Posts Tagged ‘ intcomps ’

PRESS RELEASE: IntComps site changes hands

HAPA ANNOUNCES TRANSFER OF RESEARCH PROJECT TO UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI

Hayward, CA – The Hayward Area Planning Association (HAPA) has transferred the InternationalComparisons.org website to the University of Missouri. Sherman Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Cal State University Hayward and President of HAPA, and Dustyn Bindel, Research Associate, developed the website over a period of almost four years. Tevfik Murat Yildirim, a Ph.D. student at the University, will be continuing the development of the site as new research is done on evaluating the performance of the world’s advanced nations. Professor Cooper Drury, Chair of the Department of Political Science, edits the Journal, Foreign Policy Analysis, and is the faculty contact for the site. He said, “Understanding the politics in other states is critically important to understand the foreign policy of others and one’s own state.”The site address is http://www.internationalcomparison.org/

Lewis says, “Work on this site has been rewarding but has become too time consuming, and I need to pass the baton onto some institution with fresh energy to continue the work.” Bindel, who ran the website and a related blog, says that “Laying out the site, technically, was quite challenging, but I think we’ve made it quite transparent for any journalist or academic with an interest in national comparative evaluations.” Tevfik states that he “… was excited when I saw an announcement about this website, and as I looked into it more, I decided it was something important—something I really wanted to work on. I feel challenged and honored for the opportunity to work on this important website.”

Sherman Lewis had the idea for this project for many years before he finally got serious, starting with a compilation of all the treaties that other advanced nations had agreed to, but not the United States. In general, he is critical of both ideological attacks on the United States and of simplistic defenses of the U.S. He believes that the United States is seriously behind on many important goals of society and yet also wants to give credit to the U.S. where its performance is good or excellent. Nevertheless, he believes that the U.S. in general has fallen behind other advanced democracies, and people need objective information about this problem.

Lewis: The “Intcomps” website is unique in that it has more topics of comparison for quality of life than any other website in the world today. On the other hand, it looks only at 12 countries, the U.S. and 11 advanced democratic countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The site combines objectivity with evaluation.

In May 2014, Wikipedia published an article on the general issue of international comparison statistics for 26 policy areas. The article discusses seven databases with this kind of statistical data. Internationalcomparisons.org is the only one that covers every area.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_comparisons

On the website, the categorical pages, each containing several columns of statistics, are as follows:

Agriculture     Child Welfare     Competitiveness     Crime     Economy     Education

Energy     Environment     Gender Equality     General Performance     Greenhouse Gases

Health Care     Health Regulation      Health Status     Housing

Income Distribution     International Aid     Lifestyle Risks     Military     Population

Rule of Law     Sexual Health     Social Justice     Technology     Teen Pregnancy

Transportation     Treaties     Voting     Work and Leisure

To learn more about the website or HAPA, please contact Sherman Lewis at sherman@csuhayward.us.

 

Made in China–ahem, Italy

The tragic fire at a factory on Sunday, December 1st, 2013, which cost 7 employees their lives, has barely begun to shed light on the industry’s illegal insurgence and Italy’s lack of capacity to do much about it.

Credit: wantchinatimes.com

Pronto moda is a case of what The Economist tags as “reverse globalization.” Cheap materials are shipped from China to Italy–as are the workers, as are the sweatshop concept and conditions. One city, Prato, just northwest of Florence, plays host to over 5,000 factories like the one that burned down on Sunday and some 50,000 Chinese workers buried in 16 hour work-days. Faux-designer products are pumped out at superhuman rates with the facade of labels from designer brands (although the “Made in Italy” label remaining true) and are sold for extremely cheap prices to locals and tourists. Before Italian taxes can even make their claim, more than half of the $2.7 billion profits find their way back to China undeclared.

Chinese utilitarianism and black labor practices are brought to Italy to take advantage of the necessarily perfect combination of an apt market for the pronto moda scheme and weak rule of law in Prato (as what may be an indication of the weaknesses sustained at the national level; consider Rule of Law 1 and Rule of Law 2 to observe Italy’s troubles). Workers, essentially indentured servants, are likely to be left with their promises of a return back to China unfulfilled as they work, bathe, eat, and sleep (in cardboard accommodations as was the case for the victims) within the same few square meters.

The devastating event made headlines in international media; however, the problem for Italian officials isn’t anything new to them. Roberto Cenni, Prato’s mayor, claims that they investigate hundreds of the 3,000+ illegal business every year. The proliferation is too much to handle, he claims, and the operations that Italy is able to shut down only sprout back up the next year. As China merely renders, capitalizes, and improves on what domestic organized crime has done in the country for so long, Italy is forced to drastically improve from the inside-out if it is to have any chance at beginning to address the complicated issues at hand in Prato.

The two-edged sword of universal health care

As Dr. Philip Caper has revealed, there’s more at stake concerning health care than whether the U.S. should have free health care for all.

He evaluates the costs offered for medicare services in the U.S. compared to the prices for the same procedures (be it a hip replacement, pregnancycolonoscopy, angiogram, or an M.R.I.) in other advanced democracies. When a surgery would cost someone $100,000 in the States in comparison to $13,660 to have it done in Belgium (airfare included), flaws in the more expensive system become glaring.

Furthermore, concerns are drawn in the United States health care system given the discrepancy among prices for the same medicare procedures when compared within the U.S. For example, procedures to treat heart failure and shock in Modesto, CA average a bill of over $92,000. The exact same category averages $3,334 in Danville, Arkansas. Geographical differences only explain so much. Systemic flaws must be at the root of the 2,700% difference.

Credit: Huck/Konopacki Cartoons

The issue in the U.S. is two-fold; therefore, universal healthcare as a solution is also double-edged. Universal health care would make health care an affordable reality for all. One study reveals that 1 out of every 4 elderly people goes bankrupt as a result of health care expenses. The United States has a broken system in which its government spends more per capita (except for Norway) and more as a percent of GDP than any other advanced democracy studied at internationalcomparisons.org.

A U.S. universal health care system would also eliminate pricing discrepancies, as reviewed above, not only in international comparisons, but interstate as well. No longer would people need to shop international hospitals for a colonoscopy or worry why Medicare has no reasonable explanation for price differences in Danville, Arkansas.

It’s a shame and a quandary: not only the systemic debacles, but also the lack of public outcry.

Health Regulation page goes live!

The Health Regulation page is relevant to internationalcomparisons.org for several reasons. Let’s highlight a couple of the most critical:

This is pretty straight forward. A great example is the link between child advertising and child obesity. U.S. advertisers spend $15-17 billion annually on advertisements targeting children. As a direct result, 35% of U.S. children are obese. Only Italy and the UK have rates over 25% in the EU which restricts advertisement to children by the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive which mandates that child advertisement:

a. shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;
b. shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;
c. shall not exploit the special trust minors place in parents, teachers or other persons;
d. shall not unreasonably show minors in dangerous situations;
e. Children’s programs may only be interrupted if the scheduled duration is longer than 30 minutes;
f. Product placement is not allowed in children’s programs;
g. The Member States and the Commission should encourage audiovisual media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding the advertising of certain foods in children’s programs.

  • The U.S. is the most reluctant advanced democracy to apply the precautionary principle.

In spite of pumping out nearly 20 new chemicals per day (according to Craig Collins’ Toxic Loopholes), the U.S. somehow still doesn’t find it necessary to have tighter policy to regulate the safety of those chemicals. The precautionary principle can be described as a method of policy making by which all chemicals are considered dangerous until proven harmless. Instead, U.S. chemical policy treats the unpredictable agents as innocent until proven guilty. Even once harm is associated with the chemical, certain systemic pitfalls have made it almost impossible to get such chemicals banned. The EU has banned over 1,000 chemicals; the U.S., in spite of the prolific rates at which new chemicals are produced, has banned a laughable total of nine chemicals. Wider application of the precautionary principle could have saved us the multifaceted and widespread hazards from PCBs. Without such tests required, who knows what we’re risking with GMOs and U.S. backed Monsanto initiatives.

Italian and French policy values heritage over Monsanto

Yesterday, Italy (from where itnernationalcomparisons.com will conduct its research and reporting starting in October) set a valuable precedent in the world’s fight for an autonomous food system, the EU’s battle against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and a country’s fight to maintain original taste and quality in its produce.

The protection of Italian distinctiveness must be a policy priority since it determines the existence of ‘Made in Italy’, which is our engine, our future, our leverage to return to growth in the food industry.           -Statement from Italian agriculture ministry

Based on this quote, an 80% public backing, and the decision by three separate governmental ministries to ban Monsanto’s MON810 maize,  the Italians resoundingly favor their own original food over Monsanto’s GM, uniform product. So the Italians are not only setting precedent in standing up against the health risks from GMOs and the corporate irresponsibility from Monsanto, but also by adding another element to the argument: pride in country*. And without the latter, the Italians see their hopes of recovery as significantly diminished. According to Italy, Monsanto’s monopoly and bland, uniform product represents such a threat.

In 2012 the French, the most prolific crop growers in all of Europe,  also banned the same product, the only GM product allowed in the EU. France also claims national heritage to be a factor in its decision in spite of the temporary hardship the French face as they transition agriculturally and economically away from MON810. From France and Italy’s perspectives, having little to do with GMOs is still too much.

Perhaps Italy and France have gleaned from the India-Monsanto relationship, which is too much to take on in the same blog. As we prepare research to be released on our new Health Regulation page coming soon, look forward to more blogs on chemical policy, the precautionary principle, and its commercial antithesis: Monsanto.

*Regardless to what extent Italy made its decision as a matter of national pride in its produce, they will need to provide a scientific basis, a “health or environmental risk,” if their position on MON810 is going to stand. France implemented its own custom ban on GMOs last year by going through the same process.

What the Snowden scenario offers us from an international affairs perspective

Edward Snowden’s pursuit for political asylum is captivating from many international affairs perspectives. One that particularly has my attention is to what extent U.S. exceptionalism will attempt to buck not only other states’ sovereignty, but also international rule of law.

Where’s Snowden? Credity: heavy.com

Indeed, this could turn out to be a fascinating showdown indicating which holds more pertinence: the cumulated efforts among international organizations, the relevance of international law, and assistance from human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International versus the once highly favored, yet still proven counterweight, U.S.

Snowden’s claiming under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that he is entitled to political asylum, and that it is the sovereignty of a host nation (in this case Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and potentially Russia) to grant him. Somebody should probably point out the irony in the United States’ prolific reluctance to sign and ratify international treaties, yet still deny rights granted in treaties that they not only signed and ratified, but its former First Lady also championed and authored.

Such duplicity is nothing new coming from the U.S., but the organization and cooperation in the international community could pose a threat that the U.S., especially given its waning clout, is not used to facing.