Weekly Wednesday’s What’s-happening-in-the-world: a round-up of nine news articles at noon 07/02/2018

News that really matters to humanity
Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Sick of news-article round-ups that start with some definitive and authoritative statement – like you ‘need to’ or ‘must’ know – only to feature celebrity stories or what are minor incidences in the grand scheme of things? These lists often reflect the bias in many news outlets towards the novel, tangible, famous and Western. Plane crashes – one of the lowest annual killers – will dominate news coverage over the ongoing epidemics of cancer and heart disease and the enormous number of preventable deaths that occur from them; terrorist attacks in western cities ring-out over much larger massacres in non-western countries or the daily carnage occurring in disadvantaged areas in the US.

So here is an alternative list of nine media articles that are chosen for their important societal implications (apologies for the articles missed):

  1. More on Cape Town’s one-in-384-year drought. Creeping closer to the day (10 weeks) when it turns off its water taps Cape Town is what the world will likely see more of as climate change’s encroachment into the present continues. This article looks at how the crisis can exacerbate conflicting relations and existing inequalities; it also demonstrates the degree of adaptability that people are capable of when shifting conditions and normative standards necessitate it. However, it is unlikely to be enough to avoid the shut-off.
  2. The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) saga continues as Capita appears to be collapsing like Carillion did in January. This article queries whether the policy of PFI itself is endangered and looks at the strength of some of the big PFI firms. It also looks over PFI’s past and highlights some of the reckless deal-making that has gone on under these initiatives. For example the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital where officials signed a deal in 2001 that was set to run until 2037 and net the winning bidders £1bn – nearly five times the £229m cost of building the hospital.
  3. Another cancer study – this time in Australia – which supports the link between health care systems, poverty, and increased chance of dying from cancer.  Unhealthy lifestyles of those who are economically-disadvantaged is one reason although this summary of the report does not address how the two are linked. Right-wingers will no doubt blame the poor but what about lower socio-economic environments, welfare policy, or possible effects of not having a ‘bright’ future to build towards. The study also shows that Australia’s indigenous population are much more vulnerable to the disease than the rest of the population. Interestingly the study identifies the large burden of indirect costs of cancer on the poor such as accommodation and parking costs of those traveling for treatment, income decline from leaving jobs to be carers, and those excessive costs not reimbursable through Medicare – e.g. radiology tests for diagnosis.
  4. There has been a massive escalation of the war in Syria. Hundreds have been killed in airstrikes in the first weeks of 2018. A besieged area east of Damascus has not received food since November and 400,000 are at risk from starvation. Approximately 300,000 Syrians have been displaced in the Northwestern region. There are also accusations of chlorine chemical weapons attack by government forces. Some of the escalation is due to a freeing up of government military resources that had previously been used to combat Isis and an intensification of Russian airstrikes in apparent retaliation for the shooting down of a Russian fighter plane.
  5. In a landmark case in Australia a New South Wales court is being asked to overturn a decision to extend the life of a coalmine on the grounds the state government failed to properly consider the impact on the climate under the 2007 NSW law.
  6. Despite a President who has called climate change a hoax and who has appointed a contrarian to head the EPA (the same contrarian has already dismantled much of EPA environmental regulations) the Pentagon warns that climate change threatens half of America’s military installations.
  7. A press release from UNICEF describes how, for the month of January, children have lost their lives (at least 83) as violence escalates in Iraq, Libya, the State of Palestine, Syria and Yemen. The children were killed in ongoing conflicts, suicide attacks, or frozen to death as they fled active warzones.
  8. And of course the value of shares have been on a wild ride, including a one day record drop. While many say this is merely just a correction there might be enough volatility ahead to remain cautious. (However, outside this article link the volatility of such speculative trading hints further at the seriously flawed nature of the dominant economic system).
  9. Monbiot describes how dehumanizing the workplace can be and how technology might be worsening that effect – for example Amazon’s patent for a wristband that can track the hand movements of workers. The article calls for greater rights in the face of this technological transition and for redefining who we are according to our volunteering practices rather than or salaried positions.

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