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United Nations finds possible human rights violations in America thanks to income inequality
The UN has commissioned a study of extreme poverty in the most of one of the world’s wealthiest nations, the United States.
“Civilized governments don't say 'go and make it on your own, and if you can't, then bad luck,'" says United Nations envoy Philip Alston. Alston is a New York University law and human rights professor who's been sent on a mission to study the terrible outbreak of extreme poverty in an unexpected location: The United States.
Philip Alston (AFP/STRINGER)
Alston tells Quartz, “some might ask why a UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States. But despite great wealth in the US, there also exists great poverty and inequality." And, he says, speaking to WKMS, “The United States has been very keen for me and others to investigate human rights issues in other countries, which I have done. Now, it's the turn to look at what's going on in the U.S."
Poverty is the root of what Alston will be documenting, but its effects drive home the brutal realties increasingly faced by many Americans in 2017. Alston's especially concerned with the human-rights implications as an representative of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.
With the massive redistribution of wealth upward in the U.S., the country seems at times determined to hurtle towards third-world status, as its rich get ever richer and life for everyone else gets harder. The last time such wealth inequity was seen in the States was just before the Great Depression.
Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011 (INEQUALITY.ORG)
Much of the 20th century was about balancing things out to a safer level, but the lessons of the Depression appear to have been forgotten in the last 25 years, when only the richest American families added any worth.
How has this happened? A case could be made that the wealthy have taken over control of the nation, realizing Theodore Roosevelt's warning, “…ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism." The tax overhaul currently lurching through Congress along strictly partisan lines is stark, stunning evidence of just such a class stratification that expects the majority of citizens do without necessities — including civil rights, sanitation (which includes clean water), food, health care, education, and any chance at all of upward mobility — to benefit those least in need. The claim that this is to create jobs, after decades of experiment and study have disproved “trickle-down economics," is to engage in the most cynical form of window-dressing.
Alston will be exploring areas of poverty throughout the U.S. including the Ohio Valley, where Jack Frech, who led the Athens County welfare department, says, “In my 40 years, I have never seen a time when families are suffering as much as they are today." He adds, “we now have millions of people with no cash income whatsoever."
A visit to Charleston, West Virginia is also part of his mission. Local ACLU director Joseph Cohen reports that the “Charleston Police Department recently estimated that there are 1,000 homeless people in Charleston, which is a city of less than 50,000 people." That's one out of 50 people, "an unbelievably high proportion of our population that is without the basic necessities of life." West Virginia's Margaret Chapman Pomponio points out that the area is short on OB-GYNs, and that means women have to travel long distances for reproductive support, which is more than an annoyance, “It is not just money lost, but it actually perpetuates an unequal system where the well-heeled are granted access to better health care."
Alston's mission is to:
He's concerned about how ineffective, and in danger of getting far worse, the U.S. welfare system is, saying to WKMS, “What I'm seeing so far is that those who are dependent on welfare benefits are enjoying those benefits at an extraordinarily low level. They are really living on the margins, if not below. And if there were really major cuts, then I think it would require a whole rethinking of the entire system because it wouldn't survive."
Alston also plans visits to California, Alabama, Georgia, and Puerto Rice before he concludes his mission in Washington, D.C. It's an appropriate terminus, given the extreme poverty in a city of well-heeled politicians and lobbyists, and the fact that the growth of poverty in the U.S. has been, and is ever moreso, a political choice. As Alston tells WKMS, “Politicians who say, 'there's nothing I can do about that' are simply wrong."
“The idea of human rights is that people have basic dignity and that it's the role of the government — yes, the government! — to ensure that no one falls below the decent level."
Jack Frech likes the idea of an international body getting involved in the problem, saying, “Having somebody from outside this country come and take an objective look at how we treat poor people, you know, maybe that will help wake people up in this country to moving in a different direction."
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.
In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.
The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.
Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.
Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.
Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.
A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.
Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."
Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.
Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.
"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.
Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.
"This is going to evolve fast!"
If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.
The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.
Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.
Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.
"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.
How were mRNA vaccines developed? Pfizer's Dr Bill Gruber explains the science behind this record-breaking achievement and how it was developed without compromising safety.
- Wondering how Pfizer and partner BioNTech developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time without compromising safety? Dr Bill Gruber, SVP of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, explains the process from start to finish.
- "I told my team, at first we were inspired by hope and now we're inspired by reality," Dr Gruber said. "If you bring critical science together, talented team members together, government, academia, industry, public health officials—you can achieve what was previously the unachievable."
- The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to prevent COVID-19 for use in individuals 12 years of age and older. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the emergency declaration unless ended sooner. See Fact Sheet: cvdvaccine-us.com/recipients.