Protecting Food from the Farm to Our Plates

Agriculture, Policies

Protecting Food from the Farm to Our Plates

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is ahead of the pack when it comes to ensuring that the food we eat and our agricultural supply are safe. An attack on our food supply—whether from intentional tampering, or due to contagious animal disease—could be dangerous to human health and could cause long-lasting economic impacts.

For S&T, food defense is a critical aspect of protecting the nation and our citizens. It is why S&T is working with partners across DHS and other federal agencies to ensure every step in the food supply chain is safe and secure—from farms, where crops and livestock are grown, to manufacturing facilities, where food products are processed, packaged, and then distributed to stores, and on to Americans’ kitchen tables. To achieve this, S&T is developing resources such as risk assessments to help the sector focus on the highest risk areas, so we can trust that the food we eat is safe, especially during a pandemic. These resources include developing tools for preventing and securing food from intentional adulteration during processing, developing animal disease vaccines and detection tools, and studying and characterizing toxic chemicals and pathogens that can contaminate food.

This large and important effort calls for a coalition of top experts: S&T, through its Office of Mission and Capability Support (MCS), the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) and the Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC), is collaborating with the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) and others across DHS and the federal government, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Climate Migration: An Impending Global Challenge

Immigration, Policies

Climate Migration: An Impending Global Challenge

For months, we have watched the crisis at the Mexican border as migrants tried to enter the U.S. In March, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office estimated that there were 171,700 people attempting to cross the border—the highest number in 20 years. About 30 percent were families, of which one third were refused entry under Title 42, a public health statute.

The number of unaccompanied children arriving and being held in custody in U.S. border shelters hit over 5,700 in March. And this week, five unaccompanied girls between the ages of seven and 11 months were found at the Texas-Mexico border. While a migrant surge occurs every year as people come to the U.S. for seasonal work, the record number of children being sent by themselves is likely a sign of desperate conditions back home.

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The War on Critical Race theory

Policies, Society

The War on Critical Race theory

According to the right, a specter is haunting the United States: the specter of critical race theory (CRT).

On the eve of losing the presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order in September banning “diversity and race sensitivity training” in government agencies, including all government “spending related to any training on critical race theory.” He was prompted, apparently, by hearing an interview with conservative activist Christopher Rufo on Fox News characterizing “critical race theory programs in government” as “the cult of indoctrination.” (President Biden ended the ban as soon as he took office.) In March Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, introduced a bill seeking to ban the teaching of CRT in the military because—he charges without argument or evidence—it is “racist.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned CRT from being covered in Florida’s public schools for “teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other.”

Republican majority lawmakers in the state of Idaho prohibited the use of state funding for student “social justice” activities of any kind at public universities and threatened to withhold funding earmarked for “social justice programming and critical race theory.” Lawmakers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Utah are following suit.

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In defence of Metabolic Rift Theory

Ecology, Threats

In defence of Metabolic Rift Theory

Since the turn of the millennium, one Marxist line of inquiry into environmental problems has outshone all others in creativity and productivity: the theory of the metabolic rift. Developed by John Bellamy Foster and his colleagues Richard York and Brett Clark, with crucial contributions from Paul Burkett and Marina Fischer-Kowalski and many others, it can be summed up in the following, highly condensed sequence. Nature consists of biophysical processes and cycles. So does society: human bodies must engage in metabolic exchanges with nonhuman nature. That need not be particularly harmful to any of the parties. Over the course of history, however, the relations through which humans have organized their Stoffwechsel might be fractured and forcibly rearranged, so that they not only harm the people disadvantaged by this change, but also, at the very same time, disturb the processes and cycles of nature. A metabolic rift has opened up.

Distilled through Foster’s pioneering exegesis, the theory makes inventive use of Marx’s comments in the third volume of Capital on how capitalist property relations “provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself”; operationalised in a variety of ways, it has elucidated everything from the imbalances in the global nitrogen cycle to climate change.

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American Nuclear Strategy: A Complex Problem of Law and Intellect

Policies, Security

American Nuclear Strategy: A Complex Problem of Law and Intellect

On core matters of national security, American analysts should think in terms of intellectual and legal criteria. Ignoring the day-to-day banalities of national and international politics, these strategists and policy-makers ought continuously to bear in mind that such primary standards may intersect with one another, always converging, sometimes in synergistic fashion. In such cases, the “whole” of any examined outcome would more-or-less exceed the sum of its “parts.”

This point should appear obvious to any reasonably-educated US population. American reality, however, has been distressingly different. To wit, during the law-violating and science-flouting Trump administration, tens of millions of citizens sought remedy for broadly complex medical and economic problems in narrowly partisan politics. Most grievously lamentable in this regard was the slow and public-relations oriented Covid-19 response. As was learned later from former White House Covid advisor Dr. Deborah Birx, the American nation suffered more than 400,000 unnecessary pandemic deaths. In essence, these plausibly preventable deaths were the result of a defiling willingness to value “common-sense” thinking more highly than science and law.

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Venezuela’s popular Democracy under siege: A conversation with Elías Jaua

Demographic, Venezuela

Venezuela’s popular Democracy under siege: A conversation with Elías Jaua

In a recent article, you argued for opening a debate among the revolutionary cadres and the people. Tell us about why you wager for debate in this process (that initially put so much emphasis on popular democracy)

I return to the question of democracy time and again because I believe it is the core of the Bolivarian Revolution. In fact, it is (or should be) the essence of any socialist revolution. A socialist revolution must be profoundly democratic or it will not be a revolution at all! Only authentic popular participation can lead to innovation, transformation, and timely rectification. The emergence of something new comes mostly out of popular participation.

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The Case Against a New Concert of Powers

Demographic, Wild Cards

The Case Against a New Concert of Powers

Global politics today is a mess, and it can be tempting to turn to history for clues about how to clean it up, as Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan did recently in “The New Concert of Powers” (March 23). But one must be careful to learn the right lessons. Haass and Kupchan argue that the nineteenth-century Concert of Europe provides a model for managing great-power relations, avoiding major wars, and balancing an imbalanced world. These are worthy goals, but the Concert of Europe failed to achieve them—and so would any new organization inspired by it.

In 1815, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom founded the concert to maintain their power and stabilize a continent roiled by wars and revolutionary uprisings. The concert is sometimes depicted as producing a golden age of diplomacy: a time when diplomats and statesmen fostered mutual respect, maintained a balance of power, avoided one another’s spheres of influence, and eschewed war in favor of joint sorties to the opera and late-night discussions over whiskey and cigars.

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Humanity’s challenge of the century: Conserving Earth’s freshwater systems

Policies, Water

Humanity’s challenge of the century: Conserving Earth’s freshwater systems

The challenge from here on is to avoid water wars while preemptively, cooperatively and aggressively addressing a growing global population’s water security. It can be done, but we must do it now.

  • Many dryland cities like Los Angeles, Cairo and Tehran have already outstripped natural water recharge, but are expected to continue growing, resulting in a deepening arid urban water crisis.
  • According to NASA’s GRACE mission, 19 key freshwater basins, including several in the U.S., are being unsustainably depleted, with some near collapse; much of the water is used indiscriminately by industrial agribusiness.
  • Many desert cities, including Tripoli, Phoenix and Los Angeles, are sustained by water brought from other basins by hydro megaprojects that are aging and susceptible to collapse, while the desalination plants that water Persian Gulf cities come at a high economic cost with serious salt pollution.
  • Experts say that thinking about the problem as one of supply disguises the real issue, given that what’s really missing to heading off a global freshwater crisis is the organization, capital, governance and political will to address the problems that come with regulating use of a renewable, but finite, resource.

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China on the horizon as ‘world’s pharmacy

China, Demographic

China on the horizon as ‘world’s pharmacy

The World Health Organisation’s approval Friday for China’s COVID-19 vaccine known as Sinopharm dramatically transforms the ecosystem of the pandemic. In immediate terms, this has potential to boost global vaccine supply, as China’s overall yearly production capacity is approaching five billion doses.

The western pharmaceutical industry’s monopoly has been breached, as Sinopharm’s is the first COVID-19 vaccine developed by a developing country to be validated by the WHO and only the sixth approved for emergency use globally–in fact, the only non-western vaccine so far. Literally, China has gatecrashed the aggressively-guarded orchard of powerful western pharmaceutical companies. In practical terms, the WHO approval allows China to enter the portals of the COVAX as a qualified supplier.

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Tell the Bosses We’re Coming: A New Action Plan for Workers in the Twenty-First Century

Economy, Policies

Tell the Bosses We’re Coming: A New Action Plan for Workers in the Twenty-First Century

Shaun Richman has been a US labour organiser for much of his working life. He is currently the Director of the School of Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College. Tell the Bosses We’re Coming draws on Richman’s decades of experience as a union organiser. The purpose of his book is to answer the question: why, in an era of rampant inequality, increasing protests over questions of social justice, and strikes, does union density continue to decline? After all, the polls show that the vast majority of ordinary Americans believe in the value of trade unions.

Richman is unquestionably on the side of labour against capital. Two considerations prompted him to write the book. Firstly, American labour is caught in the trap of unjust labour laws, state laws and legal precedents that force unions to spend their reserves of energy and cash in a draining, and inevitably unsuccessful, battle to escape legal restrictions. Secondly, the labour unions continue to do what they have always done – rely on the received wisdom of labour leaders past – and watch the crisis of American labour deepen.

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