Reasons Not To Privatize The Feds: Part Two

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Going Country

More and more, city gangs are sending young runners out into the sticks to sell crack and heroin. We spoke to dealers, sex workers and police to get a better understanding of how the whole thing works.

As commuters arrive into Britain’s major cities from their homes in the shires, a different kind of commuter is travelling the opposite direction. They’re more likely to be young and wearing trainers, tracksuits and puffer jackets. Most of them generate more cash each day than their city-bound counterparts. The tools of their trade are a cheap mobile phone, a bag of class A drugs and a knife.

Last week, the National Crime Agency released its second report into the growing phenomenon known as “going country” – city drug gangs sending young runners to sell crack and heroin in market or coastal towns. The report found that these were no occasional day trips: over 180 urban drug dealing gangs have expanded into the jurisdictions of three quarters of British police forces.

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Going country, or “OT” (out there), is not an entirely new phenomenon. Gangs from the big four UK drug hubs – London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool – have been sending dealers to sell in less crowded areas since the rise of the highly profitable crack selling business, and of mobile phones, in the 1990s. The drug trade in Ipswich, Suffolk, for example, has been dominated by London gangs since 2003.

 HAINE, LAYet, in the last decade, across Britain the trickle has turned into a flood. Using motorways and trains, city gangs have expanded their reach far and wide, beyond the commuter belt, from Devon and Gloucestershire to Humberside and Scotland. London gangs – the most prolific of them all – have taken over the trade across the south of England: in west country towns such as Swindon, Melksham, Aylesbury, Bournemouth and Yeovil; in southern towns such as Hastings, Eastbourne, Worthing, Tunbridge Wells, Margate and Brighton; and in the east, in Colchester, Cambridge, Norwich, Leiston and Bury St Edmonds.

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What’s more, the dealers are getting younger, with children as young as 11 being found selling drugs in areas a world away from the inner city zones they call home. Meanwhile, as the newcomers increasingly discard the old school criminal code of local drug markets, rivalry, enmity and violence intensifies.

Despite recent police and media reports about this phenomenon, little is known about how these gangs operate and the impact they have on “host” towns. In truth, it’s a story about a collision point: where people’s desperation to escape poverty and pain meets head-on with the cold, hard economics of the drug trade.

G4s have demonstrated to the general public just how adept they are at managing national events and the probation service, they clearly aren’t. So where would they find the money for the kind of policing work that throws up this research data? Policing cuts have consequences.

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Reasons Not To Privatize The Feds: Part One

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A Heathrow airport drug smuggling racket importing more than £10million of cocaine into Britain was smashed following a series of dawn raids today.

The drugs, which also included 50 kilos of cannabis, was shipped into the UK in 15 months through the UK’s biggest airport.

Eleven suspects, including one woman and three baggage handlers, were arrested at addresses in and around London and the south east.

Today’s operation follows a number of seizures of drugs at Heathrow over a 15 month period – totalling around 100 kilograms of cocaine and 50 kilograms of cannabis.

The drugs are believed to have been sent by drugs lords based in Brazil for gangs selling on the streets of London. Please note, that these are not necessarily Afro-Carribean gangs, a number of ethnicities (Brazillian, Angolan, Columbian, Dominican,Polish, Romanian,Russian) are now a part of settled communities in London and have been for many years.

Those arrested are aged between 24 and 60 and were detained following the series of coordinated raids involving around 125 investigators from the National Crime Agency.

The operation NCA were assisted by officers from three police forces including the Metropolitan Police.

The suspected drugs ring members were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to import class A drugs and are now being questioned at police stations around London.

The suspects are either linked to the South Americans in the drugs trade or ‘wholesalers’ based in London.  

G4S never stops talking about the money it can save police services but how many plain clothes hours inside & outside of London went into the preparation for this police operation? The face of London has changed, to discover to what extent & make all the necessary links between Columbian criminals & those indigenous to London costs patience, time & wages? Cuts have consequences.

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Ratification Of The Paris Agreement Delayed

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It’s now nine months since the COP21 climate treaty was agreed in Paris. At the time,I met the agreement with both celebration and condemnation: it marked an important global moment for collective action on climate change but lacked the ambition and detail on how even a 2ºC target could be met. Many observers recognised that the proof of its success would be in the national policy commitments made by governments and ministers in the months and years that followed.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

Importantly, the Paris agreement will not enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of total global emissions have ratified it. As it stands, 26 states have completed this, totalling 39.06 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, this includes China and the United States, who last week jointly announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement, marking a very important step in the treaty’s journey.

Sadly, the UK has dawdled on Paris ratification and has not yet made any announcement of when it intends to do so. Since December, the stock response of both the Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (and formerly the Department for Energy and Climate Change) has been that the government will do so ‘as soon as possible’.

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In Parliament today, I asked the Prime Minister if she will commit to ratifying the agreement before the follow up negotiations in November of this year. She sidestepped the question and refused to give a firm date. With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record, this casual approach is at odds with ever more serious warnings about the severity of the climate crisis.

At the national level, it has been a terrible year for climate and energy policy. With the ongoing reckless obsession with fracking, the failure to embrace energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, and the delay in new subsidy announcements for offshore wind, it should come as no surprise that the Committee on Climate Change announced in June that the government lacks half the policies it needs to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

Indeed, it is clear that UK energy and infrastructure policy is going in completely the wrong direction – cutting support for renewables and efficiency, locking in high-carbon gas for decades to come, and squandering taxpayers’ money on new nuclear and runways.

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In a further sign of government neglect, yesterday, the new Minster for Climate Change, announced a probable delay in the publication of the vital Carbon Plan. The plan will detail how the UK will meet its targets under the Climate Change Act. This delay comes at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low. The responsibility for this lies solely with chaotic and unpredictable government policy. The dismal failure of the Treasury and the Energy Department to halt the potentially catastrophic Business Rate rises to schools, businesses and community organisations with solar panels on their rooftops is a further example of that.

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Without a global step change in ambition, global temperatures will likely rise by 3.7°C and beyond. The consequences of this kind of change are unimaginable – indeed, we do not know the full implications of breaching planetary boundaries in this way. As a nation with an historic responsibility for carbon emissions, as well as the skills, expertise and resources to help create the solutions, the UK must take responsibility.

Delaying the ratification of the Paris Agreement – never mind dodging the ongoing questions about how we meet our own carbon reduction targets – demonstrates a dangerous and reckless approach to the most important issue of our time.

With much of the real detail of the Paris agreement being discussed at the follow-up COP22 negotiations in Marrakech in November, it would send all the wrong signals for the UK to turn up without having ratified it.

(This is an excerpt from Caroline Lucas MP’s blog)

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Bernie Sanders, Native Americans say oil pipeline will poison drinking water

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders called on President Obama to take action against the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline during a protest outside the White House on Tuesday with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations.

The Vermont independent is seeking a full environmental and cultural impact analysis of the four-state, $3.8 billion project, designed to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Federal officials last week temporarily halted part of the project, but Sanders wants the administration to go further, saying the pipeline threatens the environment and water resources and exploits Native Americans.

Protesters say the pipeline’s route under the Missouri River will endanger the water supply and sacred sites of the Sioux reservation located on the North Dakota-South Dakota border. A thorough analysis, Sanders said, will ultimately kill the pipeline.

“We cannot allow our drinking water to be poisoned so that a handful of fossil fuel companies can make even more in profits,” the former Democratic presidential candidate told the cheering crowd, estimated at 3,000 by organizers. “We stand united in saying, ‘Stop the pipeline, respect Native American rights and let us move forward to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels.”

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The protest was one of about 200 “#NoDAPL” events Tuesday, mostly in the United States, according to the environmental group 350.org. 

It followed Tuesday’s release of an internal memo from Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access pipeline, saying concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the water supply are “unfounded.” Kelcy Warren, the company’s chairman and CEO, also wrote that multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.

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The Paris climate change summit is one small step for humankind

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Is the Paris agreement a breakthrough in the struggle to limit the risks of climate change, as weary negotiators claim? Or is it just another way station on the road to calamity, as critics insist. At this stage it is neither. It is far more than the world could have reasonably expected a year or two ago. But it is also far less than the world needs.As it stands, it will at best slow the pace at which the world reaches a possible disaster. Whether it averts disaster depends partly on how the climate system works, on which much uncertainty remains.

But it also depends on what happens in the near future. Is the agreement the beginning of revolutions in policy, as well as the energy system? Or is it yet another piece of paper that promises far more than it delivers? The answer depends on what happens now.

The achievements of the negotiators, ably chaired by the French government, are far from nothing. They showed that it is possible to get the world’s countries to agree to action in response to a shared danger, even one that seems both remote and uncertain to many of those now living.

These agreed that all countries must participate in the effort. They agreed that the rich should help the poor meet their decarbonisation objectives. They also agreed on the goal of keeping global temperature rises well below 2C and even to “pursue efforts” to keep them below 1.5C

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Yet these are, on the face of it, largely hollow achievements. The provision of needed finance is an aspiration, not a bankable commitment. No limits are to be imposed on emissions from aviation or shipping.

No mechanism is to be established for setting a global carbon price. Countries are above all committed only to communicate and maintain plans — described, in slippery language, as “nationally determined contributions”.

No sanctions will fall on any country that fails to live up to these intentions. Worse, the intentions themselves, even if implemented (on which much doubt must be expressed) fall far short of what is needed to deliver the 2C goal, let alone a lower one. Average global temperatures have risen by nearly 1C since the industrial revolution and limiting warming to 1.5C would require another revolution.

So why should an agreement that is not only toothless, but falls far short of what is needed to reduce the risks to manageable proportions, be taken seriously? One answer is that it forces each country into a process of peer review.

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Every country will need to resubmit their plans every five years. Moreover, the reporting and monitoring system is to be more transparent and comprehensive than ever before. In particular, emerging and developing countries that now dominate emissions (China, above all) will be part of that system. In the end, it was decided, monitored aspirations would be more effective than any binding commitments that could (or, more probably, could not) be achieved.

Above all, with everybody committed to producing a plan (because everybody agrees the challenge is important), it will be far more difficult for any country to argue that failure to meet its promises does not matter.

(An FT Extract 2015)

May 22, 2013

Inequality is now killing middle America

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This week, Angus Deaton will receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare.” Deservedly so. Indeed, soon after the award was announced in October, Deaton published some startling work with Ann Case in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – research that is at least as newsworthy as the Nobel ceremony.

Analysing a vast amount of data about health and deaths among Americans, Case and Deaton showed declining life expectancy and health for middle-aged white Americans, especially those with a high school education or less. Among the causes were suicide, drugs, and alcoholism.

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America prides itself on being one of the world’s most prosperous countries, and can boast that in every recent year except one (2009) per capita GDP has increased. And a sign of prosperity is supposed to be good health and longevity. But, while the US spends more money per capita on medical care than almost any other country (and more as a percentage of GDP), it is far from topping the world in life expectancy. France, for example, spends less than 12% of its GDP on medical care, compared to 17% in the US. Yet Americans can expect to live three full years less than the French.

For years, many Americans explained away this gap. The US is a more heterogeneous society, they argued, and the gap supposedly reflected the huge difference in average life expectancy between African Americans and white Americans.

The racial gap in health is, of course, all too real. According to a study published in 2014, life expectancy for African Americans is some four years lower for women and more than five years lower for men, relative to whites. This disparity, however, is hardly just an innocuous result of a more heterogeneous society. It is a symptom of America’s disgrace: pervasive discrimination against African Americans, reflected in median household income that is less than 60% that of white households. The effects of lower income are exacerbated by the fact that the US is the only advanced country not to recognise access to health care as a basic right.

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Some white Americans, however, have attempted to shift the blame for dying younger to African Americans themselves, citing their “lifestyles”. It is perhaps true that unhealthy habits are more concentrated among poor Americans, a disproportionate number of whom are black. But these habits themselves are a consequence of economic conditions, not to mention the stresses of racism.

The Case-Deaton results show that such theories will no longer do. America is becoming a more divided society – divided not only between whites and African Americans, but also between the 1% and the rest, and between the highly educated and the less educated, regardless of race. And the gap can now be measured not just in wages, but also in early deaths. White Americans, too, are dying earlier as their incomes decline.

This evidence is hardly a shock to those of us studying inequality in America. The median income of a full-time male employee is lower than it was 40 years ago. Wages of male high school graduates have plummeted by some 19% in the period studied by Case and Deaton.

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To stay above water, many Americans borrowed from banks at usurious interest rates. In 2005, President George W. Bush’s administration made it far more difficult for households to declare bankruptcy and write off debt. Then came the financial crisis, which cost millions of Americans their jobs and homes. When unemployment insurance, designed for short-term bouts of joblessness in a full-employment world, ran out, they were left to fend for themselves, with no safety net (beyond food stamps), while the government bailed out the banks that had caused the crisis.

The basic perquisites of a middle-class life were increasingly beyond the reach of a growing share of Americans. The Great Recession had shown their vulnerability. Those who had invested in the stock market saw much of their wealth wiped out; those who had put their money in safe government bonds saw retirement income diminish to near zero, as the Fed relentlessly drove down both short- and long-term interest rates. With college tuition soaring, the only way their children could get the education that would provide a modicum of hope was to borrow; but, with education loans virtually never dischargeable, student debt seemed even worse than other forms of debt.

There was no way that this mounting financial pressure could not have placed middle-class Americans and their families under greater stress. And it is not surprising that this has been reflected in higher rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide.

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I was chief economist of the World Bank in the late 1990s, when we began to receive similarly depressing news from Russia. Our data showed that GDP had fallen some 30% since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But we weren’t confident in our measurements. Data showing that male life expectancy was declining, even as it was increasing in the rest of the world, confirmed the impression that things were not going very well in Russia, especially outside of the major cities.

The international Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, which I co-chaired and on which Deaton served, had earlieremphasised that GDP often is not a good measure of a society’s wellbeing. These new data on white Americans’ declining health status confirms this conclusion.

(An extract from The Guardian Newspaper 2015)

Three Babies Hooked On Heroin or Crack Born Every Day

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Here’s a thought for the drug dealer raising a healthy hale and hearty family off the profits of his drug dealing, THREE babies a day born in Britain are addicted to heroin, crack cocaine and other drugs, shock figures published last year reveal.

Junkie mothers over the last five years have given birth to 5,500 children who were already hooked.

Department of Health statistics show the newborns all showed “neo-natal withdrawal symptoms” within the first few hours of life.

These are the same terrible symptoms experienced by hardened addicts when they come off drugs.

The babies need specialised care to cope with severe vomiting, seizures, fever and breathing difficulties.

They became hooked in the womb because their mums continue taking drugs during pregnancy.

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Tory MP Nick de Bois — who uncovered the statistics through Parliamentary questions — said: “These figures are shocking.

“It is difficult to comprehend that in Britain we consistently have more than 1,000 babies born every year addicted to drugs.”

“We are clearly failing to prevent the most vulnerable in society — and I cannot think of anyone more vulnerable than a newborn baby — from being harmed by drug use.”

Mr de Bois urged ministers to do more to get treatment for addicts to kick their habit. But he said they should also start giving drug dealers tougher sentences.

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The statistics come only weeks after Deputy PM Nick Clegg called for an overhaul of drug laws. He told The Sun the war on drugs had been a spectacular failure.

The Commons home affairs select committee also called for ministers to consider de-criminalising drugs.

But critics warn that watering down the law could see more youngsters sucked into addiction. A total of 596 people were killed by heroin in England and Wales in 2011.

Former cop Norman Brennan, who campaigns to help victims of crime, hopes the figures will make Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg rethink his recent comments.

He said: “For 31 years as a police officer I saw first-hand how drugs destroyed the lives of users and their families — and devastated whole communities.”

“I am fed up with the liberal elite talking about legalising drugs when they haven’t the first idea about the consequences or scale of the problem.”

Liberals being easy on drugs eh? But who set up the system of commerce, that makes drug dealing such a palatable professional choice, to far too many would be businessmen I wonder?

(Extracts of this post were printed in The Sun Newspaper in 2014)

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