AS THE WORLD TURNS: News Weekly
Retiring baby-boomers threaten us with bankruptcy; Ban PCs until children reach nine?; Obama too friendly with tyrants; Taliban hang 7-year-old boy punish his family
, June 26, 2010
Retiring baby-boomers threaten us with bankruptcy
The end of the Second World War in May 1945 marked the start of the baby boom, which lasted until the mid-1960s. Now, 65 years later, the corresponding retirement revolution is about to shake up our society, economy and political institutions.
Why, for example, are governments everywhere running out of money, not just in Britain and Greece, but also in America, Germany, Japan and France? Why are taxes relentlessly rising in all advanced capitalist countries? And why is public spending being cut on schools, universities, science, defence, culture, environment and transport, while spending on health and pensions continues to rise?
The populist answer to these questions is that we are all about to pay for the greed of the bankers. But this is not true. According to IMF calculations, the credit crunch, bank bailouts and recession only account for 14 per cent of the expected increase in Britain's public debt burden. The remaining 86 per cent of the long-term fiscal pressure is caused by the growth of public spending on health, pensions and long-term care.
The credit crunch and recession did not create the present pressures on public borrowing and spending. They merely brought forward an age-related fiscal crisis that would have become inevitable, as by 2020 the majority of the baby-boomers will be retired.Extract from Anatole Kaletsky, "This is the age of war between generations", The Times (London), June 2, 2010.
;Ban PCs until children reach nine?
Dr Aric Sigman is demanding a ban on screen technology in education until children reach nine, to enable them to learn about the "real world" first.
He criticised a Government "nappy curriculum" requiring nurseries and childminders to teach children to turn on and operate televisions and computers before the age of two.
Dr Sigman, a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, said politicians who backed the curriculum were embarking on a "brave new virtual adventure" with children's brains.
"The young brain needs to be primed through real world 3D experiences that place plenty of cognitive demands on it," he said.
"Children need to hold, feel, rub, taste, see and move real things to educate their neurological and cognitive infrastructure with a basic understanding of the real world.
"While new technology may serve as a powerful tool, it must be introduced and used judiciously at much later ages - ideally at least age nine."Extract from Laura Clark, "PCs dull children's brains and should be banned until nine", Daily Mail (UK), June 12, 2010.
URL: www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1285981/TVs-PCs-dull-childrens-brains.html Obama too friendly with tyrants
Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain unpopular in the [Middle East], but his ardent support for democracy was heartening to Arabs living under stalled autocracies. Reform activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere felt empowered to press for greater freedoms during the Bush years. Unfortunately, Bush's strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama's retreat on this critical issue.
The methods through which Bush pursued his policies left much to be desired, but his persistent rhetoric and efforts produced results. From 2005 to 2006, 11 contested elections took place in the Middle East: in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and Mauritania.
Photos of jubilant Iraqi women proudly displaying the indelible ink on their fingers after voting were followed by images of Egyptian opposition voters using ladders to enter polling stations when regime officials tried to block the doorways.
Peaceful opposition groups proliferated in Egypt during the Bush years: Youth for Change, Artists for Change, Egypt's Independent Judges and, perhaps the most well-known, Kefaya. That Iraq has held two genuinely contested and fair multiparty elections, on schedule, indicates that democracy is indeed taking root again there after 60 years of the most oppressive dictatorial rule.
Why has Obama distanced himself from his predecessor's support for democracy promotion?
Despite his promises of change when speaking in Cairo last June, Obama has retreated to Cold War policies of favouring stability and even support for "friendly tyrants".
Democracy and human rights advocates in the Middle East listened with great anticipation to Obama's speech in Cairo. Today, Egyptians are not just disappointed but stunned by what appears to be outright promotion of autocracy in their country.Extract from Saad Eddin Ibrahim, "Obama is too friendly with tyrants", Washington Post, June 15, 2010.
&nbs;Taliban hang boy, 7, to punish his family
Del Awar, aged seven, was taken at sunset and found hanging in an orchard at sunrise the following day.
Bruises and scratches around the young boy's neck suggested his murder had been neither quick, nor easy, according to those who saw his slight body after it was cut down.
His death is widely believed to have been punishment for the stand taken by his family against the Taliban in their remote Helmand village.
Awar's father, Abdul Qudoos, was a poor man who could not send his children to school and did not have a feud with anyone, explained Maulawi Shamsullah Sahrai, a 50-year-old elder from the village. "Some in the village have said the Taliban killed him for being a spy, others have said they were trying to frighten people."
Heratiyan, like large swathes of rural southern Afghanistan, is under a Taliban control so complete it amounts to an alternative government to Hamid Karzai's Kabul regime.
For those accused of collaboration with the NATO-led forces or with Mr Karzai's weak government, Taliban control often means rapid summary execution.
Schools have been closed or burned for being un-Islamic; schoolgirls have had acid thrown in their faces, and women have been confined to home unless accompanied by a male relative.Extract from Ben Farmer, "Life under the Taliban: how a boy of seven was hanged to punish his family", The Telegraph (UK), June 12, 2010.