Thursday, April 19, 2018

The waste of waste

American households toss out 150,000 tons of food each day — roughly a pound of food per person per day.

The volume of discarded food wastes what is equivalent to the yearly use of 30 million acres of land, alongside the use of 780 million pounds of pesticide, and 4.2 trillion gallons of water. The rotting food also emits methane as it disintegrates in landfills, adding to the atmosphere’s stock of greenhouse gases.

Lisa Jahns, a nutritionist at the USDA, told the Guardian, “Consumers aren’t connecting the dots, they don’t see the cost when they throw food in the trash.”

Wishing to happy returns to Israel's 70th birthday

 Stalin was crucial to the establishment of the state of Israel. On Stalin's instructions, Czechoslovakia provided arms and training that enabled the fledgling Zionist armed forces in Palestine to win the war of independence in 1947-48. Stalin's motive was to undermine the position of Britain in the Middle East. For some years the Israeli government continued to rely on Soviet military and diplomatic support, while keeping silent about the persecution of Soviet Jews, then at its height. (For more on this episode, see Arnold Krammer, The Forgotten Friendship: Israel and the Soviet Bloc, 1947-53, University of Illinois, 1974.)
In 1953 the Israeli-Soviet alliance finally broke down. Israel switched to the other side of the Cold War, obtaining aid first from France and then from the US. Alliance with "the West" also entailed maintaining good relations with anti-semitic regimes, notably in Latin America. Consider Argentina: a disproportionate number of Jews were among those killed, imprisoned and tortured by the military junta that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. Given the "anti-democratic, anti-semitic and Nazi tendencies" of the Argentine officer corps, we may assume that they were persecuted not merely as political opponents but also as Jews. Meanwhile a stream of Israeli generals passed through Buenos Aires, selling the junta arms. (See and; also Jacobo Timmerman's book Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.)
 Israel is now a powerful, militaristic capitalist state and a nuclear power. It might have been hoped that the Jews' terrible history would have encouraged them to something more hopeful.

Poor Education

The gap between disadvantaged pupils in England – children eligible for free school meals – and their peers is equivalent to one whole maths GCSE grade.

England would have to double the number of disadvantaged pupils achieving top GCSE grades in maths to match some of the best countries in the world, a new report has found.  The country is in the bottom half of developed nations for the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers in maths, analysis from thinktank Education Policy Institute (EPI)and UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academics has revealed.
Just one in 10 disadvantaged pupils in England achieve the top GCSE grades in maths, while nearly twice as many disadvantaged pupils in Singapore achieve these top grades. 
The report concludes that the countries that achieve both high academic performance and equity between pupils from different backgrounds tend to avoid selection by ability, streaming and setting – and they have a significant focus on attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “This report confirms that the government’s education reform programme has failed some of our most disadvantaged learners. This should be a national scandal and education ministers should be ashamed of their record." She added: “The government’s inability to confront the harmful practice of ability grouping, coupled with its desire to further expand selective schools, will exacerbate the challenges highlighted in this report and further entrench educational disadvantage.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We have to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students, and the greatest barrier in doing so is teacher shortages, which are particularly acute in schools with high levels of disadvantage because these schools often face the greatest recruitment challenges. It cannot be a coincidence that maths outcomes for disadvantaged pupils are the most concerning finding in this report given that teacher shortages are very severe in this subject.” He added: “The government must do more to ensure they have the vital resources of teachers and funding – both of which are in desperately short supply.”

America's Terrorist Crisis

Three members of a right-wing militia known as the Kansas Security Force and the Crusaders, with a hatred of Muslim immigrants have been found guilty of plotting to blow up a mosque and apartment complex that housed Somali refugees. They schemed to destroy t to slaughter every man, woman, and child in the building.  Agents found bomb-making materials, guns and “close to a metric ton of ammunition”.

The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath” and “The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim”.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Disasters doesn't make equality

After wildfire and mudslides ravaged Californian towns had at least one consolation: the trauma united the community. Everyone had suffered in some way. Flames scorched the hillsides last December in the biggest wildfire in California’s modern history. Weeks later torrential rain unleashed huge mudflows. The grief and devastation prompted an outpouring of solidarity.

“We’re going to come together and do what great Americans do all the time. We’re going to help each other,” said Oprah Winfrey, one of many celebrity residents.
Now, three months after the mudslides, normality is returning. Roads and businesses have reopened. Insurance companies have started paying some of the claims totalling $421m. Tourists are back. One segment of the population, however, is struggling to recover: the largely Latino service workers – maids, nannies, gardeners, caregivers, cooks, waiters, busboys – who earn near minimum wages and live in the shadows, paycheck to paycheck. Many recently returned to work after enforced layoffs and discovered they would not be paid for any lost time.
“Not a cent,” said Zita Nevarez, 38, a barista and single mother who lost six weeks of work. She was unable to pay rent or her daughter’s school fees.
“I had hoped for some compensation from my employer, some help, but nothing,” said Serafin Torres, 45, a maintenance worker who lost seven weeks.
Angelica Garcia, 30, a florist and single mother, could not pay utilities after losing three weeks’ salary, resulting in her gas and electricity being cut off. “I have three children. It was very difficult,” she said, tears welling.
Few such workers have spoken out publicly, to avoid antagonising their employers. However, a handful spoke to the Guardian on condition the employers not be identified. Another reason some are unwilling to speak out: they are undocumented and fear deportation. Lacking legal status also bars them from seeking emergency relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).
Those with US-citizen children are eligible for federal help but have hesitated to apply lest their details be passed on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), said Frank Rodriguez, of Cause, a grassroots advocacy group for California’s central coastal region. “In this political climate, people don’t want to take the risk.”
The solidarity is no myth, though. Some businesses have paid full or partial salaries for lost weeks. Employers who received business interruption insurance payments had a moral but not legal obligation to help cash-strapped employees. “That’s if you want to show you care about them.” Residents have also helped workers, who tend to live out of town, by establishing a fund gifting individuals up to $600. It has raised tens of thousands of dollars. Such efforts are welcome but do not offset systemic forces that marginalise service and agricultural workers, forces amplified by the natural disasters, said Rodriguez, of Cause. “There is a huge class divide. The gardeners and maids and others who make this city thrive are still struggling. We feel there hasn’t been enough support.”
Ben Romo, a community recovery and engagement coordinator with Santa Barbara county’s emergency management office, said,  “This disaster has really brought this community together in remarkable ways. People are stepping up.” However, the fire and mudslides had greatly strained poor families who were struggling even before the disasters, Romo said. “Their needs have far exceeded our resources for many years.” The inability of undocumented people to access some government assistance posed further challenges, he said.
"Service workers, however, were muffling any grievances. “If they speak too loudly, they become more visible and they don’t want Ice raiding any of their employers.”

Hurting the Disabled

Disabled people are being forced to skip meals and sit in cold homes in a climate of benefit and social care cuts, according to new research on behalf of the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity.
Almost a quarter of disabled adults aged 18-65 in the UK missed at least one meal in the last year, while a fifth said they were not able to keep their home warm. The Leonard Cheshire research into the human cost of cuts to services and financial support for disabled people paints a bleak picture of families struggling to cope. More than one in four (27%) working age disabled adults reported having less than £50 to spend each week after deducting income tax, council tax and housing costs.
The financial situation is compounded by a growing social care crisis, with more than half (55%) of disabled people of working age saying they did not receive the vital support they needed in 2017. This suggests deteriorating social care for disabled people, with comparable research released by the charity in 2016 finding 48% of respondents were without social care.
Leonard Cheshire said their latest research shows the impact has been “catastrophic” with essential heating, food or travel often becoming unaffordable.
Neil Heslop, the CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said: “Our research lays bare the appalling situation many disabled individuals and families find themselves in. Every day, thousands of people are teetering on the financial brink, unsupported and isolated..."
Previous studies of disabled people by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the charity Scope show a considerably higher rate of deprivation than in the general population; in 2017, less than 8% of non-disabled people were in food poverty while those without disabilities have to spend half as much on energy bills as people with health conditions.
 A recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found disabled people had disproportionately borne the brunt of tax and welfare changes since 2010, with disabled families facing an annual income loss of up to £10,000.

Who We Are and What We Do

Logo Template - Logo_63m
The class struggle is a political struggle. It cannot be fought successfully by the workers unless they have a political weapon, which means, their own political party. The capitalist class has its own political parties and interest groups and sees to it that they remain committed to its basic interests, the maintenance of the capitalist system. The capitalists see to it that they remain under their control. They provide them with media exposure, provides them with funds, running into millions each year. In some places, the capitalists are in direct control of these parties, in others, its allies are in control.
Although as a political party committed to using elections to capture political power the Socialist Party surprisingly does not regard vote-getting as of supreme importance. We do not present a programme of attractive promises as a lure for votes. We seek only an actual vote for socialism and our manifestoes do not flatter the electorate but simply endeavours to convince them of the case for socialism. We make it clear that the Socialist Party wants the votes only of those who want socialism and disparages vote-seeking for the sake of votes and we hold in contempt those political opportunists seeking election for the sake of office or personal advancement. The Socialist Party stands squarely upon its principles. The Socialist party buys no votes with false pledges.
The ballot expresses the people’s will. The ballot means that the worker is no longer dumb, that at last has a voice, that it may be heard and if used in unison must be heeded. The appeal of the Socialist Party is to the exploited class, the workers in all trades and professions, from the most menial to the highest skill, to rally together and put an end to the last of the barbarous class struggles by conquering the capitalist government, taking possession of the means of production and making them the common property of all, abolishing wage-slavery and establishing the co-operative commonwealth. As individuals we are helpless, but united we represent an irresistible power.
The Socialist Party will not unite with any other party that does not stand for the democratic overthrow of capitalism and if it were ever to compromise and make such a concession, it will have ceased to be a socialist party. We are not here to play the filthy game of capitalist politics. the Socialist Party condemns the capitalist system. In the name of freedom, it condemns wage-slavery. In the name of modern technology, it condemns scarcity and poverty. In the name of peace, it condemns war. In the name of humanity, it condemns the murder of little children. In the name of enlightenment, it condemns superstition. The battles of the workers, wherever and however fought, are always and everywhere the battles of the Socialist Party. The education, organisation, and co-operation of the workers is the conscious aim and the self-imposed task of the Socialist Party. There is no party leader or bureaucracy within the Socialist Party boss and there never can be unless the party deserts its principles and ceases to be a socialist party. Each member has not only an equal voice but is urged to take an active part in all the party’s administration. Each local branch is an educational centre. The party relies wholly upon the power of education, knowledge, and mutual understanding.
The Socialist Party proposes to use all the legislative and administrative machinery within the state and which the working class endeavour to take into its possession as the method of emancipation. We accept the vote and parliamentary action as revolutionary. The value of political action to the Socialist movement is called in question by anarchists who suggest what they consider to be more speedy means or more effective methods to be adopted. They expect nothing and never expected anything from parliamentary action. They maintain that participation in parliamentary action is a waste of time and effort, and they relish the disappointing and the poor results parliamentary action has so far has achieved for the Socialist Party. We cannot expect results unless voters themselves get the understanding and the spirit of organization, which has yet to develop. Where people cannot imagine a way out of intolerable conditions there cannot be a great political movement and no amount of political propaganda can produce a movement.
Our primary function, however, is to organise as a political party, independent, class-conscious, and democratic. The function of anarcho-syndicalists lies with the unions. These two functions are not absolutely distinct and separate, they are co-ordinate, and to some extent interdependent. Yet they are not identical. The trade unions can help us, we can help them. Socialists should be the subordinate partner in the matter of supporting industrial disputes. The Socialist Party declines to dictate the policy of the trade union in conducting the strike, nor do we expect the trade unions to abandon the immediate objects and demands in order to make the socialist revolution.

Bill Martin

Adam Buick

Kevin Parkin

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Australia Opts for Fossil Fuels

Australia is currently aggressively developing its natural gas resource. By the end of 2018, it is likely to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest liquified natural gas (LNG) exporter.

Under new rules, fracking would be able to take place in 51 per cent of the Northern Territory's 1.4 million sq km (540,000 sq miles.

Meanwhile, Western Australia is leading the way on developing gas. The scale of the developments in WA is enormous: a recent report states that the total global emissions from all of WA’s gas reserves (conventional and unconventional) is equivalent to 36.4bn tonnes of C02, that is eight times more than the planned Adani coal mine would produce in its lifetime. The domestic carbon footprint from exploiting WA’s unconventional gas reserves, currently subject to a fracking inquiry, would be three times the amount Australia could emit if it were to comply with the Paris Agreement. Chevron’s Wheatstone project, one of four LNG facilities currently operating in WA’s northwest, is set to release 10.4m tonnes of CO2 annually, a staggering 12% of the state’s total emissions. Yet currently there is no requirement for the company to offset these emissions.

Gas has been promoted as a “bridging” fuel in the transition to a zero-carbon economy, due to its greater flexibility and lower emissions when compared to coal. However, it is still a fossil fuel with significant greenhouse gas emissions on combustion. Furthermore, any advantage it has over coal is lost with even small rates of leakage, as methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. There are limits to gas use if we are to keep to a global carbon budget that restricts warming to less than 2°C as agreed to in Paris.

With the current 1°C of warming above pre-industrial levels Australia is already experiencing severe climatic impacts. Increasing heat and rainfall extremes, bushfires and storms have already directly affected the health of many Australians both physically and psychologically. Those most vulnerable in our communities – children, older Australians and the economically disadvantaged – are already disproportionately affected.In the longer term are the agricultural and socioeconomic consequences of reduced rainfall and droughts on food production and changing patterns of infectious diseases such as dengue and Ross River virus. Further warming will undermine many of the global health gains secured over the last century. The impacts of climate change will unfairly affect people in developing nations, the poorest in those countries, those least able to cope and those least responsible for the problem.


Workers in Britain can say what they want and do what they want within very broad limits, and their children can study hard in school and college so they can graduate and join the well-off professional class as doctors, lawyers or engineers, but when it comes to social power most British workers have very little if they are not a part of the elite.

Who has predominant power in the United Kingdom? The short answer is those who have the money - or more specifically, who own income-producing land and businesses - have the power i.e., corporations, banks, and agri-businesses. But they have plenty of help from the managers and experts they hire.

How do they rule? Again, the short answer is through open and direct involvement in policy planning, through participation in political campaigns and elections, and through appointments to key decision-making positions in government. The simple answer that money rules has to be qualified. Domination by the few does not mean complete control. Wage and salary workers, when they are organised, sometimes have been able to gain concessions on wages, hours, and working conditions. Most of all, there is free speech and the right to vote. The domination by the ruling elite does not mean control on each and every issue, or lack of opposition, and it does not rest upon government involvement alone. Involvement in government is only the final and most visible aspect of ruling class domination, which has its roots in the class structure, the nature of the economy, and the functioning of the policy-planning network. If government officials did not have to wait on corporate leaders to decide where and when they will invest, and if government officials were not further limited by the acceptance of the current economic arrangements by the large majority of the population, then power elite involvement in elections and government would count for a lot less than it does under present conditions.

 Contrary to what many believe political parties are not very responsive to voter preferences. Their candidates are fairly free to say one thing to get elected and to do another once in office. This contributes to confusion and apathy in the electorate. It leads to campaigns where there are no "issues" except "images" and "personalities" even when polls show that voters are extremely concerned about certain policy issues.

Many equate socialism with dictatorship, yet, with the coming of the modern industrial state, most of the world’s population has lived under dictatorship. In the world today there are many countries under dictatorships of varying degrees of ruthlessness; that is to say countries in which the government is not responsible to the electorate, and in which political parties and trade unions are suppressed, or are allowed to exist only as organs of the government itself, and in which freedom of speech and opposition propaganda are denied. The Socialist Party, in conformity with its adherence to democratic principles, is opposed to all dictatorships. The Socialist Party has always insisted on the democratic nature of socialism, and on the value that the widest possible discussion of conflicting political views has for the working class. We do not minimise the importance of democracy for the working class or the socialist movement.

Under a dictatorship, the traditional forms of working-class political and economic organisation are denied the right of legal existence. Freedom of speech, assembly, and the Press is severely curtailed and made to conform to the needs of a single political party that has for the time being secured a monopoly in the administration of the State machine. Under political democracy the workers are allowed to form their own political and industrial organisations and, within limits, freedom of speech, of assembly and of the press is permitted, also the possibility of the electorate choosing between contending political parties.

Dictatorship in various forms exists at the present time, basically because of the political immaturity of most of the working class all over the world. Instead of being united by world-wide class consciousness they are everywhere divided: divided between the nations by the poison of nationalism; divided inside the nations by religious, racial and other superstitions; divided also by the failure of many to appreciate the importance of democracy. Nationalism plays a powerful role in thwarting the growth of class consciousness; by inducing workers in the newly created countries of Africa to accept oppression for the supposed benefits they will later receive when industrial development has been speeded up; by the readiness of the workers in countries holding colonies to condone what is in effect a dictatorship imposed on the colonial peoples.

Dictatorship does not exist in a vacuum: like every other social phenomenon it is related to, and has its origin in, a social background. That background is capitalism which inevitably gives rise to working-class problems, consequent frustration, prejudices and bitterness which can be exploited by the opponents of democracy. With equal inevitability it also gives rise to problems of a specifically capitalist nature: such as maintaining the profitability of production; securing new and retaining old markets; the necessity of forging 'national unity' when faced with a war with rival capitalist groups, and so on. It is precisely in an attempt to solve these problems that the ruling class in certain circumstances has recourse to dictatorship. As long as the workers support capitalism and capitalist policies they will be tempted ultimately to give their support to the policy best calculated to meet the political and economic needs of capitalism, though that policy may be one of dictatorship.

We are said to have democracy in that we have free elections which allow us to choose whatever form of government we wish, unlike countries where a single-party dictatorship exists. Such dictatorships usually allow elections where the people may approve or disapprove of given candidates within the dictatorship but have not the freedom to vote for any other parties or for independent candidates. In other words, the people have imposed on them by force, corruption or the control of information a specific political regime and have not got the necessary democratic machinery to challenge that regime.

We are convinced that democracy cannot be defended by an adoption of the 'lesser evil', that is, a policy of concessions to and compromise with non-fascist parties and elements of capitalism. We do not unite with non-socialist organisations which claim to be defending democracy. Democracy for the working class can only be consolidated and expanded to the extent that the workers adopt the socialist standpoint. To renounce socialism so democracy may be defended means ultimately the rejection of both socialism and democracy. Looking at the vast sums of money involved in our allegedly democratic elections we can hardly claim that they are "free"! In fact in most of the so-called democratic countries, it could be said that the astronomical costs of challenging for political power have been deliberately manipulated in order to ensure that those who cannot attract rich backers will be denied meaningful access to the democratic process. Effectively this means that in the same way as people in dictatorships are denied the right to make real political changes, in Britain and other allegedly democratic societies prohibitive financial restrictions are placed in the way of the working class organising politically to effect real economic change. The idea of fair and free elections would give the ruling class political apoplexy. This does not mean that socialists equate dictatorship and bourgeois democracy. Within the latter, we are free to organise politically and to develop our support to the extent where we can eventually overcome the embargoes and impediments that capitalism’s restricted democratic forms impose on us, whereas in the former any socialist work is necessarily clandestine and can invoke severe penalties.

The democratic state has been forced, against its will, to bring into being methods, institutions, and procedure which have left open the road to power for workers to travel upon when they know what to do and how to do it. In this country the central institution through which power is exercised is Parliament. To merely send working-class nominees there to control it is not sufficient. The purpose must be to accomplish a revolutionary reorganisation of society, a revolution, in its basis, which will put everybody on an equal footing as participants in the production, distribution, and consumption of social requirements as well as in the control of society itself. So that all may participate equally, democracy is an essential condition. Free discussion, full and free access to information, means to implement the wishes of the majority which have been arrived at after free discussion, and the means to alter decisions if the wishes of the majority change. Socialist production needs to be organised democratically-a dictatorship organising production for use would not be socialism.

Bill Martin
Adam Buick
Kevin Parkin

Poisoned Air

More than 95% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air and the burden is falling hardest on the poorest communities, with the gap between the most polluted and least polluted countries rising rapidly, a comprehensive study of global air pollution has found.

Cities are home to an increasing majority of the world’s people, exposing billions to unsafe air, particularly in developing countries, but in rural areas, the risk of indoor air pollution is often caused by burning solid fuels. One in three people worldwide faces the double whammy of unsafe air both indoors and out.

The report by the Health Effects Institute used new findings such as satellite data and better monitoring to estimate the numbers of people exposed to air polluted above the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation. This exposure has made air pollution the fourth highest cause of death globally, after high blood pressure, diet and smoking, and the greatest environmental health risk.

Experts estimate that exposure to air pollution contributed to more than 6m deaths worldwide last year, playing a role in increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, lung cancer and chronic lung disease. China and India accounted for more than half of the death toll.

Burning solid fuel such as coal or biomass in their homes for cooking or heating exposed 2.6 billion people to indoor air pollution in 2016, the report found. Indoor air pollution can also affect air quality in the surrounding area, with this effect contributing to one in four pollution deaths in India and nearly one in five in China.



To demonstrate the moral high ground over Assad
and his use of chemical weapons, the US, the UK
and France have launched air strikes against Syria.

All chemical weapons are beastly,   
And using such weaponry’s sad; 
But when we bomb folk, 
The victims don’t choke,  
So dying’s not nearly as bad. 

When we fire off the odd missile, 
And blow off a leg or a head;
Conventional arms,  
Retain their old charms, 
And slay just as many instead. 

'Collateral Damage' is Newspeak, 
'Civilian death toll' is not;      
We don't use a gun,  
Close quarters we shun,    
We ‘neutralise’ without a shot.  (1)

When we help to re-arm the Saudis,
It’s boosting our export campaign;
We’re full of pity,
But it’s, “tough titty”,
For Yemeni kids who’ve been slain.

There's nothing like WMD's,  
For punishing States we don’t like; 
We'll snub the UN,    
Again and again,     
And goodies can get on their bike. 

Our missiles are much nicer weapons, 
Than that horrid chemical gas;  
Such things are frightful,   
Our strikes are rightful,   
Says May trumping out of her ass.  (2)

(1) ‘Neutralise’ is US Military Newspeak for ‘kill’.

(2) Mrs May faces questions in Parliament for not putting
the matter of air strikes on Syria to a Parliamentary vote.

© Richard Layton

Welsh Poverty

Efforts to tackle child poverty and low incomes in Wales are being "damaged" by UK government welfare and tax reforms.

An Equality and Human Rights Commission report estimates there could be 50,000 more Welsh children in poverty by 2021. It is estimated that around 200,000 children are currently living in poverty in Wales. This is broadly defined as living in a household where the income is less than 60% of the median income after housing costs are counted.

It estimates:
  • Households in Wales with three or more children will lose at least £900 a year on average by 2021-22 from the two-child limit on most benefits, tax credits and universal credit (UC) introduced in 2017
  • 20,000 more households - and 50,000 more children in Wales - could be in relative poverty following the reforms as a "best estimate"
  • But increases in child poverty for Wales and Scotland (around 8% for both countries) are forecast to be smaller than for England (just under 11%). It puts this down to the larger gap between rich and poor in England
  • Those in the second lowest income bracket are the worst hit, with a suggestion these households in Wales could lose more than £1,000 a year
  • Disabled people and single parents in Wales will be disproportionately affected.

Gaza Poverty

More than half of Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip live below the poverty line, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said in a report yesterday.
According to the report, 29.2 per cent of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Strip lived below the poverty line in 2017 while 16.8 per cent suffered deep poverty.
The report noted that the poverty rate was 13.9 per cent in the occupied West Bank and 53 per cent in the besieged Gaza Strip, four times higher than that in the West Bank.
As for the deep poverty line, 5.8 per cent of individuals were below the deep poverty line in the West Bank compared to 33.8 per cent of individuals in Gaza Strip.
Gaza has been “moving steadily backwards in the past two decades from modest poverty to a human calamity," says UN special rapporteur on Palestine.
The data showed an increase in the poverty rate in 2017 compared to 2011 when it was 25.8. The deep poverty rate also increased in 2017 from 12.9 per cent in 2011 to 16.8 per cent in 2017.
The Gaza Strip has suffered under a stifling 11-year long internationally backed Israeli siege which has turned the enclave into an open prison. Severe restrictions have been placed on Palestinians and goods entering or leaving the Strip. The Palestinian Authority has exacerbated the crisis by ceasing payments to civil servants in the Gaza Strip, refusing to pay Israel for the electricity it supplies to the enclave.

Bleak Prospect for Hopeful Home-Buyers

The Resolution Foundation think tank said 40% of "millennials" - those born between 1980 and 1996 - were living in rented housing by the age of 30. 
That was twice as many as "generation X" - those born between 1965 and 1980.
Up to a third of millennials face the prospect of renting from cradle to grave.
The report reveals that a record 1.8 million families with children rent privately, up from 600,000 15 years ago.
The accountancy firm PwC predicts that as the price of owning a home rises, 7.2 million households will be in rented accommodation by 2025, compared with 5.4m now and 2.3m in 2001.
Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: "Britain's housing problems have developed into a full-blown crisis and young people are bearing the brunt - paying a record share of their income on housing in return for living in smaller, rented accommodation.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Class war in Australia

More than half of major employers in Australia would like to freeze employees’ wages or offer below-inflation pay rises that are a cut in real terms, according to a new survey by a leading industrial relations law firm.
The Herbert Smith Freehills bargaining survey found that 60% of employers want to grant workers only nominal wage increases or to freeze wages, and many more are looking to cut other conditions from workplace agreements. 93% of companies wanted to remove what they consider to be “unproductive or inflexible” conditions in their next round of bargaining, with 20% of those seeking significant change.
The survey will give further ammunition to the union movement, which wants legal changes to increase its bargaining power and has been arguing that big business cannot be trusted to pass on the Turnbull government’s proposed company tax cut. Malcolm Turnbull and the treasurer, Scott Morrison, have argued that cutting the company tax rate from 30% to 25% for companies earning more than $50m a year at a cost of $30bn over 10 years would increase investment, demand for labour and wages. But the ACTU and the progressive thinktank the Australia Institute have disputed that company tax cuts will go towards wage rises. The Treasury secretary, John Fraser, has said the entire $65bn company tax cut package would boost wages by just $750 over time.
Wages in Australia have stagnated. Figures released in August show that in the past year wages grew by a record low of 1.9%.  The secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, said that over the past 10 years productivity had increased twice as fast as wages so something was “clearly wrong” with the industrial relations system.
 The Minerals Council of Australia is calling for a reduction in unions’ powers to strike over the content of workplace agreements and the reintroduction of individual workplace contracts for high-income earners rather than collective agreements. The Australian Mines and Metals Association wants to abolish the award safety net, which sets conditions for 2.3m workers and provides a floor below which conditions of collective agreements cannot fall.
 McManus accused the mining lobby of being “ideological warriors for trickle-down economics who want to boost their profits the expense of working people”.

The myth of race

During the 17th and 18th centuries, white "masters" owned African slaves and their descendants and exploited them for cheap and plentiful labor. Even after the abolition of slavery, racism and segregation were legalized and institutionalized by government policies based on race and ethnicity.

In 2003, the Human Genome Project, which aimed to map and understand all 6 billion letters in a complete set of human DNA, concluded after 13 years of study that all humans share the same genes. Not even a single allele -- an alternative form of a gene -- is unique to a particular race. It is a widely accepted fact in the scientific community that race is a social construct with no true or absolute biological basis.

The idea that Black people are less intelligent than white people is not a novel argument -- it is an ancient prejudice echoed by many. The argument that its proponents make is not only wrong, it is also disingenuous. Those who peddle this pseudoscience-based argument attribute IQ differences, at least in part, to alleged genetic differences between races, while largely ignoring environmental factors that may affect measured IQ.

Years of social conditioning have turned a constructed concept into a powerful distinguishing factor between people with different physical traits. Today, race is one of the largest factors influencing what schools we attend, where we work and how the police treat us, mainly because of stereotypes and perceptions based on race. By categorizing people loosely based on how they look, we have set up historical institutions like slavery as well as modern-day ones like federal housing policies that have resulted in whites being treated more favorably than people of color. 

It is time to educate ourselves on the fabrication of race and why it is dangerous to wrongly attribute the results of prejudice and discrimination to science. To educate ourselves we look to history.

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No-Go Myths in Germany

A poll found that just a little over half of Germans believe there are neighborhoods in the country so dangerous that even police fear to tread there.

The somewhat dubious concept of lawless areas in Germany has been promoted in no small part by disproportionate reporting of crimes committed by migrants and foreigners in popular media.

Statistics published biannually by the Federal Criminal Police (BKA) paint a different picture. According to the BKA, foreigners are less likely than native-born Germans to commit every category of crime. The BKA's latest report from January 2018 further clarifies that the majority of the crimes committed by foreigners are things such as riding public transport without a ticket and petty theft.

These facts have not stopped some lawmakers, including Health Minister Jens Spahn, from promoting the idea that there are "neighborhoods in Essen, Duisburg and Berlin where you get the impression that the state is no longer willing or able to enforce the law there."

A visit to one of the most notorious of these "no-go" areas, a neighborhood called Marxloh in the rust-belt city of Duisburg, reveals that there wasn't much to substantiate the media hype. Indeed, Marxloh is like many neighborhoods in many German cities — a little run-down, with some visible unemployment. However, on the whole, Duisburg, known for its relatively high rate of foreign residents, actually has a lower crime rate than nearby Aachen, which is known as a quiet, quaint university town.