Sunday, April 2, 2017

These Foolish Things: Criminals (1997)

The Scavenger column from the October 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Criminals
Profiles of 700 women in prison and hostels confirm that the majority are involved in "survival crime”, fraud and theft. In 84 percent of cases the women’s offending was associated with drink or drug dependency. Many have endured extreme adversity: two-thirds reported physical and sexual abuse, and nearly 80 percent were on medication (Guardian, 24 July).


Standing room only
Last year M&S stores made an average profit of £560 a square foot, but the company says high-earning stores earn "far in excess" of that figure (Financial Mail on Sunday, 20 July).


Producing new workers
Bringing up a child from birth to the age of 17 costs on average £50,000, according to a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation . . . However the study found that the difference between the better-off and families without much income was surprisingly small, as poorer parents tried to protect their child from poverty . . . Often by going without themselves . . .  One in 20. particularly lone mothers on Income Support, sometimes go without food to ensure their children have enough to eat (Guardian, 10 July).


International relations
It was the CIA's favourite coup. "We really had the T's crossed on what was happening," says James Critchfield, the head of the agency in the Middle East which organised it. "We regarded it as a great victory . . . " It started Saddam Hussein on his climb to power . . .  After General Abdel Karim Kassem, the country’s populist leader for five years, surrendered he was summarily tried in a studio in Baghdad radio station, tied to a chair and shot dead. In a new book [A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, Gollancz] Said Aburish, a writer on Arab political affairs, has gathered details of how the coup against Gen Kassem was organised and fine-tuned by the CIA. "We came to power on a CIA train," said Ali Saleh Sa’sdi, the Minister of the Interior of the regime which replaced Gen Kassem (Independent on Sunday, 29 June).


Big Brother
Elizabeth France, the Data Protection Registrar, made it clear she was deeply concerned about her lack of powers as the public faces increasing threats to privacy from computer banks building up in Whitehall and elsewhere. Mrs France said she was writing to Tony Blair over the continuing refusal of the security and intelligence services, including MI5 and GCHQ to register with her office. The agencies argue that they are exempt on grounds of “national security", and that the public has no right of access to personal information held by them (Guardian, 17 July).


The wastemakers
Russian. American and European and other space agencies have been firing stuff into orbit since 1957. Now a United States radar programme has to keep track of 3.000 tons of hardware racing round the planet at 18,000mph. There are about 9,000 objects ranging from a cellphone to Mir. But these, too. tend to collide with each other. Some—such as rocket casings—seem to explode of their own accord. So in addition to the big stuff, there are probably another 100,000 bits of stuff bigger than a fingernail. Even something this size is lethal.The calculation is that a £1 coin at six miles a second has the same impact as a minibus at 60mph. When one of these hits another, there are more fragments.There could be 17 million bits of garbage bigger than a millimetre and each of these packs the punch of a high velocity bullet (Guardian, 26 June).
The Scavenger

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