24 August 2016

Wealth Gap Series

This series will explore the widening Wealth Gap and its impact on class and race relations, excerpting heavily from Thomas Piketty, Professor at the Paris School of Economics, who has explored the structural cause of the wealth gap in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century published in 2014. He created quite a stir, getting both rave reviews and harsh critiques. He brought the issue of a widening wealth gap to the limelight and has shown how war mitigated extreme wealth gaps in the past. And without a discussion and resolution, war may again mitigate the current wealth gap extreme.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Professor Paris School of Economics, 2014, Excerpts

The central thesis of this book is that a small gap between the return on capital and the rate of income growth can in the long run have powerful and destabilizing effects on the structure and dynamics of social inequality.

The concentration of wealth and prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. The main driver of inequality – the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of income growth – generates extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values.

There is no fundamental reason why we should believe that growth is automatically balanced. We should put the question of inequality back at the center of economic analysis and begin asking questions first raised in the nineteenth century. For far too long, economists have neglected the distribution of wealth.

Wealth Gap
Capital vs Income
Accumulation of Old Wealth
Inherited Wealth
Racial Wealth Gap
Wealth Gap Correction - War

Wikipedia: Wealth inequality in the United States
The rich are accumulating more assets while the middle and working classes are just getting by. Currently, the richest 1% hold about 38% of all privately held wealth in the United States while the bottom 90% held 73% of all debt. According to the New York Times, the "richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent".

The distributive nature of tax policy has been suggested by some economists and politicians such as Emmanuel Saez, Thomas Piketty, and Barack Obama to perpetuate economic inequality in America by steering large sums of wealth into the hands of the wealthiest Americans. This claim has created much controversy and debate within the academic and political spheres.

Racial disparities: There are many causes, but inheritance might be the most important. Inheritance can directly link the disadvantaged economic position and prospects of today's blacks to the disadvantaged positions of their parents' and grandparents' generations.

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty argues that "extremely high levels" of wealth inequality are "incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies" and that "the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed.

22 August 2016

Opium in the News

100 U.S. troops deploy to troubled Helmand capital
22 Aug 2016
American troops have been deployed to a southern Afghan city at risk of falling to the Taliban. Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said the troops had arrived in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to provide training and support to Afghan forces. He said they would serve as a "new presence to assist the police zone". The Taliban have seized a number of nearby districts in recent weeks and now threaten to overrun the city itself. Helmand's annual $3 billion opium crop produces most of the world's heroin.

Battle for Helmand displaces thousands
12 Aug 2016
Intense fighting in Afghanistan's Helmand province is driving thousands of people from their homes. Most flee to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah which has been targeted by Taliban fighters for months. The Afghan government has flown in special forces, repelling some of the attacks. But the situation remains precarious in a province where UK forces were in charge of security until 2014.

Clashes erupt in north Myanmar over opium poppy fields
25 Feb 2016
Clashes have erupted in northern Myanmar between farmers and Christian anti-drug vigilantes attempting to destroy opium poppy fields. Myanmar is the world's second largest producer of opium. Myanmar has promised to eradicate opium production, but growing and smuggling the drug remains a key source of income for farmers, rebel groups, militia and the Burmese army. Over the last decade commercial poppy production has taken hold in Myanmar, with demand from China, but also Australia and Japan, helping to fuel this trend. Until the end of the 20th Century, Myanmar, which was part of the so-called "Golden Triangle" with neighboring Laos and Thailand, was the largest supplier of opium. The region was then overtaken by Afghanistan.

Afghanistan conflict: US casualties on special forces mission
05 Jan 2016
One US service member has been killed and two wounded reportedly during a special forces mission in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province. Helmand has long been a stronghold of the Taliban.

Afghanistan Taliban 'push further' into Helmand town of Sangin
23 Dec 2015

Afghan government forces have lost control of the center of the town of Sangin in Helmand province after days of fierce fighting. The Taliban say their fighters have seized the entire district and that their flag is flying over Sangin. Sangin is a strategically placed market town in the southern Helmand province and a rich opium production center. It was a key focus of Nato's involvement in Afghanistan. Of the 456 UK military deaths in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2015, almost a quarter were killed in and around Sangin. Helmand province has been a major center of the Taliban insurgency.

China's drug habit fuels return of the Golden Triangle
17 Sep 2015
Myanmar production of opium is soaring and the East Asian country, once part of the fabled Golden Triangle with neighboring Laos and Thailand, is the second largest producer in the world. Since 2006 opium production has nearly tripled in Myanmar. It now accounts for almost 25% of the world's total production. The single biggesdriver is the growth of demand in China.

US unveils $5m drive to combat rise in heroin abuse
17 Aug 2015
The US government is launching a $5m (£3.2m) initiative to combat the use and trafficking of heroin. Fifteen states on the east coast will be targeted. The move comes in response to a sharp increase in the number of heroin cases in the US over the last decade. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last month a rise in the number of users by 63% between 2002 and 2013.

Afghanistan: Helmand's drug abuse problem
20 Jul 2015
It is more than six months since British troops left Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban now control much of the north of the province, and Helmand continues to be one of the main areas for the illegal production of poppies. The United Nations forecasts another record harvest of opium poppies in Afghanistan - the raw material for heroin - with Helmand again providing most of the crop.

Heroin use jumps in US as painkiller addicts switch drugs
08 Jul 2015

Heroin use in the US has surged in the past decade as experts say people using opioid painkillers are increasingly turning to heroin as a cheaper high. The number of heroin users rose by 63% between 2002 and 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday. Use among white Americans was mostly responsible for the jump. However, the report found increases among people of all income levels and most age groups. Over 8,000 people died from a heroin-involved overdose in 2013, nearly twice the number of deaths seen just two years earlier. The amount of heroin being brought into the US has also increased, driving down the cost of the street drug.

Afghanistan opium harvest at record high as Nato withdraws
12 Nov 2014

Cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan has hit new records this year as Nato pulls out combat troops. Opium production was up by 17% since last year. Most poppies are still grown in southern Helmand province, where British troops were stationed until October. One of the reasons British troops were sent to Helmand was to help cut opium production. Cultivation has been rising yearly since 2010. Afghanistan currently produces more than 80% of the world's opium.

Afghanistan opium harvest at record high as Nato withdraws
12 Nov 2014
Cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan has hit new records this year as Nato pulls out combat troops. Opium production was up by 17% since last year. Most poppies are still grown in southern Helmand province, where British troops were stationed until October. One of the reasons British troops were sent to Helmand was to help cut opium production. Cultivation has been rising yearly since 2010. Afghanistan currently produces more than 80% of the world's opium.

Afghan troops battle mass Taliban assault in Helmand
25 Jun 2014

Five days of clashes in Sangin district in Helmand province left 35 civilians and at least 21 Afghan troops dead. Tribal elders in the area say over 2,000 families have been displaced. Three US soldiers died just last week in an explosion in Helmand. There is no independent confirmation of the number of dead. The militants said on Tuesday that only two of their fighters had been killed and that more than 40 soldiers had died. Afghan intelligence officials in the area say the insurgents launched the attack so that drug dealers could smuggle opium and heroin from the district towards the Iranian border.

Opium production jumps near British base in Afghanistan
20 Mar 2014

The opium-growing area around Britain's main base in Afghanistan nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, the UK government has said, in the district nearest Camp Bastion in Helmand province. Helmand is the largest opium-producing province in Afghanistan. British troops are in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan. Military forces and Foreign Office staff are due to leave the country by the end of 2014, with the only remaining British presence at a military academy in Kabul.

UN: Burma opium production rises again
18 Dec 2013
Opium production has risen significantly in Burma this year, the UN says. It is the seventh annual rise in a row and keeps Burma as the world's second-largest grower after Afghanistan. The increase represented a 26% rise year on year. Production was concentrated in two areas - Shan State, which accounted for 92% of cultivation, and Kachin State, the UN said. Both are border areas which have for years been hit by fighting linked to ethnic minority groups seeking greater autonomy.

Afghanistan opium harvest at record high
13 Nov 2013

Afghan opium cultivation has reached a record level the United Nations says. The UNODC report said the harvest was 36% up on last year, and if fully realized would outstrip global demand. Most of the rise was in Helmand province, where British troops are preparing to withdraw. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's opium. The findings of the latest report reverse a decline in production last year attributed to bad weather and disease.

Afghanistan, the drug addiction capital
10 Apr 2013
Afghanistan produces 90% of all opiate drugs in the world, but until recently was not a major consumer. Now, out of a population of 35 million, more than a million are addicted to drugs - proportionately the highest figure in the world. "We are already losing our children to suicide attacks, rocket and bomb attacks," he says. "But now addiction is another sort of terrorism which is killing our countrymen." It's clear that decades of violence have played a part. When foreign troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, one of their goals was to stem drug production. Instead, they have been accused of turning a blind eye to the poppy fields.

Why Afghanistan may never eradicate opium
25 Feb 2013
For years Afghanistan has been the world's largest producer of opium, the raw material for heroin, most of which is exported to Iran, Russia and Europe. The cultivation of cannabis has replaced poppies in some parts of the country including Balkh province. Revenues from cannabis cultivation and production of cannabis resin are similar to or even surpassing those earned from the cultivation of opium poppy.

Russia scraps US anti-drug accord after 10 years
30 Jan 2013
The Russian government has abandoned an agreement with the US on fighting crime and the drugs trade. Russia has been grappling for years with a huge heroin abuse problem, exacerbated by its proximity to drug-trafficking routes from Afghanistan. It has accused the US of failing to use its influence in Afghanistan to tackle the trade effectively.

US blacklists Afghan airline accused of smuggling opium
25 Jan 2013
Afghanistan's largest private airline, Kam Air, has been barred from receiving US military contracts amid allegations of drug smuggling, officials say. The US military says it conducted an investigation which showed Kam Air transported large quantities of opium on civilian flights to neighboring Tajikistan. Kam Air operates a fleet of some 16 planes, including Boeing 767s and 747s - and Antonov cargo planes which fly to many destinations. The US move comes at a time of Afghanistan's burgeoning drug trade.

Afghanistan opium harvest drops by a third – UN
20 Nov 2012
Opium production in Afghanistan has fallen by a third, according to a United Nations report. The fall came even as the amount of land used to cultivate the crop rose by 18%. The fall in the harvest is being attributed to bad weather and disease. Last year, opium production in the country was reported to have doubled on the back of rising prices for the crop. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's opium. Helmand was the province with the largest amount of land being used for opium production, the report said.

UN report: Opium cultivation rising in Burma
31 Oct 2012
Opium growing has increased in Burma for a sixth year running despite eradication efforts, a UN report says. Land used for opium had risen by 17% this year, from nearly 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) to 51,000 hectares. Burma is the second largest opium grower in the world after Afghanistan. Burma accounts for 25% of opium grown in the world, while Laos accounts for 3%, said the report. Most of Burma's opium is refined into heroin - about half goes to meet the growing market in China. The Golden Triangle - where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet - has been notorious for opium and drug smuggling for decades. Almost all of the opium Burma produces is grown in Shan and Kachin states, which have seen longstanding conflict between the military and ethnic rebel groups.

Karzai sacks Helmand governor Gulab Mangal
20 Sep 2012
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sacked the governor of Helmand province as part of a series of sweeping political changes. Gulab Mangal had to deal with complex tribal tensions and ongoing problems related to the opium trade - Helmand at that time grew half of the country's opium poppies. Mr Mangal's successor is thought to enjoy closer relations with the presidential palace. He will be replaced by General Naeem Baloch, who works for the Afghan intelligence service.

US sees sharp rise in newborns with opiate withdrawal
30 Apr 2012
The number of babies born in the US showing symptoms of opiate withdrawal increased threefold in the 10 years up to 2009, a medical study has found. The number of pregnant women testing positive for illegal or legal opiates increased fivefold in the same period. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that painkiller abuse in the US had reached "epidemic proportions". It said overdoses of pain relievers cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

Afghan drugs: Opium price rises by 133%
12 Jan 2012
The price of Afghan opium rose dramatically in 2011, the UN has said. Opium poppy farmers in Afghanistan probably earned more than $1.4bn (£910m) last year - equivalent to 9% of the country's GDP, it estimates. Prices started to rise in 2010 after the poppy crop was hit by a fungal disease.

Afghan opium production 'rises by 61%' compared with 2010
11 Oct 2011
Opium production in Afghanistan rose by an estimated 61% this year compared with 2010, according to a UN report. Last year opium production halved largely due to a plant infection which drastically reduced yields.

Afghan President Karzai criticizes US-Russia drugs raid
31 Oct 2010
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the first joint operation by Russian and US agents to destroy drug laboratories in his country. He called it a violation of Afghan sovereignty and international law. Russia said more than a ton of heroin and opium, with a street value of $250m (£157m), was destroyed in the raid. Officials in Moscow have in the past accused coalition forces in Afghanistan of doing little to tackle drugs, and thereby helping to sustain the estimated 2.5 million heroin addicts in Russia.

British troops investigated for heroin smuggling
12 Sep 2010
Military police are investigating claims that British soldiers may have trafficked heroin from Afghanistan. The inquiry is focusing on service personnel at airports in Camp Bastion and Kandahar. Afghanistan is the source of 90% of the world's opium.

Afghanistan Opium at Record High
27 Aug 2007
The UN says opium production in Afghanistan has soared to record levels, with an increase on last year of more than a third. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report says the amount of opium produced there has doubled in the last two years. Afghanistan now accounts for more than 93% of the world's opiates.

Warning over Afghan Drug Economy
28 Nov 2006
Afghanistan supplies more than 90% of world opium. The drug trade accounts for a third of the economy and permeates the "higher levels of government", 2006 saw opium cultivation rise by 60% and production by 50%.

Afghan Drug Crop to Flood Europe
28 Nov 2006
European cities risk higher numbers of heroin overdoses as Afghanistan's record opium poppy crop floods cities with the drug, the UN has warned. Europe has traditionally been the biggest market for Afghan opiates and opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 59% this year.

Quandary of Afghan Opium Industry
02 Mar 2005
Yet again, an alarming study on the rise in opium production in Afghanistan - source for most of the world's supplies of heroin.