Tag Archives: Poverty

Shame of inequality

By FAISAL BARI

JAVED’S mother insisted that we, the owners/managers of a motorcycle repair shop, hire her son as an apprentice even if it was with no pay. We refused as Javed was only eight years old. His mother’s logic was simple. “I cannot feed him at home, he cannot go to school as I cannot afford it, and we need any money that Javed can make. Even if you do not pay him for an initial period, he will get lunch here and will also learn a skill. That is enough.”

We made some arrangements for Javed. But there are millions of Javeds in Pakistan. Even though, and there is evidence for this, absolute poverty has gone down in the country, inequality has, by all estimates, increased significantly. This does not mean there are no poor people in Pakistan. There are still plenty of them. But the percentage of people living a life of absolute deprivation is lower than before.

The story is one about poverty and the extremes of inequality this society appears to be willing to live with.

Yet, not only has inequality increased manifold, it seems the progress we had been making on reducing infant mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition in children and morbidity has slowed down significantly and, in some cases, disappeared. This is quite a paradox: poverty is down but why are child and mother health indicators not improving? Is it a case of time lags? Or is there something more to it?

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1220930

Greece Financial Crisis Hits Poorest and Hungriest the Hardest

By

ATHENS — Behind the lace curtains of a soup kitchen run by a parish in the humble Athens neighborhood of Kerameikos, the needy and hungry sit down to a plate of sliced cucumbers, three hunks of bread, a shallow china bowl of chickpea soup and often a piece of meat. Sometimes there is even ice cream, a special treat.

People prize the refectory, run by a priest, for its homeyness, and they travel long distances to fill their empty stomachs at least once a day.

But on Thursday, the priest, Father Ignatios Moschos was worried that he would no longer have enough food to go around if the country’s economic paralysis continues, as it seems likely to do even if Greece and its creditors manage to work out a last-minute deal this weekend to avert a Greek exit from the euro.

“It will be hard, dark, painful,” the priest said, nibbling from a bowl of pistachios as a long line of people waited for their turn to eat at the communal tables. “We will have trouble receiving food.”

Poverty in Greece has been deepening since the financial crisis began more than five years ago. Now, aid groups and local governments say they are beginning to feel the effects of nearly two weeks of bank closings, as Greecestruggles to keep its financial system from failing and to break out of years of economic hardship.

And any deal with creditors this weekend will bring further cuts in government spending. It will also bring higher taxes and, as a consequence, more short-term pressure on the economy.

As Athens takes on the aura of Soviet Russia, with lines of people outside banks waiting to receive their daily cash allowance, some aid groups are seeing their supply channels narrow. By some accounts, lines for food, clothing and medicine have grown fivefold in parts of the capital in the last two weeks alone.

The European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, has said he shares Greeks’ concerns. President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission said this past week that the European Union was making plans for humanitarian aid to Greece to cushion the blow if a third bailout was not worked out by Sunday and Greece was forced out of the euro system.

Read more » The New York Times
See more » http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/world/europe/greece-debt-crisis-athens-poverty-inequality.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Poverty: A Man Made Disaster On Planet Earth

By Nayyar N Khan

Oxfam Estimates That It Would Take $60 Billion Annually To End Extreme Global Poverty–That’s Less Than Quarter Of The Total Income Of Top 100 Richest Persons Living Amongst Us. 

IMAGINE, the everyday increasing poverty, the widening gap between haves and have not’s. Nature, the most gracious and merciful has granted more than enough resources in this universe that these resources could feed every living being. But we, the greedy human beings, are misusing these resources thus creating CRISIS OF “hunger and starvation” for not only human beings but many other creatures too on this planet. Today, more than 1.4 billion people around the world live in poverty- so extreme that they can barely survive- and around 25,000 people die from hunger each day whilst a new billionaire is created every second day.

The figures are frightening when we look at the map of the world populated by people, just like us. Nearly one half of the world’s population – more than 3 billion- live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.4 billion live in extreme poverty i.e. less than $1.25 a day. One billion children worldwide are living in poverty. More than 750 million people lack adequate access to clean drinking water. Diarrhea caused by lack of clean drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or approximately 2,300 people die per day.

165 million children under the age of 5 were stunted (reduced rate of growth and development) in 2011 due to chronic malnutrition. Preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia take the lives of 2 million children per year as they are from such poor families who cannot afford proper treatment. As of 2013, 21.8 million children under 1 year of age worldwide did not receive the three recommended doses of vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

Imagine, if it were you who was forced to live on less than $1 a day, the same amount other people mindlessly spend on a bottle of water or a pack of cheap candy or gum. Imagine going to bed with empty stomach that night spent becomes unbearable.

1/4 of all humans live without electricity. Approximately 1.6 billion people. 80% of the world population lives on less than $10 a day. Oxfam estimates that it would take $60 billion annually to end extreme global poverty–that’s less than 1/4 the income of the top 100 richest persons living amongst us. The World Food Program says, “The poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.” Hunger is the number one cause of death in the world, killing more than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 805 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2012-2014. Almost all the hungry people, 791 million, live in developing countries, representing 13.5 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties.

Continue reading Poverty: A Man Made Disaster On Planet Earth

I am a cook in the US Senate but I still need food stamps to feed my children

By 

I work 70 hours a week doing two jobs but cannot make ends meet. Presidential hopefuls must make profitable federal contractors pay living wages

Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike.

I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating “opportunity” for workers and helping our kids achieve the “American dream” – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.

I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.

I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and I now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.

Continue reading I am a cook in the US Senate but I still need food stamps to feed my children

My party wants a socialist society in Pakistan: Ghinwa

PPP-SB chief says Junior Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto will join politics at the right time

By Faizan Ali Warraich

LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party-Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB) faction Chairperson Ghinwa Bhutto has announced that her party is struggling for socialist revolution, and Junior Bhutto and Fatma Bhutto will join politics at the right time.

She has said that only socialism can serve the nation, as parliamentary democracy has failed to solve problems of a common man in Pakistan. Talking to Daily Times exclusively during her visit and stay here at the home of Dr Mubashar Hasan (former minister and her party’s chief in Punjab), she confirmed that her party wanted socialist society in Pakistan, which provides equal opportunities to all. ‘People get upset from the parliamentary form of politics as voice of a common man was not being heard, even they have no representative in the existing parliament and parliamentarians, and are being treated only as slaves’, she said.

Continue reading My party wants a socialist society in Pakistan: Ghinwa

Richest 1% to own more than rest of world, Oxfam says

The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world’s population, according to a study by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

The charity’s research shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% last year.

On current trends, Oxfam says it expects the wealthiest 1% to own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

The research coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The annual gathering attracts top political and business leaders from around the world.

Read more » BBC
Learn more » http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30875633

Sindh govt responsible for Thar situation: Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui

SINDH – KARACHI: (Dunya News) – Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee Deputy Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui has held Sindh government responsible for Thar situation. MQM Rabita Committee has appealed for help from United Nations and international NGOs for the residents of Thar. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that the silence of Sindh government on Thar situation is nothing but insensitivity. He said that MQM will continue its relief activities.

Holding the press conference today (Monday) in Karachi, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that keeping quiet on Sindh government’s insensitivity would be a national crime. He demanded special package for Thar from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that corruption and incompetence have pushed the residents of the desert to death. He said that MQM was not doing politics on Thar situation. “We have sent relief items worth more than Rs. 10 million for the people living in famine affected areas”, he said.

Courtesy: Dunya News
See more » http://dunyanews.tv/index.php/en/Pakistan/244633-Sindh-govt-responsible-for-Thar-situation-Khalid-

Pakistan politics: The mythical feudal and the real elite

By Adnan Rasool

Reality is always hard to stomach. In the age of inflated self-worth and significance, societies start having delusions of grandeur. But when the delusions are questioned, the society either goes into denial or starts spinning a new narrative.

For the last two years, our people have been going through a process where there was initially a denial of the harsh realities of Pakistan, and then the passionate spinning of a false narrative. This narrative initially blamed the system, then blamed the government and now blames everyone for everything.

Too much time has been spent criticising this false narrative that many believe to be the truth. What has been ignored are the basic set of realities that Pakistan continues to face.

To start with, as much as I hate saying this, politics in Pakistan is not for the voter to decide.

Pakistan is a case of elite adjustment. It has never been a case where the voter will decide anything; the voters are simply not a significant enough part of the equation to leverage the situation.

Also read: ‘The real struggle in Pakistan is between the elite and the poor’

The form of governance does not matter either; be it a dictatorship or autocratic democracy, the political situation is a result of elite adjustment.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1139412

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities

By theguardian.com

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

Continue reading Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

This Experiment Shows The Shocking Way We View Homelessness (VIDEO)

The following video will hopefully make you stop and think for a minute about how the homeless are treated. YouTube user QuietAssassins and his friend Sandy, who also happens to be homeless, had a fantastic idea for an experiment — they’d have Sandy panhandle as a homeless man, and then give him a haircut, stick him in a suit, and have him ask strangers for money in the same area. Which do you think would get more results? Here’s the video:

In what is the most shocking and heartwarming part of the video, around 2:12, a homeless man gets visibly frustrated when he can’t find a quarter to give to Sandy — despite the fact that Sandy is wearing a suit. Sometimes those with the least understand the feeling of lacking better than anyone else. On the other hand, at 3:10, a man says “no” before Sandy can utter a word, and when Sandy starts to speak, cuts him off with a “stop.” The lack of empathy is horrifying.

Whether or not you think that money should be given to those begging on the street, this video is troubling. It shows how deeply ingrained it is in our society that poverty is something dirty. Homeless people are treated like disease, and laws are made to put them out of sight — because, for the record, laws criminalizing homeless don’t get rid of homelessness. They just punish poverty.

If you would give a man in a suit money when he asked, but you wouldn’t buy a homeless man a cup of coffee, you need to seriously check your moral compass. A quote at the end of the video sums up the rebuke well:

“People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.” — Sheila McKechnie

Courtesy: Addicting Info
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/07/30/this-experiment-shows-the-shocking-way-we-view-homelessness-video/

1 million workers across the UK walk off their jobs to protest pay and pension cuts in the nation’s largest strike in decades

Public sector strikes hit schools and services around the UK

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in rallies and marches across the UK as part of a day of strike action by public service unions. Teachers, firefighters and council workers joined the strike, which follows disputes with the government over pay, pensions and cuts. Thousands of pupils were affected as some 6,000 schools in England closed, the Department for Education said.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28240683

 

Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller

The radical economist’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has angered the right with its powerful argument about wealth, democracy and why capitalism will always create inequality. Not read it yet? Here’s what it means

By The Guardian

That capitalism is unfair has been said before. But it is the way Thomas Piketty says it – subtly but with relentless logic – that has sent rightwing economics into a frenzy, both here and in the US.

His book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. Carrying it under your arm has, in certain latitudes of Manhattan, become the newest tool for making a social connection among young progressives. Meanwhile, he is beencondemned as neo-Marxist by rightwing commentators. So why the fuss?

Piketty’s argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. So the fact that rich kids can swan aimlessly from gap year to internship to a job at father’s bank/ministry/TV network – while the poor kids sweat into their barista uniforms – is not an accident: it is the system working normally.

If you get slow growth alongside better financial returns, then inherited wealth will, on average, “dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime’s labour by a wide margin”, says Piketty. Wealth will concentrate to levels incompatible with democracy, let alone social justice. Capitalism, in short, automatically creates levels of inequality that are unsustainable. The rising wealth of the 1% is neither a blip, nor rhetoric.

To understand why the mainstream finds this proposition so annoying, you have to understand that “distribution” – the polite name for inequality – was thought to be a closed subject. Simon Kuznets, the Belarussian émigré who became a major figure in American economics, used the available data to show that, while societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialisation, inequality subsides as they achieve maturity. This “Kuznets Curve” had been accepted by most parts of the economics profession until Piketty and his collaborators produced the evidence that it is false.

In fact, the curve goes in exactly the opposite direction: capitalism started out unequal, flattened inequality for much of the 20th century, but is now headed back towards Dickensian levels of inequality worldwide.

Continue reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller

The Hunger Games in Pakistan

By Murtaza Haider

For many in the West, The Hunger Games is a box-office hit and a bestselling novel. For most Pakistanis, however, hunger games are no work of fiction. While several million Pakistanis are starving where only eight per cent of the children receive minimum acceptable diet, the government in Islamabad is finalising the budget, which if previous budgets are any indication, is unlikely to address hunger and misery that has spread to every nook and cranny in the country.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/716973/the-hunger-games-in-pakistan

Malnutrition in Pakistani children, its causes, consequences and recommendations

Madam, malnutrition is a pathological condition resulting from deficiency of one or more nutrients and has a wide range of clinical manifestations. Children are amongst the worst-affected groups. In 2001, it was noted that malnutrition caused 54% deaths in children living in developing countries.1 The World Health Organization through the Millennium Development Goal 4 has recognized that improved nutrition is crucial in reducing the under-5-years mortality,especially in the developing countries.2

Laying its special emphasis in our part of the world, the percentage of malnourished children is highest in Asia with 70% of undernourished children living in this part of the world. In South Asia, one out of two preschoolers is underweight and has stunted growth.3 In Pakistan,33.03% (CI= 27.96-38.54)of children under the age of 5 are underweight, 53.38% of the children are stunted and wasting has been reported in 11.52% of the children,4 which clearly shows that the nutritional status in this country is poor.Goiter caused by iodine deficiency is also common with the highest cases reported in Pakistan, India and parts of Indonesia.3
Marasmus, Kwashiorkor or Marasmus Kwashiorkor will probably develop in a child who is malnourished for a prolonged period of time leading to an increased mortality. Children who are undernourished are more susceptible to the effects of infectious diseases compared to children who are adequately nourished.1 Infections can in turn lead to more undernourishment as food intake is decreased during infection and this turns into a vicious cycle.
One of the possible causes of such status could be declined production of food.1 Many landscapes that were once fertile are deemed barren due to environmental pollution caused by mankind. This in turn leads to less land that is available for farming and ultimately food production per acre is insufficient to touch base with other countries. Poverty, unawareness, population growth, political instability, loss of food stock due to poor harvest and natural calamities are some of the important factors causing malnutrition amongst children. Malnutrition in Pakistani children has been directly linked to illiteracy of mothers, low family income and larger family size.5 Maternal undernourishment is also a contributing factor to babies being born with low-birth-weight.1 The increased basal metabolic rate due to acute and chronic illnesses may also precipitate the pre-existing malnutrition.

Read more » JPMA
http://jpma.org.pk/full_article_text.php?article_id=3324

Stunting, wasting and micronutrient malnutrition endemic in Pakistan

The National Nutrition Survey 2011 released here has indicated that stunting, wasting and micronutrient malnutrition are endemic in Pakistan. The report said the increasing rate of chronic and acute malnutrition is primarily due to poverty, high illiteracy rates among mothers and food insecurity.

The survey was conducted by the Aga Khan University’s Division of women and child health, Pakistan’s Ministry of Health and UNICEF. The last such survey was conducted in 2001-2002, according to federal planning minister Ahsan Iqbal who said task forces must be formed to address the situation.

The survey found widespread micronutrient deficiencies among women especially in those pregnant — 51 per cent surveyed were anaemic; 46 per cent had vitamin A deficiency; 47.6 per cent had zinc deficiency; and 68.9 per cent had vitamin D deficiency. Anaemia was high at 50.4 per cent in other women too.

Among children under five, 43.7 per cent were stunted in 2011 as compared to 41.6 per cent in the 2001 National Nutrition Survey. Children under five also suffered from: anaemia-61.9 per cent; iron deficiency-43.8 per cent; vitamin-A deficiency- 54 per cent; and zinc deficiency 39.2 per cent. In the Saarc, Pakistan has the second highest stunting rate for children under five years- 43.7 per cent. About 32 per cent of the children were underweight. The elderly population too was not spared with over 53.9 per cent not having normal weight.

Read more » http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/stunting-wasting-and-micronutrient-malnutrition-endemic-in-pakistan/article5147173.ece

Half of America in Poverty

Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

And it’s much worse for black families.

The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a  commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% of poor people in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller,  concurred: “The guy that’s making, oh my God, he’s making $35,000 a year, why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy.”

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the  Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the  Working Poor Families Project, which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The  median household income is $51,000.

Read more » AlterNet
http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

The Dominant Economic Model of the 21st Century: Pain and Suffering for — Almost — All

March 3, 2014  |  This article originally appeared on TruthDig.com, and is reprinted here with their permission.OXFORD, England—The morning after my  Feb. 20 debate at the Oxford Union, I walked from my hotel along Oxford’s narrow cobblestone streets, past its storied colleges with resplendent lawns and Gothic stone spires, to meet  Avner Offer, an economic historian and Chichele Professor Emeritus of Economic History.Offer, the author of “ The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950,” for 25 years has explored the cavernous gap between our economic and social reality and our ruling economic ideology. Neoclassical economics, he says, is a “just-world theory,” one that posits that not only do good people get what they deserve but those who suffer deserve to suffer. He says this model is “a warrant for inflicting pain.” If we continue down a path of mounting scarcities, along with economic stagnation or decline, this neoclassical model is ominous. It could be used to justify repression in an effort to sustain a vision that does not correspond to the real world.Offer, who has studied the rationing systems set up in countries that took part in World War I, suggests we examine how past societies coped successfully with scarcity. In an age of scarcity it would be imperative to set up new, more egalitarian models of distribution, he says. Clinging to the old neoclassical model could, he argues, erode and perhaps destroy social cohesion and require the state to engage in greater forms of coercion.

“The basic conventions of public discourse are those of the  Enlightenment, in which the use of reason [enabled] us to achieve human objectives,” Offer said as we sat amid piles of books in his cluttered office. “Reason should be tempered by reality, by the facts. So underlining this is a notion of science that confronts reality and is revised by reference to reality. This is the model for how we talk. It is the model for the things we assume. But the reality that has emerged around us has not come out of this process. So our basic conventions only serve to justify existing relationships, structures and hierarchies. Plausible arguments are made for principles that are incompatible with each other.”

Offer cited a concept from social psychology called the  just-world theory. “A just-world theory posits that the world is just. People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.

Major ways of thinking about the world constitute just-world theories,” he said. “The Catholic Church is a just-world theory. If the Inquisition burned heretics, they only got what they deserved. Bolshevism was a just-world theory. If  Kulaks were starved and exiled, they got what they deserved. Fascism was a just-world theory. If Jews died in the concentration camps, they got what they deserved. The point is not that the good people get the good things, but the bad people get the bad things. Neoclassical economics, our principal source of policy norms, is a just-world theory.”

Offer quoted the economist  Milton Friedman: “The ethical principle that would directly justify the distribution of income in a free market society is, ‘To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces.’ ”

“So,” Offer went on, “everyone gets what he or she deserves, either for his or her effort or for his or her property. No one asks how he or she got this property. And if they don’t have it, they probably don’t deserve it. The point about just-world theory is not that it dispenses justice, but that it provides a warrant for inflicting pain.”

Read more » Alternet
http://www.alternet.org/economy/dominant-economic-model-21st-century-pain-and-suffering-almost-all

SINDH – Drought in Tharparkar: Another child dies as govt springs into action

KARACHI / ISLAMABAD / HYDERABAD: As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took serious notice of the appalling number of child deaths in Tharparkar, Sindh, one more infant died on Friday, taking the toll to 122 in three months.

The five-month-old Farzana, who was brought from Thar to Civil Hospital, Hyderabad, suffered from pneumonia and appeared malnourished, said Dr Akram Shaikh.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Army troops from Hyderabad Garrison left for the drought-affected areas on the directives of the prime minister. The contingents, carrying immediate relief goods and rations, are also taking lady doctors, paramedical staff and medicines with them.

Continue reading SINDH – Drought in Tharparkar: Another child dies as govt springs into action

Food poverty now bigger public health concern than diet – expert claims

Panorama explores claims many turn to food banks due to being penalised when judged to have broken benefit conditions

By Patrick Butler, social policy editor

The prevalence of poverty–stricken families who cannot afford to buy sufficient food is overtaking unhealthy eating as the most pressing public health concern, a public health specialist has claimed.

The claim is made in a BBC Panorama documentary to be broadcast on Monday evening which found that over a third of local authorities in England and Wales were now providing funding for food banks, despite government claims that charity food is not a part of the social security system.

Julie Hirst, public health specialist at Derbyshire county council, told Panorama the authority had invested £126,000 from its public health budget in food banks.

She said: “It’s now become an issue of food poverty and some people in the country are not being able to eat at all – and if people can’t eat at all, what’s the point in trying to get them to eat healthily?”

Elizabeth Dowler, a professor at Warwick University and the co-author of a recent government-commissioned report on food aid provision, told the programme it was shocking so many councils were investing in food banks.

“Food banks are an inadequate plaster over a gaping wound … They do not solve the problems. And that they should be enshrined as an inadequate solution is deeply immoral.”

Read more » theguardian
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/03/food-banks-public-health-benefits-panorama?CMP=twt_gu&utm_source=hootsuite&utm_campaign=hootsuite

Russell Brand’s Revolution Is Right, We Have To Change.

Bob Geldof Backs Russell Brand’s Revolution In Call For New Politics

The Huffington Post UK | By Asa Bennett

Sir Bob Geldof has thrown his weight behind Russell Brand‘s call for a political revolution, warning that the current system of democracy “may not be viable for much longer”.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Geldof praised Brand for his “articulacy and expressing the anger of the moment”, after he sparked a controversy with an essay in the New Statesman magazine calling for the “overthrow of the current political system”.

The Irish rockstar and political activist said: “We have to change and it needs to be in the context of how we live now rather than with some old-hat political ideal.”

Geldof blamed the failure of capitalism on the banks going “out of control” and due to human greed, inventing “completely spurious” financial products.

“They ceased to [give money to others] and gave it to themselves through fraud, outright international global gangsterism.

In an impassioned attack on recent banking scandals, he went on: “That’s what it was. Mispricing of products, fraud. Mis-selling of products, fraud. Fixing the interbank lending rate. Fraud. It was fraud on an unprecedented scale! They sucked billions out of the world economy, destroying individuals, companies and countries.”

“Russell [Brand] is completely right. That model cannot sustain us as we saw, it bankrupted Greece, almost Italy, almost France and almost Ireland. It just can’t work.”

Geldof, renowned for his role behind the Live Aid and Band Aid charity initiatives, spoke to HuffPostUK after talking to young entrepreneurs at an event hosted by the RockStar Youth group.

Geldof warned Brand that replacing the current political system with anarchy was “not viable or plausible”, adding: “You can’t just have a free for all. It just wont work because we will form structural organisations within that as it’s the kind of thing we do.”

However, he said the bankers’ immense levels of pay posed a serious threat to society. “When you have these supposed masters of the universe averaging more than 248 times the average worker’s pay, you have a serious problem of inequality. Inequality stops a society functioning and so it has to stop.

“I do think the version of democracy that we have been living with just may not be viable for very much longer. We will have something where we have proper freedom and elected representation.”

“We all co-operate in the knowing lie, which is that everybody promises more and that the economy will inevitably grow. what does that mean? It means more, more of what? That’s not viable in an unsustainable and finite world.

“Nor can you in a four year electoral cycle put into place programmes that would help to ameliorate the effects of that. If the economy is affected in that way by definition politics are so that the politics that we’ve grown up with in a different economy cannot work in a new one, there has to be a newer type of politics.

“You will see a change in the type of politics. It’ll still be our government, it needs to be otherwise you’ll have problems and it still needs to be a more coherent economy.”

Courtesy: Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/18/bob-geldof-russell-brand_n_4622761.html

Economic apartheid

By Sakib Sherani

INEQUALITY is rising in Pakistan — in all its unsavoury dimensions. While we may have had a less-unequal society, in relative terms, for much of our existence, that sliver of solace is fast disappearing. The more worrying aspect is that inequality is no longer ‘cyclical (if it ever was) — that is, relating to income disparities arising out of a slowing economy and fewer jobs.

It has institutional as well as structural roots that the elite have been very comfortable with perpetuating, most shamelessly via a duality of education systems — one, near-world class for their own children, the other, a shambolic excuse for a minimal fulfilling of the state’s responsibility (and failing at that too). Hence, through a variety of channels and means, both wittingly as well as unwittingly, a large swathe of Pakistan faces permanent exclusion from economic, social as well as political voice and opportunity.

The statistic that most captures the public imagination with regard to inequality relates to income disparity. On this front, the share of income of the bottom 20pc of the households is around 8pc, while that of the top 20pc households is almost six times larger, at 45pc. Over the past 10 years or so, incomes of the top 20pc households have grown faster than for the others.

Continue reading Economic apartheid

Noam Chomsky: We’re no longer a functioning democracy, we’re really a plutocracy

By Travis Gettys

The world faces two potentially existential threats, according to the linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky.

“There are two major dark shadows that hover over everything, and they’re getting more and more serious,” Chomsky said. “The one is the continuing threat of nuclear war that has not ended. It’s very serious, and another is the crisis of ecological, environmental catastrophe, which is getting more and more serious.”

Chomsky appeared Friday on the last episode of NPR’s “Smiley and West” program to discuss his education, his views on current affairs and how he manages to spread his message without much help from the mainstream media.

He told the hosts that the world was racing toward an environmental disaster with potentially lethal consequence, which the world’s most developed nations were doing nothing to prevent – and in fact were speeding up the process.

“If there ever is future historians, they’re going to look back at this period of history with some astonishment,” Chomsky said. “The danger, the threat, is evident to anyone who has eyes open and pays attention at all to the scientific literature, and there are attempts to retard it, there are also at the other end attempts to accelerate the disaster, and if you look who’s involved it’s pretty shocking.”

Chomsky noted efforts to halt environmental damage by indigenous people in countries all over the world – from Canada’s First Nations to tribal people in Latin America and India to aboriginal people in Australia—but the nation’s richest, most advanced and most powerful countries, such as the United States, were doing nothing to forestall disaster.

“When people here talk enthusiastically about a hundred years of energy independence, what they’re saying is, ‘Let’s try to get every drop of fossil fuel out of the ground so as to accelerate the disaster that we’re racing towards,’” Chomsky said. “These are problems that overlie all of the domestic problems of oppression, of poverty, of attacks on the education system (and) massive inequality, huge unemployment.”

He blamed the “financialization” of the U.S. economy for income inequality and unemployment, saying that banks that were “too big to fail” skimmed enormous wealth from the market.

“In fact, there was a recent (International Monetary Fund) study that estimated that virtually all the profits of the big banks can be traced back to this government insurance policy, and in general they’re quite harmful, I think, quite harmful to the economy,” Chomsky said.

Those harmful effects can be easily observed by looking at unemployment numbers and stock market gains, he said.

“There are tens of millions of people unemployed, looking for work, wanting to work (and) there are huge resources available,” Chomsky said. “Corporate profits are going through the roof, there’s endless amounts of work to be done – just drive through a city and see all sorts of things that have to be done – infrastructure is collapsing, the schools have to be revived. We have a situation in which huge numbers of people want to work, there are plenty, huge resources available, an enormous amount to be done, and the system is so rotten they can’t put them together.”

The reason for this is simple, Chomsky said.

“There is plenty of profit being made by those who pretty much dominate and control the system,” he said. “We’ve moved from the days where there was some kind of functioning democracy. It’s by now really a plutocracy.”

Chomsky strongly disagreed with Smiley and West that he had been marginalized for his views, saying that he regretfully turned down dozens of invitations to speak on a daily basis because he was otherwise engaged.

He also disagreed that a platform in the mainstream media was necessary to influence the debate.

“If you take a look at the progressive changes that have taken place in the country, say, just in the last 50 years – the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, opposition to aggression, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and so on – they’re not led by any debate in the media,” Chomsky said. “No, they were led by popular organizations, by activists on the ground.”

He recalled the earliest days of the antiwar movement, in the early 1960s, when he spoke in living rooms and church basements to just a handful of other activists and they were harassed – even in liberal Boston – by the authorities and media.

But that movement eventually grew and helped hasten the end of the Vietnam War, and Chomsky said it’s grown and become so mainstream that antiwar activists can limit wars before they even begin.

He said President Ronald Reagan was unable to launch a full-scale war in Central America during the 1980s because of the antiwar movement, and he bitterly disputed the idea that antiwar activists had no impact on the Iraq War.

“I don’t agree; it had a big effect,” Chomsky said. “It sharply limited the means that were available to the government to try to carry out the invasion and subdue the population. In fact, it’s one reason why the U.S. ended up really defeated in Iraq, seriously had to give up all of its war aims. The major victor in Iraq turns out to be Iran.”

Despite these limitations, he said the Iraq War had been one of the new millennium’s worst atrocities and had provoked a violent schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that had sparked regional conflicts throughout the Middle East.

“The United States is now involved in a global terror campaign largely against the tribal people of the world, mostly Muslim tribes, and it’s all over. The intention is to go on and on,” Chomsky said. “These are all terrible consequences, but nevertheless they’re not as bad as they would be if there weren’t public opposition.”

Courtesy: The Raw Story
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/27/noam-chomsky-were-no-longer-a-functioning-democracy-were-really-a-plutocracy/

Pope says he is not a Marxist, but defends criticism of capitalism

Pope Francis says trickle-down economics do not help the poor, in a wide-ranging interview with Italian daily La Stampa

By in Rome, The Guardian

Pope Francis has rejected accusations from rightwing Americans that his teaching is Marxist, defending his criticisms of the capitalist system and urging more attention be given to the poor in a wide-ranging interview.

In remarks to the Italian daily La Stampa, the Argentinian pontiff said that the views he had espoused in his first apostolic exhortation last month – which the rightwing US radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked as “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong” – were simply those of the church’s social doctrine. Limbaugh described the pope’s church reforms as “pure Marxism”.

“The ideology of Marxism is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended,” Francis was quoted as saying.

Defending his criticism of the “trickle-down” theory of economics, he added: “There was the promise that once the glass had become full it would overflow and the poor would benefit. But what happens is that when it’s full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing ever comes out for the poor … I repeat: I did not talk as a specialist but according to the social doctrine of the church. And this does not mean being a Marxist.”

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/15/pope-francis-defends-criticism-of-capitalism-not-marxist?CMP=fb_gu

Italy hit by wave of Pitchfork protests as austerity unites disparate groups

Demonstrations point to frustration with traditional politics, with minister warning parliament of a country in ‘spiral of rebellion’

by in Rome, theguardian.com

They blocked roads and stopped trains,occupied piazzas, clashed with police and closed shops. From Turin and Milan in the north to Puglia and Sicily in the south, Italy was hit this week by a wave of protests that brought together disparate groups and traditional foes in an angry show of opposition to austerity policies and the government.

They [politicians] have brought us to hunger; have destroyed the identity of a country; have annihilated the future of entire generations,” read one poster from the “December 9 Committee”, an umbrella organisation urging Italians to rise up against the euro, Brussels, globalisation and, primarily, Enrico Letta’s government. “To rebel is a duty.”

In a loosely formed movement which has gone largely by the name of I Forconi (the Pitchforks), lorry drivers, farmers, small business owners, students and unemployed people staged protests venting their fury at a political class which they blame for Italy’s longest post-war recession and want to “send home”.

But they were not alone. Alongside them were anti-globalisation groups, members of the Veneto Independence movement, elements of the far right and – for good measure – football “ultras”. Among the sights “rarely seen before”, reported the Turin-based daily La Stampa, were supporters of arch-rivals Juventus and Torino standing “side by side”.

Although the protests had been publicised, especially on the internet, their scale and occasionally violent nature – particularly in Turin, a historic city of protest – appeared to take many by surprise.

In a country struggling to exit a two-year long recession, in which unemployment is at a record high of 12.5% and one in 10 children is thought to be living in absolute poverty, the causes of the unrest are hardly unfathomable.

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/13/italy-pitchfork-protests-austerity-unites-groups

David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract

The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans. Right now capital has effectively purchased the government
By

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.

I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.

I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.

You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.

That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.

We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?

And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/08/david-simon-capitalism-marx-two-americas-wire

Hard Work Is Not Working!

Poverty Report Reveals Most Poor People Have Jobs

By : The Huffington Post UK/PA

A shocking report has revealed that most people classed as living in poverty have jobs. For the first time, there are more working families living in poverty in the UK than non-working ones.

The news comes from a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which said average incomes have plummeted below the poverty line for millions of households.

Julia Unwin, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “Hard work is not working.” Some 6.7 million working families live below the poverty line – an increase of 500,000 on last year – compared with a combined 6.3 million of retired families and the out-of-work.

Households have been hit by a sustained and “unprecedented” fall in living standards, a report for the organisation found. Average incomes have fallen by 8% since their peak in 2008. As a result, around 2 million people have an income that while above today’s poverty line, would have been below the poverty line in 2008.

Of those in work, the number paid below the living wage rose from 4.6 million to five million in 2012. Half of working families in poverty have an adult paid below the living wage.

Unwin said the research showed that millions of people were moving in and out of work, but rarely out of poverty itself.

She said: “Hard work is not working. We have a labour market that lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages that are insufficient to make ends meet.”

The JRF did find a number of positive changes, including an improvement in the labour market with falling unemployment and underemployment and, over the longer term, improvements in health and education outcomes.

Unemployment of young adults has peaked at 21%, and total unemployment has begun to fall. But it found that job insecurity is increasingly common ….

Read more » Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/08/poverty-report_n_4407666.html?1386509109&utm_hp_ref=uk

The Great Divide

By: Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

The rich-poor divide has been increasing at an alarming rate in Pakistan as evident from a number of informative — though highly disturbing — studies conducted by the World Bank and the Centre for Research on Poverty and Income Distribution (CRPID).

According to latest figures compiled by the World Bank, Pakistan ranks most exposed to poverty risks among 43 countries, with the poverty rate jumping from 23.9 percent to 37.5 percent in three years. This, according to the World Bank, can be described as devastating.

Continue reading The Great Divide