Category Archives: Wealth

EbolaWatch: Broken systems, numbers, fear


First some good news from Berkeley for a had-pressed Liberian newspaper via the paper in question, FrontPageAfrica:

Berkeley Professor Donates Anti-Ebola Gears, Cameras to FPA

Rachel Mercy Simpson, Department Chair of Multimedia Arts, at  Berkeley City College, knew she had to step in when she heard the Publisher of FrontPageAfrica describe to NPR’s “On the Media” the  challenges he and his team of reporters are going through on the front line of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

“As an award-winning newspaper, FrontPageAfrica is in a powerful position to communicate with people across West Africa, to encourage safer practices and to reduce the spread of Ebola. FPA reporters put their lives on the line to cover the stories even though they lack rudimentary safety gear. I want to help them out,” wrote Mercy-Simpson to her family and colleagues. Mercy-Simpson, who is married to a Tanzanian and whose father is from South Africa, says while neither countries are neighbors to Ebola-hit Liberia, she felt a need to reach out. “We care about what’s going on in Africa. The devastation to families and the economy in Liberia is terrible. And no one wants to see Ebola spread any further.”

When she learned from the NPR interview that FrontPageAfrica reporters lacked safety gear, Mercy-Simpson immediately contacted the FrontPageAfrica publisher and asked how she could help. “As a filmmaker, I grasped the danger of their not having a telephoto lens and how FPA reporters needed to get close to people who were very sick in order to photograph them.”

The accompanying photo:

BLOG Prof

From Deutsche Welle, numbers:

WHO releases latest Ebola figures

  • The latest figures from the World Health Organization show another increase in the Ebola death toll. Nearly 6,600 people have died from the virus since the worst outbreak on record began early this year.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 6,583 people have died out of 18,188 recorded Ebola cases.

The Geneva-based UN health agency reported that the majority of infections and deaths were in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO said earlier in the week that the death toll had remained the same in other countries also affected by the disease: six in Mali, one in the US and eight in Nigeria, which was declared Ebola free in October. Spain and Senegal have also counted one case of infection each, but were declared free of the virus in recent weeks.

Numbers contested, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Information Minister challenges WHO Ebola figures

Sierra Leone’s Information Minister said Thursday contrary to figures reported by the Western media and the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of infection by the Ebola epidemic were reducing in the country.Alhaji Alpha Kanu said, based on figures from the Ministry of Health and the National Ebola Response Center (NERC), the country was recorded an average of less than 40 new infections a day, “contrary to what you hear on BBC, courtesy of WHO,” he said.

He said what the media is reporting falls far behind the reality on the ground. “That’s patently not true,” he told reporters at the weekly government press conference.

At a separate engagement via an online press conference with the international media, Mr Kanu was cited disputing WHO`s report on the diamond-rich Kono which claimed 87 dead bodies were discovered with 123 sick people from “forgotten” part of the district.

Ebolaphobia strikes again, from AllAfrica:

Sudan Repatriates 26 Nigerians Over Ebola Fears

The Sudanese authorities have denied 26 Nigerians entry into their country over suspicion that they were possibly infected by the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, one of those repatriated has told PREMIUM TIMES.

Hauwa’u Ibrahim Bakori, a second year student of Pharmacy at Al Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman, said she and 25 others were denied entry after arriving Khartoum Airport on Wednesday.

They were detained, and then deported to Nigeria on Thursday, Ms. Bakori said.

Ms Bakori is in her second year at the Sudanese university and had travelled to Nigeria on holidays.

From teleSUR, an aid effort praised:

UNICEF Recognizes Cuban Efforts in Fight Against Ebola

  • The children’s rights organisation is the latest body to highlight Cuba’s role.

The representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) regional office in Central Africa recognized Cuba’s humanitarian efforts to fight Ebola on Saturday.

Cuba has sent more than 460 doctors and nurses to nations struck by Ebola such as Sierra Leone.

‘’We are carrying out a series of gatherings with nations that offer cooperation like the case of Cuba, we want to take those countries into account for next year’s Unicef aid programming in African nations,’‘ said UNICEF’s Brigitte Helali, from Equatorial Guinea where she is evaluating Unicef aid programs.

Helali also highlighted the progress Cuba has made in healthcare overall with special mention for their work with pregnant women and children under five years old.

From the Associated Press, that same effort stymied by Washington:

US embargo stalled payment to Cuban Ebola doctors

A World Health Organization official says Cuba had to cover food and lodging expenses for dozens of its doctors fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone after the U.S. embargo made it impossible for the global health group to pay them.

U.S. officials as high as Secretary of State John Kerry have praised the Cuban effort against Ebola. But the longstanding embargo affects virtually all dealings with Cubans, even for banks outside the U.S., because they depend on dollar transfers through U.S. institutions.

Jose Luis Di Fabio, the health agency’s representative for Cuba, said it had to request special licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department to transfer money to the doctors in Africa.

The government-employed doctors only recently received payments dating as far back as October, he said.

And from teleSUR English, what those doctors are doing in the country where the need is most great:

Sierra Leone: Cuban doctors reducing Ebola cases

Program notes:

While new cases of Ebola continue to arise in Sierra Leone, the Cuban medical teams on the scene, working alongside local health care workers, are confident that they can continue to contain and reduce the epidemic. Close collaboration and friendships have been forged with US medical workers who admire Cuba’s role and record in providing health care to all. Oskar Epelde reports from Porto Loko

A honcho named, via AllAfrica:

West Africa: UN Chief Appoints New Envoy for Ebola

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday appointed Ismail Ahmed of Mauritania as his new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER.

This was contained in a statement issued by Ban’s Spokesperson, Stephane DuJarric in New York.

According to the statement, as Special Representative, Mr. Ahmed will work closely with the Special Envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro and with the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and other partners.

Mr. Ahmed succeeds Anthony Banbury of the U.S., who would return to New York in early January 2015.

And from the U.S. News Center, an urgent plea:

UN meeting urges critical improvements to health systems of Ebola-affected countries

The international community must help Ebola-affected countries reboot their health systems so that they emerge from the current crisis more resilient and more focused on prevention efforts than ever before, a high-level meeting coordinated by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva heard today.

“People in Ebola-affected countries are dying – not only from Ebola but also from other causes – because the majority of health facilities in these countries are either not functional or people are not using them for fear of contracting Ebola,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation, in a news release.

“A health system has to be able to both absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola, and to continue to provide regular health services such as immunization and maternal and child care.”

At the meeting, participants – which included Ministers of Health and Finance from countries at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic as well as international organizations and development partners – discussed methods of integration for health services spanning clinical care to surveillance, health promotion, disease prevention and management and palliative care.

In particular, noted the WHO news release, areas of improvement included “significantly strengthening” the health workforce; enhancing community trust, engagement and ownership; and ensuring the development of resilient sub-national health systems. In addition, the movement of people across the borders of the Ebola-affected countries spotlighted the “important” need for a greater coordination of trans-national health plans and an alignment of surveillance systems.

Another expanded effort, via Voice of America:

UNICEF Expanding Fight Against Ebola

The U.N. Children’s Fund is appealing for an additional $300 million to expand its fight against Ebola in the three heavily affected West African countries over the next six months. UNICEF said gaining the confidence of community members, increasing their awareness and knowledge of modes of transmission and prevention are key to winning the battle against this deadly disease.

UNICEF officials said money from the appeal would be used to tackle two major drivers of Ebola transmission: lack of early isolation of patients and unsafe burials.  Both of these issues are wound up with traditional cultural practices, which often have stymied aid agencies’ efforts to prevent people from getting infected with the disease and spreading it to others.

Community involvement is absolutely essential to ending this epidemic.  UNICEF’s crisis communications chief, Sarah Crowe, said recent surveys indicate people gradually have been changing their behavior for the better.

And from the New York Times, contesting the Ebola fight:

Contest Seeks Novel Tools For the Fight Against Ebola

The well-prepared Ebola fighter in West Africa may soon have some new options: protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.

Those ideas are among the contenders to win the Ebola “Grand Challenges” contest announced in October by the United States Agency for International Development, or among those being considered by the agency without having formally entered the contest.

All still need to undergo testing, and some may prove impractical, but the 1,500 contest submissions “blew the roof off the number of responses we’ve ever had,” said Wendy Taylor, director of U.S.A.I.D.’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact.

The agency’s Grand Challenges, modeled on those begun a decade ago by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have produced some nifty inventions, the best known of which is a device for helping women in obstructed labor that was invented by an Argentine auto mechanic after he saw a YouTube video on using a plastic bag to get a cork out of a wine bottle.

After the jump it’s on to Sierra Leone with doctors sounding the alarm, how a single case triggered a chain reaction of death, the U.N.’s Ebola emissary calls for an anti-epidemic surge, Freetown charges chiefs with containing the epidemic, Christmas and New Year’s gatherings banned, and the capital sends a strong anti-graft warning, then on to Liberia and the debilitating impacts of two viral epidemics on the economy, why the U.N. is maintaining a Liberian arms embargo, motorcycle transport riders join the Ebola fight, 1,300 volunteer case trackers recruited by the UN, healed patients head home, and an education system left in shambles. . . Continue reading

Bernie Sanders breaks it down: The rich win


In a deft takedown of the new spending bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders places the trillion-dollar spending package in the context of the flow of wealth to the few at the very top as the national infrastructure collapses and families fall further behind and the young are burdened with ever-larger debt obligations to obtain an education that will merely enable them to tread water while the elderly see their pensions and Social Security payments covering less of their living expenses.

One family, the Waltons [no, not those Waltons, but the Walmart Waltons] owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans, while 90 percent of new income goes to the top one percent.

The major beneficiaries of the package are defense contractors, most of whom, as Sanders notes have been found guilty of fraud or made settlements with the government for  constantly underestimating costs, then collecting payments for massive overruns.

The bill also allows significant benefit cuts for employees who belong to more than one pension plan and can end in disaster for millions of middle class employees. In some case, cuts can reach half of the promised pension benefits. Meanwhile, the banksters who caused the crisis used to justify the draconian cuts escaped punishment and continue to salt away their millions and billions.

Anyone who things that Congress regulates Wall Street has it backwards, Sanders said. With their power and wealth and massive campaign funding, its the banksters who regulate Congress and write the laws the pass.

And now Wall Street’s giants have infused the spending bill with a provision repealing the regulations passed in wakes of the crash that imposed weak but real limitations on their rampant greed, setting the stage for another crash [and bailout] to come.

From his YouTube channel:

Bernie Sander: Wall Street Wins Again

Program notes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the omnibus appropriations bill on the Senate floor.

The Invisibles: Animating the Internationale


From British artist Nisha Duggal comes an animated version of an anthem dear to our heart, composed in the wake of the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune to rally of the hearts of those stirred by the lost chance of making a world more equitable than that which would arise during the grossly inegaliatarian Belle Epoque.

As French economic Tomas Piketty has revealed, the industrialized nations of the North have now once again attained the same levels of wealth disparity as those attained in the late 19th Century and seem destined to surpass them absent a rising resistance, as the discussion in our previous post makes eminently clear.

So for all of you who might be looking for a moment of inspiration, this from Nisha Duggal:

The Invisibles [The Internationale – English]

Program notes:

In a singular call to action The Invisibles employs and re-affirms Socialist anthem The Internationale for a contemporary audience. Vive la Révolution!

Music: The Internationale:

Eugène Pottier (1871) & Pierre de Geyter (1888)

Traditional translation with adaption by Billy Bragg (1990)

Performed by Nisha Duggal, Drums by James Broomfield

From Tomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century:

BLOG Unequal

We were born in the U.S. when inequality was at its lowest, and in our lifetime it has risen to levels never before seen. Unless we act together, all signs are that it will only grow worse.

The Democrats: Plutocratic since ’92, gettin’ worse


Bill Moyers and journalist and Harper’s Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur conduct a devastating dissection of the Democratic Party and the plutocratic alliance that has devastating America’s dwindling class of well paid blue collar workers to satisfy the demands of the plutocrats who now control both major parties in the U.S.

At the core of the agenda mandated by the Chicago Democratic machine [a point we’ve made here countless times] is the demand for an end to all remaining barriers to corporate and bankster profiteering [read looting], a push begun by Bill and Hillary back when Bubba signed NAFTA and continuing through today as Barack Obama, a product of that Chicago machine, rams through “free trade” agreements across both the Pacific and the Atlantic, sounding the death knell for organized labor and the aspirational working class.

From Moyers and Company:

Democrats Bow Down to Wall Street

From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: In 2008, Obama, he used NAFTA against Hilary Clinton, as you said, because Bill Clinton had sponsored it in 1993. And he promised that he would reform NAFTA.

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Right.

BILL MOYERS: Has he?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: No. As soon as he got into office, he announced, we really don’t need to reform NAFTA. We’ll find other ways to help people who’ve been hurt by NAFTA, which they, and of course, they’ve done nothing. In fact, he’s pushed more free trade deals, Korea, Colombia, et cetera, you know, he keeps pushing, and now, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which will make things even worse.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. You say if he wins the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he’ll be giving away big chunks of our remaining manufacturing base to Japan and Vietnam and other Pacific Rim countries. Why does he want to do that?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Because he’s the fundraiser in chief. And again, this goes back to Bill Clinton. Because Obama’s really just imitating Bill Clinton. Clinton made an alliance with the Daley machine in Chicago, which Obama, he’s inherited that alliance with the two Daley brothers. The people who were thriving are the people in power. Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago. Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel were the chief lobbyists for passing NAFTA under Clinton. They’re the ones who rounded up the votes. They’re the ones who made the deals with the recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans who didn’t want to vote for it. These people are in the saddle. They succeeded each other as–

BILL MOYERS: They’re Democrats, too.

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Democrats. But Daley succeeded Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff. These are the people Obama talks to all the time. And they’re saying, free trade, great. We don’t know about factories closing. But it’s a great way to raise money.

BILL MOYERS: Senator Mitch McConnell, who will soon be the Senate majority leader, said that new trade agreements are one of his top priorities. Are we about to see some bipartisan cooperation between the Republicans in the Senate and Obama in the White House on passing this new trade agreement?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Absolutely. They’ve already announced that they’re going to try to work together. And if history is repeated, you will see fast track passed.

BILL MOYERS: Which means…

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Which means you give the president, you give the executive branch, the authority to negotiate the trade agreement in secret. That’s what Congress gives away, which I think is unconstitutional. Because the Senate is supposed to advise and consent, right? But so far, nobody has challenged it on constitutional grounds. You give fast track authority to the president. They negotiate the deal. At the end of it, a gigantic bill, very complex, because I’ve read the NAFTA agreement, it’s very complex language. You give it to Congress. And you say, okay, vote for it, yes or no, up or down.

No amendments allowed, no amendments allowed. And so that’s when the heavy lobbying starts. And most times, at least in the past with PNTR, that’s permanent normal trade relations with China, and NAFTA, the big money wins. And this is what’s going to happen again with TPP if people don’t stop it before it gets to the fast track stage. And I guarantee you, this is a way to send more jobs, particularly to Vietnam and Malaysia. What’s happening now is that labor rates are going up slightly in China. This panics the corporations. They want other places to go. Vietnam’s an even cheaper labor platform than China. And so it’s cheap labor coupled with really minimal environmental protection. You can do just about anything you want to.

Killing American democracy with a spending bill


Or rather, killing off what little remains standing in the way of a complete plutocratic takevoer.

All in all, it’s a brilliant dissection of the what the Congressional spending bill really does from Abby Martin, who is maturing into a a dramatically effective voice for the rest of us in her transformation from a community access channel commentator right here in Berkeley into a journalist of real stature.

And if you’re not furious before the clip is over, check your pulse to see if you’re still alive:

From Breaking the Set:

The Top 5 Things That Screw Over Americans in 2015 Spending Bill

Program notes:

Abby Martin discusses the spending bill that is about to be voted on by Congress and the various ways that it screws over regular Americans.

Chart of the day: The ethnic wealth gaps widen


From the Pew Research Center, data reveals that the “recovery” has widened disturbing inequities in the U.S.:

BLOG Wealth

The newest global menace? Property developers


Yes indeedy, beneath the high-toned rhetoric employed by real estate developers and their revolving door allies in municipal and national planning bodies, all this talk about affordable housing arising naturally from development is simply hogwash.

Here in Berkeley we spent some years covering the developer scene and witnessed the large flows of cash that usually ensured victories in city council races for candidates who spouted leftish jargon while enabling the one percenters [and the one percenters of the one percenters] to grow fat off charging exorbitant rents to university students. One such developer is David Teece [previously], a faculty member at the little university up the hill, who bankrolled a front man who navigated through the city regulatory process and won concessions allowing him to build much less affordable housing units that city ordinance supposedly mandated.

Then he and his partner sold their edifices to an ever richer Chicago apartment mogul, Sam Zell, who had just finished destroying a good part of the Otis Chandler legacy at the Los Angeles Times, financing his takeover with employee pension funds and doing irreparable harm to a once great [despite its flaws] newspaper.

To quote from a wonderful article about the plight of the Times:

Zell’s nickname was “Grave Dancer,” and his crassness disgusted many journalists — he once suggested that Tribune papers allow X-rated ads because “everyone loves a good blow job.”

“He was the most vulgar, repellent rich person I’ve ever met,” says Tim Rutten, a journalist at the Times for 40 years, who was laid off in 2011.

So with all that in mind, imagine our delight when we chanced upon this video from the Guardian:

The new global menace: Property developers – Owen Jones

Program notes:

They’re shamelessly greedy, they’re tearing apart communities and they’re one of the main drivers of exploding levels of inequality.

Bankers? Tax dodgers? Actually it’s property developers. If they continue in this way argues Owen Jones, soon housing will become a luxury asset for a few to make billions while ordinary citizens are priced out of their homes.

As an old newsie who was once named the most trusted man in America used to end his CBS Evening News broadcasts: