The year in review – top 10 of 2010

Posted on | juli 29, 2011 | No Comments

The year started with a devastating earthquake in Haiti and ended with a cholera outbreak in a country that remains the poorest and the most neglected in the Western Hemisphere. This is a sad commentary on the UN and its sub-agencies, on the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, on the US and all of Haiti’s Latin American neighbors that could have helped to prevent the country from sinking lower than the depths of catastrophe that confronted it at the beginning of 2010. All claim on their web sites to have extended a helping hand top Haiti, but the results speak for themselves. Maybe 2011 will be a better year for the impoverished people of Haiti.

The reckless handling of BP and the companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will leave their mark on the ecosystem for many years. Not that the US government handled the disaster with the speed and efficiency it required, but this is clearly a case of how trans-national corporations enjoy enormous influence over the state, and act arrogantly in reckless disregard for the environment and communities, both disposable in the name of profit. This is not to say that the American people should not take up a generous collection for  Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, who demanded that ‘I want my life back’ after those nagging questions about how he poisoned the Gulf where 11 workers lost their lives and 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the sea. Maybe there can be a rock concert for Hayward and BP – let’s call it BP-GULF AID. Has BP or any oil company or any government learned a lesson from the Gulf Oil spill? Not with the price of oil at $90 a barrel!

The US was officially declared out of recession in June 2009, but at the end of 2010 the official unemployment stands at 9.7% (14.8 million) of  American workers unofficially…well… who knows? It is actually true that the recession was over in June 2009 for corporate America only, given that corporate America is sitting on more than one trillion dollar cash reservoir, waiting for better opportunities to invest… perhaps in 2011. It is also true that bonuses, stock options, high salaries that are 500 times higher than those of the average worker, and other executive perks have continued for those valuable managers of corporate America amid the recession – some of these executives in the financial sector that caused the recession and 10% unemployment. Corporate executives really feel the pain of the unemployed worker and the middle class and will do their part to make that pain go away, just as soon as they get their cut first.

This web site has made a impact on a world scale, with its flamboyant founder Julian Assange who was determined to make an impression in the world by exposing government secrets in the name of ‘free press’, citizens’ right to know, and serve humanity until… the price is right! This story will remain an important one in 2011 and I suspect that Assange will make a great deal more money than what he is currently receiving for the book deal. Maybe Assange can go on a tour with Lady Gaga and they can promote each other’s particular talent. Could the profit motive along with fame and glory be behind WIKILEAKS, and if so, does it really matter as long as WIKILEAKS satisfies the public’s right to know what governments are doing (at least a segment of the public)? With all his flaws, Assange has actually torn down the complacent and conformist blinders from mainstream media and forced it to see what reporting should be about.

The EU public debt crisis resulted in the euro’s lower value, and in joint IMF-EU bailout packages for Greece and Ireland – Portugal and Spain perhaps to follow – and all EU to adopt rigid fiscal policies and generate higher unemployment and lower living standards. It is all for a noble goal, transferring money from the middle class and workers to banks and bond investors. The public debt problem proved draining to the EU finances and dealt a blow to Europe’s image as a solid integrated economy whose integrity cannot be rattled by cyclical economic crises. Trying to prevail in the global competition between US and China, EU recognized that the union is strong only in the expansionary economic cycle and very fragile in the downturn. This is more a political lesson than financial or economic one. While the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) will have their most difficult 2011 since the Great Depression, with most of the rest of the EU suffering, the union will survive the contracting cycle and it will slowly re-emerge with positive GDP growth for most countries by 2013.

Chilean Miners captured the world’s imagination and it was indeed a miracle that people from all corners of the planet were hoping and praying for the trapped miners. There have been many mining accidents in the past, including in 2010, but none captured the world’s attention of the specific one in Chile. It was as though the survival and successful rescue of the specific group of miners represented the ideal that humans can prevail over natural and man made catastrophe, therefore any problem can be solved. Never mind, of course, that in similar mining accidents in 2010 people were never rescued, as long as a few make it, there is hope and that is all human beings want.

In 2010 China replaced Japan as the world’s second largest economy. More important, by continuing to stimulate its economy based on export-oriented growth, China was the catalyst in keeping stability in the world economy and preventing an even worse recession. China did all this by playing a quintessentially capitalist role, supporting IMF austerity measures, and offering massive trade deals to various countries around the world. If China had lapsed into recession, as it will in the next global contracting cycle, economic hard times would have been much harder not just for China’s raw material suppliers like Australia, Canada, and others, but for the G-7. China’s contribution in 2010 (and ever since 2008) was that it helped the world economy from falling into a cliff. China in fact may play an instrumental stabilizing role in 2011 to make certain that bond rates of debt-ridden EU do not go through the roof if left to speculators.

In 2010, US foreign policy has had a number of successes and misses, including:
a) ameliorating relations with Russia, especially in key strategic areas that include greater cooperation through NATO and pushing for ratification the strategic nuclear arms treaty (START), despite adamant Republican opposition regarding the rapid manner by which Democrats are pushing for a quick vote. The Russians have pledged to ratify it by late January 2011.
b) pursuing co-existence without the inane rhetoric that former US administrations used has helped US-China relations. The proof of cooperation can be seen in a number of areas, above all North Korea which remains extremely sensitive area for US, Japan, Russia, and EU that presumably want to solve the crisis through diplomacy, and by extension collaborate on a common solution for Iran’s nuclear program. To the degree that it can control events in N. Korea, China is the catalyst and much more important for the US than either Russia or Japan.
c) US has had no surprises in the volatile Middle East. Ending military occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan that have drained the US of economic resources and diminished its military power is an indication that “America will always do the right thing, but only after  exhausting all other options“. (Winston Churchill)  The key to the region remains the Palestinian question and there has been no progress in that front. If Obama is ‘to do the right thing’, 2011 is the last chance before the presidential race of 2012. That the US lifted the ban on Iraq’s ability to develop a nuclear program – a prelude to also developing nuclear weapons in the future – is actually a move in the right direction in so far as the strategic balance of power may be more secure in the future – a significant issue given Iran’s nuclear program that the US & EU oppose.

Because of the global recession, illegal narcotics and human trafficking that are integral parts of official and private sector corruption continued unabated in 2010. The UN Global Initiative adopted ten years ago, to which the US has signed on and provides detailed information on all countries, has not had an impact in either area of illegal activity, also linked to illegal arms sales. In many cases, girls under the age of 18 (mostly from Asia, Africa and Latin America) are the victims in the profitable human trafficking business. Just as there has been little progress in fighting the expanding human trafficking business, similarly, there has been no progress on containing the illegal narcotics trade, which naturally entails the illegal gun trade and money laundering. There will probably be a rise in narcotics trade as well as human trafficking in 2011. This is largely because of the rising poverty in poorer countries that supply the ‘pleasure commodities’ and the demand for ‘pleasure commodities’ among more affluent people and countries.

Human creativity hardly receives much attention, unless it is inexorably linked to profits, military, and/or political power. Human creativity intended and applied for the promotion of human welfare is the most valued trait we possess. Of all the achievements in the arts and sciences, I want to single out two related to medicine. First, what is described as a revolution in communication for paralyzed people suffering ‘locked-in syndrome’. With a voice synthesizer implanted in the brain, it is possible to induce vowel sounds. Second, in the area of biotechnology and biology, researchers have built a synthetic bacterial genome. This discovery that can lead to revolutionizing the energy and pharmaceutical industries.

AUTHOR: Jon Kofas
E-MAIL: jonkofas [at]


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