Ruth Cardoso – RIP

Ruth Cardoso A great lady is dead. Most people are probably not familiar with her and it’s a damn shame! The Guardian has a good obituary:

"Ruth Cardoso, who has died aged 77, was a leading Brazilian anthropologist and former first lady renowned for her pioneering work with the poor. Despite her prominent public position, she was notorious for her discretion, avoiding the press and rarely giving interviews. But when she did speak one idea was ever present: that, for Brazil to progress, an understanding of its historical and sociological roots was fundamental. "We have only advanced because we have history," she told a local TV station shortly before her death.

Born in Araraquara, Cardoso studied at the University of São Paulo. After graduating in 1953, she married Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a sociologist whom she had met during her student days and who went on to become the Brazilian president. Following the 1964 military takeover, Ruth and her husband were forced into exile, living in France, Chile, the US and later the UK, where she became an associate scholar at the Centre of Latin American Studies, Cambridge. (…)

She also became one of the first Brazilian academics to carry out detailed studies of the country’s favelas or shanty towns, settlements that were not included on many city maps until the 1990s. She played a fundamental role in pushing impoverishment and marginalisation on to the academic agenda.

In 1995, during the first year of her husband’s presidency, she seized the opportunity to put her ideas into practice, creating Comunidade Solidária (Community Solidarity) a project which, among other things, brought literacy to 3 million young Brazilians. Her innovative use of public-private partnerships in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and hunger, developed during the period of her husband’s rule, are now seen by many as the basis of Bolsa Familia, a wide-reaching aid programme implemented by Brazil’s current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and which is today being replicated in numerous Latin American and African countries.

A staunch feminist who supported a woman’s right to abortion, Cardoso reputedly hated the term "first lady", which she described as being an unnecessary Americanism. "A first lady is a human being, not a Barbie," she told the influential news magazine Veja. (…)

Though her husband was no longer in office, "Dona Ruth" vowed to continue her social crusade, creating an NGO called Comunitas, which worked with education and vocational training, and supported small business initiatives in poor rural areas."

Truly sad. (Wikipedia page)

Sociology in the News – The Rise of Therapeutic Education

Via Context Crawler, this article in the UK Times discusses the rise of therapeutic education and its consequences: "kindergarchy – a new (affluent) world order in which children rule."

"Anyone with children at primary school will instantly get the picture: no child’s existence is complete without “circle time”, or “show and tell” sessions at which they are encouraged to parade their achievements and examine their feelings. The received wisdom on child-rearing says nothing should be allowed to damage a child’s sense of self-worth: just last week the Football Association (FA) decided to ban teams including children under eight from publishing their results, for fear of putting the kids under too much pressure if they lost a match. (…)

Our child-centred society means we fret over what our kids eat, what they wear, their friends, their exam grades and their safety."

And like many American trends, it is spreading to other rich countries (parents in poor countries don’t have time for such nonsense… and I’ll cope to that right off the bat: mommy blogging – feminist or conservative or any shades of grey in between – is annoying… like the late great George Carlin said, "no one cares about your children… that’s why they’re YOUR children"… but I’ve already copped to not liking children).

"It is becoming a worldwide trend. A recent production of Snow White at a primary school in Japan featured 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch, as parents objected to one child being picked out for the title role. In Sweden a boy was prevented from handing out invitations to his birthday party at school because he was “discriminating” against the two classmates he did not invite."

But is it really what it seems… let’s bring in the sociologist:

"Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University, believes our child-centredness is really adult-centredness. “It’s a way of reassuring ourselves that our children are going to be insulated from pain and adversity,” he said. “We tell children they are wonderful now for tying their shoelaces or getting 50% in an exam. But really it’s our way of flattering ourselves that we’re far more sensitive to children than people were in the past.”

The trouble is, Furedi says, that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. “You’re subtly giving kids the message that they can’t cope with life,” he said. “I have a son of 12 and when he and his friends were just nineI remember being shocked at them using therapeutic language, talking about being stressed out and depressed.”

I think we can thank years of conservative propaganda against women as workers and mothers for creating such a culture of guilt that parents may overcompensate in any way they find. After all, that’s what the family values crowd is good at: hectoring and bullying people with guilt and shame.

What they’re not so good at? Pushing for comprehensive family policies that cover all families, policies to give parents more time and less stress, economic policies that do not require parents to work longer hours to keep up with the cost of living. Huh, better to keep harping on gays and abortion.

Couple that with the noxious influence of popular psychology and you get these results. We have all seen the consequences in our college classes: students with "test anxiety", students who come to tell you that they NEED an A for this class (my usual answer is "fine, earn it"), students who come to meetings with their parents. I’m sure all academics have stories like these.

On this topic, here is the book to read: The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education: How Teaching is Becoming Therapy.

But here is my favorite part of the article:

"While researching The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education, its co-author Dennis Hayes, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University, discovered a leaflet telling students that if they studied sociology they might come across poor people and get depressed and if they studied nursing they might come across sick people and get distressed – so the university offered counselling. "

Anyway, again, George Carlin had a great segment on this in his last HBO Special, "It’s Bad for Ya!" (no embed available, it’s the first part, you can find the rest from there).

Skeptic Meets Sylvia Browne

So, there is this skeptic guy, Robert Lancaster, who has a website where he documents the vileness of Sylvia Browne. Browne’s fans keep emailing him that if only he met her, he would truly believe that she is a psychic. So, he decides to attend one of her shows in Las Vegas. Hilarity ensues, and Cectic has the evidence:

Cectic

Ok, it didn’t exactly happen that way… just go read the story, it is really hilarious.

SSB

(The claws always crack me up)

The Surveillance Society Goes Global

Via the Guardian, the surveillance society is going global:

"A comprehensive transatlantic pact clearing the way for the unprecedented supply of private data on European citizens to the American authorities is to be promoted by France in support of the US-driven campaign to combat terrorism and transnational crime.

The French government is expected to use its six-month presidency of the EU, starting tomorrow, to build on 18 months of confidential negotiations between Washington and Brussels aimed at clearing the complex legal obstacles to the exchange of personal information with the Americans.

The controversial proposed pact, a "framework agreement" on common data protection principles, is likely to enable the Americans to access the credit card histories, banking details and travel habits of Europeans, although senior officials in Brussels deny US reports that the Americans will also be able to snoop on the internet browsing records of Europeans."

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike President Sarkozy and his administration?
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Sociology in the News – The Paradox of Happiness

Via Context Crawler, comes this article from the Washington Post, by Shankar Vedantam on happiness surveys. We take it for granted, and it is supported by surveys, that people tend to be happier when their economic situation is more secure and overall better. That is fairly uncontroversial. And right now, the economy stinks, gas prices are through the roof, so, the mood is on the gloomy side. Straightforward as well. If the economy were better, people would be happier. What is the paradox then?

"If that’s true, then it ought to follow that America should be much happier today than it was a generation ago — it is much wealthier.

The question of whether the country is happier today than it was in, say, 1970 turns out to have a surprisingly good empirical answer. For nearly four decades, researchers have regularly asked a large sample of Americans a simple question: "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?"

The results are sobering. Even before the current economic downturn, the United States, on average, was less happy than it was in 1970, even though it is vastly richer."

Hence the paradox. Except that it does not sound much of a paradox to me. I’m not an academic big shot published in the Wapo but I can see several explanations based on sociological theories and data even before reading the rest of the article:
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Paging Elizabeth Pisani

Looks like she was right (not that I had much doubt about that)… check out this item from the Guardian regarding the relationship between social stigma and HIV prevalence:

"HIV infection rates are rising around the globe because many governments do not want to help high risk groups such as drug users, prostitutes and gay men, the International Red Cross said today.

Discrimination against these groups and the stigma associated with HIV and Aids has led to politicians in many regions, particularly Asia and Latin America, being unwilling to fund programmes to prevent the spread of the disease, the world’s largest humanitarian agency said."

This was reported in the World Disasters Report 2008, published by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies. The report does make a distinction between patterns of infection in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions. Here is something that should make Elizabeth Pisani happy since it seems to be what she recommends in her book, The Wisdom of Whores: as the report states,

"“We need smart money and not necessarily always more money” asserts Dr Mukesh Kapila, Special Representative of the International Federation, and the co-chair of the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Alliance on HIV. “The rhetoric of good donorship and good partnership must be fully implemented. Tied aid and earmarked aid which is frequently expensive, short term and ill-adapted to local needs must be reduced further. Funding for HIV needs to be evidence-based and results-driven. It must reach those who need it more quickly and more fully. Doing any less will continue to cost lives."

The report recognizes that some programs have been on the wrong targets precisely because there is no political reward to be had in focusing on stigmatized populations such as prostitutes and drug users. It is much more popular to focus on expensive programs for immense populations perceived to be "innocent victims" such as women and children (I am not putting quotation marks because women and children are not innocent but because the very category of "innocent victims" is stigmatizing and analytically, and I would add, epidemiologically nonsensical). As the report states, too much money is spent on the wrong targets, and not enough dealing with what Elizabeth Pisani considers the right targets: sex and drugs.

Furthermore, the report, like its predecessor, focuses on the interaction of stigmatized populations (people living with HIV/AIDS) and disasters, natural or man-made. As the Guardian states,

"It also found that people with HIV were often those hardest hit by natural disasters and war because they were left unable to access medical care.

The situation was worst in southern Africa where at least one in 10 adults are now living with HIV, with some countries predicted to risk becoming subsistence economies within three or four generations.

David Andrews, chairman of the Irish Red Cross, said: "HIV/Aids is the disaster that keeps on killing. Day after day, families are destroyed, economies wiped out and communities crushed as economies disintegrate, parents die and children are born with the disease.

"We must grasp the enormity of a disaster that has already killed 25 million – more than a hundred times the number of people killed by the tsunami, our biggest single natural disaster in living memory."

Again, that is the pattern for Sub-Saharan Africa but not for other regions, especially not for Southeast Asia where the epidemic is not as widespread in the general population. Although some of the solutions mentioned in the report would probably make Elizabeth’s blood boil, for instance:

"“The HIV and AIDS epidemic is a disaster whose scale and extent could have been prevented. Ignorance, stigma, political inaction, indifference and denial all contributed to millions of deaths,” explained Lindsay Knight, editor of the World Disasters Report . “The Report dispels myths about those ‘other’ people who spread HIV – refugees, migrants, people escaping from conflict and poverty. We must all do much more to eradicate stigma. It is also important to recognize that addressing HIV requires a longer-term reaction than the usual response to emergencies but that it also provides an opportunity to build resilience and empower communities, ” she added.

Fighting bureaucracy, simplifying procedures, improving coordination, confronting gender inequalities, and involving local communities including, especially, people living with HIV – are among the solutions offered by the Report, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of HIV programmes."

Emphasis added. This is the kind of talk that she found annoying because it is not specifically related to fighting and preventing HIV/AIDS. There is no other disease where the affected population is consulted on prevention and treatment programs. This kind of talk waters down HIV/AIDS prevention into wishy-washy development issue. No one denies that development and disease are related but doing so in this fashion again, evacuates the specific focus that should be front and center: sex and drugs. And Pisani has a special chapter in her book regarding the focus on gender inequalities.

At the same time, this report has to be read with its audience (donors) in mind, and here again, focusing too much on prostitutes, their johns and drug users is not very popular. So, common sense considerations are diluted with development talk that makes everybody feel less uncomfortable.

Slaveholder Gets 11-year Sentence

Here’s to people getting their comeuppance. Enslaving others is one of the most heinous crimes that I can think of. Via the BBC:

"A wealthy New York woman has been sentenced to 11 years in jail for keeping two Indonesian women as slaves. Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 46, and her husband Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, kept them as slaves and abused them physically and psychologically. The couple had been found guilty on 12 charges in December, including involuntary servitude, harbouring aliens and forced labour.

Mr Sabhnani is to be sentenced later on Friday and may get a shorter term.

In addition to prison, his Indian-born wife was fined $25,000 (£12,600).

"I just want to say that I love my children very much," she told the federal court in Central Islip, on New York state’s Long Island, as two of her grown children looked on.

"I was brought to this earth to help people who are in need."

Her husband wept as his wife’s sentence was announced."

Aww, that is just so sad… until one discovers what they actually did to the women they brought in as housekeepers:

"The wealthy couple, who run a perfume business and have four children, had brought the women to their large house to work as housekeepers, and forced them to work up to 18 hours a day. The couple were arrested after one of the women was found wandering the streets dressed in only trousers and a towel. (…)

[Prosecutors] described how the two Indonesian women had been punished for misbehaviour such as sleeping late and stealing food from the dustbin to supplement their meagre meals.

The women said they had been beaten with brooms and umbrellas, slashed with knives, made to take freezing showers and climb stairs repeatedly.

One said she had been forced to eat several hot chillies and then her own vomit.

US District Judge Arthur Spatt called the testimony "eye-opening, to say the least – that things like that go on in our country".

He postponed a decision on the amount of back pay owed to the two women. Prosecutors have suggested they were due more than $1.1m.

Lawyers for the accused had argued that the housekeepers practised witchcraft and may have abused themselves."

Oh sure. Please, give me a break. Actually, this description of slavery in the housekeeping business is fairly typical. I guess slaveholders lack imagination when it comes to mistreating their slaves. Anyone familiar with Kevin Bales’s books and work would recognize all the "symptoms" of this situation. It is clearly modern slavery.

The worst part of it is that these people are wealthy. They could perfectly afford to pay market wages for housekeepers and nannies and whatever other services they need. Of course, that would mean having to treat their employees according to the labor codes of this country… which I guess is an inconvenience, better to have slaves.

FTS As always, shameless plug to Free The Slaves. And as Kevin Bales himself stated in the comments of a previous post:

"One of the interesting things about people in slavery is how much they really want a chance to work for themselves and, though it may sound strange to people in the rich North, to become consumers. It is just that for them consumption means three meals a day instead of one, school for their kids, and a chance to live without constant fear. Slavery is a horrible violation of human rights, but once people are out of slavery they really need a chance to build up that minimum of income for a decent life, a chance to learn, and a chance to become citizens. Remarkably the average cost of helping someone in slavery to achieve that level of human dignity is only about $400 – or about $11 billion to end slavery forever – a tiny tiny fraction of the wealth you describe in your post.

For more about how we will end slavery and how much it will cost, see my book Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. "

Let me add that all proceeds go to helping slaves.

Also check out the videos at Free The Slaves’s Youtube Channel.

Organized Criminal Networks as Global Powers

Organized crime has gone global. That is an accepted fact but it makes life for national anti-mafia services miserable. Going global has done for organized crime what it has done for transnational corporations: it has made these groups more powerful, more flexible; it has given them a greater reach into markets they did not yet have access to; it has allowed them to make connections with other "like-minded" groups whereas before, such contacts would have been limited by geographical distances and barriers.

Moreover, the liberalization of trade and capital as well as the removal of effective border controls within specific regional blocs, such as the European Union, has made circulation of illicit goods and services even easier and more lucrative. Criminality thrives in unregulated environments and failed / failing states. What’s not to love about globalization?

None of this has gone unnoticed, of course, and we are starting to see now real signs of concerns regarding the expanding activities of organized criminal networks, as illustrated by a flurry of articles all over the press across continents.

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Louise Arbour Against Relativism as Erosion of Human Rights

Louise Arbour Louise Arbour, outgoing UN High Commissioner on Human Rights , give an interview to Le Monde as she takes stock of the current state of human rights around the world.

Every time human rights are mentioned in conversation or even academic meetings, the objection always comes up that human rights are a Western creation that the United States and European countries are ramming down people’s throats all over the world. It is nonsense, of course (to everyone who knows the history of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ), and it is reverse patronizing (as if only Western people could have come up with the idea of human rights).

But now, emerging countries, groups and powers such as China, Russia or the Muslim world claim a right to a different version of human rights (unsurprisingly, one that is much more restrictive, in terms of, well… rights). So how do we preserve the universality of these rights?

According to Louise Arbour, there are different lines of fracture in this debate. Developing countries, including China, tend to favor social and economic rights more than civil and political rights whereas the United States has done the opposite. This is a line of fracture inherited from the Cold War.

But the main line of fracture now has to do with the rise of religious groups, especially fundamentalist groups who declare these rights secular and therefore inapplicable to them. These groups claim that they should be adjusted.

For Arbour, this is truly an assault against the universality of human rights in the name of religious and cultural relativism. What is the solution for the High Commissioner then? Have a debate with the right parties: not the ambassadors from the European Union or the Organization of Islamic Conference , but rather Muslim women because they are at the heart of the debate as to how to reconcile religious beliefs and human rights.

There is also a juridical, as opposed to political, dimension to consider. For Arbour, it is a false dichotomy to oppose freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The only real question, for her, is "what are the reasonable limits to freedom of expression in a free and democratic society?" After all, even the most democratic societies impose some restrictions on such freedoms.

What has been the impact of the "war on terror" on human rights and their promotion? For Arbour, a lot of democrats (small "d") have contributed, or turned a blind eye, to the erosion of human rights. And therefore, this has opened the door to a lot of abuse (and certainly, the United States bears a great responsibility here, in my view).

Louise Arbour puts what happened after 9/11 in interesting terms. The attitude after the attacks has not been "how much freedom are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of security?" but rather "How much of other people’s freedom are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of security?" And of course, the answer to the latter question is a hell of a lot easier especially when the "other" has been properly stigmatized and dehumanized. And of course, of suspected terrorists very quickly get treated as established terrorists.

For Arbour, we, in democratic societies, have also become easily accustomed to the secrecy of our governments in the name of national security, again. Maybe, ten years from now, she says, we’ll discover the full extent of the abuses. However, the recent US Supreme Court decision granting Guantanamo detainees access to civil federal courts shows that the judiciary branch is starting to push back and regain the ground that legitimately belongs to it: the arena of fundamental civil liberties.

As bad as the abuses brought about by the war on terror have been (and continue to be), Arbour is optimistic regarding the advance of the cause of human rights, especially through the greater recognition of the International Criminal Court. Progress is slow, definitely, However, the greater acceptance of the doctrines of obligation to protect and right to intervene means that more and more countries accept the provision of human rights not as discretionary but as mandatory. Application varies greatly, to be sure, but the framework we use to discuss these issues is significant as well. The Overton Window is shifting in the right direction.

For instance, as bad as the situations are in Darfur and Zimbabwe, both cases are forcing African governments and the Organization of African Union to really consider human rights in the African context and the relevance of the right to intervene.

And then, there are the "new" front lines of human rights. One cannot possibly have witnessed the food riots and not consider access to food a basic human rights. These riots also highlighted the appalling state of social inequalities in world, something well documented but too often ignored. These riots also made relevant discussions on related topics, such as food production and trade, biofuels and agricultural subsidies, trade protectionism on the part of rich countries, financial speculation on food, etc. But too often, for Arbour, these debates have been strictly economic in framing.

For her, the right to food, the right to a decent standard of living are fundamental rights. Is there a right to development. Arbour asks, what is the difference between a government that kills part of its population through genocide and a neglectful and corrupt government that let its people starve or die as a result of sickness and disease? Why do powerful countries a duty to intervene in one case, and less so in another.

And then, there is the next front line: the right to water. And that’s another doozie.

I confess to always finding the High Commissioner on Human Rights fascinating  and intellectually powerful peoples, especially the women, I have always been a big fan of Mary Robinson. I was more ambivalent about the late Sergio Vieira de Mello. But, even though their office is not by any means the most powerful in the complex UN hierarchy, these Commissioners always speak the truth to power.

Global Studies Association Conference Notes – Part 4 – Poto Mitan

GSA

Parts one, two and three.

The highlight of the session "Women Confront Globalization" was the screening of a rough cut of the film Poto Mitan – Haitian Women, Pillars of the World Economy, directed by Renee Bergan (she is also the founder of Renegade Pictures ) and she co-presented it with anthropologist Mark Schuller of UC Santa Barbara, co-director of the film.

Poto Mitan

Poto Mitan means "central pillars" in Kreyo (Haitian Creole) and it is clear that this is in reference to the women presented in this film. These are women who struggle with the familiar problems women face in the Global South: poverty, raising kids alone, working in factories for global brands for low wages (roughly $1.80 per day) and horrific working conditions. Add to that the sexual violence and harassment that these women experience when they try to fight back and organize through unions or other structures.

As bad as it is, it becomes even worse when the factories close their doors for good, leaving these women with no sources of income. Why do the factories close? Because global capitalists do not like unstable countries. They much prefer authoritarian regimes who can keep people (that is their generally feminine workforce) in line and Haiti has had its share of political turmoil and violence in recent history, including brutal food riots a few months ago. Also, since China gained greater access to the world through the World Trade Organization, a lot of other, albeit, poor countries cannot compete with cheap workforce and cheap exports (and again, a stable country managed by a regime that cares very little for human and workers rights).

So, the women of Haiti, especially those who live in the Cite Soleil, a slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, try to figure out how to survive. It is this struggle that the movie powerfully conveys.

Globalization Feminism Even though we were presented a rough cut, the film already looked incredibly professional. The interviews with the women were very powerful even though it seems that we have heard these stories the world over as the problems these women face seem universal. I guess that is one of the characteristics of globalization: to create common problems for certain categories of people who then have to dig and tap into their national and cultural resources to solve them. Especially considering the fact that globalization presents a basic survival problem for women and their children in many parts of the Global South.

As Mary Hawkesworth aptly stated, globalization is a gendered phenomenon. (Deeper development on Gender and Globalization can be found here .)

The film also illustrates several other dilemmas of globalization:

The fact that as bad as factory jobs are, they are often better than ekeing out a living in environmentally stressed rural areas, as is especially the case in Haiti.

Also, the fact that one major relationship of power in the global era is between highly mobile capital and fixed labor: these women have nowhere to go whereas factories are easily open and closed pretty much anywhere in the world depending on which places owners find desirable locations. And right now, Haiti is not desirable at all. This is one of the major imbalance of power that clearly puts labor at a massive disadvantage.

But the women in the film, like so many women around the world, have no choice but to fight to find imperfect solutions to problems not of their own making.

This film is a lesson in courage.

Renegade Pix

The Depressing Headline of the Day

Via The New York Times:

"11-Year-Old Victim to Be Allowed Abortion"

Yup, this is a story out of Romania and it is truly horrifying:

"The government has ruled that a pregnant 11-year-old who was raped by a relative can have an abortion in Romania. Twenty Christian Orthodox church groups have threatened to press charges if the government allows the girl, who is 21 weeks pregnant, to have an abortion in the country, where abortions are illegal beyond 14 weeks of pregnancy unless the woman’s life is endangered. But Theodora Bertzi, a Labor Ministry official and a member of the committee that ruled on the case, said the government had to respect the rights of the child, who told doctors that she had been raped by her 19-year-old uncle. He has disappeared. The position of the church groups was in contrast to the official stand of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which said the decision should be left to the family."

Considering, this abortion (if it does take place) is the least bad possible outcome for the girl. This case illustrates how abortion can actually be a social good. This girl should not have been raped, victim of incest and ended up pregnant. There was only one way to partially correct this: let her have an abortion. Forcing her to go through the pregnancy and to become a mother against her will would only be one more form of victimization.

As for these religious groups? Why don’t they go after the man who raped her? Why don’t they campaign against child rape and incest? Because it seems to me they’ve got too much time on their hands. It is nice to see that the  Church decided to butt out of that one, although it should be noted that it stated that decision should be up to the family, not the girl.

Not Everybody is Feeling the Crunch

High gas prices, home foreclosures may be squeezing people in the United States and Europe (in major parts of the Global South, feeling the big time crunch is a chronic condition), but not everybody is hurting. According to the BBC, there are now more global millionaires:

"The number of people worth more than US$1m (£507,000) rose to 10.1 million in 2007, a wealth survey suggests. Despite the growing credit crisis, there were 600,000 more members of the global millionaires’ club than there were a year earlier. Their combined wealth also rose, by 9.4% to $40.7 trillion, according to Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini. The fast-growing economies of India, China and Brazil saw the biggest rises in the number of wealthy individuals. The number worth more than $30m increased by 8.8%, while their total wealth grew by 14.5%."

According to Cap Gemini’s World Wealth Report 2008, this is where the wealthiest are:

  • North America – $11.7 trillion
  • Europe – $10.6 trillion
  • Asia Pacific – $9.5 trillion
  • Latin America – $6.2 trillion
  • Middle East – $1.7 trillion
  • Africa – $1 trillion

How do these lucky few spend their money? According to the Guardian,

"They spend 16% of their money on "luxury collectibles" including cars, boats and private jets, another 16% on art-underpinning the booming global art market, 14% of their money on luxury travel and another 14% on jewellery, gems and watches. They spend 5% on sporting investments, buying up teams and race horses."

Well, that is certainly productive investment and not at all conspicuous consumption engaged in by the leisure class. But not all is rosy, however:

"The bad news for the world’s millionaires, is that their dollars are not stretching as far they used to. According to Merrill Lynch they face personal inflation rates of 6.2%."

Aww, now I feel really bad. They might have to give up some of the items listed above and that’s heartbreaking. I mean, it’s like these people in Indonesia who have to give up their children because their economic situation makes it more likely that the kids will be better off in an orphanage – via IRIN:

"Faisal, 13, has no idea why his parents dropped him off at a crowded orphanage in Jakarta six years ago and never returned. "I think they couldn’t afford my school," he said, struggling to remember their faces. (…)

Only 6 percent of about 500,000 children in Indonesia’s orphanages are actually orphans. But about 0.6 percent of the country’s 85 million children end up in institutions, one of the highest rates in the world, according to Save the Children in Indonesia.

The number of childcare centres is estimated to have jumped nearly five-fold over the past decade to more than 8,000, according to the NGO.

Florence Martin, a researcher for Save the Children, said this was an "alarming" trend, which is being underlined by rapidly rising fuel and food prices. Some parents are no longer able to pay for schooling and food, so rather than depriving their children of education they turn to the orphanages."

So, ok, that’s a little extreme, the rich won’t have to dump their kids in orphanages. That’s what exclusive private schools are for. Maybe, if the crunch continues, they will have to make them work for a living, you know, like some people in Afghanistan have to do to pay off their debts:

Bricks "Over 2,200 children are working long hours in dozens of brick-making factories in Nangarhar Province, eastern Afghanistan, to pay off their families’ debts, a survey by the Child Action Protection Network (CAPN), an Afghan body, has found.

Up to 90 percent of 2,298 children – boys and girls – who work in 38 brick-making factories in Sorkhrod District of Nangarhar Province do not go to school and are deprived of other means of education, said the survey conducted by a local non-government organisation (NGO), Wadan Afghanistan."

Let’s not forget that debt bondage is the most widespread form of contemporary slavery and brick-making is an activity where slavery is rampant not just in Afghanistan but elsewhere in Asia as well (for all things pertaining to slavery, Free the Slaves is the website to check out).

These children work 8 to 12 hours a day to help pay off their parents’ debt and brick-making is not work for children. It is dangerous and bone-breaking (literally).

But I guess as long as there is wealth production and upward "distribution", it means the system is still working! After all, if it stopped producing millionaires, now THAT would be reason to worry.

Cuba Approves Therapeutic Vaccine for Lung Cancer

Will there be no end to the evils of socialized medicine in that Commie hellhole that the US should have invaded long ago??!! via the Guardian:

"Cuba has approved what is believed to be the world’s first registered lung cancer vaccine and is offering it to Cuban and foreign patients in its hospitals.

The therapeutic vaccine CimaVax EGF extends life with few side effects, and is another step in Cuba’s expertise in biotechnology. It was unveiled on Monday at Havana’s centre of molecular immunology.

It has been shown to boost survival rates by an average of four to five months, and in some cases much longer. It does not prevent lung cancer. Unlike chemotherapy, CimaVax EGF is said to have few side effects because it is a modified protein which attacks only cancer cells.

"It’s the first such vaccine registered in the world," said Gisela González, who headed the project begun in 1992. The drug is in various clinical trials, some in Canada and Britain, and is expected to be approved next in Peru.

Several companies had been licensed to market the vaccine, but it will be made in Cuba, said González. It has been approved for trial in the United States but use there is at least two years away, she added."

Pfft, Americans don’t need that stinkin’ commie vaccine! The US has the best system of medical care in the WORLD! The only problem Americans have is TOO MUCH health care. That’s why neither presidential candidates have universal health care in their platform.

The cost of the treatment has not been set yet.