Sunday, October 04, 2015

Afghan Hospital Bombing: Its Meaning

Afghan Hospital Bombing: Its Meaning
Thomas Riggins

Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

This  headline and the following story  (New York Times 10/4/2015) underlines the vast criminal role of the U.S. government and its military throughout Afghanistan and the Middle East. I grew up chanting "Hey, Hey, LBJ How Many Kids Have You Killed Today" but no similar chant or mass movement has arisen to call out President Obama for his criminal international policies and war crimes including the murder of children. We can be sure that the nature of U.S. military and the role of the POTUS in maintaining the de facto imperial domination of the U.S. has not changed from the days of LBJ and the mass murder of children and other civilians will continue as long as our present political and economic system exists.

The U.S. is already spinning the bombing and mass killing of medical personnel and patients at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz. The U.S. military is going to "investigate" itself, it has already suggested that the Taliban was using the hospital, it also claims there was fighting nearby and an errant bomb was possible. Neither of these two claims appears to be true: they are just so much dust tossed into the eyes to obscure the facts. 

The U.N. and international community is rightly outraged since the U.S. was given the precise location of the hospital and its international protected status  was well known. This information was provided to prevent any attack. Since the attack was carried out with unrelenting accuracy over a thirty minute period one suspects the information was used to pin point the target. Mass terrorist tactics against civilians, adopted, it seems, by the U.S. from the example of the Israeli military's treatment of Palestinians, has of course, the exact opposite outcome than is planned -- it makes resistance to U.S. policy grow not decrease, yet it is the nature of the beast to be unreformable.

This wide spread policy of state sponsored terrorism is conducted by POTUS and his military either directly (Afghanistan, Iraq) or indirectly by supplying money and weapons to other criminal governments so that they can commit war crimes against others (Israel on the West Bank and Gaza, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in Yemen, Turkey against the Kurds, "covert' and open aid to jihadists and "moderates" in Syria prolonging a proxy war that would have ended long ago without U.S. meddling, NATO intervention in Libya-- the list goes on and on and back as far  at least as the Korean War.

I will stress, however, this not a personal failure on the part of President Obama, it is simply the institutionalized function of his office to carry out such actions as they are the logical outcome of the system of advanced monopoly capitalism we live under and which is fueled by the profitability of war and the domination of the 1% over the levers of government and the continued faith in our "democratic" government held by a brain washed public. Only by engaging in mass political struggles, such as the movement currently led by Bernie Sanders, can the left hope to educate and radicalize the American people and built a real movement for progressive political change.

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

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

 Some Science Reports of Interest to Progressives
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.

Tuesday, August 11, 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.” 

Thursday, July 23, 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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Decline of Earth's Plant Life Threatens Human Life As We Know It

"Decline of Earth's plant life threatens human life as we know it."
Thomas Riggins

A recent scientific study comparing the role of plants in the sustainability of life on Earth and the current rapid destruction of such life has convinced many scientists that human civilization and well-being will be placed in jeopardy. Rain forests and grass lands around the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate to make room for palm oil plantations, commercial crops of no intrinsic value (tobacco), and the practices of illegal logging for the furniture and lumber trades, and industrialized agriculture.

This  has led to a massive destruction of the total biomass of the planet  all of which is fueled by the immense profits available under capitalism for the private exploitation of natural resources at the expense of sustainable use and of preservation in the interests of environmental conservation for the common good of humanity. The drive for profits is led by major private and state owned capitalist enterprises which, in addition to using the political systems they encounter in many countries to get control of the resources they intend to plunder, also resort to bribery, corruption and other illegal operations in order to attain their ends.

  Dr. John Schramski, of the University of Georgia, has recently completed (as lead author) a study of the effects of the over exploitation of Earth’s plant biomass (Science Daily 7/15/15 “Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humans in jeopardy”). The rich and diverse animal and plant life of today is the result of several hundred million years of evolution that began when simple one celled organisms developed  which were able to chemically change the sunlight they received into useful energy which they could metabolize.

The fact that  plants can create their own “food” from sunlight allowed animals to evolve using plants as their source of food: indirectly feeding off of the sun. Dr. Schramski used the laws of thermodynamics (the physics of heat in relation to mechanical energy) to calculate the amount of chemical energy the plant world produces and the amount that humanity is at present consuming or destroying via the reduction of forests and other plant  environments.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” he said. “ The sun’s energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.”

In the last 2000 years human activity has reduced half of the battery charge (i.e., the biomass accumulated from living carbon over the last several million years). In just the last one hundred years about ten percent of that biomass was wiped out according to the article.  This destruction means the Earth has less and less energy  to keep the food webs and “biochemical balances” going upon which we all depend.

Dr. Schramski pointed out that, “As the planet becomes less hospitable and more people depend on fewer available energy options, their standard of living and very survival will become increasingly vulnerable to fluctions, such as droughts, disease epidemics and social unrest.”

If humans survive this accelerated loss of biomass Dr. Schramski, and his co-authors (James H. Brown and David Gattie) predict that our species will have to abandon our current civilization and return to hunting and gathering or simple gardening (i.e., a pre-neolithic life style), as populations will crash and large-scale industrial agriculture will be impossible. [Perhaps the world population, after the die off, will be about what it was in 10,000 B.C. or so (1 to 10 million people).]

Dr. Schramski says,” I’m not an ardent environmentalist; my training and my scientific work are rooted in thermodynamics. These laws are absolute and incontrovertible; we have a limited amount of biomass energy available on the planet, and once it’s exhausted, there is absolutely nothing to replace it.”

The scientists are hopeful that we can take the drastic measures needed to halt this downward spiral to the paleolithic or extinction. “I call myself a realistic optimist. I’ve gone through these numbers countless times looking for some kind of mitigating factor that suggests we’re wrong,” Dr. Schramski said,” but I haven’t found it.”

One glance at the US Congress should give us an idea where we are headed.