Issue 014

Whatever Happened To...

Whatever Happened To... Bird Flu?\rYou couldn't find a hotter health story in 2006 than bird flu–specifically, the H5N1 variety, which killed 60 percent of the people it infected and was predicted to kill between 5 million and 150 million more if a full-on outbreak were to occur. So why are we all still..\n

Whatever Happened To... Bird Flu?

You couldn't find a hotter health story in 2006 than bird flu–specifically, the H5N1 variety, which killed 60 percent of the people it infected and was predicted to kill between 5 million and 150 million more if a full-on outbreak were to occur. So why are we all still here? Mostly because the virus never mutated into a form that could transmit easily from birds to humans, and its spread in farmed birds has been largely contained through vaccination. Wild birds still contract and spread the disease, but outbreaks in 2008 were a fifth of what they were the year before, and the human death count last year was 59. The potential for a pandemic persists, but our lack of preparation has not, as yet, come home to roost.Photo Murdo Macleod / Polaris

\nWhatever Happened To... Killer Robots in Iraq?\n

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You Say You Want a Revolution?

\r\n"We are too poor to afford education. But until we have education, how will we ever not be poor?"\r\n\r\n- Headmaster in rural Nepal\r\n\r\nIt is such a simple solution to the issue of global poverty: Teach a child to read and you could vastly improve not only his or her life, but also the life of the family and..\r\n

"We are too poor to afford education. But until we have education, how will we ever not be poor?"- Headmaster in rural NepalIt is such a simple solution to the issue of global poverty: Teach a child to read and you could vastly improve not only his or her life, but also the life of the family and the wider community. Perhaps the simplicity in the solution is the reason it hasn't been seriously considered-such a complex problem as global poverty must call for a complex and expensive solution, right?This morning, more than 100 million children across the developing world woke up and did not put on a school uniform, did not walk to school, and did not sit at a desk and learn. An even bigger issue is that nearly 800 million people in the developing world are illiterate. That is one out of every eight human beings.Two-thirds of those who are illiterate are girls and women, which is a problem that pays itself forward in perpetuity. If you do the math, the risks here are staggering-if every one of those 500 million women has four children, then the world will have an additional 2 billion children growing up with an uneducated and illiterate mother. If we don't educate the girls and women, we won't educate the next generation. That will be the reality of the future, unless we take action now and turn global education into a mass movement.Why, when we have the means and the ability to lift a generation out of poverty through the lifelonggift of education, is so little being done? The United Nations sees educating girls as an extremely powerful tool in addressing global poverty, more powerful and effective than any other initiative implemented in the developing world. When a woman is educated, there's a spillover effect to the next generation and all subsequent generations. Better nutrition and overall health, lower infant mortality rates, higher income levels-all key metrics that determine the fate of a community-are dramatically improved. And even more marked is that this improvement is not simply a Band-Aid-it becomes a permanent repair of the deep wounds of generations who have lived in poverty.
Nearly 800 million people in the developing world are illiterate.
In just eight years, Room to Read, an NGO I helped found, has already had a positive effect on the livesof almost 2 million children in eight countries across Asia and Africa. We started with a donkey load of donated books and have since developed a widespread web of programs giving children opportunities to learn and read and finally have the awareness that they have choices-choices about how they want to live, what they want to do with their lives, and how they want to better their community. We view education as a hand up, not a handout, and we require active participation in building and running the schools and libraries funded by our organization. Our programs are extremely affordable-$250 will allow a girl to attend school for a year, and $25,000 will pay for construction of an entire school. I am not trying to give Room to Read a pat on the back, but attempting to illustrate how capable we are, in this generation of wealth creation, to attack global poverty directly, effectively, and cost-effectively.For millions of children in the poorest parts of the world, there are no schools, no libraries, no books, and no teachers. Every day we don't help is a day we don't get back. The clock is ticking. I believe, and I hope, that we can do better. If so, we will pick a generation up out of poverty. If not, our ancestors will look back and wonder whether we lacked foresight, or courage, or both.

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Who’s Learning What?

A look at how countries rank in math and science test scores.\r\r\r (Average score of a 15-year-old student on science and math literacy tests, out of a possible score of 1000.).\n

A look at how countries rank in math and science test scores.

(Average score of a 15-year-old student on science and math literacy tests, out of a possible score of 1000.)

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Rise of the Global Middle Class

America has had the biggest demand in the global economy for so long that we can't remember what it was like when that wasn't the case. But that's all about to change. I'll let you in on a little secret about globalization: It is demand that determines power, not supply. Consumption is king; everybody..

America has had the biggest demand in the global economy for so long that we can't remember what it was like when that wasn't the case. But that's all about to change.

I'll let you in on a little secret about globalization: It is demand that determines power, not supply. Consumption is king; everybody else serves at will. So it ain't about who's got the biggest military complex but who's got the biggest middle class. Everybody's got the dream. What matters is who can pay for it.For as long as we can remember, that's been America-the consumer around which the entire global economy revolved. What's it like to be the global demand center? The world revolves around your needs, your desires, and your ambitions. Your favorite stories become the world's most popular entertainment. Your fears become the dominant political issues. You are the E. F. Hutton of consumption: When you talk, everybody listens. That was the role the Boomers played for decades in America and-by extension-around the world through their unprecedented purchasing power. But that dominance is nearing an end.In coming decades, it won't belong to Americans, but to Asians. So say hello to your new master, corporate America: Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Chindia.The rise of the Asian middle class, a binary system centered in China and India, alters the very gravity of the global economy. The vast sucking sound you hear is not American jobs going overseas, but damn near every natural resource being drawn into Asia's yawning maw. Achieving middle-class status means shifting from needs to wants, so Asia's rise means that Asia's wants will determine our planet's future-perhaps its very survival. And as any environmentalist with a calculator knows, it isn't possible for China and India to replicate the West's consumption model, so however this plays out, the world must learn to live with their translation of the American dream.As for the new middle class's relative size, think bread truck, not breadbasket: Over the next couple of decades, the percent of the world's population that can be considered middle class, judging by purchasing power, will almost double, from just over a quarter of the population to more like half. The bulk of this increase will occur in China and India, where the percentage shifts will be similar. So if we round off China and India today as having 2.5 billion people, then their middle class will jump in numerical size from being roughly equivalent to the population of North America or the European Union to being their combined total.
The vast sucking sound you hear is not American jobs going overseas, but damn near every natural resource being drawn into Asia's yawning maw.
No, it won't be your father's middle class-not at first. Much of that Asian wave now crests at a household income level that most Americans would associate with the working poor, but it will grow into solid middle-class status over the coming years through urbanization and job migration from manufacturing to services. And for global companies that thrive on selling to the middle class, this is already where all the sales growth is occurring, and it's only going to get bigger. As far as global business is concerned, there is no sweeter spot than an emerging demand center, because we're talking about an entire generation in need of branding-more than 500 million teenagers looking to forge consumer identities.There are also essentially two unknowable wild cards associated with the rise of China's and India's middle classes: First, how can they achieve an acceptable standard of living without replicating the West's resource-wasteful version? And second, what would happen if that middle-class lifestyle was suddenly threatened or even reversed? The planet must have an answer to the first question, even as it hopes to avoid ever addressing the second. Here's where those two fears may converge: As their income rises, their diets change. Not just taking in more food, but far more resource-intensive food, like dairy and meat. Right now, China imports vast amounts of food and India is just barely self-sufficient in the all-important grains category. Both are likely to suffer losses in agricultural production in coming years and decades, thanks to global warming, just as internal demand balloons with that middle class. Meanwhile, roughly one-third of world's advanced-lifestyle afflictions-like diabetes or cancer-will be found in China and India by 2030. Toss in the fact that much of the population lives along the low-lying coasts, and our notional middle-class couple could eventually cast the deciding global votes on the issue of whether or not global warming is worth addressing aggressively.Whoever captures the middle-class flag in coming years will have to possess the soft power necessary to shape globalization's soul in this century, because humanity's very survival depends on our generation's ability to channel today's rising social anger into a lengthy period of social reform. This era's global capitalism must first be shamed (populism) and then tamed (progressivism), just as America's rapacious version was more than a century ago. Today's global financial crisis simply marks the opening bell in a worldwide fight that is destined to go many rounds.

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Unfree Market

In 2008, trafficking of the world's 27 million slaves made up the third-most-profitable criminal enterprise. Here's what the $40-billion industry looks like. The United States abolished slavery in 1865. Now, every country in the world has outlawed the practice. But you'd be mistaken to think that humankind..

In 2008, trafficking of the world's 27 million slaves made up the third-most-profitable criminal enterprise. Here's what the $40-billion industry looks like.

The United States abolished slavery in 1865. Now, every country in the world has outlawed the practice. But you'd be mistaken to think that humankind had left the "peculiar institution" in its past. Slavery endures. And not just in isolated incidents or far-flung corners of the globe. Today, it happens as ecumenically as it did in the Old Testament, which is to say often and everywhere.As many as 17,500 people are brought into the United States as slaves every year. Though the practice occurs in many cities and towns, Immokalee, Florida, has become a flash point for the battle against agricultural slavery. There, crew bosses from local farms trick migrant workers into picking tomatoes and other crops, then deprive them of a living wage. Beatings and death threats are normal.Around 300,000 children are enslaved in Haiti as restavecs, or household servants. Here, poor single mothers give up their children to middle-class families for the promise of a better life. Restavecs, who might start working 20-hour days at age 6, are discarded as soon as they get pregnant or become too physically imposing.Many slaves here work in the illegal gold-mining industry. Bosses lure unemployed men to distant sites in the jungle, and once they arrive, the money vanishes and the guns come out. The good news? The president of neighboring Brazil has new laws in place that set the standard for the region. In Brazil, 6,000 slaves are freed every year.Europe is a major destination for women sold into the sex trade. But other types of slavery exist here, as well. Africans, particularly Nigerians, are forced to work in the agriculture and service sectors. And large numbers of Chinese are brought in for various purposes, among them garment-industry jobs.Slave brokers troll the destitute villages of West Africa for children they can take to Yeji, a fishing area around Ghana's Lake Volta where atrocities are common. The slaves wake up before dawn and fish into the night. Overseers attach weights to the children's ankles to help them drop to the lakebed and untangle nets, a practice which often results in drowning.There are around 18 million slaves in Nepal, Pakistan, and India, more than anywhere else in the world. The worst offender is India, where slavery usually takes the form of hereditary debt bondage, a situation in which people are born into slavery after inheriting their parents' debt. They work in agriculture and produce goods like rugby and soccer balls for Western consumers. In the north, hundreds of thousands of child slaves weave carpets for the global market.Japan's booming sex industry makes it the biggest user of slave labor among rich nations. An estimated 50,000 women are shipped into the country each year, from Thailand, the Philippines, China, and other parts of Asia. Many enter the country legally on "entertainment visas" that government says it has been regulating more tightly.

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Arabian Mice

American film studios-including Warner Bros., Disney, and Fox-are making massive investments in the growing Arab movie market. But don't expect an influx of subtitled art-house fare from the Fertile Crescent. GOOD talked to Rachel Gandin, who is producing Disney's first Arabic-language film. GOOD: Can..

American film studios-including Warner Bros., Disney, and Fox-are making massive investments in the growing Arab movie market. But don't expect an influx of subtitled art-house fare from the Fertile Crescent. GOOD talked to Rachel Gandin, who is producing Disney's first Arabic-language film.

GOOD: Can you paint a picture of what's happening between Gulf countries and American film studios?RACHEL GANDIN: The United Arab Emirates, with its two massive emirates-Dubai and Abu Dhabi-have decided in the last three or four years that they want to be a center of media in the Arab world, along with being the center of everything else. American studios have long been looking into the deep pockets of the Gulf. This is their entry point.G: Why are these studios so keen to do it?RG: Outside of major cities, people don't have access to movie theaters. There are no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. There's this amazing void in the market. It's 300 million people who aren't watching movies.G: Would Arab cinema appeal to Western audiences?RG: Arab filmmakers aren't trying to get approval in the West; they're building films in their own countries because that's where people [care]. Will these movies ever cross over and be in America? The stuff that the [global] masses love isn't necessarily the stuff that Americans love. I don't think that should be the goal. I think the goal should be to get people to watch movies.G: Do you think the predominance of American cultural exports is going to be eclipsed in our lifetime?RG: I kind of wonder if this is a big "f-you" to globalization. Like, "Oh, your culture actually matters, so you're going to make consumer choices based on your cultural taste." But I don't think so. The people who [the studios] are trying to reach in the Arab world are people who aren't necessarily watching American movies right now. [The studios are] trying to reach beyond that. They're trying to find new audiences. American movies will continue to be the big crazy shows that they are, $200-million movies that are 3-D and all this stuff, and then the local-language films are the ones that will be more culturally relevant. But I don't think American movies are going to stop being relevant.G: Is anyone talking about the pluses or minuses of American companies investing in cinema forthe Arab world?RG: People say things like, "What, Disney in the Arab world? Don't you remember how [messed] up Aladdin was?" It's bad business to offend people. It doesn't benefit anyone if you are making local movies and you're upsetting the people who live there. But at the same time, I think filmmakers are excited. Disney is the master of getting stuff done, doing it so people like it, even if it's not good art. And they're hoping to employ enough local talent so the people who are making these movies are Arab. But this could be one of those nightmares where a movie is made for a couple million dollars and then nobody goes to see it because one person posts on a website that this a Zionist plot. I have no doubt that with every movie that is going to be made, that has to be considered. We'll see.

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