Thursday, November 5, 2015

Kids meals, toys, and TV ads: Three threats to child health: Science News Round Up

Thomas Riggins

Links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

Negative publicity reduces police motivation but does not result in depolicing

Well the FBI director and other right-wingers have had their say about the "Ferguson Effect" but the scientific study above shows how wrong they are. There has been no increase in crime as a result of protests against the police killing unarmed minority people and acts of racial profiling. If anything is specifically responsible for the statistically insignificant "crime increase" it's the cut in funding for public safety due to austerity measures in response to capitalism's ongoing decline.

Despite the fact that scientists have shown that the foods provided at fast food restaurants are antithetical to children's health the government has failed to issue regulations preventing fast food companies from luring children to their dens by offering toys as incentives by means of ads aired on federally  regulated airwaves.

The gist is to use your opponent's moral system not your own when you frame your arguments to persuade them to adopt your position. This is not "new" it is an old lawyers trick as well as a technique of rhetoric and debate. If someone quotes the Bible to support his position, then find a quote that supports your position and try and convince him what you believe is really biblical. This article further expains how this method works. Socialists should bone up on Adam Smith.

New hope for couch potatoes!

This research indicates that as CO2 increases in the oceans the food chain will collapse from top to bottom.  Larger marine life forms will disappear along with animals that need shells to survive. Micro organisms will increase however. Future oceans will be thinned or without  life forms currently abundant. Every bit of gas, oil, and coal we use hastens the day!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Inverted World of Niall Ferguson: On the Real Obama Doctrine

The Inverted World of Niall Ferguson: On the Real Obama Doctrine
Thomas Riggins

Niall Ferguson teaches history at Harvard. He has a very conservative world outlook which, when applied to the analysis of current social reality, has a tendency to so warp his perceptions that the situation he writes about becomes an imaginary inverted world where truth becomes falsity and falsity truth. But don't take my word for it. Just look at his article in the Wall Street Journal for 10/10-11/2015: "The Real Obama Doctrine." Ferguson's take on Obama can only be the result a profound ignorance of the historical reality he professes to understand.

He opens his article by referring to ideas expressed by the revered, but morally reprehensible, Henry Kissinger in 1968.  Kissinger expressed the opinion America didn't really have a foreign policy. He might have noted the U.S. was too busy butchering Vietnamese peasants to pay attention to much else.

Be that as it may, there was no real coherent strategic thinking going on and this for two reasons according to Kissinger. First, the president was not selected for his strategic thinking but his "will" to get elected, and second, there are just too many lawyers working for the government. Now lawyers are clever but they don't know enough about history and this deficiency has led to the adoption of a "minimum risk" attitude when it comes to policy. Well, Ferguson teaches history at Harvard; what better guide could we have to lead us to understand Obama's plans for the U.S. of A.

Seeing that Obama was elected due to his will to win, has a passel  of lawyers at work in his administration, and doesn't support a "maximum risk" policy, he seems to exemplify just what Henry K was complaining about to a tee. Ferguson tells us, in fact, that he himself has "spent much of the last seven years trying to work out" just what strategy Obama was following. Here is what he found out.

He read Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech but wasn’t clear on how it would result in practical actions. The speech was full of good intentions and was met positively by those friendly to the U.S. and either negatively or skeptically by those hostile to it. The criticisms basically were that actions speak louder than words and that upbeat speeches were no substitute for a change in policies. Ferguson doesn’t go into much detail on the speech, but needless to say he should have known that Obama would not be able to quickly reverse fifty years of cold war policies and the fact that the Bush administration had left the entire Middle East entirely in flames or on the verge irrupting into chaos.

Obama’s attempt to disengage U.S. ground forces in Iraq and strengthen Iraqi security forces is called by Ferguson “precipitate withdrawal.” The fact is that the damage done to Iraq by the Bush policies are almost irreversible and the sectarian Shia government the U.S. created is both corrupt and unwilling, or unable, to reconcile with the Sunni minority. Obama must either try to wind down American involvement or hunker down and prepare for an open ended American occupation. The American people definitely want to get out of Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and they don’t want to get involved in Syria either. Obama cannot, no president could, put the Middle East back together again after the Bush folks so thoroughly smashed it up. The best he can do is respond to the will of the American people and try and limit the damage caused by the Bush gang.

Besides not having a clue to the complexities in Afghanistan, Ferguson thinks Obama has become “indifferent” to Europe as a result of the attempted “reset” with Russia. It’s true the reset failed but only because it was predicated on Russia following American dictates against its own interests and there is no evidence that Obama has become indifferent to Europe.

But Ferguson also discovered something more troubling than Obama’s failure to clean up the mess left behind by Bush. It is one thing to reject Bush’s policies, but the 2012 debate with Mitt Romney revealed, horror of horrors, that Obama was also “turning away from Ronald Reagan.” Romney held that enemy numero uno to our world wide hegemony was Russia and Obama dismissed this. And what happened? In March 2014 [as a result of U.S. and E.U. intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine] Russia annexed Crimea returning it to Russian administration after it had been assigned by the Soviet Union to Ukraine in the 1950s. Historian that he is, Ferguson thinks Romney “prescient” in spotting that, in his words, Russia is “our number one geopolitical foe.” We had better move the Seventh Fleet to the Bering Strait in case Putin decides to reverse the Alaska Purchase.

Ferguson also discovered, by reading articles and interviews given by Obama in the popular press, that it was his intention to “create a new balance of power in the Middle East.”  Obama said that he wanted to end the conflicts between the Shia and Sunni by trying to get Iran to abandon its (in his opinion) negative polices and to work with the mostly Sunni Gulf states in a common effort to build a positive future in the region.

Obama hopes an international coalition, which could include Iran, might work together to solve the problems of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Unmentioned is the fact that the crisises in all these countries are the results of Saudi and American actions and interference. It would be the U.S. and not Iran that would have to abandon its negative policies. It is unlikely to do since it profits from arms sales to the region.

Ferguson, however, has other reasons for objecting to Obama’s Middle East policies which he says are based on the president’s “fuzzy thinking.” In his recent U.N. speech Obama indicated he was willing to work  with other nations “under the mantle of international norms and principles” and with both Russia and Iran (as long they agreed to eventually dump Assad) in solving the Syrian problem. Obama is “fuzzy” because, Ferguson says, neither Russia nor Iran are “famed” for operating under the “mantle of international norms and principles.”

 One would expect a Harvard history professor to be aware of the fact that the U.S. is also not “famed” for operating under this mantle. In fact, even a slight acquaintance with modern history would show U.S. behavior is more egregious in this respect than that of either Russia or Iran. In fact, almost every crisis in world diplomacy since (and most of them before) the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the result of the U.S. flouting international norms. To blame Obama for trying improve this dismal record doesn’t say much in favor of Ferguson’s bona fides.

Ferguson thinks Obama's policies are failing because, since 2010, terrorism and violence in the Middle East from North Africa (Libya) to Pakistan and Afghanistan have dramatically increased and we can expect even more violence to come “as the Sunni powers of the region seek to prevent Iran from establishing itself as the post American hegemon.”

It’s true that American policies are not working out if peace is the goal. If, however, the goal is to sell billions of dollars worth of new weapons systems to the governments in the area as well as to ramp up military spending at home, these policies at least make some sense.

After Bush/Cheney destroyed Iraq in the  east and the Obama/ U.S. supported NATO intervention in Libya (pushed by Secretary of State Clinton) effectively destroyed that country in the west the growth of terrorism was bound to increase as outside governments and their proxies moved in to take advantage of the chaos the U.S. created.

It was the Sunni governments that moved to take advantage of the situation. The U.S. destroyed two major secular governments and both the Saudi Arabians, and Gulf Sunni states, representing the most backward “Islamic” radical ideology, funded Sunni terrorist groups, as well as Pakistan’s covert support of the Taliban, that has led to the impotence of U.S. policy on the ground. The U.S. still sends billions of dollars in military aid (much of it actually spent at home to support the military industrial complex behind our domestic deep state) to countries who pass some of it along to the very terrorist groups the U.S. is fighting.

The truth is that Iran is not trying to become a hegemon. It was the Shah, installed as a result of a CIA coup against a democratically elected government and backed by the U.S., who was moving to both develop nuclear weapons and establish hegemony, as a U.S. client state, in the region until he was overthrown in 1979. The U.S. has been trying to get rid of the new Iranian government ever since.

Iran’s actions have been purely defensive in nature. It supports its Shia allies in Iraq against the Sunni Islamic State, it supports its ally Assad in Syria against the Islamic state and the Sunni jihadists supported by the Saudis and indirectly by the U.S. under the covering myth of supporting “moderates.” All this puts the lie to Ferguson’s pseudo-historical analysis of “Obama’s failures.” Obama’s problem, such as it is, has been his inability to reverse the movement of Middle Eastern disintegration initiated by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has succeeded in preventing the implosion of half the Mediterranean world  by keeping boots off the ground in Libya and Syria, and thus not compounding the Bush/Chenny Iraq folly. Nevertheless his interventionist actions in these two countries threaten to create a wider area of war and destabilization which the next president will have to defuse unless he takes actions towards withdrawal and cooperation with the Iranians and Russians to limit Saudi and Pakistani sponsored jihadists.

Finally, Ferguson concludes there are three major problems facing U.S. foreign policy; the Middle East, Russia’s meddling, and China’s ambitions. Obama, he says, is failing to properly address these problems. The reason for this failure is that he does not have advisors of the caliber  of Zbigniew Brzezinski (whose Afghan policies gave us  both Osama ben Laden and  the Taliban) and Henry Kissinger (whose war crimes against humanity gave us fascism in Chile and Pol Pot in Cambodia, among achievements of similar note). Both of these stalwarts, Furgeson says, have made intellectual contributions to strategic doctrine far greater than the advisors surrounding Obama. Perhaps, but more people around the world have died meaningless deaths and suffered injuries and loss of loved ones due to the strategic doctrines of Brzezinski and Kissinger than due to the policies of Obama (but he is running a close second with his Syrian policies).

U.S. policy does have problems. In the Middle East it supports dictators and tyrants and its blanket support of Israel and Israel’s truly barbaric treatment of the Palestinians prevents it from having a policy that the majority of Middle Eastern people can live with. We create the very terrorists we seek to fight. Russian meddling is nothing more that its advancing policies that protect its interests and are usually just reactions to overt or covert U.S. provocations. There will be no reset of relations with Russia as long as the U.S. acts in bad faith. China’s ambitions are perfectly normal. They want to play a role in their part of the world commensurate with their growing economic and political strength. As long as the U.S. seeks to challenge them in this respect (such as U.S. air and naval provocations in the South China Sea) there will be no real cooperation possible nor any incentive for Chinese to trust the U.S.

The above comments are just a reflection of the current Zeitgeist and it appears that the role of the U.S. is contrary to the movement that spirit is taking — a movement that is pointing us towards a world of better cooperation and understanding and is not subject to the negative destructive will of one rogue superpower. This, and not the views of Henry Kissinger, is what the next president must keep in mind.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Asian Diary by Jack Clontz

Asian Diary by Jack Clontz

Jack Clontz is an Asian Language and Culture specialist. His observations of current events may be of interest to PA readers with a special interest in Asia. Comments on his observations are welcomed since some of his opinions are controversial and will no doubt be contested by some readers. We are publishing his reflections to stimulate thinking and hopefully discussion.

Asian Diary

Re: the TPP agreement. At least Thailand did not become involved as originally envisaged.  The pharma agreements will bring about hundreds of thousands of deaths.

 Did you notice the Chinese recipient (out of three) of the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology?  That was one case in which Chinese traditional medicine made an extremely significant contribution to world medicine instead of killing huge numbers of people and other animals. It was also a unique contribution to science from the darkest days of Mao's lunatic policies in which millions died in his full knowledge. 

 Even towards the end of the Vietnam war, this medicine's efficacy was known.  The Vietnamese people, especially those fighting, desperately needed protection against malaria.  Because of ideological opposition, Vietnam was denied the medicine and the PRC continued to deny it to the Vietnamese people for many years, especially in the wake of Deng's criminal war against Vietnam in which the PRC was actually defeated with the concomitant loss of tens of thousands on both sides and great destruction along both sides of the border. 

Just this week in the Russian euphoria over the bombing campaign in Syria, the Russian Federations's defense minister chortled that the USSR was responsible for the defeat of the USA in Vietnam through air power. What he was actually referring to was the shooting down of huge numbers of US planes (though amateur civilian crews shot down most of the jets fighter bombers like McCain's), especially the Nixon-Kissinger criminal "Arc-Light" heavy bombers during the Christmas madness just before the USA threw in the towel. We know now that most of the missile crews were Soviets, or at least commanded by Soviets, just as in Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis (the sole American plane shot down with the pilot  dying during the crisis was shot down by a Soviet crew--the Cuban missiles did not have the altitude range to hit the American reconnaissance aircraft).  A contribution was also made by the use of Soviet "trawlers" just off the coast of Guam spotting the take off of the Arc Light bombers, where all of them originated at Anderson Air Base (there is a memorial to them at the entrance to the base), Guam and radioed this message to the Vietnamese. We also now know that North Korean jet fighter pilots engaged in aerial combat with the American planes with, as you know, the North Koreans following the Soviet line in spite of all that had happened.

I resent the Russian claims about Vietnam, since I think they are exaggerated and take credit from the Vietnamese people for their incredible achievement in defeating French, American and Chinese imperialism while greatly hampering Japanese imperialism at one point and forestalling Thai imperialism.  

On the other hand, the PRC was incensed by the very cruel treatment of the Vietnamese Chinese by the Vietnamese.  A very large proportion of the many thousands of Vietnamese boat people, many of whom died and all of whom greatly suffered, were ethnic Chinese.  Surprisingly, the PRC has countenanced Vietnamese imperialism in Laos and Cambodia, though both have been sycophantic followers and supporters, especially Cambodia, of the PRC internationally, especially in ASEAN. 

The Chinese anti-malaria drug is artemisinin

Notice that the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation has saved many thousands of lives through its support of work involving this drug and is engaged in fundamental research (artemisinin is not now often used as a monotherapeutic medicine) in malaria.  A handful of French, American and Thai medical scientists are at work on these questions at Mahidol University in Bangkok.  They are desperately working to stave off the spread of malaria with parasites carried by three or four species of mosquitoes serving as vectors, which weirdly originate only in one area in northern Cambodia near the Thai border.  The mosquitoes have now spread to the area of the refugee camps in Burma along the Thai border.  The medical scientists are desperately afraid this drug-resistant form of malaria will spread through Burma with its horrible (though improved in some areas) conditions and thence to Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent with millions of death certain under the conditions obtaining in India, Bangladesh and parts of Pakistan.  Capitalism saves the world?

 By far the best hospital in northern Thailand is the McCormick Hospital run by American medical missionaries.  Decades ago they forswore proselytizing in recognition of the fact that the vast majority of Thai Buddhists (about 97 percent of the population, it seems) would never become Christians because to do so would be tantamount to becoming non-Thai.  The inroads made by evangelical Christian missionaries, often from Australia, have been amongst the northern hill tribes, who are badly treated and are not allowed to become Thai citizens.  There are Roman Catholic converts, mostly educated Thais, in Bangkok and sometimes elsewhere, but they are few in numbers. Most Roman Catholics in Thailand have Vietnamese or ancestral Portuguese connections. 

Incidentally, Vietnamese students in universities in Thailand are outstanding and make Thai students look very bad in comparison. They are disciplined and learn quickly.  Many are already very proficient in English before they come and learn Thai quickly.  I have talked to their university teachers in some cases.  They are often invidiously compared with foreign students from Burma and such places as Nepal or Sikkim.  

Did you know a Thai foreign minister, a Muslim from the northern part of southern Thailand (not a Muslim majority area), in the coup-government involved in throwing over Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 apologized to the Vietnamese for Thai participation in the Vietnam War? Quite amazing, actually, but nothing really came of it.

Submitted by Thomas Riggins

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Austerity Leads to Rise in Suicides

Austerity Measures Linked to Increase in Suicides: Science News Round Up
Thomas Riggins

Below you will find links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

"These results have profound health and economic policy implications and raise substantial questions on the prolonged application of fiscal austerity without any safety nets...." Thousands of young people (ages 10-24) as well as the elderly (age 65+) are killing themselves out of desperation due to the imposition of austerity measures on people in the EU. These measures cause a rise in unemployment, a cut in pensions and other effects bringing about extreme hardships. Capitalism's Profit Before People drive is causing widespread misery throughout the EU (and not only there).

Unless there is a serious retooling the industrial base in Europe to halt massive pollution it will be impossible to reach the emissions reduction goals set for midcentury. It is possible to save the climate but will private profit driven industries actually make the changes needed? Will bourgeois governments force them to do so? If not capitalism will destroy us all sooner rather than later.

This article shows that when women's health care clinics are closed as a result of the Republican assault on the constitutional right to abortion large numbers of women can no longer receive the preventive care necessary to detect cancers and other illnesses. The claim that other clinics and health services will cover those formerly receiving treatment at the closed clinics is not true. Republican politicians, in their attacks on Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, are engaged in  a massive assault on women's health, especially the health of lower income and minority women, and their policies will lead to needless deaths that preventive medical care could have avoided. These reckless unremorseful   mysogynists must be removed from power.   

A study of 50 major cities shows that urban school districts are failing to provide
a basic education to many students especially low income and minority students.
It is the responsibility of the state to provide proper educational opportunities to all students and in failing to educate low income and minority students the state is perpetuating institutional racism. Parents, students, and teachers and their unions will have to organize to remove from office those racist politicians who refuse to fully upgrade and fund equal education for all.

“Expectant mothers who live near active natural gas wells operated by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania are at an increased risk of giving birth prematurely and for having high-risk pregnancies, new research suggests.” What else needs to be said to convince the state not to issue tracking permits! The scientists suggest that state officials “consider” these finding when giving out permits. Who can tell? Maybe it is just a coincidence.

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected the genetic make-up of populations across the entire African continent. (Science Daily)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Low Income Children With Cancer Lack Basic Needs

Low Income Children With Cancer Lack Basic Needs: Weekly News Round Up

Thomas Riggins

Below you will find links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

Almost One-Third of Families of Children With Cancer Have Unmet Basic Needs During Treatment

These basic needs include food, housing, clothing, transportation, as well as incidental expenses.
These families are of course low income workers and people in poverty. U.S. capitalism not only does not provide the needed assistance to these families with sick children it tolerates the knowledge that this situation has a negative influence on the survival rate of these children many of  whom die of their cancers who may have lived if they were not poor. This is one more reason to oust the Republicans from power wherever they are so that they can no longer block legislation and programs that could remedy this problem, and eventually abolish capitalism.

Reserch indicates that there is a strong relation between lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 and the increase of the dropout rate of high school students. The last time the age was dropped to 18 the dropout rate increased anywhere from 4 to 13% and minority children were the most likely to dropout. The current discussions on lowering the drinking age back to 18 should consider the facts that only the alcohol producers will really benefit due to market demand and that minority students will be the most vulnerable due to the lack of social services and the social pressures many are under to dropout of school.

While the developmnt of the Chinese economy has lifted millions out of poverty and turned China into an economic world power, their manufacturing sector spews forth more CO2 by far than similar sectors in other countries. This makes their system more detrimental to the environment than it should be. This is due to their dependence on burning coal for fuel and the fact that many of their factories are technologically out of date. To its credit the Chinese government has taken steps to remedy the situation by closing down coal fueled plants, investing in alternative energy sources, and beginning to upgrade the manufacturing sector.

The answer is yes according to analysis of math teaching around the world. The U.S. was included in this study which revealed that social class was a major factor in getting a good math education. More content and better access to higher math classes are available to more affluent students while lower class students get a lower quality math education. This puts these students at a disadvantage in passing tests for better colleges and jobs in the future and helps to perpetuate the lower class status of low income students. Of course, in a country based on inequality and birth privilege the schools will reflect and reproduce the class and income structure of society as a whole.

Low birth weight babies are more likely to be handicapped as adults and they also have a higher mortality rate. These studies show that this negative affect is most pronounced in poor third world populations but as the climate worsens will eventually spread to the developed world as well.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Great Gains for the Rich by Thomas Rigins

According to the Economic Policy Institute, as reported by the Debs Foundation Newsletter (Fall 2015), the following figures represent  the real increase in income of the various levels of the U.S. population over the last 30 years: both Democrats and Republicans have controlled the government during this period.
The top 1% saw an increase of 153.6%
The next level, the 95 to 99% increased their income by 61.6%
Then the 90 through 94% went up 39.2%
That takes care of the top 90%. The super winners were the top 1%.
Now for the rest of us -- the bottom 90%: how much trickled down to us?
We got a wopping 17.2% increase in real income over the last 30 years no matter who was running the country. Is there any reason to think this disparity will be any less (or maybe more) over the next 30 years?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Clinton Crashing?

Clinton Crashing? by Thomas Riggins

According to reports in The New York Times and the CNN/ORC polls (just out)-- Clinton's new figures among registered voters puts her 10 points ahead of Bernie Sanders and in a dead heat with the top Republican candidates. Here is what today's NYT  says:

"When Mrs. Clinton is pitted against each of the top three Republican candidates, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, leads 51 percent to 46 percent among registered voters; Jeb Bush leads 49 percent to 47 percent; and she and Donald J. Trump, who is leading most polls of the Republican field, are tied at 48 percent. All of those numbers are within the margin of sampling error."

This country is in big trouble when the likes of Ben Carson and Donald Trump have a real shot at becoming the next POTUS! Another Bush is bad enough, but at least he is not certifiable.

These are early polls and don't take into consideration the fact that the Left and the Unions are going to be registering large numbers of new voters and actively promoting progressive ideas that will hopefully sweep this temporary Republican
surge (Trump is now leading the Republicans with 32% support ) into history's overflowing dust bin.

A positive note: Bernie Sanders is now in a dead heat with Clinton in IOWA and NEW HAMPSHIRE and only 10 points behind with Democrats nationally.  As for the CPUSA: Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their party.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Progressive Science Round Up

Thomas Riggins

Below you will find links to some of the most interesting science stories reported this week relating to both political and social  affairs and health news from which everyone may benefit. You can comment on these reports at the end of the round up.

New scientific research indicates that taking 500 mg of time released Vitamin C will have the same heart healthy results as physical EXERCISE for overweight and obese people. Ok, so you won't look so svelte but for the gymnophobic taking a vitamin pill instead of working up a sweat has got to be a great scientific advance and, since Republicans and the right in general  don't believe in science, progressives and socialists will benefit the most.

Scientists have found that children learn better and are more healthy over all at different times of the day depending on their ages. Presently schools start and end at times that have been standardized in such a way that the learning and health of millions of children are negatively affected. Parents will have to become politically active, I think, and ally with teacher unions if they want to protect their children and get the school times changed.

Widespread abuse of patients discovered in Indian private hospitals which force doctors to order unnecessary tests and operations simply to run up the bills and make more profits for the capitalist investors. Indian government appears complicit? Could the same practices be happening in the U.S.?

A new study shows that about 50% of the U.S. population either already has or is on the road to having diabetes. As usual the suggested remedy is education for individuals to change their eating habits and life styles. This approach alone won't work
unless Congress quits kowtowing to the lobbyists for the junk food purveyors, the processed food industries,and the sugar and soda companies that resist regulation and continue to flood the market place with unhealthy food products in the search for greater profits at the expense of the health and welfare of the American people. They should also be stopped from pushing their products on children through ads on TV and the internet

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released into the blood stream to help us keep calm, cool and collected during the exigencies of daily life. Too much of it is not good for us and our bodies usually start the day with a high charge that will last us until bedtime when the charge has worn down and will build up again while we sleep. However, after a twenty year research project, scientists have discovered that young people (adolescence to 32 years old) who are subjected to discrimination, racism. and the daily insults and affronts dished out to minority people (consciously or unconsciously) especially African American youth, experience the effects of cortisol differently than do the youth not subjected to the racism of everyday life in the U.S.

The stress of racial discrimination causes the cortisol to build up in the blood stream during the day so that it peaks at bedtime and wears off during the night so that it is very low in the morning. The cycle is reversed. This causes these youth to have sleep problems, sex problems, mental fatigue, heart problems, problems in concentration and memory and other health disfunctions. In other words, racism makes them sick and less functional compared to the general population and this is then used as an excuse to justify racist practices.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Over Forty Percent of U.S. Children are Living in Poverty

Over Forty Percent of U.S. Children are Living in Poverty 
Thomas Riggins

A  January  2015 report from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health reveals that forty four percent of children (those under 18)  are living in de facto poverty. The Federal Government issues an artificially low annual official poverty level that radically understates the real level of U.S. poverty. For 2015 the official level of poverty for a family of four, for example, is  roughly an income $24,000 a year or less. This is for a family with 2 adults and 2 children. 

This income figure, however, does not reveal the true level of poverty in the U.S. The National Center for Children in Poverty, located at Mailman, states that it would take twice that amount, or about $48,000 to cover just the "basic expenses" of a family of four. 

Now, any family that can't pay for its basic expenses is a family living in poverty, therefore any such family of four that has a yearly income of less than $48,000 is, despite what the U.S. government says, poor and living in poverty.

The government likes to make a distinction between "poor" and "low income" but this is just a semantic game to try and hide the true level of economic deprivation Washington is willing to inflict on millions of children in order to avoid comprehensive welfare reform and realistic taxation polices directed at Wall Street and the 1 percent.

These figures for the four person family can be extrapolated across the board to all families of whatever composition to arrive at realistic figures regarding the number of children under 18 who are suffering in poverty. There are over 30 million such children living in poverty.

Scientists have determined that children living in poverty are liable to suffer permanent physical and mental handicaps which children who are not poor will not have to face. This means it is a national crisis when 44% of the nation's children
are not getting their basic needs met and face permanent life long damage due to the policies of their own government.

These facts are well known to our elected leaders and other policy makers in the government yet public awareness does not seem high. In the  recent televised debate of the Republican presidential candidates, for example, this national disgrace wasn’t even mentioned.

Due to the institutional racism perpetuated by the present economic and political system some minorities are disproportionately  affected by these figures. According to Science Daily  over 60 percent of Hispanic, Black, and Native American children are living in de facto poverty. [ “Four in 10 American children live in low-income families, new report shows,” SD 1-21-2015].

Reflecting on these figures SD quotes Renée Wilson-Simmons, National Center for Children in Poverty director, as saying “Far too many American children live in economically insecure families, and this serious threat to our nation’s future does not get the attention it deserves.” 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Poverty and Child Brain Damage

Poverty and Child Brain Damage
Thomas Riggins

Politicians love to tell us that we live in the richest and greatest country in the world despite the fact that our actual ranking when it comes to overall living standards and democratic rights is far from numero uno. We rank 23rd on the "Satisfaction with Life Index" (Cf. Wikipedia). But no one will get elected telling us we are the 23rd best über alles in the world. 

More to the point, when it comes to how we treat children, it's telling to find out that UNICEF ranks the U.S. at 34 out of 35 industrialized countries (we beat out Romania but eight other former east European socialist countries take better care of their children than we do)-- Washington Post 4-15- 2013.

It just so happens that 22% of children in the United States live in poverty and are apt to remain there as long as the Republicans and the right use their political power to cut welfare, food stamps, day care, education, feeding programs in schools, tax breaks for low income families, elimination of the sales tax for the poor, decent wages for working people, unemployment insurance, immigration reform, and continue to obstruct the right to vote and union organization with respect to minorities and working people.

What is particularly vile about the these right-wing anti-children policies is that scientists have shown that living in poverty has horrible consequences for the normal development of children's brains, damages their emotional health, and results in under achievement academically.

Scientists have shown, according  to Science Daily 7-22-15, (“Poverty’s most insidious damage is to a child’s brain”) that low income children living in poverty have mental lags and  abnormal development in their frontal and temporal lobes resulting in test scores 20 per cent lower than the norm for children not living in poverty. 

We should also note that the brain has not fully developed into a mature organ in humans until the mid 20s. The result of temporal lobe damage will impair normal comprehension and understanding of speech and frontal lobe impairment  will effect normal thinking, planning,  and decision making ability, personality development and moral and ethical comprehension and behavior  among other higher mental functions.

The information in this article from SD is based on the research reported by Dr. Seth Pollak et. al., in “Poverty’s most insidious damage: The developing brain” published in JAMA Pediatrics, July 2015.  Besides this article there is an editorial  by Dr. Joan A. Luby  of the Washington University School of Medicine, who says “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all.” Dr Luby’s own research has also shown that the brains of children living in poverty can be damaged causing problems for the the rest of their lives.

What can be done to help these children? Should the government guarantee a minimum income to families with children to keep them above the poverty line? Should pressure be applied to the Republicans and other rightist politicians to drop their opposition to food stamps, free meals, and other programs designed to help the poor? Should these programs get more funding so that no child is left behind in poverty? 

It seems it is the job of the parents of the children in poverty to solve this problem (providing of course they didn’t grow up in poverty themselves and suffer some of the problems discussed in this article). Dr. Luby’s studies have shown that properly nurturing parents “can offset some of the negative effects” inflicted on the brains of poor children.

“Our research has shown,” Dr.Luby writes, “that the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus [part of the temporal lobe] are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses experienced by the children.”

This suggests that if  we teach nurturing skills to parents, especially poor parents,  then maybe the children will benefit.  This is something the fiscally responsible Republican Congress might be inclined to support. We really don’t have to make any radical social changes in the way the richest and greatest  country (or at least the 23rd such country) runs its social programs (or lack thereof) , we only have to encourage and teach better nurturing techniques to parents— this shouldn’t cost too much.

“In developmental science and medicine,” Dr. Luby wrote, “it is not often that the cause [poverty] and solution [better parenting] of a public health problem become so clearly elucidated. It is even less common that feasible and cost effective solutions [teach parents how to nurture] to such problems are discovered [maybe] and are within reach.” So cost effective that the 1% won’t even have to face a tax increase or the military a budget cut.

In closing we should consider what is happening to children all around the world. If the Numero Uno country has over 20% of its children facing permanent brain damage and life long mental disabilities as a result of childhood impoverishment  what is happening to the billions of children in the third world living in areas of armed conflict, as refugees, in countries with undeveloped and ruined economic conditions? How will future Greek children compete with their German counterparts
twenty years from now if the EU is still around?

One thing is certain. The current  dominant economic system in the world will not solve the problems of these children, and the problems of child poverty will not be cured by blaming them on poor parenting as the most loving and nurturing parents in the world cannot feed and nuture their children on words alone.