Friday, July 18, 2008
Free Enterprise Health Care System Lifts America to 42nd in Global Life Expectancy.
July 17th, 2008 5:40 pm
American inequality highlighted by 30-year gap in life expectancy
By Leonard Doyle / The Independent
The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.
The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid agency approach to measuring well-being – more familiar to observers of the Third World – with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.
Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered free enterprise is the best way to lift Americans out of poverty, the report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities.
"The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said.
Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved since the 1970s.
Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the two groups.
Despite the fact that the US spends roughly $5.2bn (£2.6bn) every day on health care, more per capita than any other nation in the world, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of every western European and Nordic country, bar Denmark.
Using official government statistics, the study points out that because American schools are funded primarily from local property taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has no federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.
"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living," said Sarah Burd-Sharps co-author of the report.
Although the US is one of the most powerful and rich nations in the world, the study concludes it is "woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life".
According to a United Nations human development report, the US is in 12th place in a league table of wealthy developed nations. Britain is ranked 16th.
War Criminal Douglas Feith Lies to Congress. Whatcha gonna do about it Dems?
In May, British international lawyer Philippe Sands told Vanity Fair that Iraq war architect Doug Feith was instrumental in the Bush administration’s shredding of the Geneva Conventions. Feith “took the steps to ensure that none of these detainees could rely on Geneva,” Sands said.
In a house hearing today, Feith disputed Sands’s interview, calling it a “twisted account.” “I strongly championed a policy of respect for Geneva, and I did not recommend that the President set aside Common Article 3,” he claimed. Feith said Sands had “smeared” him:
So Mr. Sands’s account about me is fundamentally wrong. This is important not because that account smears me, it’s significant because it exposes the astonishing carelessness or recklessness of his book and his Vanity Fair article.
In his opening statement, Sands said Feith’s claim “is not an accurate statement.” “I did interview Mr. Feith for my book,” Sands explained, volunteering to make available the “audio and the transcript” of his interview to the committee. Sands said that Feith told him that detainees were not to receive Geneva protections “at all”:
This is what he said to me: “The point is, the al Qaeda people were not entitled to have the Convention applied at all. Period. Obvious.”
Feith has tried to whitewash his role in the administration’s torture program before, for example, telling right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt that he was “extremely strongly pro-Geneva convention.”
Another torture architect who has worked closely with Feith has tried a similar attack on Sands. Last month, John Yoo said Sands had falsely claimed he interviewed Yoo, claiming it “reflects on the veracity of the balance of the book.” Sands in fact never made such a claim and was quoting Yoo’s statements from a 2005 debate.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
May 22, 2000
By Robert Scheer
Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-US terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush Administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.
That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the United States the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.
Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.
Sadly, the Bush Administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at US insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.
The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population to a continual reign of terror in a country once considered enlightened in its treatment of women?
At no point in modern history have women and girls been more systematically abused than in Afghanistan where, in the name of madness masquerading as Islam, the government in Kabul obliterates their fundamental human rights. Women may not appear in public without being covered from head to toe with the oppressive shroud called the burkha , and they may not leave the house without being accompanied by a male family member. They've not been permitted to attend school or be treated by male doctors, yet women have been banned from practicing medicine or any profession for that matter.
The lot of males is better if they blindly accept the laws of an extreme religious theocracy that prescribes strict rules governing all behavior, from a ban on shaving to what crops may be grown. It is this last power that has captured the enthusiasm of the Bush White House.
The Taliban fanatics, economically and diplomatically isolated, are at the breaking point, and so, in return for a pittance of legitimacy and cash from the Bush Administration, they have been willing to appear to reverse themselves on the growing of opium. That a totalitarian country can effectively crack down on its farmers is not surprising. But it is grotesque for a US official, James P. Callahan, director of the State Department's Asian anti-drug program, to describe the Taliban's special methods in the language of representative democracy: "The Taliban used a system of consensus-building," Callahan said after a visit with the Taliban, adding that the Taliban justified the ban on drugs "in very religious terms."
Of course, Callahan also reported, those who didn't obey the theocratic edict would be sent to prison.
In a country where those who break minor rules are simply beaten on the spot by religious police and others are stoned to death, it's understandable that the government's "religious" argument might be compelling. Even if it means, as Callahan concedes, that most of the farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. That's because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming.
For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the United States is willing to pour far larger amounts of money into underwriting the Afghan economy.
As the Drug Enforcement Administration's Steven Casteel admitted, "The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country--or certain regions of their country--to economic ruin." Nor did he hold out much hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as wheat, which require a vast infrastructure to supply water and fertilizer that no longer exists in that devastated country. There's little doubt that the Taliban will turn once again to the easily taxed cash crop of opium in order to stay in power.
The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own war drug war zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure. Our long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic obsession.