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Dammed rivers: do or don’t?

19 December 2000
At first glance, hydroelectric power from big dams appears to be a greener way to generate electricity than burning fossil fuels. But an organisation called "The World Commission on Dams" has concluded that dams' impact on eco-systems is "mostly negative" – results announced by no less than Nelson Mandela. According to…

Deplorable state of health in Russia

19 December 2000
Bureaucratic twists and turns following the demise of the Soviet Union have left Russia's health-care "system" – if it can be called that – in shambles. Russian hospitals are in a perilous state, drugs are in short supply and doctors and nurses are astonishingly underpaid – as much as one-third…

Did Unicef policy lead to AIDS in African children?

19 Dec 00  
Unicef, the United Nations agency charged with protecting children, may be indirectly responsible for thousands of African babies being infected with the deadly AIDS virus, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the 1970s, anti-corporate activists organised a world-wide boycott of Nestle aimed at stopping the distribution of free samples and advertising…

Drug costs up because Americans are medicating more

19 Dec 00  
Americans are shelling out more for prescription drugs. But that's not because pharmaceutical firms have been hiking prices. In fact, individuals have been increasing their intake of pills and other medications. Overall spending for prescription drugs has more than doubled since 1990. Yet prices for existing drugs – as opposed…

Britain to privatise air-traffic control

19 Dec 00  
Don't look for Britain to sell off shares of its air-traffic control system to the public. What is called "privatisation" is a much more timid step than that. The government will still retain much control and have a major say in how the new company, National Air Traffic Services Ltd.,…

Culture of fear

19 Dec 00  
Residents of wealthy countries such as the United States, Great Britain and Canada are living healthier and longer lives than every before – yet these societies have become increasingly obsessed with health and safety. This is due to the rise of a new "non-risk" society and a "culture of fear,"…

Experiment vindicates group decision-making

19 Dec 00  
Do individuals or committees make the best decisions? Former U.S. Federal Reserve Board vice chairman Alan Blinder had come to the conclusion that the committee nature of Fed deliberations slowed down its response to changing economic conditions. But he had no proof. So he and Princeton University colleague John Morgan set…

Education entrepreneurs

19 Dec 00  
Despite obstacles to entering the education marketplace, for-profit education companies in the U.S. are expanding and now hold about 10 percent of the $740 billion market. The most difficult sector for companies to enter is elementary and secondary education, where they receive only 5 percent of total dollars spent and…

Anti-biotech activists threaten agricultural gains

19 Dec 00  
Texas A&M University professor Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in agriculture in 1970, is warning of a growing anti-biotech movement in countries such as India. Fear-mongers, he says, could lead poor countries to back off from use of inorganic fertilisers and synthetic pesticides…

Why is the euro so weak and what’s ahead for it?

19 Dec 00  
When the euro made its debut, it was worth around U.S. $1.17. Recently, after repeated interventions by the European Central Bank, it was down to 86 cents. Why? The U.S. has been deregulating and freeing up its economy for the past 25 years – which has enhanced the rate of return…

Philadelphia education experiment: more money, less education

19 Dec 00  
In response to complaints that American education has declined over the past few decades, the education establishment has replied, "Send us more money!" But school districts that have answered the call to direct more resources to the public schools have been disappointed. Take Philadelphia, for example. Philadelphia's public schools are among the…

Trends in world currencies

19 Dec 00  
Since World War II, the number of currencies in the world has grown – simply because the number of countries has grown. But the expansion of world trade has made it increasingly inconvenient for each country to have its own currency. This has prompted the formation of currency unions between countries.…

Does high tech exclude people?

12 Dec 00  
Some critics complain that Hispanic and black Americans are underrepresented in senior positions in the tech world because they didn't have access to the Internet in earlier years. But there is substantial evidence that high tech is one of the most ethnically diverse environments in the business world. Economist Gary Becker…

Prominent meteorologist disputes global warming theories

12 Dec 00  
Fred Singer, a meteorologist at the University of Virginia, says the world has not warmed since 1940, whereas it appears to have warmed in the half-century or so up to that point in time. While he admits he doesn't know the cause of the warming then, he discounts the notion…

American educational dollars down the drain

12 Dec 00  
In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education released its report, "A Nation at Risk," that showed American children lagging behind in education. Since then, the teacher unions have continually asked for more money to solve the educational crisis. However, the relation between dollars and units of educational output…

Americans vote against the drug war

12 Dec 00  
Whether or not the American war on drugs is winning in the streets, it's taken a beating at the election booth. Last month, voters in five states overwhelmingly passed drug policy reform initiatives. This year, California passed Proposition 36 with more than 60 percent of the popular vote shifting the…

DDT is a miracle chemical for controlling malaria

12 Dec 00  
Despite the protests of radical environmentalists, public health advocates are championing the use of the pesticide DDT in poor nations to combat mosquitoes that transmit malaria. "If we just focus on the issue of controlling malaria, DDT is the closest to a miracle chemical that has ever come along," says…

The feminisation of the welfare state

12 Dec 00  
An older version of the welfare state is now vying with a newer one for political dominance in the U.S. and Europe, says social thinker Irving Kristol, co-editor of the Public Interest. The original welfare state, from 1900 to 1945, was largely paternalistic in conception, since the male-dominated trade unions played…

SAMWU - ask not for whom the death knell tolls!

12 Dec 00  
Last month, the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) media officer Anna Weekes announced, as if it was common knowledge, that "privatisation has never succeeded anywhere in the world". This month, Samwu deputy general secretary Tom Ngobeni aired his hope that the Odi public-public-partnership (sic) would help "sound the death…

Water-borne illness is a public health concern

12 Dec 00  
Poor drinking water quality is a major problem in many parts of mainland Europe, even in the more affluent nations, researchers reported at a World Health Organisation meeting in Budapest. According to WHO statistics, some 20 million people world-wide die each year of water-borne diseases – one million of them…

American election inspires worlds fledgling democracies

12 Dec 00   FMF Policy Bulletin
The conventional wisdom is that the ballot recounts and court challenges in Florida have given the U.S. a global black eye. American editorial writers decry the "chaos," the "swamp" and the "crisis" occasioned by the ultra-close presidential vote counts in this year's presidential election. But Americans who specialise in promoting democracy…

Trends in private school enrolment in America

12 Dec 00  
Despite fluctuations over the years, the proportion of K-12 U.S. children in private schools was the same in 1998 as it was in 1890, the earliest year for data. The surprising story, however, is that enrolment in Catholic schools has been plunging during the past four decades, even as enrolment…