Archive for February, 2014

25/02/2014

Can the World Feed China?

Human Wrongs Watch

By Lester R. Brown*

February 25, 2014 — Overnight, China has become a leading world grain importer, set to buy a staggering 22 million tons in the 2013–14 trade year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture projections. As recently as 2006—just eight years ago—China had a grain surplus and was exporting 10 million tons. What caused this dramatic shift?

China from the East, drawn by Richard Edes Harrison. Source: David Rumsey Map Collection, list no 1970.026. Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Full color shaded relief map. Includes text, inset maps showing Migration of Chinese universities. 35x56cm. From the atlas "Look at the World: the Fortune Atlas for world Strategy", page 38-39.  Source David Rumsey Map Collection, list no 1970.026. Author Richard Edes Harrison

China from the East, drawn by Richard Edes Harrison. Source: David Rumsey Map Collection, list no 1970.026. Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Author Richard Edes Harrison | Wikimedia Commons

It wasn’t until 20 years ago, after I wrote an article entitled “Who Will Feed China?”, that I began to fully appreciate what a sensitive political issue food security was to the Chinese. The country’s leaders were all survivors of the Great Famine of 1959–61, when some 36 million people starved to death.

Yet while the Chinese government was publicly critical of my questioning the country’s ability to feed itself, it began quietly reforming its agriculture. Among other things, Beijing adopted a policy of grain self-sufficiency, an initiative that is now faltering.

Since 2006, China’s grain use has been climbing by 17 million tons per year. (See data.) For perspective, this compares with Australia’s annual wheat harvest of 24 million tons. With population growth slowing, this rise in grain use is largely the result of China’s huge population moving up the food chain and consuming more grain-based meat, milk, and eggs.

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20/02/2014

Social Justice? Half of the World Lives Below the US$ 2 a Day Poverty Line

Human Wrongs Watch

Geneva, 20 February, 2014 —  “Even before the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, half of the world was living below the US$ 2 a day poverty line, millions went hungry and too many had no prospect of securing a decent job.”

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

This is what Guy Ryder, Director General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), said on 20 February as the world marked the Day of Social Justice on 20 February. Ryder urged ‘policy-makers to converge on the ambition of a real global socio-economic recovery – a recovery for all – and a Post-2015 Development Agenda that helps lift all out of poverty.’

“Today, an entire generation of young people faces the prospect of a more uncertain, less prosperous future than did their parents. Many are already in desperate situations hardly able to fall any further,” he said. “This is a reality no policy maker can afford to ignore.”

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20/02/2014

A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen

Human Wrongs Watch

New York, 20 February 2014 – A deadly US drone strike on a December 2013 wedding procession in Yemen raises serious concerns about US forces’ compliance with President Barack Obama’s targeted killing policy, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on 20 February 2014.

2013_yemen_strike_presser

Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi of Yakla holds a photo of his son Ali Abdullah Mohammed al-Tisi, who was killed in a US drone strike outside Rad`a, Yemen on December 12, 2013. © 2013 Human Rights Watch

The 28-page report, A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen,” calls on the US government to investigate the strike, publish its findings, and act in the event of wrongdoing.

The December 12 attack killed 12 men and wounded at least 15 other people, including the bride. US and Yemeni officials said the dead were members of the armed group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but witnesses and relatives told Human Rights Watch the casualties were civilians. Obama said in a major address in May that US policy requires “near-certainty” that no civilians will be harmed in targeted attacks, adds Human Rights Watch.

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