US Healthcare Spending—Rising Fast
U.S. healthcare expenditures greatly exceed spending levels in other developed countries. They are projected to increase at a substantial rate, but produce no better—and indeed sometimes worse—outcomes, according to research sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.1 With national healthcare expenditure (NHE) estimated to reach $6.2 trillion by 2028, public policy experts, government officials, healthcare-sector leaders, business executives and ordinary citizens share mounting concern about the country’s ability to provide healthcare services that are fiscally responsible and attain acceptable levels of quality, effectiveness, and equity.2
Proposals to counter the increasing levels of U.S. healthcare expenditures abound. They include policies intended to achieve price transparency; alternatives to fee-for-service compensation, such as price controls based on Medicare fees or a percentage of negotiated in-network rates, as well as value-based and capitation systems; antitrust enforcement; simplification of administration;3 and wholesale restructuring of the sector’s present complex arrangements with a single-payer, governmental system for the entire population
The weapon of criticism cannot replace the criticism of the weapon: What knowledge do we need for revolution against capitalism
A world in crisis
The ongoing pandemic has resulted in millions of death.1 Millions of people have been pushed to extreme poverty due to COVID-19. According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction”.2 The consequences of the 2007 economic contraction have not been fully neutralized. Hundreds of millions are under- or unemployed: “Almost half a billion people are working fewer paid hours than they would like or lack adequate access to paid work” (ILO, 2020). And those who are lucky to be employed are subject to “a global wages scandal, with some countries even having a minimum wage that is lower than the poverty line”.
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The Power of Creative Destruction: Economic Upheaval and the Wealth of Nations
More than 60 years ago, research by the economist Robert Solow highlighted the importance of innovation for growth but shed little light on how to generate that innovation. Aghion, Antonin, and Bunel, who are responsible for much subsequent research in this area, argue that fostering innovation is all about balance. Innovation thrives with competition, but too much competition will preemptively diminish the rewards of new technologies, businesses, and ideas. International competition can stimulate innovation and efficiency, but too much risks provoking a backlash against globalization. Successfully navigating the supply chain disruptions created by COVID-19 requires strong political leaders to implement smart policies, but not leaders so strong that they can suppress organizational innovations that will disfavor them or their allies. The authors explain these dynamics and more in an eminently accessible fashion.
We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto
In We Are What We Eat, Alice Waters urges us to take up the mantle of slow food culture, the philosophy at the core of her life’s work. When Waters first opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she did so with the intention of feeding people good food during a time of political turmoil. Customers responded to the locally sourced organic ingredients, to the dishes made by hand, and to the welcoming hospitality that infused the small space — human qualities that were disappearing from a country increasingly seduced by takeout, frozen dinners, and prepackaged ingredients. Waters came to see that the phenomenon of fast food culture, which prioritized cheapness, availability, and speed, was not only ruining our health, but also dehumanizing the ways we live and relate to one another.
Over years of working with regional farmers, Waters and her partners learned how geography and seasonal fluctuations affect the ingredients on the menu, as well as about the dangers of pesticides, the plight of fieldworkers, and the social, economic, and environmental threats posed by industrial farming and food distribution. So many of the serious problems we face in the world today — from illness, to social unrest, to economic disparity, and environmental degradation — are all, at their core, connected to food.
Every region of the World is the worst affected
Each month, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) releases a monthly food price index. The release on 3 June showed that food prices have surged by 40%, the largest rise since 2011. The impact of this food price rise will grievously hit developing countries, most of whom are major importers of food staples.
Prices rise for a range of reasons, the current rise largely fuelled by the collapse of sizeable sections of the global economy during the pandemic. Warnings of general inflation due to lockdown-related pent-up demand, shipping bottlenecks, and oil price increases loom over richer states, which–due to the power of the wealthy bondholders–have few tools to manage inflation, and by poorer states, which swirl in a cataclysmic debt crisis.
Rising food prices come at a time when unemployment rates in many parts of the world have skyrocketed. On 2 June, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released its annual World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021 report, which showed, as expected, that the pandemic-related economic collapse has meant the loss of hundreds of millions of jobs and working hours.
Inequalities are shaping how we’re fighting the Pandemic — and how we’ll remember it
The first wave of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic did not have much impact in India; it was the second wave that was the most devastating.
It is now thought that 12 million people died in India during the flu pandemic, the equivalent of 4 percent of the population at that time. Most of these deaths were concentrated in a few short months from September to December 1918. This quote is from Punjab’s sanitary commissioner at the time:
The hospitals were choked so it was impossible to remove the dead quickly enough to make room for the dying….; the burning ghats (cremation site) were literally swamped with corpses; the depleted medical service, was incapable of dealing with more than a minute fraction of the sickness requiring attention.
Combating Proliferation: Strategic Intelligence and Security Policy
The intelligence community’s flawed assessment of Iraq’s weapons systems―and the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in part based on those assessments―illustrates the political and policy challenges of combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this comprehensive assessment, defense policy specialists Jason Ellis and Geoffrey Kiefer find disturbing trends in both the collection and analysis of intelligence and in its use in the development and implementation of security policy.
Analyzing a broad range of recent case studies―Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons, North Korea’s defiance of U.N. watchdogs, Russia’s transfer of nuclear and missile technology to Iran and China’s to Pakistan, the Soviet biological warfare program, weapons inspections in Iraq, and others―the authors find that intelligence collection and analysis relating to WMD proliferation are becoming more difficult, that policy toward rogue states and regional allies requires difficult tradeoffs, and that using military action to fight nuclear proliferation presents intractable operational challenges.
Ocean: What are ‘dead zones’ and why are they getting worse?
When you hear the phrase “dead zone” you likely think of a desolate area that’s barren of any cellular signals — but there are actually parts of the world called “dead zones” that are much more terrifying. Located in bodies of waters, dead zones occur when oxygen levels drop so low, that marine life is unable to survive. And although dead zones have been around for millions of years, a study conducted by UC Santa Cruz researchers shows they’ve gotten increasingly worse.
“It is essential to understand whether climate change is pushing the oceans toward a ‘tipping point’ for abrupt and severe hypoxia that would destroy ecosystems, food sources, and economies,” one of the authors of the study, Karla Knudson, said in a statement.
Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal
The failures of “free-market” capitalism are perhaps nowhere more evident than in the production and distribution of food. Although modern human societies have attained unprecedented levels of wealth, a significant amount of the world’s population continues to suffer from hunger or food insecurity on a daily basis.
In Agriculture and Food in Crisis, Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar have assembled an exceptional collection of scholars from around the world to explore this frightening long-term trend in food production. While approaching the issue from many angles, the contributors to this volume share a focus on investigating how agricultural production is shaped by a system that is oriented around the creation of profit above all else, with food as nothing but an afterthought.
The 21st Century Nuclear Arms Race
A new report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—focusing on nuclear weapons spending– following on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recent decision that their Doomsday Clock, should be set as close as it has ever been to nuclear catastrophe. should serve as a wake up calls for humanity.
Preparations for genocidal or omnicidal nuclear war are undeniably suicidal madness. Worse, with provocative military actions by the U.S., Russia, and China in the Baltic, Black, South and East China Seas, and in relation to Ukraine and Taiwan, an accident or miscalculation could all too easily trigger a life ending nuclear cataclysm.
At a time when scientific, financial, and diplomatic cooperation are desperately needed to stanch and reverse the climate emergency and to overcome and prevent the current and future pandemics, 21st century nuclear arms races are already claiming lives and threatening our future with national treasures being wasted in preparations to end all life as we know it.