make bottled water more fun.
I wonder if Japanese bloggers write about wacky American products?
As the current year comes to a close, it is time to cast our inner eye forward into the future. And who better to make predictions for next year than Major Thunder a cosmonaut with a unique perspective—from 23 million light years away, all our problems seem small and quite frankly invisible. He has agreed to look in his alien crystal ball and tell us what he sees.
Major Thunder’s 2010 Predictions:
-2010 should be the year that the 2012 hysteria is diffused by rational evaluations of previous end of the world fears. But it won’t be.
-Next year some celebrity you have never heard of, on a reality TV show you have never watched, will do something 35% of your friends and neighbors have done, and it will be a Huge Scandal that takes up 3 weeks of 24-hour news cycles.
-A plastic gizmo will be invented that automates a task you never do manually, but it will be the must-have technology of 2010 and you will preorder it from an online retailer for 50% more than your lazy friends will pay for the item when it finally hits store shelves and fails to live up to expectations.
-Repair costs to fix your commuter vehicle will feel like a personal punishment from divine forces, and you will be astounded by the expense, even though you paid twice that much last year and the year before that for repairs you failed to anticipate then as well. But you have to go to work, damn it, so you will pay it, even though the mechanic is a highway robber.
-Political pundits will be replaced on cable television with an iPhone app that responds to any question with a huge database of phrases culled from Zen, Taoist, and Confucius sayings. “So Dan, how do you think the latest scandal will affect the Senator in the next election?” “Show me the sound of one hand clapping, Chris.” “Are you telling me, Dan, that this stuff won’t stick to the Senator?” “When one can do nothing, Chris, what can one do?”
-Some pop star will keep coming down, coming down like a monkey. But it’s alright. Cos tonight, tonight, tonight, oh oh, gonna make it right tonight, tonight, oh oh.
-Your coworkers will be completely bored by your yearly recital of how huge your latest unexpected repair bill was for your commuter vehicle, which is always breaking. But you paid it, so at least you are at work to bore your coworkers.
-You will look back fondly on 2009 as the year a cosmonaut wished you Happy Holidays!
Nieman Watchdog: 'There hasn't been two seconds of intelligent discussion about living standards in Afghanistan': "The poverty in Afghanistan is almost beyond imagining. Thirty Afghans die from TB every day; life expectancy is 43 years; per capita income is $426; only 13% have access to sanitary drinking water; fewer than one in four are literate; access to electricity is among the lowest in the world. Conditions for women are brutal. If Obama plans to address these issues, he's pretty much keeping it secret, points out world poverty expert Jeffrey Sachs. But without addressing them, can stepped-up American military involvement succeed? Or is it bound to fail?"
It is probably a safe bet that a sizable majority of Americans have not been informed by the news media about the extent of the poverty in the country that the United States under President George W. Bush selected as its first overseas battleground in what used to be called “the war on terror.” For example:
Afghanistan is the fifth least developed country in the world – 174th out of 178 –according to a November 2007 United Nations “National Human Development Report (NHDR). The U.N. global human development index, which ranks countries on individual income, life expectancy and literacy rate, placed Afghanistan ahead of only the African nations of Burkina Faso, Mali, Sierra Leone and Niger. (The next such report will be published in March 2010.)
Afghanistan has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $426 as of 2008, according to the World Bank, the lowest in Asia and the fifth lowest in the world after Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Liberia. (The CIA World Factbook puts the Afghanistan figure higher at $800 for 2008, which would be the 11th worst in the world.) An estimated 60-80 percent of the country’s population live on less than $1 a day.
Afghanistan is the seventh most unequal country in the world, according to the ‘Gini coefficient,’ a measure of the gap separating a country’s richest and poorest citizens. The higher the country’s number on a scale of one to one-hundred, the more unequal the society. In the most recent ratings, the most unequal societies were Namibia 70.2, Equatorial Guinea 65, Lesotho 63.2, Sierra Leone 62.9, Angola 62, Central African Republic 61.3, and Afghanistan and Gabon 60.
Life expectancy for Afghan citizens is 43 years, compared to 59 years for low-income countries worldwide, according to the World Bank. The 2007 U.N. NHD Report noted that life expectancy in the country has declined from 44.5 years in 2003.
In a population estimated at 28.4 million, one-fourth of all Afghans “do not meet their minimum food requirements, with 24 percent of households characterized by poor food consumption,” according to the U.N. NHD Report. Almost half of Afghan children under five are underweight.
More than 30 Afghans die from tuberculosis each day, according to the U.N. global human development index.
Afghans’ access to electricity is among the lowest in the world, according to the World Bank, and only 13 percent of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and 12 percent to adequate sanitation.
Afghanistan “has one of the lowest adult literacy rates among developing countries,” according to the U.N. NHD Report. Between 2003 and 2005 (the last cited figures), the report said, literacy rates for adults over 15 actually fell from 28.7 percent to 23.5 percent.
Some 80 percent of Afghan women are illiterate, 54 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married, and 68 percent of girls ages 7-13 are not enrolled in school, according to the advocacy organization Womankind Worldwide. Only half of the schools have buildings. Enrollment rates for women in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels are almost half that of men. Violence and sexual abuse against women is widespread.
Some 15,000 Afghan women die each year from pregnancy-related causes, and the maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world. As bad as these figures are, the U.N. NHD Report cited Afghanistan’s “steady progress in improving its health services and reducing child and maternal mortality rates.” Mortality rates for children under five years old were down from 257 per 1,000 births in 2001 to a still-alarming 160 per 1,000 births in 2006, according to the World Bank. (The CIA World Factbook put the figure at 152 in 2008.)
Afghanistan’s agricultural production (not including the opium trade) fell by more than 30 percent in 2008, the World Bank reported. Agriculture makes up more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP, which grew overall by 2 to 3 percent in 2008-2009.
Afghanistan is the fifth most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watchdog organization.
It is against this backdrop of economic and social hardships that the United States is expanding the war. How much progress in fighting poverty and providing sustainable development can be made in a country that has been ravaged by wars for most of the last 30 years? One does not need to have lived in a war-torn country to conclude that the answer is, not much.