Friday, September 11, 2009

The Damaging Effects of Ephedra

Ephedra, better known as Ma Huang in China, is an herbal plant that has been used for over 4,000 years by the Chinese to treat respiratory infections (Fast Facts: Ephedra). Ephedra typically grows in desert conditions (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). Early US settlers used ephedra in the form of “Mormon tea” or “Squaw tea” for medicinal purposes (Fast Facts: Ephedra). Ephedrine, the harmful chemical found in Ephedra sinica, is now being coupled with caffeine to act as a quick weight loss supplement (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). Ephedrine has only been synthesized and regulated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, making the herb a regulated supplement for less than 100 years (Consumer Alert). Ephedrine, until 2003, could be found in over 200 over the counter dietary supplements (Fast Facts: Ephedra). As a result of major studies and many complaints and deaths, the US Food and Drug Administration outlawed the use of ephedrine in December 2003 (Consumer Alert).
Many people would take ephedrine to lose weight, increase energy, sculpt their bodies, and to induce a euphoric high without being aware of the health risks (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). The short term effects of ephedrine could make people feel ecstatic, alert, and full of energy, but it could also make people feel dizzy, sweaty, anxious, and flush (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). Adverse effects of ephedrine can also leave a person with a headache, a decreased appetite, gastrointestinal distress, tachycardia, irregular heartbeat, hypertension, seizures, and psychosis (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). Ephedrine can significantly increase a person’s blood pressure leaving a person with heart problems, strokes, or death (Consumer Alert). Ephedrine aggravates the following conditions: heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety and restlessness, glaucoma, pheochromocytoma, thyroid disease, and enlarged prostate (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). A study that was based on data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers found that ephedrine was the cause of 64 percent of all adverse effects involving herbs; ephedrine can only be found in less than 1 percent of all herbal products (Ephedra). There are over 1,000 reports of serious health issues due to ephedrine and over 100 deaths (Fast Facts: Ephedra). One of the more famous deaths due to ephedra was the death of the Baltimore Orioles pitcher who died at only 23 years old (Fast Facts: Ephedra).
The herbal weight loss supplements containing ephedra had been banned in Europe and Canada before the recent ban in the US (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration proposed to require all supplements containing ephedra to carry a warning label on the bottles stating that the drug should not be used longer than seven days (Consumer Alert). In 2000 the US Food and Drug Administration modified the proposal (Consumer Alert). The International Olympic Committee was one of the very first to ban ephedra use (Ephedra). During the 2000 Olympics a Romanian gymnast was stripped of his gold medal when he tested positive for ephedra (Ephedra). In September of 2001, the NCAA banned the use of ephedra (Ephedra). Soon the NFL also began treating ephedra use the same as cocaine and marijuana (Ephedra). Today, most sporting groups ban ephedra or at least discourage its use (Fast Facts: Ephedra). In 2002 Canada banned ephedra (Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine). Finally in December 2003 the US announced it too would ban ephedrine use (Consumer Alert). Although the US Food and Drug Administration warned everyone to stop ephedra use immediately, the ban on ephedra was to become effective 60 days after the consumer alert (Consumer Alert).
The US was not always open to deterring ephedra use. In 1997 the US Food and Drug Administration wanted to put warning labels on ephedrine products, similar to those on cigarettes (Consumer Alert). Although the agency had received numerous reports of adverse effects, they insisted that the reports could not provide a scientific basis in which to accurately assess the safety of ephedrine (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). Without a “scientific basis” the US could not ban ephedra (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). As a result, the HHS funded the RAND Corporation to peruse the existing information regarding ephedrine (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). Just because the US Food and Drug Administration was not willing to ban the herb instantly does not mean they ignored the calls for action. The administration strengthened its monitoring system and placed all the information it received from reports of complaints into a single system to monitor safety issues (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). The administration also reviewed information regarding ephedra’s pharmacology, clinical studies regarding ephedra’s effectiveness, and the reports regarding adverse effects in order to be able to ban the herb (Consumer Alert). A year before ephedra was banned in the US, the HHS had planned to “clamp down” on the illegal synthetic ephedra market (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). In 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration had sent six letters to firms selling illegal synthetic ephedra (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). These letters were warnings for the firms to inform the administration of their plans to correct the illegal activity or else the Food and Drug Administration would act (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). One well known company, Biogenics, signed an agreement in April 2002 stating that it would cease the sale of synthetic ephedra (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). One of the largest US manufacturers of ephedra, Metabolife International, faces numerous lawsuits from those claiming they were not warned of the potential side effects (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). This company supported the HHS’ decision on investigating ephedra as opposed to banning it immediately (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research). In February 2003, the Food and Drug Administration announced measures that would include enforcements against ephedra selling firms making unsubstantiated claims about their products (Consumer Alert). In October 2001, the US Marshals successfully removed $2.8 million worth of synthetic ephedra products from the market (US Government to Expand Ephedra Research).
The result of further studies indicated that ephedrine is dangerous even in recommended dosages (Ephedra). The makers of ephedra products were not required to report the effects of the herb because it is a supplement and not a drug (Ephedra). The data suggested that there is little evidence of ephedra’s effectiveness except for short-term weight loss (Consumer Alert). The research also confirmed that ephedra raises blood pressure and stresses the circulatory system causing a myriad of potential problems (Consumer Alert). The herb now met the requirements for banning a supplement based on the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the Food and Drug Administration was able to ban all ephedra use. Officials say that other herbs are currently being watched as “possible health hazards” including chaparral, comfrey, willow bark, and wormwood (Fast Facts: Ephedra). No immediate action is expected to be taken against these herbs until more information can be found (Fast Facts: Ephedra).

"Consumer Alert." US Food and Drug Administration. 30 Dec. 2003. 24 Nov. 2007 .
"Ephedra." CBS News. 19 Nov. 2007 .
"Fast Facts: Ephedra." Fox News. 30 Dec. 2003. 21 Nov. 2007 .
"Health Canada Notice: Information Ephedra/Ephedrine." National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities. Jan. 2002. 24 Nov. 2007 .
"US Government to Expand Ephedra Research." Nutra Ingredients. 17 June 2002. 19 Nov. 2007 .

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Open Source Software and the Oligopoly

I have today, for the first time, seen Linux in action. I was amazed at how advanced Linux is compared to Vista and Mac OSX. I know there are minor compatability issues, but Macs and Vista has compatability issues. So why don't people use Linux? It's free, it's more advanced, it has free software on it that would cost thousands otherwise. The only reason I can think of is oligopoly: Microsoft and Apple working hand-in-hand to corner the market. Think about it, we only hear about Macs and Vista. In my university, photojournalism majors MUST have the newest Mac laptop in order to enroll in that major. Business courses require that students use Office 2007, the latest version of Office. Professors claim that they don't like it but MUST tell the students to use 2007. Why? Why must they promote something they don't like? I think the school is getting money to promote Macs and Microsoft Office 2007. I would be perfectly happy settling for Windows XP or Linux... they are both adequate for what I need. Office 2003 or Open Office works just as well for businesses as Office 2007. Why must we always be forced through society, education, or careers to buy the latest, unnecessary gadgets and software? It's like the film Antitrust (a very good film, by the way). In the film Antitrust, a major software developing company, killed (literally) all the competition that showed promise. I don't think that Mac and Windows CEOs kill, I think they stomp out competition by working together. Just like Comcast and CableOne. Comcast takes one half of Mississippi while Cableone has a monopoly over the other half. The same goes with Target and Walmart. When you see a Super Walmart, you don't see a Super Target, only a regular Target and vica versa. I have to reformat my XP, but afterward, I will not fall into this marketing ploy. I will use XP along with Linux (it IS possible to have two OSs on a computer) and use Open Office and other open source software. Anything else, in my opinion, is unnecessary and overrated. Microsoft and Apple are too rich for my taste: they overprice their items, offer mediocre service, and use patent laws to crush anyone who comes up with something better. Trust me, just watch a Linux video on Youtube and you'll see how advanced they are... and they are FREE. They came out with 3D desktops and aero screens YEARS ago: before OSX and Vista came out. I would never pay for something when there is something better that is free. So stick it to the man and join me in the free software revolution ;) !

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review: Endgame

Endgame, a documentary by Alex Jones, reveals the elites who dominate the world's money supply, commerce, governments, media, and entertainment. In his documentary, Jones exposes the elites' blueprint toward their ultimate goal, global governance and control. Alex Jones takes you on a tour of the exclusive Bilderberg Group as he lays out their agenda of eugenics, world government, spy databases, and more. He shatters the myths behind many popular beliefs regarding many political, economic, and social topics through the revealing of documents, interviewing of experts in the field, and reviewing of historical data.
In my opinion, this is by far the most important documentary of our time. It is so important, in fact, that I encourage everyone who views my blog to watch this documentary in full. For your convenience, I have provided a high quality version of this film embedded right here in this post. Feel free to view this film in sections or altogether in your leisure. The following is a summary followed by the documentary itself:

"For the New World Order, a world government is just the beginning. Once in place they can engage their plan to exterminate 80% of the world's population, while enabling the "elites" to live forever with the aid of advanced technology. For the first time, crusading filmmaker Alex Jones reveals their secret plan for humanity's extermination, Operation: ENDGAME."-Quote by Alex Jones

Thursday, August 13, 2009

H1N1: How To Prepare

I am sure we have all seen the wide-spread panic displayed on the mainstream international media outlets regarding the upcoming fall swine flu "pandemic"; but is such pandemonium really necessary?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 436 Americans have died as a result of swine flu (Link Here). Also on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is a figure for the amount of people who die from classic influenza each year, 36,000 people (Link Here).
When comparing the above figures, H1N1 hardly seems to be a concern as of now, and yet the World Health Organization has already labeled the H1N1 outbreak a "pandemic" (Link Here).
The media has warned those who are health care workers, young, or pregnant be first priority for vaccinations. Reuters has stated that half the US population should be vaccinated (Link Here). With such confusion and panic, what should people do?
Sit back, breathe deeply, and look at the facts.
Swine flu is nothing to be concerned about, as of now. Although it is a blend of human, bird, and swine viruses, the H1N1 virus has a similar affect to a healthy body as influenza. According to the president of the Paul Ehrlich Institute the side affects of the vaccine could be worse than the actual virus (Link Here). The same link also quotes a German lung expert who claims that this vaccine increases the risk of cancer. The Japanese health ministry will reissue a warning against taking Tamiflu due to the deaths of several Japanese children who had taken the drug (Link Here). This link displays a clip from a FOX News broadcast in which the reporter admits that despite the fact that the government has 20 million doses of the new H1N1 vaccine, they are only now conducting human trials on the vaccine and that FEMA and NORTHCOM will prepare teams in case of an outbreak. The following is a clip by the famous Dr. Mercola warning against the H1n1 vaccine. In the clip, Dr. Mercola tells viewers which vaccine to take if they are ever forced to take the vaccine (Link Here). My suggestion is to listen closely to Dr. Mercola's advice, prepare the way you normally would for winter (i.e. washing hands, being mindful of germs, etc), and to not panic. Normally I would finish with my own suggestions or thoughts, but Dr. Mercola's clip says it all... Plus, HE is the doctor.
I hope everyone stays safe this flu season.

Seek2ruth on! has posted "Report: How the EU Promoted Growth in Ireland" under "Recent News":
Click Here.
The most exciting part of this is that they posted a screen-shot of the Seek2ruth blog:
Click Here.
I hope viewers of will click on some of the videos on the sidebar as they are extremely thought-provoking. The more people begin to question their reality because of blogs like this one and others like it, the more we can progress as a race, the human race.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What It Means To Be "Fuel Efficient"

The "Cash for Clunkers" program has become a sensation amongst those who are either spending too much on petrol or are concerned about the environment. People all over the country have swapped their BMWs, Mercedes, Fords, Cadillacs, Jeeps, and Hummers for Kias, Toyotas, Smarts, and Nissans. The problem with this is that it is not a direct swap. People who paid a large sum of money for their BMWs, Cadillacs, and Mercs are now trading them in for only $4 to 5 K off a new, less expensive vehicle. For those who own such cars, I doubt paying for a new, less expensive vehicle is a problem. Unfortunately, many lower middle class workers are trading in their vehicles because petrol is too volatile for their wallets. As a result of this new purchase, they are now in debt. These are the people who do not benefit from the "Cash for Clunkers" program.
Unfortunately, fully electric vehicles, which are becoming more and more efficient, are still much too expensive for the average consumer. Hybrids seem to be the only fuel efficient options on the market. The Ford Focus is the most fuel efficient non-hybrid vehicle in America. But even with the somewhat affordable hybrid technology, one can only reach a maximum of 48mpg.
There is an affordable option: foreign cars. No, no, I don't mean foreign MADE cars. I am talking about US AND foreign made cars that were made for the European, Japanese, and Indian markets. After seeing this statement you are probably thinking, "This would be much too expensive to implement for the lower middle class. People would have to ship the vehicles here." Well, that is not what I am suggesting.
I am suggesting that Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Mercedes, Toyota, and every other car manufacturer build cars in the US to the EU's fuel standards. "But won't that mean that our SAFETY standards will be jeopardized?" NO! Even though we sell F150s and Hummers, both the EU and US have large container trucks; therefore, cars must be able to withstand an impact from these trucks. Also, roads in some EU countries are far more narrow than ours. If the cars were not safe, then they would not be allowed on European roads. The gap between US and EU fuel economy is staggering! Here are just a few examples (Warning: this will make you sick!):

US Model w/ US MPG:
Yaris, 1.5L, 32MPG;
Land Cruiser, v8, 15MPG;
Smart, 36MPG;
Insight, 1.3L, 41MPG;
Prius, 46MPG.

UK Model w/ US MPG:
Yaris, 1.0L, 47.09MPG;
Yaris, 1.3L, 46.16MPG;
Yaris, 1.4L, Diesel, 57.42MPG;
Land Cruiser, 25.58MPG;
Land Cruiser, v8, 23.08MPG;
Smart Diesel, 71.33MPG;
Insight, 1.3L, 53.50MPG;
Prius, 60.36MPG.

I think these figures say it all. For those of you who do not believe me, look it up for yourself.
Here are my sources: (Search all) (Search: Land Cruiser, Prius, Yaris) (Search: Insight)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Review: Van Doren's A History of Knowledge

A History of Knowledge is exactly what the title implies, a history of knowledge through the eyes of Charles Van Doren. In the book, readers are allowed a glimpse of ancient civilizations, medieval monarchies, revolutionary wars, scientific breakthroughs, modern civilizations, and future civilizations. In A History of Knowledge the progress of mankind is demonstrated through Van Doren’s words regarding culture, science, and politics.
In Van Doren’s A History of Knowledge, the progress of mankind is described through culture. Before the Common Era, ancient rulers often feared change. Change meant change of thought and, more importantly, change of power. In fear of losing their positions to a revolt, rulers often kept the majority uneducated so they could continue their rule unchallenged. Such fear, lack of adequate education, and manipulation still exists in some countries but is much less severe than in ancient times. India, Pakistan, and China were places of high inequality and a “survival of the fittest” attitude. In this ancient society, man knew his place and did not venture far in thought. Monarchies existed in most, if not every, country. Fear and inequality were taught through their religions and cultures. Chinese civilizations later allowed people freedom with restriction. This change allowed for a better educated population and better technologies. This freedom of thought led to the first written language in Mesopotamia and the great architecture and mathematics of the Aztecs and Incas. Greeks also allowed limited democracy. Limited democracies allowed for minds like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates to report their findings. Unfortunately, the word “limited” also meant that these men risked their lives for being too open and honest. Socrates paid the ultimate price for not standing down and for proclaiming the truth. Despite this setback, the study of the stars, medicines, and society began to thrive in Greece. Telescopes, equations, manuscripts, and theatre soon followed. It would take centuries more for democracy to be fully implemented around the world; however, ancient man fully appreciated and enjoyed the few rights given to him.
Unfortunately for mankind, another dark era of fear and enslavement shortly ensued. This new era is known as the Dark Ages. As Christianity began to flourish, a new mindset emerged. This mindset included three ideas: the city of God is separate from that of man, man is sinful and must pay for redemption, and wars must be fought in the name of God. During this time, one would imagine that very little could be scientifically done without criticism. Many minds were curious about philosophy and the cosmos. As long as these thinkers included God in their thoughts, all was well. According to St. Augustine, the city of God must be separate from the city of man. The city of man can be explained through reason; however, the city of God was free from the comprehension of mortals. This idea led to the hindering of science and the robbing from the people. Because the city of God is separate from man, there must be two rulers on earth: one to represent man, the other to represent God. Thus the monarchy of ancient times met the power of the Pope. Together, these two powers caused great havoc upon the masses. Wars were fought in the name of Christianity. A percentage of crops were given to the church and state. The Pope and King were often allies and would ensure the other’s position. Afraid of war, plague, and eternal damnation, the people turned to the church for comfort. The church robbed the people by ensuring their place in heaven for a price. Clergymen also traveled selling false religious items and promising forgiveness. If anyone were to question the state or the church, they would be killed as heretics. Many great men have been hanged, burned, and poisoned because of heresy; therefore, anytime a breakthrough was found in science, some men remained silent while others disguised the news. As the people suffered, the Pope and King enjoyed their luxury.
Monarchies were great for rulers. Kings and noblemen were treated with the utmost regard and given all of their luxuries at the people’s expense. The people were kept ignorant so they would not know how the government and church had fooled them. They were unable to read or write and worked too hard to have time to ponder. Although this setup was ideal for monarchs, the system was very inefficient. Because the people were hungry and tired, they were unable to work to the best of their ability. Because the people were uneducated and paid very little, they were unable to find new methods of producing more efficiently. With the proper funds, the farmers could have developed a new method of farming that would produce more with less effort, thus doubling output. Although change was still not wanted by rulers, this would be a change that would have been beneficial to them. Instead of stealing the little wealth the people had, the nobles could have taken a small percentage from each farmer and paid them for their work. By doing so, the worker would be fully fed and physically fit to work long hours with ease. Their marginal revenue product would have far exceeded the small price for growth. Instead, the rulers chose to keep the masses ignorant and hungry.
The Renaissance brought a renewal of understanding and progress. As people began to learn how to read, their focus began to shift from God to man. Although Renaissance men and women still believed and worshiped God, they became preoccupied with learning languages, how to play an instrument, how to dance, and how to argue philosophy. With this surge of knowledge came progress. New medicines, technologies, and scientific breakthroughs emerged. People became reintroduced to the Greek ways that the Catholic Church once condemned. The reading of Greek philosophy and science made man more interested in adapting and building on old ideas. Leonardo de Vinci began developing machinery and masterpieces that remain a wonder to this day. The writings of Dante, Milton, Cervantes, and Shakespeare would not be so widespread if it were not for the creation of Gutenberg’s Printing Press. Renaissance man longed for knowledge and adventure. During this period, people were buying and selling more goods to more people than any time before that. Kings and queens invested heavily in trade and exploration. The travels of Marco Polo, Henry the Navigator, and Christopher Columbus were the first steps to globalization. Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, René Descartes, and Isaac Newton revolutionized science and lead to what people now know as “classical physics”. The finding of a heliocentric solar system, elliptical orbits, and gravity shook the foundation of science and paved the way to even more earth-shattering breakthroughs. Religious foundations of the Catholic Church were questioned for the first time publicly by Martin Luther. All in all, people began to think for themselves. Nothing could hold back the great, determined minds of the Renaissance.
Such determination continued into the 18th century. The free thinking of the Renaissance evolved into a longing for freedom in government. Governments began to find it difficult to control their people when they were well educated. Rebellions broke throughout the colonies and soon revolution seemed inevitable. Many believe that colonial men fought the British on their own with riffles and canons. European nations fought beside the colonies, ensuring their freedom. The European aristocracy would soon regret letting the genie out of the bottle. The French Revolution occurred shortly after the American Revolution. The aristocracy of neighboring countries shook in their boots. Man had finally gained the freedom of choice in government. Democracy was limited no more. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and many others proclaimed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This proclamation rung through many lands and created a ripple effect which enabled others to do the same. With democracy came free markets and capitalism.
During the 18th century, revolutions continued in the form of the Industrial Revolution. This capitalist revolution was a sinister one. Children were forced to work in unsafe conditions. Deaths on the job were frequent occurrences. Appalled by the condition of the working class, Karl Marx sought a bridge between the working man and the bourgeoisie. That solution was communism. According to Marx, communism would grant the working man certain rights. In Marx’s communist utopia all men of all occupations would be equal. Unfortunately, there was a catch to this utopian society. Citizens would have to give their full trust to the government, allowing it to do as it pleases. Economically, no communist government can survive. In a communist society, most of the country’s money is spent on capital, or machinery. This tactic is useful in rebuilding structures and society; however, high spending on capital can not last for long. Pumping more money into capital allows for larger economic growth; however, the more a government pumps money into capital, the less money is left for consumer goods. This is known as the substitution effect. The people in communist societies had a limited variety of goods. Similar to capitalist societies of the time, people were overworked and received very little for their money. Both extreme capitalist and communist systems are ineffective in the long term. The World War II and the Cold War are excellent examples of the way governments portrayed a good verses evil doctrine. Both wars were not really good verses evil, but communism verses capitalism. Many confuse capitalism with democracy. Capitalism is an economic system that promotes private, free markets. Democracy is a form of government that promotes the voicing of citizens' ideas without representatives. The United States does not have a democratic government but a republic. Socialism, the opposite of fascism, has recently gained popularity in today’s society. Perhaps a society with government funded health care and education programs, limited government intervention in the marketplace, and only necessary restrictions on corporations is the bridge between the age-old war between capitalism and communism.
The 20th century was the century for science. There have been many improvements in all fields of science in the 20th century. All modern science has built upon the principles established by the great Albert Einstein. Einstein began where Newton left off, gravity. Einstein showed that gravity acts like a net that bends to the weight of the Earth and the Sun. Einstein also explained the creation of energy through E=mc² and the joining of space and time in the intricate fabric of space-time. Some of the many advancements of the 20th century are as follows: airplanes, rockets, satellites, radios, televisions, microwaves, lasers, robots, and the internet. A new type of physics also emerged in the 20th century, chaos. This science first emerged as quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics showed that at particle level, predictions must be made to determine what outcome will occur. From quantum mechanics emerged new theories of how the world works. As presented in the book, Van Doren explains the Big Bang and the possibility of the universe decreasing in size and collapsing. A new finding that is not included in the book is a form of matter called dark matter. Dark matter and dark energy constitute the majority of the universe. Dark matter does not allow for a cyclic universe. The universe can only expand. Dark matter and dark energy act like a glue that holds the universe together. Another advancement presented in the late 20th century –that is not presented in the book—is the finding of new theories that would combine classical physics with quantum physics. The most popular of these is String Theory. These new theories call for the universe to have many more dimensions than are currently known to man. If any of these theories are found to be true, this would shatter many age-old beliefs. Technology in the 20th century advanced more than in any other era. The pace in which newly advanced products emerge on the market is staggering. Because the demand for the latest hi-tech gadgets is constant, the incentive for companies to continue to pursue better technologies is high. The technology of the 20th century allowed for greater efficiency and comfort.
In A History of Knowledge, Van Doren wrote his predictions of the future. According to Van Doren, the 21st century would be a bizarre world where a one world government would rule and robots would demand authority. Some of his findings are true in today’s society. Some reports on the British Broadcasting Company suggested a universal law could be made in the near future granting robots equal rights as humans: the right to life, marriage, children, and even marriage with humans. The last suggestion is by far the most disturbing; however, a robot takeover of the world is highly unlikely anytime soon. The newest advancements in lifelike robots are robots that react to touch, think, and look similar to humans. Eventually the human race can very likely be replaced by a higher being. Many think this higher being will be an alien or a monkey. The human replacement will probably be robots. Van Doren was also accurate when describing the dangers presented to the environment: Global warming is no longer a prediction and is now widely accepted as a reality. The ozone layer and rainforests are still being destroyed by man. A recent proposal by environmentalists is currently shocking libertarians and humanitarians. According to some environmentalists, the only way to sustain the earth is to significantly reduce the population. Van Doren also realizes the impact of the human imprint. It would be controversial and hypocritical to condemn the murder of babies in China or the genocide in Darfur if the United States were to adopt a policy of population control. Genetic modification is another potential danger. Population growth is bad for the earth. A massive population reduction can be even more dangerous. Extending life has never been seen as a bad thing until now. If the upper class is the only group that can afford life extension, many of the problems in today’s society might continue for centuries. Population control is already being implemented in the United States and everywhere in an unexpected way. Global citizens are being poisoned. Toxins are being emptied into the food supply without labels required to warn the people that the food they are eating is genetically modified or with pesticides or hormones. Lack of exercise, along with an unhealthy diet and pharmacutical drugs, cause many of the health problems that are most popular today: diabetes, heart attacks, blood clots, acid reflux, kidney problems, arthritis, depression, and some insomnia.
The most controversial topic brought forth in the book A History of Knowledge was the suggestion of a world government. According to Charles Van Doren, world government would ensure peace. Libertarians and Constitutionalists would disagree whole-heartedly. Libertarians and Constitutionalists, as well as nationalists, believe that world government could jeopardize democracy and lead to the enslavement of the world population. According to them, the small percentage of people who have the most money and most influence would be the ones ruling. As a result, every law passed would benefit them. History has shown that power corrupts. If a tiny fraction of the world population gains control over the whole population, global citizens might see ridiculous price hikes, mass poverty and debt, and a non-existent middle class. World government could also do as Van Doren proposed, promote peace. Countries could no longer engage in war with another country because of resources or land. The international law would forbid war and the robbing of resources. Each continent would export goods to benefit the whole. Poverty could be eradicated and everyone could have a well-paying job. This sounds too close to socialism. Actually, it kind of is. This form of socialism is a watered-down, modern socialism. It is the form of socialism that already exists in countries like the United States and the European Union. The European Union is leaning more toward socialism than the United States, but they are both socialistic democracies. This term suggests that the governments of these countries are different shades of gray between socialism and democracy. In Europe, a 2/3 vote determines whether or not a piece of legislation is passed. This vote ensures a democracy. The expansion of their government ensures socialism. In the United States, citizens enjoy public schools, post offices, and libraries. The next step for the United States is public health care. After that, who knows? The most important things to be "socialized" are health care and schooling. Everything else is extra. This balance between socialism and capitalism might work better than some imagine, as long as the tip of the balance is not swayed too much to one side. Too little and too much regulation can be harmful to the environment, safety, security, and the economy. Unfortunately, such power has already damaged the United States’ economy. The government continues trying to regulate the economy. Once a government does this, the economy is forced further off its natural cycle. Europe, on the other hand, refuses to allow lower rates to banks despite protests. Such a response under pressure is how the government should handle an economic crisis: leave it alone. Personally, I think world government can be tolerable as long as local governments still hold certain rights. The Constitution should never be null and void. Unfortunately, the Constitution is slowly being stripped away by new legislation. This could mean the end of America. Some believe the end of America will lead to a union with Mexico and Canada and a one world government. Such fears are not without reason. Hopefully Van Doren’s predictions are correct. Hopefully a one world government would be one of peace and not fear.
Charles Van Doren’s A History of Knowledge is an excellent read. This book caused me to continue thinking about his proposals late into the night. The major theme of the book is progress. Van Doren shows that progress was not always welcome in societies. Currently, progress is sought and considered mandatory. Van Doren questions whether or not our current thoughts toward progress are correct: if society should seek progress the way it does. Progress can be used for good or bad. Progress can lead to cleaner energy sources, longer life-spans, and the removal of illness and aging. Progress could also lead to the destruction of mankind. Progress throughout history can be found in science, politics, and in the myriad of cultural practices. Progress can be either feared or revered. Van Doren’s extensive knowledge regarding all topics is impressive. In conclusion, A History of Knowledge is a thought provoking book that encourages the questioning of ideals and ideas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to Heal: Suggestions for the People of Sudan

Sudan has shown great instability since before the genocide in 2003. Here is a list of events detailing the instability of the Sudanese government since 1985:
1985: new constitution;
1989: coup; government overthrown; Al-Bashir suspends constitution; removal of freedom of the press; banning of political parties and trade unions;
1993: Revolutionary Command Council dissolved; Bashir appointed president; major political parties boycott election; allegations of electoral fraud;
1998: new constitution; National Congress (backed by Bashir) held major positions within government, media, schools, judiciary system, and security forces;
1999: constitution suspended; Parliament dissolved before it could pass legislation to limit Bashir's power;
2003: genocide begins.
Roughly 400,000 people were murdered in the Darfur genocide. The attacks spread from Darfur, to the rest of Sudan, and into regions of neighboring Chad. The Sudanese government funded and aided the militants who conducted the mass slaughter. The International Criminal Court has now issued an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan for war crimes. What should be done in a situation like this?
New, new NEW!! The answer is new: new government, new institutions, new symbols, new education. When a government is involved in killing its own citizens, that government should be replaced with one voted on by the people. Institutions should be placed by that government to transition into an era of growth and healing. To heal old wounds, memorials commemorating the lives lost should be erected. Old symbols of hatred should be replaced with new symbols, such as a new constitution and flag. Black Africans and Muslim Africans should work together in developing their new society based on equality and freedom. The horrific history of Sudan should not be left to rust, but used to educate the new generations of Sudanese so that it never happens again. The US can give monetary aid to Sudan, but the people of Sudan must do this themselves. Their new society must be built by the people, not by someone else. When foreign governments replace leaders or propose their own changes, the transition is seldom a positive one and often leads to resentment. Sudan can prosper economically through trade with China and the US. Sudan's resources, once they are in the hands of the people, can provide for their citizens and be used for trade in order to develop Sudan in the global marketplace. Instead of depending solely on the oil and minerals sold internationally, Sudan should develop new industries and cradle those industries until they grow large enough to export. This would create more high-paying jobs, raise Sudan's terms of trade, increase production, and increase GDP by increasing consumption and exports. There is hope for Sudan and the rest of Africa, as long as the people have control over their lives.
"Anything the mind can conceive, and believe, it can achieve." -Napoleon Hill

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Report: How the EU Promoted Growth in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland was transformed into a sovereign nation after the revolution against the British on the 3rd of May 1921 (Republic of Ireland). Prior to joining the European Union, Ireland’s economy was predominantly agricultural based (Republic of Ireland). Recently Ireland has modernized its economy by focusing more on services, high-tech industries, and trade (Republic of Ireland). After joining the European Union in 1979, the island of Ireland experienced substantial economic growth due, in part, to heavy investment by the European Union.
When Ireland first joined the European Union, the country was considered one of the poorest in the EU (Development of the Irish Economy). When Ireland joined the European Economic Community (the EEC) in 1973, Ireland had high unemployment, an average level of income per head that was 62% of the European Union’s average, and high emigration (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). For the reasons mentioned above, Ireland was designated as an “Object 1” region by the European Union between 1975 and 1999 (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). Today, Ireland is one of the richest economies in Europe (Development of the Irish Economy). According to the European Commission website regarding Ireland in the European Union, Ireland’s growth is due to a combination of many factors including the following: a stable political system in Ireland, a young educated English-speaking population, a large market of consumers as a result of the EU, unrestricted trade between EU members, the encouragement of free and fair competition between EU states, deregulation of the marketplace throughout Europe, a single European market, high levels of Foreign Direct Investment, billions of euro funded by the EU over 36 years, the break-up of national monopolies, and the introduction of low corporate taxes in Ireland (12.5%) (The Impact of EU Membership).

Trade Unions, such as the European Union, increase trade and limit trade barriers, thus promoting growth for member nations. Member states within the European Union experience both static and dynamic benefits of trade. Countries that benefit from free trade see an improvement in their Gross National Product, or GNP, and in their resource allocation. The countries now specialize in the industries they have a comparative advantage in. All factors shift to the productive industry. The countries export what they have a comparative advantage in and imports what they do not. These are the static benefits. The dynamic benefits include a decrease in unemployment due to a chain effect. First, export industries grow, causing a higher demand in materials from local industries. The local industries, in turn, produce more jobs and hire more workers. Free trade restrains cost-push inflation, or stagflation. Free trade can also act as a shock absorber in case of a disaster or unexpected event. Labor and capital flow, enabling an even playing field for companies and workers. Technology advances as knowledge flows. An expansion in the market allows for greater competition, price decreases, and more variety for consumers. Because of an increase in the shipping of goods, services, capital, and people due to free trade, infrastructure will have to improve. Investment will boom and the county’s output and income will increase. These things occurred in Ireland after the European Union began funding infrastructure projects and promoting economic integration.
The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006 funded and supported infrastructure, human resources, research and development, industry, agriculture/rural development, and other sustainable policies (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006). Approximately €54 billion was invested under the plan –which ended in December 2006 (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006). The plan resulted in the expansion of major towns, new residential areas, and new businesses (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006). The framework allowed for improving schools and creating roughly 31,000 new childcare businesses (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006). It has funded public transportation investments in the following initiatives: the Luas, the Dublin Port Tunnel, the Iarnrόd Éireann rail fleet modernization, and the Rural Transport Initiative (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006). The NDP/CSF also funded projects in the water and sewage treatment areas and tourism (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006). Funding by the European Union has aided in the development of Ireland as a knowledge-based economy through the NDP/CSF (National Development Plan/Community Support Framework 2000-2006).
Integration policies have also been vital in the development of Ireland. The introduction of the Single European Act of 1987, which was implemented on the 1st of January 1993, provided opportunities for growth in the Irish economy (Ireland and the EU). The SEA enhanced Ireland’s image as a low-cost manufacturing area, attracting foreign investment (Ireland and the EU). Through the Single European Act, the EU attempted a viable single market by ridding itself of non-tariff barriers (Ireland and the EU). The Single European Act called for four freedoms: the free movement of people, free movement of goods, free movement of capital, and the free movement of services (Ireland and the EU). According to Jacques Delors, a former President of the Commission, the promise of deeper integration attracted high levels of foreign investment from Japan and the United States (Ireland and the EU). Delors claimed that removing trade barriers and furthering integration were the most important factors in the growth of the Irish economy (Ireland and the EU). In 1993, state aid to companies was outlawed (Ireland and the EU). Ireland was affected by this change since it could no longer fund Irish Steel, Telecom Eireann, and Aer Lingus (Ireland and the EU). As a result, private sector investment created more jobs in Ireland (Ireland and the EU). The creation of Irish companies such as Ryanair and Esat Telecom became successful (Ireland and the EU). Irish citizens can now invest in a broader range of bonds and equities from inside and outside of the EU (Ireland and the EU). Common standards and total protection allow for a level playing field that has led to greater completion in the EU (Ireland and the EU). Greater competition has led to more variety for consumers, lower prices, and higher returns to shareholders (Ireland and the EU). Although a wave of Irish immigrants came to America in the 19th and 20th centuries, Ireland is now seeing a wave of immigration due to the free movement of labor (Underhill). Roughly 200,000 Polish citizens have moved to Ireland (Underhill). Five percent of Ireland’s population is Polish (Underhill). All of these have contributed to Ireland’s growth due to integration policies in the Single European Act (Ireland and the EU).
The European Union consists of 27 member states and 493 million citizens (European Cohesion Policy). Although the European Union may seem like a large mother government that tightly molds its states, the citizens have their say through elected officials at the European level (Elections to the European Parliament). Citizens opinions are voiced and their rights protected by locally elected parliamentary figures (Elections to the European Parliament). Since 2007, the European Parliament has had 785 Ministers of the European Parliament, or MEPs, from all 27 states (Elections to the European Parliament). Ireland currently has 13 MEPs representing the following areas: 3 seats for the North West region, 4 seats for Dublin, 3 seats for the East, and 3 for the South (Elections to the European Parliament). Elections are held every five years (Elections to the European Parliament). One seat will be dropped in Dublin in the June 2009 elections, causing Ireland to hold 12 seats in the European Parliament (Elections to the European Parliament). In an open letter to the public, presidents Van der Brande and Pöttering stress the importance of voting, “The European public need to be made aware that their vote is crucial, since, by voting, they take their destiny as European citizens into their own hands (Pöttering).” In a symbolic reference to the power European citizens possess, the former Presidents continue, “Let's join forces to enable our fellow Europeans to take ownership of their continent (Pöttering).” Ireland, therefore, has a voice in the Union through representatives –a system similar to the United States.
The legal tender of Ireland had been the Irish pound since 1938 (Irish Pound). During the twenty years of the European Monetary System, the Irish pound demonstrated its lack of stability by fluctuating below 74 pence in 1981 and as high as 110 pence in 1992 (Irish Pound). The Irish Pound steadily depreciated against the Deutsche Mark until reaching a cumulative depreciation of 34% in 1993 (Irish Pound). The British and Irish 1p and 2p coins were unofficially interchangeable until the introduction to the euro (Irish Pound). On the 1st of January 1999, the euro was adopted by 11 countries, including Ireland (Irish Pound). The euro was fixed at IR£ 0.787564 (Irish Pound). It wasn’t until the 1st of January 2002 that Ireland began to replace the Irish pound with the euro (Irish Pound). The cash changeover in Ireland was one of the fastest in the Eurozone (Irish Pound). When the change took place, many in Ireland believed that prices rose because of traders taking advantage of the confusion (Irish Pound). In fact, the opposite was the case. The switch to the euro unintentionally led to the finding of steeper pricing in Ireland relative to the rest of the European Union prior to the euro (Hickman). In response, the Irish government called for an investigation (Hickman). The European Monetary Union, also known as the EMU or the Eurozone, consists of 16 countries (The Euro). The currency of the Eurozone is controlled by the European Central Bank, the ECB, which also controls the monetary policy of the Eurozone (The Euro). In 2007 and 2008 the euro rose dramatically against the dollar, eventually reaching $1.60 on April 22nd 2008 (Liang). International economist Jeffrey Frankel believes that the euro could overtake the dollar as the leading international currency within ten years (Frankel). This would mean that the euro would be used for international transactions and to store value. OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, discussed in February 2008 whether or not they would continue to use the dollar as its main currency (OPEC May Switch to Euro). The Middle East Economic Digest, or MEED, quoted Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri as saying, “Maybe we can price oil in the euro. It can be done, but it will take time (OPEC May Switch to Euro).” Amid the financial crisis, however, the euro has dropped against the dollar and currently rests at $1.3002 (Benchmark Currency Rates).

This graph demonstrates the correlation between the demand and supply of dollars. This is relevant in explaining a possibility as to why the euro has recently leveled out against the dollar. When the euro was booming, Europeans bought items from the United States at a lower price than in Europe. This was most evident during holidays, especially Christmas. When European’s purchasing power is high because of increased income and a beneficial exchange rate, Europeans consume more foreign and local goods. When consumption increases, the demand for dollars increase, causing the two currencies to level out.
Determinates of the exchange rate between the US and the EU can be expressed in the function: r=f (GNPUS, GNPEU, PUS, iUS, iEU, government, political events, and speculation). This states that the exchange rate is a function of –or is determined by– the Gross Net Profit of both countries, the price level of both countries, the interest rates of both countries, government interference, political events, and speculation. The definition of an exchange rate can be summarized in the equation: r=# of $/€. This simply means that the exchange rate is determined by the number of dollars per euro. Although the euro spiked against the dollar roughly one year ago, the euro has leveled out against the dollar. This could be because of three things. It could be because the increase in trade increased income and output, which caused people to consume more foreign goods, or imports. The price of the dollar would then rise relative to the euro. Another explanation could be the buying and selling of currency, called arbitrage. If a purchaser of currency tries to take advantage of the foreign exchange market, he or she might actually level it out through his or her transactions. The global financial crisis could also be the cause of the decline of the euro. Europe, as well as the whole world, is currently dealing with tough economic times. People are not consuming as much, investors are not investing as much, and everything seems uncertain. Protectionism has caught on like wildfire as a result of this uncertainty. New non-trade barriers are being placed by governments in the EU and the US. Such barriers will lower the amount of imports, or in-payments. Other countries may retaliate and exports may be refused or significantly cut. If this occurs, the economic recession might easily become a serious depression.
A major industry in Ireland is the construction industry. A possible indicator of Ireland’s economic decline could have been the drop construction employment prior to the economic crisis (Building Jobs Figure’s Record Drop). Average house prices dropped 1% in March and 10% in one year (Average Irish National House Prices Fell by 1.0% in March 2009; Down 10.0% in 12-Month Period; National Prices Now Back to November 2004 Levels). House are now priced at 2004 levels (Average Irish National House Prices Fell by 1.0% in March 2009; Down 10.0% in 12-Month Period; National Prices Now Back to November 2004 Levels). Even the International Monetary Fund has stated that the economic crisis in Ireland will be particularly severe because of the reversal of the housing boom (IMF: Irish Recession “Particularly Severe”). According to the Bank of Ireland, there has been a drop in new company registrations of about 18.4% when compared to the first quarter of 2008 (Bank of Ireland Says New Irish Company Registrations Fell 18.4% in the First Quarter Compared to Q1 2008). In County Dublin, the figure is about 20% and 21% in County Cork (Bank of Ireland Says New Irish Company Registrations Fell 18.4% in the First Quarter Compared to Q1 2008). Unemployment shot up to 10.9% in March (Crimmins). The Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank received €3.5 billion from the Irish government in February (AIB and Bank of Ireland Both get €3.5 Billion). According to Joe Gill, Director of Research for the Bloxham Stockbrokers, stock markets would have fallen an additional 50%, interest rates would have increased above 10%, and inflation would have entered double digits if Ireland were not a member of the Eurozone during the economic crisis (Irish Economy: Ireland outside Euro During Financial Crisis Would Mean Further Market Fall of 50%; Interest Rates Above 10%; Inflation in Double Digits).
The European Union has begun funding €750.72 million in projects from 2007 until 2013 in Ireland (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). The European Regional Development Fund, or ERDF, will fund €375.36 million of that figure (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). The European Social Fund, or ESF, is funding the other half (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). The €375.36 million that the ESF will fund will be used toward human capital (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). The National Strategic Reference Framework, or NSRF, sets general terms on how this money should be spent (The Impact of EU Membership on Ireland). The priorities of the NSRF are as follows: to promote investment in human capital, support research and development, and strengthen competitiveness by improving infrastructure and promoting sustainable development (Cohesion Policy 2007-13). The Competitive and Employment Objective 2007-13 calls for the sectioning of Ireland into Phasing-in and competitiveness and employment regions (Cohesion Policy 2007-13). The Midland and Western region, which will be the phasing-in region, will receive €228.7 million from the ERDF (Cohesion Policy 2007-13). The Southern and Eastern Region, which is the competitiveness and employment region, will receive €146.6 million from the ERDF (Cohesion Policy 2007-13). Ireland’s National Strategic Regional Framework is primarily aimed toward the Lisbon Strategy for growth (Cohesion Policy 2007-13).
Another determinate of Ireland’s future is the Lisbon Treaty. In June 2008, Ireland held a referendum in order to pass the Lisbon Treaty that would amend their constitution (Focus On: Treaty of Lisbon). Massive propaganda campaigns on both sides ensured a vote in their favor. Here are some of the arguments for and against the Lisbon Treaty. Those who voted against the treaty claim that the treaty is 96% the same as the EU Constitution, which was halted after some member nations voted no (Arguments). Those who voted for the Lisbon Treaty argue that Europe has done so much for Ireland and that a vote against the treaty would be a stab in the back (Arguments). The European Citizen’s Initiative proposed in the Lisbon Treaty would give 1,000 citizens the opportunity to voice their concerns on issues (Arguments). Those who oppose the treaty argue that the European Citizen’s Initiative does not require that the Commission take into account the concerns of the people (Arguments). The Commission, they argue, initiates policy and has no link between itself and its citizens (Arguments). Another concern regarding the treaty was that the treaty would allow the European Union to make major changes to itself without any referendum or treaty (Arguments). Those in support of the Lisbon Treaty ensure that the changes allowed are minor and that each country has their veto right preserved (Arguments). Those in favor of the treaty claim that the treaty would enable majority voting, which would allow for small countries to have a larger voice in the EU (Arguments). Their opponents claim that Germany would have 16.7%, France would have 12.8%, and the UK would hold 12.3% of the vote while Ireland would hold only 0.8% of the vote, thus decreasing its power within the union and over some of its own internal matters (Arguments). Voters in the campaign for the Lisbon Treaty agree that Europe needs to be united in order to be a large influence on the global arena (Arguments). The Lisbon Treaty calls for the new position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs (Arguments). This new position would ensure a common foreign policy (Arguments). Another new position would be the European Council President, a position that changes every 30 months (Arguments). Some are concerned because the amount of power given to this position is unspecified in the Lisbon Treaty (Arguments). Proponents of the treaty claim that the Council President will have no decision-making authority (Arguments). These are just some of the many arguments made for and against the Lisbon Treaty.
On the 12th of June 2008, the Irish people voted no to the Lisbon Treaty (Press Release Archive June 2008). Commissioner Charlie McCreevy later made a speech in which he announced that the EU would not be halted as a result of the referendum and that things will go on as before (Press Release Archive June 2008). He went on to say that politicians should take the outcome as a learning experience (Press Release Archive June 2008).President Barroso also announced that he respected the outcome of the referendum and stated that the European Union should address the people’s concerns (Press Release Archive June 2008). On the 20th of November, Sweden ratified the Lisbon Treaty despite the Irish no vote (Focus On: Treaty of Lisbon). On that date, 25 out of the 27 member states ratified the Lisbon Treaty (Focus On: Treaty of Lisbon). In December, Ireland announced to the European Council that it would hold a second referendum in 2009 when concerns are quelled (Focus On: Treaty of Lisbon).
Ever since Ireland joined the EU in 1978, the European Union has contributed financially and politically to the Irish system. As a result, a once agriculture-based economy with little growth is now a booming gem in Europe. Through integration and investment Ireland has become a hot spot for manufacturing and knowledge-work. Despite the refusal of the Lisbon Treaty, the majority of Ireland –roughly 82%– believes that the European Union’s aid has benefitted Ireland (Press Release Archive June 2008). More money is being pumped into the Irish economy via the European Union and foreign investment to help ensure that Ireland’s economic future is stable and bright.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009


Welcome to my blog. I have begun composing my own blog to educate and learn. This blog is dedicated to global politics and economics. Please feel free to comment or write suggestions.

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"An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous." -Henry Ford

"All that we are is a product of what we have thought." -Buddha
So make sure you are worthy of what you create with your thoughts!