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Focus on cuts – 5: the poorest targetted

A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.

He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.

Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.

The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.

David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.

The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.

For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?

Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.

 

 

 

 

Broken Britain – 1

The corporate world continues its vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles. Will increasingly media-sceptical people who seek the common good be affected by them?

In brief, the reference is to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. Examples of the damaging political-corporate nexus are given here – a few of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade: Steve Beauchampé“A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”.

The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Reader Theresa drew our attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. This was when the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news.

Construction

Most construction entries related to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise, whether by Gazprom, OPEC, or a sovereign wealth fund. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”. The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors were already owned by foreign investors.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food supplies and compromising our food security. She sees big business seeking to make a fortune from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are both exploited. These ‘greedy giants’ are exploiting the poor across the world and putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers, their families and their communities. She adds that large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand.

Health-related

Government resistance to funding long-term out of work illness/disability benefits followed the publication of a monograph by the authors funded by America’s ‘corporate giant’ Unum Provident Insurance which influenced the policy of successive governments. After various freedom of information requests, the DWP published the mortality figures of the claimants who had died in 11 months in 2011 whilst claiming Employment and Support Allowance, with 10,600 people dying in total and 1300 people dying after being removed from the guaranteed monthly benefit, placed into the work related activity group regardless of diagnosis, forced to prepare for work and then died trying. Following the public outrage once the figures were published, the DWP have consistently refused to publish updated death totals. Information touched on in this 2015 article has been incorporated into a ResearchGate report identifying the influence of Unum Provident over successive UK governments since 1992, the influence of a former government Chief Medical Officer and the use of the Work Capability Assessments conducted by the private sector – described as state crime by proxy, justified as welfare reform.

Air pollution

The powerful transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. They emit some common air pollutants that have serious effects on human health and the environment. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma.

Victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door 

  • A recent whistleblower report records that Dr Raj Mattu is one of very few to be vindicated and compensated after years of suffering. The government does not implement its own allegedly strengthened whistleblower legislation to protect those who make ‘disclosures in the public interest’.
  • This media article relates to the mis-reporting of the Obama-Corbyn meeting: there are 57 others on this site.
  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances: Serco and G4S were bidding for a MoD £400m 10-year deal, though they had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on electronic monitoring contracts. Another contender, Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government had contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel. Paul Gosling describes how the Big Four accountancy firms have PFI ‘under their thumbs’ and gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

Steve Beauchampé asks if the barrage of criticism apparently aimed at Jeremy Corbyn is more about undermining the politics he stands for which are probably less far to the left than those of many in the current government are to the right. Most political commentators and opponents aren’t worried that Labour will win a General Election under him, but they are alarmed that the movement his leadership has created might one day lead to an electable left winger.

 

 

 

 

Corporate/political interests threatened by the public support for Corbyn’s caring policies

The corporate world continues to make vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader, whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles.

corbyn a threat graphic

Brief reference will be made to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. One reflection on each sector will be given here – of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade

Steve Beauchampé: “A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”. The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Theresa drew attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. At the time, the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news. The world’s largest manufacturer of low-cost vaccines said that British taxpayers are paying for excessive profits earned by big Western drugs companies.

Construction

Most construction entries relate to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors are already owned by foreign investors. In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food and compromising food security. She sees big business making fortunes from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are exploited, also putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers and their families. Large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand. She ends, “They do this simply because they have the power to do so”.

Pollution

Government does not act on this, appearing to prioritise the interests of the corporate world. The influential transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air  pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. Last November a report found that waste incineration facilities and cement plants across Europe, had seriously breached emission limits. Intensive agriculture’s lavish use of insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers has also released harmful chemicals into the air, in some cases causing water pollution. Manufacturing industries and petroleum refineries produce carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, organic compounds and chemicals which pollute the air. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma. The burden of particulate air pollution in the UK in 2008 was estimated to cause nearly 29,000 deaths. DEFRA’s report for 2013, however, does not refer to health impacts, though admitting serious levels of air pollution.

Some features of the corporate-political nexus summarised: victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door

  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances. Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence. Paul Gosling gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

As Steve Beauchampé reports (link to follow), there is a coterie of arch-Blairite, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs who never accepted the decisive democratic mandate Corbyn secured last autumn:

JC large rally

“Mann’s very public intervention can be interpreted as a calculated move to undermine the party’s electoral chances this Thursday . . .

“Realising that they have at best 4-5 months to try to oust him before reforms anticipated at this September’s party conference transfer crucial powers from the party hierarchy into the hands of members, the forthcoming elections will be used by Corbyn’s adversaries as an excuse to try and replace him”.

Will increasingly media-sceptical people – who support Corbyn because they seek the common good – hold firm?

 

 

Media 45: Corbyn’s cabinet? The BBC placates its political masters – nevertheless support for the new shadow government grows

The BBC, whose very existence depends on government approval, is regularly criticised for supporting, by unbalanced reporting, the causes favoured by government. The interests of genetic modification, big pharma, supermarkets, the arms industry and large landowners are all upheld by state media and their gratitude crystallises in party funds from time to time.

The electorate – though they directly or indirectly pay for the institution – are badly served, as a preponderance of biased experts employed by the interests for which they witness, overbear the voices of truth.

Misleading implication: the truth is that these ten were never asked to serve – BBC, shame on you!

Instead of focussing on the new shadow cabinet, the BBC spends far more time saying that the very smooth Chuka Ummuna, Ms Creagh, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Chris Leslie, Jamie Reed, Emma Reynolds and Shabana Mahmood refused to serve.

The words of former BBC Radio 4 Today and Midweek presenter, Libby Purves, are being broadcast in social media:

times shot2 libby purves

The BBC and mainstream press – under the guise of finding politics more interesting – reflect their political master’s apprehension and so are visibly and almost hysterically on the attack. Many readers have complained to the BBC over the years about biased reporting; this one confined herself to email:

“The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn have reminded us how terrible our media is – not surprising when you look at the handful of people who control the press & the subservient attitude the BBC takes to the current government. It’s in keeping with the scenario of ‘A very British Coup’ & extremely scary in my view”.

It is more subtle than Murdoch’s Times, which is currently selecting the old political correctness weapon: “Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of ‘male and pale’ allies for his shadow cabinet has caused dismay’, untrue: actually women are in the majority. The BBC then changes tack and criticises him for not giving them the most senior posts.

Were Rupert’s journalists seriously advocating that shadow ministers should be chosen on the grounds of sex and ethnicity, rather than ability and experience?

It is encouraging to see that so many members of the electorate are now more discerning, disregarding these media ploys and welcoming ‘this glorious antidote to Blair’.

15,500 new members have joined the party in the past 24 hours and more will be doing so.

US & UK: rising use of GM herbicides, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia, autism etc

Is it a coincidence, that – as the use of glyphosate rises – so does the incidence of Parkinson’s disease, senile dementia, childhood autism, prostate cancer and many other conditions?

Glyphosate was first marketed in 1976 and its use has greatly increased since 1995, when it was first used with genetically engineered crops. GE crops absorb glyphosate through direct application, and from the soil. It cannot be washed off, is found in rivers, streams, air, rain and food (according to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Note that most recording and research comes from American sources

glyph soy parkinsons graph

Graphs of death rates for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and senile dementia have been plotted against glyphosate applications to U.S. corn and soy crops. Dr Swanson notes that the correlations are quite strong. American deaths due to Alzheimer’s have been rising since 1980, but there was a sharp spike in 1999.

glyph soy senile demetia graphDr Swanson points out that correlation does not necessarily imply causation and there are now a host of other chemicals in our food and our environment.

glyph soy autism graphAutism data: U.S. Department of Education, Crop data: U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Britain: an increasing number of cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and MS – and glyphosate in rivers and drinking water

In a new review paper written by Dr. Rosemary Mason (MB, ChB, FRCA) – medical doctor and naturalist – and submitted to the Scottish Parliament, glyphosate is shown to destroy both human health and biodiversity. She has compiled information from a global network of independent scientists, toxicologists, beekeepers, Industry, environmentalists, governments and regulators, noting that:

“UK has an increasing number of cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and MS. We have just had our drinking water analysed in Germany and we have glyphosate in it and in our rivers! Wales, like Scotland has epidemics of type 2 diabetes, obesity and autism”.

This water testing was a private initiative – in Scotland the water is not tested – see a FOI response to Graham White.

Dr Mason says: “We asked the Environment Agency why the most used herbicide and the most used insecticide isn’t being measured in groundwater and they said it wasn’t necessary”.

Though the presence of glyphosate in other British waters is also not tested for/recorded, Monsanto has commissioned a report on removal methods by Swindon-based Water Research Centre: WRc Ref: UC7374/14690-0 July 2007: WRC General Report – Roundup.

Her paper can be downloaded here: Glyphosate – Destructor of Human Health and Biodiversity

Dr Mason notes that agrochemical corporations wield tremendous control over the British and American governments and influence the formulation of pesticide regulations – effectively controlling human health and biodiversity.  She presents a Cancer Research UK graph recording the incidence of prostate cancer in Britain; to the untutored eye the trajectory looks chillingly similar to the American graphs.

glyph soy prostate cancer graph

Lucrative symbiosis: agrochemicals damage, then Big Pharma treats

Rosemary Mason looks at one example of investment in the medical sector and political funding:

“Syngenta is one of several chemicals companies which market biotech seeds and pesticides; AstraZeneca, its parent company, manufactures six different anti-cancer drugs mainly aimed at breast and prostate cancer.

“AstraZeneca’s Oncology Website predicts: “Cancer claims over 7 million lives every year and the number continues to rise. Deaths are estimated to reach 12 million by 2030.”

“Michael Pragnell MA MBA, founder of Syngenta, was appointed a Trustee of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in March 2010 and Chairman in November 2010. CRUK is donating £450 million/year to the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences – see the relevant government website, page 9. #

Dr. Nancy Swanson received her Ph.D. in physics from The Florida State University and then worked as a staff scientist for the United States Navy. She  taught physics at Western Washington University and holds five U.S. patents. She is the author of over 30 scientific publications and two books on women in science. More detail here.

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Reverse this ‘monstrous folly’: control the pharmaceut­ical giants

Geoffrey Lean in the Telegraph notes some beneficial uses of chemicals, increasing harvests and alleviating pain.  

Chemical and biological substances are used in “crop protection chemicals” (pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, animal health products and vitamins. Speciality chemical products include electronic chemicals, industrial gases, adhesives and sealants as well as coatings, industrial and institutional cleaning chemicals, and catalysts. Consumer products include soaps, detergents, and cosmetics. 

1980s

In 1987, Dr Peter Mansfield noted the huge increase in chemical production sparked off after the Second World War, when peacetime uses were sought for stockpiles of nitrates and other chemical raw materials. His findings were presented in a book, co-written with Dr Jean Munro, Chemical Children’ and subtitled: ‘How to Protect Your Family from Harmful Pollutants’. 

Professor John Wargo wrote Our Children’s Toxic Legacy: How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides, published by Yale University Press in 1998. 

1990s 

In the ‘90s, colleagues at the Centre for Holistic Studies located then in Bandra, Mumbai [Journal Indranet], engaged a lawyer who specialised in environmental actions, to address the situation there, where even the industries that had registered chemicals had failed to give the vitally important details, including safe levels of usage, required by law. However this had to be discontinued as funds ran out – even the low fee needed by the lawyer could no longer be paid. 

2000+ 

Twenty years later the situation is still giving cause for concern. Lean estimates that there are some 100,000 chemicals in use, but that there is good information only on how safe – or otherwise –  are 15% of them: “It is a massively neglected environmental and public health issue”. 

But now, scientists, including Professor John Wargo, are warning of an unexpected side effect of this technology: “a change in the chemistry of the human body”. Many of these substances are now “embedded in our tissues and coursing through our veins” and there is damaging exposure in the work place, in food, in medicine, in cosmetics, in cleaning products and a range of consumer goods. 

Lean reminds us that tests for a hundred hazardous substances have revealed that children now are more contaminated than their parents or grandparents, due in part to increased pre-natal exposure, and that researchers have found potentially dangerous chemicals in all of the 14 basic foodstuffs they took from supermarket shelves, and in the air of every home they visited. 

In the Faroes Statement, issued on March 24, 2007, 200 scientists from five continents warned that exposure to common chemicals skewed the development of critical organs in foetuses and newborns, increasing their chances of developing diabetes, cancer, attention deficit disorders, thyroid damage, diminished fertility, and other conditions in exposures that may cause serious disease later in life, and which may also afflict their children and grandchildren.

The statement was presented a month later at the International Conference on Fetal Programming and Developmental Toxicity at Torshavn, Faroe Islands, which was attended by more than 200 biologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, nutrion researchers, and pediatricians. To read it click here

In 2010 Professor Wargo’s award-winning book, Green Intelligence: Creating Environments that Protect Human Health, was published by Yale Press. The book is closely associated with the lecture topics presented in the Open Yale Course, Environmental Politics and Law. 

Lean ends: “Year after year, the change in the chemistry of our bodies will continue to intensify. Is it too much to hope that we will finally get to grips with it during our next orbit round the Sun?” 

However, as Dr Mansfield asserts: 

“The global pharmaceut­ical giants are now far more powerful than governments or even international economic communities, not least because they think decades ahead – politicians manage no more than a few years.” He concludes: 

“To allow our biological heritage and potential to be so completely usurped by a half-science sponsored by commercial interest was a monstrous folly, which must eventually be redeemed.”

STOP PRESS:  Today the government has announced a campaign to induce people to eat a healthier diet – which is already within their control – but is silent on the subject of these all-pervasive chemicals which are not.