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Category Archives: Socio-economic Collapse

Davison: Calgary needs critical budget cuts and smart project spending – Calgary Herald

Posted: November 23, 2019 at 11:55 am

Calgary city hall needs operational budget cuts and strategic spending, says Coun. Jeff Davison.Postmedia

Next week, city council will be adjusting the City of Calgarys operating and capital budgets.

These adjustments come at a critical time. Calgary leads Canada with the highest unemployment rate of a major city. The downtown vacancy rate remains high, and the collapse of office tower valuation has led to businesses outside the core picking up an unsustainable share of the corporate tax burden. An ineffective property tax system has small businesses throughout the city reeling and demanding a long-term solution.

Yet, Calgary continues to grow. Since I was elected in 2017, the population of our city has increased by 40,000 people and is projected to grow by another 94,000 by 2024. We are at the point where we require our civic leaders to make tough decisions.

I believe the solution is straightforward. We must reduce the cost of government by reducing our year-to-year operational costs, while at the same time investing in smart capital projects that drive revenue. Period.

So what does this mean?

Firstly, it means cutting down on the costs of operations: City council should continue making operational budget cuts and finding efficiencies in the way we run our city. After all, the citys operating budget is yearly over $3.5 billion, with half of that going towards wages.

In 2020, the majority of our unions are set to receive a 1.5 per cent wage increase, which translates to an operational budget increase of approximately $25 million. Given that we just reduced our city budget by $60 million in the summer of 2019, I believe this increase is restrictive in light of our current economic state. Advocating for a salary freeze at this time is the fair thing to do.

Secondly, it means being smart with our capital spends. To me, this means investing in projects that have significant socio-economic benefits for all Calgarians, projects like the event centre and the Green Line LRT project.

Some of you might find this to be a hypocritical conviction. I disagree. I believe these projects to be critical as Calgary grows and navigates the new and rapidly changing economy. Calgary has a population of nearly 1,300,000 people. It can no longer afford, nor is it responsible, to consider major projects in single silos. We must look at all projects in front of us holistically and evaluate each in terms of how it will benefit the entire city.

Take, for example, the event centre: this is the only project in the city right now that has both significant private funding behind it and a substantial revenue stream that will return the citys contribution.

Most importantly, the event centre is driving investment in a new district on lands that have not made the city a dime in decades. The entire culture and entertainment district will drive billions of dollars of private investment and, upon completion, billions worth of revenue right back into the city.

Simply put, it is prudent for council to consider capital projects like the culture and entertainment district that expand our tax base and not the tax rate.

Another project that is justified in a time like this is the Green Line LRT. I believe fundamentally that this project is essential, especially as we grow in population. Calgarys southeast and north-central regions are among our fastest-growing areas, and efficient public transportation is vital.

Realizing this project means making rational decisions and focusing on smart spends. A multibillion-dollar tunnel under downtown is neither realistic nor financially responsible. If the city could deliver an LRT from city hall to Seton in its first phase of the project, while providing an accelerated BRT project to the north, why would we not consider that option? Why wouldnt we split the line and deliver the best rider experience for the dollars we have. Wasnt that the vision?

As council navigates the challenges of the upcoming budget deliberations, my point remains the same. Based on the hand we have been dealt, reducing the cost of government and focusing on smart spending is the way forward.

Jeff Davison is the Calgary city councillor for Ward 5. He chairs the event centre assessment committee and is the vice-chair of the Green Line LRT committee.

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Why is there so much wrong in our society? – NationofChange

Posted: at 11:55 am

As old certainties crumble and systems crystallize, social divisions grow and extremes harden, a friend asks: Why is there so much wrong in our society? Its a good question. He was referring specifically to Britain where we both live, but, although the specific problems may vary, the question could be applied to any country, and by extension, to world society.

Politicians, lost in a fog of their own ambition and blinded by ideologies, argue and deceive; they have no answers to the pressing issues or my friends question and, addicted to the privilege, status and motorcades, are concerned only with gaining and retaining office. Corporations and undemocratic institutions exert increasing political power and sociological influence; religion, essential to some, is irrelevant to many, the church east and west groans under the weight of its inhibiting doctrine, fails to provide guidance and succor, and the people most of whom live under a blanket of economic insecurity feel increasingly anxious, angry and depressed.

We had been discussing the justice system and specifically prisons, retribution and the total absence of rehabilitation in the U.K. system, when my friend posed his rhetorical question. The areas of chaos and dysfunction are many and varied, from environmental carnage to armed conflict, slavery, economic injustice and homelessness. All, however, flow from the same polluted source, us mankind; motive, often short-term ideologically rooted, conditions and corrupts action and the construction of socio-economic forms.

Society is not an abstraction, it is a reflection of the consciousness of the people who live within it, the seed of what is wrong in our society lies within this consciousness, not simply in the forms and systems themselves. There will never be peace in the world, for example, until we ourselves are free of conflict: that we constitute society and that societal problems flow from us is clearly true, but, as with most things in life, the issue is more complex and nuanced.

Firstly, the relationship between the forces of society and the individual is a symbiotic one, and this is well known to those that most powerfully control the systems under which we all live; secondly, the vast majority of people have little or no influence over the mechanics of society. Depending on the nature of the society in which we live, we are all to a greater or lesser degree, structural victims, with little or no voice and even less influence something that in recent years in particular, millions have been marching to change. Billions of people throughout the world, the overwhelming majority, feel themselves to be subjects within a Giant Game of Aggrandizement and Profit played by governments and powerful organizations, including the media in its many strands.

These interconnected and interdependent groups, which are of course made up of men and women, design and shape the way society functions, and do all they can to manipulate how the masses think and act. The ideology of choice for those functioning within the corporate political sphere is founded on and promotes the dogma of greed and profit. Selfishness, ambition, competition, nationalism all are found within its tenets and are promoted as natural human tendencies that are beneficial for an individual and so should be developed. Such qualities they claim, bring success, usually understood as material comfort, career achievement or social position, and with success, the story goes, comes happiness. Within the Corrupt Construct happiness, which is rightly recognized as something that everyone longs for, has been replaced by pleasure, which is sought after day and night. Likewise, desire and the satiation of desire, itself an impossibility this too is well known by the architects has been substituted for love, which has been assimilated, commodified and neatly packaged.

The tendency towards greed and selfishness, hate and violence, no doubt exist within the human being, the negative lies within us all, so does the good. The Good is our inherent nature, hidden within the detritus of conditioning and fear. The negative, aggravated, rises, and, within the Corrupt Construct it is relentlessly prodded and stirred up. Desire is demanded, facilitating its bedmate fear, which manifests as anxiety/stress, to which an antidote is offered by the deeply concerned, eternally grateful, trillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies, recreational drugs/alcohol and the world of entertainment. Common sense, restraint and The Wisdom of The Wise is trivialized, discarded; conflict and suffering, within and without goes on. Discontent leading to the pursuit of pleasure is the aim, desire, agitated, the means.

The two most pervasive and effective tools employed to condition the minds of all are education and the media. Conditioning into competition and nationalism, pleasure and individualism not individuality, which is dangerous to the status quo and is therefore actively discouraged; conformity is insisted upon and forms a cornerstone of education and the stereotypes churned out by the media.

This is a transitional time, a time of collapse and expansion, of disintegration and rebuilding; underlying the present tensions and discord is the energy of change and the emergence of the new.

A battle is taking place, between those forces in the world that are wedded to the old ways, and a dynamic, global movement for social justice, environmental action, peace and freedom. Sapped of energy, the existing forms and modes of living are in a state of decay; propelled solely by the impetus of the past they persist in form only, hollow carcasses without vitality. Growing numbers of people around the world know this to be true, and while some react with fear and look for certainty behind a flag or ideology, the majority call for a fundamental shift, for justice and the inculcation of systems that allow unifying harmonious ways of living to evolve. As always, resistance is fierce, but change and the spirit of the time cannot be held at bay indefinitely.

FALL FUNDRAISER

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How corruption and neglect of the north threatens security in Ghana – GhanaWeb

Posted: at 11:55 am

General News of Friday, 22 November 2019

Source: The Africa Report

Farming

Ghana needs to fix corruption and poor governance, or risk being targeted by Islamic terror groups keen to exploit inequity.

Ballot box politics is becoming a heated area of contention across the African continent. Popular uprisings in the streets and on social media are being led by women and youth in Sudan, Togo, Algeria, and Ethiopia.

Yet, while citizens are determined to protect democratic governance gains of the past 20 years, incumbent presidents and political parties continue to block reforms to curb permissive constitutional arrangements and strengthen institutional checks and balances as a way of thwarting popular aspirations.

The state of corruption

Despite the growth of democracy and the establishment of several western structured anti-corruption institutions models, corruption continues to undermine governance processes and amounts annually to over $50 billion through illicit flows and $148 billion in corruption losses.

In 2018, the Global Corruption Barometer found more than one in four people on the continent paid bribes for public services. While there has been a failure to overcome this in the past, African governments must address corruption by bolstering anti-corruption institutions, reforming judiciaries, and addressing poor governance or they risk indirectly weakening their long-term national security agendas.

A model of democracy

The Republic of Ghana is often sighted as a genuine model for democracy across Africa. Many African states accredit Kwame Nkrumah as the father of Pan-Africanism and look to Ghana for moral guidance.

Over the past 30 years, Ghana has overcome political turbulence and economic collapse to become one of the most stable and economically prosperous countries in West Africa. Ghanas projected GDP growth rate is set at 7.5% and is the worlds fifth fastest-growing economy.

However, Ghana could see itself with other coastal countries become a hotspot for Islamic groups, if caution is not taken to clean up state corruption and its political system.

Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index (TICPI) ranks Ghana number 78/180, with corruption strongly affecting natural resource management, the judiciary system, and the police. IMANI, a Ghanaian think tank estimated a loss of $3 billion a year to mismanagement and corruption.

Ghana alone loses about GhC 13.5 billion ($2.3bn) through corruption, with many citizens having to pay bribes before accessing basic public services.

Them versus Us Most countries operate a system where political parties in power reward supporters with state resources and contracts; Ghana is no different.

While President Akufo-Addo is working hard to implement his election pledges, namely, a factory in every district, a dam in every village, and subsidized high school education, there has been little progress in bridging the regional divide and sufficiently address corruption.

Regional disparities in Ghanaian development have grown deeper, which is nothing new for West Africa coastal countries. During colonial periods, the most developed areas of Ghana were historically the coastal areas, where merchant traders would sell goods.

Where rural development and urbanization have contributed to poverty reduction in the south, the same trends are not observed in the north.

Poverty rates have stagnated in the upper northern regions, specifically the Upper West. The absolute number of those in poverty has increased, with poverty rates remaining over 50%.

The Upper West has seen a substantial increase from 48% in 2005/2006 to 70.7% in 2016/2017.

This suggests that upper northern regions have not benefited as their southern counterparts.

Divergent paths The Republic of Ghana and the Republic of Korea maintained a similar per capita income with Ghana standing at $490 and South Korea at $491 during the time of Ghanas independence. However, the countries economies diverged on their path to democratisation. South Koreas economic growth was able to accelerate under the authoritarian regime of Park Chung Hee from 1961 and with support from the United States.

From 1975, South Korea received roughly 90% of its foreign aid from the USA and Japan with the majority of aid taking the form of grants, which contributed to lasting implications on its capacity for growth. However, what followed was embedded corruption within political institutions and co-dependency between the government and conglomerates, which South Korea continues to tackle.

Weak separation between public institutions and the private sector, which took the form of informal cooperation between the state and conglomerates in South Korea, is a systemic issue that is common in countries undergoing rapid political and economic transition. Despite this, South Korea has been on a path to reform the state, a process from which Ghana can learn. Ghana still has an opportunity to strengthen its political institutions and create a system more resilient to illicit and corrupt practices.

Early warnings The institutionalised underdevelopment of Ghanas north is an unchecked security threat that, if left unaddressed, has the potential to evolve into an active recruitment drive, posing long-term security threat for all Ghanaians.

Corruption has the potential to further diminish and damage northern regions of Ghana, alienating an already deprived segment of the population. The surge in violent extremism confronting nearby countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger has the potential to spread to Ghanas northern regions. Recruitment for extremist groups is typically drawn from economically disparate segments of the population and marginalised groups/minorities.

High unemployment, religious violence/tensions, and exigent socio-economic conditions create a void where disempowered segments of the population may seek support from sources beyond the state.

Continued disparity in development and living conditions can create opportunities for segments of the population to be recruited and radicalised by violent extremist groups such as JNIM, an Al-Qaeda coalition, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) who operate in neighbouring countries.

A shadow on the horizon Ghana has a window of opportunity to set things right or risk igniting northern parts of the country to follow similar trends that occurred in northern Nigeria which later paved the wave for Boko Haram. The states systematic corruption and economic growth can create greater regional divides that make it easy for terrorist groups to exploit ethnic and religious differences as well as the unequal wealth distribution as a mechanism for recruitment.

Ghana has the capacity to prevent this security threat from manifesting and maturing into violence. While recent efforts to reform Ghanas banking sector are a step in the right direction, there is still more to be done. There are several methods that may be effective in mitigating this threat such as:

-rectifying a historic imbalance in development;

-implementing systemic reform to address corruption, eliminate cronyism and influence peddling;

-allowing inclusive representation in government;

-eliminating incentivized politics.

With the impending 2020 elections, there is an opportunity for Ghanaians to truly bring corruption to the centre of the national dialogue and drive the countrys progress forward.

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Benefits and Pitfalls of Data-Based Military Decisionmaking – smallwarsjournal

Posted: at 11:55 am

Benefits and Pitfalls of Data-Based Military Decisionmaking

Scott S. Haraburda

Sound and effective decisions, supported by reliable data, usually determines military operational success. Recent rapid advances in electronic instrumentation, equipment sensors, digital storage, and communication systems have generated large amounts of data. This deluge of digitized information provides military leaders innumerable data mining opportunities to extract hidden patterns in a wide diversity of situations.[1] From complex information contained in this varying data, visualization tools and other data science methods aid leaders, especially commanders and their staffs, in asking questions, developing solutions, and making decisions.

Recently, senior Army leaders demanded visualized access to massive amounts of data to enhance their decisionmaking, which quickly morphed into an ambition project called Army Leader Dashboard.[2] Nearly a thousand unique data sources from its initial efforts such as training databases, equipment inventories, and personnel records emerged. This proliferation of data appeared limitless and provided a staggering potential to enhance decisionmaking with valuable real-time information that crossed multiple functions throughout military organizations such as logistics, risks, and personnel. Notwithstanding, this soon revealed its data existed in silos, which were difficult to obtain and may not be reliable.

Perhaps, the inherent value behind data-driven decisions motivated Chinas and Russias aggressive pursuit of seeking innovative ways to analyze data as evidenced in their significant investments in artificial intelligence (AI) for military purposes.[3] In response, the Department of Defense (DoD) created a strategy to incorporate AI into its own military decisionmaking processes. Besides developing a network of things, such as combat gear embedded with biometrics to help warfighters perform better, this strategy included updated organizational approaches, data standards, talent management, and operational processes. The ultimate goal was improvement of situational awareness and decisionmaking. Making this likewise a national endeavor, President Trump signed an executive order in early 2019 identifying AI as a priority for the United States (U.S.).[4]

Supporting this priority, the Army has established the Army AI Task Force within Army Futures Command with qualified professionals based at Carnegie Mellon University.[5] This task force will experiment, train, deploy, and test machine learning capabilities and workflows, all designed to improve readiness through data-driven military decisionmaking. The Army anticipates significant benefits arising from the extensive amount of resources the military will invest in data science tools. Yet, they might foolishly promote them as magical crystal balls capable of obtaining near-perfect intelligence. The real concern, though, is that military leaders may not comprehend significant risks associated with blindly using such tools.

Data-Based Decisions

Military operations involve multifaceted threats, many with differing agendas, reactive capabilities, and adaptive competencies in a non-static environment.[6] Further, uncertainty permeates operational plans, making it important that military leaders make timely and effective decisions based upon available information. To simplify analyses, leaders organize their data into political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment, and time operational variables. They also develop plans based upon mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations (METT-TC). Again adding to the complexity of military decisions, their plans address the nine traditional principles of war (objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, surprise, and simplicity) and three additional principles (restraint, perseverance and legitimacy).[7] Often neglected from these simple groups are socio-cultural intelligence aspects of the threats culture of beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors, all which impact military decisionmaking. Socio-economic issues, such as climate change, water / food shortages, and urbanization, also plague decisionmakers, especially when dealing with failed states and criminal syndicates.[8] Essentially, military decisions involve hundreds, if not thousands or even millions, of competing areas. The real challenge, then, is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.[9]

To formally plan and solve problems, military leaders use the military decisionmaking process, a seven-step process to understand situations, develop options, and reach decisions.[10] This process helps them think critically with available data, time, and resources. Its systematic attention to detail, which includes war gaming, sand tables, and computer simulations, is important since all planning is based upon imperfect knowledge and assumptions.[11] Improving mission success, military plans include outcome criteria such as measures of effectiveness and measures of performance. Since these plans involve people who often thwart order and efficiency, they should be both comprehensive and adaptable.[12]

Because of time constraints or inadequate personal technical skills, military leaders rely heavily upon their analysts to transform data into potential solutions to meet mission intent. Some analysts, though, are highly trained data science professionals capable of using sophisticated models in producing bewildering solutions to perplexing models. These models appear to be more mathematically elegant and impressive than effective simple solutions to actual problems.[13] However, since most leaders lack access to data scientists or other capable analysts, they require tools that are simple to use and provide credible results that can be trusted. No matter how compelling the analyses, though, recommended solutions are widely laden with judgmental biases, mental misperceptions and other dangerous risks.[14] Addressing these military risks, they use risk management (RM) tools by applying similar industrial tools used for safety risks, the significant difference being that military risks focus upon intended threats while safety risks focus upon unintended hazards.

Without the need for computational data assessments, the Army five-step RM process (identify hazards, assess hazards, develop controls / make risk decisions, implement controls, and supervise / evaluate) uses METT-TC and the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield to identify hazards. It also applies four categorical risk levels (extremely high, high, medium, low) to assess hazards.[15] This qualitative process further uses nine subjective assessments for severity (catastrophic, critical, moderate, negligible) and probability (frequent, likely, occasional, seldom, and unlikely), making it useful without needing sophisticated data science capabilities. This process is simpler than the DoD eight-stage RM process, which is similar but contains several additional documentation steps.[16] However, delaying a decision to obtain more information to make a better decision may actually increase risk, especially time-sensitive situations.[17] Hence, spending too much time on RM becomes counter-productive.

Of extreme benefit, analysts exploit tools to unlock secrets hidden in that information, available today measured and stored in digital bits. As a sophisticated integration of talent, tools, and techniques, data science is really an art of transforming data into actionable information needed for decisions.[18] To obtain data and report information, this science capitalizes upon data cleaning, data monitoring, reporting, and visualization processes.

Data scientists first conduct exploratory analyses to search data for trends, correlations, and relationships between measurements. Then, they use description analytics to understand operational aspects of the data, such as data summarization with basic statistics of mean and standard deviations to calculate a units combat power. Using complex mathematical techniques together with machine learning and probability theory, they conduct predictive analytics to uncover relationships between data inputs and outcomes. Applying more complex techniques made up of modeling and simulation efforts, data scientists use prescriptive analytics to determine probabilities of potential outcomes based upon deliberate changes to inputs.[19] Despite sophisticated quantitative analyses using these different techniques, blindly trusting them without fully understanding its context, biases, and assumptions, can lead to perilous decisions.

If available, qualitative techniques, such as decision theory and war gaming, further improves data understanding. To reduce technical barriers and make it easier to provide data-relevant information for its users in geographically dispersed locations, computational support systems (data warehouses, data mining, virtual teams, knowledge management, and optimization software systems) augments these qualitative techniques.[20]

Benefits

The complex nature of our volatile modern world, with extreme quantities of data, burdens capabilities of traditional methods for military decisionmaking. As advancements in information technology (IT) increase, new opportunities emerge for data analytics. Historically, military leaders have relied upon simple data analysis, such as the number of enemy killed and the ratio of friendly to enemy troops, to make decisions. Today, they have access to instantaneous data not previously imagined, such as satellite-based tracking of troop locations and logistics pipeline statuses, all queried and analyzed by armies of analysts.[21]

Previously, data collection and analyses were expensive, requiring paper-based reports. With tremendous advancements in IT, including advancements in sensor and satellite technologies, military leaders began to obtain real-time access to data remotely on almost any topic.[22] This provided better opportunities in obtaining clearer pictures of situations that were swiftly adjusted to updated circumstances and uniquely tailored to specific missions. Advances in industrial data analytics likewise impacted military operations. For instance, in the mid-1990s, General Electric implemented a continuous improvement process, Six Sigma, as its primary management tool. Using updated IT networks with advanced number-crunching tools, this international company identified significant improvements that generated billions of dollars of shareholder value. Soon thereafter with desires to accomplish the same for its constrained resources, the DoD mandated Lean Six Sigma process throughout the military, impacting its decisionmaking capabilities for all of its activities.[23]

Case in point, environmental factors have a dramatic impact upon military actions, making it very important to possess accurate weather forecasts. Satellites, ground-based sensors, and weather spotters generate millions of environmental observations daily, running into petabytes (million gigabytes) of data each day. This includes continual measurements of atmospheric pressure, wind speed/direction, temperature, dew point, relative humidity, liquid precipitation, freezing precipitation, cloud height/coverage, visibility, present weather, runway visual range, lightning detection, weather radars, soil moisture, river flow, coronal mass ejections, sea surface winds, electron density, cloud visible and infrared, and geomagnetic fluctuations, as well as other parameters.[24] Though this may appear to create information overload, advanced analytical software and state-of-the-art computer systems have reduced weather analyses from several hours via hand to seconds via computer, providing decisionmakers near-real time information when and wherever needed. Data analytics enhance this capability by using more data points instantaneously to transform asymmetries of data into useful information.[25] Overcoming human limitations and biases, data analytics allow military leaders to make quicker decisions with more valid, dependable, and transparent information. Thus, data analytics provide valuable input into military decisions.[26]

Pitfalls

Although quantitative measures provide useful information, analysts often fail to select the vital metrics from the trivial many. Also, they may not even fully understand the metrics they selected. Measuring the percentage of large steel balls provides a striking analogy of this common problem. Given a quantity of one hundred steel balls, either large or small, three different analysts assessing the exact same set of balls can provide widely different values, ranging from 1 percent to 99 percent, which can drastically influence decisions. Concerned with quantity, 1 percent are large balls (one out of one hundred), which is an obvious and straightforward calculation. Still, there are numerous other methods to calculate percentages. For surface area, 50 percent are large balls (610 square inches cumulative for each). And for weight, 99 percent are large balls (405 pounds out of a total of 409 pounds). Even though percentages appear to be unitless, they assuredly have units such as by quantity, by surface area, and by weight in this analogy.

Even with fully defined metrics, the presentation of the data could mislead. Another analogy to illustrate this concern was calculation of baseball batting average (BA), which was a common metric to quantify batting performance. It was a simple analysis with BA defined as the fraction of hits within the number of times at bat (AB). In 2007, Boston Red Soxs Jacoby Ellsbury displayed a BA of 0.353 (41 hits within 116 AB), compared to his teammate Mike Lowell who displayed a lower BA of 0.324 (191 hits within 589 AB). The following year, Ellsbury displayed a BA of 0.280 (155 hits within 554 AB) with Lowell displaying another lower BA of 0.274 (115 hits within 419 AB).[27] Despite Ellsbury having the higher BA each year and appearing counter-intuitive from the yearly analysis, Lowell was the better batter overall for that same two-year period. This is an example of the Reversal Paradox in which subsets of the data system can provide misleading information. In this baseball analogy, Ellsburys collective BA for both years was 0.293 (196 hits within 670 AB), while Lowell exhibited a higher BA at 0.304 (306 hits within 1008 BA).

People tend to seek information that supports what they already believe, and discount those that contradict their beliefs.[28] These are cognitive biases, such as groupthink and misconceptions, which often cause people to make judgment errors.[29] This impacts the approach in which military leaders receive information, whether it is the verbiage selected or the spatial, temporal, or categorical presentation manner. Aversion to risk is an example of cognitive bias, which might explain why a well-trained officer and veteran of the Mexican War, General George McClellan, with a larger and better equipped army was more concerned with avoiding failure than he was in winning battles during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign.[30] Another dangerous bias is jumping to an initial estimate and refusing to update it after receipt of contrary information. The Wehrmacht failed to update this for several years during World War II following a British deception plan that pretended a false division of twenty thousand troops garrisoned on the island of Cyprus, even in spite of their own contradictory analyses.[31]

Many people tend to refuse data with an inflexible certainty of belief, often invoking logical fallacies through arguments that contain chunks of accurate information taken out of context.[32] Others may be scientific illiterate and cherry-pick data that supports their beliefs, ofttimes citing peer-reviewed articles as credible evidence proving their position. Serving as knowledgeable experts, some perform a relentless paralysis of analysis with rigorous time-consuming studies to discourage dissenting opinions.

To fully understand the situation, military leaders had to maintain a good grasp of the analyses used, else they could become prone to making poor decisions as happened in 2013 when the International Security Assistance Force reported insurgent attacks had declined by 7 percent from using inaccurate information.[33] This inaccuracy stemmed from incorrect coding, which included data reporting bias, giving a false sense of reliability that led to unwarranted decisions. The following five historical military operations illuminated other dangers of making military decisions based solely upon quantifiable data.

Battle of Teutoburg

September of the year 9 CE in the Teutoburg Forest, German barbarians slaughtered three Roman legions. The deaths of its eighteen thousand legionaries were a result of the commanders fatal decisions.[34] This catastrophic defeat stopped the expansion of the Roman Empire. Three years prior, Publis Quinctilius Varus became Governor of Germany where he failed to understand its German people and its lands. During his governorship, Varus attempted to Romanize them, and neglected to implement adequate force protection security measures.

Figure 1. Germanic Warriors Storm the Field in the Varusschlacht (or Battle of Teutoburg Forest) in September 9 C.E. by Otto Albert Koch (1909)

By exploiting his ties to Rome and his knowledge of the Roman army, Arminius, a Cherusci chieftain and Roman auxiliary officer, capitalized upon Varuss failures. He led a group of barbarians, inferior in discipline, weapons, and armor against the strongest military in the world. To accomplish this amazing feat, he aligned his tribe with three others, the Angrivarii, Bructeri, and Chatti, through their common subversive interests against their Roman subjugator. Despite evidence to the contrary when Segastes, a pro-Roman German, informed him of Arminiuss traitorous plans, Varus chose to disregard this vital information.

Instead, Varus viewed Arminius as a loyal servant of Rome who had received the rank of knight and Roman citizenship for his valor on the battlefield.[35] As his trusted advisor, Arminius convinced Varus to march his troops into hostile territory, a route that contained primitive trails that meandered through harsh terrain. This detour forced the march to become perilously extended, eventually growing to nearly eight miles long and highly vulnerable to attacks. After several days, the Roman legionaries entered a narrow passage between a hill and a huge swamp where the barbarians quickly attacked from behind trees and sand-mound barriers. Sensing no possibility for escape, Varus fell on his sword rather than face imminent torture as a prisoner. Most of his other commanders also committed suicide and abandoned their troops, who soon found themselves without leaders in the bloody ambush. Within a few hours, the ambushing barbarians destroyed more than ten percent of Romes invincible army, resulting in their hasty abandonment of its bases throughout Germany, clearly making this a strategic disaster.

Battle of Wabash River

Late into the eighteenth century, territorial settlers encroached upon Native American-occupied lands in the post-colonial Northwest Territory.[36] Infuriating them, they destroyed the natives ancestral lands by chopping down trees and planting crops. In the fall of 1791 with fourteen hundred Soldiers from what remained of the disbanded Continental Army, Major General Arthur St. Clair, as Governor over those lands, launched a punitive expedition against the natives. On November 3, about one hundred miles directly north of now Cincinnati, his expedition reached the banks of the Wabash River, where they discovered indications of hostile natives nearby. Despite this dangerous data, St. Clair decided against implementing increased protective measures. The following morning with one thousand native warriors, Little Turtle attacked the similar-sized U.S. troops, many of whom quickly fled. Comprehending that artillery fire was their greatest threat, the natives prioritized their attacks against artillerymen. Once they neutralized the artillery threat, they attacked from all sides, giving U.S. Soldiers no effective way to overcome the relentless assault.

Figure 2. View of Major General St. Clair's Main Encampment by the Wabash River on November 4, 1791. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Military History Institute (2011)

Contributing to this slaughter were insufficient and shabby supplies, along with undependable officers who quarreled publicly and refused to communicate vital information.[37] Receiving meager intelligence, St. Clair did not even know the name of the river where the massacre of his troops occurred. In the end, Little Turtles shrewd leadership, native warrior competencies, and their resolve overcame the competence and courage of U.S. Soldiers. Still, as he underestimated his enemy, St. Clair made fatal decisions by not requiring increased security measures, not acting upon intelligence received, and not considering the actual capabilities of his own troops. As a result, the U.S. suffered a great loss of 657 dead and 271 wounded, losing nearly the entire unit. This which was a devastating defeat that resulted in more than double the losses that Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer suffered along the Little Bighorn River almost a century later.[38]

Operation Market Garden

After nine days in September 1944, Operation Market Garden entered the history books as a colossal failure and delayed the end of the European Theater of World War II by months. Before the assault, Operation Overlord was complete, producing exhausted troops and depleted supplies, its transportation system unable to supply their future logistical demand.[39] On September 17, thousands of paratroopers landed behind enemy lines in the Netherlands to secure the Eindhoven-Arnhem corridor, making the intentions of Allies very clear. Although initially surprised from the airborne assault, German troops quickly regrouped, making it clear to the Allies on the ground that they were fighting highly motivated troops instead of disorganized ones assumed in the operational plans. Intelligence reports at the time had predicted the impending collapse of the Wehrmacht, but failed to predict their ability to quickly respond to military attacks.

Figure 3. Photograph of Parachutes Opening Overhead as Waves of Paratroops Land in the Netherlands during Operations by 1st Allied Airborne Army in September 1944. Photo Credit: National Archives (September 1944)

The operation had two main objectives, to cross the Rhine and to neutralize the Ruhr Valley industries, along with securing a corridor for Allied ground attacks into Germany.[40] While planning for the operation, military leaders dismissed several warnings that their assumptions might be incorrect such as the Wehrmachts ability to resist an assault. Although the U.S. 82nd and the 101st Airborne divisions parachuted into their objectives successfully, the British 1st Airborne division jumped into a heavily fortified area, in the midst of two panzer divisions that were missing from the operational planning assumptions. Even though military leaders understood the intent of the operation, they had no method to measure success or failure during execution. Additionally, these plans identified no mission accomplishment indicators, and the tactical communication equipment operated poorly, making it extraordinarily difficult to communicate situational updates. For instance, many of the resupplies on the third day dropped into German hands without the logistics train knowing that the Allies did not control the area. After nine days and nearly twelve thousand casualties, the Allies withdrew.[41]

Vietnam War

From 1961 through 1968, Kennedys and Johnsons escalation years during the Vietnam War, the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) implemented a nearly data-only decisionmaking process to manage military operations.[42] During World War II, Robert McNamara had served as an Army Air Forces lieutenant colonel where he exploited the rigor of statistical analysis to calculate efficiencies and effectiveness of its bombers. Following the war, he worked for Ford Motor Company, rising through the ranks to become its president in 1960, and then appointed SecDef a few months later.

Focused upon statistics to deduce truth from data, McNamara obsessed with narrow quantitative measures and neglected human interactions.[43] Throughout his career, he sought optimal methods to allocate resources in pursuit of mission objectives, a key objective for many data scientists and analysts today. Regrettably, his analysts found it difficult to quantify much of the Vietnam War data, such as motivation, hope, resentment, and other human emotions. Also, they could not verify available data for many of its analyses, much of it plagued with human biases. For example, many South Vietnamese military officers reported what they thought their U.S. counterparts wanted to hear, such as high body counts, instead of what had actually happened.

Figure 4. Photograph of Veterans for Peace at the March on the Pentagon on October 21, 1967. Photo Credit: Frank Wolfe, White House photographer.

The number of enemy killed, reported as body count, was McNamaras measure to assess military progress. This was published daily in newspapers as public proof that U.S. Soldiers were winning the war. Mistrusting his experienced military officers while relying upon his civilian analysts, the Whiz Kids from RAND corporation, a non-profit think tank, he felt he could comprehend what was happening in the field by staring at a bunch of numbers on spreadsheets and run the military like a civilian company.[44] Those analyses misled McNamara, who was infatuated with numerical data and its potential power to influence decisions. As the world discovered in the late 1960s, numbers alone were insufficient to gauge battlefield successes, especially when they were biased, misanalyzed, and misleading.

Fall of Mosul

In June 2014, fewer than one thousand Islamic State (IS) insurgents forced nearly sixty thousand Iraqi Army soldiers and federal police officers to flee Mosul, compelling roughly five hundred thousand civilians to abandon the city.[45] Before falling to IS, this city was a well-known commercial hub, straddling the Tigris River with upwards of two million residents.[46] The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), with embedded U.S. military troops, had an effective unity of command with respected competent officers occupying key command billets. That was until 2011 with the U.S. military withdrawal from Mosul, along with the rest of Iraq, while they ignored dire warnings that it could cause the resurgence of IS insurgents.[47]

Figure 5. Dispersed Attack on the City of Mosul from June 6-10, 2014. Map obtained from U.S. Army TRADOC G-2 Unclassified Threat Tactics Report: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (February 2016).

From 2011 until 2014, ISFs unity of command vanished, especially with the constant shuffling of commanders. This included four new commanders within two months of the attack, for the 2nd Iraqi Army Division, one of two divisions defending Mosul.[48] The selection board even removed one of its division commanders for failure to pay them a bribe. A key indication of the deteriorating situation in early 2014 was the number of monthly security incidents, which averaged around thirty per month prior to the U.S. military withdrawal and grew to more than three hundred each month. Command and control during the attack was even more disastrous, as ISF replaced the division commander twice during the week-long attack, providing virtually no command leadership over the frightened troops trying to defend Mosul.

Other difficulties that plagued ISF were officers who falsified personnel records by accounting for ghost soldiers, those who paid them half their salaries in return for not reporting for duty. So, quantities of Iraqi soldiers available to defend the city were deeply exaggerated.[49] Even public information forewarning of the attack was either unnoticed or ignored. By 2014, the IS propaganda radically shifted from rival squabbles to topics addressing a global audience. This included the initiation of Islamic news reports in English and minute-long mujatweet human interest stories in German.[50] Perhaps to alarm or threaten the residents of Mosul, IS issued the Clanging of the Swords, Part Four video a few weeks before they launched their attack. This video featured extreme footage of drive-by shootings, combat operations, explosions, and the fall of entire cities, which added to the escalating quantity of disastrous data ignored by ISF leaders.

Recommendations

These five historical military examples demonstrated that traditional quantitative metrics alone could lead to fatal decisions. In Teutoburg, the Roman military was the strongest in the world with superior discipline, weapons, and armor. Yet, the cunning and determination of a weaker force overwhelmed that dominance. On the banks of the Wabash River, untested assumptions and deliberate ignorance of critical data doomed a U.S. military commander facing an enemy with much better competencies and discipline.

During the largest airborne operation of World War II, the Allies soon discovered their failure to understand assumptions in their plans and to develop realistic contingencies doomed their attack. The Vietnam War confirmed that fighting a war with industrial-proven management techniques, such as statistical analysis, while ignoring human data from subject matter experts, could pummel military decisions into a strategic calamity. Finally, the undisciplined and unethical culture of troops protecting Mosul negated their overwhelming sixty to one numerical advantage and defied the three to one defense heuristic guideline, or rule of thumb, predicting their success.[51]

Before the onset of data analytics to uncover information, military leaders used heuristic guidelines to reduce complexity and to fill knowledge gaps, often based upon historical outcomes.[52] Additionally compounding decisionmaking today is the abundant quantity of data that masquerades as illusions of valuable information while more pertinent data remains misplaced and obscured.[53] Indeed, leaders should treat pertinent data that is both high-quality and reliable as strategic assets and force multipliers. Moreover, they should become open-minded and adopt adaptive leadership practices and methodologies to holistically address threats that rapidly evolve their tactics, techniques, and procedures.[54] Adaptive leaders should enjoy a mindset that commits to decisions, but do not become permanently linked to them.

Challenges facing military decisions clearly involve interdependences, uncertainties, and complexities such that military leaders need critical thinking to increase probability of desirable outcomes.[55] Since warfighting enterprise is a complex domain of human beings and their various emotional and cultural personalities, quantifying big data alone to make decisions is often inadequate.[56] Instead, effective analyses require qualitative information to uncover insights into the human domain of warfare. To address these challenges, military leaders should demand answers to the following questions from their analysts:

The military world is overflowing with data, which requires analyses brimming with subjective interpretations.[57] Because many analyses support pre-existing beliefs with cognitive biases, military leaders should designate competent data antagonists to uncover compelling evidence to challenge analyses. Finally, they should use analysts they trust or, better yet, become savvy with data science and other analytic tools themselves.

End Notes

[1] Damien Van Puyvelde, Stephen Coulthart, and M. Shahriar Hossain, Beyond the buzzword: big data and national security decision-making, International Affairs 93, no. 6 (2017): 1397-1416.

[2] Ellen Summey, Creating Insight-Driven Decisions, Army AL&T (Summer 2019): 14-20.

[3] Department of Defense. Summary of the 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy: Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity, February 2019. Retrieved https://media.defense.gov/2019/Feb/12/2002088963/-1/-1/1/SUMMARY-OF-DOD-AI-STRATEGY.PDF. These investments threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the international order. As stewards of the security and prosperity of the U.S. public, the Department must leverage the creativity and agility of the United States to address the technical, ethical, and societal challenges posed by AI and realize its opportunities to preserve the peace and security for future generations.

[4] Executive Order 13859 of February 11, 2019, Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence, 84 Federal Register 3967.

[5] Army Directive 2018-18, Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force in Support of the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, October 2, 2018.

[6] Department of the Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 5-0. The Operations Process (May 2012): 1-1 to 1-9.

[7] Department of the Defense Joint Publication 3-0. Joint Operations. w/change 1 (22 October 2018): I-2.

[8] Robert R. Tomes, Socio-Cultural Intelligence and National Security, Parameters 45, no. 2 (2015): 61-76.

[9] Joseph M. Juran, Juran on Leadership for Quality: An Executive Handbook, (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1989): 136. Juran and Vilfredo Pareto identified the principle of the vital few and trivial many, leading to the term Pareto principle, which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

[10] Department of the Army (DA) Field Manual (FM) 6-0. Commander and Staff Organization and Operations. chg. 2 (April 2016): 9-1, 9-4.

[11] Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) Report 15-06. Military Decisionmaking Process: Lessons and Best Practices (March 2015): 1, 25, 41, and 66.

[12] Department of the Army (DA) Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 6-0. Mission Command (May 2012): 1-2, 2-5, and 2-8.

[13] Terry Williams, The Contribution of Mathematical Modelling to the Practice of Project Management, IMA Journal of Management Mathematics 14, no. 1 (2003): 330.

[14] Edouard Kujawski and Gregory A. Miller, Quantitative Risk-Based Analysis for Military Counterterrorism Systems, Systems Engineering 10, no. 4 (2007): 273-289.

[15] Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 5-19, Risk Management, chg. 1 (April 2014): 1-3 to 1-10.

[16] US Department of Defense, Standard Practice, System Safety: Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health, Risk Management Methodology for Systems Engineering, MIL-STD-882E (11 May 2012): 9-17.

[17] Matthew R. Myer and Jason R. Lojka, On Risk: Risk and Decision Making in Military Combat and Training Environments, (Masters thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2012): 63.

[18] Booz Allen Hamilton, The Field Guide to Data Science, 2nd ed. (McLean, VA, 2015): 4, 21, 28, 51, and 56.

[19] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Strengthening Data Science Methods for Department of Defense Personnel and Readiness Missions. (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2017): 53, 62-65

[20] J.P. Shim, Merrill Warkentin, James F. Courtney, Daniel J. Power, Ramesh Sharda, and Christer Carlsson, Past, present, and future of decision support technology, Decision Support Systems 33, no. 2 (2002): 111-126.

[21] Mark Van Horn, Big Data War Games Necessary for Winning Future Wars, Military Review Exclusive Online (September 2016), https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Online-Exclusive/2016-Online-Exclusive-Articles/Big-Data-War-Games

[22] Daniel C. Esty and Reece Rushing, The Promise of Data-Driven Policymaking in the Information Age, Center for American Progress (April 2007): 2, 4, 6, and 10. https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2007/04/pdf/data_driven_policy_report.pdf

[23] Department of Defense Instruction 5010.43, Implementation and Management of the DoD-Wide Continuous Process Improvement/Lean Six Sigma (CPI/LSS) Program, (17 July 2009).

[24] Ralph O. Stoffler, The Evolution of Environmental Data Analytics in Military Operations, Chapter 7 in Military Applications of Data Analytics, ed. Kevin Huggins (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2019): 113-128.

[25] Nicolaus Henke, Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, James Manyika, Tamim Saleh, Bill Wiseman, and Guru Sethupathy, The Age of Analytics: Competing in a Data-Driven World, McKinsey Global Institute (December 2016): 10, 11, and 75.

[26] Edward M. Masha, The Case for Data Driven Strategic Decision Making, European Journal of Business and Management 6, no. 29 (2014): 137-146.

[27] Data retrieved from Baseball Reference website: https://www.baseball-reference.com/

[28] C.W. Von Bergen and Martin S. Bressler, Confirmation Bias in Entrepreneurship, Journal of Management Policy and Practice 19, no. 3 (2018): 74-84.

[29] David Arnott, Cognitive Biases and Decision Support Systems Development: A Design Science Approach, Information Systems Journal 16, no. 1 (2006): 55-78.

[30] Michael J. Janser, Cognitive Biases in Military Decision Making, Civilian Fellowship Research Paper, U.S. Army War College (14 June 2007): 9-10. https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a493560.pdf

[31] Blair S. Williams, Heuristics and Biases in Military Decision Making, Military Review 90, no. 5 (2010): 40-52.

[32] Greggory J. Favre, The ethical imperative of reason: how anti-intellectualism, denialism, and apathy threaten national security (Masters Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2016): 8, 9, 10, 49, and 53.

[33] Hans Liwng, Marika Ericson, and Martin Bang, An Examination of the Implementation of Risk Based Approaches in Military Operations, Journal of Military Studies 5, no 2 (2014): 38-64.

[34] James L. Venckus, Rome in the Teutoburg Forest (Masters Thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2009): 1, 2, and 38-43.

[35] Fergus M. Bordewich, The Ambush That Changed History, Smithsonian Magazine 37, no. 6 (2005): 74-81.

[36] James T. Currie, The First Congressional Investigation: St. Clair's Military Disaster of 1791, Parameters 20, no. 4 (1990): 95-102.

[37] Leroy V. Eid, American Indian Military Leadership: St. Clair's 1791 Defeat, The Journal of Military History 57, no. 1 (1993): 71-88.

[38] U.S. Army Center of Military History, Indian War Campaigns, website https://history.army.mil/html/reference/army_flag/iw.html The 7th Cavalry's total losses in this action (including Custer's detachment) were: 12 officers, 247 enlisted men, 5 civilians, and 3 Indian scouts killed; 2 officers and 51 enlisted men wounded.

[39] Joel J. Jeffson, Operation Market-Garden: Ultra Intelligence Ignored, (Masters thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2002): 5, 11, 12, 65-66.

[40] Carl H. Builder, Steven C. Bankes, Richard Nordin, Command Concepts: A Theory Derived from the Practice of Command and Control, (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999): 104-116.

[41] Charles B. MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1993): 199.

[42] Graham A. Cosmas, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and The War in Vietnam: 19601968: Part 2, (Washington, DC: Office of Joint History Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2012): 2.

[43] Phil Rosenzweig, Robert S. McNamara and the Evolution of Modern Management, Harvard Business Review 88, no. 12 (2010): 87-93.

[44] Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schnberger, The Dictatorship of Data, MIT Technology Review (31 May 2013). https://www.technologyreview.com/s/514591/the-dictatorship-of-data/

[45] Rod Nordland, Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul, a Beleaguered Stronghold for ISIS, The New York Times (16 October 2016) https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/17/world/middleeast/in-isis-held-mosul-beheadings-and-hints-of-resistance-as-battle-nears.html; Tim Arango, Iraqis Who Fled Mosul Say They Prefer Militants to Government, The New York Times (12 October 2014) https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/world/middleeast/iraqis-fled-mosul-for-home-after-militant-group-swarmed-the-city.html

[46] Shelly Culbertson and Linda Robinson, Making Victory Count After Defeating ISIS: Stabilization Challenges in Mosul and Beyond (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2017): 4, 65.

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#Coup17: Second Republic: Governance myths, realities – Zimbabwe Independent

Posted: November 17, 2019 at 2:40 pm

IN the midst of all of the political intrigues and mismanagement that characterised the late former president Robert Mugabes rule, it bears pointing out that the national economy was undergoing a severe crisis, perhaps the most serious in its history.

The crisis was compounded in many respects by the wholesale mismanagement, corruption and outright thievery of the Mugabe years.

Thus, the legacy that was bequeathed by President Emmerson Mnangagwas administration was one of a deeply divided country, where narrow interests, a dispirited citizenry, whose faith in government and in the very concept of Zimbabwe had been badly broken, a prostrate national economy, a decayed social and physical infrastructure system, a demoralised civil service and a political elite tainted by crass opportunism.

The question which many observers posed as the Second Republic was being inaugurated in August 2018 centred around the extent to which it was ready and able to meet these challenges with any degree of credibility.

It remains open to question the extent to which Zimbabweans can begin to congratulate themselves on the restoration of governance. This is because most of the problems which the Second Republic has inherited are complicated and, although, some of them may be amenable to a relatively quick solution, others would require both time and the best of political and managerial efforts to resolve.

One of the biggest legacies of Mugabe rule and one which is serving as an immediate acid test for the Second Republic is the state of Zimbabwes infrastructural facilities.

In spite of the huge budgetary allocations made to the countrys road infrastructure, most remain in a state of disrepair and unmotorable all year round. The dilapidation of the road network and the virtual collapse of the railway took its toll both on intra and inter-state economic transactions. The water supply, too, sank to new depths of inefficiency which, as with the electricity supply situation, allowed both corruption and criminality to thrive on a stupendous scale. The consequence for the economy and society is far-reaching.

The question of the revival of the national infrastructural system is one which is crucial to the establishment of the basis for a functioning national economy and credibility of the renewed effort at governance.

Success in this regard enables the Second Republic to successfully promote a link in the minds of Zimbabweans between good governance and the effective management of public goods and services as contrasted to the depressing record of Mugabe era. To successfully refurbish the national infrastructural system would require both an outlay of huge investments and the institutionalisation of mechanisms for checking financial leakages and the enforcement of a culture of prompt and timely maintenance of facilities.

An acid test of success in tackling the infrastructure crisis would, therefore, not just be the efficiency of the services provided but also the accessibility enjoyed by the generality of Zimbabweans to electricity, water and transportation at prices that are affordable within the prevailing income structure.

Corruption, legitimacy

At the heart of Mugabe governance was the institutionalisation of corruption to the status of a primary objective and directive principle of state policy. The use of the carrot of public resources to complement the stick of the denial of patronage became two sides of the same agenda for serving the interests of the regime as personified by Mugabe.

Mugabe tolerated, encouraged, entrenched, institutionalised corruption and glorified its perpetrators. The early indicators since the inauguration of the Mnangagwa administration would suggest that at the level of executive rhetoric, at least, there is awareness that, both for the sake of the well-being of the economy and the viability of the Second Republic, corruption would need to be tackled frontally.

Mass poverty

Unemployment, particularly among the educated youth, has grown sharply and the health and nutritional status of many Zimbabweans has declined. The ranks of the vibrant middle class professionals have massively depleted as many slid into poverty on account of the collapse in their real incomes associated with the repeated devaluation of Zimbabwe dollar and the high inflationary spiral in the economy.

Mass poverty, therefore, feeds into the political resentment that is building up in the country to pose direct challenges to the stability and viability of the nation. The real test for the Second Republic would be its speed in making a real difference in the lives of the generality of the people and, in this regard, its effort at getting the economy functioning again.

Managing electoral system

Elections have always been a highly contentious issue in Zimbabwe and those that were conducted as part of the transition to the Second Republic have not been an exception, especially at the presidential level. Local and international observers reported widespread irregularities in the polls with electoral officials accused of electoral fraud in favour of one candidate.

The transition from Mugabe rule that occurred on November 2017 marked the beginning of a first, perhaps tentative step in the continuing quest in Zimbabwe for a stable and democratic political order. It is widely recognised across the country that although Mugabe rule may have been formally ended, the effects of his governance mode and the destruction of the economy and the moral fibre of society that are the legacies of prolonged Mugabe rule have not made the task of democratic reforms easy.

While it could be suggested that democracy has been the only game in town in Zimbabwe since November 2017, the democratic ethos remains virtually captive to its imperfect moorings. The zero-sum politics continues to sap the sinews of democracy of much strength.

New economic experiment

Zimbabwe faces a massive escalating socio-economic crisis, exacerbated by decades of corruption, mismanagement, sanctions and a recent austerity programme.

But the surprise manner in which the mono-currency reform was announced, and Zimbabwes track record of printing money to plug holes in its public finances, means many people do not believe it will succeed.

One sign Zimbabweans are distrustful of the Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) is that it is weaker on the black market than on the official interbank market, where it trades around six to the dollar. RTGS is an imaginary currency which lacks international convertibility.

Implementation of macro-economic stabilisation and structural changes are generating transitional unemployment since resources cannot be reallocated instantaneously to alternative uses in response to changes in relative commodity and factor prices. Compensatory actions are needed to offset these adverse transitional side effects.

There are uproarious efforts to promote national cohesion and tolerance. The enactment of the National Peace and Reconciliation Act, creation of Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), amendment of Public Order and Security Act (Posa), the Citizen Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) are classic examples. This creates a sense of community.

The creation of Presidential Advisory Council and Polad are commendable for promoting tolerance. However, these innovations are part of controlled openness. Controlled openness provides an opportunity for new constituencies to ingratiate with the government that is eager to find new allies in the attempt to redefine its community base.It is correct to argue that there is authoritarian rule reconfiguration in Zimbabwe. The authoritarian rule does not have the same features as the authoritarian rule of Mugabe era. It is combined with limited participatory elements.

Political survival, performance

Successful leaders foster economic growth and prosperity for their citizens. By contrast, leaders who produce famine, poverty and misery seem like dismal failures who ought to be removed from office as quickly as possible. Yet the iron is that leaders who produce poverty and misery keep their jobs much longer than those who make their country richer. For Mugabe, bad policy was good politics because his focus on cronyism and corruption ensured his enduring leadership. This is unlikely for Mnangagwa.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Looking ahead, by what criteria should one judge the success or failure of the latest Zimbabwe reform experiment? The proposed measures are aimed at combating and correcting the deficiencies within Zimbabwean state structures that have combined to produce continued economic decline, increased rates of poverty and social dislocation and, in general, a growing alienated and disillusioned population.

The diaspora must connect with what is happening in Zimbabwe. The diaspora should feel that they are part of Zimbabwe through voting. The diaspora is critical for nation building to promote policy formulation and implementation for advancing Vision 2030. The bottom line: how do we make the diaspora, in its totality, work for advancing the countrys interests? It is a peril if the diaspora is relegated to the socio-economic periphery and is not accorded special attention in terms of how it should be comprehensively integrated into the broader country framework in a manner that is broadly consultative and transparent, with the conscious aim of energising human and financial resources mobilisation strategy for Vision 2030.Market-based system

By pursuing upper middle-income status by 2030, the government should not be blinded to the day-to-day realities with regard to deficiencies in social service delivery, poverty reduction and supporting vulnerable groups.

The market-led economy is a doubly-tragic and paradoxical prescription. On the one hand, it seeks to enthrone democracy. Yet, the policies it seeks to put in place require authoritarian measures to implement.

On the other hand, it is concerned about transparency, accountability, human rights and all that, but it is not concerned with social justice and empowerment of the people. This is the fundamental deficit of the market-led dogma resulting in the commodification of everything. This results in class inequality and might lead to social unrest.

Mnangagwa must deal decisively with the politics of neo-patrimonialism and state capture. Constrained from whipping his opponents in line, he finds himself increasingly a prisoner of the same forces that brought him to power.

Zimbabwes bourgeoisie and middle class still support a strong role for the state, seeking government contracts, state bank loans and bureaucratic employment, bailouts, pegged currencies and controlled interest rates in times of crisis. This leads to a central paradox of politics: good policy is bad politics, and bad policy helps leaders stay in office. Where good policy is also good politics, leaders face greater obstacles to maintaining incumbency.Despite Mnangagwas good intentions and formidable power, he finds his ambitious promises much easier to make than to implement. He has to depend on the goodwill of the very groups that are threatened by his agenda and on the cooperation of the same dysfunctional and corrupt systems that he hopes to reform.

While the public clamoured for the principle of change, it remains beholden for daily survival to functionaries, private bosses and political power brokers who are fighting to protect their interests.

Nevertheless, as his critics have grown louder and more insistent, Mnangagwa has exhibited increasing signs of insecurity and repressive tendencies that belie his claims to tolerate constructive criticism and respect institutional checks and balances.

This is evident in the recent banning of all public protests and breaking up public gatherings by opposition leaders. Immediately after the 2017 coup, the government gave the impression that it was out to save the country for democracy, not to gain power for itself. This was evident in Mnangagwas Vox Populi, Vox Dei slogan, meaning the Voice of the People is the Voice of God .

Tawanda Zinyama holds a PhD and lectures Public Administration at the University of Zimbabwe.

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Deindustrialization Isnt (Just) a White Working-Class Problem – The Bulwark

Posted: at 2:40 pm

The 2016 presidential election brought renewed attention to the plight of rural communities grappling with the decline of American manufacturing. Trumps attacks on globalists struck a chord with voters who lost their jobs to off-shoring, not to mention those who had lost loved ones in the ensuing opioid epidemic. But the medias portrayal of the struggles of rural Americans as a white working-class problem is deeply misleading. Indeed, African Americans were in a sense the original and most severe victims of deindustrialization. This fact suggests that working-class people of all stripes have more in common than our political discourse tends to recognize.

Manufacturing has historically provided good jobs for workers without higher education. In the early 20th century, for instance, manufacturing work helped lift less educated Irish and Italian immigrants into the middle class. The same was beginning to be true for African Americans following the civil rights movement. Black high school graduation rates were finally converging with whites by the early 1970. Yet tragically, the 1970s also marked the peak of U.S. manufacturing employment and the end of socio-economic convergence between blacks and whites.

While its easy to see the impact of a small town factory that moves overseas, its much harder to imagine the counterfactual in which the same jobs never existed in the first place. Yet this was the reality for many African Americans, whose educational attainment caught up at precisely the time when the demands of the global economy pulled away.

Deindustrialization has negatively impacted black and white workers alike, but white Americans have historically recovered more easily from displacement thanks to existing social networks and status. Economists Patrick Bayer and Kerwin Kofi Charles have found that the earnings gap between black and white workers shrank between 1940-1970, but widened again after that. Other researchers have reached similar conclusions. The shocking fact is that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 50 years.

The end of convergence between white and black households also coincided with slowing convergence between Northern and Southern states. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, the most severe effects of the China Shock the sudden collapse in manufacturing employment in the early 2000s occurred not in the Rust Belt, but in South Atlantic states. As MIT economist David Autor has shown, deindustrialization began in the North decades earlier, when manufacturing moved south to take advantage of lower labor costs. The labor-intensity of Southern manufacturers left their workers particularly vulnerable to import competition, helping to explain why the China Shock was so shocking.

The economist Eric Gould explains that the disappearance of manufacturing work may not have only lowered socio-economic outcomes within each racial group, but increased inequality within each group as well. His research finds that the loss of manufacturing jobs is associated with increasing rates of poverty and single motherhood for both black and white women, but with stronger effects for black women in both cases. Gould also finds that declining manufacturing employment increases the rates of black and white children in poverty, the percent of children raised in single-parent households, and child mortality rates before the age of 10. But here too, the effects are stronger for black children.

If these studies reveal anything, it is that the effects of deindustrialization arent uniform across race, gender, and location. And yet some common themes emerge. White or black, North or South, deindustrialization has hurt the economic prospects of men without a college education, reduced family formation and household stability, and undermined predictors of mental health.

In retrospect, even the legacy of slavery can be understood through the lens of deindustrialization. Plantations in the Cotton Belt treated human beings as literal machines, reducing the need for the South to industrialize as fast as the North. This specialization in labor-intensive production persisted long after the official end of slavery. Emancipation was, in a deeper sense, incomplete absent major catch-up investments in productivity-enhancing technology and infrastructure.

Alexander Hamilton worked for a West Indian import-export firm in his youth, where the limitations of a slave economy based on sugar cane exports were self-evident. This may have been the inspiration for his strong belief in federal programs to promote and develop Americas nascent manufacturing base. Unfortunately, the loss of particular American industries cant be easily reversed. Nonetheless, in the spirit of Hamilton, we could do much more to identify and foster the emancipating technologies of the future.

While the economic distress connected to deindustrialization in white communities can be used to reinforce racial resentments, as the Trump presidency demonstrates, it also holds the potential for a new kind of cross-racial, working-class consciousness. The notions that the crack epidemic or high rates of black single motherhood were the results of personal failings or a backwards culture become less tenable when parallel phenomena manifest in deindustrializing white communities, too.

This doesnt eliminate culture as a factor of social health. But it does point to a way out of the most divisive versions of our contemporary culture war. Indeed, policies that tackle deindustrialization head-on have the potential to unite working-class people of all racial, cultural, and regional backgrounds. And by jump-starting convergence in regional productivity, convergence on the interests working people hold in common spiritual and material may follow closely behind.

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Deindustrialization Isnt (Just) a White Working-Class Problem - The Bulwark

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Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society? – CounterPunch

Posted: at 2:40 pm

As old certainties crumble and systems crystallize, social divisions grow and extremes harden, a friend asks: Why is there so much wrong in our society? Its a good question. He was referring specifically to Britain where we both live, but, although the specific problems may vary, the question could be applied to any country, and by extension, to world society.

Politicians, lost in a fog of their own ambition and blinded by ideologies, argue and deceive; they have no answers to the pressing issues or my friends question and, addicted to the privilege, status and motorcades, are concerned only with gaining and retaining office. Corporations and undemocratic institutions exert increasing political power and sociological influence; religion, essential to some, is irrelevant to many, the church east and west groans under the weight of its inhibiting doctrine, fails to provide guidance and succor, and the people most of whom live under a blanket of economic insecurity feel increasingly anxious, angry and depressed.

We had been discussing the justice system and specifically prisons, retribution and the total absence of rehabilitation in the UK system, when my friend posed his rhetorical question. The areas of chaos and dysfunction are many and varied, from environmental carnage to armed conflict, slavery, economic injustice and homelessness. All, however, flow from the same polluted source, us mankind; motive, often short-term ideologically rooted, conditions and corrupts action and the construction of socio-economic forms.

Society is not an abstraction, it is a reflection of the consciousness of the people who live within it, the seed of what is wrong in our society lies within this consciousness, not simply in the forms and systems themselves. There will never be peace in the world, for example, until we ourselves are free of conflict: that we constitute society and that societal problems flow from us is clearly true, but, as with most things in life, the issue is more complex and nuanced.

Firstly, the relationship between the forces of society and the individual is a symbiotic one, and this is well known to those that most powerfully control the systems under which we all live; secondly, the vast majority of people have little or no influence over the mechanics of society. Depending on the nature of the society in which we live, we are all to a greater or lesser degree, structural victims, with little or no voice and even less influence something that in recent years in particular, millions have been marching to change. Billions of people throughout the world, the overwhelming majority, feel themselves to be subjects within a Giant Game of Aggrandizement and Profit played by governments and powerful organizations, including the media in its many strands.

These interconnected and interdependent groups, which are of course made up of men and women, design and shape the way society functions, and do all they can to manipulate how the masses think and act. The ideology of choice for those functioning within the corporate political sphere is founded on and promotes the dogma of greed and profit. Selfishness, ambition, competition, nationalism all are found within its tenets and are promoted as natural human tendencies that are beneficial for an individual and so should be developed. Such qualities they claim, bring success, usually understood as material comfort, career achievement or social position, and with success, the story goes, comes happiness. Within the Corrupt Construct happiness, which is rightly recognized as something that everyone longs for, has been replaced by pleasure, which is sought after day and night. Likewise, desire and the satiation of desire, itself an impossibility this too is well known by the architects has been substituted for love, which has been assimilated, commodified and neatly packaged.

The tendency towards greed and selfishness, hate and violence, no doubt exist within the human being, the negative lies within us all, so does the good. The Good is our inherent nature, hidden within the detritus of conditioning and fear. The negative, aggravated, rises, and, within the Corrupt Construct it is relentlessly prodded and stirred up. Desire is demanded, facilitating its bedmate fear, which manifests as anxiety/stress, to which an antidote is offered by the deeply concerned, eternally grateful, trillion dollar pharmaceutical companies, recreational drugs/alcohol and the world of entertainment. Common sense, restraint and The Wisdom of The Wise is trivialized, discarded; conflict and suffering, within and without goes on. Discontent leading to the pursuit of pleasure is the aim, desire, agitated, the means.

The two most pervasive and effective tools employed to condition the minds of all are education and the media. Conditioning into competition and nationalism, pleasure and individualism not individuality, which is dangerous to the status quo and is therefore actively discouraged; conformity is insisted upon and forms a cornerstone of education and the stereotypes churned out by the media.

This is a transitional time, a time of collapse and expansion, of disintegration and rebuilding; underlying the present tensions and discord is the energy of change and the emergence of the new.

A battle is taking place, between those forces in the world that are wedded to the old ways, and a dynamic, global movement for social justice, environmental action, peace and freedom. Sapped of energy, the existing forms and modes of living are in a state of decay; propelled solely by the impetus of the past they persist in form only, hollow carcasses without vitality. Growing numbers of people around the world know this to be true, and while some react with fear and look for certainty behind a flag or ideology, the majority call for a fundamental shift, for justice and the inculcation of systems that allow unifying harmonious ways of living to evolve. As always, resistance is fierce, but change and the spirit of the time cannot be held at bay indefinitely.

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The President and the Blob – Boston Review

Posted: at 2:40 pm

President Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018. Image:Stephanie Chasez/DoD

The barrage of attacks that followed Trumps decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Syria obscures the decades-long bankruptcy of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

When Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on October 13 that President Donald Trump would bring home 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in Syria, it ignited a bipartisan firestorm. Punditsconservatives and liberals alikesavaged Trump for deserting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed largely of Kurds who had fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State (IS). In Congress, even Trumps most stalwart defenders, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham, parted ways with him.

Trumpscritics issuethe standard Beltway cocktail of bromides, stale thinking, skin-deep historical knowledge, and hypocritical sentimentality. That is the real pity.

The critics were playing a familiar tune. By announcing his intention to pull out of Syria, Trump was corroding U.S. credibility across the globe, demoralizing U.S. allies, undercutting the campaign against terrorism, throwing a lifeline to a (supposedly) dying IS, opening the door to genocide, and handing unearned victories to Iran, Russia, and by extension to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.The charge sheet was extravagantly comprehensive; dissenters were few and far between.

In fairness to Trumps critics, the presidents operating style, unique in the annals of U.S. statecraft, does not inspire confidence; and his decision on Syria was of a piece. It owed, seemingly, to id and impulse, not reason, and it was suffused with that dangerous Trumpian amalgam of ignorance and overweening self-confidence. Moreover, the presidents own Syria policy has been all over the map. After being elected, he actually increased the number of U.S. troops there, to a total of about 2,000. Then, in late 2018, he surprised his advisers by calling for an immediate reduction on the grounds that IS had been defeated. Then he changed his mind again. Less than a week after last months abrupt order for a full withdrawal, he reversed course yet again, decreeing that a small, unspecified number of troops would remain, to guard Syrias oil fieldsnever mind that these are dispersed and nowhere near the SDF-controlled northeast.

By going with his gut on this decision, Trump effectively ignored his foreign policy and national security team and the top military brass, all of whom seemed stupefied following Espers newsflash. These advisers were left to contemplate various what-next questions that had seemingly never occurred to the commander-in-chief. How, for example, would U.S. troops exit a war zone speedily and safely, especially with angry Kurds flinging trash and invective at them? What, precisely, would limit the advance of Turkish forces once the U.S. troops were gone? What fate would befall the Kurds inhabiting the twenty-mile buffer that Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to create in northern Syria, and then to flood with Syrian Arab refugees? Who would care for Kurdish refugees fleeing the advance of Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters and al-Assads army? What if in the ensuing melee IS prisoners under the SDFs control managed to escape?

Indubitably, then, Trumps Syria decision was hasty and the (non-) process used to decide inept. Yet what his recklessness laced with grandiosity elicited from his critics was the standard Beltway cocktail of bromides, stale thinking, skin-deep historical knowledge, and hypocritical sentimentality. And that, in the end, is the real pity.

American presidents have unique autonomy and latitude when it comes to enacting foreign policy. Apart from conflating U.S. interests with their own personal interests, they can set the agenda and execute their priorities. Given the magnitude of this responsibility and the complexity of decision making involved, they rely on what Stephen Walt calls the blobthe amorphous foreign policy establishment that diffuses responsibility and rarely if ever suffers consequences for its mistakes.

Obamas plan to partner with the SDF was doomed from the start. Insisting on aU.S. presence in Syria sweeps various additional problems under the rug.

To understand how calamitous this partnership between politician and blob has been in recent years, consider the U.S. policy that resulted with troops in Syria in the first place. For starters, recall that it was President Barack Obama, not Trump, who first engineered the U.S. collaboration with the SDF, in 2015partly in response to calls, including from some members of his administration, to intervene more forcefully in Syrias civil war. Bipartisan legislation in 2014 had approved $500 million to extract Syrian Arab rebels out of Syria to train and arm them for the fight against IS. But this program produced little of value: the rebels proved more interested in resisting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad than in fighting IS.

Obama sought to project toughness on terrorism. With polls taken in late 2014 and early 2015 revealing that a majority of Americans favored sending ground troops to fight IS in Syria, he terminated the 2014 program and developed a new, measured plan. Yet Obama understood that protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had made Americans wary of military expeditions that began with promises of easy victories and then dragged on for years, with vast expenditure of blood and treasure. So he chose to deploy a limited number of Special Operations Forcesfewer than 50 in October 2015, and then another 450 in April and December of the following yearto train and equip a more clearly defined local partner to do the bulk of the fighting, with air support provided by U.S. warplanes already stationed nearby at Incirlik, Turkey. Enter the SDF, which was already engaged in fighting on the ground and shared the U.S. interest of destroying the sprawling caliphate that IS had by then erected in parts of Syria (and Iraq).

The partnership, while superficially plausible, was doomed from the start. Though the SDF included Syrian Arabs and Assyrians, it was dominated by the Peoples Protection Units (YPG), the fighting arm of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish nationalist organization. The United States and the Syrian Kurds had a common enemy in IS, but they did not share common political objectives. The Syrian Kurds minimal goal, which required the liquidation of IS, was an autonomous Kurdish region in northeastern Syria; what it really coveted was an independent state for Syrias Kurdsan outcome unacceptable to just about every nation in the region, especially Turkey.

Erdoganand Turks generallyrecognized that the PYD was now essentially masquerading as the SDF. The PYD, while organizationally distinct, is a kindred spirit of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought for a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey for decades. In 1997 and again in 2019, the U.S. State Department had labeled the PKK a terrorist group. Photographs of the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan abound in PYD-ruled Syrian territories, and some PKK fighters have joined their PYD comrades in battle, as have Iranian Kurds from the Party of Free Life for Kurdistan (PAJAK), which, in 2009, the U.S. Treasury Department also labeled a terrorist group.

One can sympathize with the Kurds, of course. The post-World War I territorial settlement Britain and France devised to carve up much of the Near East eviscerated the Kurds hope for statehood, dispersing them across three countries. The cold historical reality, however, is that no state with the power to prevent the emergence of a separatist state on its flank, to say nothing of one aligned with a homegrown secessionist insurgency it has battled for decades, will allow that to happen. Long before Erdogan was even elected prime minister in 2003 (he became president in 2014), the Turkish state had demonstrated, repeatedly, its determination to wage a pitiless counterinsurgency war against the PKK, which included the burning of over 2,000 Kurdish villages. Between 1984when the PKK took up armsand 2014, more than 65,000 civilians and combatants on both sides died or were injured, with the Kurds getting the worst of it by far.

Yes, Trump is a disastrous president. But U.S. foreign policy has been a disaster for much longer.

The idea that Turkey would permit a PKK affiliate to create a de facto state within Syria adjacent to Turkey proper was therefore delusional. Erdogan has been reviled in the United States; but you neednt like the man to understand what drives his actions in northern Syria. In 2018 he denounced the SDF as aU.S.-backed terror army and most Turks support himindeed, as opinion polls demonstrate, Turks are turning increasing hostile toward the United States.

Obama, for his part, seems to have given scant thought in 2015 to how the United States might respond if Turkey moved to crush the SDF. Clearly, he had no intention of sending troops numerous enough to deter, let alone repel, a Turkish offensive against the SDF. His focus was on limiting U.S. exposurehence, his resistance to taking bolder steps, such as creating a no-fly zone over Syrian airspace or safe areas inside Syria for refugees fleeing Assads army. His plan for demolishing IS by relying on the SDF, though successful, was all but certain to give rise to an additional set of problems.

For example, Turkeys interests aside, consider that Assads forces have been making steady gains since 2015, which is the year Vladimir Putin intervened with Russian airpower and thousands of so-called contract soldiers to prevent the Syrian states collapse. As Putin sees it, Assads fall would perpetuate chaos and create further space for the rise of a radical Islamist government. Russia thus remains determined to help Assad retake the lands he has lost to an assortment of armed opponents. So, to those who demand that the United States maintain troops in Syria (or even increase their number), the question Obama swept under the rug remains: would the United States be willing to defend the SDF from a Russian-supported assault by Assads army in the south while Turkey was also pressing against it in the north?

Critics of Trumps recent withdrawal claim that Trump has handed Russia a big prize. This is absurd. Imagine, for a moment, that Assad routs his opponents soon and once again rules all of Syria. What strategic gain will accrue to Putin? Large parts of Syria have been demolished and resemble a smoldering ruin. No Western country will pony up the cash needed for a serious reconstruction, which the UN estimates will require $250 billion (Syrias entire GDP before the civil war began in 2011) and other sources estimate at $400 billion. Whatever the sum, the Russians cant afford it. The Chinese have the money to help rebuild Syria, but why would they when Russia would then reap the benefits?

The proponents of hanging tough in Syria also warn of wily Russian diplomats forging ties with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey. To hear them tell it, you would think that Russiawith a military budget that is less than a tenth of the United States and a GDP comparable to that of the Benelux countrieshas all but driven the United States out of the Middle East. But Russias achievements here cannot be blamed on Trumps actions in Syria. Russias diplomatic successes in the Middle East were evident during Obamas presidency and continued even as Trump beefed up the military deployment in Syria that he inherited following the 2016 election. Indeed, the extensive cooperation between Israel in particular and Russia can be traced at least to the 1990s. Putin has certainly built energetically on that foundation, but his success cannot be ascribed to U.S. policy in Syria, let alone Trumps decision to reduce the number of troops deployed there. Moreover, the question remains of how substantial and lasting these relationships will prove to be. Each of the countries in question, for example, remains much more closely tied to the United States than to Russia, or indeed any other state.

As for the charge that Trump has betrayed the Kurds, well, he has. Indeed, the United States has forsaken the Kurds repeatedly, on a much grander scale, and long before Trump came on the scene. Consider just a couple of examples. Washington armed Turkeyto the tune of $800 million a year on average during Bill Clintons presidencyas Turkey mounted its massive counterinsurgency against the PKK in the 1990s. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein in several ways, including providing Iraq economic credits as well as intelligence information on Iranian troop deployments, even as Hussein set out to retake Kurdish territories in northern Iraq. During their 1988 offensive, called Operation Anfal, Iraqi troops killed thousands of Kurdish civilians, demolished entire villages, and used poison gas in the town of Halabja, taking some 5,000 Kurdish lives. The entire campaign may have killed as many as 100,000 civilians. The White House and State Department uttered nary a word of condemnation after the attack on Halabja and even opposed Congressional resolutions that sought to do so.

There is, then, much amnesia at work in 2019.

From where we sit, Donald Trump has been a disastrous president, and in ways too numerous to recount here. Apart from his policies, his personal comportmentthe sexism, the racist dog whistles, the demagoguery, the coarsenesshas been revolting. With luck, and assuming he manages to finish his term, voters will cashier him in 2020. That said, however, the barrage of attacks and news coverage that followed his decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Syria has obscured something the country really needs: a debate about the basic principles of recent U.S. foreign policy. This policy, which has loomed large since 9/11, has five, interrelated elements.

The foreign policy establishment says that we must persevere lest adversaries doubt our will and allies lose their nerve. But endless interventionsensure militants a steady stream of recruits.

First, recent U.S. foreign policy has authorized serial military interventions undertaken in the name of universal human rights, the commitment to which is belied by the many repressive regimes that the United States supports. A recent, egregious example is U.S.-armed Saudi Arabias war in Yemen, which began in the final year of Obamas presidency and has ravaged a dirt-poor country, killed thousands of civilians, and created a cholera epidemic and a famine.

Second, recent U.S. foreign policy rests largely on the so-called war against terrorism which has no clarity of strategic purposenamely, whether the terrorists pose a clear and present danger or are a species of militant Islam produced by complex causes that may be rooted in local factors that have little to do with the United States. The war on terror has used drone strikes and special operations to convert large swathes of the planet into a battlefield and commits the country to promiscuous, preventive, and open-ended interventions across the globe.

Third, and a consequence of the first two, the decapitation of governments (such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya) produce chaos and bloodletting while leaving the United States with two bad choices: doubling down for years (Afghanistan and Iraq) or bugging out (Libya). The first two ventures have cost $5.9 trillion (counting the money already spent and the future obligations to our troops), while the third has proved to be a boon for Al-Qaeda, IS, and a network of human traffickers and armed militias who have thrived in the resulting power vacuum.

Fourth, recent foreign policy has all but ignored the cumulative opportunity costs. While it is true that money cant fix all of our festering domestic problems, it would certainly help ameliorate some of them. Imagine if the money saved by winding down needless, counterproductive wars was put towards updating crumbling infrastructure, or addressing the child poverty rate (which ranks among the highest in OECD countries), or treating the raging opioid and suicide epidemics (the latter of which has taken a heavy toll on veterans and active-duty soldiers; at least 45,000 have killed themselves since 2013). The military, which is currently having to lower its health and education standards in order to field a force, is especially aware of the consequences of decreased domestic investment.

Lastly, U.S. foreign policy since 9/11 has largely allowed Congress to go AWOL. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), legislation passed on September 14, 2001, has amounted to a permanent permission slip presidents can invoke to mount armed interventions of various sorts, thus enabling the continual military interventions of recent years. Congress can undo this legislation whenever it chooses, but instead has all but abdicated its constitutional right to declare war.

Since 2016, the number of U.S. troops has increased in virtually every region of the world.

By assuming the cloak of anti-terrorism, U.S. foreign policy post 9/11 has amounted to an endless game of whack-a-mole, pitting the United States against militant movements that move from one country to another. How, then, does this game end? What will victory look like? The foreign policy establishment says that we must persevere lest adversaries doubt our will and allies lose their nerve. But these shopworn shibboleths about being persistent and demonstrating credibility keep the game going. Endless interventions simply generate resentments that ensure militants a steady stream of recruits. Sticking with the same failed strategy in hopes of a obtaining a different result amounts to insanity.

Trump famously described himself as a very stable genius. He is, in fact, neither stable nor particularly smart. Yet he deserves credit for his intuition in 2016. He sensed the American publics frustration over the forever wars, the burden of which is borne by a small segment of our society because we do not have a military draft, and which are paid for with the national credit card rather than by raising taxes. Trump also grasped the depth of resentment among those who feel belittled, even mocked, by a super-richelite that knows nothing, and perhaps cares less, about their workaday hardships. He tapped into the despair of people whose jobs succumbed to outsourcing and automation and those who have jobs but nevertheless struggle to cover basic expenses.

Trump spun a narrative, which, for all of its simplemindedness and crudeness, portrayed him, a quintessential creature of privilege, as a revolutionary savior. It convinced nearly 63 million voters that he would dismantle a dysfunctional system and replace it with one that would, at long last, fix their problems. In the end, unsurprisingly, Trump has managed only to perpetrate one more con job. His promise of a new foreign policy has proven bogus. Since 2016, the number of U.S. troops has increased in virtually every region of the world; the total in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria soared from 18,000 at the end of Obamas term to 26,000 by the end of 2017. Most recently Trump dispatched 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, supposedly to shore up its defenses against Iran, never mind that the United Sates has sold the House of Saud $90 billion worth of arms since 1950 so it could supposedly defend itself.

Under Trump, the forever wars grind on. Drone strikes and military raids remain the commander-in-chiefs tools of choicenotably in Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Obama was scarcely a paragon of transparency on civilian deaths caused by drone strikes, but as of this year, the Trump administration stopped releasing annual reports on drone attacks, thereby making it even harder to ascertain civilian casualties and deaths. If anything, Trump uses military force even less discriminately than his predecessor did. The self-proclaimed architect of restraint turns out to be the avatar of more of the same.

The foreign policy establishment needs to rethinks its worldview,including acknowledgingthe role its collective folly has played in elevating someone like Trump.

And yet all that disaffection he tapped into to win the presidency remains. Though not all of it stems from a loss of confidence in U.S. foreign policy, the disenchantment with militarized global leadership and awareness of its abundant failures will likely still haunt us in 2020 and beyond. A true change in our policy will require a root-and-branch assessment that distinguishes between essential goals, commitments, and expenditures and those that owe to bureaucratic inertia, entrenched vested interests, and a foreign policy establishment that not only lacks new ideas but is also increasingly sequestered in Washington, D.C., and disconnected from public sentiment. It will entail realigning ends and means, redefining national security so as to take account of domestic socio-economic considerations. It will require winding down wars that breed millenarian movements and more terrorism. Despite his propensity for big talk, the current commander in chief wont achieve any of this.

No thoroughgoing change will occur unless the foreign policy establishment rethinks its worldview. And that wont happen until members of the blobwhether in Congress, the military, think tanks, or the mediaacknowledge the role that their collective folly has played in elevating someone like Trump to the presidency. The U.S. foreign policy crisis predates Trump. It wont end simply with his removal from office.

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The President and the Blob - Boston Review

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Does the Lebanese Government Have the Courage to Make the Right Decisions? – International Policy Digest

Posted: October 24, 2019 at 11:47 am

On my visit to Lebanon several weeks before the current demonstrations began, two Lebanese leaders, one a minister and the other a parliamentarian, described the mood of the Lebanese people and noted the lack of courage by Lebanese government officials, one admitting, We do not have the courage to address our problems.

That comment now appears prescient as Lebanons crisis is about more than Syrian refugees, who with existing Palestinian refugees and other immigrants, make up at least one-third of the population. This presence adds to the existing pressure on government services, unemployment and underemployment, infrastructure overload, environmental damage, and increased crime. And the government has no national strategy to effectively addresses these concerns.

Nearly daily, Israel threatens to intervene militarily in Lebanon against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Israeli jets and drones conduct illegal overflights of Lebanon, while Hezbollah threatens to wreak havoc inside Israel. One miscalculation by either side could lead to a catastrophic war. One almost occurred a month ago when Israel sent drones to the Hezbollah stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut; another in December, when Israel first discovered tunnels dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel.

However, the Israeli military threat and the refugee crisis are not taking up most of the attention of the Lebanese these days. Its their economy and people from all over the country and across all sectarian groups are demonstrating in the streets.

They have many reasons to demonstrate. Economic growth could be in negative territory in 2019; bond agencies have rated Lebanese bonds as deep junk; unemployment and poverty are on the rise; and the government has little in the way of resources and management to address the countrys socio-economic problems. The Central Bank of Lebanon has enacted monetary policies to maintain the value of the Lebanese pound to prevent economic collapse, rampant inflation, and wage instability. But this cannot last without sound fiscal measures taken by the government. Adding to these pressures are the decrease of remittances and deposits from the Lebanese diaspora and the decline in significant deposits and foreign direct investment from Gulf countries, principally the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who have blocked their investments to Lebanon due to the Iranian influence on Hezbollah. In addition, the Syrian war has also cut off Lebanon from its only overland trade routes.

The U.S. has made its position clear by taking on Hezbollah by taking tough steps to weaken Hezbollah and Iran, sanctioning individuals and two banks in Lebanon, most recently, Jammal Trust. This affected 85,000 mostly innocent Shiite depositors who face challenges in retrieving and transferring their accounts. This is perceived by some as the U.S. targeting Lebanons Shiite community. The banking sector makes up 14% of the GDP of the country, and protecting this industry is a must if Lebanon is to recover.

There is a new U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and there will soon be a new U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon. These changes lead Lebanese officials to wonder if ongoing U.S. support will continue, especially regarding its negotiations on the Lebanon-Israel land and maritime borders, putting into question the future potential of natural gas development.

Its the perfect storm, said one Lebanese official. Another remarked, The U.S. wants us to be more aggressive with Hezbollah and in our economic policies. We have little room to maneuver, adding, We need breathing spaceThis is not our problem alone. It is a problem involving outside actors much larger than Lebanon: Syria, Russia, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States. They have as much an effect on Lebanon as Lebanons internal actors.

As the U.S. has reduced its involvement in the Middle East, Russia sees an opportunity to fill the void and exert leadership. Russia claims to be a more dependable alternative, promising Lebanon and its neighbors increased trade, military equipment, and conflict mediation regarding Lebanons refugee repatriation. So far, Russia has shown little action and questionable capability, but this propaganda works at a time of U.S. regional retreat.

Despite Lebanons fears of abandonment, and in response to the legitimate concerns of the demonstrators, the U.S. can be helpful in many ways. For example, emphasizing its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and stability of Lebanon, providing significant funding in direct military and foreign assistance, and continuing visits by senior diplomatic and military officials.

Time is running out however for the Lebanese government to show the courage to make the tough decisions necessary to right its economy. Thousands of Lebanese are demonstrating in the streets, expressing their frustration with a government that is failing to take decisive action on the economy.

The government has the power to make the needed changes, address its economic woes, and take control of its destiny. It has been offered $11 billion in soft loans and grants by international donors to rebuild infrastructure, kick-start the economy, and privatize government-run entities.

The international community however expects Lebanon to reduce its budget and public workforce, create transparent oversight mechanisms, and institute anti-corruption policies that will allow this beautiful country to reclaim its historic role as an economic model in the Middle East. The demonstrators are showing their concern and commitment to a more free, open, transparent, and inclusive Lebanonwill the politicians take up the challenge? All it takes is a little courage.

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Raising the country’s wellness index – Ceylon Daily News

Posted: at 11:46 am

This article is a continuation of Sri Lankas rise to healthy nationhood published in the Daily News yesterday.

Elimination of HIV/AIDS by 2030

HIV/AIDS is a major global public health problem having claimed over 34 million lives so far. At present, around 36.7 million people globally are affected with HIV/AIDS. Today, Sri Lanka is named as a low prevalence country for HIV/AIDS.

The challenges facing HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka

1.) Bringing down the rate of low prevalence to a point of near elimination

2.) Ensure all patients with HIV/AIDS have the right to universal healthcare

3.)Ensure all patients with HIV/AIDS lead a normal life in the community without being marginalised or discriminated by the local community

Magnitude of HIV/AIDSproblem in SL:

(Source: National STD/AIDS Control Programme, December 2017)

Target of HIV/AIDSprogramme in SL:

To reduce the prevalence from 0.01 percent to the overall goal of zero percent - target to be achieved by 2030

The fast track initiative programme, the 90-90-90 needs to identify the following.

1.) Diagnose 90 percent of population infected with HIV.

2.) Treat 90 percent diagnosed with anti viral treatment.

3.) Ensure undetectable HIV in 90 percent of patients is treated with anti viral drugs.

Prevention of HIV/AIDS

1.) Sexual education of young people is mandatory regarding sexual health, sexual responsibility and the need to practice safe sex with the use of condoms.

2.) Advising youth to engage in sexual activity with one trustworthy partner only.

3.) Screening of all pregnant mothers for HIV/AIDS.

4.) Among drug addicts - avoidance of sharing needles for injecting drugs.

5.) Advise suspected cases of HIV/AIDS to avail themselves of freely accessible STD clinics in the government sector and confirm the HIV status confidentially at no cost.

6.) Protection of the baby during pregnancy from HIV infected mothers.

REDUCING ROAD ACCIDENTS

The stark reality of road traffic accidents (RTA) in 2018 was that approximately 3,000 Sri Lankans died on roads. On average, one death occurred every three hours or eight deaths occurred daily. The government spends on each death, including basic treatment, ICU care, investigations, legal workout and post-mortem, approximately Rs. one million per victim.

The WHOs ambitious goal is to reduce the deaths from RTA by 50 percent by 2030. To ensure this, the government will have to enforce strict laws and implement them without any exception via the National Road Safety Council to ensure the countrys roads are safe for its citizens.

Analysis of fatal road traffic accidents in 2016 revealed the following information.

Total number of road traffic deaths - 2961.

This comprised 1,157 motorcyclists, 877 pedestrians, 720 motorists and 244 cyclists. These figures confirm that roads in Sri Lanka pose a serious hazard.

Consequences of road accidents

Deaths from road traffic accidents often involve the breadwinners of families at the peak of their lives. These deaths also invariably spell economic disaster for the families as all financial resources are utilised for treatment of these victims. Invariably these victims who survive from road traffic accidents are left with severe degrees of disability ranging from partial to total paralysis, totally dependent in vegetative states.

Prevention of roadtraffic accidents

1.) Primary prevention - Preventing road traffic accidents before it occurs. This includes education of the public, engineering and enforcement.

2.) Secondary prevention - management of injuries

3.) Tertiary prevention - disability limitation and rehabilitation

The way forward

All road users should act with civic responsibility and obey road rules at all times. They should not drink and drive or drive when they are tired and sleepy. The insurance premium should be increased for reckless driving. Other important measures are withdrawal of licence for six months for drunk driving and implementation of strict fines on dangerous driving without any exceptions.

The Sri Lanka Medical Association(SLMA) has already initiated a programme to increase public awareness of road traffic accidents and their consequences.

KEEPING SRI LANKA MALARIA FREE

Sri Lanka was certified malaria-free on September 5, 2016. This was exactly four years after the last endogenous case of malaria was detected in a soldier at a Sri Lanka Army camp in Mullaitivu. This was exactly 100 years after the British set up the first-ever malaria field station in Kurunegala in 1912. During this period, Sri Lanka was plagued by a devastating epidemic of malaria in 1935. This epidemic affected about 80 percent of the total population of Sri Lanka, which was five million at that time. The maternal mortality during the epidemic was 5,000 per 100,000 live births and the infant mortality rate was 458 per 1,000 live births.

Sri Lanka was free of malaria temporarily in 1963. However, unremitting vigilance was not maintained and malaria re-emerged in the late 60s. Minor epidemics of malaria occurred from 1970 to 1974 and from 1986 to 1988. During this period, 1986 to 1988, malaria was the leading cause of admission of patients to the government hospitals in Sri Lanka. This was the period that I worked at the Polonnaruwa Base Hospital where one-third of all admissions to the medical and paediatric wards comprised patients sick with malaria.

Patterns of malariaepidemics in SL

Elimination of Malaria

With the decline in cases to 124 in 2001 with global funds, the task of elimination of malaria began. This was achieved through

(1.) Integrated and targeted vector control (mosquito larvae) in major irrigation channels and agricultural projects; (2.) Adult vector control by targeted spraying in high-risk areas, indoor residual spraying and the use of long-lasting insecticide sprayed bed nets; and (3.) Parasite control with mobile clinics for active and passive case detection and treatment of patients at all levels.

Despite elimination of malaria in Sri Lanka, we remain receptive and vulnerable to reintroduction of malaria. Receptivity to malaria results from

(1.) The ecosystems of the country favouring a high prevalence of malaria mosquitoes due to suitable temperature and humidity; (2.) Presence of vectors in most parts of the country in irrigation projects, streams, quarry pits and water pools; and (3.) Real danger of a new vector Anopheles stephensi in the Northern Province imported from India. This vector would cause major epidemic of urban malaria if it reaches the Western Province.

Sri Lanka is vulnerable to the reintroduction of malaria due to the tremendous increase in the migrant population, with the possibility of importing the malaria parasite to Sri Lanka from other endemic countries and delay in the detection and treating these imported malaria cases.

These high-risk groups include

(1.) Sri Lankan gem traders travelling to Madagascar and Mozambique; (2.) Businessmen who travel to Asia and Africa; (3.) Pilgrims travelling to India; (4.) Sri Lankan security forces in foreign missions; (5.) Migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers; and (6.) Tourists from malaria-endemic areas and Sri Lankans on leisure trips to South Africa.

There have been no indigenous cases of malaria since August 2012, confirming zero local transmission since then.

In 2018, there were 47 imported cases and one introduced case in a Sri Lankan who contracted malaria from an Indian worker in Moneragala.

An important message to doctors:

(1.) Always obtain a travel history of patients who present with fever

(2.) Perform blood tests repeatedly to confirm a diagnosis of malaria.

(3.) Remember thrombocytopenia is common not only in dengue but in malaria as well.

(4.) Always follow the national guidelines during treatment.

(5.) Inform all cases of malaria to the hotline, 011 7 626 626.

Take home message to patients:

If you develop fever after visiting a malaria-endemic area, please remind your doctor that it could be malaria.

FACING THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHALLENGES OF AGEING POPULATION

Sri Lanka has one of the fastest ageing populations in the world with 19 percent of population belonging to the elderly population group by 2030. ( See Table 1)

With the decrease in the birth rate and rising of the expectation of life and the geriatric population will need to shift the governments healthcare allocation funds from the pediatric to the geriatric age groups. Increase in the dependency ratio and the shrinking of the working population will consequently cause a tremendous burden on the government.

Mitigating adverse effectsof rising geriatric population

1.) Increase the retirement age and encourage older workers to remain longer in the labour force.

2.) Introduce phased out retirement schemes.

3.) Promote voluntary pro-social behaviour, craft and artistic work among the elderly.

4.) Provide support for independent living for the elderly.

5.) Adaptive transport, housing and rehabilitation.

6.) Prepare for management of age-related diseases such as NCDs, dementia, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and Alzheimers disease.

7.) Establishment of day care centres, psychogeriatric clinics, dementia care centres etc.

People living longer and leading productive lives is the crowning achievement of our health services. It is certainly a challenge which must be properly planned and executed. Our aim should be to add life to years and not years to life and to enter the silver age, healthy and productive.

REDUCING BURDEN OF CKDU

In the history of our nation, spanning over 2500 years, agriculture and the paddy farmer have had a special bearing on our economy. It is believed that the migration of Rajarata from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa and subsequently to Dambadeniya resulted from the devastating effects of malaria in these kingdoms. Today, the high prevalence of CKDu in the North-Central Province (NCP) has nearly crippled this agricultural heartland, causing a steady outmigration of people and is slowly but surely destroying the agricultural-based civilisation of our country.

The following data highlight the stark reality of this malady.

1.) The age-standardised prevalence of CKDu is 15 percent.

2.) A population of 500,000 is at risk in the NCP namely Medawachchiya, Padavi Sripura and Weli Oya areas

3.) Numbers severely affected with CKDu fearing death is 75,000

4.) Estimated death toll so far is 24,000

5.) Estimated daily deaths are two per day

In 2009, the following were defined as criteria for case definition of CKDu.

1.) No past history of or current treatment for diabetes, chronic hypertension, snakebite or urological disease of known aetiology or glomerulonephritis.

2.) Normal glycosylated haemoglobin (HBA1C) level is below 6.5.

3.) For blood pressure below 160 by 100 mm untreated or blood pressure below 140 by 90 mm mercury up to two hypotensive drugs used (The Health Ministry, 2019).

Main features of CKDu include an insidious onset, slowly progressive chronic interstitial nephritis which predominantly affects, poor rural male farmers in agrochemical intense form of cultivation. The heavy sun exposure in these areas leads to increased sweating. This factor, along with reduced water intake leading to dehydration further aggravate this toxic nephropathy with unique geographical distribution which appeared in Sri Lanka in the mid-1990s. CKDu has been associated strongly with the following factors.

1.) Consumption of hard water containing magnesium and calcium

2.) Spraying of glyphosate (Roundup), the most widely used herbicide in disease-endemic areas with unique metal chelating properties.

3. Use of fertilizers with heavy metals (E.g., arsenic lead, cadmium and chromium)

The above interactions result in the formation of glyphosate metal (GM) complexes. Drinking hard water with the GM complex and subsequent absorption to the circulation leads to high levels reaching the kidney. In the kidney, high concentration of ammonium, NH4 plus ions, releases the heavy metals from the GMA lattice in the proximate tubular areas. When the lattice is broken, it releases metals such as arsenic which damage the glomeruli and leads to glomerulosclerosis and subsequent collapse while arsenic, cadmium, chromium and the other heavy metals cause proximal tubular damage leading to chronic interstitial nephritis.

All these factors associated with agriculture have resulted in change of the name of CKDu to Chronic Interstitial Nephritis of Agricultural Communities (CINAC).

(Source: Int. J. Res. Public Health 2013, Page 2137. C.N. Jayasumana et al.)

Prevention of CKDu/CINAC

1.) Fast track provision of safe water to communities living in affected areas -

Provision of reverse osmosis water purifiers at community levels in common places

(e.g., markets, community centres, temples, pradeshiya sabha grounds)

2.) Provision of safe water for schoolchildren by installing water filters in schools in the affected areas.

3.) Minimise the use of agro chemicals herbicides and weedicides

4.) Avoid the use of chemical fertilizers

5.) Encourage farmers to engage in traditional methods of agriculture by using compost

6.) Population screening and surveillance for early detection of CINAC

It has now been proved beyond doubt that reverse osmosis by water purifiers is the only effective answer to prevent CKD/CINAC. Reverse osmosis removes all suspected causative elements of this malady (e.g., removes arsenic, cadmium, glyphosate, fluoride, calcium and magnesium) Reverse osmosis is therefore the only effective answer to prevent CINAC.

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Raising the country's wellness index - Ceylon Daily News

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