Thursday, July 31, 2008

Waiting for Death

The time prisoners spend on death row has nearly doubled during the past two decades. Waits rose from seven years in 1986 to 12 years in 2006, the latest Justice Department statistics show.

In California, wait times average nearly 20 years.

The three offenders executed in Alabama in 2007 spent an average of 23 years on death row.

he wait times amount to prisoners getting "two distinct punishments": the death sentence and years in solitary confinement, says Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. "Death row was only supposed to be temporary," Denno says. "Now we have inmates on death row for more than a quarter-century."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wasting food

Mailstrom has previously reported on food waste and once more the BBC reports this problem .

More than a million unopened pots of yogurt and yogurt drinks are thrown away in the UK every day - that's 484 million a year, according to recent research , that is about 9.4% of yogurt pots bought which are thrown away unopened . There is no consideration of unused pots thrown away by shops, restaurants and cafes , so the actual figure for wasted yogurt is probably much higher.

Also found was that 4.4 million whole apples and 1.2 million sausages are thrown away each day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The crazy market system

Wheat , maize and rice prices rocket and people go hungry but in the Indian state of West Bengal farmers have been dumping their potato crop on roads in protest against poor prices.

Farmers say they are selling at a loss because a bumper crop and lack of storage facilities has led to a dramatic fall in prices.They say a bumper potato crop has led to a huge surplus of more than 15,000 metric tones and there's not enough cold storage facilities in the state to preserve it for off-season sale when prices are better.

The price of potatoes has fallen across West Bengal this month by almost half - to around four to five rupees (12 US cents) a kilogram.The farmers say they get only half that much - the rest is pocketed by middlemen who the government has so far failed to control .With such low income, the farmers cannot even hope to recover their costs.

People go hungry in Capitalism when food is available .

Uncles boom

Boom times for American pawnbrokers as rich hit hard times reads the headline .

Like most pawn shops in Los Angeles - home to not one but two failed mortgage lenders, Countrywide Financial and IndyMac Bank - it is doing a roaring trade.

With America's banks refusing to lend money even to wealthy customers there is now an overwhelming demand for an alternative. In Beverly Hills, where keeping up appearances is all-important, Collateral Lender is only too happy to help.

Friday, July 18, 2008

everyone hurts when homeless

The United States' current record-breaking rates of mortgage foreclosure will directly impact 2 million children this year and next, according to a recent report from First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization.

"Our homeless education liaisons are noticing increases in the number of students who are homeless, not just in high-poverty families but also those who have typically been middle class and facing this for the first time," says state coordinator for homeless education in Virginia.

Frequent moves have been shown to take a toll on children's learning, behavior, and health. Elementary school students who change schools twice or more in a year show poorer reading than their peers who do not change schools, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Government Accountability Office finds similar negative impacts on math performance.

"Absenteeism, a drop in performance, and students who were normally active participants suddenly being withdrawn -- these are all warning signs," First Focus' Phillip Lovell told One World.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Progress or a way of life ?

The Dongria have lived in the Niyamgiri hills in a remote part of eastern India's Orissa state for centuries. They survive by gathering fruit, growing small crops of millet and selling jungle plants in the towns at the foot of the hills. The modern world has yet to reach Golgola - there's no electricity, no school, no television, no telephones.

"We get everything from the jungle like the fruits we take to the market. This is like our source of life for our Dongria Kondh peoples," says Jitu Jakeskia, a young Dongria Kondh activist. He's one of the few Dongria to have got a formal education, and he's now fighting to preserve his tribe's way of life. "We are not paying any money to get these fruits, this is free, it is like paradise for us here."

But the mining giant Vedanta Resources, one of Britain's biggest listed companies, wants the minerals from Niyamgiri hill. The range is rich in bauxite, from which aluminium is derived. An Indian subsidiary Vedanta Aluminium Limited has invested $1bn in a giant alumina refinery at Lanjigarh. It's a vast sprawling site right at the foot of Niyamgiri hill. A tangle of pipes, silos and vast processing towers cover around six square kilometres (3.75 miles).

The refinery is losing money. The Orissa government promised Vedanta access to the bauxite in the hills. However mining can't begin until India's Supreme Court has given its clearance. For now Vedanta is bringing in vast quantities of the red bauxite rock by rail and truck from mines elsewhere just to keep the refinery operating way below its full capacity.Vedanta has big plans.

"...once we start exploiting these ores, the day is not far away when we will see the same development in Orissa as we see in Australia." says chief operating officer of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd and head of the Lanjigarh refinery.

The bauxite in Orissa is extremely high quality which makes it relatively cheap to refine into aluminium. Vedanta wants to expand the site fivefold and make it the largest of its kind in the world.

India's Wildlife Institute has said that mining threatens an important ecosystem with irreversible changes.A Supreme Court committee which investigated the project said Vedanta Aluminium violated guidelines in the Forest Conservation Act when it built its refinery and should have its environmental clearance withdrawn.

And Norway's official Council on Ethics, which monitors investments for the country's huge state pension fund, said investing in Vedanta Resources, which has many mining interests, presented "an unacceptable risk of complicity in current and future severe environmental damage and human rights violations".Norway's government sold all the Vedanta shares it held which were worth $14m.

"If the Supreme Court will give a decision to allow mining here, all our Dongria Kondh people from children to old women will go to the factory and sleep on the road and say first you will kill us then you can mine, because we cannot live without our mountain," Jitu Jakeskia, a young Dongria Kondh activist. He's one of the few Dongria to have got a formal education, and he's now fighting to preserve his tribe's way of life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Scrap metal war

In 2004, 10 workers were killed in a steel factory outside Delhi when the scrap metal they were melting down in the furnace caused a blast. The consignment was later thought to have included war scrap from Iran.
This led to the government considering a complete ban on the use of scrap metals from war zones in this trade, but four years on, the law is yet to be implemented. In June this year, two boys were injured in an industrial estate in Tamil Nadu when they were handling old cartridges while looking for metal in a scrap pile. The authorities seized the bags of ammunition

The scrap prices for iron and steel have doubled in less than a year, as rising world metals prices stoke demand for scrap. That is proving to be big business for Indian companies who specialise in melting down everything from used cars to unused missiles. A substantial amount of the scrap comes from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
War scrap is cheaper because most developed countries have banned imports from war zones while others have stringent rules for import . Currently, Indian government rules state that any non-shredded scrap metal imported from a war zone has to have a pre-shipment certificate of inspection. But critics say that these regulations can easily be flouted by unscrupulous traders who ship the consignments to other countries and then re-ship them to India.
This changes the port of origin and the consignment is not checked as thoroughly as it should be.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

the survivor

An interesting article from the BBC website a simple one-storey brick house next to a row of wooden shacks, is the home of Antonio Garcia Baron.
He is the only survivor still alive of the anarchist Durruti column which held Francoist forces at bay in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the founder of an anarchist community in the heart of the jungle...

...The Spanish press has covered up that the (Catholic) Church masterminded the death of two million Republicans during the civil war, not one million as they maintain," Mr Baron said before launching into one of his many anecdotes.
"I told Himmler (the head of the Nazi SS) when he visited the Mauthausen quarry on 27 April, 1941, what a great couple the (Nazis) made with the Church.
"He replied that it was true, but that after the war I would see all the cardinals with the Pope marching there, pointing at the chimney of the crematorium." ...

he decided to leave and create a mini-anarchist state [sic] in the middle of the jungle, 60km (37 miles) and three hours by boat from San Buenaventura along the Quiquibey River.
With him was his Bolivian wife Irma, now 71.
They raised chicken, ducks and pigs and grew corn and rice which they took twice a year to the village in exchange for other products, always rejecting money. ...

Later a group of some 30 nomadic Indians arrived and decided to stay, hunting and fishing for a living, also never using money.
"We enjoyed freedom in all of its senses, no-one asked us for anything or told us not to do this or that," he recounted

Saturday, July 05, 2008

feeding the world

President Bush in an interactive business session had argued that while prosperity in countries like India is good, it triggers increased demand for better nutrition, which in turn leads to higher food prices.The comments came close on the heels of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's controversial statement that 'apparent improvement' in the diets of people in India and China is among the causes of the current global food crisis.

The Truth

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil. Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush. The report confirms a British finding that t the rush to develop biofuels has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices. And an estimates their impact as 20-30% rise .

"Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises," said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam.

Production of biofuels has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher.

"It is clear that some biofuels have huge impacts on food prices," said Dr David King, the government's former chief scientific adviser.

However , the Indian apologists for capitalism should not feel too smug .

More than 1,300,000 tonnes of food grain rotted in storage stock-piles over the last decade in India according to a recent report .

"This amount of food grain could have fed over 10 million people in a year," said activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya.