Johnson’s Britain, homeless woman gives birth to twins

This September 2016 video from Canada says about itself:

All the times the Duchess of Cambridge and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau were style twins

From looking lovely in lace to fierce in florals, fashion icons Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and the Duchess of Cambridge have proved many times that they are on the same style wavelength when it comes to making a sartorial splash.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Duchess of Cambridge is Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William of Britain.

Now, a different side of Cambridge, a different Sophie, and different twins.

By Margot Miller in Britain:

Homeless woman gives birth to twins outside the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College

31 December 2019

At 7 a.m. on December 23, as a cold day dawned, a homeless woman gave birth to twins outside Cambridge University’s historic Trinity College.

The babies were born at 29 weeks, which is 11 weeks premature. They are currently receiving care along with the mother—known only as “Sophie” and aged around 30—in the nearby Rosie hospital, a specialist maternity centre.

Had it not been for the prompt assistance of the public, the mother and children may have died on the steps of one of the world’s richest universities. Staff from nearby supermarket Sainsbury’s as well as passers-by saw the woman in distress and called an ambulance.

This shocking event underlines mounting social inequality, which tipped many like Sophie into destitution and many more into poverty or debt. At the other end of the scale, the richest 500 on the planet increased their wealth 25 percent since last year to an almost incomprehensible $5.9 trillion.

In the UK, the total number of billionaires rose to 151. Yet more than half a million children in England live in homeless families or families on the verge of homelessness. One in 200 individuals is without a home.

Housing charity Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate declared, “Homelessness blights lives and leaves a lasting imprint of trauma, and yet 280,000 people in England are without a home this Christmas. And many are only days away from joining them…127,000 children in England will wake up homeless on Christmas day.

“As well as those facing serious ill-health or even death sleeping rough on our streets this winter, there are thousands of families trapped in grotty emergency B&Bs, with no space for children to sit and eat, let alone play.”

The charity’s latest report, “This is England: a picture of homelessness in 2019,” reveals the crisis at its most acute in London with one in 52 people homeless. The borough of Newham has the worst problem, where one in 24 are homeless, followed by Haringey and Kensington and Chelsea (both one in 29).

The figures for areas outside the capital include Luton (one in 46), Birmingham (one in 66) and Brighton and Hove (one in 75). Manchester has one in 102 people homeless.

Shelter indicated the figure 280,000—a year on increase of 13,000—is likely an underestimation, as it does not include sofa surfers and other forms of “rough sleeping”.

The organisation’s review of government data revealed for the first time the numbers threatened with homelessness—almost 220,000 people in England in 2019.

Since the 1980s, the state under both Conservative and Labour abrogated the responsibility of providing housing, beginning with the right-to-buy council housing policy introduced by then Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and embraced by Tony Blair’s Labour government. Today, some councils build no new social houses and are selling off existing stock. Shelter estimates that 3.1 million new social homes are needed over the next 20 years, including 1.27 million for homeless families.

The shortage of housing is so critical that some families are housed in converted office blocks and even tiny shipping containers.

The lack of social housing and the shortage of affordable, private rented accommodation combined with the introduction of Universal Credit (UC)—a means-tested welfare benefit—have led to homelessness becoming a national epidemic.

The amount families receive under the UC benefit allocation for housing costs does not cover rising rents, and there is a five-week delay between applying for and receiving UC. This, plus the bedroom tax, whereby households living in social housing suffer a benefit cut if they have a spare bedroom, means a family or single person can very easily slip into destitution and homelessness.

Former Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith launched UC in 2013, as Secretary for Work and Pensions under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. The punitive benefit was rolled out from 2016, designed to drive people into low-paying work and keep them there. That Duncan Smith has been bestowed a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours list underscores the right-wing agenda of Boris Johnson’s Tory government, which will continue to shovel wealth from the working class to the very rich.

The previous Conservative government’s Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was window dressing—placing new duties on councils to prevent homelessness without providing the necessary resources. In 2018, then Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced a totally inadequate £30 million grant for councils to tackle rough sleeping.

As always, it is working people rather than government officials who come forward to help.

“Imagine giving birth alone on the pavement, in the shadow of the richest college in Cambridge,” said Jess Agar, who launched a crowdfunding campaign for homeless Sophie on discovering her plight. “This is the reality for many people living on the streets,” she said. Within a few days, the fund exceeded its £22,000 target, reaching £24,688.

The terrible social plight of growing numbers of vulnerable impoverished such as Sophie contrasts with the soaring fortunes of the affluent. Cambridge’s richest college, Trinity—a bastion of wealth and privilege that has educated the scions of the ruling class for centuries—is a case in point as it sits on assets totalling £1.34 billion.

In May 2018, the Guardian revealed the prestigious colleges comprising Oxford and Cambridge Universities (Oxbridge) held assets—including priceless works of art and original manuscripts—worth a staggering £21 billion.

Oxbridge have used their credit ratings, higher than the Bank of England and UK government, to move into the bond market—issuing bonds worth hundreds of millions of pounds. In this way, Oxford raked in £750 million and Cambridge £600 million in recent years.

Cambridge’s previous £350 million bond issue financed an extensive property development. Trinity College used some of its money to buy shares in Arconic, the manufacturer of flammable cladding responsible for the social murder of 72 in the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

The Paradise Papers revealed that Oxbridge holds millions in tax-exempt offshore investments.

Since 2014, the use by councils of public space protection orders to forcibly close homeless camps has more than trebled in five years.

This Christmas, charities have been working overtime to provide for the poorest, including Christmas dinner at many locations across the country. About 350 were fed at Birmingham’s New Street station, for example.

London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan opened the council’s City Hall to 100 selected homeless people, where he posed for a photo-op complete with Santa hat serving a three-course meal. Shelter calculated there were 170,068 homeless people on any given night in London!

“Since I became mayor we’ve more than doubled the amount of money we’ve spent on rough sleeping and the size of our outreach team,” said Khan. “But we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve not got the money or the resources to do much more. …”

This is a lie. The resources do exist and in abundance to immediately house the homeless and provide safe decent housing for all under an emergency housebuilding programme. They reside, however, in the hands of an obscenely wealthy minority and global corporations and must be expropriated.

BRITAIN’S “shameful” homelessness crisis has caused a rise in the number of rough sleepers being crushed to death in bins, waste firms and charities warned today. The warning came with a new report commissioned by waste management company Biffa, the Open University and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management. It revealed that at least seven people taking shelter in waste containers have been killed after being tipped into bin lorries over the last five years: here.

Indians demonstrate against religious discrimination

Indian anti-discrimination emonstrators in Kolkata

By Arun Kumar and Palash Roy in India:

India: Protests against anti-Muslim citizenship law in Kolkata

1 December 2019

Kolkata, the capital of the east Indian state of West Bengal, witnessed large protest rallies over the past week against the anti-Muslim citizenship law. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is aimed at creating a Hindu communal state or Hindu Rashtra, was rammed through the national parliament by the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in early December.

The CAA determines citizenship in India on religious basis for the first time since formal independence in 1947. It will grant citizenship for non-Muslims from three Muslim countries in South Asia—Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan—who or whose ancestors have arrived in India before 2015. However, that opportunity will be denied to all Muslim immigrants from South Asia and also anyone from other countries in the region.

The anti-Muslim communalist character of the CAA is being implemented alongside the extension of the reactionary National Register of Citizens (NRC) throughout the country, as announced by Home Minister Amit Shah, the right-hand man of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Under the NRC, all 1.3 billion Indian citizens must provide documentary proof of their citizenship to the satisfaction of government authorities. Those who fail to do so will be declared “non-citizens” and face the threat of detention and eventual expulsion.

WSWS reporters attended an anti-CAA protest rally held in Kolkata on December 21 and distributed WSWS articles in English, Hindi and Bengali. Several thousand people, including students, intellectuals, and professionals and workers, took part in the rally. Our correspondents talked to participants and discussed the vital political issues raised by the Modi government’s communalist measures.

Sumita Shaw

Sumita Shaw, a student from Jadavpur University, said: “The CAA which tends to provide citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians from selected neighbouring countries is clearly an attempt on the part of the government to push its manifesto of ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ This act is disguised in the name of ‘compassion and brotherhood,’ but on deeper examination is intended to exclude Muslims from Indian citizenship or to reduce them to a status of second-class citizens later by implementing the NRC nationwide.

“This CAA has altered the constitutional citizenship act of 1955 and made religion the basis of its [the BJP’s] vote bank politics for the coming state elections. It has already started working on its plan by sparking off communal hatred and shutting down the internet in different places so as to block dissenting voices.

“We cannot let the colonialist policy of divide and rule to be successful again through this Modi-Shah fanaticism. It’s high time that we come out for our liberty, democracy, citizenship and economy. We don’t want a national register of citizenship or the CAA rather the government should go for national register of unemployed.

“The economy is in deep crisis and this government always has this tendency to keep generating new issues so that people get entangled in the new one and forget the old one. We can’t afford to let this strategy grasp us again and again. We can’t accept the saffronisation of the Indian democracy [Hindu communalism]. The communal divide has to be uprooted.”

Tina Dutta

Tina Dutta, a student from the same university, said: “The world is a global village. So I don’t think we need borders. I condemn discrimination of every sort. World is one—we all bleed red. We all have the same skin. Humanity is the only religion. Love and kindness, these are everything we need right now. Spread love not hate. Spread kindness. Let us all unite and become one.”

Harende, an engineering student, commented on the general atmosphere: “Everybody is feeling insecure. There is growing apprehension regarding their fate. They are not sure of what is going to happen next. The people could not see the whole picture. The political situation in the country is heading towards fascism.

“I was not concerned about politics two years ago. However, as I began to realise the scary social impact of the political situation, I have begun to pay attention to the developing political events.

“Home Minister Amit Shah claims the UN human rights resolution is not applicable to India. This talk by a minister is clearly posing risks to basic democratic and human rights. Those in power don’t want to listen to the voice of the people.

“The ruling elite is suppressing human rights and the peace of mind of the majority of people. Before coming to power, Modi boasted about generating millions of new jobs. This demagogy was used to rally the support of the youth and people for BJP’s electoral victory. Nevertheless, after Modi came to power, we didn’t witness job generation but instead job destruction.”

A section of the protest in Kolkata

Priyanjali Paul, a clinical psychologist, said: “Unity in diversity! That’s the first thing I learnt about my country, my India. We are unique, because we are diverse in nature. And our constitution has made it possible to live together despite so much of diversity. Today, that constitution is in danger. And as citizens of India, it’s our duty to safeguard it.

“What is a government? It’s of the people, for the people and by the people. The current government has completely changed the meaning of governance in a democracy. They are trying to change the basic structure of the constitution by repeatedly attacking secularism, the right for freedom and dignity of people, and the right for information.

“We want answers. And yes you [the government] are bound to give answers because you have power because of us. We, the citizens of India have elected you. So, yes you have to answer. Where is the data of the unemployment rate? Or the data of the farmer suicide rate in the last two years? Or the data on the effect of demonetization? And many more?

“To distract us from these issues, now they have brought the NRC and CAA, which are not only discriminatory but also impractical. Their spokespersons are not even clear about the Act. They can’t answer half the questions asked about them.

“I am a clinical psychologist, and I have had clients from the interior parts of this country (both Hindus and Muslims). These people (who make up 70 percent of the population) don’t even know what they will eat tomorrow or where they will live next year. How can you possibly expect them to have all documents securely kept [to prove their citizenship]?

“India is already statistically the most depressed country in the world. Now such steps by the government have only created anxiety and panic. Do they even care about people’s mental health? However, amidst all this negativity, I am happy to see my country fighting back. I am happy to see people on the streets, despite such oppression.

“This is my India. This is what democracy stands for. And no matter what they say, despite your religion, caste and economic status, all of you who are fighting for safeguarding our constitution are true nationalists!”

M. Kaji, a small shop owner in Kolkata, said: “On a day-to-day basis people are struggling to eke out their life. Most of the working people are experiencing great hardship. There is unemployment, the economy is in very bad condition, and the GDP is declining. What we see is that social problems have intensified under BJP rule. They have not solved any of the basic issues people are facing. Instead they have brought a more brutal law—the CAA. This will bring a lot of pressure on ordinary people, particularly Muslims, and will divide the poor people.

“But I see it’s not just a problem for Muslims. If somebody thinks like that it means they don’t understand the situation. It will affect Hindus too. Look at Assam and what’s happened there! Out of the 1.9 million people who have been taken off the NRC list in Assam, the majority are Hindus!

“I have not been interested in politics before. But now I feel I can’t be silent anymore. It’s the BJP, particularly Modi-Amit Shah duo and their brutal inhuman policy that has forced me to stand up and protest against it.”

She commented on the discriminatory nature of the documentary requirements under the NRC: “How will poor people show their papers? For instance, in many places almost every year floods take place and entire belongings are swept away by the floods. Then what is there to show the officials?

“It is outrageous what the authorities are now saying. For a long time, they insisted one should have as a proof of identity, the Indian Voter Identity card or Aadhaar card [a card with a 12-digit individual identification number issued by authorities]. Then why are they now demanding something else as proof?

“You know how much time and energy we have spent to get these cards. Now they came out with another thing, the NPR [National Population Register]. Even though Modi government and its ministers are saying that the NPR is nothing to do with the NRC, that’s not true. They are trying to fool us. But this time they can’t do it. They are also aware of the fact that this time people are not going to take it easily. We have no other way but to oppose this discriminatory CAA- NRC-NPR.”

Garden birds in Cornwall, 8 hours video

This 28 December 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Videos for Cats to Watch: Birds in My New Garden – 8 HOURS

I moved into my current house about 6 months ago and it’s taken some time to attract birds regularly to the garden. At last, they’ve started coming.

Video Produced by Paul Dinning – Wildlife in Cornwall

Featuring a male blackcap and many others.

Trump’s war on United States disabled people

This 31 December 2019 video from the USA is called Trump Wants to Slash Social Security Disability Benefits—“This Will KiII People”.

So, how does United States President Donald Trump finance his lethal oil wars in Iraq, Syria, Somalia and elsewhere? Partly by waging lethal war on disabled people in the USA.

There is, we are told, “no money” for decent-paying jobs, schools or housing in the United States. Yet at a December 18 press conference, US Attorney General William Barr confirmed that there are always funds for what Friedrich Engels called the “special armed bodies” of the state. As part of a new law-enforcement initiative, Barr announced that an additional $71 million in federal funds will be allocated to seven US cities ahead of the 2020 presidential election: here. To beat up anti-Trump demonstrators in these cities during that election campaign?

TRUMP’S ADMINISTRATION GOES AFTER DISABILITY BENEFITS A recent Trump administration proposal could affect thousands of people, but has received little attention since it was first floated in November. Under the proposed change, the government would look more closely at whether certain disability insurance recipients still qualify as “disabled” after they’ve already been awarded those benefits. [HuffPost]

Which posts attracted 2019 Dear Kitty visitors?

Blogging cartoon

Which blog posts and pages attracted most Dear Kitty. Some blog visitors in 2019?

WordPress stats says:

Top Posts for 365 days ending 2020-01-01 (Summarized)

January 1, 2019 to Today

Donald Trump’s Iraq war escalation

Ruins in Iraq after the recent United States air raid, AP photo

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Washington escalates Mideast war threat with strikes on Iraq, Syria

31 December 2019

A wave of US airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria Sunday linked to elements branded by Washington as Iranian “proxies” has sharply escalated the threat of a direct military confrontation between the US and Iran. …

Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi and the country’s President Barham Salih both condemned the US attack, which they said had been carried out without any coordination with Baghdad.

A statement by Abdul Mahdi’s office said, “The prime minister described the American attack on the Iraqi armed forces as an unacceptable vicious assault that will have dangerous consequences.” The statement described the US action as “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region.” Abdul Mahdi reported that US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had notified him only half an hour before the US attacks. He said he had asked him to call off the raids and had attempted to warn the militia [targeted by the US bombing], part of the Popular Mobilization Forces which Baghdad regards as part of its armed forces.

President Salih similarly said he had been notified shortly before the attacks by a US diplomatic official and had unsuccessfully called for them to be aborted. He described the strikes as “unacceptable” and in violation of security agreements between the US and Iraq.

Both officials are facing imminent ouster as a result of three-month-old protests that have shaken the country, while leaving at least 460 people dead and some 25,000 wounded. This popular upheaval has been provoked by the conditions of social inequality and mass misery that are the legacy of the 2003 criminal US invasion and occupation of Iraq that claimed over one million lives and reduced to rubble what had been one of the most advanced societies in the Middle East. The corrupt ruling oligarchy brought to power by the US and its sectarian divide-and-rule strategy is widely hated, with mass resistance to the ruling Shia sectarian parties concentrated in the predominantly Shia south of Iraq that they have purported to represent.

The protests saw a further escalation over the weekend after demonstrators demanding jobs forced their way into Iraq’s southern Nasiriya oilfield, where they were joined by workers in shutting down the key facility.

Iraq’s ruling establishment justifiably fears that the escalating US aggression will turn a country that is still reeling from decades of US sanctions, war and occupation into a principal battlefield in a new and even more violent confrontation between US imperialism and Iran. …

Defense Secretary Esper warned after briefing US President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that Washington could take “additional action”.

The US maintains a garrison of more than 5,000 US troops in Iraq. While US forces were for the most part withdrawn in 2011, they were redeployed following the 2014 overrunning of roughly one-third of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an off-shoot of Al Qaeda that had originated under the US occupation in Iraq and had been sent into Syria in the war for regime change against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Kata’ib Hizbullah was one of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias that played the decisive role in blocking the advance of ISIS on Baghdad after the disintegration of US-trained Iraqi government forces. It also sent forces into Syria to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked militias there. While Washington claims that it is keeping troops in Iraq—as in Syria—to assure the “enduring” defeat of ISIS, whose grip has already been shattered, their real purpose in both countries is to counter Iranian influence and prepare for war against Iran. …

Three of Sunday’s US airstrikes were carried out against targets inside Iraq, and two against facilities linked to Kata’ib Hizbullah in Syria. The most intense attacks were launched against bases established by the militia on the border that were designed to prevent the infiltration of ISIS fighters. …

The US buildup, which has seen thousands more troops deployed to the region since, came one year after the Trump administration unilaterally and illegally abrogated the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 countries: United Nations Security Council members the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany.

Washington then launched a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions tantamount to an act of war with the aim of driving Iranian oil exports down to zero, cutting off the country’s global financial links and provoking a social and economic crisis that would bring down Iran’s government.

A military confrontation between the US and Iran could rapidly spiral into a global war drawing in all the major nuclear powers. As 2019 draws to a close, the most urgent question confronting the international working class remains that of forging out of the social upheavals erupting on every continent a new mass anti-war movement directed against the capitalist system, the source of militarism and war.

TRUMP DEPLOYS MORE TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST Charging that Iran was “fully responsible” for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Trump ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East as about 3,000 more prepared for possible deployment in the next several days. [AP]