Voice from the Back
Bad Day, good day
It was 1 February when the news broke. Corus, the Anglo-Dutch steel giant, announced that there would be more than 6,000 redundancies at five main sites across the country. An example of how devastating this could be is summed up by Vernon Lewis who worked in Ebbw Vale steel plant for 22 years: “Corus hasn’t just ripped the heart out of a steel works, it has ripped the heart out of [the] community.” Times, 2 February. So widespread gloom throughout the country? Well, no, not quite: “Meanwhile, the city was happy at events with shares in Corus shooting ahead on news of the restructuring. By midday, shares had jumped 10 percent, up 7.75p at 82.5p before closing at 82 percent, Herald, 2 February.
Blairing a new tune
Four years ago our TV screens were filled with a smiling Tony Blair being worshipped by devout Labour supporters to the accompaniment of loudspeakers blaring, “Things Can Only Get Better.” But that was four years ago. Elderly people are waiting for up to 25 hours on trolleys in hospital accident and emergency departments, according to the soon-to-be-abolished Community Health Councils. Nigel Crisp, NHS chief executive, admitted that there was still a “problem” with waiting times. Times, 1 February.
Breakthroughs and heartbreaks
“The principle was accepted last November that insurers would be able to make use of some kinds of genetic testing information. If such tests become more widespread and insurers are given greater access to the results, a lot of the insurance market could disappear altogether in the long run. If building insurers jack up premiums in houses on floodplains, you can bet the same will happen to vulnerable people’s medical cover, permanent health insurance, critical illness, life cover and long-term care plans.” Observer, 21 January. Inside capitalism even scientific breakthroughs turn out nasty for the poor and vulnerable.
Business as usual
Their follows may hate each other and shout about 1690 and 1916, but the leaders of the Unionists and SDLP are co-operative when it comes to the really important issues to Irish capitalism—business and profits. “David Trimble and his Catholic counterpart, SDLP leader Seamus Mallon, are flying into Paris this morning in a bid to drum up investment by French firms in Northern Ireland. They will meet Medef, the French employers’ association, and then head off to the Elysée Palace to see Jacques Chirac, the President.” Times, 31 January.
Drowning not waving
“Government scientists from 99 countries, including major oil producers, have agreed that the earth’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected. In an unprecedented display of unanimity, their evidence points to human activity as the culprit. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now projects the earth’s average surface temperature will rise 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius between 1990 and 2100, higher than its 1995 estimate of a one to 3.5 degree rise . . . Sea levels are predicted to rise between nine and 88 cm (3.54 and 36.64 inches) from 1990 to 2100, potentially displacing tens of millions of people in low-lying areas such as the Pearl River Delta, Bangladesh and Egypt.” Herald, 23 January. Capitalism in its drive for profits is ruining the planet. Only socialism with production solely for use can save it.
Economy Class Syndrome
“Even though the Observer first warned of the dangers of economy class syndrome two years ago, airlines have refused to act. Now fresh research to be published in the British Medical Journal reveals that a tenth of blood clots treated at one London hospital were caused by sitting immobile on flights. If these figures were represented nationally it would point to 3,000 cases a year and 300 deaths, making death from a blood clot a greater risk than a plane crash.” Observer, 21 January. In their efforts to increase profits airlines are cramming as many people as possible into their aeroplanes. If that means reduced leg room leading to fatal risk—tough.