Merry Christmas is not for everyone

This 24 December 2019 video says about itself:

Child Labor Behind Christmas Goodies

As many children may wish for a new phone this holiday, the same phone is most likely developed with child labor in its production chain.

This 25 December 2019 video says about itself:

The holidays are now synonymous with overspending and waste. People in the U.S. spent nearly 730 billion on holiday shopping in 2019.

Homeless Christmas in Donald Trump’s USA

This Associated Press photo shows a man walking past a mural of angel wings titled “Africa Wings” by artist Colette Miller in Los Angeles’ Skid Row area, home to the USA’s largest concentration of homeless people.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

Christmas 2019: More than half a million homeless in America

24 December 2019

This Christmas approximately 568,000 people, a population equivalent to the state of Wyoming, will mark the holiday in homeless shelters, tent encampments or in the rough, all across the United States.

Some of the homeless will not make it to Christmas as the death toll continues to mount. In Los Angeles County, a focal point of the social crisis, one thousand of the estimated 44,000 unsheltered homeless population have died in both 2018 and 2019, nearly three lives per day, side by side with the glitter of Hollywood and the wealth and privilege of Beverly Hills.

This year marked the third year in a row in which the Department of Housing and Urban development recorded an increase in the number of people living outdoors in its annual January point in time survey. This figure is likely a significant undercount as it is taken during the coldest time of the year and done by volunteers who are unable to canvass all the areas where people seek to survive without shelter.

How many will die from exposure and other causes on the holiday is unknown, but the reality is that thousands of unsheltered people are dying on the streets, encampments, abandoned homes and backlots of cities across the country every year. Tens of thousands will go to sleep Christmas Eve out on the streets of America and it is likely that dozens will not wake up in the morning.

Annual vigils and protest marches were held Thursday night in several hundred cities across the US to remember the homeless men and women who died this year. So far this year, in Washington, D.C., 117 homeless individuals have lost their lives in the nation’s capital, a huge jump over the 54 recorded in 2018. Santa Clara County, California, home to Silicon Valley, saw 161 homeless deaths. Riverside County, California, recorded 95 deaths; Portland, Oregon, marked 43 deaths, the most in that city since 2015; Salt Lake City, Utah, which recently cut the number of shelter beds by 400, saw 94 homeless deaths; Boulder, Colorado, marked 48 deaths, a doubling from 2018; and in Springfield, Illinois, that state’s capital, 13 homeless people died on the streets this year.

At a time when the ruling elite is celebrating the continued rise in the stock market and patting themselves on the back for historically low unemployment figures, the number of people who are being thrown out on the streets is on the rise. This is not a contradiction: the records set on Wall Street are based ultimately on increasing exploitation of workers through the deployment of new technologies and efforts to drive down wages, including by the creation of an increasingly desperate layer pushed to the absolute limit.

The grim figures on homelessness are a snapshot of just one part of the deepening social crisis which is gripping America as 2019 comes to an end. The opioid overdose crisis, gun violence and a rising suicide rate has driven down life expectancy, an event unprecedented among the world’s leading economies and in America’s own history.

The economic recovery since the 2008 recession has seen low-wage jobs proliferate as part of the “gig economy”, leaving millions on the verge of destitution in the event of an emergency or an accident. Workers now rely on apps like Uber and GrubHub for a tenuous employment at low wages, or turn to companies like Amazon where they can be worked to the point of exhaustion or death in a warehouse for $15 an hour.

The social and economic gap between the bottom 90 percent and the top 10 percent has never been wider. Two very different Americas exists within the geographic borders of the United States. Record corporate profits and stock buybacks continue to fill the pockets of the wealthy, while workers are forced to tighten their belts and work more for less.

A recent analysis of Census data by Pew Trusts found that the poverty rate increased in 30 percent of all US counties between 2016 and 2018, impacting working people of all kinds, black, white, Hispanic and Native American alike.

The richest one percent of Americans, with access to the best health care their money can buy, live more than a decade longer than the poorest one percent who are among those dying on the streets. And conditions of life for those at the top have never been better, with the three wealthiest families, the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Mars, controlling $349 billion, more than 4 million times the net worth of the median US family.

The 400 richest people in the US combined have more wealth than the bottom 64 percent. Under President Donald Trump, corporate and estate taxes have been slashed, ensuring that ever more wealth is funneled to the very top of society. Last year 91 of the largest corporations paid zero or negative federal income taxes and for the first time the richest individuals paid a lower tax rate than the poorest.

Despite the conventional presentation in the media and the claims of both parties that things have never been better, pointing to the mounting piles of wealth at the top, the reality for the majority of Americans is a deep social crisis.

It is notable that growing numbers of indices about the social crisis have not factored into the Democratic primaries nor have they sparked any sense of urgency from the mainstream media. While Trump promises to “Keep America Great” (for the super-rich), the Democrats simply ignore the desperate conditions confronting the working class in favor of appealing to those in the upper ten percent …

At the Democratic presidential debate last week in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the national homelessness crisis, the subject was avoided … Not one referred to the fact that the death toll among homeless people in the Los Angeles area was approaching the one-thousand mark …

Heading into the new year, the obliviousness and callousness of the American ruling class in relation to the real conditions of life for millions of workers make the French aristocrats before 1789 look like paragons of foresight and generosity.

The top one percent and the politicians in the Democratic and Republicans parties who represent them are sitting on a social powder keg. The last year was marked by a resurgence of the class struggle all over the world from France to Sudan, Algeria, Chile and Mexico, and to the United States itself where the number of strikes is on the rise.

That opposition by millions to increasingly unbearable conditions will erupt in mass struggles in the United States is inevitable but the great social problems, including homelessness and poverty, will only be resolved … [by] fighting consciously for socialism.

“It’s just getting harder and harder to live”. Homeless in San Diego, “America’s Finest City”. By Meenakshi Jagadeesan and Ryley Koffing, 27 December 2019.

Over 1.5 million homeless students in the US: here.

British children’s cold hungry Christmas under Johnson

This 2017 British Sky TV video says about itself:

Hunger in the school holidays: Millions of British children at risk

Up to three million British children risk going hungry during the school holidays because they don’t have access to free school meals, or are living in poverty.

That’s the findings of a new report by a panel of cross-party MPs, who say the problem can be solved.

They’re calling on the Government to direct money – raised by its sugary drinks tax — to fund local councils to help end the problem.

Sky’s Tom Parmenter has this special report.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Friday, December 6, 2019

Nearly a million children will be deprived of warmth and food during Christmas, says charity

AN AVERAGE of three children in every primary-school class will spend Christmas without the necessities of warmth and nutritious meals, a charity has warned.

Almost a million children under the age of 10 will spend the two-week holiday without heating at home, a warm winter coat or fresh food.

In the absence of free school meals while schools are closed, struggling parents on low incomes are able to spend an average of just £2 a day on food per child, according to Action for Children, which analysed data from the Department of Work and Pensions and Office of National Statistics.

Leanne and her partner from Glasgow both work and have four children under 12.

She started to work part-time night shifts after the birth of her third child, but the family struggles to afford enough food, the charity said.

Leanne initially believed her family would be better off with her in work, “but then all the bills and taxes came in,” she said.

“Despite us both having an income, we had less than ever. I remember saying to my partner that we can’t afford to work.”

Leanne slipped into depression as the family struggled to pay the rent and she often skipped meals herself.

She said her children “were living off chips and plain pasta to fill them up, but it wasn’t healthy. They weren’t getting the fruit and veg they needed. But what else could we do?

“One day, I went to the Action for Children centre and just broke down. That was when my worker got me access to the foodbank. But I was so embarrassed. How was it fair that we are both working, and we are in the foodbank?”

The charity says demand for foodbanks is so high that it is planning to host unofficial foodbanks over the Christmas period, with the Trussell Trust already warning that it is expecting to have “more people than ever” using theirs.

Action for Children chief executive Julie Bentley said: “Politicians are telling us austerity has ended but every day at Action for Children our frontline services say child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember.

“The next government must deliver ambitious policies to end child poverty and bring in a National Childhood Strategy to give all our children a safe and happy childhood.”

Labour announced plans yesterday for “poverty proofing” schools by expanding provision of free breakfasts to all primary schools, and a pilot of the same scheme in secondary schools.

Outside of term time, a new programme would ensure children would have access to meals and sports in the evenings and holidays.

Labour in government would also extend free school meals at secondary school to every child whose family receives benefits, and also cap the cost of expensive school uniforms.

The party would also restore grants to help struggling families with uniform and equipment costs.

The axed Education Maintenance Allowance for teenagers from poorer families in further education would be restored and increased to £35 a week.

Labour’s announcements came as research from the Resolution Foundation think tank found that child poverty would rise to a 60-year high if the Tories’ manifesto was implemented.

This was labelled “a disgrace” by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who added that Labour would “tackle child poverty while driving up standards in schools by providing extra support to the children who need it most.”

More children to go hungry and cold this Christmas than last, teachers fear: here.

More than 120 examples of Tory Islamophobia handed to Equality and Human Rights Commission: here.

Christmas holiday injuries in the USA

Christmas injuries in the USA

By Tina Hesman Saey, 4:21pm, December 20, 2018:

How decorating for Christmas sends people to the ER

Lights, trees and visiting Santa are all potential hazards

Holiday season revelers beware. Lights, ornaments and Christmas trees may land you in the emergency room.

More than an estimated 173,000 people in the United States were injured by Christmas trees, lights and other holiday-related decorations from 2007 to 2016. Even visiting Santa resulted in an estimated 277 children being injured, scientists report online November 28 in Advances in Integrative Medicine. Researchers in Australia and Germany extrapolated from injury reports collected by hospitals that are part of the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to estimate the number of Christmas-related injuries nationwide during the 10-year period.

Among the holiday hazards:

Oh no, Christmas tree!

Almost 23,000 people were estimated to have been injured by Christmas trees or stands. That includes 374 incidents reported to involve artificial Christmas trees, which corresponds to 17,928 injuries nationwide. Real trees accounted for 48 injury reports, or an estimated 2,216 injuries nationwide, mostly from knives and saws used to trim or cut down a tree. Stands and supports hurt 2,839 nationwide.

Decking the halls

More than 148,000 people got decked along with the halls, the researchers estimate. Christmas tree lights reportedly injured 715 people in the sample, corresponding to 31,855 injuries nationwide. Electrical decorations, excluding tree lights, are estimated to have harmed 36,054 people, while nonelectrical decorations injured 80,208. Men were more likely to be harmed by electrical lights and decorations, and women by nonelectrical decorations, the team found.

Old Saint Nick

Over the study period, three children had to go to the ER after falling off Santa’s lap, and, in 2014, one little girl ran away from Santa and cut her face on a shelf. All together, the researchers extrapolated that 277 children were injured nationwide while visiting Santa Claus. At least one adult was also injured, a 59-year-old woman who tripped over a rack while taking her grandchildren to see Santa.

Painted buntings for Christmas in Florida, USA

This 20 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

In the southeast the Painted Bunting is the perfect Christmas bird. In the land of snow most people probably consider the Northern Cardinal for that role and they are all in the same family of finches; so I included a pretty female in the mix.

Note the red berries and dark green foliage of the invasive Brazilian pepper trees in the background – brought to Florida in the 19th century for Christmas color and now virtually impossible to eradicate.

‘Jingle Bells’ music by animals, by punk rockers

This 19 December Christmas music video is the song ‘Jungle Yells‘. It is really Jingle Bells, but sung by animals of Amersfoort zoo in the Netherlands: a young elephant, tigers, flamingos, chimpansees, prairie dogs and others.

This 1979 punk rock music video is the same song, mixed with We Wish You A Merry Christmas, as A Merry Jingle; by The Greedies.

Dutch preacher against Christmas musical, trees, dinners

Announcement of Christmas event in Nunspeet, photo by Omroep Gelderland

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In the Veluwe village of Nunspeet, the preacher of the Gereformeerde Gemeente

a fundamentalist Christian church

and the organizer of a Christmas event argue about the ‘right’ way to celebrate Christmas.

The reason is the So this is Christmas event. That will be held on the market square this weekend, including a musical about the birth of Jesus. The Reverend Schot has distributed a glossy leaflet in which he condemns the event. …

“We don’t need this in Nunspeet”, he says to Omroep Gelderland regional broadcaster.

In the leaflet, the vicar also condemns Christmas trees and Christmas markets: “All kinds of things that in our opinion also have nothing to do with Christmas.”

The flyer went down the wrong way with Sander Klugt, the organizer of the event. “The leaflet is also about Christmas trees and eating together, which is not done, apparently. But to be honest, we are the only ones who actually pay attention to the Christmas story.”

Mr Klugt’s event is not on Christmas day itself. So, one can hardly say it competes with Christmas church services.