Published: Thursday 3 January 2013
Published: Monday 31 December 2012
Women throughout the world are on the march, but the struggle against sexual oppression and gender rights will continue to be a difficult one, where significant steps forward will be matched by occasional steps back.

Women’s rights have been in the forefront of international of international concern over the last few weeks.

Making the biggest headlines were the massive demonstrations in New Delhi and other cities in India provoked by the brutal gang rape by six men of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in the Indian capital. The crime, which occurred on a moving bus and saw the victim suffer ultimately fatal wounds to her genitals and intestines, proved to be the trigger for the release of popular anger that had built up over the years over the rise in violence against women.

The statistics are horrific. According to government estimates, a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. In New Delhi, dubbed the “rape capital of India,” the incidence of rape rose from 572 in 2011 to 661 towards the end of 2012. Of the 256,000 incidents of violent crime reported in 2011, nearly 229,000—close to 90 per cent—were committed against women.

What accounts for what one writer calls India’s “increasingly predatory sexual culture”? For some analysts, the rise in sexual aggression is related to male resentment over the erosion of India’s ...

Published: Sunday 9 December 2012
Getting the commons into school curriculum will help students understand climate change (and a lot more).

In the wake of superstorm Sandy and a presidential election in which both candidates essentially ignored climate change, it’s time that our schools began to play their part in creating climate literate citizens.

Hurricane Sandy, and the superstorms that will follow, are not just acts of nature—they are products of a massive theft of the atmospheric commons shared by all life on the planet. Every dollar of profit made by fossil fuel companies relies on polluting our shared atmosphere with harmful greenhouse gases, stealing what belongs to us all. But if we don’t teach students the history of the commons, they’ll have a hard time recognizing what—and who—is responsible for today’s climate crisis.

If the commons is taught at all in history classes, it’s likely as a passing reference to English enclosures—the process by which lands traditionally used in common by the poor for growing food, grazing animals, collecting firewood, and hunting game were fenced off and turned into private property. Some textbooks may mention the peasant riots that were a frequent response to enclosures, or specific groups like the Diggers that resisted enclosure by tearing down fences and reestablishing common areas. But they are buried in chapters that champion industrial capitalism’s “progress” and “innovation.”

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Published: Sunday 2 December 2012
The scale of inequality and poverty can appear overwhelming and unchangeable.

The rules aren’t broken—they’re fixed.

They have created a social and economic system that does not work for the majority of the world’s people. The world’s 1,226 billionaires have more combined wealth than 3.5 billion people – half the entire planet’s population. The richest 10 percent of the world’s population takes 90 percent of the world’s income.  

The scale of inequality and poverty can appear overwhelming and unchangeable. Yet it is not inevitable. It is the result of conscious decisions by the people who make and enforce the rules we all live by – financial rules that create tax havens for the rich so they can extract wealth from countries with secrecy and impunity; land rights that allow governments to sell their citizens’ land from underneath their feet without consent or compensation; and trade rules that allow rich countries to sell their goods at subsidized rates while enforcing strict rules that prevent poor countries from competing in the global marketplace. These rules are made by people, and people can change them.

If we want to change rules that have been written by the few and for the few, we must look outside existing power structures to the power of the many. We know from history that when people demand their rights, they can move mountains and change whole systems.

Right now, there is a special moment of opportunity. Throughout the world, citizens have access to information in ways once unimaginable. Affordable technologies are revolutionizing our ability to communicate with one another and act collectively.

The opportunities for new citizen-powered movements to become catalysts for change have never been greater than today. Powerful elites are losing the structural advantages they once enjoyed to maintain secrecy, restrict information, and even to suppress popular movements.

Published: Friday 30 November 2012
“We need more spending in the short term in order to keep the recovery going, particularly in light of economic contractions in Europe and Japan, and slowdowns in China and India.”

 

So the bidding has begun.

According to the Wall Street Journal (which got the information from GOP leaders), the President’s opening bid to Republicans is:

— $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenues over the next decade, from limiting tax deductions on the wealthy and raising tax rates on incomes over $250,000 (although those rates don’t have to rise as high as the top marginal rates under Bill Clinton)

— $50 billion in added economic stimulus next year

— A one-year postponement of pending spending cuts in defense and domestic programs

— $400 billion in savings over the decade from Medicare and other entitlement programs  (the same number contained in the President’s 2013 budget proposal, submitted before the election).

— Authority to raise the debt limit without congressional approval.

The $50 billion in added stimulus is welcome. We need more spending in the short term in order to keep the recovery going, particularly in light of economic contractions in Europe and Japan, and slowdowns in China and India.

But by signaling its willingness not to raise top rates as high as they were under Clinton and to cut some $400 billion from projected increases in Medicare and other entitlement spending, the White House has ceded important ground.

Republicans obviously want much, much more.

The administration has taken a “step backward, moving away from consensus and significantly closer to the cliff, delaying again the real, balanced solution that this crisis requires,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in a written statement. “No substantive progress has been made” added House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).

No ...

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Education is now recognized as a national priority.”

Official delegations from the world’s nine most populous developing countries just met in New Delhi to discuss a subject vital for their countries’ futures: education. The meeting of ministers and others from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan, known as the E-9, is the latest in a series of encounters held every two years to fulfill the pledge of “education for all” by 2015.

The E-9 account for 54% of the world’s population, 42.3% of children not in school, 58% of young illiterates (aged 15-24), and 67% of adult illiterates (two-thirds of whom are women). So the challenges are enormous: children, from families too poor to think about education, beyond the reach of schooling and too malnourished to study; and too few schools, classrooms, teaching resources, and adequately trained teachers. Rampant illiteracy underpins other problems, including exploding populations, gender imbalances, and widespread poverty.

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Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“As a consequence we will be taking huge amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, even as we’re also saving folks money at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

 

Finally the climate silence is broken and it took MTV to do it. In an interview with MTV’s Sway Williams, President Barack Obama breaks the climate silence in his answer to a question about climate change. Obama says he’s “surprised it [climate change] didn’t come up in the debates.”

 

Williams asks in the interview:

Until this year global climate change has been discussed in every presidential debate since 1988. It was a big part of your previous campaign but pushed back on the back burner. Given the urgency of the threat, do you feel that we’re moving quickly enough on this issue, number one, and Samantha from New Jersey wants to know what will you do to make it a priority?

President Obama replies:

The answer is number one, we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue. And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney.

I am surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates. Gov. Romney says he believes in climate change. That’s different than a lot of members of his own party that deny it completely. But he’s not sure that man-made causes are the reason. I believe scientists who say we are putting too much carbon emissions into the atmosphere and it’s heating the planet and it’s going to have a severe effect.

There are a lot of things we have done a lot of things in the last four years. We have already doubled the fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That’s the first increase in 30 years in the fuel ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“The court-appointed committee has called for specifically designated and certified field trial sites, adequate preliminary testing and the creation of an independent panel of scientists to evaluate biosafety data on each GM crop in the pipeline.”

Environmental activists are cautiously optimistic that a call by a court-appointed technical committee for a ten-year moratorium on open field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops will shelve plans to introduce bio-engineered foods in this largely agricultural country.

 

“We are now waiting to see whether the Supreme Court will accept the recommendations of its own committee at the next hearing on Oct. 29,” said Devinder Sharma, chairman of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, a collective of agriculture scientists, economists, biotechnologists, farmers and environmentalists.

 

The committee – appointed in May to examine questions of safety raised in a petition filed by environmental activist Aruna Rodrigues – pointed to serious gaps in India’s present regulatory framework for GM crops in an interim report released on Oct. 18.

 

In particular, the committee was asked to look at open field trials of food crops spliced with genes taken from the soil bacterium Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt), an insecticide whose impact on human health is unknown.

 

Noting that there “have been several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of the data in the safety dossiers”, the committee suggested reexamination “by international experts who have the necessary experience”.

 

In February 2010, the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had ordered a moratorium on Bt brinjal (also called aubergine or eggplant), based on a series of public hearings on the issue – though this was not extended to field trials of other Bt food crops.

 

A parliamentary standing committee on GM crops appeared to reflect the public mood when it recommended in August that GM crop trials be banned and future ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
“The U.S. had been by far the richest country in the world even before the Second World War, although it wasn’t—was not yet the major global actor.”

In the week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MIT Professor, Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign: China, the Arab Spring, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and the military threat posed by Israel and the U.S. versus Iran. He reflects on the Cuban missile crisis, which took place 50 years ago this week, and is still referred to as "the most dangerous moment in human history." He delivered this talk last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, at an event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. Chomsky's talk was entitled, "Who Owns the World?"

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon. We are here as part of our 100-city Silenced Majority tour. On this week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, 

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
While you’re watching the debate on television, remember the country we used to live in.

 

In tonight’s foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney will say that the way to get jobs back from China is with more free trade and lower taxes. But China‘s Communist. It already has tougher trade restrictions and higher taxes than we do. How, exactly, will more tax cuts help us compete?

He'll also push for an even more extreme version of “free trade” - one without workers' rights requirements or any other guiding principles. But unrestrained free trade is a recipe for global slavery. It gives the world's corporations the motive and the opportunity to locate their jobs wherever they can most easily exploit and abuse the workforce.

How can the loss of workers' rights in China or anywhere else create good jobs in the United States? Short answer: It can't. Throw in some even more exorbitant military spending, and you're headed for ... the RomneyZone.

The Definition of Insanity

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Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“The number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from around one billion people to 868 million.”

New data from the United Nations reveals that there has been progress in reducing the number of hungry people worldwide. But an estimate that nearly 870 million people, one in eight, suffered from chronic undernourishment over the last two years is “unacceptable”, experts say.

The number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from around one billion people to 868 million. The vast majority of these people, 852 million, live in developing countries, which means that 15 percent of the developing world suffers from hunger, while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries.

Meanwhile, the proportion of the global population that is classified as ‘undernourished’ dropped from 18.6 percent in 1990 to the current level of 12.5 percent, and from 23.2 percent to 14.9 percent in developing countries.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 (SOFI), jointly released by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP), “presents better estimates of chronic undernourishment based on an improved methodology and data for the last two decades.”

The report suggests that if “appropriate actions” are taken to feed the hungry and reverse the slowdown of 2007-2008, the goal of halving the number of hungry people in the developing world by 2015 is still attainable.

“If the average annual hunger reduction of the past 20 years continues through to 2015, the percentage of undernourishment in developing countries (will) reach 12.5 percent – still above the MDG (Millennium Development Goal) target of 11.6 percent, but much closer to it than previously estimated,” the report says.

“The good news is that we have ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
Published: Wednesday 19 September 2012
“While the candidates themselves occasionally talk about these issues, there’s a number of critical concerns that get no attention, including some of the worst problems (in terms of the harm they cause to people’s lives) in the United States and the world.”

The media focus on political minutiae in the presidential campaign can often crowd out the substantive issues that the winner will have to deal with once taking office. And while the candidates themselves occasionally talk about these issues, there’s a number of critical concerns that get no attention, including some of the worst problems (in terms of the harm they cause to people’s lives) in the United States and the world. To address this lamentable state of affairs, ThinkProgress has compiled a list of eight of the most significant problems being severely underserved by the campaign and American political discourse more broadly. In no particular order:

MASS INCARCERATION AND THE DRUG WAR

Writing in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik termed “mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history…perhaps the fundamental fact [of American society], as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.” Indeed, as Gopnik notes, there are more black men are in prison today than were enslaved then and more total people in prison than there were in Stalin’s gulags at their largest. The result of this wave of imprisonment was structural inequality so severe that it was called “the new Jim Crow” by a famous book of the same title, as the strict limitations placed on convicted felons have rendered millions black Americans second-class citizens. One of the principal causes of the rise of mass incarceration is the War on Drugs, which has failed abysmally at limiting the use of dangerous drugs but ...

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
“National Intelligence Council, predicted that by 2030, nearly half of the world’s population (currently at more than 7 billion) will live in areas of severe water stress, increasing the likelihood of mass killings.”

As the world faces possible water scarcities in the next two to three decades, the U.S. intelligence community has already portrayed a grim scenario for the foreseeable future: ethnic conflicts, regional tensions, political instability and even mass killings.

During the next 10 years, “many countries important to the United States will almost certainly experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will contribute to the risk of instability and state failure, and increased regional tensions,” stated a National Intelligence Estimate released last March.

And in July, Chris Kojm, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, predicted that by 2030, nearly half of the world’s population (currently at more than 7 billion) will live in areas of severe water stress, increasing the likelihood of mass killings.

The New York Times quoted Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University, as saying at a recent symposium that an “ecological panic, I am afraid, will lead to mass killings in the decades to come”.

But Dr. Upmanu Lall, director of Columbia University’s Water Centre, has mixed feelings about potential conflicts over water, one of the world’s key natural resources necessary for survival.

“I am not sure I can project mass killings as a consequence (of water scarcities),” he told IPS.

And, he said, he does not expect transnational wars or conflicts over water either, “but I do expect that competition within some major countries such as India could lead to significant internal strife and the growth of terrorism and sectarian conflict”. However, “avoiding this future is feasible if we work to act on it today,” he added

A future doomed to suffer intense water scarcities is one of several subjects under discussion at ...

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“From 2000 to 2010, the U.S. share of college graduates fell to 21% of the world’s total from 24%, while China’s share climbed to 11% from 9%. India’s rose more than half a percentage point to 7%.”

The United States’ share of global college graduates fell substantially in the first decade of the 21st century and stands to drop even more by 2020 as developing economies in China and India have graduated more college students, presenting challenges for American workers’ ability to remain competitive in a global economy in the future. The U.S. share of college graduates fell from nearly one-in-four to just more than one-in-five from 2000 to 2010, according to “The Competition That Really Matters,” a report from the Center for American Progress and The Center for the Next Generation:

From 2000 to 2010, the U.S. share of college graduates fell to 21% of the world’s total from 24%, while China’s share climbed to 11% from 9%. India’s rose more than half a percentage point to 7%. Based on current demographic and college enrollment trends, we can project where each country will be by 2020: the U.S. share of the world’s college graduates will fall below 18% while China’s and India’s will rise to more than 13% and nearly 8% respectively.

India and China aren’t just closing the gap in overall graduates, they’re also making huge strides in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to the report, the annual number of U.S. STEM graduates from four-year colleges and universities increased by 24 percent from 2000 to 2008. In China, the annual increase was 218 percent, and in India, the number of STEM degrees awarded each year tripled from 1999 to ...

Published: Thursday 16 August 2012
“As the last two years have made very clear, climate has become the No. 1 national security issue for developing countries.”

This past month was the hottest July in the United States ever recorded. In India, the monsoon rains are long delayed, resulting in the country’s second drought in four years. Triple-digit temperatures in New Delhi and other cities have already provoked the worst power outages in the country’s history and the expected bad harvest is likely to slice at least 5 percent from GDP growth.

In Beijing, which usually suffers from a shortage of water, a storm on July 21 resulted in the worst flooding since recordkeeping began in 1951, according to theEconomist. Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, a protracted, weeklong rainstorm plunged Metropolitan Manila into a watery disaster that is probably the worst in recent history.

If there is any doubt that the abnormal is now the norm, remember that this is shaping up to be the second straight year that nonstop rains have wreaked havoc in Southeast Asia. Last year, the monsoon season brought about the worst flooding in Thailand’s history, with waters engulfing Bangkok and affecting over 14 million people, damaging nearly 7,000 square miles of agricultural land, disrupting global supply chains, and bringing about what the World Bank estimated to be the world’s fourth costliest disaster ever.

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Published: Sunday 29 July 2012
“If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!)”

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environmental, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try finding other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, its non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be assured the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, ...

Published: Saturday 28 July 2012
“It was the first time in 22 years that the United States hosted the conference due to the Obama administration’s reversal of a two-decade ban that prevented people infected with HIV from entering the country.”

The world's largest international AIDS conference concludes today in Washington, D.C. It was the first time in 22 years that the United States hosted the conference due to the Obama administration's reversal of a two-decade ban that prevented people infected with HIV from entering the country. We speak to Stephen Lewis, co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World. From 2001 to 2006, he served as the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He is the former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis warns more money needs to be spent on the fight against AIDS. "We are always struggling for the crumbs and the pennies from the table [for global public health] when we know the amounts of money available for other and more perverse purposes internationally, and that too has to end," Lewis says.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, broadcasting from Baltimore, Maryland, not far from where the world’s largest international AIDS conference concludes today in Washington, D.C. It was the first time in 22 years that the United States hosted the conference, due to the Obama ...

Published: Thursday 26 July 2012
“The farmers here say the drain ensures them of year-round irrigation. What they won’t tell you – either because they don’t know it, or refuse to believe it – is that the water is poisoned.”

 

At a time when spiraling input costs and perennial shortages of irrigation water are breaking countless farmers’ backs, a small village community on the outskirts of Lahore appears to have been spared.

The village of Hudiara, situated close to the Wagah border, falls in the way of a natural storm water channel called the Hudiara Drain, which originates in Batala in India’s Gurdaspur District and flows for nearly 55 kilometres before entering Pakistan.

The farmers here say the drain ensures them of year-round irrigation. What they won’t tell you – either because they don’t know it, or refuse to believe it – is that the water is poisoned.

Hundreds of factories located along the length of the canal dispose of their untreated industrial waste into it. This includes discharge from textile processing and dyeing units, carpet industries, tanneries, dairy plants, food, beverage and oil processing plants and ghee production units.

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Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
“Perhaps even more devastating is the rising suicide toll associated with the use of Monsanto’s seeds, with a farmer committing suicide every 30 minutes thanks in part due to GMO seeds.”

British scientists at the John Innes Center recently won a $10 million grant from the Gates Foundation. Where’s the money going? Not surprisingly, as Gates owns over 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock, the organization is putting even more money into genetically modified cereal crops (corn, wheat and rice, to name a few).

The pledge seems righteous at face value to some, but what the Gates Foundation failed to mention is that countries like Hungary, France, India, and Poland have battled GMOs because not only do GM seeds and pesticides decrease yields over time, but GM is bad news for farmers and consumers everywhere. Putting farmers in Africa in the pockets of the likes of Monsanto and other GM companies will only lead to crop monoculture, soil depletion, water contamination, pesticide-resistant insects, and a powerless local population of sick and impoverished farmers.

And this should be of no surprise to Bill Gates, who has openly stated that Monsanto’s GMOs are the ultimate ‘solution’ to world hunger yet continues to ignore the bounty of evidence showing that they do just the opposite — crushing soil yields and impoverishing local farmers.

Perhaps even more devastating is the rising suicide toll associated with the use of Monsanto’s seeds, with a farmer committing suicide every 30 minutes thanks in part due to GMO seeds.

Gates Foundation Ignores Fact that “GM is Failing to Deliver”

The John Innes Center’s aims include engineering crops capable of harnessing nitrogen from the air. Peas and beans do ...

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
“Parents whose children travel on IR-4 visas, which in recent years constitute almost half of all inter-country adoptions, finalize procedures by re-adopting their children in their states of residence at which time citizenship attaches.”

 

Excited about turning 18 during a presidential election year, Jenna Johnson registered to vote with her high school classmates and cast her first ballot. She canvassed her local Minnesota neighborhood as a volunteer signing up voters. Then four years later, while sharing stories with other Korean adoptees who remembered their naturalization ceremonies, Jenna couldn’t recall ever experiencing her own. A few days later, she phoned what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service to check on her status and was shocked to learn that she was not a U.S. citizen. Her green card, which she kept as a memento from her adoption as a 2-year old, had expired.

As a permanent resident, she had unknowingly committed voter fraud, a crime punishable by deportation.

The story of Jenna Johnson (name changed at source’s request) might sound unusual. But she’s actually one of thousands of adult adoptees who were not grandfathered into the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), which as of February 27, 2001 grants automatic citizenship to children who arrive in the United States on IR-3 visas. Parents whose children travel on IR-4 visas, which in recent years constitute almost half of all inter-country adoptions, finalize procedures by re-adopting their children in their states of residence at which time ...

Published: Tuesday 3 July 2012
“The story of Lariam is a window into the world of pharmaceuticals, where the precautionary principle is ignored and dangerous drugs continue to be readily prescribed long after legitimate safety concerns have been raised.”

Hallucinations. Paranoia. Confusion. Severe anxiety. Unusual behavior.

Suicide.

Why would we want to unnecessarily expose people - especially soldiers - to these side effects?

Unfortunately, that is exactly what we are doing. The symptoms listed above are just some of the officially acknowledged side effects associated with Lariam, an anti-malaria drug commonly prescribed to U.S. soldiers serving abroad, Peace Corps volunteers, business travelers, and tourists. And - as the official medication guide acknowledges - these symptoms can persist long after someone goes off the drug. Yet despite the fact that safer and equally effective malaria prophylactics are available, the use of Lariam to prevent malaria remains a common practice.

The story of Lariam is a window into the world of pharmaceuticals, where the precautionary principle is ignored and dangerous drugs continue to be readily prescribed long after legitimate safety concerns have been raised. ...

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
The State Department’s Military Assistance Report on June 8 stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year, including some that struggled with human rights problems.

 

Every May and June, different branches of the State Department paint contrasting portraits of how Washington views dozens of strategically significant countries around the world, in seemingly rivalrous reports by its Human Rights and Political-Military Affairs bureaus.

The former routinely criticizes other nations for a lack of fealty to democratic principles, citing abuses of the right to expression, assembly, speech and political choice. The latter tallies the government’s latest successes in the export of American weaponry, often to the same countries criticized by the former.

This year was no different. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report on June 8 stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year, including some that struggled with human rights problems. These nations include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, Djibouti, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Three nations with records of suppressing democratic dissent in the last year — Algeria, Egypt, and Peru — are listed in the report as recently receiving U.S. firearms, armored vehicles, and items from a category that includes chemical and riot control agents like tear gas. The State Department confirmed that U.S. tear gas was delivered to Egypt up to the end of November, but has declined to confirm it was also sent to Algeria and Peru.

The export of American arms to countries around the world — what the State Department calls a tangible expression of American “partnership” — is in fact booming. The commercial arms sales reviewed by the State Department reached $44.28 billion in fiscal year 2011, a $10 billion sales increase since 2010. Next year should see another increase of 70 percent, the department says.

Those sales — plus the ...

Published: Monday 18 June 2012
The fact that more than six decades after India gained independence, and after two decades of some of the highest economic growth rates in the world, almost a third of the country was still poor—or the fact that India’s highest planning body actually considers anyone earning more than $0.52 a day as not fitting into their definition of poor.

 

In March 2012, the Indian Planning Commission stated that 29 percent of India’s population was poor. These were people who had less than Rs.22.42 (US $0.41) a day if they were living in villages, or Rs. 28.35 (US $0.52) if in a city. The Commission’s happy conclusion was that poverty had fallen from 37 percent since its last measurement in 2004-05.

It is difficult to decide which is the more remarkable figure here. The fact that more than six decades after India gained independence, and after two decades of some of the highest economic growth rates in the world, almost a third of the country was still poor—or the fact that India’s highest planning body actually considers anyone earning more than $0.52 a day as not fitting into their definition of poor. Activists pointedly asked the government economists if any of them could live on that amount in New Delhi; the response, of course, was a resounding silence.

If even slightly more realistic figures are used, the grim reality of poverty in India is revealed. Taking the World Bank criterion of $1.25 (PPP) a day, for instance, there were 456 million “poor” Indians (42 percent of population) in 2005. Estimates that take nutritional and caloric needs into account bump the number in poverty up to 60 – 80 percent.

Development’s failed promise

This is not how it was supposed to be. Post-independence, an industrial model of “development” had promised to eradicate poverty. When this was seen to be clearly failing, partly due to the inefficiencies of a state-led economy, the country was taken into the era of economic globalization with the same promise. It has now been two decades since the introduction of new economic policies in 1991, which included a shift away from an inward-focused model of ...

Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
“Neoliberal Dragons, Eurasian Wet Dreams, and Robocop Fantasies.”

Goldman Sachs -- via economist Jim O’Neill -- invented the concept of a rising new bloc on the planet: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Some cynics couldn’t help calling it the “Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept.”

Not really. Goldman now expects the BRICS countries to account for almost 40% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, and to include four of the world’s top five economies.

Soon, in fact, that acronym may have to expand to include Turkey, Indonesia, South Korea and, yes, nuclear Iran: BRIIICTSS? Despite its well-known problems as a nation under economic siege, Iran is also motoring along as part of the N-11, yet another distilled concept. (It stands for the next 11 emerging economies.)

The multitrillion-dollar global question remains: Is the emergence of BRICS a signal that we have truly entered a new multipolar world?

Yale’s canny historian Paul Kennedy (of “imperial overstretch” fame) is convinced that we either are about to cross or have already crossed a “historical watershed” taking us far beyond the post-Cold War unipolar world of “the sole superpower.” There are, argues Kennedy, four main reasons for that: the slow erosion of the U.S. dollar (formerly 85% of global reserves, now less than 60%), the “paralysis of the European project,” Asia rising (the end of 500 years of Western hegemony), and the decrepitude of the United Nations.

The

Published: Monday 23 April 2012
“While there certainly are no shortages of capitalists, there are still lots of Marxists in India, as well as communist parties that have won state elections.”

After an engaging half-hour interview with India’s pre-eminent Marxist economist during a conference at New York University, I told a friend about my one-on-one time with Prabhat Patnaik.

 

“There are Marxists in India?” came the bemused response. “I thought India was the heart of the new capitalism.”

 

Indeed, we hear about India mostly as a rising economic power that is challenging the United States. While there certainly are no shortages of capitalists, there are still lots of Marxists in India, as well as communist parties that have won state elections. Patnaik represents the best thinking and practice of those left traditions -- both the academic Marxism that provides a framework for critique of economics, and the political Marxism that proposes public policies -- which is why I was so excited to talk with him about lessons to be learned from the current economic crisis.

 

In the interview, conducted during a break in the NYU Institute for Public Knowledge’s “Futures of Finance” conference, http://rethinkingcapitalism.ucsc.edu/ I asked Patnaik two main questions: First, is there a “golden age” of capitalism to which we can return? Second, can we ever expect ethical practices from the financial sector of the global capitalist economy? Before explaining why his answer to both questions is “no,” some background.

 

Prabhat Patnaik started his academic career in the UK, earning his doctoral degree at Oxford University and then teaching at the University of Cambridge. He returned to India in 1974 to teach at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi until his retirement in 2010. He’s the author of several influential books, including The Value of Money, published in 2008. Patnaik-the-politician served as Vice-Chairman of the Planning Board of ...

Published: Saturday 21 April 2012
“Will Ravi be one of the condemned who gets flushed into the teeming federal prison system at a young age?”

The high-profile "cyber bullying" case involving two Rutgers roommates, one of whom was meek, bespectacled, and gay, the other rich, rakish, and reputedly arrogant is about to reach a climax. Here are the broad outlines of the story.



The two young freshly minted freshman co-existed without open rancor but rarely spoke a word to each other. Tyler Clementi would invite a gay lover to the room on occasion and ask his roommate to leave them alone. Dharun Ravi obliged. But Ravi's strategically positioned webcam captured one of these trysts and upon seeing the video he foolishly tweeted about it. 


In all probability had Clementi not jumped off the George Washington Bridge one day nothing more would ever have come of it. Had Ravi not made a video of his roommate's gay sexual encounter and put it out on the Internet, Ravi would not have been charged with 15 felony counts, including four counts of  "bias intimidation" (a comical euphemism for an offense that's no laughing matter).   


But both things happened. The result is that Clementi is dead and Ravi stands convicted of crimes.  As such, this 20-year-old who was born in India and grew up in New Jersey is facing a long prison sentence.  As a resident alien, he could also be deported.  (Ravi's younger brother, born here, is the only U.S. citizen in the family.) 


America's prisons are bulging at the seams. Adam Gopnik ("The Caging of America," The New Yorker, January 30, 2012) writes, "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades.."


In fact, there are currently more ...

Published: Saturday 14 April 2012
“Without the flourishing of this ‘good’ bacteria, your ability to fight off any infections — let alone superbugs — is compromised.”

Drug-resistant superbugs, such as the heavily defiant strain of tiberculosis that is now popping up across the globe, are causing serious shockwaves throughout the medical community. Rampant use of antibiotics for unnecessary conditions and pumping livestock up with an exorbant amount (around 80% of the entire United States antibiotic supply) of drugs is a leading factor, but research shows that anti-bacterial hand sanitizers and cleaners are also contributing to the problem.

Anti-bacterial products have become commonplace in many households and classrooms across the nation, though they are especially prevalent in India — where scientists say the overall use of antibiotics in drug and cleaning form alike are way overused. In addition to containing the problematic ingredient triclosan, these anti-bacterial hand washes and disinfectants are also contributing to the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that pose a serious risk to human health. At least when trying to ‘treat’ them with the same pharmaceutical interventions that spawned them in the first place.

In fact, it should be noted that both antibiotic drugs and sanitizers also kill beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. Probiotics are integral to a properly functioning immune system and overall health. Without the flourishing of this ‘good’ bacteria, your ability to fight off any infections — let alone superbugs — is compromised.

In a study conducted by Consumer Education & Research Society (CERS) and CHOICE, published in the ...

Published: Saturday 7 April 2012
Under an informal "gentlemen’s agreement" between the U.S. and Europe, a U.S. national has always held the top Bank position, while a European has run the IMF.

In an open letter sent to the Bank's executive board Wednesday, 39 former senior Bank staff endorsed Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy, citing her "deep experience in international and national issues of economic management", which includes four years as the Bank's managing director. 

 


"She would hit the ground running and get things done from the start," the former officials, who included senior vice presidents, vice presidents, and directors, wrote. "In a word, she would be the outstanding World Bank President the times call for." 


In another letter released Thursday, more than 100 economists endorsed Ocampo, arguing that his experience leading the ministries of finance, agriculture and planning, as well as stints as the head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.N. Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and as U.N. under-secretary general for economic and social affairs, made him "the most suitable candidate for World Bank President". 


The signers included internationally recognized figures, primarily from North America, Latin America, Europe, China, and India, including former Bank officials, ministers of finance and development, and central bank governors, as well as academics. 


The endorsements are coming as the Bank's executive board prepares to interview all three candidates early next week and reach a final decision the following week, by the opening of the annual Spring meetings of the Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 


The current race is the first since the Bank was created at the Bretton Woods conference in ...

Published: Thursday 5 April 2012
“Many families are now ruined thanks to the mass suicides, and are left to economic ruin and must struggle to fight off starvation.”

In what has been called the single largest wave of recorded suicides in human history, Indian farmers are now killing themselves in record numbers. It has been extensively reported, even in mainstream news, but nothing has been done about the issue. The cause? Monsanto’s cost-inflated and ineffective seeds have been driving farmers to suicide, and is considered to be one of the largest — if not the largest — cause of the quarter of a million farmer suicides over the past 16 years.

According to the most recent figures (provided by the New York University School of Law), 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009 — about one death every 30 minutes. In 2008, the Daily Mail labeled the continual and disturbing suicide spree as ‘The GM (genetically modified) Genocide’. Due to failing harvests and inflated prices that bankrupt the poor farmers, struggling Indian farmers began to kill themselves. Oftentimes, they would commit the act by drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto supplied them with — a gruesome testament to the extent in which Monsanto has wrecked the lives of independent and traditional farmers.



To further add backing to the tragedy, the rate of Indian farmer suicides massively increased since the introduction of Monsanto’s Bt cotton in ...

Published: Monday 2 April 2012
It is now very obvious to the world community: something is very wrong and very bad in Tibet to make these peaceful monks and nuns set themselves on fire.

It is now very obvious to the world community: something is very wrong and very bad in Tibet to make these peaceful monks and nuns set themselves on fire. The whole world is watching in sadness and shock, and every time another Tibetan dies from these acts, the collective heartbreaks, but the world's eyes are also opened. Why, why, why? What is happening?

The Tibetan hunger strikers (who just ended their 30 day fast outside the United Nations) pointed out that "undeclared martial law" is in effect. Obviously the immense concern is a reality: Chinese officials conducted a formal closure to all foreigners (and journalists) to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from February 20 to March 31, and have many monasteries locked down.

It is during this time period that the majority of protesting Tibetan monks and nuns has been setting themselves on fire. Thirty Tibetans are confirmed to have self-immolated since the first on February 27, 2009. But alarmingly - and most important - it is over the past two weeks (since March 16) that most of these self-immolations have taken place. These suicides are occurring in the blackout period happening right now, during the crackdown by Chinese authorities on all monasteries of Tibet. Many monasteries are in lockdown, and all communication to the outside world has been shut down.

These fire suicides include 25 men and 5 women. Out of the 30 Tibetans, 22 are known to have died following their protest with fire. Six of the monks (of the 30 total) were from the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, and eight were former monks at the same monastery. The two nuns who self-immolated were from Mame Dechen Chokorling nunnery in Ngaba.

Tibetan Youth Sets Himself on Fire to Protest Chinese President's Arrival at Economic Summit in India

Just two days ago, one more Tibetan-in-exile youth, Jampa Yeshi, set himself on fire and ran through the streets outside the BRICS 5-Nation Economic ...

Published: Saturday 10 March 2012
“If the American economy continues to produce jobs at the good rate it’s maintained over the last three months, averaging 245,000 per month, the backlog won’t be whittled down for another five years.”

February’s  227,000 net new jobs – the third month in a row of job gains well in excess of 200,000 – is good news for President Obama and bad news for Mitt Romney.

Jobs are coming back fast enough to blunt Republican attacks against Obama on the economy and to rob Romney of the issue he’d prefer to be talking about in his primary battle against social conservatives in the GOP.

But jobs aren’t coming back fast enough to significantly reduce the nation’s backlog of 10 million jobs. That backlog consists of 5.3 million lost during the recession and another 4.7 million that needed to have been added just to keep up with the growth of the working-age population since the recession began.

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Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“For too long, the Bank’s leadership has imposed US concepts that are often utterly inappropriate for the poorest countries and their poorest people.”

The world is at a crossroads. Either the global community will join together to fight poverty, resource depletion, and climate change, or it will face a generation of resource wars, political instability, and environmental ruin.

The World Bank, if properly led, can play a key role in averting these threats and the risks that they imply. The global stakes are thus very high this spring as the Bank’s 187 member countries choose a new president to succeed Robert Zoellick, whose term ends in July.

The World Bank was established in 1944 to promote economic development, and virtually every country is now a member. Its central mission is to reduce global poverty and ensure that global development is environmentally sound and socially inclusive. Achieving these goals would not only improve the lives of billions of people, but would also forestall violent conflicts that are stoked by poverty, famine, and struggles over scarce resources.

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Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“When activist behavior reveals so clearly the injustice of the state, it results in a loss of the state’s legitimacy.”

Occupy Wall Street is similar to many movements in contending that its opponent—for Occupy, the 1 percent—is maintaining a system whose structural, systematic violence far exceeds any violence exhibited by the movement itself. For example, movements will say that class oppression or sexism or racism hurt people in the daily course of life, pointing to statistics like each percentage point of unemployment resulting in increased suicide, homicide and domestic abuse. However, especially when the movement is still young and only beginning to get its message out, the powers that be in politics and the media will often succeed in dismissing such charges and in blaming every appearance of violence on the campaigners. Reversing this narrative in the public perception is one of a growing movement’s most important challenges.

For nearly a year, for example, the Syrian government has been sending its tanks to kill demonstrators while claiming that the violence mainly comes from the pro-democracy forces. The Russian government publicly agrees. The reason why defenders of oppression the world over charge activists with violence—even if they have to make it up—is because it’s a potent accusation. The oppressor doesn’t want the “violence” label to stick to its own side. Those who presently are undecided or passive might move to support the campaigners because they don’t want to support “violence.”

In some circumstances, although not all, who wins the struggle depends on who most believably asserts that the other side is violent. Occupy Wall Street ...

Published: Saturday 21 January 2012
“The empirical argument is simply historically based numerology: emerging-market crises seem to come in a 15-year cycle.”

Emerging markets have performed amazingly well over the last seven years. In many cases, they have far outperformed the advanced industrialized countries in terms of economic growth, debt-to-GDP ratios, countercyclical fiscal policy, and assessments by ratings agencies and financial markets.

As 2012 begins, however, investors are wondering if emerging markets may be due for a correction, triggered by a new wave of “risk off” behavior. Will China experience a hard landing? Will a decline in commodity prices hit Latin America? Will the European Union’s sovereign-debt woes spread to neighbors such as Turkey?

Indeed, few believe that the rapid economic growth and high trade deficits that Turkey has experienced in recent years can be sustained. Likewise, high GDP growth rates in Brazil and Argentina over the same period could soon reverse, particularly if global commodity prices fall – not a remote prospect if the Chinese economy begins to falter or global  READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
“Following the Money in the Iran Crisis”

Let's start with red lines. Here it is, Washington’s ultimate red line, straight from the lion’s mouth.  Only last week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said of the Iranians, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.”

How strange, the way those red lines continue to retreat.  Once upon a time, the red line for Washington was “enrichment” of uranium. Now, it’s evidently an actual nuclear weapon that can be brandished. Keep in mind that, since 2005, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has stressed that his country is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon. The most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from the U.S. Intelligence Community has similarly stressed that Iran is not, in fact, developing a nuclear weapon (as opposed to the breakout capacity to build one someday).

What if, however, there is no “red line,” but something completely different? Call it the ...

Published: Sunday 15 January 2012
“That the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s would be based on Gandhian strategic nonviolent action partly resulted from the success of the Alabama city’s exquisitely unified black community.”

How does one learn nonviolent resistance? The same way that Martin Luther King Jr. did—by study, reading and interrogating seasoned tutors. King would eventually become the person most responsible for advancing and popularizing Gandhi’s ideas in the United States, by persuading black Americans to adapt the strategies used against British imperialism in India to their own struggles. Yet he was not the first to bring this knowledge from the subcontinent.

By the 1930s and 1940s, via ocean voyages and propeller airplanes, a constant flow of prominent black leaders were traveling to India. College presidents, professors, pastors and journalists journeyed to India to meet Gandhi and study how to forge mass struggle with nonviolent means. Returning to the United States, they wrote articles, preached, lectured and passed key documents from hand to hand for study by other black leaders. Historian Sudarshan Kapur has shown that the ideas of Gandhi were moving vigorously from India to the United States at that time, and the African   American news media reported on the Indian independence struggle. Leaders in the black community talked about a “black Gandhi” for the United States. One woman called it “raising up a prophet,” which Kapur used as the title of his book.

While a student at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, King was intrigued by reading Thoreau and Gandhi, yet had not actually studied Gandhi in depth. A friend, J. Pius Barbour, remembered the young seminarian arguing on behalf of Gandhian methods with a reckoning based on arithmetic—that ...

Published: Saturday 10 December 2011
“Rarely does a state of unity pre-exist; it must be created in order to succeed, and this requires some form of democratic decision making.”

Egypt began its first round of balloting in November, one of the outcomes of the January uprising that ousted the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. This followed the military’s attempt to hold onto power by using draconian measures against renewed protests in Tahrir Square, where military and police killed 40 and injured 2,000. With two more rounds of voting remaining, it is small wonder that many Egyptians are afraid of what is to come. Early indications are that the Muslim Brotherhood will show well in free parliamentary elections, and the more doctrinaire Salafists will claim seats. Debates over the prospects for the Arab Awakening now rage as a result.

After a spellbindingly rapid series of events in the Middle East in the early months of this year, progress seems to have slowed. The liberal spirit that characterized those nonviolent revolutions appears to be dissipating in favor of old rivalries—as well as the specter that new forms of repression will simply replace their predecessors.

What’s happening now in Egypt and Tunisia—to say nothing of Bahrain and Syria—is also bringing back to the fore worn-out arguments claiming that nonviolent struggle works slowly, while violence is quick. Efficient, even.

This kind of argument is often given as a justification for not taking the time to investigate or learn how to fight with nonviolent struggle. I have heard this view advanced by communists, Baathists, Marxists and radical proponents of armed struggle, despite the fact that, until recently, few empirical evaluations have been conducted to determine whether it is actually ...

Published: Sunday 27 November 2011
“Maybe voters just wonder about a guy who’s willing to tailor everything to please his audience. Even his name.”

Moderator Wolf Blitzer opened Tuesday’s Republican debate by introducing himself and adding, for some reason, “Yes, that’s my real name.” A few moments later, the party’s most plausible nominee for president said the following: “I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

But it’s not. Mitt is the candidate’s middle name. His first name is Willard.

And people wonder why this guy has an authenticity problem?

The debate, held at Washington’s historic DAR Constitution Hall, was focused on foreign policy. The subject matter seemed to offer Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, the opportunity to highlight his experience and perhaps begin consolidating his sudden front-runner status. But if he expected to dance rings around the others in the minefields of international politics, he was mistaken.

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Published: Saturday 19 November 2011
“A simple definition for nonviolent resistance is simply to do something one should be doing (even if you’re told not to) or to not do something you shouldn’t be doing (even if you’re told you must).”

Last Friday night, in a conversation with a longtime Occupy Wall Street organizer while walking (and skipping) toward an elusive Spokes Council meeting, we got to talking about violence. We’d done so before, always enjoyably; he’s a nimble conversationalist and well-dressed to boot. He’s also one of those in the movement who declares his openness to violent tactics if necessary. To him, the violence of state oppression ultimately justifies whatever means it might take to remove it. Revolutionary violence on the part of the oppressed is not really violence at all. Breaking windows is not violence. Nor, presumably, is a well-placed bomb.

As he sees it, a commitment to nonviolence only constrains a movement, preventing it from doing any meaningful resistance (despite the fact that Occupy Wall Street has effectively made just such a commitment). It was in explaining this that he reminded me of how, at Berkeley, the authorities described protesters locking arms as violent. If they can say that, he concluded, then nonviolence is by definition tantamount to passivity.

True—but only if we’re willing to accept the kind of wordplay that somehow passes muster at Berkeley.

Here’s some of the 

Published: Sunday 13 November 2011
“Legal empowerment is a public good: it renders governments more accountable, and makes development more equitable.”

Inspired by Anna Hazare’s hunger strike, thousands of people gathered at Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi to protest governmental corruption. Protesters here and around the country pressed for a specific political change – a new institution to combat corruption– and, in principle, they won. Parliament passed a resolution accepting their demands and is now drafting a bill accordingly.

But the demonstrations were also motivated by a larger aspiration, one that is more difficult to achieve: that the day-to-day workings of government become more accountable, more tied to the citizens whom government is meant to serve.

Two of the great international movements since World War II have arrived at exactly this challenge. The human rights movement has led nearly all countries to endorse human rights norms, at least in name. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International can therefore use documentation and public advocacy to shame governments for egregious violations.

"Follow Project Syndicate on

Published: Monday 31 October 2011
“[I]t is likely that world population will peak at nine billion in the 2050’s, a half-century sooner than generally anticipated, followed by a sharp decline.”

According to the United Nations’ Population Division, the world’s human population hit seven billion on October 31. As always happens whenever we approach such a milestone, this one has produced a spike in conferences, seminars, and learned articles, including the usual dire Malthusian predictions. After all, the UN forecasts that world population will rise to 9.3 billion in 2050 and surpass 10 billion by the end of this century.

Such forecasts, however, misrepresent underlying demographic dynamics. The future we face is not one of too much population growth, but too little.

Most countries conducted their national population census last year, and the data suggest that fertility rates are plunging in most of them. Birth rates have been low in developed countries for some time, but now they are falling rapidly in the majority of developing countries. Chinese, Russians, and Brazilians are no longer replacing themselves, while Indians are having far fewer children. Indeed, global fertility will fall to the replacement rate in a little more than a decade. Population may keep growing until mid-century, owing to rising longevity, but, reproductively speaking, our species should no longer be expanding.

What demographers call the Total Fertility Rate is the average number of live births per woman over her lifetime. In the long run, a population is said to be stable if the TFR is at the replacement rate, which is a little above 2.3 for the world as ...

Published: Saturday 29 October 2011
“Population growth has rocketed. It took just 13 years for 1 billion more people to live on the planet, yet only at the dawn of the 19th century did a billion people first inhabit the Earth.”

The world's population is expected to reach 7 billion on Monday, four years later than once predicted largely thanks to China's family planning policy, according to the country's top population experts.

Population growth has rocketed. It took just 13 years for 1 billion more people to live on the planet, yet only at the dawn of the 19th century did a billion people first inhabit the Earth, according to a report by the United Nations Population Fund.

Baby No 7 Billion will probably be born in the Asia-Pacific region, where the population growth rate is the highest in the world.

China's family planning policy, which limits most mainland couples to one child, has prevented 400 million births since 1979, according to the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

The rising population presents challenges to humanity, Safiye Cagar, director of information and external relations for the fund, said on Tuesday.

"If we do not voluntarily stabilize population, we risk a much less humane end to growth as the ongoing destruction of the earth's natural systems catches up with us," the UN report said.

"How do we ensure that each of us has a decent standard of living while sustaining Earth's resources?" Cagar said

Such a huge population will put a lot of pressure on Earth, said Yuan Xin, a professor at Tianjin-based Nankai University's population and development institute. For example, the population increase plus the pursuit of a better quality of life will require more resources and therefore put the environment in danger.

"The prevented births of China are also significant for natural resource and environment preservation across the world," Yuan said Tuesday. "But that merit might be offset if the Chinese consume relentlessly like the Westerners did, given China's sheer population size."

Official data released by China and the United ...

Published: Saturday 10 September 2011
We look back at several national and international events linked to that dreadful day on 9/11/01

On the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we look back at several national and international events linked to that day. This year on September 11, India will mark the 105th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi launching the modern nonviolent resistance movement. We play part of a 2003 interview with Gandhi’s grandson, Arun. On September 11, 1990, renowned Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack was assassinated in Guatemala City. She had been stalked for two weeks prior to her death by a U.S.-backed military death squad in retaliation for her work to expose and document the destruction of rural indigenous communities by U.S.-backed state forces and allied paramilitary groups. We play part of a 2003 interview with Myrna’s sister Helen Mack, who has fought tirelessly to bring justice to people killed by high-ranking Guatemalan officials in the armed forces. On September 11, 1993, in the midst of the U.S.-backed coup in Haiti, Antoine Izméry was dragged out of a church by coup forces and murdered in broad daylight. He had been commemorating a massacre of parishioners at the Saint-Jean Bosco Church that had occurred five years earlier on September 11, 1988. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide narrowly escaped death in that attack, and later became president of Haiti. We play an excerpt from a 2004 Democracy Now! interview with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide about the attack. We also play a portion of the film "Ghosts of Attica," about Frank "Big Black" Smith, a prisoner who played a prominent role in the September 9, 1971, Attica prison rebellion and who was tortured by the troops who crushed the uprising days later. 

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest at Duke University, in studio there, Ariel Dorfman, bestselling author, playwright, poet, ...

Published: Thursday 11 August 2011
"The better path for both the U.S. and its trading partners would be that the adjustment be made through a lower value of the dollar."

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 0.8 percent in the first half of 2011, well below its potential growth rate of 2.5 percent. While the prospects for the second half of the year are somewhat better, no one anticipates a strong rebound. There are a number of factors that will be a drag on growth for much of the decade. These factors are also likely to bring an end to the era in which U.S. trade deficit was a major engine for the growth of the world economy.

Most immediately, the bubbles in residential and non-residential construction have left an enormous oversupply of structures of all types. This will gradually be eliminated over the next three-four years, but construction will remain at below normal levels at least through 2014.

Similarly, consumption will remain weak as the savings rate rises to more normal levels. Through most of the half century following World War II, the savings rate hovered near 8 percent of disposable income. It fell sharply in the 90s as the wealth created by the stock bubble sparked a consumption boom. The wealth created by the housing bubble led to a further decline in the savings rate, pushing it to near zero at the peak of the bubble.

The bubble wealth has largely disappeared with house prices returning to trend levels. This is likely to mean that the savings rate will again rise to near 8 percent. The demographics of the huge baby bo­om cohort at the edge of retirement could be a factor causing the savings rate to even rise above its long-run trend.

At the same time, the private sector is moving toward increased savings and the public sector seems destined to move in the same direction. State and local governments, which account for more than half of government spending in the United States, are almost all cutting spending and raising taxes to eliminate budget shortfalls. Similarly, politics at the federal level have resulted in a situation where the leadership of both parties is committed ...

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