Thursday, December 28, 2017

Three faces of a labour fakir

The Three Different Faces of Ben Tillet. Labour “Leader” and Friend of the Poor.

1st Face.Writing in “Justice,” June 15th, 1912:
    “The governing classes . . . have the habit of thinking of the worker as a slave and are prepared to kill him with bludgeon and soldiery if he dares to struggle with his chains . . . 300,000 children are wanting food and protection; 100,000 women are wanting support; 100,000 men are fighting for dear life and principle. Our fight is against the capitalists, who not only want to destroy our liberties, making slaves of us, but they would destroy our home and home life as they have done and are doing to the vicious beat of their malignant hate.”

2nd Face — Writing in “Daily Herald,” Sept. 5th, 1914:
  “Every able-bodied man must either fight or be ready to defend his country . . . The objection taken by very many intelligent workers is that . . . there are at least 5 to 10 millions of working-class folk in slum and starvation who could not be worse off by a German invasion or the Government of the most brutal savages  . . . These contentions are true, but nevertheless there is need now to protect the United Kingdom against invasion."

3rd Face — Writing in "John Bull," October 10th, 1914:
   “We must fight because the British worker has more of constitutional and democratic freedom together with social opportunity to guard than the enemies enjoy.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pharma's Price Hikes

US drug manufacturer has increased the price of a bottle of vitamins - a generic version of which can be bought for around $5 - by more than 800 per cent.
In the latest example of eye-dropping price-gouging in the US’s lightly regulated pharmaceutical industry, records show Avondale Pharmaceuticals, a mysterious company registered in Alabama, raised the price of Niacor from $32.46 to $295.
Niacor is a prescription version of niacin, a type of vitamin B3 that is frequently used to treat high blood cholesterol. A wide range of generic versions of the vitamin are available; Walmart sells a jar of 100 tablets for $14.99 while other brands are available online for even less.
Avondale Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Niacor from Upsher Smith, a division of Japan’s Sawai Pharmaceutical, earlier this year. The company also bought the rights to a drug used to treat respiratory ailments, known as SSKI, and increased the price by 2,469 per cent, raising the cost of a 30ml bottle from $11.48 to $295.
 Doctors will be unaware the price of Niacor, for which 19,000 prescriptions were written last year, has so drastically increased because such announcements are not always made public or announced to the medical profession. This is the latest example of an inefficient US market where the consumer, payer and doctor don’t have all of the information available to make a financially sound choice. They are caught in a web of inefficiency and are being taken advantage of.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Helping poor farmers

Globally, there are about 460 to 500 million smallholder farmers, with limited resources in terms of labour, education, training and finance. Many are reliant on rain-fed agriculture, the study said.
They cultivate plots from less than one hectare to 10 hectares, producing up to 80 percent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization.
Cash handouts are the best way to support smallholder farmers struggling due to drought. Cash is critical in the short-term for farmers suffering from dry weather because "if your farm is lacking rainfall, it doesn't matter if you have a variety of agricultural inputs or practices," said Meredith Niles of the University of Vermont, a lead author of the study.  "For instance, when drought strikes in the Horn of Africa, many poor families have a very limited period before they lose all their assets and are plunged into destitution," so cash support could buy them vital time, he said.
 For farmers experiencing wetter weather, agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides help most. When rainfall is abundant, however, providing pesticides, fertiliser, veterinary medicines and livestock are the best ways to ensure farmers can salvage their harvests.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

JFK - The shooting gallery

Hamas and the PLA

The Palestinian political leadership has for a full decade been divided by two competing factions: the Palestinian Authority which runs the West Bank and Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.  Their bitter power struggle has recently been brought to a head by electricity bills.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stopped paying Israel to supply Gaza with electricity. Abbas acts as the intermediary between Hamas and Israel which controls Gaza’s power lines. He also cut the salaries of thousands of Gazan employees working in his government, hoping both these punitive measures would bring Hamas to join a national unity government with the Palestinian Authority. In attempting to squeeze Hamas into submission, Abbas calculated the group would capitulate in order to avoid a humanitarian disaster.  Hamas declined to cooperate, and let the Gaza Strip to fall into darkness. Gaza’s 2 million residents were forced to get used to 20-hour blackouts and scorching summer days without air conditioning. Its already decrepit infrastructure deteriorated so severely that sewage overflowed into the sea.

 Hamas came to power in 2007, ousting Abbas’s government from the West Bank along the way. Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at al-Azhar University in Gaza, explained that Hamas’s ideology resonates among a generation that saw the Palestinian Authority build gleaming and internationally funded new government buildings in the West Bank — enriching many of its own officials along the way — while failing to have much impact on the ground, where Israeli settlement building continues and peace talks have been stalled for years.  Hamas has never fulfilled its promise to end Israel’s crippling blockade on the strip, but the group has trumpeted Gaza’s “steadfastness” in the face of Israel’s military efforts to eradicate it.

Hamas has defiantly used Abbas’s own party’s internal disunity against him. Hamas’s Gaza chief, Yehiya Sinwar, forged an unlikely alliance with Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior official in the Palestinian Authority, before falling out of Abbas’s favor in 2010.
We have made mutual efforts with our brothers in Hamas to restore hope for Gaza's heroic people,” Dahlan said.

From here

Pet Profits

Pets offer benefits to people including companionship leading to better mental health and improved physical exercise. They also provide assistance to the blind or deaf.  The way people treat their pets is very much different from how they behave towards their fellow humans.  They are considered part of the family and bestowed with expensive treats. In fact, a pet's needs matter much more than  other people's.

  The most notorious mass slaughter of dogs for food occurs once a year in China during the Yulin dog meat festival. About  10,000 dogs are killed  every year and eaten. Why are people are more upset over the dog meat festival than with the 9 billion factory farm animals die each year in the United States?

Sustainability is about meeting the requirement of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and all about achieving an overall balance.  60% of Americans own  a pet. The pet industry was a  $66.75 billion industry  in the United States in 2016.  There are approximately 163 million dogs and cats in the US and having  the most pet cats and dogs of any country has considerable consequences.  The pet food industry is worth  nearly $25 billion  in the United States.  Robert and Brenda Vale in their book 'Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living'  suggests that a medium-size dog could have a similar footprint to a large SUV.

Producing pet food requires a lot of animal protein. Typical dog foods contain at least 20 percent protein, while cat food even more. Much of this is from animal sources,  directly competing with the human food system.  The  impact on the environment through meat production is well-documented using more energy, land, water and with greater erosion, pesticide use, pollution. Dog and cat food is responsible for the release of methane and nitrous oxide, both greenhouse gases, equivalent to driving 13.6 million cars for a year or releasing 64 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.  Cats and dogs are responsible for  up to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption  in the United States.  Our canine and feline companions consume about 25 percent of the total calories derived from animals in the US.  If all the cats and dogs in America was a country, it would rank fifth in the world in  meat consumption.  Americans�dogs and cats consume about as many calories as the entire population of France every year, or about 19 percent as many calories as Americans themselves. Despite the fact that more than 60% of US households have pets, these furry 'consumers' are rarely included in projections of the environmental effect of dietary choices.

Itnot just  what  we  feed our pets but  how  much.  Well over half the dogs and cats  in the US are overweight.  Many pet foods are formulated to provide nutrients in excess of current minimum recommendations are over-consumed by pets, resulting in food wastage and obesity. Pets do need good-quality food, but they don’t have to compete for the same quality of beef as their owners. Dogs would be happy with the other less-appetising cuts and can eat diets containing properly cooked grain and other plant ingredients. One genetic difference between dogs and wolves is that dogs  have an increased ability  to obtain nutrients from grains.

And, of course, let us not forget that what goes in must come out. Pets in the United States alone  produce as  much  faeces  in a year as 90 million humans.

Nor can the harm our pets inflict on nature be  over-looked.  A 2013 study found that  cats kill billions of animals  in the US each year, and represent a major threat to wildlife. In Germany alone, cats kill at least 14 million birds a year - in addition to numerous small mammals and reptiles.

In a future socialist society, vegetarian pets such as rabbits might confer similar benefits as cats and dogs do yet having less damage on the environment.  In today's world, our atomised culture that is becoming more prevalent in capitalism makes pets a substitute for human interaction and relationships. Loneliness and isolation are real social problems but as socialism fosters increased community, we can perhaps foresee less reliance on dogs as man's best friend.

Saturday, September 02, 2017


As dairy farming in Europe becomes more industrialized OF cows locked away on mega-farms, one British initiative is pushing for free-range milk. Cows these days don't get to experience green meadows  as more and more large-scale European farmers chase bigger profits by investing in intensive, indoor milk production.

The move toward a system of so-called mega-farms, housing up to 2,000 cows in factory-like conditions, can be traced back to developments in dairy cow farming in the United States.

Three years ago, the market price for milk  plummeted by almost half amid massive overproduction - caused by a drop in demand from China and Russia.  Prices  dropped from something in excess of 30 pence a liter [0.33 euros per liter, or $1.44 per gallon], to 18 pence a liter. The crisis forced thousands of European dairy farmers out of business. In the United Kingdom, amid fierce competition, the number of dairy farms has dropped by two-thirds over the past decade, to around 9,500. Those that have survived are being increasingly driven by the need for greater efficiency and demands from larger supermarket chains for the lowest possible priceIncreasingly industrial milk farming takes a toll on the environment, the animals - and even the milk itself, some say. This, environmental and animal welfare groups contend, contributes to pollution and ecological footprint, as well as harming cows. Some farmers say it's also decreasing the quality of the milk.
While the UK is a long way from reaching the scale of some US mega-dairies farmers continue to face severe pricing pressure, which some analysts think will push more of them towards creating larger dairies.  Traditional milk production methods in Britain are dying out much quicker that previously thought, citing figures from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
"Research conducted by DEFRA said that only 30 percent of the farms thought they were traditional pasture-based dairy farms," said Ian Woodhurst, UK farming campaign manager at the  World Animal Protection. "There is an increase in lameness because they're on concrete and increased rates of udder infections," Woodhurst pointed out. Overcrowded indoor farms can drive some animals to aggression that affects the rest of the herd, Woodhurst added. Their usual social structure is often altered within confined spaces.
Farmers insist that intensive, indoor milk production is their only chance for the future, animal rights groups warn that cows are being pushed to their physical limits to produce the most milk possible.
As well as the risk of water and soil pollution, large-scale farms require huge amounts of animal feed. Arable crops produced for animals require substantial space, Woodhurst pointed out, citing deforestation and the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, all of which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Monday, August 28, 2017


More than one in four non-Muslims in Austria do not want Muslims neighbors. This percentage is remarkably high in the UK as well, at 21 percent. In Germany, 19 percent of non-Muslim respondents say that they would not welcome Muslim neighbors. The figure stands at 17 percent in Switzerland and 14 percent in France. Overall, Muslims are among the most rejected social group.

According to a 2017 study by Religion Monitor, 87 percent of Swiss Muslims have frequent contact with non-Muslims in their free time. In Germany and France it is 78 percent, while in the UK it's 68 percent and Austria, 62 percent. A large majority of Muslims in succeeding generations are found to have constant contact with non-Muslims

Three quarters of German-born Muslims grow up with German as a first language. Among immigrants, only one fifth claim that German is their first language. The trend of language skills improving with successive generations is apparent across Europe. In Germany 46 percent of all Muslims say that their national language is their first language. In Austria this is 37 percent, Switzerland 34 percent.

Ninety-six percent of French Muslims feel connected with their country. The percentage of Muslims feeling the same way is equally high in Germany, while Switzerland has the highest levels, at 98 percent. Yet despite its relatively longer history of institutional openness to religious and cultural diversity, fewer Muslims, (89 percent) report feeling close ties to the UK.

About 60 percent of all Muslims who moved to Germany before 2010 now hold a full-time job, while 20 percent work part-time jobs. The figures are similar to those of non-Muslims. Muslims in Germany had higher employment rates than in other European countries. In France, the unemployment rate among Muslims is 14 percent, far higher than the 8 percent reported for non-Muslims.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Saudi Arabian Threats

Last month, Saudi Arabia won a seat on the governing body of the International Labor Organization (ILO) at the annual conference in Geneva. It will now be involved in setting the ILO policies, budget and program activities, and its presence could silence ILO critics who have called out Gulf states for widespread migrant worker abuses.
The Saudi kingdom, which just won a third term on the UN Human Rights Council, has also been elected to the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women -- a peculiar step, given the kingdom's less than egalitarian stance on rights and social privileges for women.
 Numerous entities have benefited from Gulf state donations, including the Middle East Policy Council, the Middle East Institute and the Smithsonian Freer Museum of Art, just to name a small handful.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump blasted Hillary Clinton for taking money from Saudi Arabia, which, as he regularly noted, has a horrific human rights record. However, as president, Trump visited Saudi Arabia, meeting all Gulf rulers during his first formal state visit. Effusively praising his hosts, Trump negotiated a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The deal does not include any contingencies or conditions seeking to take human rights guarantees into consideration. Rather, the deal is essentially a carte blanche gift to a nation with one of the worst records in atrocities that violate the sanctity of human rights.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Free Access

Bordering on Alaska in northwestern Canada, the Yukon is larger than Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands combined but only 40,000 people live there. Free 65 hectares (160 acres) of land in the area is available.

Average temperatures in the Yukon have climbed by 2 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years due to climate change, said a 2016 Canadian study, more than twice as fast as the planet as a whole. Rising temperatures have seen the population of caribou - an important food source for indigenous people in Canada's northern boreal and Arctic regions - crash. But it has also opened up new areas for agriculture in some of the far north with a longer growing season.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fact of the Day

World Health Organization (WHO) said tobacco was the world's leading cause of preventable death, killing 7 million people each year.
"That's equivalent to wiping out the entire population of Bulgaria or Paraguay every year. That's not acceptable," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the report's launch in New York. Victims include 890,000 people who die annually from second-hand smoke exposure.

No aid, no reporting

20 civilians have been killed in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition while attempting to escape fighting in Yemen, according to the UN and witnesses. Survivors said a vehicle packed with families fleeing battles between government forces and Houthi rebels near the city of Taiz was hit on Tuesday. Officials said many of those killed were from the same family, including women and children.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it was “shocked and saddened” by the deaths in the Mawzaa district, where civilians had been displaced by intensified hostilities in the nearby port of Mocha. 
“Nowhere in Yemen safe for civilians,” said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo. “Each of Yemen's mainland governorates is affected by conflict and tens thousands have been killed and injured. We have been advocating incessantly for respect of international humanitarian law and protection of civilians in Yemen. More must be done.”
Saudi Arabia is using British-manufactured weapons in the offensive, sparking failed legal challenge by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade in the High Court. Judges found that the Saudi-led coalition was “not deliberately targeting civilians” and alleged massacres were under investigation, concluding that it had not been established that there was “a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.
UN officials said the coalition barred one of its flights to Yemen's Houthi-controlled capital, Sana’a. The plane was going to bring aid workers and BBC reporters from Djibouti.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

shitty food

It's an area about the size of Germany: 29.3 million hectares (72.4 million acres) of cropland worldwide is mainly irrigated with what's flushed down the toilet, a study published in "Environmental Research Letters" reports.

That translates into a major health risk for all people who eat the food that grows on that farmland. As many as 885 million urban residents are being exposed to dangerous pathogens, including parastites and bacteria, according to the researchers'. Untreated wastewater might contain parasite eggs or bacteria leading to cholera, but mostly bacteria causing diarrhea. According to Drechsel, children below the age of five are the most sensitive to diarrhea, often with fatal consequences. Apart from a health risk, it is also an environmental issue. If sewage enters lake and rivers, it can contaminate waters and harm wildlife. Wastewater also contains high amounts of phosphates and other substances which fuel algae growth, taking up even more oxygen and creating a so-called "dead zone" where fish and other animals cannot live.
Irrigation with untreated wastewater is especially an issue around bigger cities without proper sewage treatment, and - according to the recent study - particularly in China, India, Pakistan, Mexico and Iran.
In Ghana, farmers around large cities mainly grow vegetables, Drechsel says.
"Vegetables are cash crops number one, especially exotic leafy vegetables." Such crops  require regular irrigation, unlike most staple foods such as grains.
Nearly a million people in urban Ghana eat vegetables produced with polluted water every day, he says.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Don't vote for your masters

Unlike the usual election manifesto, this is addressed to those who do not a vote as well as to those who do. Its object is to gain, not your vote, but your understanding. It is evident that none of the is worthy of your support.  Your party should be democratic. It should have socialism as its programme and the class struggle as its guiding principle.  Its candidates should be controlled by the rank and file. It should devote its energies to converting the workers to socialism, and to organising them for the conquest of political power for its realisation. It should never compromise with capitalist parties, and should refuse to barter away the workers’ salvation for crumbs that profit not. That is the party that you should support. Only one party answers to that description in this country—The SOCIALIST PARTY.

 But since the ground must be well tilled before the good harvest can be reaped, that party is putting no candidates forward in Scotland during the present election. Even the poverty which impedes the activity of the working- class party is in itself only a reflex of the present unreadiness of the electorate. Therefore the principles of Socialism must be more widely propagated and the workers more fully organised, before candidates of the Socialist Party can usefully enter the parliamentary arena. 

if you realise that your policy must be distinct from and hostile to all capitalist politics and that Socialism alone can help your class, then it is your duty to join the Socialist Party and take a democratic share in its work; thus advancing the day—not far distant—when it will place its own candidates— your candidates—in the parliamentary field to wage uncompromisingly the fight for socialism. But until you can thus vote for yourselves and strike a blow against exploitation, it is clearly your duty to spoil your ballot-paper. To do otherwise would be to support the system that crushes you.

Go to the polling station but only to write 'Socialism' across your voting paper; for if you cannot vote now for what you want, it is folly to vote for what you do not want. The vote, like the razor, is an instrument for a purpose. If you cannot for the moment use it to your advantage, it is madness to cut your throat. And by voting for your enemies, for traitors and charlatans, you are surely cutting your throat.

 However, whether you have a vote or not, realise how much depends on you and how much remains to be done. A vote, even for a candidate of the Socialist Party, is of no value unless it expresses a socialist consciousness. Understanding must precede action, for socialism is impossible until the workers become class-conscious socialists. There is, therefore, work for you to do. There are outlets for your energy infinitely more profitable to your class than voting for the defenders of exploitation. The army of socialism must be recruited, and your place is within the ranks of the organisation of your class, taking your part in the battle in the class war for the emancipation of your fellow-workers from wage-slavery. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

why blame newcomers?

The wailing in our country about the "invasion of immigrants" has been long and loud.  Native-born workers feels imperiled because...they are imperiled.  These are boom times for the employing class, but for all others are being squeezed. It's this economic vulnerability that anti-immigrant forces play on. But pointing to migrant workers and blaming them for the economic pain local people are feeling is a lie. The truth is that even if there were no migrants the misery that is felt would remain, for migrants are not the ones who:
    Downsized and offshored jobs
    Stopped being compliant to wage and hour laws with zero-hour contracts
    Reclassified millions of employees as "independent contractors," (Uberisation) leaving them with no benefits or labor rights.

Powerless migrants didn't do these things . The rich, well-connected corporate interests did them.

"God's" Word

“The new capitalism, through the idea of ‘meritocracy,’ gives moral cover to inequality,” Pope Francis said. “It sees the talents of people not as a gift but a ‘merit,’ determining a system of advantages and disadvantages.”
He argued that the ideology of a ‘meritocracy’ also colors the way we see the poor.
“A second consequences [of a ‘meritocracy’] is a change in the culture of poverty,” he said. “The poor person is considered to not have merit, and therefore to be guilty. They’re dishonored."
 Francis said. “A speculator is a figure similar to what Jesus in the gospels called “money-changers” as opposed to pastors. He doesn’t love his company or his workers, but they’re solely a means for making profits. He fires people, relocates the company, because it’s instrumentalized and eats up people and products.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Abe Lincoln quote on slavery

You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.
You do not mean color exactly?—You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.
April 1, 1854

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Shetland Nationalism

Stuart Hill is standing as a candidate for the Orkney & Shetland constituency on a platform of the restoration of their sovereignty so as the islands' folk “won’t have to ask anyone for permission to do the things we want. We will no longer have to go cap in hand asking – we can make our own decisions.” Hill explains, “We can forget austerity and look forward to keeping our schools open, free ferries and whatever else we decide. Any negotiations will start from the standpoint that we own the land, we own the seas and we own the seabed.”

Graph of the Day

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Saudi despotism

  1. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has spent about $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let's not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden himself.
  2. The Saudis fund terrorism worldwide. A Wikileaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba and other terrorist groups." In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Senator Bob Graham, believe that ISIS is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money and Saudi organizational support.
  3. The government represses religious minorities. Trump says he is promoting tolerance, but this theocratic Sunni regime is based on repressing the Shia minority and non-Muslims. It is the only country in the world to ban all churches, and atheism is a capital offense. Year after year, the U.S. government’s own Commission on International Religious Freedom says Saudi Arabia commits “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
  4. Free speech and free association are forbidden in the kingdom. Criticizing the Saudi regime can lead to flogging, long jail sentences or even beheading. Tragic examples are Raif Badawi, languishing in prison for blogging; attorney Waleed Abulkhair, serving a 15-year sentence for defending human rights; and Ali al-Nimr, arrested as a minor and now on death row for nonviolent dissent.
  5. The regime is the most misogynist, gender-segregated country in the world. Women are not even allowed to drive and must live under a guardianship system that gives men authority over the most important decisions in their lives.
  6. There is no political freedom in Saudi Arabia. While most of the world’s monarchies have evolved to lessen the role of royalty, Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s last absolute monarchies.The Saud family picks the king, who then has ultimate authority in virtually every aspect of government. There are no national elections and political parties are banned, as are unions and most civic organizations.
  7. They have engaged in a catastrophic war in Yemen. In March 2015, the Saudis launched a bombing campaign in Yemen that has targeted schools, hospitals, markets, weddings and funerals. The war has resulted in acute malnutrition and disease, leaving a Yemeni child dying every 10 minutes. Instead of supporting the bombing, the US government should be pushing a ceasefire and negotiations.
  8. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Scores of people are killed each year after being convicted of various nonviolent charges that range from adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. The executions are usually carried out by public beheading.
  9. The Kingdom primarily functions on the backs of mistreated foreign laborers. Of the nation’s 30 million people, some 10 million are foreigners. Workers from poor nations seek economic gains within Saudi Arabia, but are often lured under false pretenses and then not allowed to leave the country without permission from their employer. Female migrant workers, treated like indentured servants, often face physical and sexual abuse.
  10. Saudi Arabia helps maintain the world’s destructive dependence on oil. Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of oil in the world. With its vast potential for solar energy, Saudi Arabia could lead the world in renewable energy. Instead, the economy remains almost entirely dependent on oil and on the international level, Saudi Arabia works with the United States to oppose global climate agreements that would affect oil profits.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Garbage capitalism

Up to 1992, waste collecting in Donegal was carried out by the county council. From then on, the council withdrew, as elsewhere, opening the way for privately-operated companies.  Rossbracken is an 11-acre site that houses the headquarters of two companies controlled by Jim Ferry – Ferry’s Refuse Collection Limited and Ferrys Refuse Recycling Limited. Today, his companies have close to 40 per cent of the business in some parts of the county, informed sources say, collecting from nearly 11,000 homes and 500 businesses.

But by the end of the 1990s, Ferry was emerging as a serial polluter. Far from being penalised, however, Ferry continued to win three- and five-year permits from a regulatory system that appeared blind to his actions.
In January 2000, Ferry faced multiple charges at Falcarragh District Court relating to separate activities in January 1999, between March and April 1999, and between June and July 1999, plus five breaches of regulations throughout 1999.

The January charges, on which he was convicted, related to illegal dumping causing pollution at Lough Agher in Creeslough. The March/April charges, on which he was convicted, also related to illegal dumping causing pollution at Moyra Glebe. The June/July charges, on which he was likewise convicted, related to two separate incidents of illegal dumping causing pollution, also at Moyra Glebe.

The breaches of regulations, for which he was also convicted, related to his failure to maintain a register that listed the type and amount of waste collected; its treatment and its final destination.
For the illegal dumping, Ferry was given two separate jail sentences of two months each, with both suspended for five years, and was also fined IR£1,000 (€1,270) and IR£1,000 costs. For failing to keep a register, he was fined IR£300.

If these convictions were meant to be a deterrent, they failed.

In January 2005 at Letterkenny District Court, Ferry was again convicted of illegal dumping in 2003 and 2004, and failing to operate according to his permit. He was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for five years and fined €4,000 plus €2,532 in costs.

In October 2013, Ferry was convicted yet again of illegal dumping in June 2010 and this time was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years and fined €3,000 plus €30,750 in costs.

At the same sitting, he was convicted of a separate incident of illegal dumping and breaching the terms of his permit, also in June 2010, and was likewise sentenced to six months, suspended for two years, and fined €3,000. He was further convicted of failing to comply with orders issued by the Council under the Waste Management Act 1996 and was fined €3,000.

None of these convictions led to him being banned as a waste collector.

Neither did his run-in with the Revenue Commissioners in August 2012 over using agricultural diesel in his trucks, nor the multiple road traffic convictions involving his trucks.

In November 2012, Donegal County Council granted Ferry’s company, Ferry’s Refuse Collection Limited, a permit to operate the facility at Rossbracken. When Ferry did use landfill sites run by Donegal County Council to dispose of waste legally, he frequently did not bother paying the bill. In October 2006, the council got a High Court judgment against him for unpaid bills. By April 2015, he owed €227,750. Ferry agreed to pay €800 a week. For a time, he kept his word, making 83 instalments until, on November 15th, 2016, payments suddenly stopped.

By dumping waste illegally, by not paying landfill charges and by not telling Donegal County Council where he was disposing of his waste, Jim Ferry was saving himself a lot of money. While costs vary, the price for legally disposing of a ton of black bin waste is around €120. It costs €60 to collect it. The total costs facing the company run to €180 a ton. Outside of Dublin, households in rural areas and large provincial towns produce a ton of black bin waste a year. Ferry’s currently charge house-owners €240 a year, suggesting a profit margin of some €60 – if the waste is disposed of legally. But, if the landfill charge is not paid, because the waste is tipped into an illegal landfill, Ferry’s profit rises by a further €120.

This is the uneven playing field that for years has faced reputable waste collection companies operating in Donegal. By 2014, they had had enough. A number approached the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), urging action against Ferry.  Soon, evidence began to emerge of illegal dumping of waste on an industrial scale in a Special Area of Conservation. Rossbracken holds 28,000 and 36,000 tons of illegally-dumped waste that will cost between €4.5 million and €5.8m to clean up. 

On July 1st, 2014, the NWCPO refused to renew the permit held by Ferry’s Refuse Collection Ltd, deeming Ferry to be no longer a “fit and proper person” to run such a business.
It was the first time such an action was taken, according to Leo Duffy, the NWCPO manager. Eight days later, however, Ferry activated a hitherto dormant company, Ferrys Refuse Recycling Limited, from which he resigned as a director to be replaced by Carol Elliott, who shares the same home address as Ferry himself and is understood to be his life partner. The other director is Louise Ferry, Ferry’s daughter. This company, which shares an address, all related facilities and staff with the company that had been refused a collection permit, applied for one. The NWCPO granted the licence on June 5th, 2015.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Poverty Trap

More people in poverty are in work than out of it. Simply, work doesn’t pay and is not a route out of poverty for millions of people.

Shelter confirms this. Research by the housing charity with pollsters YouGov found that one in three low earners have borrowed money to pay their rent, either from family and friends or through credit cards and payday loans. A full 70% of low earners are either struggling or falling behind with rent payments, barely managing to keep a roof over their heads.

800,000 low-earning renters aren’t able to save even £10 a month t, so saving for a deposit would take decades.  if you can barely afford to save £10 a month, summoning up a rental deposit, first month’s rent and removal fees are far beyond your resources unless you deliberately fall behind on your rent.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation points out, after paying their housing costs, an extra 3.4 million people are in poverty. That’s a huge amount of human suffering.