Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Great Hunger Lottery

THE GREAT HUNGER LOTTERY. How Banking Speculation
Causes Food Crisis.
Report by World Development Movement

Take the highest stakes, riskiest economic behaviour ever devised, and marry it to the most fundamental basic need of humankind, and you have the subject of this report.

Over the past decade, the world’s most powerful financial institutions have developed ever more elaborate ways to package, re-package and trade a range of financial contracts known as derivatives. A derivative is not based on an exchange of tangible assets such as goods or money, but rather is a financial contract with a value linked to the expected future price movements of the underlying asset. Derivative contracts are traded on a growing number of underlying assets, from share prices, to mortgages, bonds, commodity prices, foreign exchange rates, and even index of prices.

Derivatives trading has been one of the most lucrative parts of the financial industry, but it is the increasingly complex, opaque and disconnected nature of these and similar products that ultimately triggered the collapse of the banks and the worst financial crisis in human history.

Of course, the financial crisis has been an economic disaster of seismic proportions for millions around the world, plunging many countries into recession causing millions to be thrown out of work, soaring public debts and cuts in vital public services.

But while betting on the value of sub-prime mortgages or foreign currency values undoubtedly leads to disastrous consequences, there is another area where the speculative behaviour of the world’s largest banks and hedge funds represents a threat to the very survival of people: food commodities.

In The great hunger lottery, World Development Movement has compiled extensive evidence establishing the role of food commodity derivatives in destabilising and driving up food prices around the world. This in turn, has led to food prices becoming unaffordable for low-income families around the world, particularly in developing countries highly reliant on food imports.

In the report we describe how the current situation came to pass, the risks of another speculation induced food crisis, and what specifically can be done by policymakers here in the UK as well as in the US and EU to tackle the problem.

But at its heart, The great hunger lottery carries a very straightforward message: allowing gambling on hunger in financial markets is dangerous, immoral and indefensible. And it needs to be stopped before any more people suffer to satisfy the greed of the banks.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Mine in the Dumpster

13.12.2011 - Humanjournalism

In Guatemala, dozens of people try to make a living in one of the worst jobs in the world. These people look for valuable objects in the foul waters that flow from the bottom of a 300 m deep cliff, located just a few blocks away from the Presidential Palace.

Dozens of people look for heavy metals in the foul waters at the bottom of Guatemala City’s biggest dumpster, known as “the mine”. Hundreds of informal workers dig every day through the filth looking for valuable objects to sell. The group is known as “the miners” and they expose themselves to the extreme risk of landslides. But many of them make about 150 Quetzals ($20) a day, almost double the country’s minimum wage. 

At the bottom of this cliff sits the junction of unique circumstances: on one side there is the boundary of the city’s general dumpster, with mountains of waste that never stop to grow, overflow, tumble down and advance gaining space.

On the other, a tunnel exit that spews out a great flow of water from the city’s sewer system. 

Monday, 26 December 2011

Gandhi Speaks of Christmas...

Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth: God for Christians, a prophet for other religions, and a reference of goodness and wisdom for humanity.

Gandhi Speaks of Christmas...

... Jesus preached a new life. He called men to repentance... For though we (sing), "All glory to God on High and on the earth be peace," there seems to be today neither glory to God nor peace on earth. As long as it remains a hunger still unsatisfied...

When, therefore, one wishes "A Happy Christmas" without the meaning behind it, it becomes nothing more than an empty formula. And unless one wishes for peace for all life, one cannot wish for peace for oneself. It is a self-evident axiom, like the axioms of Euclid, that one cannot have peace unless there is in one an intense longing for peace all around.

And so, as the miraculous birth is an eternal event, so is the Cross an eternal event in this stormy life. Therefore, we dare not think of birth without death on the cross. Living Christ means a living Cross, without it life is a living death. Jesus lived and died in vain if he did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal Law of Love.

It is my firm opinion that (the West) today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity... It is really worshipping Mammon. 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.' Thus really spoke Jesus Christ. Here you have an eternal rule of life...

Christ died on the Cross with a crown of thorns on his head defying the might of a whole empire. The message of Jesus, as I understand it, is contained in his Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole. This teaching was non-retaliation, or non-resistance to evil.

The virtues of mercy, non-violence, love and truth in any man can be truly tested only when they are pitted against ruthlessness, violence, hate and untruth... by devoting the season to a real moral stocktaking and emphasizing consecration to the service of mankind for which Jesus lived and died on the Cross.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Marches and Rallies Throughout Spain Against the Causes of Starvation, Unemployment and Child Slavery

Within the context of the 25th-year Campaign for Justice in North-South Relations, during the last two weekends, EL MOVIMIENTO CULTURAL CRISTIANO – Christian Cultural Movement, CAMINO JUVENIL SOLIDARIO  – Solidarity Youth Path, and SAIn Political Party held protest marches and rallies throughout Spain to denounce the causes of Starvation, Unemployment and Child Slavery

Some of the places where these marches took place were A Coruña, Albacete, Badajoz, Barcelona, Burgos, Córdoba, Granada, Gijón, Huelva, Jaén,  Alcalá de Henares, downtown Madrid, Getafe, Las Palmas, Málaga, Murcia, Oviedo, Pamplona, Santiago, Santander, Seville, Torrelavega, Úbeda, Valladolid, Villafranca, Zaragoza…  
These marches join the solidarity fights of the impoverished, who go into the streets to denounce they are hungry because they are plundered of their wealth, to denounce centuries of hollow charity, alms, and development aid, which have been band-aid solutions perpetuating poverty.
Every day 100,000 people die of starvation; half of them are children. Eight out of ten people in the world suffer from hunger; this being the primary political problem because it is the primary cause of mortality in the world. The demonstrators denounced that the world has the resources to feed more than twice the world’s current population and that therefore, hunger-related deaths are preventable, that they are murders!
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been promoting the privatization of services such as water, health and education in impoverished countries, by attaching this condition to grants and loans, which has brought about an even worse standard of living for their populations and a higher number of deaths.
Another reason for marching was to condemn the Spanish Immigration Law, which criminalizes immigrants who are arrested as if they were delinquents; they are taken to (CIEs, in Spanish) Immigration Detention Centers, inhumane jails for innocent people, where human rights are violated, where immigrants are victims of mistreatment and torture.
Regarding unemployment, the protesters demanded permanent full employment for every worker and a fair salary, exclaiming that labor must have priority over capital.  It was claimed that unemployment fosters fear and division among workers, that this is business, that the so-called crisis caused by the powerful intends to get workers to accept working conditions of greater exploitation and leads to an even greater concentration of riches.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tehyi Hsieh

"Action will remove the doubts that theory cannot solve."

                                                                                 by Tehyi Hsieh

Elite Schools

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lesson Plan based on The Power of One


The Power of One is an intriguing story of a young English boy named Peekay and his passion for changing the world...

  • recognizing our power as individuals in creating positive social change.
  • understanding that racial injustice still exists.
  • describing South African Apartheid including information on its history, how it worked and how resistance from inside and outside of South Africa brought it to an end.
  • Carrying out actions outside the classroom to fight against discrimination with minorities and immigrants.

Aim of the activity:
  • This lesson will provide the learners with a global look at racial injustice, specifically as it relates to Apartheid in South Africa. 
  • Students will also reflect on contemporary forms of discrimination against minorities and immigrants.
  • They will also reflect on how an individual associated to other individuals can use their power to effect positive change in society.
  • The activities done should encourage students to take actions outside the classroom to act against discrimination.

Four one-hour periods.

­   Handout 1: Outline of Lecture Material "Apartheid"
Teacher notes on Apartheid
Whiteboard, projector, and/or Power point presentation with projection, etc.
­   The film: "The Power of One"
­   Handout 2: Reflective Essay "The Power of One"
"Power of One" essay assignment

Instructional Procedure(s):

1.      Lead-in. Anticipatory set:

To begin the lesson, ask the learners to share what they know about the concepts of 'social justice' and 'the common good'.

Following the discussion, place the definition of ''social justice' and 'the common good' on the display board for all to see.

Social Justice (n) Justice applied to the framework of social existence; consideration of the requirements of justice applied to the benefits and burdens of a common existence.

The Common Good (n) Involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community --even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money-- to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all.

Then, on a piece of paper have learners list the names of three individuals--one at the local level, one at the national level, and one at the international level --whose actions in some way helped to overcome social injustice toward individuals or groups and promote the common good. Have the learners share the names of these individuals and their reasons for their selecting them. Have the learners discuss and share why the phrase, "the power on one," might be appropriate in describing these individuals.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Power of One

The Power of One (1992)

The Power of One is an intriguing story of a young English boy named Peekay and his passion for changing the world...

Director: John G. Avildsen

Writers: Bryce Courtenay (novel), Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)

Stars: Stephen Dorff, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Morgan Freeman

The Power of One is an intriguing story of a young English boy named Peekay and his passion for changing the world. Growing up he suffered as the only English boy in an Afrikaans school. Soon orphaned, he was placed in the care of a German national named Professor von Vollensteen (a.k.a. "Doc"), a friend of his grandfather. Doc develops Peekay's piano talent and Peekay becomes "assistant gardener" in Doc's cactus garden. It is not long after WWII begins that Doc is placed in prison for failure to register with the English government as a foreigner. Peekay makes frequent visits and meets Geel Piet, an inmate, who teaches him to box. Geel Piet spreads the myth of the Rainmaker, the one who brings peace to all of the tribes. Peekay is cast in the light of this myth. After the war Peekay attends an English private school where he continues to box. He meets a young girl, Maria, with whom he falls in love. Her father, Professor Daniel Marais, is a leader of the Nationalist Party of South Africa. The two fight to teach the natives English as Peekay's popularity grows via the myth. Peekay loses focus until he sees the success of his language school among the tribes. He and Guideon Duma continue the work in hopes of building a better future for Africa.

See Movie Trailer:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

22 Years After The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Child Slavery Still On the Rise

20 November is celebrated as the international day for children. The United Nations General Assembly recommended in 1954 -resolution 836 (IX)- that all countries institute a Universal Children's Day, to be observed as a day of understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world's children. The date of 20 November marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.

Despite this worldwide consensus on the importance of our children, 70% of the approximately 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six potentially preventable causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. These deaths occur mainly in the developing world. An Ethiopian child is 30 times more likely to die by his or her fifth birthday than a child in Western Europe. Among deaths of children, South-central Asia has the highest number of newborn deaths, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates.

Despite this worldwide consensus, child slavery is still on the rise. There are 400.000.000 child slaves in the world - even one child would be a scandal - but international organisations keep talking about child labour instead of child slavery, sex industry instead of sex exploitation and slavery. They continue dividing figures: child prostitutes, child soldiers, child miners, worst dangerous forms of child labour. All this hypocricy just to achieve the objectives of their agendas and be able to justify their indecent salaries.

When children are not protected, they grow up in a non-supportive culture. Not only are children marginalized, they are actually denied their rights to develop fully in all spheres. They are also denied the opportunities to exercise their rights as useful citizens.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

INCLUD-ED: Strategies for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in European Education


In today’s knowledge society, education can act as a powerful resource to achieve the European goal of social cohesion. However, at present, most school systems are failing as is demonstrated by the fact that many individuals, and their communities, are being excluded, both educationally and socially, from benefits that should be available to all. Similarly to the field of medicine in which only those treatments that have been proven to be effective when curing a particular disease are implemented, there is a need to identify those educational and social actions that research has shown can reverse social and educational exclusion.

Research objectives

The INCLUD-ED project is an integrated project which aims to analyse educational actions that contribute to social cohesion and educational actions that lead to social exclusion. It does so within the context of the European knowledge based society, and provides key elements and lines of action to improve educational and social policy. In other words, the INCLUD-ED project is oriented towards clarifying what works and what does not work in terms of student success and social inclusion.

The project concentrates on describing the elements that can influence school failure or success and their relationship with other areas of society (housing, health, employment, and social and political participation). There is a specific focus on social groups which are vulnerable to being socially excluded (young people, migrants, cultural groups e.g. Roma, women, and people with disabilities).

The project explores how educational results influence employment opportunities, access to housing and health and participation in public spaces for members of the vulnerable groups targeted and for all members of society in general.

Results to date:

Is God Evil?

A professor of a university challenged his students with this question. "Did God create everything that exists?"

A student answered bravely, "Yes, he did".

The professor then asked, "If God created everything, then he created evil. Since evil exists (as noticed by our own actions), so God is evil.”

The student couldn't respond to that statement causing the professor to conclude that he had "proved" that "belief in God" was a fairy tale, and therefore worthless.

Another student raised his hand and asked the professor, "May I pose a question? "

"Of course" answered the professor.

The young student stood up and asked : "Professor does Cold exists?"

The professor answered, "What kind of question is that? ...Of course the cold exists... haven't you ever been cold?"

The young student answered, "In fact sir, Cold does not exist. According to the laws of Physics, what we consider cold, in fact is the absence of heat. Anything is able to be studied as long as it transmits energy (heat). Absolute Zero is the total absence of heat, but cold does not exist. What we have done is create a term to describe how we feel if we don't have body heat or we are not hot."

"And, does Dark exist?" he continued.

The professor answered "Of course".

This time the student responded, "Again you're wrong, Sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in fact simply the absence of light. Light can be studied, darkness can not. Darkness cannot be broken down. A simple ray of light tears the darkness and illuminates the surface where the light beam finishes. Dark is a term that we humans have created to describe what happens when there's lack of light."

Finally, the student asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"

The professor replied, "Of course it exists, as I mentioned at the beginning, we see violations, crimes and violence anywhere in the world, and those things are evil."

The student responded, "Sir, Evil does not exist. Just as in the previous cases, Evil is a term which man has created to describe the result of the absence of God's presence in the hearts of man."

After this, the professor bowed down his head, and didn't answer back.

The young man's name was ALBERT EINSTEIN.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The harm today’s youth unemployment is doing will be felt for decades, both by those affected and by society at large

September, 2011
The Economist

MARIA GIL ULLDEMOLINS is a smart, confident young woman. She has one degree from Britain and is about to conclude another in her native Spain. And she feels that she has no future.

Ms Ulldemolins belongs to a generation of young Spaniards who feel that the implicit contract they accepted with their country—work hard, and you can have a better life than your parents—has been broken. Before the financial crisis Spanish unemployment, a perennial problem, was pushed down by credit-fuelled growth and a prolonged construction boom: in 2007 it was just 8%. Today it is 21.2%, and among the young a staggering 46.2%. “I trained for a world that doesn’t exist,” says Ms Ulldemolins.

Spain’s figures are particularly horrendous. But youth unemployment is rising perniciously across much of the developed world. It can seem like something of a side show; the young often have parents to fall back on; they can stay in education longer; they are not on the scrapheap for life. They have no families to support nor dire need of the medical insurance older workers may lose when they lose their jobs. But there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that youth unemployment does lasting damage.

In the past five years youth unemployment has risen in most countries in the OECD, a rich-country club (see chart 1). One in five under-25s in the European Union labour force is unemployed, with the figures particularly dire in the south. In America just over 18% of under-25s are jobless; young blacks, who make up 15% of the cohort, suffer a rate of 31%, rising to 44% among those without a high-school diploma (the figure for whites is 24%). Other countries, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Mexico, have youth unemployment rates below 10%: but they are rising.

The costs mount up
In tough times young people are often the first to lose out. They are relatively inexperienced and low-skilled, and in many countries they are easier to fire than their elders. This all goes to make them obvious targets for employers seeking savings, though their low pay can redress things a little. In much of the OECD youth-unemployment rates are about twice those for the population as a whole. Britain, Italy, Norway and New Zealand all exceed ratios of three to one; in Sweden the unemployment rate among 15- to 24-year-olds is 4.1 times higher than that of workers aged between 25 and 54.

Not only is the number of underemployed 15- to 24-year-olds in the OECD higher than at any time since the organisation began collecting data in 1976. The number of young people in the rich world who have given up looking for work is at a record high too. Poor growth, widespread austerity programmes and the winding up of job-creating stimulus measures threaten further unemployment overall. The young jobless often get a particular bounce in recoveries: first out, they are often also first back in. But the lack of a sharp upturn means such partial recompense has not been forthcoming this time round. In America the jobs recovery since 2007 has been nearly twice as slow as in the recession of the early 1980s, the next-worst in recent decades—and from a worse starting-point. In some countries a rigging of the labour market in favour of incumbents and against the young makes what new jobs there are inaccessible.