Digest: 9 June 2013

Abstract

Corporate corruption is prevalent and growing in southern and eastern Europe, in India, the Middle East, and in Africa, but relatively rare in Scandinavia, a recent survey shows; the Obama Administration’s “steady healing” of the US economy is insufficient – growing inequality, debt and speculative bubbles, trade deficits is not desirable, instead there needs to be a rethinking of the growth in order to create a more sustainable economy; the vulnerability of US infrastructure to climate change has not been systematically addressed - local infrastructure planners can use help in responding to changes in precipitation and sea levels, increased intensity and frequency of extreme events; each human is an interconnected super-organism of hundreds of species of bacterial organisms - these bacteria make up more than 90% of our genetic material and are now understood to be necessary to the proper functioning of our immune systems; the Obama Administration shows a worryingly heavy tilt toward secrecy and an insufficient concern for a free press when it names reporters as co-conspirators in leak cases; the provision of fruit orchards by private arts entrepreneurs sheds light on the lack of effective action by governments to solve the problem of food deserts in the US;  the exploitation of the elderly by scams (phone, mail, internet), financial services professionals, and in-home caregivers, is an epidemic problem that effects elders in the US as well as elsewhere in the world; protection of the nation-state system means that millions of people suffer human rights abuses without effective relief, and makes escaping atrocious conditions very difficult – even where migration is possible the condition of being stateless results in diminished access to the rights and protections afforded of those who are not stateless.

Economics

In A Troubling Survey on Global Corruption, Floyd Norris (for The New York Times) discusses a survey conducted by Ipsos to examine corruption of corporate officials and employees in 36 countries.  The survey did not include either the US or China, but looked widely enough to gather that corruption is prevalent in southern and eastern Europe, in India, the Middle East, and in Africa, but that it is relatively rare in Scandinavia.  The survey exposed a “corruption perception gap” in many countries – a perception in respondents that corruption was prevalent in other industries in their own country, but not in their own industry.

In Good Jobs: The Challenge of Rebuilding the Middle Class, Robert Borosage (for Nation of Change) discusses the problematic position of the Obama Administration on the topic of jobs-creation and the rebuilding of the US economy.  He considers the “steady healing” of the US economy, and notes that rebuilding the economy into what it was – growing inequality, debt and speculative bubbles, trade deficits – is insufficient.  Instead there needs to be a rethinking of the growth in order to create a more sustainable economy.  Borosage sets out three core elements of the jobs agenda the US should adopt.

Environmental

In Climate Change: Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers, the GAO discusses its report on how climate change threatens US infrastructure.  Specifically, the report looks at how infrastructure is vulnerable to changes in precipitation and sea levels, and to increased intensity and frequency of extreme events.  The GAO finds that these considerations have not been systematically addressed by decision makers in the US as a result of more apparently pressing concerns.  Where these consideration have been addressed it has been a result of a perceived locality of harm, availability of information and expertise.  Federal efforts to address these issues are underway, but they need to be better directed to help local decision makers.

In Some of My Best Friends Are Germs, Michael Pollan (for The New York Times) discusses recent research that demonstrates more than 99% of the genetic information we carry actually pertains to microbes – in other words, each human being is more aptly described as a super-organism, a host for hundreds of species of bacterial organisms.  We have co-evolved with these organisms and they are now understood to be necessary to the proper functioning of our immune systems.  This is a game-changing realization as for much of the last century we have been waging war on bacteria – the resulting imbalance is now thought to be responsible for a predisposition to obesity, and a whole range of chronic diseases and infections.  We are now understanding our bodies to be themselves ecosystems of mutually-reliant organisms, that we are in fact only about 10% “human”.

Politics

In Another Chilling Leak Investigation, The Editorial Board of The New York Times discusses the recent naming, by the Obama administration, of a Fox News television reporter as a possible “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation.  This treatment of a reporter demonstrates an over-reaching crackdown not just on whistleblowers, but also on the reporters who, in doing their job, pick up the stories.  The Administration is showing a worryingly heavy tilt toward secrecy and an insufficient concern for a free press.

Social

In Tasty, and Subversive, Too, Patricia Leigh Brown (for The New York Times) discusses a California project in which artists are using fruit trees as cultural symbols in planting a public fruit park outside Los Angeles.  The idea is a response to the problem of food deserts – areas in which there is a under for healthy  of stores and healthy restaurants.  The provision of fruit orchards by private arts entrepreneurs sheds light on the lack of effective action by governments to solve these basic provisional issues on their own.

In Elder Justice: Federal Government Has Taken Some Steps but Could Do More to Combat Elder Financial Exploitation, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) discusses the problem of the exploitation of the elderly by scams (phone, mail, internet), financial services professionals, and in-home caregivers.  This is an international epidemic problem that effects elders in the US as well as elsewhere in the world.  While protecting elders from such scams is largely the responsibility of state and local authorities, the GAO has looked at ways the Federal government does help, and ways in which it can help more.

In World Increasingly Dangerous for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International discusses the results of its 2013 annual report, in which it discusses the effects of a range of human rights emergencies in 2012.  Specifically, Amnesty discusses the problems of the nation-state system where protection of sovereignty means that millions of people can suffer human rights abuses without effective relief, and with nation-state borders which make escaping atrocious conditions very difficult, and even where possible it often results in asylum-seeker incarceration without access to the rights and protections afforded of those who are not stateless.