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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Today the New York Times wrote a story about maternal deaths in Uganda. These paragraphs jumped out at me:

“It also raises broader questions about the unintended impact of foreign aid on Africa’s struggling public health systems. As the United States and other donors have given African nations billions of dollars to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases, helping millions of people survive, most of the African governments have reduced their own share of domestic spending devoted to health, shifting to other priorities.

For every dollar of foreign aid given to the governments of developing nations for health, the governments decreased their own health spending by 43 cents to $1.14, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found in a 2010 study. According to the institute’s updated estimates, Uganda put 57 cents less of its own money toward health for each foreign aid dollar it collected.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Back in April, I was struck by a story that the Times did charging that the mandated use of biofuels was pushing up food prices and raising the specter of starvation. (The Times has been concerned about this issue for years.) The Times said, “During the second half of 2010, the price of corn rose steeply — 73 percent in the United States — an increase that the United Nations World Food Program attributed in part to the greater use of American corn for bioethanol.” The story’s “to be sure” paragraphs noted contributing factors:

“To be sure, many factors help drive up the price of food, including bad weather that ruins crop yields and high oil prices that make transportation costly. Last year, for example, unusually severe weather destroyed wheat harvests in Russia, Australia and China, and an infestation of the mealy bug reduced Thailand’s cassava output.

Olivier Dubois, a bioenergy expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said it was hard to quantify the extent to which the diversions for biofuels had driven up food prices.

‘The problem is complex, so it is hard to come up with sweeping statements like biofuels are good or bad,’ he said. ‘But what is certain is that biofuels are playing a role. Is it 20 or 30 or 40 percent? That depends on your modeling.'”

Ethanol supporters, unsurprisingly, agreed with the “to be sure” paragraphs and disagreed with the general thrust of the story. Their links to counterarguments are here.

Finally, today in the Wall Street Journal, I read a review of the book Zoot Suit by Kathy Peiss. Good reading for anyone who thinks “kids these days” are the only ones who have dressed provocatively. Of course, they did it a bit differently back in the ’40s, as the last sentence of the review by Eric Felten makes clear: “Ah, for the days when even juvenile delinquents wore suits.” You can read the whole review here.

The book review reminded me of a 1998 hit, “Zoot Suit Riot,” by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Here it is.

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9 Responses to “Things I’ve Read in Newspapers”

  1. Lara says:

    The situation in Africa is so complicated. Poor infrastructure, many land-locked countries surrounded by corrupt countries so trade with the rest of the world is compromised, bad roads, donations being hijacked, Chinese-funded Muslim extremists taking over, poor health, exploited cheap labor using outdated farming equipment…
    The leadership needs a complete overhaul.

  2. Susan Tiner says:

    I recently read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, a compelling novel set in Ethiopia. The complexities it reveals blew my mind.

  3. Mary says:

    Also a blatant disregard for women does not help 🙁

  4. Tricia says:

    That’s too depressing – all those millions encouraging governments to stop spending on their own healthcare programs. And whenever I read about mandated ag programs, I remember when I first went to Taiwan in the late 80’s, and the farmers were violently protesting against the US government for forcing Taiwan to buy US turkeys. Oh, the complex ramifications…

  5. If only we were still on the barter system; then we wouldn’t have these problems

  6. Jacqueline says:

    Ahhh! I love this song. It just makes me want to dance. I was so into the ska revival with Save Ferris, Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Stray Cats, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. I took swing lessons and would pinpoint that time as the start of my love affair with vintage fashion and the rockabilly look. I’m still heavily influenced by the style in my personal wardrobe.