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. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Party Line

Fact of the Day

The British Army deployed 93,000 troops to 300 commitments in 50 countries last year

British Slaves

The UK visa system is enabling unscrupulous employers to treat foreign workers as modern-day slaves, workers who were paid little or nothing, were not allowed out and were sometimes abused or beaten, a BBCinvestigation has found. 

The situations come from "tied" visas - meaning the right to be in the UK can be withdrawn by the employer - and "transit" visas on fishing boats. Transit visas are being used to bring in recruits to the fishing industry who have no right to set foot on dry land - and therefore no access to UK employment rights. Some fishing workers spend weeks at a time at sea, sometimes unpaid, sleeping in cramped conditions, often physically and verbally abused.

With tied visas, employees must stay with the employer they arrived to work for - so if they are mistreated and run away, they are likely to be deported.

Chasing the cheats

Tax evasion is officially estimated to have taken £4.1bn away from the UK taxpayer in 2012/13

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Piano Man

"BOWIE'S PIANO MAN: the life of Mike Garson" by Clifford Slapper
Fantom Books, 2015

(Trade Release from 20 March)
Copies available now, exclusively from:

“It is pointless to talk about his ability as a pianist. He is exceptional. However, there are very, very few musicians, let alone pianists, who naturally understand the movement and free thinking necessary to hurl themselves into experimental or traditional areas of music, sometimes, ironically, at the same time. Mike does this with such enthusiasm that it makes my heart glad just to be in the same room with him.”
David Bowie on Mike Garson

*First-ever biography of Mike Garson, long-term pianist with David Bowie, who has played on 19 Bowie albums. He has also played live with Bowie on countless tours and shows, and remains his most long-standing and frequent band member.

*For some time Clifford Slapper has been working very closely with Garson to write a book which explores the life of this extraordinary and eccentric modern musician. It documents in detail how, as a pianist, he was catapulted overnight from the obscure world of New York's avant-garde jazz scene to a close and long connection with Bowie

*Based on in-depth long conversations with Garson himself, as well as interviews with many of those he has worked with, such as Tony Visconti, Earl Slick, Trent Reznor, Gail Ann Dorsey. Gerry Leonard and Reeves Gabrels. It also has over 50 photographs, many never seen before, of Garson with Bowie and others.

*This book seeks to shine a spotlight on one of the musicians who has contributed hugely, though often without full recognition until now, to modern musical history, especially through helping to mould the sound of classic albums like Aladdin Sane by David Bowie. It covers a wide range of themes which will be of interest to all Bowie fans, but also to anyone with a passion for music, social history or the process of creative inspiration.

“The most inspiring musician I’ve ever come across.”
Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails
“Of the whole lot, Mike is the true genius; we are all just toys in his atonal wonderland.”
Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins 


"Mike Garson
 played the legendary piano parts on David Bowie's Aladdin Sane album. At Bowie's final concert as Ziggy Stardust, in July 1973 at Hammersmith Apollo, Mike came on first and played a solo piano set of Bowie songs. He is a prolific classical composer, jazz master and improviser. He has also recorded and performed live with rock, pop and soul legends including the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Gwen Stefani, Jeff Beck, Luther Vandross, St. Vincent; and with jazz greats including Stan Getz, Stanley Clarke and Freddie Hubbard. All of this is covered in this first ever, fully authorised biography.

Clifford Slapper
 is also a pianist and played the piano for David Bowie's appearance on Ricky Gervais' award winning TV comedy "Extras". He has also played for Boy George, Suggs, Lisa Stansfield, Jarvis Cocker, Angie Brown, Stereo MCs and Gary Kemp amongst many others. With Billie Ray Martin he created a ground-breaking series of live and partially improvised film-scores in London and Berlin for Polanski's Repulsion, and he has been writing for many other artists. He features on recent releases by Marc Almond and Holly Johnson, and played the piano as Dudley Moore in a BBC recreation of the sketches of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, presented by Jonathan Ross. Aside from magazine articles, this book is his first published work. He is available for Q&A, readings, signings etc.

Contact: Clifford Slapper / Email: 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fitba' Daft (2)

While football bosses have ­announced a record £5.14billion deal to televise live Premier League matches, funding to the grassroots game is actually being cut. The Premier League originally promised to ­give five per cent of its broadcasting income to grassroots projects. This has now fallen to below one per cent, with the league, the Government and the FA each cutting its contributions through the Football Foundation from £20million a year to £12million.

Worse, amateur teams face a massive rise in fees charged by councils for the use of pitches – in some cases up from £150 to £600 a season. In most cases, the management of publicly owned pitches is controlled by town halls, which have had to slash leisure budgets in the face of Government austerity measures.

Stephen O’Reilly, secretary of Liverpool junior summer league, believes the big clubs should do more. He said: “Bill Shankley used to come out of Anfield and watch the kids playing football here. Those days are gone. The Premier League should be looking after these leagues, where your Gerrards and Rooneys all started.” Stephen added: “All our equipment is kept in the storage container. There are dogs running across the pitches. There are no toilet facilities, no hot water. Football is a religion here. But now it’s all about money, money, money.”

England has just 639 of the latest full size 3G public pitches, each costing £550,000, while Germany has 3,735.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fitba' Daft

Andy Walker is a spokesperson for FC United of Manchester, a club born in 2005 from immense frustration with the way ownership was running Manchester United. When the Glazer family from the United States bought Manchester United just a few years after Rupert Murdoch attempted the same thing in 1998, some fans drew the line and formed their own club. Walker, and the rest of the renegade fans, place the destruction of football—from the anti-competitive nature of the Premier League to rising ticket prices and incessant bowing down to television—at the feet of these super-rich owners.

"These are business people whose primary aim is to make the maximum profit from their investment while saddling the club with massive debt," Walker told Bleacher Report. "They epitomise everything that is wrong with modern football. Supporters are rarely consulted about matters affecting their clubs, have to suffer massive hikes in ticket prices and inconvenient kick-off times for the sake of television and have largely been marginalised."

Michael Brunskill, a spokesperson for the Football Supporters Federation related how some fans, take this new reality in stride, supporting local nonleague clubs instead of Premier League clubs, returning to times when football was at the heart of communities without worrying about international rights and hidden money.

"They feel more of a closer relationship with the club and more of a connection with the club and the players," says Brunskill of these fans. "They aren't global superstars who you can't get near. If you go to a nonleague game, you can have a pint and a chat with the player in the bar afterward."

FC United of Manchester are taking it to the next level. Just 10 years in the making, FC United have already made the Northern Premier League playoff final three times. The former Manchester United fans boast more than 3,500 paying members, all of whom get a vote in decision-making of the club. And they will soon move into their own stadium, Broadhurst Park—financed largely by their own members. Members, referred to as co-owners, vote on everything from the board to the kit to ticket prices, all to create an environment of loyalty, engagement and community involvement—a far cry from the elite hierarchy of teams or the motives of super-rich owners.

Though victory happens to be a byproduct of rabid fans willing to do anything for a club that shows them as much love as they show the club, FC United's goals, according to Walker, are "to be a sustainable football club that can be the best it can be on the pitch while making a real difference in the local community and beyond of it."

Oddly, it sounds like the ideal marketing pitch to a group of millennials, though FC United isn't a start-up tech company from Silicon Valley. Instead, they are simply going back to the days when football meant something to the community and reflected the ideals of the fans who built the club.

"People want to belong," said Walker. "If you value that loyalty and promote engagement and involvement, then people will do amazing things with you and support you through thick and thin."

Whether FC United are part of a bigger trend or simply a small reaction to a larger problem remains to be seen, but they certainly have strong selling points for young adults who can't afford to attend bigger games, participate in the spectacle or have a say in the direction of the club. Of higher importance in a global economy, the profits from FC United will stay in the community rather than going back to a Russian, American or Middle Eastern bank account.

Still, less practical, more emotional reasons may have a stronger effect on the tide of fanhood. Gone are the days when David toppled Goliath to win the league. The key element in both religion and football—faith—is in danger of being eliminated. We know Sunderland will not have a moment like Sergio Aguero's to snatch the title from an age-old rival. We know Newcastle United will not play in the Champions League and stun Real Madrid in the final. We know players such as Willian will choose Chelsea over Tottenham Hotspur. We know these things because the global economy has taken so much money away from middle and lower classes and at the same time seen the wealthy become the super-rich. We know because the game favors those with the largest bank accounts.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Herbal Business

We often hear about the evils of Big Pharma, and there’s plenty to be concerned about there. But some who promote “alternatives” — the manufacturers, distributors and sellers of supplements, aka Big Herba —take advantage of regulatory loopholes, public distrust of the medical realm, and consumer confusion to push pills and potions that may do absolutely nothing for your health, or worse. Big Herba is big business, and when profit is the motive, let the buyer beware.

Increasingly, Big Pharma and Big Herba are indistinguishable. The very same mega-companies with gigantic chemical labs that make drugs are cooking up vitamin and herbal supplements labeled with sunny terms like “natural” and “wholesome.” Pfizer, Unilever, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and other big pharmaceutical firms make or sell supplements. Procter & Gamble Co. and Arm & Hammer are also in on the action. Wall Street is getting in on the game, too: the Carlyle Group, a private-equity titan, owns NBTY (formerly Nature's Bounty), whose brands include Nature's Bounty, Sundown Naturals, Puritan's Pride, and Vitamin World. When they make supplements, companies don’t have to play by the same rules as when they make drugs. True, there are still some small firms that concentrate on just a few products, and many of them want to sell products that are properly labeled and beneficial. But the smaller guys represent just a small fraction of total sales in what has become a $23-billion-a-year business.

Last week, the New York attorney general's office told GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to pull several store-brand supplements when most of them were found to contain things other than what their labels advertised, including allergens like wheat that are potentially dangerous to some consumers. At all the stores investigated, the St. John’s Wort contained absolutely no St. John’s Wort. Likewise, the Gingko Biloba had no Gingko Biloba. Instead, many of the products contained nothing but cheap fillers, including a common houseplant called dracaena.

In 2012, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report showing that 20 percent of supplements sold for weight loss and immune system support they bought made illegal claims about their effectiveness in treating and cure ailments. “Sampled supplements,” says the report, “were inconsistent with FDA guidance on competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

In 2013, the New York Times published an article describing numerous problems with common products. Research conducted in Canada on popular supplements like echinacea and St. John’s Wort sold by 12 different companies found that many consumers were getting completely swindled. According to the report:
“Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

The same year, Harvard researchers found that between 2004 and 2012, there were 237 “Class I recalls” of dietary supplements. That means for each product, there was a “reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.” Dietary supplements —which include vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and herbal remedies — accounted for half of such recalls during those years.

Consumer Reports reveals that of 54,000 supplements listed in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, only a third have any scientifically supported level of safety and efficacy. Twelve percent are linked to safety concerns or quality issues. The report calls attention to health risks including cardiovascular, liver and kidney problems; contamination with nasty things like heavy metals due to poor quality control and inspection; and raw ingredients sourced in China, where factories are riddled by lax standards.

So many people worry about having to spend money at the doctor. So much money to be made. In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was passed which allowed dietary supplements to operate with little regulation. The supplement industry, as a result, does not have to do thorough trials for safety and efficacy.  And they don’t necessarily have to alert consumers about harmful side-effects. Even when a supplement is clearly shown to be harmful, it’s difficult for the FDA to step in and ban it. Just take the case of ephedra, which people used to take for weight loss and to boost energy. Despite mounting evidence of dangerous effects, in some cases fatal, manufacturers challenged a 2004 FDA ban and got it overturned. It took the U.S. Court of Appeals to restore the ban in 2006.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Bad News for the Planet

Is it necessary for people to eat as much meat as we do? Until relatively recently, meat was generally only eaten on special occasions and, even then, largely by the rich. For millennia we have raised animals on non-arable land and fed them indigestible waste from our food production, either harvesting their milk or their meat in return. Eating meat was occasional.

Climate change, with all the challenges that that brings, will be accelerated if we continue to factory farm at the rate we presently do. Intensive farming process is doing little to help the environment. The increase in the production of meat can only serve to further damage our already exhausted planet. Emissions have increased by 144% in Asia alone in the last 50 years, a huge increase particularly when noting this does not include the figures from the UK, Europe and America. The fertilisers used on the food for the animals to eat produces the harmful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Additionally animals, for example cows, sheep and goats, secrete high concentrations of toxic methane (23% of the overall global gas emissions) into the atmosphere, a gas they produce naturally. It is clear that, from the beginning of the meat production chain, the planet is being harmed. The outlook worsens when this is coupled with the rest of the food production chain: transporting animals from factory to abattoir and back to factory, to be cleaned then packaged, and distributing the finished product. The majority of studies indicate 10-25% off all emissions that currently hit the Earth’s atmosphere stem from the meat production process. Studies from 2007 suggest rearing animals for food constitutes around 80% of agricultural emissions. This is likely to have increased further when considering in 2004 the Environmental Protection Agency stated agriculture contributed to 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If in 2007 it was projected as being between 10-25%, in 2015 it is likely to have reached the latter end of the percentage, or even bypassed it.

30% of land is currently used for rearing animals for meat production. There are suggestions that this is as high as 38% — in the 2011 article “Five Scenarios for 2050: Conditions for Agriculture and Land Use” the authors claim 38% of global land resources are used for agricultural ends. The largest amount of this percentage is used for grazing animals. 11% of land is arable, meaning sustainable for plant and crop growth, with 33% of the arable land used for animal feed production; 33% of all arable land is being used to feed animals that will ultimately feed us. So around a third of all Earth’s land is used to bring animals into existence and then slaughter them. Mass production of meat drains around 10 times the amount of water than plant-based products do. Some reports consider this is a generous forecast and suggest it is likely to be much higher than that.

We can get more from less with wheat, corn and soya bean growth and consumption than with meat. Would it be so difficult to eat less meat?

Good News for Pets

The increase in pet ownership has coincided with a tendency to treat pets as members of the family, thereby encouraging the purchase of higher-priced premium goods that claim to possess special benefits, formulations or specialized ingredients. As a result, industry revenue is expected to grow to $23.6 billion. Over the past five years, pet parenthood has become more prevalent among consumers. Indeed, as birth rates declined following the recession, pet ownership has served as an alternative to outright parenthood. Pet parents are typically more willing to splurge on organic and premium pet food products. Profit margins are expected to reach 15.6% of revenue in 2015. The largest pet food companies, including Mars and Nestle, will continue to develop and market formulas that boast advanced benefits for pets, such as age-specific nutrients and all-natural ingredients, which command premium margins.

Pet ownership is projected to continue to grow over the next five years, partly because rising disposable income will allow more consumers to afford owning pets. “In the five years to 2020, the number of pets is projected to grow, thereby bolstering demand for pet food products.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

His Masters Voice is Obeyed

The poodle breaks ranks with Europe once again.

Following Obama's declaration that the USA may well supply arms to Ukraine counter to to the advice of Germany's Merkel, Britain quickly changed its position to become more in tume with its Washington's masters

“It’s a national decision for each country in the NATO alliance to decide whether to supply lethal aid to Ukraine,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stated, adding that the United Kingdom reserves “the right to keep this position under review.”

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Greater and Better Charter

The Greater and Better Charter

Practically every school student knows about the Magna Carta. In contrast, few are acquainted with the Charter of the Forests – the Carta de Foresta.  (Only two copies of this second charter survive, one of them at Lincoln Cathedral and the other at Durham Cathedral.) While Magna Carta spoke mainly of the rights of the barons, the Forest Charter addressed the rights of ordinary people. What the Great Charter did was give English feudal lords the right to revolt against the throne in cases of infringement of their feudal privileges. The Magna Carta was a treaty in the class war, a deal amongst the haves – between rich barons and an ambitious king and it helped to make a ruling class. The King signed the document, but he had little intention of yielding to its demands. He had the support of the Pope who agreed that the document was improper as it had been extracted under duress. The Pope annulled Magna Carta; and the King turned on his enemies – England was plunged into a civil war known as the First Barons’ War.
The Charter of the Forest which was first issued on 6 November 1217, however, provided some real rights, privileges and protections for the common man against the abuses of the encroaching aristocracy. It was joined with Magna Carta in the Confirmation of Charters in 1297 signed by Edward 1, declaring both charters part of the common law of England. There was thus not one Great Charter, but two. And if the first is the basis of our modern notion of human rights, then the second stands for the right to access the commons to provide for one’s subsistence.
In 1215, nearly one third of the land in England consisted of forest; however, the word ‘forest’ in medieval times didn’t have today’s meaning of a ‘densely wooded area’.  It referred essentially to a managed hunting ground, often rich in deer, which could be heath, moor or grassland, and even fields, villages or towns within the area. England’s forests had once given the common people somewhere to forage for food and firewood and space for their animals to feed. But by the era of King John, in the early 1200s, successive kings had claimed much of this land as their own, and exploited many areas to make money.
The Charter of the Forest restored the traditional rights of the people, where the land had once been held in common, and restrained landowners from inflicting harsh punishments on them. It granted free men access to the forest (though at this time only about 10 per cent of the population was free; the rest were locked into some sort of service to a local landowner, some of them little more than slaves). Free men could enjoy such rights as pannage (pasture for their pigs), estover (collecting firewood), agistment (grazing), or turbary (cutting of turf for fuel). The death penalty was removed for anyone stealing venison, though they were still subject to fines or imprisonment. Some clauses in the Laws of Forests remained in force until the 1970s, and the special courts still exist today in the New Forest and the Forest of Dean. In this respect, the Charter was the statute that remained longest in force in England (from 1217 to 1971), being finally superseded by the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act 1971.
Unlike the Magna Carta, which after the 13th century became altogether irrelevant and for all intents and purposes disappeared from public view (in his play ‘King John’, for instance, William Shakespeare makes no mention of Magna Carta), the Charter of the Forest remained very much alive. For four centuries Forest Law was in daily use. It wasn’t until the 17th century that the Magna Carta staged a comeback and that was due to the rise of capitalism. The Charter of the Forest was not consistent with commodity production or commercial trade, nor consistent with universal doctrines of private property. So in the seventeenth century, at the time of the English revolution, with the Enclosures (the privatisation) of land the Charter of the Forest slowly fades from importance.
The words of the Magna Carta, “No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or deseized or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and by the law of the land” are echoed in the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. But it should be noted that deseized is a technical feudal term which means deprived of his lands. Back in the thirteenth century, of course, it only applied to freemen, who were a small percentage of the population of the time. The great majority of the population were un-free serfs. So most of the Charter was quite simply irrelevant to them.
Unoccupied lands were deemed to be royal lands, and other desirable tracts were depopulated, residents often evicted, villages destroyed, and churches burned down.  Despite occasional retreats from land-grabbing, kings made ever-stronger claims to preferential and ultimately absolute power over these lands, as well as the wildlife within them. Over the decades, occupied lands were “afforested,” that is, brought within the definition of royal forests and thus made subject to the forest laws and the absolute, solitary jurisdiction of the king and his agents. Anyone dwelling or holding land within the forest bounds was subject to a complex set of regulations, implemented by royal officials answerable only to the king.
This Charter was almost unique in providing a degree of economic protection for those who used the forest to forage for food and to graze their animals. The royal forests were the most important potential source of fuel for cooking, heating and industries such as charcoal burning. The King was required to “disafforest” his Royal Forest, which meant a requirement to give up possession of forest land. This might or might not have trees, since “forest” in this context did not necessarily mean just tree-ed areas, but could include heath-lands, fields, moor or even farms and villages. The Charter specifically states that “Henceforth every freeman, in his wood or on his land that he has in the forest, may with impunity make a mill, fish-preserve, pond, marl-pit [limestone], ditch, or arable in cultivated land outside coverts, provided that no injury is thereby given to any neighbour.”  Instead of answering to the King alone, forest dwellers had to consult with their communities, ensuring that any development did not disadvantage their neighbours.
The Magna Carta began the process of transforming the forests into common land that served the needs of communities. According to the 1215 version of the Great Charter, “All evil customs relating to forests…are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably.” This clause was eliminated from future reissues of Magna Carta as the Charter of the Forest expanded and developed the provisions concerning use of forest land. The Charter of the Forest precisely defined the “evil customs” mentioned in the Great Charter, and presented an alternative vision for the management of common resources.
The barons, who had enjoyed only limited rights in royal forests, could, after disafforestation, make use of them at their own whim and that looked on paper like another victory by the barons over the king, but it turned out to be a slight illusion because the royal forests didn’t disappear and whilst the barons may, in fact, have gained a little, ordinary people found a guarantee of their liberty and livelihood in the Charter of the Forest. The Charter of the Forest is more relevant to the mass of the population than the Magna Carta, because the Magna Carta is really all about the King’s powers to raise revenues from his greater subjects, the actual feudal landowners. The Forest Charter is specifically about forest law which affected large numbers of ordinary people and this was of rather greater practical importance. The Charter of the Forest preserves the ability of commoners to have access to the resources and riches of the natural ecology of the forest that enable us to see the importance in modern terms of our clothing, our buildings, our fuel. In terms of the materiality of our lives in the twenty-first century, we can begin to get an inkling of how important the woodlands — how important that was to the daily lives of people. It was the essential necessities of life.
Peter Linebaugh in his book, The Magna Carta Manifesto, argues that the acceptance of the Magna Carta within Anglo-American legal culture has routinely ignored the principles of commons and subsistence rights, while the individual protections vis-à-vis the state have been canonised. The steady enclosure of common lands was paralleled by a shrinking conception of liberty. The US Supreme Court, for example, has long taken it for granted that “Rights of personal liberty and of property…are the great principles of Magna Charta” but Linebaugh objects because he believes any decent society needs to integrate both liberties: the negative rights against despotism and the positive rights to the conditions for economic self-sufficiency. Linebaugh writes:
The message of the two charters and the message of this book is plain: political and legal rights can exist only on an economic foundation.
Linebaugh defines the Commons both as the public resources available for private use and, a more central claim, in keeping with the medieval and early modern usage, of “common” as a verb, as the set of harmonious social relations produced by individuals jointly extracting the means of their subsistence from a collective pool. He reminds us that the commons is “the theory that vests all property in the community and organizes labour for the common benefit of all
Another social commentator, Noam Chomsky, addressed an audience at St. Andrews University, Scotland, on the topic of the Charter of the Forest, where he said:
The companion Charter of the Forest is perhaps even more pertinent today. It demanded protection of the commons from external power. The commons were the source of sustenance for the general population – their fuel, their food, their construction materials. The Forest was no wilderness. It was carefully nurtured, maintained in common, its riches available to all, and preserved for future generations….The Charter of the Forest imposed limits to privatization…By the 17th century, the Charter of the Forest had fallen victim to the commodity economy and capitalist practice and morality. With the commons no longer protected for cooperative nurturing and use, the rights of the common people were restricted to what could not be privatized, a category that continues to shrink to virtual invisibility…. we see that the destruction of the Charter of the Forest, and its obliteration from memory, relates rather closely to the continuing efforts to constrain the promise of the Charter of Liberties.  The “New Spirit of the Age” cannot tolerate the pre-capitalist conception of the Forest as the shared endowment of the community at large, cared for communally for its own use and for future generations, protected from privatization, from transfer to the hands of private power for service to wealth, not needs….A few final words on the fate of the Charter of the Forest.  Its goal was to protect the source of sustenance for the population, the commons, from external power – in the early days, royalty; over the years, enclosures and other forms of privatization by predatory corporations and the state authorities who cooperate with them…
The Derbyshire Peak forest is effectively obliterated in the early stages of the English revolution, in 1641 when the Crown loses many of its forest rights. In the later seventeenth century those rights are sold off to local entrepreneurs and local gentry and noble families.  Particularly the Dukes of Devonshire enclosed parts of the forest, divided it up and expropriated those rights from the common people, and they experienced a lot of opposition to that. The effect of the Forest Charter, even though this land is no longer afforested – that is in the legal sense a royal forest – is to enshrine within local custom and within local memory a notion that the land is for peoples rather than the gentries and the nobilities. Into the 1930s that land is still an area of conflict between ordinary people and the gentry in that the people of Manchester, led by a man called Benny Roughman, who was a Communist Party activist and a trades unionist, led a mass ramblers trespass to reclaim the land of the common people in support of the right to roam on areas of moorland as a recreational activity.
Similarly on Otmoor in Oxfordshire in 1830 the landowners were successful in getting through the legislation that they required to enclose them more, and then in 1830 a series of nocturnal protests began, pulling down the fences, pulling down the hedges, re-diverting rivers that had been diverted, and these riots went on, on and off, for five years. The rioters would protest with blackened faces.  They would protest often with men dressing as women, so identities were shielded through this process. And for about two years the enclosure work was effectively undermined by the protestors.
History is an ally of socialists if we care to apply its lessons. The Charter of the Forest provides for common rights, for common people. It’s a world where fuel, where tools, where medicines were available to common people from their co-operation in the great forests of that time. The Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 were conscious of their rights not because of Magna Carta, but because of the Charter of the Forest.  When the market became the supreme, business became the pre-eminent institution of society, organising everything else around the interests of capital accumulation. It imposed its commodity-logic on everything, including our need to survive. We forgot our history.
Published on Dissident Voice website