Category Archives: Exports
Was the meeting of UN’s Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems cancelled to delay action affecting UK and US investment?
“Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is—practically if not legally—feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”
Today (Aug. 21), Quartz reports that in a second open letter a group of specialists from 26 nations, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, as well as other leaders in robotics and artificial-intelligence companies, called for the United Nations to ban the development and use of autonomous weapons.
In recent years Musk has repeatedly warned against the dangers of AI, donating millions to fund research that ensures artificial intelligence will be used for good, not evil. He joined other tech luminaries in establishing OpenAI, a nonprofit with the same goal in mind and part of his donation went to create the Future of Life Institute.
“As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm. We warmly welcome the decision of the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. Many of our researchers and engineers are eager to offer technical advice to your deliberations . . .
“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
The first meeting for the UN’s recently established Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems is now planned for November. It was to be held today, but was cancelled, the letter notes, “due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the UN.”
Critics have argued for years that UN action on autonomous weapons is taking too long.
The UK and the US have increased investment on robotic and autonomous systems by committing to a joint programme (announced by UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne and US Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall, right).
Observers say the UK and US are seeking to protect their heavy investment in these technologies – some directly harmful and others servicing military operations – by ‘watering down’ an agreement so that it only includes emerging technology, meaning that any weapons put into practice while discussions continue are beyond the reach of a ban.
Paul Simons adds to many ‘wakeup calls’ – writing about high temperatures, drought and wildfires.
May and June were also phenomenally hot across Portugal, Italy, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.
Heat and drought have helped to fuel wildfires in Spain and Italy, and wildfires near the seaside resort of Calampiso in Sicily forced the evacuation by boat of about 700 tourists on Wednesday night. In Greece the heatwave led the culture ministry to close archaeological sites around the country, including the Acropolis in Athens.
Together with a long-running drought, the heat has ravaged much of southern Spain, leading to a devastated wheat and barley harvest. If the arid conditions continue, there are also fears for the olive, walnut, almond and grape harvests and the wellbeing of livestock. Rainfall has been desperately low this year, but the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for five years.
Drought threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops. Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70%. While the EU is collectively a major wheat exporter, Spain and Italy both rely on imports from countries including France, Britain and Ukraine.
Deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia – yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change
The Guardian adds to the news from Europe: India recorded its hottest ever day in 2016 when the temperature in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, hit 51C. Another study led by Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, linked the impact of climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers.
The analysis, published in the journal PNAS, assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, measured as the “wet bulb temperature” (WBT). Once this reaches 35C, the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade will die within six hours.
Prof Chris Huntingford, at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “If given just one word to describe climate change, then ‘unfairness’ would be a good candidate. Raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are expected to cause deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia. Yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change.”
Guardian journalists comment sarcastically, “But fear not: by 2040, no new diesel or petrol vehicles will be sold in the UK
This, apparently, is the appropriate timetable for responding to what a parliamentary committee calls a “public health emergency”. A child born today will be 23 by the time this policy matures – by then the damage to the development of her lungs and brain will have been done”.
According to Professor Eltahir’s study, if emissions are reduced roughly in line with the global Paris climate change agreement there would be no 35C WBT heatwaves and the population affected by the 31C WBT events would fall from 75% to 55%. About 15% are exposed today.
A National Geographic article says most people agree that to curb global warming a variety of measures need to be taken. On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s “carbon footprint”—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere.
At present, lorries shifting identical goods in opposite directions pass each other on 2,000-mile journeys. Competing parcel companies ply the same routes, in largely empty vans – a theme explored by MP Caroline Lucas and Colin Hines in 2003 – the Great Trade Swap.
It describes airports as deadly too – yet government and opposition alike are ‘apparently hell-bent’ on expanding Heathrow, exploring airport expansion projects elsewhere and seeking post-Brexit trade deals with distant countries.
To reduce the risk of ever more extreme weather, we must reduce the amount of fossil fuel we are burning – and the measures taken will have other desirable consequences as the following cartoon shows:
Parliament must listen to its Committee on Climate Change – chairman John Gummer. As the East Anglian Times reported in June, its annual progress report calls for “urgent” plans to meet legal targets for carbon cuts by 2032 as greenhouse gases from transport and buildings continue to rise.
The committee advocates action to bridge the gap between existing policies and what is needed to achieve required emissions reductions by the mid-2020s – boosting electric vehicles and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the heating of homes to help to meet UK climate targets.
American blue collar workers are angry (The Times); Martin Wolf adds a growing and widespread sense that ‘elites are corrupt, complacent and incompetent’
Today the Times interprets unusual polling results in the United States. Like many American media commentators, it predicts that “blue-collar workers who are worried about the effects of globalisation on American jobs promise to shape the November election”.
In the Financial Times, analyst/economist Martin Wolf expresses a belief that the ‘native working class’ are seduced by the siren song of politicians who combine the nativism of the hard right, the statism of the hard left and the authoritarianism of both.
’A plague on both your houses’?
He writes: “The projects of the rightwing elite have long been low marginal tax rates, liberal immigration, globalisation, curbs on costly “entitlement programmes”, deregulated labour markets and maximisation of shareholder value. The projects of the leftwing elite have been liberal immigration (again), multiculturalism, secularism, diversity, choice on abortion, and racial and gender equality . . . As a recent OECD note points out, inequality has risen substantially in most of its members in recent decades. The top 1% have enjoyed particularly large increases in shares of total pre-tax income”.
David Cameron responds to church leaders’ attacks by saying that the reforms are part of a moral mission
Wolf continues: “In the process, elites have become detached from domestic loyalties and concerns, forming instead a global super-elite. It is not hard to see why ordinary people, notably native-born men, are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused. After the financial crisis and slow recovery in standards of living, they see elites as incompetent and predatory. The surprise is not that many are angry but that so many are not”.
Wolf sees the electorate turning to ‘outsiders’ to clean up the system in Britain, the US and many European countries and advises ‘the centre’ how to respond:
- People need to feel their concerns will be taken into account, that they and their children enjoy the prospect of a better life and that they will continue to have a measure of economic security.
- They need once again to trust the competence and decency of economic and political elites.
- Disruptive mass immigration needs to be brought under control; refugees must now be the priority.
- There must be a fundamental questioning of its austerity-oriented macroeconomic doctrines: real aggregate demand is substantially lower than in early 2008.
- The financial sector needs to be curbed. It is ever clearer that the vast expansion of financial activity has not brought commensurate improvements in economic performance. But it has facilitated an immense transfer of wealth.
- Taxation must be made fairer. Owners of capital, the most successful managers of capital and some dominant companies enjoy remarkably lightly taxed gains.
- The doctrine of shareholder primacy needs to be challenged. With their risks capped, their control rights should be practically curbed in favour of those more exposed to the risks in the company, such as long-serving employees.
- And, finally, the role of money in politics needs to be securely contained.
Wolf concludes pragmatically: “western polities are subject to increasing stresses. Large numbers of the people feel disrespected and dispossessed. This can no longer be ignored”.
Self interest rules OK! The threat to the status quo is paramount – the ethical dimension totally ignored.
Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike against Yemen in March. The Obama administration is supporting the Saudi-led air war with intelligence, air refueling operations and expediting weapons deliveries and other crucial support.
Today a Moseley reader draws our attention to the news reported by the Guardian that – eager to follow suit – David Cameron has extolled the ‘defence’ products made by BAE Systems and assured the company that every effort would be made by the UK government to support the selling of their equipment to Saudi Arabia, Oman and other countries.
According to a BBC report, Houthis – aka Shiite Muslim rebels – are seeking change from weak governance, corruption, resource depletion and poor infrastructure, unemployment, high food prices, limited social services and large-scale displacement.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of the capital, Sana’a, to voice their anger at the Saudi invasion.
Death and destruction: the fruits of Saudi, UK, USA labour
“If by some chance if you need food in another five hours then it’s time to implement legislation on farm gate prices, demanding a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked as a safety net at the farm gate, like that being proposed by the non-optional blue print for rural Northern Ireland agriculture”.
Concern is expressed at the announcement that the Larry Goodman owned ABP Group BP Food Group, headquartered in Ardee, Co Louth, but owned by way of a complex network of companies that include Parlesse and companies in Jersey, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, is about to take a 50% investment in Slaney Meats Southern Ireland, the other half owned by Linden Foods NI This is of grave concern to beef and sheep farmers in southern Ireland and across the UK.
The current take over, subject to the southern Ireland competition authority approval will, accordingly to Irish Cattle and Sheep Association, see the ABP Group having control of some 28% of beef processing in Ireland and 40% of sheep processing.
In short the deal will further increase the all-powerful dominant position of a small number of players in the meat processing sector in Ireland while beef and sheep farmers’ position trying to achieve a fair price will be further weakened.
In a press release, Farmers For Action UK NI’s co-ordinator William Taylor says, ‘beef and sheep farmers across UK and Ireland are at a crossroads of financial survival.’ It appears that as large food processors, large food retailers and large food wholesalers expand relentlessly, farmers are being increasingly forced to reduce their farm investments and activities due to reducing margins.
This will be a hot topic in the run up to the Northern Ireland’s local 2016 election where NI could be set to create prosperity, not only in rural NI but across the province, the Roosevelt way.
The living history site enlightened the writer. President Roosevelt’s advisors believed that the economic depression had been caused by an economic slowdown in farming and much of the New Deal was intended to help farmers.
One provision was the Food Security Administration which loaned money to tenant farmers (renters) at low interest rates. The FSA also built model cooperative farmsteads for farmers who had been forced to receive relief (now known as “welfare”). The loan program was the main effort of the agency and thousands of tenant farmers were able to stay on the land because of them. Many were able to earn enough ahead to actually buy their farms outright.
Another school history site added that the New Deal aimed to deliver relief, recovery, and reform—the so-called “3 Rs” and creating “an activist state committed to providing individual citizens with a measure of security against the unpredictable turns of the market”.
The Roosevelt approach is perceived by FFA UK NI and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) as the only way for farmers not only to stay in business but to flourish by getting a fair deal against the might of the corporates.
William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator asks if anyone has an alternative not only on beef and sheep but across the staples. If so, contact him: 56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU; Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email email@example.com
The World Climate Change Conference in Paris is under way, attended by over 150 countries. In a message received today, from William Taylor, co-ordinator of Farmers for Action, Northern Ireland (second left, meeting on farmgate prices) writes:
According to Sir David Attenborough, Barack Obama and others there is still time to fix this, but only just and we must act now for the sake of our children and future generations!
Now we have the corporates, food wholesalers, retailers and processors in a corner.
How can they mention the word ‘green’ yet import New Zealand lamb during 2015 when there is plenty already here, purely for profit and to play off New Zealand farmers against UK farmers and vice versa. (Ed: see MP Caroline Lucas’: Stopping the great food swap: Relocalising Europe’s food supply).
How can they import beef even from Poland when there is plenty here already and so the list goes on – but no longer! FFA intend to hold the corporates and Westminster Government to account on their carbon foot print at every turn by exposing their green credentials for the pharisees that they currently are.
Furthermore, FFA would warn the Government about pointing the finger at livestock methane emissions (which are being improved on) which disperse in 20 years – while the corporate food world plays fast and loose with carbon footprints and the resulting CO2 emissions that take 200 years to disperse, purely for profit, with the Government’s blessing, while UK farmers go broke.
FFA are calling for the Westminster Government to introduce the pre-EU Isle of Man system, where regional produce, which must come from the nearest source, must all be used first and foremost before any is imported.
US cannot turn up at a climate change conference in Paris in full support and then agree to have the same food – eg beef – sailing to the US whilst another ship sails to the UK with the same cargo. This is but one example of the double standards of the UK Government and Europe on climate change that FFA are not prepared to tolerate!
Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624
Following on the commentary on our British values encapsulated on Facebook, we found more extensive contributions about British values from six people:
1. Taken over by greedy merchants so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet (endpiece from Christine Parkinson’s first book, 2002)
She continues “I mainly refer to the people who trade in all kinds of goods for their own benefit, regardless of the effect this has on the stability of the world, its ecosystems, its mineral and animal resources, its local economies and cultural traditions . . . the capture and international trade in rare species, ivory, fur, immature primates etc; the development of animal foodstuffs from animal carcases (creating cannibalism in ruminant species and diseases like BSE and CJD); the holding of developing countries to ransom by powerful banks, through exploitative usury; a similar use of oil (itself a dangerous pollutant) by oil-producing countries; the development of powerful, polluting and dangerous motor vehicles for their owner’s enjoyment; the development of genetically-modified foods for commercial purposes; the unnecessary transport of foods across continents, adding to the pollution and global warming; currency speculation – an international casino in which unscrupulous traders destroy the economies of whole nations; multi-national trading by powerful companies, which destroys local cultures and gains profits by avoiding national controls; the siting of polluting factories close to human populations. The list could go on….
The mantra of freedom and the market economy:
There is a belief in freedom – but freedom for its own sake, without responsibility, without compassion . . . “Politicians promote a market economy as if it were a good thing but I saw that it was at the root of the cycle of destruction. Left without controls, it leads to competition and materialism, acquisitiveness spreading like a cancer, greed, the exploitation of one group, nation, or species by another, the concomitant resentment triggering jealousy and wars, with the end result being the ultimate destruction of our beautiful world by selfish people. Rather than assessing needs to develop standards, values and strategies, the vagaries of the market determine priorities and direction, so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet…..”
2. We comfortably accept gross inequality: says India’s Mari Marcel-Thekaekara (1999)
“We were hit by the reality of the poverty surrounding us in Glasgow: “Most of the men in Easterhouse hadn’t had a job in 20 years. They were dispirited, depressed, often alcoholic. Their self esteem had gone. Emotionally and mentally they were far worse off than the poor where we worked in India, even though the trappings of poverty were less stark. We’d fallen into the trap of looking at poverty only from the point of view of material benefits. The Easterhouse people looked better-off than the Asian poor, but in reality they suffered as much social deprivation. The Easterhouse men who’d been jobless for twenty years felt far more helpless than people in India who scrabbled in garbage heaps to sell scrap metal, paper and rags to feed their children. Both groups were at the bottom of society”.
3. We still see the lordly disdain and defensive disapproval of an upper and middle-class generation: prosperous without much effort: Libby Purves – The Times, Comment: 7.9.99 (no link available):
“Many of these good little 1950s boys and girls in Clarks sandals appear to have grown up into the very people who
- get rich by feeding pornographic violence (“ironic” and otherwise) to modern children,
- who created the step-parent and weekend~access culture,
- who use computer games and junk television as a babysitter
- and who gaily abandoned both family meals and any, attempt to police their adolescents’ social lives.
“Moral decline” is intimately tied up with economic decline and blocked opportunities. The under-class culture of surly disaffection is mirrored by the lordly disdain and defensive disapproval of a middle-class generation that are prosperous without much effort. Harsh cries of “On your bike! To the job centre! Abort that baby immediately! Go to prison!” will not do the trick. It will take investment (but the Exchequer is awash with money, compared with recent decades). It will take infrastructure, understanding, doggedness. Unlike the cynics, I do not mind Mr Blair talking morality and vision and the big idea. I just long to see him do something about it”.
4. We are increasingly “politically correct, image-led, crony-run, promptly obsolescent, fragmented, pseudo-democratic, media-conscious, user-friendly corporately sponsored, celebrity-endorsed and of little consequence”: Graham Lane, Independent on Sunday: 16.1.00:
“The Dome is clearly the perfect metaphor for our age”: technology-driven, superficially educated, culturally hybrid (somewhere between shopping mall and theme park), designer-green, politically correct, image-led, crony-run, promptly obsolescent, fragmented, pseudo-democratic, media-conscious, user-friendly corporately sponsored, celebrity-endorsed and of little consequence”.
5. We have, in general, lost the principles of chivalry, self-restraint, service to others: Dr Peter Mullen
“A Spectator debate was held in 2007, the motion being “We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of Western values”. “But what are these values?” asks Dr Peter Mullen (scroll down to his letter). His answer: “Lowbrow hedonism, sex & shopping, abortion on demand – in fact as a means of contraception, a lewd and trivial entertainments industry and a vile popular culture. What we are seeing is not a society that differs a morally serious challenge to militant Islam, but one which has lost its nerve and the principle of chivalry, self-restraint, service to others and examination of one’s own conscience”.
He asks: “Who does Whitehall serve?”
6. The political-corporate “buddy system”: an answer from the FT’s Elizabeth Rigby, 2011
“Vince Cable, business secretary, is to champion the interests of Britain’s oil and gas sector overseas as part of a push within government to boost the UK’s export market as well as attracting inward investment. Lord Green, the trade minister, has been working for months on plans to pair ministers with dozens of top companies in the UK, as he seeks to inject more commercial prowess into Whitehall. Under the scheme, unveiled in February, David Willetts, the universities and science minister, will be looking after life science companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and AstraZeneca. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, will be working with the information and technology sector, while Mark Prisk, the enterprise minister, will be the point person in Whitehall for the car industry.
“The government first flagged that it would be pairing top exporters with ministers in February when Lord Green and Mr Cable unveiled a white paper aimed at enlarging Britain’s export markets. “Ministers will play an active role in developing and sustaining winning relationships with investors, as well as the UK’s top exporters,” said the UK Trade and Investment strategy paper. “These customers will be able to call on expertise and resources across government to ensure they receive a seamless ‘one-stop’ service”.
This “buddy system” is just one of a number of measures the government is putting in place to increase exports.
And only now, with the advent of Jeremy Corbyn, do we see any hope of a better future.
Media 51: the New Statesman was being economical with the facts – of course a rattled David Cameron in PMQs ‘dialled up the abuse’
George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman, appears to be another nominal socialist who cannot accept the democratically elected Labour leader who has such an enthusiastic cross-party following in the country.
New to Mr Eaton’s work, the writer visited the site and saw the general Corbyn-undermining tenor of his articles, post election. How he would dislike the admiration expressed by South Korean speakers and young Brits in a South Korean film (http://newstapa.org/29509) recently circulated.
Today he exults: “Labour right triumphs in PLP elections of backbench committee chairs – many of them ‘part of the problem, rather than part of the solution’. And yesterday Eaton reported that at this week’s PMQs session, Cameron’s patience ran out – accompanied by jeering Tory MPs.
Eaton attributed the PM’s tone to ‘contempt for Corbyn’ but social media – Roslyn Cook’s tweet – filled in the very significant missing link: the statement which will be seen as a major threat to arms trade, party funding and a loss of face for the PM on the international ‘stage’
Cameron was deeply riled by the Labour Leader’s statement issued shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions and lost the respectful tone assumed in earlier sessions. Jeremy Corbyn:
“David Cameron’s invitation to Britain today of the Egyptian president and coup leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi shows contempt for human and democratic rights and threatens, rather than protects, Britain’s national security.
“Support for dialogue and negotiated conflict resolution in the Middle East is vital to us all. But to welcome and bolster with military support the coup leader who overthrew a democratically elected president in 2013 and has presided over the killing and jailing of many thousands since makes a mockery of government claims to be promoting peace and justice in the region.
“Support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has been a key factor fuelling the spread of terrorism. Rather than rolling out the red carpet to President Sisi, the Prime Minister should suspend arms exports to Egypt until democratic and civil rights are restored.”
Britain’s shame: the UK arms industry is a major supplier of weapons and other military equipment and $24bn has been invested in the Egyptian economy by British businesses in the past five years – British-based companies such as BP and Vodafone being among the biggest players in the Egyptian economy.