Sunday, January 21, 2018

Band-aid Housing

Millions of private renters face being stuck in dangerous homes for decades because of a large-scale failure of local councils to take action against landlords.  Almost 800,000 privately rented homes and 118,000 housing association properties in England contain the most serious type of safety hazards, including faulty boilers, dangerous wiring, vermin infestations and mould.
New data seen by The Independent shows local authorities took action in relation to just 1.1 per cent of the most dangerous rented homes in England last year. At the current rate, it would take almost 30 years for all the existing hazards to be addressed.
Almost three-quarters of councils (71 per cent) did not prosecute a single rogue landlord, while a third of all landlord prosecutions that did take place were in just two London boroughs. A fifth of local authorities said they did not issue a single improvement notice to landlords last year, while the average council issued just 13.
Experts said part of the problem was councils failing to employ properly trained staff to inspect properties, while cuts to environmental health department budgets were also highlighted. More than one in seven authorities admitted they were not using qualified environmental health officers to carry out inspections, suggesting people who are not fully trained in identifying and dealing with hazards are being tasked with investigating safety risks.
Dan Wilson Craw, director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: “These figures are a stark illustration of how stacked the odds are against tenants who are forced to live in squalid conditions.
“There are three causes of this lack of enforcement: first, cuts to local environmental health teams mean that they can’t inspect the home of every tenant who complains. Second, when inspectors find hazards, they don’t take formal action against the landlord in every case, even though this would protect tenants from retaliatory eviction. Third, many tenants don’t want to complain in the first place because they’re worried that they’ll be evicted or face a punitive rent increase.

Defeating Hate

When people in Sesto Fiorentino, a suburb of Florence, heard 50 asylum seekers were moving into a former hotel in the historic centre, they responded in much the same way as those in other parts of ItalyInfluenced a fearmongering campaign launched by local politicians from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, they united in protest. Antipathy towards the newcomers in Sesto Fiorentino, home to a population of 49,000, was aggravated by the effects of the lingering economic downturn, alongside a perceived breakdown in basic public services in an area that once boasted a thriving porcelain industry. Prejudice reached a new low point last week when Attilio Fontana, the far-right Northern League candidate vying to be the next governor of the Lombardy region, claimed the influx threatened to wipe out “our white race”.

Six months on, Sesto has become a model for how to treat migrants with dignity while keeping local people onside. Despite some people having lingering reservations about the migrants’ presence, tensions have eased a lot. And now Sesto Fiorentino is to become home to a mosque, the first official place of worship to serve the 30,000 Muslims in the Florence area. 

Concerns had mostly centred on the changing face of Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the main square overlooked by the town hall. “People were worried about noise and rubbish, but it was mainly about perception,” said Dalila De Pasquale, coordinator for Il Cenacolo, a Florence-based social cooperative that manages the Il Gerlino hotel where the migrants now live. “They didn’t know who these people were, they were scared to go out at night.”

The scheme to integrate the new arrivals began with a joint mission to rid the square of the residents’ biggest gripe: cigarette butts. Migrants, mostly from Mali, Senegal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, worked alongside a group of pensioners, themselves immigrants from the south. Stories were shared and some common ground was found.

Romania's Corruption Laws

Tens of thousands of Romanians marched through heavy snow in Bucharest in protest against proposed laws that critics say will make it harder to prosecute crime and high-level corruption.  New legislation means video and audio recordings could no longer be used as evidence in prosecutions. 50,000 people marched towards parliament, blowing whistles, waving flags and chanting, “thieves”. 

The 'left-wing' government pushed through a judicial overhaul through parliament in December, despite criticism from the European Commission, the US state department, thousands of magistrates and the centrist president, Klaus Iohannis. The bills would weaken judicial independence and they have been challenged in the constitutional court, where they await a ruling.

"We've had enough!"

An estimated 33,000 people took part in the march and around 100 farmers drove their tractors through the streets to support the protest.  They were demonstrating for a more ethical and environmentally-friendly agricultural sector. Around 100 environmental, agricultural and development groups organized the march.

Organisers said the protest was not directed against farmers, but against the unethical and damaging practices prevalent in the modern industry.

"Food is political — more and more people realize this. But politicians nurture an agricultural sector that detrimentally affects the environment and animals in the name of productivity," said a spokesman for the alliance, Jochen Fritz.

Protesters voiced their support for directing EU agricultural subsidies to farmers who operate ecological farming practices instead of paying farmers based on the total amount of land they use.

"Farmers who cultivate the land in an environmentally-friendly way and operate ethical animal farms should be supported with direct-payment subsidies," said Georg Janßen, the head of the farming association, Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft.

Many other demonstrators demanded the outlawing of the controversial weed killer glyphosate.

The Brasilian Land War

The Ka’apor tribe patrol one of the most murderous frontiers in the world, a remote and largely lawless region of the Brazilian Amazon where this indigenous community has fought for generations to protect their forest land. Members of Ka’apor Forest Guard drive off – and sometimes attack – loggers who intruded into their territory, the 530,000-hectare Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land, which is roughly three times the area of Greater London and contains about half of the Amazon forest left in Brazil’s northern Maranhão state.

For decades, loggers have cut dirt tracks into the forest that allow them to selectively fell valuable timber such as ipê (Brazilian walnut), which can fetch almost £1,000 per cubic metre after processing and export. This is followed by fires – often set deliberately – that destroy the remaining trees so land can be used for cattle ranching or soy farming.

Last year 6,624 sq km – more than four times the area of London – was deforested in Brazil. This was the first time in three years that the rate did not rise, and the country remains off track to reach its Paris climate targets. Numerous studies have shown that protection of indigenous land is the most effective way to cut deforestation, but the Ka’apor – like many other tribes – feel the police often work against them. 

 According to Global Witness, Brazil is the deadliest country in the world for environmental and land defenders with 44 killings recorded in 2017. Maranhão – the nation’s poorest state – is among the worst affected. There were more death threats and attacks on indigenous groups here than anywhere else in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission.

 The biodiversity is testimony to the quality of the forest in a place that defiantly holds out against extractive industries and global markets. But the pressure on this natural wealth is relentless. The Ka’apor council has attempted to hold the line but many individuals succumb to temptations. “The loggers use alcohol to weaken us. It’s a more powerful weapon than guns,” said Itahu.

It is clear where the real power lies. More than any state in Brazil, Maranhão is in thrall to the “coronels” (major landowners who carry a semi-feudal authority). One family – the Sarneys – have dominated politics here for as long as anyone can remember. The patriarch (an 87-year-old senator who ruled Brazil from 1985 to 1990) has a roadside school named after him – the Escola Unidade da President José Sarney. The system of patronage and control is replicated at a municipal level. The powerbroker near the Ka’apor’s land is Josimar Rodrigues, a state assemblyman who has been accused by police of running an illegal operation to remove timber from the indigenous territory. Despite the allegations, he and his family remain hugely influential. His wife, sister and former driver are all mayors in municipalities that overlap Ka’apor territory.

A new war?

Turkish jets have bombed the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria and were accompanied by waves of artillery barrages , as the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, promised to expand Turkey’s military border operations against a Kurdish group that has been the US’s key Syria ally in the war on Islamic State.

 Turkey has been promising to clear the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin and its surrounding countryside. Turkey’s military is ironically calling the campaign Operation Olive Branch.

The YPG is the driving force behind a coalition of north Syrian forces allied with the US to battle Isis. With US support, including around 2,000 embedded forces, the coalition now controls close to a quarter of Syrian territory, concentrated mostly to the north and east of the Euphrates river. Turkish leaders were infuriated by an announcement by the US military six days ago that it was going to create a 30,000-strong border force with the Kurdish fighters to secure northern Syria. Days later, secretary of state Rex Tillerson announced that the US would maintain a military presence with the Kurds for the foreseeable future.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation, an extension of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group that it is fighting inside its own borders, and it has found common cause with Syrian opposition groups who view the YPG as a counter-revolutionary force in Syria’s multi-sided civil war. Associated Press journalists saw a convoy of armed pick-up trucks and buses believed to be carrying Syrian opposition fighters travelled along the border.  Turkey's leader, Erdoğan, announced an expansion to Turkish operations in Syria, promising to move on the Kurdish-controlled town of Manbij and its surrounding countryside after completing operations in Afrin. The operation would force out the Kurdish militia from all positions west of the Euphrates River. In 2016, Turkey trained and equipped opposition forces to drive Kurdish fighters out of parts of north Syria, driving a wedge between two enclaves along the Turkish frontier. Turkish ground forces, including tanks and artillery, crossed into Syria with the fighters to establish a zone flanked by Afrin and Manbij that now serves as hub for Turkish operations inside the war-torn country. Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, said the strikes on Afrin marked the start of a campaign to “eliminate the PYD and PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ party] and Daesh elements in Afrin,” referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union party and the Kurdistan Worker’s party respectively, and using an Arabic name for Isis. The PYD, PKK, and YPG all look to the Kurdish Marxist-nationalist leader Abdullah Öcalan as their guide. Öcalan is imprisoned by Turkey for waging a separatist movement in the eastern part of the country.

 Russian was pulling back troops that had been deployed near Afrin, two days after Turkey’s military and intelligence briefs travelled to Moscow to discuss the planned operation. It said the group of observers was being relocated to another area.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Men are not the enemy

The 2017 Women's March was the largest single-day protest in U.S. History. More than 4 million people across the world participated in the protest in 2017, spanning cities across the United States and other countries. The second Women's March is happening on January 20. If women's bodies are used to sell everything from mustard to motor cars, this is an expression of their peculiar oppression under capitalism. Whether we examine the family, women's sexuality or women's employment opportunities, we find the same kind of story.

It is true, many women are in severely oppressive situations at home and at work. Women get more than their fair share of the work, less than their fair share of the cake and less freedom than the men they share their lives with. Women are subordinate to men. Knowingly and unknowingly, men abuse the power they have over women—but not all men and not all the time. The problem of sexism is complex and linked to a larger problem; that of the way the whole world is organized.The majority of women and men in the world feel and are powerless in the face of the minority powers-that-be. Part of the problem of sexism is simply a "kicking the cat” syndrome. a white employed man, oppressed by his employer (or depressed by the dole queue) comes home and puts his wife in her place, for much the same reason that the pair of them will insult their black neighbours. It is an ignoble and inadequate solution to one’s own lack of self-esteem and autonomy, to undermine someone else’s. but without self-respect, it is hard to respect others. A feeling of self-respect in our present system is for most people constantly under threat.

The idea that women are (or ought to be) independent and autonomous individuals is a relatively recent one, that is still far from being accepted among much of the world's population. In general, women are economically, legally and socially inferior to men. In many parts of the world women have no legal title to property — they themselves are the property of their fathers or husbands. In feudal times peasant women were subject to the rule of both their fathers or husbands and of the feudal lord. The practice of jus primae noctis (the right of the first night) was common in much of Europe. The feudal lord had the right to take the virginity of the bride of any of his vassals or serfs unless the couple paid a certain amount of produce in redemption dues. The idea of women as property to be sexually exploited continues to the present even though the law in most modern westernised nations formally recognises women as independent. Sexual harassment of female employees by their male employers is commonplace. Again women are faced with the choice of suffering in silence or risking losing their jobs. The idea of women as men's property is reflected in the fact that in many countries rape within marriage is not a crime. The marriage contract is such that it is considered to effectively represent permanent consent of the wife to her husband for sexual relations. Rape then has been and continues to be. a horrifying aspect of war. The maleness of the military, the total environment of violence and the brutalising effects of that violence are breeding grounds for rape. But rape in war has an important symbolic quality too: it is a symbolic occupation, a forced humiliation, and the imposition of subordinate status. Rape is the act of a conqueror and women's bodies merely part of the spoils of victory. It is not only rape that we should be concerned about but the whole spectrum of sexual behaviour. And we cannot begin to understand that until we understand the nature of the wider society from which it is derived. Sexuality is natural but there is nothing natural about the ways in which we express that sexuality: it is shaped and conditioned by the society in which we live and the kinds of sexual expression that are considered acceptable are a product of particular cultures at particular times. The fact that so many people in our society express their sexuality in ways that are twisted, coercive, violent and brutal should make us very concerned about the nature of the society that produced that sexuality.

To the Socialist Party, it doesn't matter what colour or gender you are. What matters is that you are a worker. The politicisation of gender, like ethnicity, helps keep the working class divided and thus too weak to break out of its own misery. Capitalism is a master at instilling its oppressive and divisive structures at an early age. The task of revolutionaries is to identify and break those structures. And we can do it, so long as workers are willing to try to understand each other. Women have been speaking out and must continue to do so in order to lift the veil of silence. For their part, men need to understand that ignoring women's subjective experience of patriarchy is the same as perpetuating it. Either you are fighting oppression or you are complicit in it. When a man suffers rage, helplessness, and frustration, he is experiencing what it means to be a worker. But when he takes his rage out on a woman he is doing the bosses' dirty work for them and he is a class traitor.

As things are, all around the world, women and women’s work are undervalued—by men, other women and themselves. This is serious, not just because of the damage inflicted on that particular half of the adult population, but also because it threatens the well-being of the whole human race. Socialism involves a complete change in the way the whole of humanity organizes, itself so that we have a system which provides goods and services because people need them and not because of money. There is no money and there is no property. The land is owned and controlled by the whole of humanity. There are no national boundaries. It must be highly organised, but in a genuinely democratic way. so that all people are involved in making decisions that affect their lives. There are no hierarchies. no distinctions of class, race or sex.  Such a system seems like the impossible dream, but the potential for it is there. Even in capitalism, men and women can be fair and compassionate and co-operate with each other. People derive pleasure from working for themselves and others without monetary reward. What it will take is for the majority of people in the world to decide that this is how they want to live, and to set about organising it.

In linking women's oppression to property society, we differ from those who argue that women's enemies are men. Men also love and care for women, and work to support women and children. Some men have been women’s best friends at crucial times in their lives—and some men are subordinate to some women: a wealthy woman may hand out orders to a male wage-slave. It is surely preferable for women to work with women and men to change the whole system than against men in the hope of changing just one aspect of it. Some men are sometimes women’s enemies—but so are some women. Many men and women are women's potential friends and allies. If capitalism is to be overthrown then the working class must be united. Women and men, whatever their age or colour, have to work together in the fight for socialism. The Socialist Party's struggle is aiming at the liberation of all, regardless of gender, age or colour

Friday, January 19, 2018

Amazon's "race to the bottom"

It is Amazon's "race to the bottom" Amazon announced its search in September, promising to bring 50,000 jobs to the city it chose for its headquarters,

Tax breaks to Amazon promised by New Jersey: $7 billion. Tax breaks promised by Illinois: $2 billion. Boston offered $75 million to provide affordable housing to Amazon employees, while Maryland's offer exceeded $5 billion. Houston's subsidy is $268 million.

"More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, refused requests from The Associated Press to detail the promises they made to try to lure the company, " reports the AP.

Greek "hollowed growth"

Greece's once record jobless rate of 27 percent may have dropped seven points since the start of the financial crisis, but nearly six in 10 people are stuck in a market dominated by part-time, on-and-off jobs.

Dead-end, fixed-term jobs are haunting most of Europe's financially battered south. In recent years, over half of Spain's youth employees have held temporary contracts, compared to two-fifths in Italy. 

But in Greece, state statistics released this week show a troubling trend: Six in 10 people are stuck in lousy, insecure part-time jobs. While the trend first exceeded the startling 50-percent mark last year, experts expected the figure to quickly recede as the Greek economy, strangled by seven years of budget cuts and austerity reforms, grew by nearly 2 percent.  But it hasn't.

Experts now call "hollowed growth"

"It's the worst possible predicament Greece and Greeks can find themselves in after nearly a decade of painful sacrifices," says George Kollias, a labor expert at the General Confederation of Greek Workers. "The working assumption," said Kollias was that "new jobs would be created once salaries were sheared and hiring and firing rules were made easier for employers. But ultimately, this has all backfired, creating a monster, market jungle where anything goes. Needless to say," he tells DW, "the most vulnerable have been hit hardest."

In the startling statistics released this week, five in 10 Greek workers are owed an average of six paychecks by exploitative employers already paying part-time workers less than €500 a month. Greece has only one employment inspector for every 3,000 workers. The EU average is one to 300.

Women, meantime, receive 50 percent less than the already appalling rates, potentially giving Greece one of the biggest gender pay gaps worldwide. Only South Korea, Japan and Mexico are said to enjoy greater pay difference.
Yet, officials claim, this is all part of a success story stitched together by the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras as it moves into the final stretch of its four-year term in power, while preparing to break free of austerity and bailouts later this year.

Greece's once harrowing unemployment rate of 27 percent had dipped to about 20 percent after easing off another point last month. But it still remains nearly three times higher than the 8.8-percent EU average.

With the government registering each person who works at least two hours a week as employed, pundits, politicians and people across the country are up in arms, refuting the declining jobless trend. Private labor groups and think tanks put the real figure around at least 25 percent

A bit of good news for Yemen

The German government said on Friday that it would "immediately" stop approving arms exports to anyone participating in the war in Yemen. The move would include Saudi Arabia, a major buyer of German weapons.

Street Stall (Holloway - London 20/1)


Saturday, 20 January - 

11:00am - 1:00pm

Venue: Nag's Head Shopping Centre, 
402 Holloway Road,
 London N7 6PZ

Organised by North London Branch

Population Density


Israel - "The Sick Society"

Israel has a population of 8.9 million people of which 20 percent are Arab.

In January 2017, a report by the US State Department stated: "Institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel goes on in particular in access to equal education, housing, and employment opportunities."

In Arab East Jerusalem, 76 percent of the residents and 83.4 percent of the children live below the poverty line according to the poverty report of the National Insurance Institute. In Israel, the poverty rate average is 21.7 percent - and 30 percent among children. In short, Arabs are 50 percent poorer than others in Israel. 

In 2014, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin addressed what he called an "epidemic" of anti-Arab racism: "Israeli society is sick, and it is our duty to treat this disease. … I'm not asking if they've forgotten how to be Jews, but if they've forgotten how to be decent human beings."

Welsh Child Poverty

Children living in poverty in Wales are falling behind and may never catch up with their classmates. 
Save the Children estimates more than a quarter of children under five years old - about 50,000 - are living in poverty. A report said a third of were behind their peers by age five in vocabulary and dexterity and may "never catch up". Research by Save the Children shows once children fall behind in their early years they are more likely to struggle throughout their education. According to its report, nearly half of the children who were in the lowest performing groups at the beginning of primary school remained there at ages seven, 11 and 14. It also claimed about 22,000 children - or 44% - who live in poverty were not eligible for the Welsh Government's Flying Start programme, aimed at children aged under four in deprived areas. Families who are eligible for the service are entitled to two-and-a-half hours of free childcare a day for five days a week.
"Our concern is that the current state of play is resulting in a childcare system that is not fulfilling its potential to help prevent children in poverty falling behind early and remaining behind throughout their education and further into their lives," the report said. "The consequences of children being unable to benefit from quality early education and care for children's development and learning can be devastating. We fear that for too many children in Wales, particularly those living in poverty, access to high-quality provision is still too often left to chance."
The Welsh Government had hoped to abolish child poverty in Wales by 2020, but last year the Welsh Government admitted it did not have the power to make the changes needed to achieve it.

South Wales Branch 

12th February  

Monday, 7:30pm - 9:00pm

 Unitarian Church, 
High Street, 
Swansea SA1 1NZ

(One meeting out of three will take place in Cardiff.)

Fight for your Rights

Human Rights Watch accuses western politicians of driving global misrule by feeding off public fear and discontent. Rising intolerance in many western countries has created an “open field for murderous leaders” around the world, it warned.

In an annual report assessing more than 90 nations, Human Rights Watch warned of a “frontal assault on the values of inclusivity, tolerance, and respect” across states that have previously championed rights.

Kenneth Roth, the group’s director, pointed to Donald Trump, saying he won the US presidency “with a campaign of hatred against Mexican immigrants, Muslim refugees, and other racial and ethnic minorities, and an evident disdain for women”. Roth warned that the rise of intolerance has caused western powers, including the UK, to become more inward-looking. “With the United States led by a president who displays a disturbing fondness for rights-trampling strongmen, and the UK preoccupied by Brexit, two traditional if flawed defenders of human rights globally are often missing in action,” the report said.

Germany, France and their EU partners, many of which are struggling with anti-refugee rhetoric domestically, have failed to fill the vacuum. Instead, Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have “aggressively asserted an anti-rights agenda”. This has allowed mass atrocities in Yemen, Syria, Burma and South Sudan to continue with near impunity. Creeping authoritarianism in Poland and Hungary is a “fundamental threat to the entire European project”, he said.  “If you allow any member of the European Union to undermine democracy, undermine the rule of law, undermine judicial independence you are allowing exceptions to core EU values – and that’s when you begin to eat away at those values.”

Roth accused the EU of hypocrisy for cooperating with the Libyan authorities in order to reduce the number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe. “The conditions there are deadly, nightmarish, and to force somebody back is a blatant violation of international law,” he said. “To pretend they can do that indirectly by training the Libyan coastguard to keep people in, instead of pushing people back, is basically a distinction without a difference.” The report urged the EU to do more to oppose Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, military abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and Turkey’s crackdown on press freedom.

Roth said citizens’ human rights will be weakened if the UK withdraws from the European convention on human rights. “We’re also frankly concerned about some of the rhetoric of the Brexiteers, which is not only anti-European Union but also anti-European convention on human rights. And there’s a real tendency to demagogue the issue. It’s a very short-sighted approach,” he said. “As much as possible, people should be able to maintain established lives without new restrictions imposed on them because of Brexit.”

The report praised mass movement that opposed populism, and said resistance to Trump’s policies in the US have limited the harm that might have been done.
“The lesson of the last year is that resistance matters,” said Roth. “The only way to limit the rise of autocrats is to stand up to them. The only way to preserve the values populists attack is to defend them. The battle is very much under way, and it’s one very much worth engaging in.” He added, "What's needed is a principled defense rather than surrender, a call to action rather than a cry of despair." 

Canadian Discrimination

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development at a meeting with law students at the University of Windsor, declared:
“One of the issues I hear from people is, ‘Well, we just don’t have the people. We don’t have the talent. We don’t have the women. We don’t have the diversity in our corporation. We would love to promote diversity but we just can’t find the people. That’s a bunch of bullshit.”
Bains said there were many “successful women – entrepreneurs, business leaders, community leaders – who want to sit on corporate boards, who are very talented and looking for the opportunity. The problem is they aren’t part of the golf network; they’re not part of the club network, the social networks that a lot of these boards exist and operate under.”
Anthony Lacavera noted in a 2017 book titled How We Can Win, “We value our diversity and openness to newcomers but our business culture is inward-looking and xenophobic.”
Women make up 12% of the directors at companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange while visible minorities make up 4.5% of company directors in the country’s top 500 companies, according to Toronto’s Women in Capital Markets. A report published last year by Deloitte Canada noted that women occupy just 35% of managerial positions across the country.

It's getting hotter

Last year was the second or third hottest year on record - after 2016 and on a par with 2015.

The acting director of the UK Met Office, Prof Peter Stott, told BBC News: "It shows clearly that the biggest natural influence on the climate is being dwarfed by human activities – predominantly CO₂ emissions."

The World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said, “Arctic warmth has been especially pronounced and this will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world.”

Commenting on the figures, Bob Ward, from the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, pointed out that “The record temperature should focus the minds of world leaders, including President Trump, on the scale and urgency of the risks that people, rich and poor, face around the world from climate change." 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Canadian Capitalists


Five Canadians are as wealthy as 30% of the entire population.

The new report from the Canadian Business estimates shows that Galen Weston is the richest man in Canada with US$10.04 billion; Uber co-founder Garret Camp with $6.78 billion; Brydson $6.56 billion; Alibaba vice-chairman Joseph Tsai $ 6.28 billion followed by David Thomson with $5.02 billion.

Genius Rewarded?


John Kay.—A weaver and mechanic. Inventor of the fly shuttle, one of the most important inventions in the textile industry, as well as other inventions. He took his case to the courts in the endeavour to obtain recognition and recompense for his work: was beggared by litigation, and starved to death in France.

Joseph Marie Jacquard.—Inventor of the silk-weaving loom that brought about a revolution in the art of weaving. He could obtain no recognition until he was an old man. He sacrificed all he possessed to carry on his inventions, and became a labourer and a soldier.

Henry Cort.—Invented “puddling" process for converting pig-iron into malleable metal, as well as other inventions. He patented his inventions and became involved in law suits—like so many of his kind. He was eventually utterly ruined. The Government took up his invention and granted him a pension of £200.

James Hargreaves.—A carpenter. Invented the spinning jenny, but died a poor man. He suffered from dishonest manufacturers.

Samuel Crompton.—A cotton spinner, combined the old water frame and spinning jenny into the mule, and is considered to have been practically the organiser of modern industry. He died in poverty.

Richard Roberts.—Inventor of the self-acting mule: was left to fight poverty in his old age.

Richard Trevithick.—Inventor of high pressure d the steam locomotive; died in poverty.

Gutenberg.—Inventor of printing: was in financial difficulties all his life.

Bernard Palissy.—A French potter. Discovered the process for manufacture of enamel. Struggled for sixteen years in the lowest depths of poverty, having to burn his furniture to keep his fires alight. He was arrested, and died in the Bastille.

John Harrison.—A mechanic. Invented the marine chronometer. He was in necessitous circumstances all his life. Struggled for years to obtain the reward that had been offered for such an invention, and after considerable difficulty finally obtained it when eighty years old.

Frederick Koenig.—Inventor of the steam printing-machine. Had his patents infringed. After a long struggle and illnesses he died in poor circumstances.

Eugen Turpin.—Inventor of melenite and over forty other inventions: was always in poor circumstances.

General Shrapnel.—Inventor of the explosive that bears his name and that helped to build up many rich armament firms, as well as blowing thousands to eternity: died in 1842, a poor and bitter old man.

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier.—Described as the father of modern chemistry: had to accept a position as tax-farmer in order to carry on his experiments, and perished under the guillotine.

Rev. Hannibal Goodwin.—Invented film photography, and after a long fight obtained a patent in 1898. When he was about to put the film on the market, he died in 1900. His widow formed a company and carried on a fight with the powerful interests opposed to her, and finally obtained a judgment in the United States Supreme Court in 1914 that the Goodwin patent was the basis of film photography. Success, however, came too late, for Mrs. Goodwin was 81 and in failing health.

Franz Schubert.—A schoolmaster, whose musical compositions have delighted myriads of people and whose life has provided material for films. “Left the world," as one biographer puts it, "a rich heritage of considerably more than a thousand works of extreme brilliance, and who received in return £575 as the sum total of his life's earnings "! !

Count de Chardonet.—Inventor of artificial silk: died a poor man. In 1928 M. Heriot unveiled a statue to him at Lyons. No doubt he would have preferred a little more bread while he was alive!

Horace van Ruith.—A famous artist, who painted a study of Nurse Cavell that was greatly admired. At the age of 80, when living in poverty, an exhibition of his works was held covering a period of nearly 70 years, and he pathetically expressed the hope that some of them would find purchasers and so allow him to spend his last days without depending on friends.

Henrick Heine.—Germany’s leading lyrical poet: had a struggle for existence all his life.

Herbert Spencer.—The philosopher of individualism: could only complete his Synthetic Philosophy by means of the subscriptions of friends.

Linnteus.— Described as the father of modern botany: had to work his way to the Universities of Lund and Upsala, living on £8 a year, and making his own boots from the bark of trees. Had he not attracted the notice of a man of similar tastes, the famous Classification of the Animal and Vegetable Kingdom might have had to find another author.

There was one inventor who did achieve fame and fortune while his brothers struggled and starved. That one was Sir Richard Arkwright, sometime barber and horse-dealer, to whom is attributed the invention of the water-frame, which he patented in 1767. But Arkwright has the unique distinction of not having invented the contrivance that bears his name. The invention in question was actually the work of Thomas Highs, who built a spinning machine in 1767 at the village of Leigh. This was known to Arkwright, who had married a woman from Leigh. The case was fought through the courts, and Arkwright never produced any satisfactory evidence of the origin of his invention. When the case was tried in 1785 Arkwright’s patent was declared lapsed. However, he died in 1792, a knight, a high sheriff of the County of Derby, and left half a million pounds!

Poverty States-side

Hunger Free America produced a national report in November 2017, declaring “approximately 15 million American adults lived in food insecure households with at least one person employed in the years 2014 to 2016.” States with higher minimum wages had lower levels of food insecurity among working people. The states with the highest rates of food insecurity among working adults were New Mexico (15.3 percent), Mississippi (14.0 percent), Louisiana (14.0 percent), Arkansas (13.5 percent), and Maine (12.9 percent).

  • In terms of access to water and sanitation, the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, ahead of Turkmenistan, El Salvador, Cuba, Thailand, and the Russian Federation. Its rate is nearly five times the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty, compared to less than 14 percent across the OECD.
  • The Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks the most well-off countries in terms of labor markets, poverty, safety net, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. The US comes in last of the top 10 most well-off countries, and 18th amongst the top 21.
  • In the OECD, the US ranks 35th out of 37 in terms of poverty and inequality.
  • According to the World Income Inequality Database, the US has the highest Gini rate (measuring inequality) of all Western Countries
  • The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality characterizes the US as “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.”

Longevity in Reverse Gear

Life expectancy in some parts of the UK has plummeted, according to official figures. Residents in former mining towns and isolated rural areas saw the biggest fall.
By 2041, women will live to 86.2 years and men 83.4 years, projections by the Office for National Statistics showed – a decrease of almost a whole year compared to previous figures released in 2015.
In Torridge, Devon, male life expectancy dipped to 79.2 years – a decline of more than a year. Hartlepool saw a similar decline of more than 12 months to 76.4. In Amber Valley, Derbyshire, female life expectancy dropped by more than a year to 82.4 compared to 2015’s figures. 
While experts were unclear on the exact causes for the fall many are pointing to cuts to frontline services along with growing levels of inequality for an overall decline in public health.
Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Oxford, said influenza, obesity, alcohol and smoking could largely be ruled out as contributory factors. 
“The fall in life expectancy in several geographical areas of England is most likely a result of the effects of public service cuts and austerity,” he said. “Many other possibilities can be ruled out. Rates of smoking and drinking alcohol have fallen in recent years so that cannot be blamed. Between 2009 and very late 2017 there has been no serious influenza outbreak. A government that has chosen to make these cuts, and any of the organisations it directly sponsors, will understandably find this very hard to face up to.”
In November, an article in the British Medical Journal Open found that severe public spending cuts in the UK were associated with 120,000 deaths between 2010 and 2017.
Dr Wanda Wyporska, executive director of the Equality Trust, said the decline fits with an overall increase in inequality in deprived areas. 
“In a country with such high inequality, it is not surprising that we are seeing a decline in life expectancy,” she said. “Inequality leads to earlier deaths and poorer quality of life. We know that we expect to see inequality increase in former industrial areas, so this is not surprising. How many more of these reports do we need before the government takes this seriously?”

Apple is still rotten to the core

 Apple will open a new campus as part of a five-year, $30 billion (21.70 billion pounds) U.S. investment plan and it will make about $38 billion in one-time tax payments on the overseas cash it intends to repatriate. Between the spending plan, hiring 20,000 people, tax payments and business with U.S.-based suppliers, Apple  estimated it would spend $350 billion in the United States over the next five years

 Trump described the move by Apple as a victory. “I promised that my policies would allow companies like Apple to bring massive amounts of money back to the United States. Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS,” he tweeted. 

However, not all is what it seems. 

It did not, however, say how much of the plan was new or how much of its $252.3 billion in cash abroad - the largest of any U.S. corporation - it would bring home. In addition to the $38 billion in taxes it must pay, Apple has run up $97 billion in U.S.-issued debt to pay for previous share buybacks and dividends. Some investors said the U.S. investments would give the company room to make more stock buybacks or pay dividends without criticism.

James Cordwell of Atlantic Equities said Apple’s U.S. investment plan could make it easier for the company to give more cash to shareholders. “Being seen to just hand the cash back to shareholders could spark some political sensitivities,” and the spending announcement could be part of Apple’s efforts to manage this issue, Cordwell said.

Walter Piecyk, managing director for TMT Research at BTIG Research, said he could not yet tell whether the U.S. expansion was an increase from a previous plan or meant investment abroad was being refocused in the United States. Reuters Breakingviews estimated that Apple could have increased U.S. headcount by 24,000 in the last five years.

Asked in an interview with ABC News whether the job creation announcements were directly related to the Republican tax plan, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook gave a measured response. “Let me be clear... there’s large parts of this we would have done in any situation,” Cook said.

Apple has announced no plans to change their practice of out-sourcing the manufacture of their products and experts confirm it would be economically impractical to make iPhones in the United States.