It is time for our nation to pay the proper attention to PTSD

PTSD – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

This is an important article that I published previously in my page and merit a second look.

Commentators highlight mostly superficial and rating-driven stories for hours each night as the most revered members of our country, the military, lose twenty-three warriors a day in silence. This is unacceptable.

A young master’s graduate student walks along a street of North Moscow with 2 friends one lazy September afternoon in 1991. Out of nowhere two dark colored cars screech to an abrupt halt and precede to spray gun fire toward the trio of targeted civilians. One brave intended victim, a veteran of the military who served in Afghanistan exchanges fire with the attackers while another is shot in the neck. Sadly, the injury suffered is fatal leaving the 2 companions to view an unspeakable end of human tragedy.

A caravan of armored cars speeds towards the capital of Angola, Luanda, to ensure the installation of Augustine Netto as its President. In the passage enemy forces commence a heavy barrage of bullets from the covered roadside. After about 10 minutes, in an opening between two mountains, the skirmish is finished. The resulting scene reveals the image of one soldier’s insides blown apart after a grenade exploded. A 31-year-old buddy tries in vain to repair the wounds. Two other fighters are killed never to return home to their families they loved.

An innocent angel of just 12 years is repeatedly and violently abused as she struggles to lead a normal existence, at school she’s tormented and becomes the target of humiliation no one deserves. All too hard for a tender pre-teen, she takes her life instead.
Nurses labor in homes providing kind care for elders who no one remembers. The last days of their patients’ lives pass with regular occurrence, and terminal suffering is a daily test they must endure.

The youthful student in Russia goes on to develop chronic anxiety. The courageous soldier leaves Angola paralyzed due of a nervous breakdown. The dedicated nurse cries on an uncontrolled basis. Three stories of life time hardships and debilitating souls. A lingering condition that exist invisible to the rest of society. A fourth example of painful living results in death. Symptoms like these are examples of a disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The problems that result are, depression, mood disorder, phobias, interrupted sleep, substance abuse along with the darkest details, suicide.

Many in the US are unaware that more soldiers die from the effects from PTSD than fall in combat. Each day twenty-three young veterans under the age of 30 feel the need to take their own lives. Our collective attention is limited when this horrific epidemic is exposed. In the past year cases of PTSD have jumped over 50%, and those are just the diagnosed cases. Estimates range regarding returning military who suffer from PTSD as being as high as 30%.

It is time for our nation to pay the proper attention to PTSD and commit to fight this disease with the priority it deserves, our heroes can’t wait.

Brazilian states, municipalities to receive billions to fight Covid

Brazilian states, municipalities to receive billions to fight Covid

Brasilia, May 7 (Prensa Latina) The Brazilian Senate unanimously approved on Wednesday a draft bill to provide assistance worth more than 21 billion dollars to the states and municipalities to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

After the changes made by the House of Deputies and if signed by President Jair Bolsonaro, the Proposed Constitutional Amendment will establish the direct transfer of 10.526 billion dollars from the Federal Government to states and municipalities in four monthly installments.

Previously, the draft bill was approved by the Senate, but after undergoing major modifications in the lower House, it had to return to the senators.

The initiative will also establish the pardon of the debts of all 27 Brazilian states and all their cities.

In terms of resources, the wages of municipal, regional and federal public servants will be frozen until December 2021, thus saving nearly 7.545 billion dollars.

That list does not include workers in specific sectors such as health care, security, education, urban cleaning and the Armed Forces.

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In Latin America, face masks become a form of expression

HAVANA (AP) — Rarely used in Latin America outside hospitals before the coronavirus pandemic, face masks are now compulsory for subway riders, supermarket shoppers and even joggers in some countries — and they’re becoming a colorful part of the region’s daily life.

Motifs showing up on masks are varied, often reflecting local cultures. There are lucha libre-themed masks in Mexico, logos of soccer clubs in Argentina, Batman characters in Peru and colorful swimsuit prints in Colombia.

Some activists sport masks with political statements.

“It’s a garment that has a strong visual impact,” says Lauren Fajardo, one of the owners of Cuban fashion brand Dador. “It is also a way to express yourself. I don’t even have to talk for someone to see what I’m trying to say with my face mask.”

An elderly woman wearing a protective face mask and disposable gloves adjusts her headscarf as she takes a walk outside at a nursing home amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Caracas, Venezuela.

When the virus first started to spread in Latin America, pharmacies quickly ran out of conventional face masks, pushing up prices and even forcing medical personnel to go without them. But with lockdowns putting the brakes on business activity, local manufacturers reacted quickly, and grassroots producers also jumped in.

In Havana, women working at home on their sewing machines used leftover fabric to make free face masks for neighbors. In Rio de Janeiro, samba schools suspended production of flashy Carnival costumes and began churning out colorful masks.

In her new Netflix documentary, the first lady exaggerates racial slights against her.

The cult of Michelle Obama is a puzzler. Thousands of strong, smart, independent women flock to every public appearance of, and hang on every platitude of, a woman whose sole notable accomplishment is her marriage. Lucking into marrying a celebrity is not usually posited to be the aim of feminism. No one can name a single other exceptional, or even unusual, achievement.

The adulation is real, though. Hillary Clinton’s book tour meant sad, clenched-jaw appearances at Barnes & Noble. Mrs. Obama’s took her to the Barclays Center and other arenas big enough for pro basketball games. There’s now a documentary about the book tour on Netflix. Guess who made it? Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company. It’s called, as the book was, Becoming. It turns out the title is a bit ironic.

What the doc clarifies is the chief impetus behind Barack Obama’s rise to the White House. The Obamas created a haven for genteel, temperate, passive-aggressive anti-racism. This made them living saints rather than mere political figures. They offered black America pride, and white America, expiation. Their personal story rendered irrelevant Barack Obama’s lack of leadership experience in 2008. Democrats today must be wondering whether they should have gone with someone less holy and more effective, but they still feel good about their own racial enlightenment. As little as Obama brought them in policy, he gratified their need to feel that they were, to invoke an Obama cliché, on the right side of history. But the guilty-white-liberal fanbase longed for stories of how their icons personified racist oppression. Give us the drama, their acolytes pleaded. Tell us true tales of what it’s like to suffer in one’s black body. The problem is that neither of the Obamas really suffered, so they had to exaggerate.

Michelle Robinson was born in 1964 and grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She has some grievances with how the neighborhood changed over the years. “As black families like ours were moving into neighborhoods, white families were being scared away,” she explains in the film. “They were being told, sell your home quick . . . they fled further into the suburbs.” She adds, “My family, sadly, was one of those families, to some, who didn’t belong.”

Huh? The Robinson family didn’t move anywhere during the period in question. Michelle lived in that house on South Euclid from age one until she met Barack Obama. The families who felt they “didn’t belong” there were the ones that moved out. She points out sadly in the movie that her kindergarten class photo includes lots of white and black kids but her eighth-grade class, seen in a photo from about 1977, was almost entirely black.

Mrs. Obama doesn’t mention this in the movie, but in the book she is a bit more forthcoming about the merits of her neighborhood. “Walking home to Euclid Avenue in the evenings, I carried my house key wedged between two knuckles pointed outward, in case I needed to defend myself,” she writes. Maybe all those families who fled to the suburbs simply wanted to save their kids from getting mugged, or dying in one of the many fires (“inside our tight city grid, fire was almost a fact of life,” she writes) that plagued the area and killed several of Obama’s neighbors as a child. None of this is mentioned in the movie. Nor does the book or movie recount how Chicago’s crime rate doubled from the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies, or allude to the 1968 riots in Chicago and elsewhere that made so many Americans lose faith in the cities. Today, thousands of black Chicagoans are moving out of the city. Are they racist too? For Obama fans, though, oversimplifying the past to reframe it as mainly a tale of white racism is an important component of reassuring themselves that they’re so much better than their prejudiced parents and grandparents.

Some of Mrs. Obama’s grievances center around Princeton, from which Michelle Robinson graduated in 1985 after attending a magnet high school for high achievers in Chicago. On her book tour, one of her many celebrity interlocutors prompts her: “You’re in high school. You are accomplished. You are class treasurer, do I remember that right?” This leads up to a story of how Michelle Robinson’s guidance counselor told her, “I’m not sure that you’re Princeton material.” That statement “was a punch,” she recalls, and she’s still seething about it. The documentary frames it as racial slur, and follows it with much somber discussion about what it’s like to be an invisible black woman in America.

Was this a story of racism, though? In her book, Obama says, of the counselor, “I don’t remember her age or her race.” And she admits the counselor’s assessment was “probably based on a quick-glance calculus involving my grades and test scores.” Sounds as though her grades and test scores were unexceptional. If so, the counselor’s assessment was a reasonable one.

Obama tells us in the movie of suffering racial discomfort around Princeton, where “I was one of a handful of minority students. It was the first time in my life where I stood out like that.” She reports in her memoir that Princeton’s student body was “less than nine percent black,” but, since blacks were 12 percent of the U.S. population, Princeton was fairly representative of the country as a whole. It was her mostly black neighborhood back home that was atypical.

That brings us to the smoking gun of the movie, the one story Obama has to offer of being indisputably the victim of a racist insult. While discussing her college years, she says, “I learned that one of my roommates moved out because her mother was horrified that I was black. She felt her daughter was in danger. I wasn’t prepared for that.” The story she tells in the memoir is different: She learned in 2008, via a newspaper interview with an ex-roommate, that the reason the girl had moved out was because of the racist mom. At Princeton, Michelle Robinson didn’t suspect the reason the roommate had moved out and was evidently unbothered about it: “I’m happy to say I had no idea why,” she writes.

A snapshot the film shows us, of undergrad Michelle looking wan and depressed, presumably because of this racist slight, is misleading. “I wasn’t prepared for that”? She didn’t even know about it at the time. And if anything the racial tension went the other way: The roommate, a lesbian from New Orleans named Catherine Donnelly, very much liked Michelle, found her “really smart, charming, interesting and funny,” as she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008, but felt she couldn’t hang out with her because Michelle obviously preferred to socialize with the black students. A white kid can’t exactly approach a group of black students and say, “Can I join your clique?” Michelle acknowledges as much in her memoir, in which she describes self-segregating at a social center for black students. She says in the book that her white roommates were “perfectly nice” but “I wasn’t around the dorm enough to strike up any sort of deep friendship. I didn’t, in fact, have many white friends at all. In retrospect, I realize it was my fault as much as anyone’s.”

Playing up racism in the supposed service of pleading for more tolerance, love, and harmony is a bit . . . unbecoming. You might even call it shabby. Mrs. Obama labels the story she is telling “my version of reality,” a moment after we observe her husband backstage at one of her events. Barack Obama says, good-naturedly, “It’s fun listening to her tell these stories. Some of which, you know, part of me is like, nah . . . that’s not exactly how it happened.” He ought to know.

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Net-Zero Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, and Extinction Capitalism

Shutting down the whole global economy is the only way of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Centigrade, Yvo de Boer, the former United Nations climate chief, warned in the runup to the 2015 Paris climate conference. Thanks to COVID-19 we now have an inkling what that looks like. The conference went further and chose to write into the Paris agreement an aspiration to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. The 1.5°C backstory reveals much about the quality of what passes for science and gets enshrined in U.N. climate treaties — and is directly relevant to American corporations that now find themselves on the front line of the climate wars.

Nine weeks before the Copenhagen climate conference, the one where Barack Obama was going to slow the rise of the oceans, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting. “We are trying to send our message to let the world know what is happening and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change isn’t checked,” Nasheed told reporters after resurfacing. It was part of a campaign by the Alliance of Small Island States claiming that climate change magnified the risk that their islands would drown.

The sinking-islands trope has been endlessly recycled by the U.N. for decades. In 1989, a U.N. official stated that entire nations could disappear by 2000 if global warming was not reversed. Like so many others, that prediction of climate catastrophe came and went. The failed prediction didn’t prevent the current U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, from declaring last year, “We must stop Tuvalu from sinking.” There was no science behind 1.5°C and the sinking-island hypothesis. Studies show, here and here, that the Maldives and Tuvalu have increased in size. As the 25-year-old Charles Darwin might have told the U.N., coral atolls are formed by the slow subsidence of the ocean bed.

Having incorporated 1.5°C into the sacred texts of the U.N. climate process, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was charged with coming up with a scientific justification for it. In 2018, the IPCC published its report on the 1.5°C limit. It debunked the sinking-islands scare, reporting that unconstrained atolls have kept pace with rising sea levels. The IPCC had a bigger problem than non-sinking islands. The IPCC’s existing 1.5°C carbon budget — the maximum amount of greenhouse gases to keep the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C — was on the verge of being used up. Like some end-of-the-world cult after the clock had passed midnight, it would find itself in a predicament that promised to be more than a little embarrassing.

Help was at hand. As skeptics had long been pointing out, IPCC lead author Myles Allen confirmed that climate model projections had been running too hot and that they had been forecasting too much warming since 2000. Together with some other handy adjustments, the IPCC managed to more than double the remaining 1.5°C budget. Although it could muster only medium confidence in its revised carbon budget, the IPCC had high confidence that net emissions had to fall to zero by 2050 and be cut by 45 percent by 2030. In this fashion, net zero by 2050 was carved in stone.

That timeline is now being used to bully American corporations into aligning their business strategies with the Paris agreement and force them to commit to eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. In fact, the text of the Paris agreement speaks of achieving a balance between anthropogenic sources and removals “in the second half of this century.” The net-zero target has no standing in American law or regulation. Net zero is not about a few tweaks here and there. It necessitates a top-down coercive revolution the likes of which have never been seen in any democracy. This is spelt out in the IPCC’s 1.5°C report, which might as well serve as a blueprint for the extinction of capitalism.

The IPCC makes no bones about viewing net zero, it says, as providing the opportunity for ‘intentional societal transformation.’ Limiting the rise to rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels — an ill-defined baseline chosen by the U.N. because the Industrial Revolution is our civilization’s original sin — requires ‘transformative systemic change’ and ‘very ambitious, internationally cooperative policy environments that transform both supply and demand.’

Thanks to COVID-19, we have a foretaste of what the IPCC intends. It envisages, for example, the industrial sector cutting its emissions by between 67 and 91 percent by 2050, implying a contraction in industrial output so dramatic as to make the 1930s Great Depression look like a walk in the park, a possibility the IPCC choses to ignore. The IPCC places its bets on a massive transition to wind and solar, but no amount of wishful thinking can overcome the inherent physics of their low energy density and their intermittency, which explains why countries with the highest proportion of wind and solar on their grids also have the highest energy costs in the world. One option the IPCC does not favor — a wholesale transition to nuclear power — seems unachievable anyway on the timetable it has in mind. Nuclear power stations typically take well over five years to build, and not many are planned for now. Germany is switching out of nuclear power, the Japanese are, to quote the New York Times “racing to build new coal-burning . . . plants” and the Chinese are wary of overdoing their nuclear construction because of the risk of accident.

Rather than address the possibility of a sustained slump in economic activity the IPCC’s approach is to say the benefits of holding the line at 1.5°C are — surprise, surprise! — greater than at 2 degrees Centigrade while studiously ignoring the extra costs of the more ambitious target. A few numbers show why. A carbon tax sufficiently high to drive emissions to net zero would range up to $6,050 per metric ton, over 60 times the hypothetical climate benefits estimated by the Obama administration, indicating that the climate benefits of net zero are less than 2 percent of its cost. In a rational world, discussion of net zero would end at this point.

You don’t have to be a Milton Friedman to fathom the incompatibility with free markets and capitalist growth of what the IPCC terms “enhanced institutional capabilities” and “stringent policy interventions.” So it’s easy to understand why the governments of the world have no intention of achieving net zero by 2050. As Todd Stern, one of the principal architects of the Paris agreement, remarked last November, “there is a lack of political will in virtually every country, compared to what there needs to be.”

Led by Britain, several European countries have legislated net-zero targets without having a clue how they might meet them or their economic impact. Indeed, Britain can claim to be the world’s leading climate hypocrite. Having offshored its manufacturing base to China and the European Union, it is the G-7’s largest per capita net importer of carbon dioxide emissions. Before adopting its net zero target, the Committee on Climate Change observed that Britain lacked a credible plan for decarbonizing the way people heat their homes and that government policy was insufficient to meet even existing targets.

If governments — the legal parties to the Paris Agreement — have no collective intention to achieve net zero, why should America’s corporations? There is no environmental, economic, or ethical good when a corporation cuts its carbon dioxide emissions to meet the net-zero target when the rest of the world doesn’t, unless, that is, you’re one of the select few who believes that self-impoverishment is inherently virtuous. Yet corporations are increasingly being held to ransom by billionaire climate activists like Mike Bloomberg and BlackRock’s Larry Fink with the demand that they commit to net zero, make their shareholders and stakeholders poorer, and give a leg up to their competitors in the rest of the world, especially in the Far East.

The arrogation of the rule-making prerogatives of a democratic state by a handful of climate activists raises profound questions on the demarcation between the rightful domains of politics and of business. It also raises profound questions about the future of capitalism. “Capitalism pays the people that strive to bring it down,” Joseph Schumpeter, the greatest economist of capitalism, observed in the 1940s. They won’t succeed, but for the efforts of soft anti-capitalists within the capitalist system.

The moral case for capitalism rests on its prodigious ability to raise living standards and transform the material conditions of mankind for the better. To climate-shame corporations without the sanction of law or regulation will extinguish the economic dynamism that justifies capitalism. Remove its capacity to do so, and we will have entered a post-capitalist era. This is how capitalism ends.

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