Friday, October 20, 2017

Bangladesh Poverty

Around 10 per cent of rich Bangladeshis hold 38 per cent of the country's total income while some 10 per cent of the poor owns only one per cent of total income, according to a new survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

The survey shows inequality in income between the rich and the poor has widened.

The 10 per cent extreme poor people of the country earned two per cent of the country's total income six years ago and it has now reduced to 1.1 per cent.

The top 10 per cent rich people earn 38.16 per cent of total income which was 35.84 per cent six years ago,

Top 30 per cent people, in terms of income, earn two-thirds of the country's total income.

 2016 also showed the country's poverty rate has come down to 24.3 per cent although it is still high in rural area with 26.4 per cent while 18.9 per cent in urban area. In 2010, the poverty rate at national level in the country was 31.5 percent with high poverty rate at the rural level having 35.2 per cent while 21.3 per cent at the urban level.

2016 showed that the extreme poverty rate came down to 12.9 per cent at the national level with highest 14.9 per cent at the rural level while the lowest 7.6 per cent at the urban level. In 2010, the extreme poverty rate was 17.6 per cent at the national level with the highest 21.1 per cent at the rural level and the lowest 7.7 per cent at the urban level.

Brazil Re-Defines Slavery

Victims of slave labour in Brazil are less likely to be rescued following a government decree that changes the country's definition of slavery and weakens the hand of inspectors, campaigners and human rights officials say.

In Brazil, forced labour has been defined as a form of modern-day slavery. This includes debt bondage, degrading work conditions, and long work hours that pose a risk to a worker's health or life, and violate their dignity. A decree issued by Brazil's labour ministry is a major setback in combatting slave labour because it changes the circumstances under which slavery is defined, limiting it to a victim's freedom of movement. Campaigners say changes to Brazil's anti-slavery law are politically motivated ahead of a vote - expected within days - over the fate of President Michel Temer.
Temer faces a vote in the lower house of Congress on whether to allow a trial against him on charges of obstruction of justice and organised crime in relation to a corruption case.
Campaigners suspect bargaining with powerful agricultural lobbyists and landowners, along with interested lawmakers. "This new decree is directly involved with Temer's efforts to save his neck from the guillotine .. the changes were issued at the moment when Temer needs their votes," Sakamoto said.

"Before, if a worker is sleeping with the pigs, has no water, and doesn't receive a wage, the labour inspector says this is slave labour, even though the worker can leave the farm," said Leonardo Sakamoto, a trustee of the U.N. Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which helps victims of slavery. "But today with this decree, this isn't slavery any more."

Rights groups estimate hundreds of thousands of people work in slave-like conditions on farms, sugar cane plantations and cattle ranches across Brazil's remote and jungle areas, as well as in urban factories and construction sites.

"The violation of (human) dignity is the main point that characterises the Brazilian definition of slavery," said Dominican friar Xavier Plassat, who heads the Pastoral Land Commission anti-slavery campaign."This isn't only a question of the violation of freedom but of negating dignity through degrading conditions and an exhaustive work day.

Adilson Carvalho, who heads the national commission for the eradication of slave labour at Brazil's ministry of human rights, said it was not consulted about the changes. "We're very concerned about the continuity of policies to combat slave labour," Carvalho told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 
Brazil has about 2,000 labour inspectors who raid locations where slave labour is suspected, and more than 50,000 victims of forced labour have been freed in the past two decades.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Thursday the new government decree "runs the risk of interrupting" the progress made by Brazil on fighting slave labour.

Under the new decree, labour inspectors will now be required to include a police report as evidence. Renato Bignami, an inspector with the ministry of labour, said the new rules heralded "extremely negative" changes.

Federal and labour prosecutors have issued a joint recommendation to the government, saying the decree is illegal. They said if the government does not revoke the measure, prosecutors would mount a legal challenge. Legal uncertainty surrounding the new rules has led labour inspectors to postpone inspections in about a dozen of Brazil's 26 states, Sakamoto said.

Gummy Bear Exploitation

Confectioner Haribo, makers of such things as Gummy Bears, has come under intense criticism after a documentary discovered cruel conditions in the manufacture of a key ingredient in Brazil. Pigs also suffer in the making of gelatin. The documentary examined both the health and production issues of Haribo products, which are sold all over the world, and found failures of oversight in the production of carnauba wax and animal gelatin that left some of Brazil's poorest workers, and pigs in industrial farms in Germany, suffering in horrific conditions.

Carnauba wax, which is applied to gummy bears to make them glossy and prevent them from sticking together, is gleaned from the leaves of carnauba palm trees, which only grow in Brazil's northeastern states of Piaui, Ceara, Maranhao, Bahia, and Rio Grande do Norte - among the country's poorest regions. The wax, some €100-million ($118 million) worth, is exported from the region to many countries around the world, chiefly the United States, Japan, and Germany.

Haribo was sourcing its carnauba wax from plantations where workers earning 40 Real ($12) a day have to cut the leaves down with hooked blades tied to long poles, are forced to sleep outside or in trucks, have no access to toilets, and have to drink unfiltered water straight from nearby rivers. Some of the workers are also underage. The conditions on the plantations are so poor that the Brazilian police occasionally carry out raids to free the workers. A Brazilian Labor Ministry official said there had been an increasing number of complaints about the carnauba wax industry and that authorities had found many people working in conditions "that could be described as slavery."

"The workers are treated as objects, worse than animals," he said.

Other footage recorded of farms which provide pig skin for meat producer Westfleisch, which processes it for Haribo's gelatin supplier Gelita showed pigs with open sores and abscesses living in indoor pens on their own excrement and in some cases among their own dead. Some pigs were also deprived of drinking water. Veterinarians interviewed on the program said that the conditions clearly violated Germany's animal protection laws. 

UK Tax Haven

Britain is the “country of choice for every kleptocrat, crook and despot in the world”, Margaret Hodge, a former chair of the public accounts committee and Labour MP, has said.

She told MPs that UK corporate structures were being used for a wide range of crimes, including tax evasion and bribery.  “We have become the safe haven for dirty money. We are allowing money laundering and tax avoidance to take place on an industrial scale. Our corporate rules and our weak regulatory framework are a gift to villains.” She added, “I feel deep shame and embarrassment that we in the UK are not just complicit, but central to the success of these despicable practices.” 

Human Pet Food or Solidarity Food

Prosecutors in Brazil’s biggest city have opened an inquiry into a controversial plan to feed poorer citizens and schoolchildren with a flour made out of food close to its sell-by date that critics have described as “human pet food”. Farinata comes in the form of a flour or as pellets

João Doria, the multi-millionaire conservative mayor of São Paulo, and the city’s Catholic cardinal, Dom Odilo Scherer, have said that the product, called farinata (farinha is flour in Portuguese), will help alleviate hunger at no cost to the city’s government.

Prosecutors have demanded more information about the nutritional content of the new food and what testing, if any, has been done after concerns were raised by the Regional Council of Nutritionists and other bodies.

“There is an uncertainly over the nutritional value of this food,” José Bonilha, a São Paulo state prosecutor, told the Guardian. “What were the tests and the documents that authorised the announcement of its introduction?”

Doria, former host of Brazil’s version of The Apprentice, touted as a possible candidate for next year’s presidential elections described farinata as “solidarity food” and said it was “made to combat hunger and also supplement people’s alimentation”.
“I am offended when people say it is pet food,” Cardinal Scherer. “The concern is to recall food from restaurants that is ready for use and for it to be safely put on the table of those who are hungry rather than thrown away.”
“It is not food, it is an ultra-processed product,” said Marly Cardoso, a professor of public health and nutrition at the Federal University of São Paulo. “You don’t know what is in it...Is city hall trying to resolve the problems of these companies who are looking for a use for this food that they can’t sell?” she said. 
Vivian Zollar, a nutritionist and member of Regional Council of Nutritionists for São Paulo and Minas Gerais states said she was worried about plans reported in local media to give farinata to schoolchildren because the council had not been able to confirm that the product had undergone the safety and nutritional tests legally required for school meals.
“We need to know if this product is safe, if it has conditions to be offered,” she said. “Without this information it is very difficult to be sure.”

Oxbridge Social Apartheid

Nearly one in three Oxford colleges failed to admit a single black British A-level student in 2015, with the university accused of “social apartheid”.

The data shows that 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges did not award a place to a black British pupil with A-levels in 2015. Oriel College only offered one place to a black British A-level student in six years.

Similar data released by Cambridge revealed that six colleges there failed to admit any black British A-level students in the same year.

Just 1.5% of all offers from the two universities to UK A-level students went to black British candidates.

A handful of black British students – an average of 3.5 each year between 2010 and 2015 – who do not have A-levels gain places at Oxford. In most cases they come from independent schools that enter their pupils for alternative exams such as the international baccalaureate.

Only three Oxford colleges and six Cambridge colleges made at least one offer of an undergraduate place to a black British A-level student in each of the six years between 2010 and 2015.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The 1%

The richest one percent of Americans had an average wealth of $14 million in 2009, around the time that the Occupy Wall Street movement formed. They generally have assets in home equity, stocks and other investments, which outpace their cash income. For the vast majority of Americans, this level of wealth feels almost astonishingly out of reach
  • The top 1 percent of earners in West Virginia earn less than they do in any other state. They make, on average, $488,634 per year. That’s a lot of money, to be sure. But, it’s only about one-fifth of what top earners made in the highest-earning state.
  • Earnings for the bottom 99 percent in West Virginia are $34,407 on average. The top 1 percent of income earners here take home 12.4 percent of all the income in the state.
  • The average annual earnings of the 1 percent are the smallest in the states of West Virginia, Mississippi ($565,813), New Mexico ($593,739), Maine ($612,494) and Kentucky ($619,585).
  • The three highest-earning states, as far as the one percent are concerned, are Connecticut ($2,402,339), Wyoming($2,118,167) and New York ($2,006,632).
  • In Connecticut, where the top 1 percent of income-earners make more than anywhere else, the bottom 99 percent earn $56,445 annually. The top 1 percent is taking home 29.7 percent of the income in the state.

According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, income inequality has risen in every single U.S. state since the 1970s. And, in 15 states, the top 1 percent captured all of the income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 24 states, including those 15, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth during those post-recession years. Another 10 states saw a double-digit income-gain for the 1 percent while the bottom 99 percent actually experienced a decrease in income.
These discrepancies are huge. In 2013, the top 1 percent of income earners in the U.S. made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.
Income and wealth inequality around the world is even worse than what’s going on here in the United States. The latest report from Oxfam reveals some startling realities.
  • The wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by 38 percent since 2010.
  • Women are disproportionately impacted by wealth and income inequality on a global scale.
  • Wealth inequality is increasing globally.
  • The wealthiest 1 percent now own more than the entire wealth of the 99 percent.

Hungry for Change

The number of hungry people has grown by the millions. We can’t continue “business as usual.” Hunger is at a crisis level in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Hunger there is extreme. In Kenya, drought means that crops are failing and livestock are producing little milk. Around 370,000 Kenyan children aren’t getting enough to eat.
20 million people are on the edge of starvation right now. More than half the population of South Sudan know life-threatening levels of hunger. In Yemen, 17 million people are at risk of starvation. Somalia’s rate of malnutrition has reached the emergency threshold and hundreds of thousands of children are in critical need of life-saving treatment.

Hunger is the world’s number one health risk, greater than HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. When a person has the hunger for a sustained period of time, he or she can develop malnutrition, either mild or severe, depending on one’s body needs and food intake, it adds. Children who do survive long periods of severe malnutrition experience stunting and brain damage that affect their physical and mental well-being for the rest of their lives. Whether children have the chance to live and grow is based on how we act now.
In India, the number of undernourished people accounts for world’s 14.5% at 190.7 million, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report. The report said that children and women at reproductive ages are most vulnerable. 38.4% of children under five in India are stunted and 51.4% of women in reproductive ages suffer from lack of iron in the blood, the report said. Food wasted in India accounts up to 40% of the total food produced.

Every year, consumers in wealthy nations waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons). And food wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.

More than 42 million people in the United States face hunger, including nearly 13 million children and more than 5 million seniors, according to Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit organization that feeds more than 46 million Americans through pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community outlets. Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky are the states with the highest rates of food insecurity in households — meaning people do not have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food — according to Feeding America.

Although fertility levels worldwide are declining, life expectancy is increasing - and therefore, the global population keeps growing. The United Nations estimates that the world's population is increasing by more than 80 million people every year. The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. So how can we feed all these billions without destroying the Earth? While it won't necessarily be easy to feed 10 billion people sustainably, it is possible, experts believe.

"Today, we would be able to feed many more people than we do," Ralf Südhoff, head of the World Food Program of the United Nations in Berlin. "But we waste too much of the food we produce, and we lack efficient production - particularly in Africa," Südhoff said. Population growth is not the key cause of hunger, Südhoff said - it is rather a lack of efficiency in managing our resources. 

Average productivity in African countries is around 20 percent of its capacity, said Reiner Klingholz, chairman of the think tank Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Farmers in rural areas of some African and Asian countries still lack the necessary means to maximize crop yields, misusing vast areas of land. Experts agree that productivity could be increased through very simple means. 
"Efficiency could be doubled or tripled in African countries by providing basic means such as training, credits and land rights," Südhoff said.

Valentin Thurn, director of the documentary 10 Billion- Whats on your plate? ,Farmers in rural areas are the most affected by hunger - and the ones most commonly left behind. He believes smallholders should get integrated into the modernization processes - until now, only limited to big industrialized farms. Global agriculture currently produces some 4,000 calories per capita per day - the double of what each person needs.  "We are already producing enough for 9 to 12 billion people - but we discard a third of the harvest worldwide," Thurn pointed out. This huge amount of food waste can realistically be reduced by 80 percent, Thurn said. He believes that multinationals like Bayer are not the correct actors for leading global agricultural change. "They always have capital-intensive solutions, and they want to make farmers dependent on buying seeds from them every year," Thurn said.

Unemployment Drops - Wages Fall

UK unemployment fell by 52,000 in the three months to August to 1.4 million, leaving the jobless rate unchanged at 4.3% from the previous quarter. However, pay still failed to keep pace with inflation, with the real value of earnings down 0.3% over the past year.
Bank of England, Dave Ramsden, said there's little sign of wages picking up in response to higher inflation.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady commented: "Britain desperately needs a pay rise. Working people are earning less today (in real terms) than a decade ago.

Low pay Is "endemic"

The richest 10% of British households had an average of £1.32m in net property, pension and financial wealth, five times the wealth of the bottom half of households
A quarter of low paid workers are permanently stuck in poorly paid jobs in the UK with little chance of earning more, according to new research by the Social Mobility Commission, with women more likely to get stuck on low pay  and a particular issue for women in their early 20s and said a lack of "good quality, flexible work" for those with child caring responsibilities was to blame.
It found just one in six low paid workers had managed to escape from poorly paid jobs in the last decade.
On average, people stuck on low pay have seen their hourly wages rise by just 40p in real terms over the last decade, compared to a £4.83 pay rise for those who have permanently "escaped", said the report.
The report defines low pay as hourly earnings below two-thirds of the median hourly wage, which was £8.10 last year. The median hourly wage for an average person across the entire British workforce was £12.10 per hour in 2016.
The industries with the lowest paid jobs are retail and hospitality as some employers in the hospitality and retail industries try to keep overheads down with low-paid jobs
"This lack of pay progress can have a huge scarring effect on people's lifetime living standards," Conor Darcy, a senior policy analyst with think tank Resolution Foundation, which carried out the research, said.

Feeding India

India is the second largest producer of food in the world, and the largest producer of fruits and vegetables, milk, cereal and seafood products.

India also has one of the world's largest population of children suffering from malnutrition, almost double the corresponding number for sub-Saharan Africa. 

 India in the last 10 years has slipped six positions from 94 to 100 (out of 119 countries) on the World Hunger Index.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union minister of food processing industries, said, "India produces enough, but it doesn't reach the people. In other countries, wastage happens on the plate, but in India, it happens at the harvest, transportation and storage stages."

Almost 25-30 percent of agricultural produce is estimated to be wasted in India, while only seven percent of the total perishable produce is processed, compared to countries like the US (65 percent), Philippines (78 percent) and China (23 percent).

 Linking food wastage to hunger is only a small part of the problem and only a partial solution. 

To end hunger and provide ample nutritious food for all contact:

The World Socialist Party (India) 
257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bombs Away?

An analysis by the Arms Control Association of U.S. government budget data projects the total cost over the next 30 years of the proposed nuclear modernization and maintenance at between $1.25 trillion and $1.46 trillion. 

To put this into perspective, this number exceeds the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

This expenditure is not included in the defense budget of $700 billionwhich leads the world in military spending and represents more than the spending of the next seven countries combined – three times what China spends and seven times what Russia spends on defense.

With climate change  and an increasing number of natural disasters, one might think nuclear weapons would lose their place as the top recipient of federal spending. But this is far from the case and there is a reason why.

As long as other countries continue to harbor nuclear weapons, we will do the same. And vice versa. As former Secretary of State George Shultz so eloquently put it, “proliferation begets proliferation.” One state’s nuclear acquisitions only drive its adversaries to follow suit. The reality is adding to our nuclear arsenal will only force our international opponents to defensively order a mad dash for the bomb.

 As Trump said at the start of his campaign, "If countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack." 

The United States currently maintains an arsenal of about 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and Strategic Bombers and some 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in five European countries.

 The Trump administration considered proposing additional, smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs. However, these mini-nukes are not something new. The US have had nuclear weapons capable of being dialed down to the power of "mini-nukes" since the 80's. 

 In August, the Air Force announced major new contracts for a revamp of the American nuclear force: $1.8 billion for initial development of a highly stealthy nuclear cruise missile, and nearly $700 million to begin replacing the 40-year-old Minuteman missiles in silos across the United States.

The Arm Control Association broke down the proposed spending for Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and found the total reached over $128 billion. The costly program, titled Colombia Class, includes 12 new boats for the Navy, and has a projected life-cycle cost of $282 billion. In comparison, free public education in America would cost a mere $62.6 billion dollars.

The third and final upgrade is a modernization of the current B-2 Bomber costing 9.5 billion. However, in accordance with Obama's efforts to decrease the US's quantity of weapons, known as START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the Pentagon announced it would retain 42 deployed and 4 non-deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers. The remainder of the B-52 bombers would be converted to carry only conventional weapons.

 Despite having spent hundreds of billions on strategic missile defenses, most analysts have little confidence that the US can destroy any intercontinental missiles launched against them once they get off the ground. After the most recent failed interceptor test Philip E. Coyle III, who previously ran the Pentagon’s weapons-testing program, stated that the system “is something the U.S. military, and the American people, cannot depend upon.” This is after spending $8 billion a year for the past forty years.

Cheating the system? It is the system

A new report  by U.S. PIRG and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that 73 percent of companies on the Fortune 500 list are taking advantage of overseas tax havens—costing the United States $752 billion in federal tax revenue last year alone.

The new study discovered that, in total, America's most profitable corporations in 2016 had $2.6 trillion deposited overseas in over 9,000 subsidiaries in various locations, including tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The Trump-GOP tax proposals would, if passed, make this bad situation even worse as Congress considers proposals to institute a near zero percent tax rate on profits booked offshore by multinational corporations. Richard Phillips, a senior policy analyst at ITEP, said "Lawmakers shouldn't be discussing how to sweeten the pot and give corporations a huge tax break that amounts to a huge financial reward for engaging in bad corporate behavior."  

The system is working exactly as policymakers designed it. Why should policymakers pause? In reality, they are accelerating. Al Capone was minor-league compared to these guys.

366 of the 500 companies on Fortune's list"operate one or more subsidiaries in tax haven countries." Furthermore, 30 companies with the most money officially booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 2,213 tax haven subsidiaries.
  1. Apple, which "holds at least $246 billion offshore, a sum greater than any other company's offshore cash pile," would owe $76.7 billion in U.S. taxes if this profit was not overseas;
  2. Citigroup, which stashes $47 billion overseas, would owe $13.1 billion in U.S taxes; and
  3. Nike, which holds $12.2 billion offshore, would owe $4.1 billion in U.S. taxes.
These corporations are the real "Benefit Cheats" and “Welfare Queens”. We are at the mercy of mega-corporations. This is just one example.

Fact of the Day

According to the New York Times, the number of Americans killed on battlefields in all wars in history is 1,396,733 

While the number killed by firearms in the US since 1968 is a jaw-dropping 1,516,863.

Most of those firearms deaths are people shooting themselves.

Ignoring modern slavery

The majority of Britain's biggest firms have taken a "tick box" approach to a landmark anti-slavery law, with half providing "no meaningful information" about their actions to stamp out slavery in their supply chains, a survey said. 

Under Britain's 2015 Modern Slavery Act, all businesses with a turnover of more than 36 million pounds ($48 million) must produce an annual statement outlining actions they have taken to combat slavery in their supply chains. The 2015 law was passed in response to revelations that slave labour is being used to produce everything from T-shirts to mobile phones for global consumption.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) only gave 11 out of 100 companies a score of six or more out of 10 for the quality of actions they reported in their modern slavery statement in the six areas suggested by the Act. These include statements on companies' policies in relation to slavery, due diligence in supply chains and staff training. The survey found that 43 companies did not meet the Act's requirement of posting a statement on their website which had been approved by the board and signed by a director.

Police in Britain are ramping up efforts to investigate cases of modern slavery, yet the true scale of the crime is hugely underestimated, Kevin Hyland, the UK's anti-slavery chief said. He was appointed in 2014 as part of Britain's  Modern Slavery Act, called in his second annual report for greater support for slavery victims, and urged businesses to do more to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour. At least 13,000 people are estimated by the government to be victims of modern slavery - from sexual exploitation to domestic servitude - but police say the figure is the tip of the iceberg.

The report called for a complete reform of the system, including immediate support for victims to stop re-trafficking, training for staff to improve identification of victims, and a focus on long-term care to ensure they can rebuild their lives. "The safety of victims is paramount ... their protection is non-negotiable," Hyland said. "Policies and processes mean nothing if they do not keep the victim at the centre."

Anti-Slavery International welcomed Hyland's decision to put the care and protection of victims at the heart of his report. Yet the organisation was disappointed by the omission of foreign domestic workers, its programme manager for the UK and Europe, Klara Skrivankova, said. "One area that should be improved ... is the situation of overseas domestic workers, whose visa arrangements make their status dependent on their employers, and therefore making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse." 

 Electric vehicles are often labelled the "green cars" of the future but rising demand for the raw materials needed to get them on the road could increase the risk of slavery in their production, according to a risk analysis report. British risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft said electric vehicle makers would need to be careful as they cast a wider net to source raw materials ranging from rubber to aluminium and mica needed for the 30,000 or so components in each car. 
"Increased exposure to human rights abuses, environmental degradation and less-than-savoury governments is, therefore, going to be inevitable as the industry's growth accelerates," Maplecroft researcher Stefan Sabo-Walsh said. Sabo-Walsh said businesses would seek new source countries with reserves of key materials such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, the Philippines and South Africa.

In some countries it was hard to trace if their raw materials came from legal, commercial mines or from illegal smallholder mines where forced and child labour are rife. The risks associated with lithium-ion batteries were of particular concern. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the leading global producer of cobalt used in these batteries, but has faced global criticism for human rights abuses. UNICEF estimates 40,000 children work in the warn-torn central African nation's cobalt mines in dire conditions.

"To maintain their clean, green image, they will need to ensure every individual component required for the manufacture of their vehicles is ethically sourced and as untarnished as a new vehicle rolling off the production line," Sabo-Walsh said.

Quote of the Day

 "Among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression," Audre Lorde, 1983

The Inequality of Birth Control

Countless women and girls worldwide are denied a say in decisions about sex and childbirth, leaving them at risk of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.  At least 214 million women in developing nations cannot get access to contraceptives - resulting in 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions each year, says UNFPA. A failure to give the world's poorest women control over their bodies could widen inequality in developing countries and thwart progress towards global goals aimed at ending poverty by 2030, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

Access to birth control allows women to delay and space births, reducing mother and child deaths, boosts economies by freeing up women to work, and leads to smaller families with parents able to spend more on children's health and education. Yet many of the world's poorest women - particularly the youngest, least educated and those living in rural areas - are missing out because such services are too few, too costly, or frowned upon by their families and communities, experts say. This can widen the gender gap, reinforce inequality between the poorest and richest, and ultimately weaken economies, UNFPA said in its annual flagship 'State of World Population' report.

"Inequality today is not only about the haves and have nots ... it is increasingly about the cans and cannots," UNFPA's executive director, Natalia Kanem, said in a statement. "Poor women who lack the means to make their own decisions about family size or who are in poor health because of inadequate reproductive health care dominate the ranks of the cannots," she said ahead of the launch of the report in London.

The report comes at a time when the United States, one of UNFPA's top donors, having said in April it would stop funding the agency. The United States contributed $69 million in 2016. In one of his first actions as president, Trump reinstated a policy known by critics as the "global gag" rule, which withholds U.S. funding for international groups that perform abortions or tell women about legal options to do so.
 Kanem observed,"There is nothing more unfair than having a woman or girl, and her desires, relegated to the bottom of the heap."

Other international donors vowed to help the fill the funding gap at a summit on family planning in July, pledging $207 million. Yet UNFPA says it still needs an extra $700 million by 2020. Kanem said she feared this gap would hinder UNFPA's ability to deliver services to those most in need - mainly rural women.  The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative aims to give 120 million more women worldwide access to birth control. Universal access to reproductive health services would lead to economic benefits of $430 billion a year, experts say. 

"When people talk about inequality, they often think about money and wealth ... but economic inequality is just the tip of the equality iceberg," said Richard Kollodge, senior editor of the UNFPA report. "A new perspective which focuses on sexual and reproductive rights can help level the playing field," 

Centre Court for Bangladeshi Workers

The Bangladesh Accord was signed in 2013 after the Rana Plaza disaster when more than 1,100 people were killed in the collapse of the building complex, as an independent, legally-binding agreement between global brands and trade unions to establish a fire and building safety programme for workers in the textile industry.

Trade unions hailed a landmark ruling allowing complaints to proceed against two global fashion brands for allegedly violating an agreement. Two cases will be the first that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague judges under the accord.

"For any brand that isn't in compliance, this decision sends a message that they cannot shirk their responsibilities to worker safety," said Jenny Holdcroft of IndustriALL Global Union, one of two unions federations to lodge the complaints.

"This decision is a win for worker safety and for accountability in Bangladesh's garment industry," said Christy Hoffman, deputy secretary general of the UNI Global Union. "The legally-binding nature of the Accord is a central pillar of its effectiveness."

The complaints allege that the two brands failed to compel their suppliers to improve their facilities within the mandatory deadlines, and did not help them to cover the costs to do so. The names of the two fashion brands accused must remain confidential, according to the PCA.

Bangladesh, which ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to Western countries, relies on apparel for more than 80 percent of its exports and about 4 million jobs. Under the accord, more than 118,500 fire, electrical and structural hazards have been identified at 1,800 factories which supply at least 200 brands.

The Rana Plaza disaster prompted fashion retailers to work more closely together to protect workers and ensure the safety of buildings in the South Asian nation, and legislation was introduced to ensure greater supply-chain transparency. Yet campaigners say the progress by retailers in fixing problems in the supply chain has been slow - with long hours, low pay, poor safety standards and not being allowed to form trade unions common complaints from garment workers.

The Changing of the Red Guard


The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) gets underway.

The constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) lays emphasis on the principle of "collective leadership," whereby senior officials of the party take decisions collectively. In practice, this collective consists of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The Standing Committee represents the apex of political power in China.  In CPC's internal language, this collective is currently the "party central office with comrade Xi Jinping at its core." But since the start of the year, the word doing the rounds in the party has been only "Xi core," without any mention of the party central office. China's official Xinhua news agency recently reported that the party's constitution could be changed at the upcoming congress. It is speculated that the principle of collective leadership could be scrapped to allow Xi to become chairman of the CPC.
There has even been a change in the way Chinese soldiers greet Xi. When the Chinese leader visited a People's Liberations Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong in June and then on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA in July, troops broke with a tradition dating back over 30 years to offer a more personalized welcome to Xi. Instead of shouting "Greetings, commander," as would be the usual case at official inspections, PLA troops roared "Greetings, chairman," referring to Xi's position as head of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). While Xi is chairman of the CMC, the soldiers' greeting could also point to his potential new role as chairman of the CPC. From 1945 to the 12th CPC congress in 1982, the party constitution stipulated the position of a "Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China." As party chairman, Xi would no longer be the "first among equals." Instead, he would have even more authority in the seven-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau.
Any move by Xi to install himself as chairman could fail due to opposition from sections of the CPC, especially from the older generation. Still, there are other ways for Xi to tighten his grip on power in the long run. This could be done, for instance, by reducing the number of seats on the Standing Committee from the current seven to five. It is likely that five of the seven members currently serving on the committee will have to retire at the convention for reasons of age. And up to 12 of the wider Politburo's 25 seats, as well as nearly half of the spots on the 205-member Central Committee, are also up for grabs. This gives Xi the opportunity to pack these bodies with his loyalists and augment his power. Some of the top favorites up for promotion to the Standing Committee are relatively young and could, therefore, remain in their posts beyond the next congress in 2022.
"Xi will install his loyalists and trusted allies in the politburo even if they are not high-ranking party officials," China expert Zhang Lifan told DW, adding that the "decisions in this respect have been taken.”
 54-year-old Hu Chunhua, party secretary of the economically strong southern province of Guangdong and thus automatically a member of the Politburo. He has experience managing unrest-prone regions like Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
Li Shulei, 53, is another official expected to be promoted. Li was Xi's speechwriter when the latter served as head of the elite Central Party School that trains the CCP's cadres. Li is a major ally of Xi in his anti-corruption campaign, which has ousted over 250 senior officials from the CPC and the military as well as placed up to two million lower-level officials under investigation.
 57-year-old Chen Miner, who has been party secretary of the central city of Chongqing since July.
 69-year-old Wang Qishan, Xi's anticorruption tzar who chairs the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. In this capacity, he oversaw, among other things, the proceedings against former senior officials like Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai, who were ousted from the party and jailed for life following conviction on corruption and other charges. Although the rule book says Wang will have to leave, it is possible that Xi would find a spot in the highest political body for his loyal ally and protect him from the numerous enemies he has made through his anti-corruption work. Some even speculate that Wang could get the post of premier if he advances from number 6 to 2 in the hierarchy on the Standing Committee.