known.
Jihadist groups have exploited the chaos in Libya that followed the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011, as rival factions compete for power and oil. ISIS secured a foothold in Libya after at least three local Islamist militias swore allegiance to the ultra-radical group. A video recording, obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, purportedly shows militants conducting chemical weapons tests in a mountainous area near the town of Mizda

Together we stand

Muslims in Oslo formed a human chain around the city’s main synagogue, chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia.” Over 1,000 people took part in the rally to show solidarity with Jews just a week after a fatal shooting in a Denmark synagogue. Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace, as the small Jewish congregation filed out of the synagogue after Shabbat prayers on Saturday. The message was simple – they mourn and stand in solidarity with the victims of increasingly instances of violence against Jews in Europe, including the terror attacks in France in January and in neighboring Denmark last week.

“This shows that there are many more peacemakers than war-makers,” Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the organizers told the crowd. “There is still hope for humanity, for peace and love across religious differences and background.”

“It is unique that Muslims stand to this degree against anti-Semitism and that fills us with hope...particularly as it's a grassroots movement of young Muslims,” said Norway's Jewish community leader Ervin Kohn.

Fact of the Day

Air pollution in India has affected a huge number of its citizens, shortening the lives of around 660 million people by about three years. The lives of 54.5 percent of the Indian people who reside in areas heavily polluted by fine particles are shortened by 3.2 years on average.

New Delhi is  the most polluted in the world, according to the estimates by the World Health Organization. The list of 20 polluted cities in the world in 2014 included 12 other cities from India.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cheap to cure but expensive to treat

 What if you could treat a poor person in Africa to cure or prevent seven horrible afflictions – river blindness, hookworm, elephantiasis, trachoma, snail fever and two other parasitic worm diseases – for only 50 cents? Better yet, what if the drug industry could be compelled to give more than a billion of the planet’s poorest people worldwide life-saving and curative drugs for free? Well, you can and they were. These parasites don’t afflict the poor because the worms have a special love for low-income people. Poverty, lack of access to clean water, food or health services is why these people get these diseases.

Yaws is one of a group of 17 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect 1.5 billion people, among them the world's poorest. They maim or blind people, are often debilitating and sometimes fatal.
"The NTDs are a huge global health priority, and that's really motivated donors and endemic countries to pull together," Helen Hamilton, NTD policy advisor at Sightsavers and chair of the UK Coalition against NTDs said in an interview.
Because most NTDs affect only certain geographical areas, experts say that given the right resources many of them can cease to be a public health risk. Of the 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm infections a decade ago, for instance, there are now just 120 cases globally, showing just how close the world is to eradicating it.

Yaws affects mainly children and causes unsightly skin ulcers and painful bone infections that can make walking difficult. In some rare cases it can eat away people's noses. At least 50 million people were affected by the bacterial infection in the 1950s. When the WHO launched mass treatment campaigns with penicillin vaccines, the number of cases plummeted by 95 percent by the end of the 1960s, according to David Mabey, an expert in yaws and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "But then it fell off the agenda.” Yaws is known to be prevalent in 12 countries in areas where people have little access to healthcare, mainly in West and Central Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

It should be easy to eradicate, because scientists have found that a single dose of the relatively cheap drug azithromycin, given orally, is as effective as the penicillin injections of old. Not enough money is spent on getting drugs and tools to the people who need them, David Molyneux, professor at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said in an interview. Less than 1 percent of official international development aid for health is spent on NTDs, Molyneux said. Malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS attract much of the funds. Bednets, insecticides and free or very cheap drugs can help curb many of the diseases. "We're dealing with something here where ... we can have a profound health impact with very cheap tools," he said.

The global health community needs an estimated $750 million annually to meet the World Health Organization’s 2020 road map for the preventive treatment and care of neglected tropical diseases. It is relatively cheap, when compared with the billions of dollars needed to address other health issues like HIV and AIDS, to which U.S. President Barack Obama allocated $6.2 billion under his 2015 budget request.

According to Dirk Engels, head of WHO’s NTD department. In fact, he said, there’s currently just about $300 million in foreign aid funding available to tackle these diseases — not even half of the required sum. And given the current financial climate, especially in traditional donor countries, Engels, who is also the lead author of a new WHO report on NTDs, isn’t so optimistic that foreign aid can bridge that gap. Ebola has shown that when there is real urgency, something can be done (by foreign donors and pharmaceutical companies)," he said. "But it's also shown that maybe we shouldn't wait until it is urgent." Critically needed interventions are often sidelined as donors focus too much on the end result. Intestinal worm infection is an example. A chronic problem in poor countries, particularly in areas where there are poor sanitation practices and facilities, intestinal worm infection can easily be cured by taking the right medicine. WHO made it a target to reach at least 75 percent of poor schoolchildren with this pill by 2010, and yet, five years past the target and with 600 million deworming tablets available for free, only 300 million are being delivered and just 30 percent of the estimated target population being reached.

The drug company Merck, for example, has for 25 years been donating for free a drug, ivermectin, to treat Africans against the parasitic worms that cause elephantiasis and river blindness (the drug is mostly sold in the West for treating canine heartworm infections). “Most firms were willing to donate the drugs but they didn’t want to be on the hook for anything else,” Julie Jacobson, a physician and program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said. The drug companies agreed to get the donated meds to the countries but other needs such as coordinating the donations in country, incorporating them effectively into broader health programs, monitoring for safety and compliance and so on were to be the responsibility of others.
YLDs – years lived with a disability  YLLs – years of life lost 

Quote of the Day

“The method of practicing economic science creates a professional ethic of studied myopia. Apprentice economists are relieved of the need to learn much about the complexities of human motivation, the messy universe of economic institutions, or the real dynamics of technological change. Those who have real empirical curiosity and insight about the workings of banks, corporations, production technologies, trade unions, economic history or individual behavior are dismissed as casual empiricists, literary historians or sociologists, and marginalized within the profession. In their place departments are graduating a generation of idiots savants, brilliant at esoteric mathematics yet innocent of actual economic life.” Robert Kuttner, economist 

Fact of the Day

Between 1979 and 2013, productivity in the U.S. grew 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation of production and nonsupervisory workers, who comprise over 80 percent of the private-sector workforce, grew just 8.0 percent. Productivity thus grew eight times faster than typical worker compensation.

U.S. households earn $18,000 less than they would had wages kept pace with productivity. Canadian workers are paid at least $15,000 per year less than they would be had their wages kept pace.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Head-Fixing Industry


This is the opening and closing of pamphlet by John Keracher of the Proletarian Party of America first published in 1930s yet still relevant and pertinent to today’s world of media manipulation. The full pamphlet can be read on the Libcom website.

The much used term, "public opinion" is little understood by the average person. On first thought, many are inclined to believe that it is the opinion of that aggregate of human kind, commonly referred to as "the public." Let us see whether or not such is the case. What is public opinion? Does it really exist? We say "Yes" and "No."

That considerable influence is brought to bear upon social questions by what is called "public opinion" goes without saying. It is not a thing of air; it does not exist merely in the imagination. Quite the contrary, it is a power of considerable magnitude—a real live social force. And yet we do not hesitate to say that "public opinion" is not PUBLIC opinion at all. It is, at best, the opinion of a very small minority—we say, at best, for the reason that in many instances, particularly in matters pertaining to the labor movement, it is but an artifice whereby it is sought to mold the public mind favorably to the interests of the ruling class.

To comprehend this misnomer fully, one must have some idea of the source of "public opinion" and how it is formed. The public is divided into two classes, the working class and the employing class—the class that PRODUCES the "nation's" wealth and the class that OWNS the means of producing such wealth, the mines, mills, factories, etc.

It is quite obvious that the interests of these two classes are not identical. The employers and the workers get their incomes in different way.   They are opposite in every respect. The one class, on the average, is "well to do," many are rich. The other class is not at ail "well off," many are in poverty.

The conditions under which the workers live are such as should cause them to arrive at opinions different from those arrived at by the rich- Yet the masses of the people, although poor, think the thoughts of the rich, champion the arguments of the rich, and, if need be, defend with their last breath the interests of the rich. "Public opinion" is, at best, only the opinion of the rich, but the majority of the people dont know it. You will say, "How is it done?"

It is the result of America's greatest industry. "But," you will say, "what is America's greatest industry?" Well! It is not the coal industry, nor the oil industry, nor the automobile industry. It is not building, nor shipping, nor railroading. No, it is none of these. America's greatest industry is the—Head-Fixing Industry….

Working-Class Education

Public opinion, as we have endeavored to show in this pamphlet, is only capitalist opinion. The most effective way to combat it is to put forth, in opposition, workers' opinion. But how is this workers' opinion to be formed? How is working-class opinion going to become "public opinion"?

The working class constitutes the vast majority of the population. This majority has a means at its disposal, propaganda. The individual worker carrying the message of working-class emancipation to his fellow worker is a powerful factor, especially if put to work systematically. Speaking from working-class platforms, in halls and on street corners, and die printed word, the periodicals of the workers, by the workers and for the workers, are all effective means of reaching the masses.

There is also at work a still greater force than propaganda, a force that is bound to shape "public opinion." Social evolution is at work. Its great economic pressure is bearing down upon the workers and forcing them to think. It is sharpening the struggle between the classes, between those who own the means of production and the class that must work for those owners in order to live. In a word, experience, the workers' everyday experience, is the greatest force working toward their social awakening. To give the awakened workers greater understanding of their class interests, to impart information in relation to the social system under which we live, is the object of such a pamphlet as this. Also, the labor press, particularly its more advanced section, is useful in teaching the lessons of organization and action. Every means at the disposal of the working-class movement must be made use of to enlighten the masses and to convey the necessary knowledge of their class problems and the nature of the historic task that the proletariat is confronted with.

The class-conscious workers, the vanguard of the American proletariat, are now pressing forward with a mighty movement, and a powerful propaganda and educational press for the purpose of winning the workers away from the poisoned propaganda of the kept press of Wall Street. Mass meetings, street-corner meetings, classes on labor questions, leaflets, pamphlets, books, or any other means at our disposal, must be fully utilized. The personal agitation of the already awakened workers is particularly valuable, as our class is so numerous and the master class so few and getting fewer.

Let us bend every effort to the end that working class opinion may prevail, to the end that working-class ideas, opinions in the interest of the vast majority, will ultimately become public opinion. We must fight the head-fixing industry of the capitalist class to a finish. We must expose its shams, its fraudulent claims, its hypocracies and perversions. Against its "holy" humbugs, we must hurl our simple truths in relation to history and the real part played in social evolution by the class which does the world's work.  We must un-fix the workers' heads by imparting real knowledge and driving out the falsehoods of capitalism's head-fixing industry.

It is only through thus exposing the class nature of the head-fixing industry that we can prepare the workers' minds for the need of a revolutionary change. The workers must be taught that their slavery is based upon the private ownership of the machinery of production and distribution. They must be brought to a realization that their emancipation from wage slavery can only come as a result of the means of production and distribution being transformed from the status of capitalist ownership to that of social ownership. The common ownership of the mills, mines, factories, etc., is the goal of the modern working-class movement. The political overthrow of the capitalist class is the first step toward this objective.

In this struggle, the power of thought is a mighty weapon. Let us learn to wield it more and more effectively. Let us bring the revolutionary ideas of the modern proletarian movement to the front, so as to uproot capitalism and establish a new social order. Let us sweep away, not only the head-fixing industry of capitalism, but also sweep away the system of profit making that is served by the head-fixing industry. 

Quote of the Day (2)

'Oddly enough, if you talk to most reporters, most of the reporters I know who are giving me stories about censorship, about top-down control and all, are ex-reporters. They're often people - I began noticing, "Well I used to work for Associated Press...", or "Well, I used to work for CBS..." – "Well I used to..." The ones who are still in there absolutely vehemently deny that there's any such thing like this. They get very indignant. They say: "Are you telling me that I'm not my own man? I'll have you know that in 17 years with this paper I always say what I like." And I say to them: "You say what you like, because they like what you say." 

'And, you know, the minute you move too far - and you have no sensation of a restraint on your freedom. I mean, you don't know you're wearing a leash if you sit by the peg all day. It's only if you then begin to wander to a prohibited perimeter that you feel the tug, you see. So you're free because your ideological perspective is congruent with that of your boss. So you have no sensation of being at odds with your boss.' - 'Michael Parenti - Inventing Reality', YouTube, talk on 17 October 1993

Eco-Doom and Gloom

So much information about climate change now abounds that it is hard to differentiate fact from fiction. Scientific reports appear alongside conspiracy theories. Corporate lobby groups urge governments not to act.

The little progress that is made to curb carbon emissions and contain global warming often pales in comparison to the scale of natural disasters that continue to unfold at an unprecedented rate, from record-level snowstorms, to massive floods, to prolonged droughts. A new report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a think-tank based in New Delhi that has, perhaps for the first time ever, compiled an exhaustive assessment of the whole world’s progress on climate mitigation and adaptation.

The TERI report cites data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which maintains a global database of natural disasters dating back over 100 years. The study found a 10-fold increase to 525 natural disasters in 2002 from around 50 in 1975. By 2011, 95 percent of deaths from this consistent trend of increasing natural disasters were from developing countries. TERI took into account everything from heat and cold waves, drought, floods, flash floods, cloudburst, landslides, avalanches, forest fires, cyclone and hurricanes. In the 110 years spanning 1900 and 2009, hydro-meteorological disasters have increased from 25 to 3,526. Hydro-meteorological, geological and biological extreme events together increased from 72 to 11,571 during that same period, the report says. In the 60-year period between 1970 and 2030, Asia will shoulder the lion’s share of floods, cyclones and sea-level rise, with the latter projected to affect 83 million people annually compared to 16.5 million in Europe, nine million in North America and six million in Africa. The U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimates that global economic losses by the end of the current century will touch 25 trillion dollars, unless strong measures for climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction are taken immediately.

Mozambique was found to be most at risk globally, followed by Sudan and North Korea. In both Mozambique and Sudan, extreme climate events caused more than six deaths per 100,000 people, the highest among all countries ranked, while North Korea suffered the highest economic losses annually, amounting to 1.65 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The year 2011 saw 350 billion dollars in economic damages globally, the highest since 1975.

The situation is particularly bleak in Asia, where countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Philippines, with a combined total population of over 300 million people, are extremely vulnerable to climate-related disasters. China, despite high economic growth, has not been able to reduce the disaster risks to its population that is expected to touch 1.4 billion people by the end of 2015: it ranked sixth among the countries in Asia most susceptible to climate change. Sustained effort at the national level has enabled Bangladesh to strengthen its defenses against sea-level rise, its biggest climate challenge, but it still ranked third on the list. India, the second most populous country – expected to have 1.26 billion people by end 2015 – came in at 10th place, while Sri Lanka and Nepal figured at 14th and 15th place respectively. In Africa, Ethiopia and Somalia are also considered extremely vulnerable, while the European nations of Albania, Moldova, Spain and France appeared high on the list of at-risk countries in that region, followed by Russia in sixth place. In the Americas, the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia ranked first, followed by Grenada and Honduras. The most populous country in the region, Brazil, home to 200 million people, was ranked 20th.

The UK takes the most historic responsibility with 940 tonnes of CO2 per capita emitted during the industrialisation boom of 1850-1989, while the U.S. occupies the fifth slot consistently on counts of historical responsibility, cumulative CO2 emissions over the 1990-2011 period, as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity per unit of GDP in 2011, the same year it clocked 6,135 million tonnes of GHG emissions.
China was the highest GHG emitter in 2011 with 10,260 million tonnes, and India ranked 3rd with 2,358 million tonnes. However, when emission intensity per one unit of GDP is additionally considered for current responsibility, both Asian countries move lower on the scale while the oil economies of Qatar and Kuwait move up to into the ranks of the top five countries bearing the highest responsibility for climate change.

Quote of the Day

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), almost 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger and almost 2 billion are under- or overnourished. Approximately 5 million children die each year because of poor nutrition. Access to adequate food during the first 1,000 days of life is vitally important for healthy future generations. Of the world’s hungry people, 98% live in developing countries. The root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition are poverty and inequity rather than shortages.
FAO statistics confirm that the world produces enough food to feed the 7 billion people living today, and even the estimated 9-10 billion population in 2050. Global agriculture produces 17% more calories per person today than 30 years ago, despite a 70% increase in population. Despite this, for the 2 billion people making less than $2 a day – many of whom live in rural areas where resource-poor farmers cultivate small plots of land – most can’t afford to buy food. It is the economic system that is responsible for this prevalence of poverty and hunger.” -  Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, ResearchProfessor, and co-director of the Project on Global Climate Change, HumanSecurity, and Democracy housed at the Orfalea Center for Global &International Studies at the University of California.