A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Volume XXIII
  • No. 3
  • May/June 2018
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:

  • Mistresses in China
  • Wage Stagnation
  • War and Suffering
  • Hunger on College Campuses
  • Antibiotics Resistance and Typhoid
  • Fasting in Silicon Valley
  • To Ponder On

Mistresses In China

I accidentally saw an article about mistresses in China on my phone one night and since it was written in October 2013 later checked how prevalent the practice  was still  today. It is. In June 2017 the New Yorker published an article on China’s Mistress-Dispellers, a kind of new profession whereby third parties are hired by wives to get rid of their husbands’ mistresses. What struck me was not how common the practice of having a mistress is, it was how these women saw it as a step up for them.  Many of them came from rural China and were trying to escape poverty. They would end up in things like karaoke bars, having to sometimes sleep with customers, if they paid enough. Sometimes they had been involved in more conventional forms of prostitution. If they were noticed by a man who wanted to take care of them they jumped at the chance. They then would live in fancy apartments, had an allowance, received gifts.  There were times when several of them could be in different apartments in the same building, so it was possible for them to meet, talk and share notes.  They work hard for what they have to do to maintain the interest of “my man” as they would refer to the men keeping them.  They explain it as a question of being sincere about liking him and enjoying being with him, being interested in his life, at the same time mean it so that it would feel and be real to him even if they did not feel the same–anything so they would not have to go back to the karaoke bar, or their previous life. Some were able to save money, buy apartments, invest all the while enjoying certain luxuries. Many of the men were public officials, so essentially they were being supported by public funds. That is of course not how their wives saw it. In a culture where divorce is not accepted as it is in the West, their option was to use mistress-dispeller. He or she would shame, intimidation or perhaps make friends with the mistress and then have his picture taken with her if he was a man, and later send it to the husband, who felt deceived and would break off the relationship.

I couldn’t help think that rare among us would be the woman who would give up her freedom and opportunities for their luxury and makeshift security. In turn what would these Chinese women do if they could  have what we have?

Wage Stagnation

What happens to the wages of American workers may not seem like a topic we want to spend time on but it is important. For example, according to some experts it was a contributing factor to the election of Donald Trump. Although the last jobs report showed some wage increase, overall that increase was very flat and shows that in the long run wages will continue to be flat.  Wage stagnation is not new, it has basically been around for the last 40 years and has puzzled economists. That’s why the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution has now issued an e-book discussing the issues, making proposals and recommendations. One of the proposals which the authors seem to emphasize is related to creating circumstances for workers to compensate for the collective bargaining what unions used to provide. Unions represented a group and were able to obtain more concessions than a single individual. In addition when unions were powerful, there were many employers, now the numbers of employers has shrunk. In fact a recommendation is for the government to evaluate mergers in terms of how they would affect the labor market. The problem of employers being able to dictate terms has a name, monopsony, and the book’s authors alert us that employers today tend to have a degree of monopsony. Other measures suggested meant to compensate for  this problem work to give some bargaining power back to workers. Also companies often have non poaching agreements or workers are asked to sign that they will not work for the competition. All this limits workers’ bargaining power. And a recommendation is to alter those agreements and practices.

Wage stagnation is a complicated topic that often requires specialized knowledge, and yet it is one of extreme importance to the future of the US, one which can be crucial in reducing the growing economic inequality, and therefore one which can go to the core of how democracy is practiced.

War and Suffering

The war in Yemen has just entered its fourth year. The war in Syria is 7 years old, the war in Sudan 5, the war in Afghanistan 15. War and suffering go together. For example, in Yemen which has already been called a humanitarian crisis :

  • in March 2017 an outbreak of cholera spread to a million people by the end of the year
  • an estimate of 2 million children are out of school
  • 2 million people, nearly 3 in every 4 people are dependent on humanitarian aid to survive
  • besides cholera there has been dengue fever malaria and diphtheria, while the fear and possibility of those diseases returning is real
  • the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure make rendering aid more difficult

It is not known how long the war will last.  The same can be said of Syria, Afghanistan, Congo, Sudan and others not mentioned here. In Yemen’s case it is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Syria Turkey and Russia also make it a proxy war. Whether the United States has an interest in the stakes of a given war and is able to influence some form of peace is not foreground on the agenda of the current administration. This means that our understanding and commitment that as humans the suffering of war is our responsibility, to at least alleviate, must be that much stronger.

Hunger on College Campuses

Being in school is hard. For those who have access to life’s necessities, even for those who can include some of its pleasures, it can nevertheless be the best time of their lives, but for the rest for whatever reason, it is challenge upon challenge. According to a new survey 36% of students on college campuses do not have enough to eat. The survey finds that one of the reasons for food insecurity is that jobs are not as easy to find.  There is much competition for the low paying jobs students typically get. Other reasons are “ballooning college costs”, inadequate aid packages, growing enrollment among low income students and too the reluctance of colleges to admit the problem. According to the same survey a similar percentage of students have no secure place to live or can be homeless. I worked my way through school albeit at a time when tuitions were much cheaper. My education means more to me than whatever difficulties I encountered while a student. I am sure the same holds for many of these young people. But the result of this survey shows us this is not how we ought to build a future for young lives as well as for society.  Many of these same students who experience food and shelter insecurities may well be those who will end up with the greatest student debt. Student debt the way it is unfolding in the US (as opposed to the US, Australia or Sweden for example) saddles young people with life -long consequences.

When seen as a total picture, the results of this survey are not only distressing, they also lead to asking whether a remedy for economic inequality is being harmed?

 Antibiotics Resistance and Typhoid

It’s hard to realize that typhoid in Pakistan can impact us, but it’s much more likely than we may like. There’s an epidemic in 14 districts there, some 850 cases of typhoid which have been spreading since 2016. The problem is that the particular strain is mostly resistant to five different kinds of antibiotics. And further that strain is expected to disseminate globally. An oral antibiotic azythromycin is hoped to help, the last to be tried. If it fails, typhoid could be untreatable. So the issue is no longer about typhoid, but about antibiotic resistance. That means as far as typhoid is concerned we would have to return to the pre antibiotic era, and that would involve a very high mortality rate. As it is 21 million people suffer from typhoid each year and 161,000 already die of it. A hope for containing this epidemic lies in a vaccination campaign—indirectly making the case for the importance of vaccination.

The whole issue of antibiotic resistance is far from new which makes what’s going on in Pakistan more than a wake-up call.?  It is also an intractable problem since it affects the entire food chain. Cattle, for example, are fed antibiotics are as a means to prevent them from contracting certain diseases. The result is that even if we don’t take antibiotics ourselves we ingest them if or when we eat meat from such cattle. While the dangers of antibiotic resistance have been too abstract for us to grapple with and comprehend something like the typhoid epidemic in Pakistan brings them home in a way we can’t avoid and too one we must remember.

Fasting in Silicon Valley

iFasting, Mouth Timer, Grumbli, Foodless Lite, Pizza Prison, Fork Busters. These are the names of companies which are based on a current craze in Silicon Valley: Fasting. Silicon Valley is filled with young, affluent, pampered, intelligent people who, among other things, are always on the lookout of what could improve their comfort, physical, emotional or intellectual—and for many it also includes what among what is new can be monetized and bring them the rewards it has for some already well-known people. The current research behind fasting, however, explains much and one cannot be surprised that it is a current fad.  The research says that fasting, reduced caloric intake or restricted diets boost energy and cognitive ability. There is also the research on mice indicating that low caloric intake promotes longevity.  I wouldn’t want to live in a world without science, but I am aware that scientific notions do often alter with time. When I was these people’s age, for example, the prevailing notion about fasting was that it fulfilled the need to detoxify your body and because detoxification prevented disease it could therefore be a boon to health.

Why shouldn’t these young enterprising people fast if they want to? I can’t tell them not to. Not only is it their right, it is after all their freewill, their decision. In addition for all I or anyone knows it may be a necessary phase they need to undergo. The whole issue of fasting and restricted intake is not one of right or wrong. Yet, for someone like me, it is one of thoughtfulness, awareness and social consciousness. I wonder how refugees and migrants would feel about such topics, and how they would react should the research about reduced caloric intake be shared with them. In fact I doubt that the life expectancy in many poor countries (and I realize there are other factors at work) would correlate restricted food intake and longevity. And too there’s the whole issue of turning a fad into profits. It may be so emblematic of our contemporary culture, still it leaves me with how much these young entrepreneurs could accomplish to reduce human suffering if  they would turn their abilities towards reducing inequalities and evening out opportunities.

To Ponder On

“In this new, hyper competitive age, none of us, none of us can afford to be complacent.”

                                                                                                 Barack Obama

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Volume XXIII
  • No. 2
  • March/April 2018
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:

  • The Land Mines Problem
  • The Cost of Childbirth in the US
  • On Freedom of Religion
  • Guns and the Heller Decision
  • Rape in South Sudan
  • Teaching Slave History
  • To Ponder On

The Land Mines Problem

For some of us, the problem with land mines is an old one, and the fact that it continues is and should be a blot on our conscience.  The casualties are increasing, for 2016, the last year for which there are statistics, there were 8,605 casualties, a number which includes 2089 deaths.  These numbers represent about 25% more than the casualties the year before and are more than double the number for 2014.  Much of the damage is done by cluster landmines. As their name indicates, they are one landmine made up of many smaller ones, so when they explode a lot more harm is done.   Much of the mayhem created by landmines is in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen although at least 56 other countries including Syria also have landmines.  There is, or perhaps I should say there was, a treaty signed by 169 countries which became Continue reading

A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:


Airlines Seats and Safety

It’s well known that airplane seats are getting smaller and are projected to get smaller still—that is if airlines have their way. But consumers are at last beginning to speak up. Earlier this year American airlines was planning to redesign its cabin where a few seats would have a 29 inch pitch.  After what a New York Times’ article called a “rash of complaints” they dropped their plans.  There are now several plans to shorten knee space and add seats. The airlines say it’s not only profits, but also to lighten the load carried by an aircraft. Seats are now thinner, materials are different, back pouches and arm rests are redesigned, all measures that benefit the airlines, not consumers.  A spokesman for Spirit airlines said that to think of comfort in Continue reading

A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 6
  • November/December 2017
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:

  • Cancer Drugs Prices
  • Private Prisons Boom
  • The Deaf In Prisons
  • Cancer Drugs In Africa
  • Donations From Inmates
  • Kids And Robots
  • To Ponder On

Cancer Drugs Prices

To most of us it’s hardly surprising!! A new analysis found that the claim by drug companies justifying the high price of drugs by the expenses of research and development cannot be proven. In an article published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers found that the cost of developing a new drug is around $650 million. The drug companies put that cost at $ 2.7 billion or several times the actual cost established by the researchers. On top of the $650 million the researchers add another $100 million to cover the cost of what the companies would have gained by investing the money instead of using it in R and D.  Of the 10 companies the researchers looked at, the drugs earned 7 times what they cost to be brought to market and of course the profits will continue in the years to come. One argument the pharmaceutical Continue reading

A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 5
  • September/October
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:

  • Children and Guns
  • Child Marriage and Economic Development
  • Extreme Commutes
  • Modern Slavery--The Scope of the Problem
  • Bias Against Atheists
  • Sex and Gun Violence
  • To Ponder On

 Children and Guns

Here are some statistics about children and guns

  • In a typical week in the US 25 children die from gunshot wounds
  • Between 2012 and 2014 1297 children under 18 died each year as a result of firearm injuries
  • In addition there were 5790 non-fatal injuries from gunshots
  • African American children are 10 times more likely to be killed by homicides than white children: 3.5 per 100,000
  • Suicide among white children is 4 times as high as it is for African American children
  • The rate of unintentional firearm deaths is twice as high for African American children than it is for white children
  • The District of Columbia and Louisiana had the highest firearm death, respectively 4.2 and 4.5 per 100,000
  • Child suicide by gun were highest in Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Alaska
  • Most children who died of unintentional gun injury were shot by another child about the same age
  • Child gun homicide deaths have declined, but suicide have increased by 36% from 2007 to 2014
  • Gun suicide rates for that period increased 60%

Child Marriage and Economic Development

Child marriage has normally been seen as a human right issue. But a new study by the World Banks and the Center for Research on Women (CRW) suggest that child marriage is also an issue of economic development.  While child marriage does occur even in countries like the US, the greatest proportion occurs in poor countries. In Niger for example 77% of women between the ages of 18 to 22 were married before the age of 18. Sometimes the poorer the country, the more child marriage is likely to occur. Often there are laws banning child marriage, yet it still Continue reading

A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 3
  • May/June
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:

  • Human Trafficking--Some Stats
  • Libyan Slave Market
  • AnAnti-War Lesson
  • Famine and Its Consequences
  • Alternatives Therapies in Hospitals
  • The Structurally Unemployed
  • To Ponder On

Human Trafficking—Some Stats

Here are some statistics about human trafficking, statistics that require no commentary.

<>79% of trafficked people are women and children

<>Victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries

<>from 2012-14 the UN Office on Drug and Crime estimated 0ver 500 flows of trafficking from 137 different nationalities

<>Victims are compelled to act as beggars, enter into sham marriages, forced into organ removal, participate in pornography production among others

<>According to the ILO human trafficking earns $150 billion a year for the traffickers. The following is a breakdown of profits by sector

  • 99 billion dollars from commercial sexual exploitation
  • 34 billion dollars in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
  • 9 billion dollars in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
  • 8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households employing domestic workers under conditions of forced labor

<>22% of the victims are trafficked for sex, but commercial sexual exploitation earns 66% of the profits

<>Sexual exploitation can result in 100 to 1000% profit while an enslaved laborer in India 50%

<>Labor exploitation in the US includes many industries particularly hospitality, restaurants, nail salons, massage parlors

Libyan Slave Market

Once in a while in all I read to prepare for these pieces, I find myself in disbelief, encountering how evil humans can be. This week it was a story in The Guardian newspaper about what they called Libyan slave markets. Migrants, usually from West Africa, with little or cash and often with no papers, manage to pay people smugglers to get across the desert to the coast. The rescued Continue reading

A Larger View

A Commentary On How Current Events Reflect— Or Not—Our Search For Higher Values

  • Volume XXII
  • No. 2
  • March/April
  • Bulletin of The Inner/Outer Partnership

in this issue:

  • Fact Checking Sites
  • A Nursing Home for Sex Workers
  • Social Media Downside--A Possible Answer
  • About a Refugee Selling Sex
  • GMOs Technology and Indusgrial Food Production
  • Good News in Public Health
  • To Ponder On

Fact Checking Sites

 In these days where so many seem to be challenged by facts and where truth can be at a deficit, it is helpful to have a few fact checking sites at our disposal. Here are  5 that are, as far as I can tell, among the most reliable.

www.factcheck.org

www.politifact.org

www.snopes.com

www.opensecrets.org

www.mediabiasfactcheck.com

there is also the Washington Post blog Fact Check, the Sunlight Foundation, the Poynter Institute, among others that can be trusted.

A Nursing Home for Sex Workers

In many countries once sex workers are no longer desirable enough to work, they end up destitute and homeless. Carmen Munoz saw that, and a sex worker herself she was not only touched by their plight she wanted to prevent this from happening to her. Her own story Continue reading