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4 March 2021   Leave a comment

Researchers have published results of a study of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), more commonly referred to as the Gulf Stream. The AMOC is one of the planet’s most important ocean circulation systems, bringing warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Europe and returning colder water to the tropics. It is responsible for the relatively warmer winters in Europe and operates on the differences in salt and density of fresh and cold water interacting with salty and warm water. The significance of the AMOC cannot be overstated:

“The Gulf Stream (also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC) is essentially a “giant conveyor belt” along the East coast of the United States, study co-author Stefan Rahmstorf, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, said in a statement.

The current begins near the Florida Peninsula, carrying warm surface water north toward Newfoundland before meandering east across the Atlantic. By the time it reaches the North Atlantic, that warm surface water becomes cooler, saltier and denser, sinking into the deep sea before being driven south again, where the cycle repeats. According to Rahmstorf, the current moves more than 5.2 billion gallons (20 million cubic meters) of water per second, or ‘almost 100 times the Amazon [River] flow.'”

But climate change seems to have affected the strength of the AMOC. Melting ice from Greenland has increased the amount of fresh water flowing into the North Atlantic, creating what some have called the “Cold Blob” just south of Greenland. That reservoir of cold, fresh water seems to be slowing the AMOC down to a considerable extent. The researchers point out that

“The AMOC is a sensitive nonlinear system dependent on subtle thermohaline density differences in the ocean, and major AMOC transitions have been implicated, for example, in millennial climate events during the last glacial period1. There is evidence that the AMOC is slowing down in response to anthropogenic global warming—as predicted by climate models—and that the AMOC is presently in its weakest state for more than 1,000 years.”

Benjamin Franklin was one of the first to identify the Gulf Stream and he published a map of the Gulf Stream in 1768. The New York Times has published a fascinating interactive article on the AMOC. But scientists have only been able to study rigorously the AMOC for less than two decades, so the research is based on a number of climate proxies such as tree rings and sedimentation. This approach makes the study problematic since it does not rely on direct evidence. But the proxy evidence is troubling. If the research proves to be accurate then we can expect significant changes by the end of this century:

“The team concluded that, at the current rate of climate change, the Gulf Stream’s flow could weaken by an additional 45% by the year 2100, plunging the current close to a critical tipping point. If the flow continues to weaken (or collapse entirely), the effects could be severe.

“‘Several studies have shown that a slowdown of the [AMOC] exacerbates sea-level rise on the US coast for cities like New York and Boston,’ Caesar [Levke Caesar, a climatologist at Maynooth University in Ireland] said. Other studies have linked severe heat waves and storm patterns in northern Europe and the eastern United States to the weakened current.

The precise impacts could be ‘even more severe,’ Caesar said, though scientists won’t know for sure until we cross that bridge. Hopefully, by limiting global warming as much as possible in the coming decades, we’ll never have to find out.”

Posted March 4, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 March 2021   Leave a comment

A cybersecurity organization, Recorded Future, has released a report which suggests, but does not conclude, that China launched a cyberattack on India’s electrical grid system which resulted in a temporary blackout of electricity to the city of Mumbai last October. The Executive Summary of the report asserts:

“Relations between India and China have deteriorated significantly following border clashes in May 2020 that resulted in the first combat deaths in 45 years between the world’s two most populous nations. As a result, on January 12, 2021, India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar announced that trust between India and China was “profoundly disturbed.” While diplomacy and economic factors have been effective in preventing a full-blown war, notable most recently with the bilateral disengagement at the border, cyber operations continue to provide countries with a potent asymmetric capability to conduct espionage or pre-position within networks for potentially disruptive reasons.

“Since early 2020, Recorded Future’s Insikt Group observed a large increase in suspected targeted intrusion activity against Indian organizations from Chinese state-sponsored groups. From mid-2020 onwards, Recorded Future’s midpoint collection revealed a steep rise in the use of infrastructure tracked as AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE, which encompasses ShadowPad command and control (C2) servers, to target a large swathe of India’s power sector. 10 distinct Indian power sector organizations, including 4 of the 5 Regional Load Despatch Centres (RLDC) responsible for operation of the power grid through balancing electricity supply and demand, have been identified as targets in a concerted campaign against India’s critical infrastructure. Other targets identified included 2 Indian seaports.

“Using a combination of proactive adversary infrastructure detections, domain analysis, and Recorded Future Network Traffic Analysis, we have determined that a subset of these AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE servers share some common infrastructure tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) with several previously reported Chinese state-sponsored groups, including APT41 and Tonto Team.

“Despite some overlaps with previous groups, Insikt Group does not currently believe there is enough evidence to firmly attribute the activity in this particular campaign to an existing public group and therefore continue to track it as a closely related but distinct activity group, RedEcho.”

The full report is available to anyone who wishes to register to Recorded Future and it is a very detailed and well-documented report, but also full of technical jargon that is difficult for me to assess. The New York Times summarizes some of the findings in an article entitled “China Appears to Warn India: Push Too Hard and the Lights Could Go Out”. The Indian press was quick to blame China for the attack:

“Thousands of cyber attacks had been witnessed in a period of four to five days in June this year on the Information, Banking and Infrastructure sectors in the country.

“The Maharashtra Cyber department had said after thorough analysis and investigation it has been found that all these attacks generated from China and were targeted at some of the most crucial sectors.

“Special Inspector General of Police, Yashasvi Yadav, Maharashtra Cyber Intelligence Cell had then said, ‘We at the Maharashtra Cyber department have collated information that in the Indian cyberspace there has been a sudden surge since past four to five days where attacks have happened on major sectors from China. These sectors include Information, Infrastructure and Banking. There has been a minimum of 40300 probes or cyber attacks for which we have gathered information as of now.’

“He added, ‘These cyber-attacks or hacking attempts are happening from the Chengdu area of China. Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. These can be divided into three categories which are Denial of service attacks.'”

Needless to say, the Chinese have denied that they were responsible for the attack: “The relevant allegations are pure rumors and slanders. Cyber attacks are highly complicated and sensitive, and their origin is difficult to trace. Speculation and fabrication have no role to play on the issue of cyber attacks. It is highly irresponsible to accuse a particular party when there is no evidence. China is firmly opposed to such irresponsible and ill-intentioned practice.”

It is unlikely that there will be a definitive determination of what actually happened in India. But there is no question that the cyber attack is something which states cannot ignore and raise the stakes in any possible future crisis. Cyber activity is now firmly established as an instrument of war and diplomacy. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has complied a very long list of previous cyberwarfare activities which can be accessed here.

Posted March 2, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

26 February 2021   Leave a comment

The US and Iran are conducting a very elaborate and complicated diplomatic dance in an effort to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. My own view is that both sides want the agreement to be restored but they are now engaged in negotiations to determine the terms of its renewal. Since former US President Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2017, Iran has been slowly restarting its nuclear program as a way of pressuring the other signatories to the agreement (Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) to convince the US to rejoin the agreement and to ease up on the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Despite the desire of both governments to renew the agreement, both sides also have to deal with hardliners in their countries that do not wish to see the agreement revived.

The negotiations have been complicated by contentious issues that are only peripherally related to the objective of the JCPOA which was simply to create conditions to allow Iran to forgo the ability to build a nuclear weapon. Former President Trump pulled out of the agreement because it did not address the Iranian ballistic missile program nor did it do anything to proscribe Iranian behavior which threatened US allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. President Biden is concerned about those issues as well, but he seems to understand that stopping the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb is the highest priority. For both sides, the issue appears to be establishing the terms of a renewal that would not play into the hands of the forces that oppose the JCPOA.

In many respects, the first steps of the negotiations are the most serious obstacles. Neither side wishes to appear weak but neither do they wish to be provocative. Thus far there has been a diplomatic channel and a military channel in the negotiations. For the US, the strategy has been to distance itself from the close embrace of Israel and Saudi Arabia which was pursued by the Trump Administration. President Biden delayed talking directly with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for over a month and has just today released the intelligence report blaming Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Salman for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. For its part, Iran has been leaning on the European states to disregard the US extraterritorial sanctions on the sale of its oil–the Chinese and the Russians have openly defied those sanctions.

The military track of the negotiations are more complicated. Iran continues to target US facilities in Iraq, but those attacks seem to be deliberately calibrated to avoid US military casualties. The Voice of America describes those attacks:

“In the Feb. 15 attack, rockets hit the U.S. military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region killing one non-American contractor and injuring a number of American contractors and a U.S. service member. Another salvo struck a base hosting U.S. forces north of Baghdad days later hurting at least one contractor.

“On Monday, rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions.

“Earlier this week, the Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the main Iran-aligned Iraqi militia groups, denied any role in recent rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

“Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kata’ib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass U.S. forces without being held accountable.”

The US launched an attack against Iranian-backed militia facilities in eastern Syria to respond to these attacks. But this attack seems to be similarly calibrated to avoid extensive casualties. President Biden was criticized by many Democratic politicians and I share these reservations to some extent. We will have to see how these military exchanges unfold. I prefer to think about these exchanges as diplomatic messages and not as a prelude to further attacks, but that perspective is a fragile one. It would be far better for these negotiations to proceed as peacefully as is possible given the constraints on both sides posed by the hardliners.

Posted February 26, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

21 February 2021   Leave a comment

The image of the US declined precipitously among most countries during the Trump Administration and the decline was most obviously related to the poor management of the COVID pandemic. The Pew Research Center polled citizens in 13 nations and found that only “15% say the U.S. has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak. In contrast, most say the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union have done a good job, and in nearly all nations people give their own country positive marks for dealing with the crisis (the U.S. and UK are notable exceptions). Relatively few think China has handled the pandemic well, although it still receives considerably better reviews than the U.S. response.”

The image of the US has been further damaged by the ineptitude of Texas officials in handling the deep freeze that the state suffered last week, a situation that continues to unravel as Texas citizens deal with water shortages and high energy bills. US News and World Reports summarizes how the Texas crisis has undermined the US image abroad:

“The Kremlin early Thursday took aim at American concerns in recent years at the Russian energy pipeline known as Nord Stream 2, which runs from its territory through the Baltic Sea and into key U.S. allies, notably Germany.

“‘It probably makes sense for our American partners to be less interested in Nord Stream 2 and to a greater extent be interested in the events in Houston, Texas, [its] energy and heat supply,’ Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters Thursday morning. And, taking a dig at a state that prides itself on its energy independence, he added: ‘Of course, gas [supplies] would not be in that way here.’

“Iran, which U.S. officials privately say was behind this week’s attack on an American base in Iraq, ran an almost gleeful gallery on the home page of its state news service entitled, ‘More Than 3.5 Million Texans Are STILL Without Power, Storm Death Toll Hits 23.’ It includes pictures of the widespread devastation in Texas wrought by the historic cold temperatures and broad outages.

“And China’s state-run Global Times published an op-ed Thursday morning blasting the massive electric grid failures in the Lone Star State, which have caused two dozen deaths and left more than 3 million without power amid bone-chilling cold temperatures in an area largely unaccustomed to severe winters. The plight of its citizens shows that China and others should no longer look to the U.S. for an example of leadership, it claimed.

“‘It is a severe natural disaster after all, and we cannot say that the U.S. is an ugly country just because many Americans are also suffering from man-made calamities. But what is happening there has undoubtedly shown that the U.S. is an ordinary country with serious shortcomings,’ according to the outlet, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party but is not considered a mouthpiece for it. ‘Actually, every country has its own problems, so the U.S. should focus on solving its own woes rather than denouncing other countries.'”

It remains to be seen how the Texas crisis will change the views of Americans toward the role of government in daily affairs. The collapse of the energy sector was unquestionably related to the desire of some Texas officials to pursue deregulation of an important part of the state’s infrastructure. Rather than characterizing the role of government regulation as “socialist”, it might be better for Americans to regard the role of government as beneficial and necessary.

Posted February 21, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

18 February 2021   Leave a comment

The COVID pandemic has exposed huge inequities in access to health care in most countries. But there is also a global divide in access to COVID vaccines which is also heartbreaking. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center currently estimates that there have been over 110 million cases and almost 2.5 million deaths from the virus, estimates that most likely understate the true spread of the disease. The development of vaccines against the virus was an impressive scientific and technological feat, but the United Nations estimates that 75% of all current vaccines are being distributed in 10 countries and that there are about 130 states where no vaccines available at all. It should come as no surprise that the 10 countries are highly developed and that the states without vaccines are largely poor.

This outcome was easily predictable and to address the problem the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated what is known as the COVAX Program:

“At an early stage during this pandemic, it quickly became apparent that to end this global crisis we don’t just need COVID-19 vaccines, we also need to ensure that everyone in the world has access to them. This triggered global leaders to call for a solution that would accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as diagnostics and treatments, and guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to them for people in all countries. Today we have that solution – COVAX. The result of an extraordinary and unique global collaboration, with more than two-thirds of the world engaged – COVAX has the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines, and as such represents the world’s best hope of bringing the acute phase of this pandemic to a swift end.

COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic. Bringing together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The COVAX pillar is focussed on the latter. It is the only truly global solution to this pandemic because it is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.

Unfortunately, COVAX has not met its objectives and many blame the lack of success on what has been termed “vaccine nationalism”. The pressures to reserve short supplies of vaccines to one’s own citizens are intense, but ultimately short-sighted. We have witnessed how transmissible the COVID virus is and are currently facing the prospect of variants for which the vaccines are less effective. In other words, it is a serious mistake to believe that vaccinating an entire national population would be effective over the long run. That same dynamic is true for the dangers of climate change as well–there is no national solution. Only a global response is capable of avoiding a catastrophe.

The International Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study to analyze the economic costs of a failed global response to the COVID pandemic. It concluded:

Key findings:

  • The economic costs borne by wealthy countries in the absence of multilateral coordination guaranteeing vaccine access and distribution range between US$ 203 billion and US$ 5 trillion, depending on the strength of trade and international production network relations. The ACT Accelerator is fully costed at US$ 38 billion.
  • These costs are an order of magnitude larger than those estimated by earlier studies, which calculated the costs of inaction at between US$ 119 – US$ 153 billion in 2021 and up to US$ 466 billion by 2025 (Duke HealthEurasia GroupRAND). This is because the new study is calibrated to a large set of countries and sectors, fully incorporating international trade and production network.
  • The study shows a clear positive relationship between the economic cost of uneven vaccine distribution and trade linkages – the more open an economy is, the stronger the economic incentive it should have in ensuring trading partners have access to vaccines.
  • If advanced economies continue to prioritize vaccination of their susceptible populations without ensuring equitable vaccination for developing economies, the total cost to the world varies between US$ 1.5–9.2 trillion.
    • The expected economic cost to the United States is US$ 45 billion to US$ 1.38 trillion. The expected economic cost to the United Kingdom is US$ 8.5–146 billion. The expected cost to Germany is US$ 14–248 billion.
  • Key advanced economies most impacted include many European countries (including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands) Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the US, who might lose up to 3.9 percent of their GDPs relative to a world where all countries are vaccinated.

The political will to treat the pandemic for what it truly is will be difficult to summon. Most populations look to their own national governments for security and persuading those populations that substantial commitments to non-citizens will be hard to realize. But there is no necessary distinction between a national and an international response. Both require substantial financial commitments. The obstacle is to understand fully how interdependent the human population is. But we already knew that. We have much historical evidence: global plagues have rattled humanity ever since the Plague of Athens in 430 BCE. Why the lesson is so difficult to learn is the true challenge.

Posted February 18, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

15 February 2021   Leave a comment

There have been nine days of protests against the military coup in Myanmar. The protests are acts of civil disobedience which were started by the country’s doctors but now include transportation and electrical power workers. The strikes have immobilized commercial activities in the country, primarily in the former capitol city of Yangon (the military moved the government bureaucracies to the city of Naypyidaw in 2006). The coup dashed the hopes for a return to democracy after the military junta which had ruled the country since 1962 dissolved in 2011. But the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, since that time never really exercised autonomous control. The military was always in the background and Suu Kyi, who was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was never strong enough to prevent the military from conducting brutal measures against the Royingha minority in the Rakhine province. The New York Times describes the effect of the civil disobedience movement:

“The civil disobedience movement, or C.D.M., as it is known, has widespread support across the country. It targets the military’s extensive business interests and government functions essential to military rule, as well as encompassing street demonstrations and a noisy new evening ritual of banging on pots and pans.

“The huge outpouring of support is all the more impressive given the military’s brutal history of gunning down pro-democracy protesters in 1988 and 2007. One expert on the government’s civil service system estimated that the country had about one million civil servants and that about three-quarters of them had walked off their jobs. Many are essential in keeping the country running.”

The military junta has responded by shutting down the internet and by arresting and firing on protesters. The strikes have a dramatic effect on the Myanmar military since the military has substantial investments in corporations that work in Myanmar. The military, however, also faces substantial pressure from abroad as several countries have imposed sanctions on the junta. Al Jazeera describes the efforts of the US to force the military to back down:

“On Thursday Washington blacklisted eight individuals, including the defense and home affairs ministers, imposed additional sanctions on the top two military officials and targeted three companies in the jade and gems sector, according to the Treasury Department’s website.

“’The US Department of Treasury designated 10 individuals and three entities, for their association to the military apparatus responsible for the coup. Three entities, wholly owned subsidiaries of a conglomerate owned or controlled by the Burmese military have also been designated,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“’Additionally, as the President announced the US government has also taken steps to prevent the generals from improperly accessing more than $1bn dollars in Burmese government funds held in the US, the Department of Commerce is also taking immediate action to limit exports of sensitive goods to the Burmese military and other entities associated with the recent coup.

“’In addition, we’re freezing US assistance that benefits the Burmese Government, while maintaining our support for our healthcare civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the Burmese people directly. We will also continue our support for the Rohingya and other vulnerable populations,’ Psaki said.”

People make three-finger salutes of defiance during an anti-coup march in Yangon, Myanmar.

Posted February 15, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

12 February 2021   Leave a comment

The Lancet, one of the most respected public health journals in the world, has published a report entitled “Public policy and health in the Trump era”. It is a protected essay, but simple registration will give one access. It is a truly devastating report on how the Trump Administration mishandled the COVID pandemic. But the essay goes further and explains how the politics and economics of the US republic over the years contributed to the abject failure of Americans to deal with the disease. The opening of the essay is brutal:

“This report by the Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era assesses the repercussions of President Donald Trump’s health-related policies and examines the failures and social schisms that enabled his election. Trump exploited low and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health. His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he used to justify cutting food subsidies and health care. His appeals to racism, nativism, and religious bigotry have emboldened white nationalists and vigilantes, and encouraged police violence and, at the end of his term in office, insurrection. He chose judges for US courts who are dismissive of affirmative action and reproductive, labour, civil, and voting rights; ordered the mass detention of immigrants in hazardous conditions; and promulgated regulations that reduce access to abortion and contraception in the USA and globally. Although his effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed, he weakened its coverage and increased the number of uninsured people by 2·3 million, even before the mass dislocation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has accelerated the privatisation of government health programmes. Trump’s hostility to environmental regulations has already worsened pollution—resulting in more than 22 000 extra deaths in 2019 alone—hastened global warming, and despoiled national monuments and lands sacred to Native people. Disdain for science and cuts to global health programmes and public health agencies have impeded the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, and imperil advances against HIV and other diseases. And Trump’s bellicose trade, defence, and foreign policies have led to economic disruption and threaten an upswing in armed conflict.

“Although Trump’s actions were singularly damaging, many of them represent an aggressive acceleration of neoliberal policies that date back 40 years. These policies reversed New Deal and civil rights-era advances in economic and racial equality. Subsequently, inequality widened, with many people in the USA being denied the benefits of economic growth. US life expectancy, which was similar to other high-income nations’ in 1980, trailed the G7 average by 3·4 years in 2018 (equivalent to 461 000 excess US deaths in that year alone). The so-called war on drugs initiated by President Richard Nixon widened racial inequities and led to the mass incarceration of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. Overdose deaths soared, spurred by drug firms’ profit-driven promotion of opioids and the spread of despair in long-afflicted communities of colour and among working-class white people. Market-oriented health policies shifted medical resources toward high-income people, burdened the middle class with unaffordable out-of-pocket costs and deployed public money to stimulate the corporate takeover of vital health resources.”

The point is clear: the US health system is far from the “best” in the world. Indeed, compared to other countries of comparable wealth, it is one of the worst health systems in the world. One can measure how bad it is by looking at the phenomenon of “excess deaths”–those deaths that could have been avoided with appropriate care and economic circumstances as shown by the graph below.

Excess deaths each year in the USA relative to other G7 countries average (1980–2018)

The article puts a fine point to the argument:

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the USA, with more than 26 million diagnosed cases and over 450 000 deaths as of early February, 2021, about 40% of which could have been averted had the US death rate mirrored the weighted average of the other G7 nations.35Many of the cases and deaths were avoidable. Instead of galvanising the US populace to fight the pandemic, President Trump publicly dismissed its threat (despite privately acknowledging it),36 discouraged action as infection spread, and eschewed international cooperation. His refusal to develop a national strategy worsened shortages of personal protective equipment and diagnostic tests. President Trump politicised mask-wearing and school reopenings and convened indoor events attended by thousands, where masks were discouraged and physical distancing was impossible.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of many US health failures. The fact that COVID-19 affects Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people disproportionately has reinforced long-standing health inequities driven by racially patterned disparities in housing,37 wealth, employment, and social and political rights.

Declining US longevity between 2014 and 2017, and the minimal uptick in longevity in 2018, attracted substantial media attention. However, a focus on these recent trends risks obscuring how far the USA lags behind other high-income nations (figure 1), and how long these cross-national gaps have been in the making. Life expectancy in the USA was average among high-income nations in 1980, by 1995, it was 2·2 years shorter than the average of other G7 countries, and by 2018, the gap had widened to 3·4 years.4

The extent of difference can also be quantified as the number of missing Americans—ie, the number of US residents who would still be alive if age-specific mortality rates in the USA had remained equal to the average of the other six G7 nations. By this measure, in 2018 alone, 461 000 Americans went missing, an annual figure that has been increasing since 1980 (figure 2appendix pp 2–3).38 Most of the US mortality excess is among people younger than 65 years. If US death rates were equivalent to those of other G7 nations, two of five deaths before age 65 years would have been averted. To put this number in context, the number of missing Americans each year is more than the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the USA in all of 2020.

The article also points out how the election of Donald Trump changed the health dynamics of the American people, as indicated by the graph below.

Trends in life expectancy in counties that voted predominantly for or against Donald Trump in the 2016 election

The article goes into great detail about the disparities in health outcomes among the various racial and ethnic groups in the US and the evidence is clear that white Americans enjoy highly biased access to healthcare relative to other groups.

Finally, the article makes it clear that the issue is not money. The US spends far more than other countries to receive an inferior level of health care.

Health-care spending in five wealthy nations (1970–2018)

The need for a far more informed debate over health care in the US is long overdue. Americans should be both ashamed and humiliated by how poorly the country ranks in the world. I have done little justice to how detailed this report is. I recommend highly that people read this article carefully and act upon its insights and conclusions.

Posted February 12, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

10 February 2021   Leave a comment

Posted February 10, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

9 February 2021   Leave a comment

Posted February 9, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

6 February 2021   Leave a comment

Protests by farmers in India have been going on for several months, and the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has invoked colonial-era sedition laws to repress them. The farmers fear that new laws passed by the BJP will devastate their earnings and wish to protect the subsidies that have allowed them to prosper since the 1960s. The Washington Post summarizes the changes made by the Modi government. The changes are an attempt to modernize the agricultural sector of the Indian economy which accounts for a substantial part of the population but only a fraction of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The protests were largely peaceful until late January when a farmer was killed in one of the demonstrations. According to Reuters:

“Tens of thousands of farmers have been braving New Delhi’s winter by sleeping in the open for months on national highways. Their protests have mostly been peaceful but a tractor rally on Jan. 26 flared into turmoil as some farmers clashed with police.

“Since then, authorities have shut down the mobile internet in parts of the national capital and heavily barricaded border roads to prevent protesters from coming into the city again.”

The Modi government has been arresting journalists, shutting down internet sites, and freezing Twitter accounts in an attempt to halt the protests. The Associated Press details the extent of the clampdown:

“Prosecutions on sedition charges are rare but their use to silence journalists, critics and dissenters in India isn’t new and previous governments had resorted to it. But official data shows that Modi’s government has used the law more than any other — up by nearly 30%. It has also repeatedly rejected demands to repeal it.

“Calls and messages seeking comment from four BJP spokespersons went unanswered. Calls to the party’s media office also were unsuccessful.

“Media watchdogs and rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, condemned the government’s actions as censorship. The Editors Guild of India said the cases against journalists were ‘an attempt to intimidate, harass, browbeat, and stifle the media.’

“Daniel Bastard, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk, said the government was trying to impose its own narrative.

“Critics say India under Modi is growing intolerant. Its ranking on the World Press Freedom Index has fallen every year, and it ranked 142nd out of 180 places in 2020.”

The farmers are quite determined, but the Modi government seems intent on keeping the changes in agricultural laws in place. The Indian Foreign Ministry has compared the protests at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi with the protests on 6 January at the US Capitol. There does seem to be a great deal of disquiet in the world these days.

Farmers at the Red Fort, 26 January 2021

Posted February 6, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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