“In most countries, most people now have immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Depending on their degree of previously acquired cross-immunity, they will have had no symptoms, mild and uncharacteristic symptoms, or more severe symptoms, possibly including anosmia (loss of sense of smell) or other somewhat characteristic signs of the COVID-19 disease. Regardless of disease severity, they will now have sufficient immunity to be protected from severe disease in the event of renewed exposure. This majority of the population will not benefit at all from being vaccinated.”
And the group was at pains to stress their main message – “these vaccines are dangerous”.
The statement continued: “Population survival of COVID-19 exceeds 99.8 per cent globally. In countries that have been intensely infected over several months, less than 0.2 per cent of the population have died and had their deaths classified as ‘with covid19’
“With the mRNA vaccines, the risk of severe adverse events is virtually guaranteed to increase with every successive injection. In the long term, they are therefore even more dangerous than the vector vaccines. Their apparent preference over the latter is concerning in the highest degree; these vaccines are not safe.”
OpenDemocracy is taking legal action over the Cabinet Office’s ‘Orwellian’ Clearing House that vets FOI requests and could breach data protection law
openDemocracy is going to court to force the British government to release full details about its controversial ‘Clearing House’– a secretive unit inside Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office, which is accused of blocking sensitive Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
In November, openDemocracy revealed that the ‘Orwellian’ unit in the Cabinet Office was vetting FOI requests and sharing personal information about journalists across Whitehall in ways that experts believe could be in breach of the law.
The Cabinet Office has refused to disclose full details about the Clearing House operation under the Freedom of Information Act – despite the FOI watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, ordering it to do so in July 2020.
Now openDemocracy is going to an information tribunal in a bid to force transparency on the Clearing House.
On Thursday 29 April, a first-tier tribunal will hear the case. openDemocracy has instructed Leigh Day, a firm of public law specialists, to argue its case and has received support from across the British media.
The Swedish campaigner says insufficient goals and empty rhetoric represent the “biggest elephant there’s even been in any room.” by Common Dreams staff
Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg in a video released shortly before the Biden administration kicked off a two-day virtual summit of international leaders to address the climate crisis. “The gap between what needs to be done and what we are actually doing is widening by the minute,” says Thunberg. “The gap between the urgency needed and the current level of awareness and attention is becoming more and more absurd.” (Photo: Screenshot/NowThis News)
Just before U.S. President Joe Biden’s two-day virtual summit on the climate crisis got underway, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday shared a video message calling out the “bullshit” of world leaders who she says are failing to take the steps necessary to confront the planetary emergency.
“While we can fool others and even ourselves, we cannot fool nature and physics.” —Greta Thunberg
Posted online by NowThis News, the video featuring Thunberg comes as a warning from the well-known global climate campaigner that the people of the world should not be fooled by the lofty rhetoric they will hear at the summit.
“At the Leaders’ Climate Summit, countries will present their new climate commitments, like net-zero emissions by 2050,” Thunberg says in the video. “They will call these hypothetical targets ‘ambitious.’ But when you compare our insufficient targets with the overall current best available science, you clearly see that there’s a gap. There are decades missing.”
Watch the video:
The 18-year-old founder of “Fridays for Future” and inspiration for the global climate strike movement also penned an open letter first published in Vogue on Thursday, making much the same argument.
“You may call us naïve for believing change is possible, and that’s fine,” Thunberg wrote. “But at least we’re not so naïve that we believe that things will be solved by countries and companies making vague, distant, insufficient targets without any real pressure from the media and the general public.”
Of course, we welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions. And these targets could be a great start if it wasn’t for the tiny fact that they are full of gaps and loopholes. Such as leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping, as well as the burning of biomass, manipulating baseline data, excluding most feedback loops and tipping points, ignoring the crucial global aspect of equity and historic emissions, and making these targets completely reliant on fantasy or barely existing carbon-capturing technologies. But I don’t have time to go into all that now.
The point is that we can keep using creative carbon accounting and cheat in order to pretend that these targets are in line with what is needed. But we must not forget that while we can fool others and even ourselves, we cannot fool nature and physics. The emissions are still there, whether we choose to count them or not.
“The gap between what needs to be done and what we are actually doing is widening by the minute,” she added. “The gap between the urgency needed and the current level of awareness and attention is becoming more and more absurd. And the gap between our so-called climate targets and the overall, current best-available science should no longer be possible to ignore.”
Speaking of world leaders in the Thursday video and the shortcomings of their climate proposals thus far, Thunberg said, “Let’s call out their bullshit,” because the gap between what their rhetoric and what’s actually needed is “the biggest elephant there’s even been in any room.”
Along with other witnesses, Thunberg is testifying before congressional lawmakers on Thursday during a hearing convened by the House Subcommittee on the Environment.
( Middle East Monitor ) – The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines a pogrom as “a mob attack, either approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority”.That is exactly what is happening today against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem.
Palestinians are not a minority in Palestine – the country that lies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. But due to Israel’s apartheid regime that has ruled the country since 1948, the majority of Palestinians were expelled from the areas that today form so-called “Israel proper”, and which many Palestinians term “1948 Palestine”.
Due to a slow process of Israeli ethnic cleansing since then, Palestinians are no longer the majority in Jerusalem. But in recent weeks that process has sped up in that city, the historic capital of Palestine.
Some truly terrifying clips have been circulated online – including by credible journalists – showing rampaging mobs of mostly young Israeli men attacking Palestinians in Jerusalem and chanting “Death to the Arabs” (while being incited and led by mainstream Israeli political and religious leaders).
This is not a new phenomenon, but it has increased in recent weeks, partly due to a ruling by an Israeli court demanding new expulsions of Palestinian families from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The families have been until the start of May to leave their homes and hand them over to Israeli settlers.
These actions by the apartheid state of Israel have only encouraged the “Death to the Arabs” hate mobs. And therein lies the key to understating the essence of a pogrom.
A pogrom is carried out by violent mobs, who are deemed in the discourse of the government and of the corporate media to be “extremists”. There is no doubt that these mobs are far-right Jewish-supremacist extremists by any objective definition.
But they are not extremists in terms of the mainstream of Israeli political discourse and – crucially – of the actions of the racist state itself.
You can see this very clearly in a viral video clip that was circulated by the American anti-Zionist group, Jewish Voice for Peace.
The clip was from a 2009 film about Sheikh Jarrah. But as JVP notes, it could easily have been filmed today. Expulsions of Palestinians by mobs of highly ideological religious Zionist fanatics are still frequently carried out, in the same way seen in the clip.
But the most telling part of the video is perhaps not so much the actions of the mob itself, but how they are endorsed and backed by the racist state.
You see the thugs of Israel’s highly-armed military “Border Police” force standing by and watching the takeover, making sure that the Palestinians are not able to defend themselves or their homes.
This is the very definition of a pogrom.
In the clip posted by JVP, Israeli settler leader Jonathan Yosef is shamelessly explicit about all this, saying: “We take house after house. All this area will be a Jewish neighbourhood … We are going to the next neighbourhood and after that we’ll go [to] more. Our dream [is] that all East Jerusalem will be like West Jerusalem. [A] Jewish capital of Israel.”
He then gives a far clearer, far more honest – and frankly more accurate – definition of Zionism than the lying dissimulators of liberal and “left-wing” Zionism ever could (with their nonsense about “Jewish self-determination” in a country which has never been exclusively Jewish):
“I see this as a continuation of the Zionist project. The return to Zion. Is it at the Arabs’ expense? Yes. But our government institutions were also built at the expense of Arabs who lived here. And so was the state itself,” he says.”
Everything Yosef said in this definition of Zionism is objectively true. The difference though, is that he thinks that such violent, racist extremism is good and praiseworthy, while I (and the vast majority of people around the world) reject it as a horrifying injustice.
Yosef is no marginal figure or merely some obscure wild-eyed extremist. As my colleague David Sheen reports, he sits on Jerusalem’s city council for Shas – a religious extremist party which also happens to have won the third highest number of seats in Israel’s parliament in the election last month.
But the Palestinians show no sign of backing down, lying down, giving up, or, – in the words of Zionism’s racist founder Theodor Herzl – allowing Israel to “spirit the penniless population across the border” of Palestine.
But how did we get this system in the first place? Our ongoing historical research project investigates the relationship between the press and convict labor. While that story is still unfolding, we have learned what few Americans, especially white Americans, know: the dark history that produced our current criminal justice system.
If anything is to change – if we are ever to “end this racial nightmare, and achieve our country,” as James Baldwin put it – we must confront this system and the blighted history that created it.
During Reconstruction, the 12 years following the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, former slaves made meaningful political, social and economic gains. Black men voted and even held public office across the South. Biracial experiments in governance flowered. Black literacy surged, surpassing those of whites in some cities. Black schools, churches and social institutions thrived.
As the prominent historian Eric Foner writes in his masterwork on Reconstruction, “Black participation in Southern public life after 1867 was the most radical development of the Reconstruction years, a massive experiment in interracial democracy without precedent in the history of this or any other country that abolished slavery in the nineteenth century.”
But this moment was short-lived.
As W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, the “slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”
History is made by human actors and the choices they make.
According to Douglas Blackmon, author of “Slavery by Another Name,” the choices made by Southern white supremacists after abolition, and the rest of the country’s accommodation, “explain more about the current state of American life, black and white, than the antebellum slavery that preceded.”
Designed to reverse black advances, Redemption was an organized effort by white merchants, planters, businessmen and politicians that followed Reconstruction. “Redeemers” employed vicious racial violence and state legislation as tools to prevent black citizenship and equality promised under the 14th and 15th amendments.
By the early 1900s, nearly every southern state had barred black citizens not only from voting but also from serving in public office, on juries and in the administration of the justice system.
The South’s new racial caste system was not merely political and social. It was thoroughly economic. Slavery had made the South’s agriculture-based economy the most powerful force in the global cotton market, but the Civil War devastated this economy.
How to build a new one?
Ironically, white leaders found a solution in the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States in 1865. By exploiting the provision allowing “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” to continue as “a punishment for crime,” they took advantage of a penal system predating the Civil War and used even during Reconstruction.
A new form of control
With the help of profiteering industrialists they found yet a new way to build wealth on the bound labor of black Americans: the convict lease system.
Here’s how it worked. Black men – and sometimes women and children – were arrested and convicted for crimes enumerated in the Black Codes, state laws criminalizing petty offenses and aimed at keeping freed people tied to their former owners’ plantations and farms. The most sinister crime was vagrancy – the “crime” of being unemployed – which brought a large fine that few blacks could afford to pay.
Black convicts were leased to private companies, typically industries profiteering from the region’s untapped natural resources. As many as 200,000 black Americans were forced into back-breaking labor in coal mines, turpentine factories and lumber camps. They lived in squalid conditions, chained, starved, beaten, flogged and sexually violated. They died by the thousands from injury, disease and torture.
For both the state and private corporations, the opportunities for profit were enormous. For the state, convict lease generated revenue and provided a powerful tool to subjugate African-Americans and intimidate them into behaving in accordance with the new social order. It also greatly reduced state expenses in housing and caring for convicts. For the corporations, convict lease provided droves of cheap, disposable laborers who could be worked to the extremes of human cruelty.
Every southern state leased convicts, and at least nine-tenths of all leased convicts were black. In reports of the period, the terms “convicts” and “negroes” are used interchangeably.
Of those black Americans caught in the convict lease system, a few were men like Henry Nisbet, who murdered nine other black men in Georgia. But the vast majority were like Green Cottenham, the central figure in Blackmon’s book, who was snatched into the system after being charged with vagrancy.
A principal difference between antebellum slavery and convict leasing was that, in the latter, the laborers were only the temporary property of their “masters.” On one hand, this meant that after their fines had been paid off, they would potentially be let free. On the other, it meant the companies leasing convicts often absolved themselves of concerns about workers’ longevity. Such convicts were viewed as disposable and frequently worked beyond human endurance.
The living conditions of leased convicts are documented in dozens of detailed, firsthand reports spanning decades and covering many states. In 1883, Blackmon writes, Alabama prison inspector Reginald Dawson described leased convicts in one mine being held on trivial charges, in “desperate,” “miserable” conditions, poorly fed, clothed, and “unnecessarily chained and shackled.” He described the “appalling number of deaths” and “appalling numbers of maimed and disabled men” held by various forced-labor entrepreneurs spanning the entire state.
Dawson’s reports had no perceptible impact on Alabama’s convict leasing system.
The exploitation of black convict labor by the penal system and industrialists was central to southern politics and economics of the era. It was a carefully crafted answer to black progress during Reconstruction – highly visible and widely known. The system benefited the national economy, too. The federal government passed up one opportunity after another to intervene.
Convict lease ended at different times across the early 20th century, only to be replaced in many states by another racialized and brutal method of convict labor: the chain gang.
Convict labor, debt peonage, lynching – and the white supremacist ideologies of Jim Crow that supported them all – produced a bleak social landscape across the South for African-Americans.
Black Americans developed multiple resistance strategies and gained major victories through the civil rights movement, including Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Jim Crow fell, and America moved closer than ever to fulfilling its democratic promise of equality and opportunity for all.
But in the decades that followed, a “tough on crime” politics with racist undertones produced, among other things, harsh drug and mandatory minimum sentencing laws that were applied in racially disparate ways. The mass incarceration system exploded, with the rate of imprisonment quadrupling between the 1970s and today.
If you’ve ever been seasick, “stable” may be the last word you associate with the ocean. But as global temperatures rise, the world’s oceans are technically becoming more stable.
When scientists talk about ocean stability, they refer to how much the different layers of the sea mix with each other. A recent study analysed over a million samples and found that, over the past five decades, the stability of the ocean increased at a rate that was six times faster than scientists were anticipating.
Ocean stability is an important regulator of the global climate and the productivity of marine ecosystems which feed a substantial portion of the world’s people. It controls how heat, carbon, nutrients and dissolved gases are exchanged between the upper and lower layers of the ocean.
So while a more stable ocean might sound idyllic, the reality is less comforting. It could mean the upper layer trapping more heat, and containing less nutrients, with a big impact on ocean life and the climate.
How the oceans circulate heat
Sea surface temperatures get colder the further you travel from the equator towards the poles. It’s a simple point, but it has enormous implications. Because temperature, along with salinity and pressure, controls the density of seawater, this means that the ocean surface also becomes denser as you move away from the tropics.
Seawater density increases with depth too, because the sunlight that warms the ocean is absorbed at the surface, whereas the deep ocean is full of cold water. The change in density with depth is referred to by oceanographers as stability. The faster density increases with depth, the more stable the ocean is said to be.
Our series on the global ocean opened with five in-depth profiles. Look out for new articles on the state of our oceans in the lead up to the UN’s next climate conference, COP26. The series is brought to you by The Conversation’s international network.
It helps to think of the ocean as divided into two layers, each with different levels of stability.
The surface mixed layer occupies the upper (roughly) 100 metres of the ocean and is where heat, freshwater, carbon and dissolved gases are exchanged with the atmosphere. Turbulence whipped up by the wind and waves at the sea surface mixes all the water together.
The lowest layer is called the abyss, which extends from a few hundred metres depth to the seafloor. It’s cold and dark, with weak currents slowly circulating water around the planet that remains isolated from the surface for decades or even centuries.
Dividing the abyss and the surface mixed layer is something called the pycnocline. We can think of it like a layer of cling film (or Saran Wrap). It’s invisible and flexible, but it stops water moving through it. When the film is ripped into shreds, which happens in the ocean when turbulence effectively pulls the pycnocline apart, water can leak through in both directions. But as global temperatures rise and the ocean’s surface layer absorbs more heat, the pycnocline is becoming more stable, making it harder for water at the ocean’s surface and in the abyss to mix.
Why is that a problem? Well, there’s an invisible conveyor belt of seawater which moves warm water from the equator to the poles, where it’s cooled and becomes more dense and so sinks, returning back to the equator at depth. During this journey, the heat absorbed at the ocean’s surface is moved to the abyss, helping redistribute the ocean’s heat burden, accumulated from an atmosphere that’s rapidly warming due to our greenhouse gas emissions.
If a stabler pycnocline traps more heat in the surface of the ocean, it could disrupt how effectively the ocean absorbs excess heat and pile pressure on sensitive shallow-water ecosystems like coral reefs.
Increasing stability causes a nutrient drought
And just as the ocean surface contains heat that must be mixed downwards, the abyss contains an enormous reservoir of nutrients that need to be mixed upwards.
The building blocks of most marine ecosystems are phytoplankton: microscopic algae which use photosynthesis to make their own food and absorb vast quantities of CO₂ from the atmosphere, as well as produce most of the world’s oxygen.
Phytoplankton can only grow when there is enough light and nutrients. During spring, sunshine, longer days and lighter winds allow a seasonal pycnocline to form near the surface. Any available nutrients trapped above this pycnocline are quickly used up by the phytoplankton as they grow in what is called the spring bloom.
For phytoplankton at the surface to keep growing, the nutrients from the abyss must cross the pycnocline. And so another problem emerges. If phytoplankton are starved of nutrients thanks to a strengthened pycnocline then there’s less food for the vast majority of ocean life, starting with the tiny microscopic animals which eat the algae and the small fish which eat them, and moving all the way up the food chain to sharks and whales.
Just as a more stable ocean is less effective at shifting heat into the deep sea and regulating the climate, it’s also worse at sustaining the vibrant food webs at the sunlit surface which society depends on for nourishment.
Should we be worried?
Ocean circulation is constantly evolving with natural variations and human-induced changes. The increasing stability of the pycnocline is just one part of an extremely complex puzzle that oceanographers are striving to solve.
To predict future changes in our climate, we use numerical models of the ocean and atmosphere that must include all of the physical processes responsible for changing them. We simply don’t have computers powerful enough to include the effects of small-scale, turbulent processes within a model that simulates conditions over a global scale.
We do know that human activity is having a greater than expected impact on fundamental aspects of our planet’s systems though. And we may not like the consequences.
Imagine, for a moment, a different kind of Australia. One where bushfires on the catastrophic scale of Black Summer happen almost every year. One where 50℃ days in Sydney and Melbourne are common. Where storms and flooding have violently reshaped our coastlines, and unique ecosystems have been damaged beyond recognition – including the Great Barrier Reef, which no longer exists.
Frighteningly, this is not an imaginary future dystopia. It’s a scientific projection of Australia under 3℃ of global warming – a future we must both strenuously try to avoid, but also prepare for.
The sum of current commitments under the Paris climate accord puts Earth on track for 3℃ of warming this century. Research released today by the Australian Academy of Science explores this scenario in detail.
The report, which we co-authored with colleagues, lays out the potential damage to Australia. Unless the world changes course and dramatically curbs greenhouse gas emissions, this is how bad it could get.
A spotlight on the damage
Nations signed up to the Paris Agreement collectively aim to limit global warming to well below 2℃ this century and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5℃. But on current emissions-reduction pledges, global temperatures are expected to far exceed these goals, reaching 2.9℃ by 2100.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent, and already has a highly variable climate of “droughts and flooding rains”. This is why of all developed nations, Australia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
The damage is already evident. Since records began in 1910, Australia’s average surface temperature has warmed by 1.4℃, and its open ocean areas have warmed by 1℃. Extreme events – such as storms, droughts, bushfires, heatwaves and floods – are becoming more frequent and severe.
Today’s report brings together multiple lines of evidence such as computer modelling, observed changes and historical paleoclimate studies. It gives a picture of the damage that’s already occurred, and what Australia should expect next. It shines a spotlight on four sectors: ecosystems, food production, cities and towns, and health and well-being.
In all these areas, we found the impacts of climate change are profound and accelerating rapidly.
Australia’s natural resources are directly linked to our well-being, culture and economic prosperity. Warming and changes in climate have already eroded the services ecosystems provide, and affected thousands of species.
The problems extend to the ocean, which is steadily warming. Heat stress is bleaching and killing corals, and severely damaging crucial habitats such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows. As oceans absorb carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere, seawater is reaching record acidity levels, harming marine food webs, fisheries and aquaculture.
At 3℃ of global warming by 2100, oceans are projected to absorb five times more heat than the observed amount accumulated since 1970. Being far more acidic than today, ocean oxygen levels will decline at ever-shallower depths, affecting the distribution and abundance of marine life everywhere. At 1.5-2℃ warming, the complete loss of coral reefs is very likely.
Under 3℃ warming, global sea levels are projected to rise 40-80 centimetres, and by many more metres over coming centuries. Rising sea levels are already inundating low-lying coastal areas, and saltwater is intruding into freshwater wetlands. This leads to coastal erosion that amplifies storm impacts and affects both ecosystems and people.
Land and freshwater environments have been damaged by drought, fire, extreme heatwaves, invasive species and disease. An estimated 3 billion vertebrate animals were killed or displaced in the Black Summer bushfires. Some 24 million hectares burned, including 80% of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and 50% of Gondwana rainforests. At 3℃ of warming, the number of extreme fire days could double.
Some species are shifting to cooler latitudes or higher elevations. But most will struggle to keep up with the unprecedented rate of warming. Critical thresholds in many natural systems are likely to be exceeded as global warming reaches 1.5℃. At 2℃ and beyond, we’re likely to see the complete loss of coral reefs, and inundation of iconic ecosystems such as the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
At 3℃ of global warming, Australia’s present-day ecological systems would be unrecognisable. The first documented climate-related global extinction of a mammal, the Bramble Cay melomys from the Torres Strait, is highly unlikely to be the last. Climate change is predicted to increase extinction rates by several orders of magnitude.
Degradation of Australia’s unique ecosystems will harm the tourism and recreation industries, as well as our food security, health and culture.
There are ways to reduce the climate risk for ecosystems – many of which also benefit humans. For example, preserving and restoring mangroves protects our coasts from storms, increases carbon storage and retains fisheries habitat.
Australian agriculture and food security already face significant risks from droughts, heatwaves, fires, floods and invasive species. At 2℃ or more of global warming, rainfall will decline and droughts in areas such as southeastern and southwestern Australia will intensify. This will reduce water availability for irrigated agriculture and increase water prices.
Heat stress affects livestock welfare, reproduction and production. Projected temperature and humidity changes suggest livestock will experience many more heat stress days each year. More frequent storms and heavy rainfall are likely to worsen erosion on grazing land and may lead to livestock loss from flooding.
Heat stress and reduced water availability will also make farms less profitable. A 3℃ global temperature increase would reduce yields of key crops by between 5% and 50%. Significant reductions are expected in oil seeds (35%), wheat (18%) and fruits and vegetables (14%).
Climate change also threatensforestry in hotter, drier regions such as southwestern Australia. There, the industry faces increased fire risks, changed rainfall patterns and growing pest populations. In cooler regions such as Tasmania and Gippsland, forestry production may increase as the climate warms. Existing plantations would change substantially under 3℃ warming.
As ocean waters warm, distributions and stock levels of commercial fish species are continuing to change. This will curb profitability. Many aquaculture fisheries may fundamentally change, relocate or cease to exist.
These changes may cause fisheries workers to suffer unemployment, mental health issues (potentially leading to suicides) and other problems. Strategic planning to create new business opportunities in these regions may reduce these risks.
Almost 90% of Australians live in cities and towns and will experience climate change in urban environments.
Under a sea level rise of 1 metre by the end of the century – a level considered plausible by federal officials – between 160,000 and 250,000 Australian properties and infrastructure are at risk of coastal flooding.
Strategies to manage the risk include less construction in high-risk areas, and protecting coastal land with sea walls, sand dunes and mangroves. But some coastal areas may have to be abandoned.
Extreme heat, bushfires and storms put strain on power stations and infrastructure. At the same time, more energy is needed for increased air conditioning use. Much of Australia’s electricity generation relies on ageing and unreliable coal-fired power stations. Extreme weather can also disrupt and damage the oil and gas industries. Diversifying energy sources and improving infrastructure will be important to ensure reliable energy supplies.
The insurance and financial sector is becoming increasingly aware of climate risk and exposure. Insurance firms face increased claims due to climate-related disasters including floods, cyclones and mega-fires. Under some scenarios, one in every 19 property owners face unaffordable insurance premiums by 2030. A 3℃ world would render many more properties and businesses uninsurable.
Cities and towns, however, can be part of the climate solution. High-density urban living leads to a lower per capita greenhouse gas emission “footprint”. Also, innovative solutions are easier to implement in urban environments.
Passive cooling techniques, such as incorporating more plants and street trees during planning, can reduce city temperatures. But these strategies may require changes to stormwater management and can take time to work.
A 3℃ world threatens human health, livelihoods and communities. The elderly, young, unwell, and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are at most risk.
Heatwaves on land and sea are becoming longer, more frequent and severe. For example, at 3℃ of global warming, heatwaves in Queensland would happen as often as seven times a year, lasting 16 days on average. These cause physiological heat stress and worsen existing medical conditions.
Bushfire-related health impacts are increasing, causing deaths and exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as heart and lung disease. Tragically, we saw this unfold during Black Summer. These extreme conditions will increase at 2℃ and further at 3℃, causing direct and indirect physical and mental health issues.
Under 3℃ warming, climate damage to businesses will likely to lead to increased unemployment and possibly higher suicide rates, mental health issues and health issues relating to heat stress.
At 3°C global warming, many locations in Australia would be very difficult to inhabit due to projected water shortages.
As weather patterns change, transmission of some infectious diseases, such as Ross River virus, will become more intense. “Tropical” diseases may spread to more temperate areas across Australia.
Strategies exist to help mitigate these effects. They include improving early warning systems for extreme weather events and boosting the climate resilience of health services. Nature-based solutions, such as increasing green spaces in urban areas, will also help.
The report acknowledges that limiting global temperatures to 1.5℃ this century is now extremely difficult. Achieving net-zero global emissions by 2050 is the absolute minimum required to to avoid the worst climate impacts.
Australia is well positioned to contribute to this global challenge. We have a well-developed industrial base, skilled workforce and vast sources of renewable energy.
But Australia must also pursue far more substantial emissions reduction. Under the Paris deal, we’ve pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28% between 2005 and 2030. Given the multiple and accelerating climate threats Australia faces, we must scale up this pledge. We must also display the international leadership and collaboration required to set Earth on a safer climate trajectory.
Our report recommends Australia immediately do the following:
join global leaders in increasing actions to urgently tackle and solve climate change
develop strategies to meet the challenges of extreme events that are increasing in intensity, frequency and scale
improve our understanding of climate impacts, including tipping points and the compounding effects of multiple stressors at global warming of 2℃ or more
systematically explore how food production and supply systems should prepare for climate change
better understand the impacts and risks of climate change for the health of Australians
introduce policies to deliver deep and rapid cuts in emissions across the economy
scale up the development and implementation of low- to zero-emissions technologies
review Australia’s capacity and flexibility to take up innovations and technology breakthroughs for transitioning to a low-emissions future
develop a better understanding of climate solutions through dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – particularly strategies that helped people manage Australian ecosystems for tens of thousands of years
continue to build adaptation strategies and greater commitment for meeting the challenges of change already in the climate system.
We don’t have much time to avert catastrophe. This decade must be transformational, and one where we choose a safer future.
The report upon which this article is based, The Risks to Australia of a 3°C Warmer World, was authored and reviewed by 21 experts.
“If you paid $120 for a pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes, you paid more to Nike than it paid in federal income taxes over the past 3 years,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders.
For millions of ordinary people in the U.S., 2020 was a painful year in which loved ones and jobs were lost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating economic repercussions. But for many of the country’s major corporations, last year was a lucrative one—particularly if they were among the 55 companies that paid $0 in federal income taxes on a combined $40.5 billion in profits, as a new study shows.
“We should be asking bigger questions about a tax system so flawed that it asks next to nothing of profitable corporations that derive great benefit from our economy.” —Matthew Gardner, ITEP
Released Friday, the report is based on the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s (ITEP) analysis of 2020 financial reports filed by the country’s largest publicly traded corporations.
Instead of paying a collective $8.5 billion in federal income taxes on last year’s profits of $40.5 billion, as mandated by the statutory 21% rate, the 55 companies exploited preexisting loopholes and pandemic-related tax breaks to reduce their tax bills to zero.
Not only did these corporations secure a zero-tax liability, they received a collective $3.5 billion in rebates, bringing the total amount of lost federal revenue to $12 billion. And 26 of them haven’t paid a dime for the past three years, a time period in which the GOP’s “morally and economically obscene” tax cuts for corporations and wealthy Americans have been in effect.
“We should continue to call on policymakers to address the gaping corporate tax loopholes that make this kind of tax avoidance possible,” said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at ITEP and an author of the report.
“But in a pandemic year when so many small businesses shuttered and millions of people lost their economic livelihoods,” he added, “we should be asking bigger questions about a tax system so flawed that it asks next to nothing of profitable corporations that derive great benefit from our economy—in good and bad economic times.”
In the report, Gardner characterized the latest example of tax dodging by profitable companies as part of “a decades-long trend of corporate tax avoidance by the biggest U.S. corporations [that] appears to be the product of long-standing tax breaks preserved or expanded by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as well as the CARES Act tax breaks enacted in the spring of 2020.”
The report includes a table listing the profits and effective tax rates of all 55 companies.
Some publicly traded corporations that paid $0 in federal income taxes in the most recent fiscal year, such as Zoom, are not included because they are not yet part of the S&P 500 or Fortune 500. But many of the companies—which represent a variety of industries, including technology, utilities, manufacturing, banking, agriculture, and others—are household names.
Some of the most well-known brands, according to ITEP’s analysis, include the following:
Food conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland enjoyed $438 million of U.S. pretax income last year and received a federal tax rebate of $164 million.
The cable TV provider Dish Network paid no federal income taxes on $2.5 billion of U.S. income in 2020.
The delivery giant FedEx zeroed out its federal income tax on $1.2 billion of U.S. pretax income last year and received a rebate of $230 million.
The shoe manufacturer Nike didn’t pay a dime of federal income tax on almost $2.9 billion of U.S. pretax income in 2020, instead enjoying a $109 million tax rebate.
The software company Salesforce avoided all federal income taxes last year on $2.6 billion of U.S. income.
As Gardner wrote, “the biggest and most profitable U.S. corporations have found ways to shelter their profits from federal income taxation” for decades, which ITEP has documented “since the early years of the Reagan administration’s misguided tax-cutting experiment.”
“A widely cited ITEP analysis of an eight-year period (2008 through 2015) confirmed that federal tax avoidance remained rampant before the TCJA,” but now that “most corporations [are] reporting their third year of results under the new corporate tax laws pushed through by President Donald Trump in 2017, it is crystal clear that the TCJA failed to address loopholes that enable tax dodging—and may have made it worse,” he added.
According to ITEP, “the companies used a combination of old and new tax breaks to secure a zero-tax obligation.” Gardner documented the “familiar” tactics that corporations used to slash their effective federal tax rate on corporate profits:
More than a dozen used a tax break for executive stock options to sharply reduce their income taxes last year;
At least half a dozen companies used the federal research and experimentation credit to reduce their income taxes in 2020;
Tax breaks for renewable energy are part of the tax avoidance scheme for several utility companies and
A provision in the TCJA allowing companies to immediately write off capital investments—the most extreme version of accelerated depreciation—helped more than a dozen companies reduce their income tax substantially.
In addition, Gardner noted, there is “a new factor driving down corporate tax bills: the CARES Act, ostensibly designed to help people and businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic.”
While “tax law previously allowed companies to carry back losses to offset profits in two prior years,” Gardner wrote that “the TCJA bars companies from doing this (although it still allows companies to carry losses forward to offset profits in future years). However, the CARES Act temporarily restored companies’ ability to carry back losses and, incredibly, is more generous than the pre-TCJA rules.”
ITEP noted that “the provision’s generosity (the act retroactively loosens rules even for losses in years before the pandemic) provides a ripe breeding ground for corporate tax accounting gimmicks.” As Gardner pointed out, “some companies used a CARES Act provision to ‘carry back’ 2018 or 2019 losses to offset profits they reported in prior years, resulting in a rebate that reduced their 2020 taxes, in some cases to less than nothing.”
The heirs of the super-rich pay zero capital gains taxes on huge increases in the value of what they inherit because of a loophole called the stepped-up basis. At the time of death, the value of assets is “stepped up” to their current market value—so a stock that was originally valued at, say, one dollar when purchased but that’s worth $1,000 when heirs receive it, escapes $999 of capital gains taxes. This loophole enables huge and growing concentrations of wealth to be passed from generation to generation without ever being taxed. Eliminating this loophole would raise $105 billion over a decade.
Six: Close other loopholes for the super-rich.
For example, one way the managers of real estate, venture capital, private equity and hedge funds reduce their taxes is the carried interest loophole, which allows them to treat their income as capital gains rather than ordinary wage income. That means they get taxed at the lower capital gains rate rather than the higher tax rate on incomes. Closing this loophole is estimated to raise $14 billion over a decade.
Seven: Increase the IRS’s funding so it can audit rich taxpayers.
Because the IRS has been so underfunded, millionaires are far less likely to be audited than they used to be. As a result, the IRS fails to collect a huge amount of taxes from wealthy taxpayers. Collecting all unpaid federal income taxes from the richest 1 percent would generate at least $1.75 trillion over the decade. So fully fund the IRS.
Together, these 7 ways of taxing the rich would generate more than $6 trillion over 10 years—enough to tackle the great needs of the nation. As inequality has exploded, our unjust tax system has allowed the richest Americans to cheat their way out of paying their fair share.
It’s not radical to rein in this irresponsibility. It’s radical to let it continue.
Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include: “Aftershock” (2011), “The Work of Nations” (1992), “Beyond Outrage” (2012) and, “Saving Capitalism” (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” Reich’s newest book is “The Common Good” (2019). He’s co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.
I’ve come to realise in the past few days about the really nasty untrue shit shared in secret files on me. So this is secret files which you are never supposed to know about. Can you imagine the worst things they could allege – without any truth or supporting evidence? That’s it and this totally fucking nonsense – because you’ve disagreed with a lecturer – is following you around for the rest of your life – without you even supposed to know about it. It’s from the police or similar – totally unverified, just a rumour that some cnut can raise – shared with medical professionals, councils, who knows who the fuck else. Courts get access to it but you don’t – it’s secret, these so nasty allegations that you are never given the opportunity to refute because you’re never even fekking told about it. Council Housing Officers – my? -are particular fekking cnuts.
ed: I want to make clear. These are unverified allegations I believe originated from a useless, asshole lecturer probably because I objected to his Fascism. We had opposing politics – he was a Fascist, I was a Socialist. I have then been recorded as a suspected worst bastard imaginable on police databases which is shared widely in secret. People I come into contact with like doctors , policemen and council officers who have access to this really nasty shit treat me like a total bastard because they treat this shit as truth rather than I disagreed and argued with a simpleton Fascist lecturer.
Many European countries have halted using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about blood clots and related medical conditions. It causes difficulties since this vaccine is the only one many of these countries have.
The UK government is desperate that its population gets vaccinated and there is so much total BS in the media pursuing this objective. While I am not an anti-vaxxer people have the right to make an informed decision which – of course – requires that they are informed. All Covid-19 vaccines are licenced only for emergency use since they have not finished their testing.
I am quite impressed by this analysis which I consider appears reasonable and measured. It appears reasonable that adverse events are grossly under-reported through the Yello Card Scheme, which is supported by the fact that many reports are from medical staff.
Now you may have heard the argument by those in authority that the adverse reactions reported are not showing cause for concern as they are in line with what would be expected in the population without the vaccine being administered. The Government even claim this in their own report –
‘It may be difficult to tell the difference between something that has occurred naturally and a suspected adverse reaction. A range of other isolated or series of reports of non-fatal, serious suspected ADRs have been reported. These all remain under continual review, including through analysis of expected rates in the absence of vaccine.‘
The thing is, there is a way to prove that the vaccines are the cause of the adverse reactions and that is to compare the adverse reactions to the Pfizer jab and the adverse reactions to the Oxford jab side by side.
If there is no difference between what we would expect to see in the general population without the vaccine being administered then the rate of reported reactions should be pretty similar for both jabs, shouldn’t they?
Finally we come to deaths. There have been 94,809 adverse reactions as a result of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine reported to the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme with 227 sadly resulting in death as of the 28th February 2021.
However, even though there have been one million less doses administered than the Pfizer jab, there have been a total of 201,622 adverse reactions to the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine reported to the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme, with 275 sadly resulting in death as of the 28th February 2021.
So there you have it. We have just proven that the Government are talking utter nonsense when they claim there is nothing to worry about as the adverse reactions to the Covid vaccines are in line with what would we would expect to see in the general public who have not had the vaccine.
I am likely to revise this article but I want to get it out. It’s about the historical and continuing malign and corrosive influence of the Australian-American press baron Rupert Murdoch on UK politics. The article starts by looking at Murdoch’s influence over Tony Blair’s government before looking at how he still wields influence over Boris Johnson’s current government (and needs expanding there). I’m only searching the web so you can do this for yourselves.
Former Sun deputy editor Neil Wallis was in charge during the 1997 election campaign when then-Sun editor Stuart Higgins was on holiday.
The paper made shockwaves when it published a “Sun backs Blair” front page after declaring “it was the Sun wot won it” for the Conservatives in the previous election.
He said he asked for a first-person piece from Blair on his party’s “cut and dried position” on Europe but it was “a piece of PR flim-flam that actually said nothing”.
“I said ‘I’m not running this Alistair [Campbell, Blair’s spin doctor] because it’s just saying nothing’. But I said ‘for this to be coherent, for this to have an impact, this needs to say you will not go into the Euro without a referendum’.
“And I duly got the piece under Tony Blair’s name committing them to a referendum on the Euro if it was ever considered that they would go into it.”
Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage directly linked this Sun column with the eventual vote to leave the European Union 19 years later.
He told the documentary: “The price of Rupert Murdoch’s support for Tony Blair was that Blair promised he would not take us into the European currency without first having a referendum, and if Rupert Murdoch had not done that we would have joined the Euro in 1999 and I doubt Brexit would have happened.
“So I think when we look at the long history of Britain’s relationship with the European project that led ultimately to the Brexit vote, I think that was a decisive intervention from Rupert Murdoch.”
So much falls into place with the revelation that Tony Blair became godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s two young daughters and attended their baptism on the banks of the river Jordan last year. True, it isn’t yet clear whether Blair had agreed to become a godparent while he was prime minister [see footnote], and the ceremony did take place after he had left office, but the important point is that the relationship underlines Murdoch’s deep entrenchment in British political life.
Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi Deng, who let slip the information in an interview with Vogue, described Blair as one of Rupert’s closest friends. Blair’s account of the relationship in his memoirs is somewhat different, portraying Murdoch as the big bad beast, who won his grudging respect. That is clearly disingenuous. As other memoirs and diaries from the Blair period are published, we see how close Murdoch was to the prime minister and the centre of power when really important decisions, such as the Iraq invasion, were being made.
Blair and Murdoch didn’t have to be bosom buddies for the relationship to be counter to the interests of a healthy national life and politics. As Lance Price, the former Blair spin doctor, has said, Murdoch was one of four people in Britain whose reaction was considered when any important decision was made during the Blair years.
Rupert Murdoch launched an “over-crude” campaign to force Tony Blair to speed up Britain’s entry into the Iraq war, according to the final volume of [total cnut] Alastair Campbell’s diaries.
Mr Blair’s former communications director accuses the media mogul of being part of a drive by American Republicans to drag Britain into the controversial war a week before the House of Commons even voted to approve the intervention in 2003.
The claim is explosive because it appears to contradict Mr Murdoch’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. The News Corp chief told Lord Justice Leveson in April: “I’ve never asked a prime minister for anything.”
It is the second time that claim has been contested. Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister, told the inquiry this week that Mr Murdoch threatened to withdraw the support of his newspapers for his Government unless it took a tougher stance on Europe. …
Liverpool MP Andy Burnham has suggested that Tony Blair did not order a full enquiry into the Hillsborough disaster because he did not want to offend Rupert Murdoch.
Mr Burnham, a Labour leader hopeful said he was told not to pursue his demand for an official investigation when serving under Mr Blair.
As a result a “major injustice” was allowed to remain in place for more than a decade, he said.
Mr Burnham was the driving force behind Gordon Brown’s decision to set up the Hillsborough Independent Panel into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. … The Sun caused lasting outrage after publishing a report following the 1989 tragedy accusing “drunken” Liverpool fans of attacking rescue workers. …
Former Prime Minister Tony has always adamantly denied allegations he had an affair with Wendi, who was married to the News UK magnate from 1999 to 2013. However, the new BBC show spoke about Wendi’s affection towards him, including an unearthed diary entry in which she spoke about his ‘good body and legs’ before adding: ‘And what else and what else and what else…’.
But it was a series of emails, allegedly from Wendi about Blair, that effectively caused their divorce. ‘She made a bad mistake,’ journalist Ken Auletta explained. ‘She was sending emails on Newscorp email, so it’s easy for one of Murdoch’s minions, or lawyers, to extract those emails and see what they said – and they did. …
dizzy: At Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall’s wedding in March 2016 Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel were invited – three prominent members of the current UK government. David Cameron and George Osborne – anti-Brexiteers – were not invited. Tony Blair was not invited – he’s been dropped by Murdoch after not having an affair with Wendi Deng.
What’s this about? Meetings held by chief of UK’s worse than useless test and trace ‘system’ Dido Harding are censored but why? The cost grounds as a very poor excuse – there should be an easily accessible record of the meetings she’s attended. Has she not attended any meetings? Has she attended meetings at ridiculous, expensive locations breaking lockdown rules? There’s something embarrassing being hidden and any mate of Boris’s is likely to be seriously insane. I would guess at no meetings so that there was no effective leadership of UK’s chaotic test and trace ‘system’. It makes sense that it was(is) anarchic with nobody in charge.
The British government has been accused of running an ‘Orwellian’ unit in Michael Gove’s office that instructs Whitehall departments on how to respond to Freedom of Information requests and shares personal information about journalists, openDemocracy can reveal today.
Experts warn that the practice could be breaking the law – and openDemocracy is now working with the law firm Leigh Day on a legal bid to force Gove’s Cabinet Office to reveal full details of how its secretive ‘Clearing House’ unit operates.
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are supposed to be ‘applicant-blind’: meaning who makes the request should not matter. But it now emerges that government departments and non-departmental public bodies have been referring ‘sensitive’ FOI requests from journalists and researchers to the Clearing House in Gove’s department in a move described by a shadow cabinet minister as “blacklisting”.
This secretive FOI unit gives advice to other departments “to protect sensitive information”, and collates lists of journalists with details about their work. These lists have included journalists from openDemocracy, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and many more, as well as researchers from Privacy International and Big Brother Watch and elsewhere.
An interview (and part two) with David King, former government chief scientific adviser (2000-2007) and founder and chair of Independent SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies) about SAGE and following the evidence. The articles are from September 2000 while the main criticisms remain valid.
HW: How many civil servants are on the official SAGE, relative to independent scientists?
SDK: Not counting sub-committees, out of the main group of 23, 13 are civil servants
HW: So SAGE is not a body of independent scientists? It’s a body that is controlled by government, given the dominance of civil servants in it?
SDK: I’m afraid I think that’s right [although] I have enormous respect for Sir Patrick Vallance [the current chief scientific adviser].
HW: Was this anything to do with this government’s view of the public – that the public must simply be told what to do, so the debate about the science can’t be open?
SDK: Yes. The government want to be able to say, ‘We are following the science.’ If the public doesn’t know what the science advice is, the public has no means of knowing whether or not the government is being honest. But it’s going further than that. If it goes pear-shaped, it’s the scientists’ fault.
SDK: The prime minister believed in the herd immunity programme. In other words, if there are enough of us who have had the disease, we’ve got the antibodies and the disease can no longer spread. Enough means about 70 per cent. It’s like a vaccine. You’ve got the antibodies and the disease is just wiped out. That, of course, was how the plagues were eventually wiped out, but the human cost was enormous. Now the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, did say in one of his press briefings, with the approval of the prime minister standing on his right, ’With herd immunity, it is likely to take a while but we will eventually come out of it.’
HW: Did he admit that it would be at the cost of tens of thousands of deaths?
SDK: The prime minister said, ‘We have to be prepared for losing some of our loved ones, every one of us has to be prepared.’ So, there was that expectation. They consciously allowed the disease to spread.
There was the football match up in Liverpool in early March against a team from Spain. Spain had the epidemic, massively, and we allowed the crowds into Liverpool to attend that match, British and Spanish crowds. It was the best possible way to make sure that it was spread in the country at large. Then we had the Cheltenham races on 10-13 March with a quarter of a million people there – another wonderful way for an epidemic to spread. That was a formula for us to all quickly get immunity by having the disease.
The problem was a delay period before they actually pushed the lockdown button. In that period of time, we all knew that the epidemic was doubling every three to four days. So, in one week it was quadrupling. My analysis was that if they had just gone into lockdown one week earlier – when they began discussing the Ferguson paper [predicting that around 250,000 people would die if we didn’t go into lockdown] we would have a quarter of the number of deaths that we have today. It’s going to turn out to be 40-50,000 unnecessary deaths in this country – unwarranted, a complete cock-up by government.
£2.6m: Refurbishment for White House-style press briefings
Downing Street has spent more than £2.6 million on renovations in order to hold White House-style press briefings, it was revealed on Saturday.
£37bn: Spending on troubled Test and Trace system
HuffPost UK revealed on Thursday that the small print of Sunak’s budget showed the Test and Trace system is to get another £15bn, bringing its total cost to £37bn. The funding for 2021/22 comes on top of this year’s spending allocation of £22bn.
MPs said that the “eye-watering” sums should prompt ministers to do more to prove that the system, run by Tory peer Dido Harding, was giving taxpayers real value for money.
£340,000: Payout to Home Office official after Priti Patel bullying claims
On Thursday, it emerged the government agreed a “substantial” payout to settle a top civil servant’s employment tribunal claim after he quit amid allegations of home secretary Priti Patel’s bullying.
£4.4bn: Additional costs of Brexit preparations
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union cost the taxpayer more than £4 billion in additional government costs, according to the Whitehall spending watchdog last March.
£150m: Millions of unusable face masks
During the early days of the pandemic, the government scrambled to secure deals with suppliers for precious personal protective equipment (PPE). Questions have been raised about many of the contracts, among the most notorious being a deal for 50 million face masks that did not work.
The masks were bought for NHS England from investment firm Ayanda Capital as part of a £252 million contract. But the government said because they used ear-loop fastenings rather than head loops, they may not have fit tightly enough for clinical use. It confirmed in court papers that the masks would not be used in the NHS.
£60m: Falling short of supplying computers to disadvantaged schools
A £60m contract was awarded for the education department to provide laptops to teachers and disadvantaged children during the lockdown.
Better start blogging again – I need to say how absolutely atrocious Boris Johnson’s response to Covid is, about his corrupt ‘chumocracy’ contracts to his mates, about his efforts to evade scrutiny by blocking data requests from journalists. So I had better get back up to speed.
In the meantime, have some music
Reach out and touch me ;)
I’m taking this opportunity to give a shout to all those of a community I was a part of 30 years ago – that was good times and love you all. A special shout to RB who caught me playing torpedoes ;)
By most accounts, 2020 has been a rough year for the planet. It was the warmest year on record, just barely exceeding the record set in 2016 by less than a tenth of a degree according to NASA’s analysis.
Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA.
Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, the year’s globally averaged temperature was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 2020 edged out 2016 by a very small amount, within the margin of error of the analysis, making the years effectively tied for the warmest year on record.
“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”
About 28tn tonnes of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, which the authors of the paper calculate would be enough to put an ice sheet 100 metres thick across the UK. About two thirds of the ice loss was caused by the warming of the atmosphere, with about a third caused by the warming of the seas.
A healthcare company ultimately controlled by leading Tory donor and former party chairman, Lord Ashcroft, has received a £350m contract as part of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, openDemocracy has learned.
Last month the Department of Health and Social Care gave the lucrative contract to Medacs Healthcare plc. In recent weeks, the outsourcing company, which specialises in providing staff to the NHS, social care services and private healthcare providers, has been advertising for staff to work on the huge vaccination project.
Medacs is a subsidiary of Impellam Group, a FTSE-listed firm whose largest shareholder is Michael Ashcroft, the Belize-based Conservative peer who has donated millions to the party, including more than £175,000 in the past year.
The award of a major COVID contract to a firm with close ties to the Tories has sparked further questions about politically connected firms benefiting financially from the UK’s pandemic response.
Medacs was criticised in 2019 when a Care Quality Commission report on a homecare service run by the firm was rated “inadequate”.
The regulator found “that the care people received was not safe. The majority of people’s care calls were not delivered at the time they were expected and people gave examples of where this had impacted significantly upon them and the safety of the care that they received.”
Furthermore the report noted that: “medicines records were not kept up to date and CQC identified instances where medicines records showed a potential overdose”.