Between The Lines Of The Panama Papers

The people hardest hit by the kinds of shadowy financial transactions mapped out in the recently leaked Panama Papers may never even know it.

As revelations emerge from the enormous cache of documents about how the rich and powerful conceal and protect their wealth in offshore tax havens, some of the politicians named in them have scrambled to deny wrongdoing. Yet between the lines of the Panama Papers’ 11.5 million files are the untold others — the unnamed victims who suffer daily as a result of these diverted funds. They are citizens of developing nations who, thanks to the massive sums — estimates range from $213 billion to $1.1 trillion in a single year — that these countries lose annually to tax avoidance and evasion, are deprived of critical funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure and other fundamental needs, analysts say.

“Those governments just can’t collect enough tax, because their systems are so exposed to abuse from tax havens,” said Richard Murphy, a professor of practice in international political economy at City University London. “They can’t provide healthcare, they can’t provide education, they can’t provide investment in infrastructure,” he added. Ultimately, their citizens pay a hefty price…

Read the rest of the story here.

Wanted: Liquid Gold

Allison had never met the woman who rang her doorbell one wet, bone-chilling Saturday morning in October. But after Allison welcomed Liz Lipman-Stern into her cozy New York City apartment, the two mothers faced each other for only a few seconds before embracing.

“Thank you,” Lipman-Stern murmured, her voice heavy with gratitude.

Allison pulled away and strode to a waist-high deep freezer in a corner of her living room. She withdrew two clear gallon-size bags, each containing smaller frozen pouches of a creamy, pale yellow liquid — Allison’s breast milk. Lipman-Stern took them gingerly and knelt to pack them into two coolers she’d brought as she and Allison exchanged tales of diaper rash. When the milk was secure, Lipman-Stern headed back out into the rain.

Read the rest of the story, about the booming market for breast milk, here.

Long Before Zika, There Was Rubella

The early part of the 1960s was a particularly harrowing time for a woman to become pregnant. From 1962 to 1965, a virus of global pandemic proportions was wreaking havoc on fetuses, causing miscarriages and birth defects, and although work on a vaccine was underway, it would not become commercially available until 1969.

The virus was rubella, and the terror it caused in the United States has largely faded from public memory. But Louis Cooper and Stanley Plotkin — doctors who were on the front lines of the epidemic and who both worked to develop vaccines for the virus — have not forgotten. In interviews, they recounted the uncertainty, fear and agonizing choices pregnant women faced during those years. The scenario is one to which a spreading outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas is starting to bear eerie resemblance, in a sign that the U.S. may not be so removed as it thinks from the scourge of infectious disease.

Read the rest of the article here.

On The Trail Of Pope Francis, In New York City

(for International Business Times, Sept. 25, 2015)

NEW YORK–Joseph M. Samela Jr. came prepared Friday in hopes of seeing Pope Francis in New York City. In a small backpack he estimated weighed at least 30 pounds, he had packed 1.5 gallon of water, 3 pounds of almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, 2 pounds of baby carrots, several pounds of string cheese and cheddar, a first-aid kit, extra socks and underwear, a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. He also had a separate, dedicated bag for his folding camping chair and a wide-brimmed straw hat from K-Mart, its string fastened firmly under his chin.

Continue reading

Why I can’t celebrate Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize.

While there are many reasons to question the decision to award Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize, one particularly compelling argument is found here: “And while the West applauds Malala (as they should), I am afraid it might be for the wrong reasons, or with a wrong perspective. It feels like the West wants to gain an agenda that suits them or the policies they want.”

middle east revised

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this Friday to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai for their struggles against the suppression of children and for young people’s rights, including the right to education. That is great news, and it might almost mean Nobel Peace Prize makes sense again, after being awarded to Barack Obama in 2009 “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, and to European Union in 2012 “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Still, there is something that really troubles me. How come we (meaning the West) always recognize the “devils” of the East, the torments children like Malala had to and have to go through (in her case, with the Taliban), but always fail to recognize our own participation in creating those “devils”? How come we never…

View original post 687 more words

The Death of Argileh in Jordan?

Hookahs in a back room of a cafe in Amman. Credit: Elizabeth Whitman

Hookahs in a back room of a cafe in Amman. Credit: Elizabeth Whitman

Well, not quite. You can smoke as you please inside your own home. But if the Jordanian Ministry of Health and Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) press forward as promised and ban smoking in public spaces, the days of inhaling your double-apple hubbly-bubbly in coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants could be numbered.

Continue reading