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Things Can Only Get Better
James Skinner looks at the news in 2012


PAGA WEEKLY
(People Against Globalisation Association)
3rd – 10th July 2012

Headline News : International
· Nuclear update
· Fallout from nuclear war between Pakistan and India in 2005 are still being felt.
· The Israeli -Palestinian question - a solution at last?
· World religious tensions have eased. Christians and Muslims view a brighter future.
· Is the war on drugs succeeding?
· International drug control and co-operation agreed in 2006 continues to move ahead.
· The Russian Legacy
· Is Communism finally dead? Is China is on the road to consumerism? Not yet.

Europe

· Crime down at last
· European Union legal harmony is taking effect
· Jobs and immigration
· Latest details on working conditions.

Science and technology

· Information technology
· Telecommunications and IT are now one and the same.
· Major medical breakthroughs
· Keyhole surgery reduces public healthcare costs.

Feature

· The environment.
· ‘Global Warming’ taking a heavy toll on the planet.
· Climatic changes continue.

Op-Ed

· Editors Comment
· Dumb animals are we.


INTERNATIONAL Dateline June 2012

Nuclear update


The Americans and the Russians ironed out their differences and both built their mega umbrellas to protect themselves from invisible aliens. Neither has dared to throw a dart at each other since. Luckily they had been sensible enough to sign an agreement to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Nevertheless, both superpowers had been too interested in the Middle East and Europe that they forgot about a couple of other heavyweights that had been breathing fire at each other for years. As we all know, nuclear bombs did go off.
Seven years ago, Pakistan and India finally tried to blast each other to pieces.

The world powers were aware that both countries had nuclear capability. They did not know of their intentions, or of any strategy of attack. As it so happened, both India and Pakistan had already prepared military plans including the use of devastating bombs years in advance. The question mark, was, who would be the first to push the button.
India had a problem. Pakistan's major cities, Karachi and Lahore were too near the Indian border. Immediate repercussions would affect their own population. It was politically unacceptable to aim their missiles other than at the centre of the country. Pakistan took similar precautions. Calcutta was too near the Bangladesh border, and any attack on Delhi would automatically bring China into the conflict.

Nagpur, in the heart of India was the first city to be hit. Pakistan fired the first shot. India reacted immediately with a smaller bomb on the city of Multan, far enough from theirs and Afghanistan's borders. There was immediate international reaction. The war was stopped in its tracks but the damage had already been done.

Millions dead. Devastation in the Indian Ocean area. We can all remember the dramatic scenes broadcast on world-wide television screens with helpless governments and astonished media asking the same questions over and over again: Why? Why does mankind continue to chastise itself? How can we stop it? The radiation fall out alone has caused hundreds of thousands of people to suffer from leukaemia, despite the fact that medical advances have been able to reduce the mortality rate from this type of cancer. We continue to suffer from the effects to this very day.

Thank God the bombing was all over within weeks. The sheer enormity of the tragedy brought the world to its senses. For days it was at a standstill. However, the global apocalyptic aftermath that could have turned into an extraordinary world war never happened. The clean up of the devastation in the area and the build up of humanity’s confidence in life itself was another matter.

The Israeli – Palestinian issue


Ever since Arafat, the Palestinian leader and Saddam Hussein of Iraq had died; a strange cloud of peaceful apathy had fallen on the Middle East. The USA had backed Israel from the start and between them had managed to contain the boiling pot from exploding. Today, the Palestinian’s have established their own nation, albeit on paper, with the assistance of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, whilst Iran is too busy indulging in newly found consumer delights. The Ayatollahs had ceased to breath Jihad fire towards the west as they realised it was counter productive. The country had also signed up many development projects ranging from energy to biochemistry with the European Union, particularly with their old ally, France. Thanks to the lifting of UN sanctions, Libya and Iraq were able to return to moderate stable states and would hopefully follow Iran’s example.

Jerusalem was the key factor to this peace. Under pressure from the US government the city was placed under UN supervision, although much resentment was caused at the time. There was no other alternative.

The accommodation of the Muslim world did not come about by chance. It had been carefully orchestrated for more that a decade. Although the nuclear blasts in the Indian Ocean area had had a dramatic effect, it was not the only influencing factor. The death of Pope Paul II and the naming of the new South American Pontiff eight years ago prepared the way for a shake up of the Catholic Church. One of the key issues was the reconciliation with other religious faiths in the world. Although there are essential hurdles still to be overcome, Christians and Muslims have at least agreed to disagree in peace. This was a vital move forward.

Having partially overcome a 'near miss' holocaust on the Indian continent, the rest of the world appears to be at ease with itself, by invoking peace and prospect brought about during the post-nuclear war years. Although the Bush, Blair and Putin show had lost some of its charm, people have become more concerned with their immediate surroundings. Some argue this has always been the case. What happens in Cambodia is of no concern to the local publican in a village in Dorset.

Is the war on drugs succeeding?

Over in Latin America things had also calmed down. In 2006 the USA administration had tackled the drugs issue head on. New legislation was now in place to ease drug usage by addicts. This brought down the price of the hard ‘stuff’ on the black market. Although controversial and contrary to some wishes in the war against drugs, it did dramatically curtail the illicit trade of heroin, cocaine and the likes. The barons were having a hard time. Colombia, the pivot of trouble in the area, was at peace but its economy had to be reshaped. However, aid programs with the international finance institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF had been agreed over a long period of time. More people in the world may now drink more coffee but the poverty battle is not yet over.

The drugs issue had been a catalyst for other important world agreements. We now have international tax evasion control between the major economic players of the G8. Co-operation between governments, especially Europe, USA and Russia has brought about a dramatic reduction in money laundering through ‘tax’ heavens. The knock on effect was obvious. Illegal trading of arms around the world became more difficult; hence further agreements on gun control were reached. This did not necessarily cut down on sporadic maniac terrorism attacks around the world. International criminal tribunals are now firmly in place in the International Courts of The Hague.

The remains of Communism

Cuba is still a sore on democracy's doorstep. Although Fidel Castro was exiled due to ill health to the land of his ancestors, Galicia, Spain, the new authoritarian government that took over persisted in continuing with the socialist revolution. However, the USA government, is no longer imposing severe sanctions as, Fidel, their archenemy of all times, had gone. Besides, the Organisation of American States (USA's major trading partners in South America), had long advocated to ease restrictions on the Caribbean Island. The 'little Havana' community in Miami has come to terms with their old relatives on the island. Freedom of speech continues to be non-existent.

China is another matter. Being deprived for years from entering the World Trade Organisation, the key to their future development, in 2009 they finally came to terms with Taiwan. This has now allowed them to sit at the next round of talks. It poses an interesting question on the future distribution of world resources. Having moved towards acceptance over human rights issues, China still has to be assisted in adapting the modern and efficient techniques of today's Eco-conservation programs. A major issue for the future of planet (see Feature's story).

EUROPE

Crime is also down


Sexual harassment, child criminality, disorderly behaviour have all been in decline due to stricter criminal legislation. USA role models, such as ‘zero tolerance’ are now part of law enforcement procedures. Police have been given more financial powers as more advanced technological investigation tools.

Voluntary euthanasia is now law throughout the Union. Humans are allowed, similar to organ donors, to sign off on their fate in case of terminal illness. On the other hand, insurance companies are still locked in feuds with the governments regarding the effect on life insurance policies.

Future immigration laws will help reduce illegal movement of foreign workers (see next issue).

Jobs and immigration update

Average unemployment throughout the Union continues steady at 7%. Two factors have influenced the consistency over the past few years. Fixed jobs, or ‘jobs for life’ as they were known in the previous century, have been on a downward trend since all states finally agreed to move towards more flexible working conditions. Trade unions were persuaded to change their belligerent ways to those with more worker industry participation. Major social policy reforms in France and Germany have helped towards this goal. On the other hand, increase in cheap freelance work, has escalated.

Global poverty is still an issue, specially those communities that live in countries governed by dubious democracies or dictatorships. Mass illegal immigration into Europe has taken place over the past two decades for various reasons, ranging from poverty to persecution. The lure of a better life has attracted masses of human beings to cross into the continent. Many unscrupulous businesses have been quick to take advantage of this tragedy.

After years of discussions in Brussels, a breakthrough has been achieved and a common policy on immigration will finally come into effect this year to control the number of foreign workers entering the continent. Those without a legal permit will be automatically returned to their homeland. Authorities will be able to freely exchange information on details such as identity and work permits. Nevertheless, due to the continued increase of an ageing population and a general decline in European birth rates, several million new immigrants will be needed in the Union over the next several decades.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Information technology

Telecommunications and information technology have now ‘officially’ merged. Massive supply of cheap bandwidth controlled by a handful of carriers under international regulation, coupled with maximum flexible switching capabilities allow users to control their own requirements. On demand tailor made mega software packages are available at supermarket prices. This means that all end user services such as the Internet, telephone, media and other new innovative ones are accessible at reasonable prices. There is greater legislation in place to cover illegal usage, rampant in the previous century.

Major medical breakthroughs

Medical advances have leapfrogged. Keyhole and robot surgery is commonplace and has dramatically reduced medical post operation costs. Major changes have taken place in the medical profession. Nurses and other lower graded personnel now deal with minor surgery and other simple complaints. These are backed by Internet connections to global medical centres for guidance and advice. More sophisticated drug investigation has paid off with specialist and cheaper medicines, specially vaccines, for patients world-wide. This has had a tremendous humanitarian breakthrough for continents like Africa and Latin America who had been deprived for so long of good medical care. Illnesses such as Aids and certain forms of common cancer are now under control, although not eradicated. On the negative side, however, is obesity, considered a major health hazard. Life expectancy has dropped to 1980 levels. Cjd victims are now appearing at an increasing rate throughout Europe. Despite rapid diagnosis a cure has yet to be found.

FEATURE

The environment

Background


What about the effect of ‘global warming’? This has been a serious issue ever since many world-wide environmentalists raised their concerns during the previous century. Contamination of the atmosphere due to CO2 and other toxic emissions is nothing new. But in order to understand today's predicaments it is worth recapping what occurred only a decade ago, at the turn of the century.

Despite Dr. John Christy's UN report at the time, temperatures have been rising as predicted and many after effects throughout the world are now being felt. He quoted: 'the world is in much better shape than this doomsday scenario paints'. This prominent professor of Atmospheric Science at the US University of Alabama was wrong.
Although there were numerous reports on the subject, many of the world’s leading governments chose to ignore, in some cases, the over pessimistic future climatic predictions of the planet. A conference way back in 1997 held in Kyoto, Japan, had laid down certain protocols, goals and actions that were necessary in order to reduce the effect of global warming for generations to come. Most representatives of the major nations signed off in agreement, but nothing was done about it until this century.

The climax came when an independent team of experts from the United Nations, in February 2001, confirmed the findings expressed at Kyoto. Mr. John Prescott, Environmental Minister of the British Government, stated in the House of Commons in February, 2001, that he was hopeful of an international agreement in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The world was, in effect, heading for climatic problems if something wasn’t done about it over the next century. This time, the new US government, headed by George W. Bush accepted the findings and supported the moves to reduce the effect. The British Government under Tony Blair followed suit.

Oil versus renewable energy

To start with, the multinational oil companies were continuing to explore, and were successful in finding, new oil deposits throughout the world. This created a glut of oil reserves that in essence prolonged the usage of oil as an energy source. Hence continuing to pollute the earth’s atmosphere. The environmentalists were furious and increased their campaigns ‘to save the earth’. However, five years into the new century, accords had been signed between the powerful oil companies and the influencing governments of the G8 to combat the deteriorating situation of the planet. Joint co-operation was in place.

These were based on sound research and development that would gradually increase the percentage of renewable energy of total world consumption. Efforts were focused on the developing areas, in particular, the emerging new economies in South East Asia and Latin America. This entailed the construction of wind generated electricity to be connected to national grids. It also consisted of suburban housing estates and rural areas having their stand-alone supplies of non-fossil fuel generated power.

Transport – a never ending problem

Another extremely toxic culprit of global warming is the world’s road transport system based on the internal combustion engine. Thus, similar to the oil companies, car manufacturers are assisting by designing and developing more efficient engines coupled with new non-gasoline powered vehicles. Today, major public transport in overpopulated cities is being replaced by non-petrol fuelled vehicles thereby reducing heavily concentrated atmospheric pollution. This is noticeable in the USA, being the largest single consumer of oil in the world. The program is continuing throughout the world, albeit with varying degrees of success.

Present stage of international pollution control

If agreements of co-operation between governments and the private sector on pollution control were not reached, the economic and political upheavals would have been catastrophic. The Kyoto protocol would never have got off the ground. We would not have reached the reduction level at which we are today. Although not the agreed amount of a decade ago, nor those desired by the ‘greens’, we are just under 4 percent of CO2 and other toxic emissions over 1990 figures. At least it is a major breakthrough for, hopefully, a brighter climatic future. Conversion to renewable energy was another matter.

Enter renewable energy sources

The tapping of natural energy resources such as the wind and sun was not new and had been around for many years. Technology was well advanced. The problem was economic. The chicken and egg situation was between the initial massive investment required by multinational power suppliers in order to meet company financial targets and the urgent demands of consumers. Nevertheless, independent studies, some hopelessly optimistic, allowed certain progress to be made.

The greens movement had demanded that by 2020, 10% of the world’s electricity should be supplied by wind power. This would involve huge amounts of investment by governments and energy companies the world over. Solar power on the other hand consisted mainly of individual or group solar panel installation to minor and medium size communities throughout the world. In order to be economically successful, a massive increase in the production of solar panels could act as a catalyst for energy programs in the third world.

Today’s universal energy consumption includes large-scale solar power programs in China and South East Asia supplying electricity to over 500 million human beings, 100 million in Africa and 50 million in Latin America. Numerous international wind power farms have been built both on and offshore and are supplying 3 % of the major world electricity grids. Investment has been helped through co-operation by aid-assisted organisations, international banking and government funding. This is allowing private enterprise to develop the programs over a longer period of time.

Climatic changes continue

Nevertheless, on the downside, the world climate is taking its time to react. As predicted, we now have an increase of 1 C in average world temperatures. The continuing melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has caused a rise in sea level by just under 1 metre. The problems caused by the effects are being felt the world over.

The alteration of the Gulf Stream has taken its toll by changing the world ecosystems. This is most noticeable in the changed patterns of sea life. Traditional fishing banks have moved to the extent that the fishing industry is in decline. The good news is that fish farms are growing at an alarming rate. Although the rain forests, vital contributors to world climatic stability, are now under control and saved from historical over exploitation, weather problems continue. Hurricanes, floods, and general geographic disruption are increasing. Migration of coastal populations is causing severe social problems throughout the world. Many islands have now disappeared particularly in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean; Many cities such as Venice in Europe are in danger of becoming submerged ghost towns.

SUMMARY

Editor's comment


Remember the old cliché: 'Man is the only animal that stumbles over the same stone twice'. Summarising present events and comparing them with those of previous decades, a repetitive pattern can be observed. Nevertheless, and despite the daily persistence of pessimistic news, a glimmer of light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. We have come a long way to realise that Mother Nature has at last issued a simple and strong warning at today's world administrators. The planet is in danger of extinction unless common sense and harmony prevails in the future of international government policies.

© James Skinner
Espana 2012


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