Why are civil society organisations excited about strengthening the UN when momentum seems distinctly in the opposite direction? When divisions are rife and the international system is in damage limitation mode, as the US cuts funding and repeatedly pulls out of UN bodies? The opportunity is the UN’s 75th anniversary (UN75) next year and there are modest reasons for hope. The General Assembly (through GA.RES.299) will host world leaders on 21 September 2020 to reaffirm their collective commitment to multilateralism.
As was recently, and perhaps shockingly, reported, life expectancy gains in the US, which plateaued in 2012, have declined for the past two years. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reported that the new average life expectancy for Americans is 78.7 years, 1.6 years behind the average in developed nations (including Canada, Germany, Mexico, France, Japan, and the UK), which is 80.3. As Dartmouth economists Ellen Meara and Jonathan Skinner remarked about the downward reversal of US life expectancy, “It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude.”
Citizens in Portugal vote on how public funding is spent on national and regional projects, in the world’s first participatory budgeting scheme of its kind. The project is led by the Administrative Modernisation Agency to build trust among citizens and bring them into government. It was awarded the Best Citizen Engagement award at the recent Innovation Labs World hosted by GovInsider. The Portugal Participatory Budget (PPB) allows citizens to present investment proposals and then choose, through transparent and open voting, which projects should be funded and implemented. The budgeting process has two main phases: citizens first present budget proposals via the PPB’s online portal or in person at participative meetings held across Portugal.
The $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park that has drawn opposition from Chance the Rapper and college students around the nation triggered yet another raucous City Hall protest on Tuesday. A small, but determined handful of protesters — chanting, “Shame on y’all,” “This is wrong” and “How do you look yourselves in the mirror? You are killing us” — disrupted a meeting of the City Council’s Budget Committee. They were promptly escorted out of the Council chambers. Before they left, aldermen approved an ordinance appropriating $20 million from the sale of a valuable North Side fleet maintenance facility for the new police academy. The two-building campus will also be bankrolled by $5 million from the sale of the air rights above a River North fire station and $23 million from the sale of existing police and fire facilities.
Educators in Oklahoma are making it clear they aren’t giving up in their fight for increased public school funding. On Wednesday, more than 100 people set out from Webster High School in Tulsa on a seven-day trek to the state Capitol in Oklahoma City to demand bigger education budgets. “We are willing to walk 100 miles for our students,” Patti Ferguson-Palmer, president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, told The Tulsa World. “What is the Oklahoma Legislature willing to do? We are not all young and fit.” Wednesday marked the third day straight that Oklahoma teachers and their supporters have protested years of deep cuts and salary slashes for educators. On Monday, teachers across the state staged a massive revolt when they walked out of schools, with many swarming the Capitol building in Oklahoma City. “Why are we walking?” Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, asked on Monday.
By Ellen Brown for Web of Debt Blog - In May 2017, a team of researchers at the University of Oxford published the results of a survey of the world’s best artificial intelligence experts, who predicted that there was a 50 percent chance of AI outperforming humans in all tasks within 45 years. All human jobs were expected to be automated in 120 years, with Asian respondents expecting these dates much sooner than North Americans. In theory, that means we could all retire and enjoy the promised age of universal leisure. But the immediate concern for most people is that they will be losing their jobs to machines. That helps explain the recent interest in a universal basic income (UBI) – a sum of money distributed equally to everyone. A UBI has been proposed in Switzerland, trials are beginning in Finland, and there is a successful pilot ongoing in Brazil. The cities of Ontario in Canada, Oakland in California, and Utrecht in the Netherlands are planning trials; two local authorities in Scotland have announced such plans; and politicians across Europe, including UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have spoken in favor of the concept. Advocates in the US range from Robert Reich to Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Luther King, Thomas Paine, Charles Murray, Elon Musk, Dan Savage, Keith Ellison and Paul Samuelson. A new economic study found that a UBI of $1000/month to all adults would add $2.5 trillion to the US economy in eight years.
By Melissa Hellmann for Yes! Magazine - Seattle City Council members took their seats on Sept. 19 with the unhurried pace of business as usual. One of them called for public comments, but after a few people spoke, a commotion erupted in the back of the chambers. Six black and brown people shuffled down the central aisle, bounded by chains on their wrists, ankles, and stomachs. Some were clad in orange jumpsuits, while others wore black shirts bearing the phrase “Block the Bunker” in white letters. White activists donning police hats and pig noses trailed behind, nudging them forward with toy batons. “I’ll throw you around if I want to throw you around!” one of them screamed.
By Nafeez Ahmed for Information Clearing House - September 18, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "Medium" - A former senior counter-terrorism official in Turkey has blown the whistle on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s deliberate sponsorship of the Islamic State (ISIS) as a geopolitical tool to expand Turkey’s regional influence and sideline his political opponents at home. Ahmet Sait Yayla was Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Division of Turkish National Police between 2010 and 2012, before becoming Chief of the Public Order and Crime Prevention Division until 2014.
By Carlyn Harvey for The Canary - On 19th July an extraordinary bill was tabled in the UK parliament. The proposal,presented by Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury, seeks to allow citizens to divert the portion of their taxes that would ordinarily pay for military operations into a conflict prevention fund instead. The bill passed its first reading, is backed by the Green’s Caroline Lucas, and will receive its second reading on 2 December. If it succeeds the UK will set a historic precedent as the first country to allow citizens “to get the world you pay for” – with a chance to pay for peace not war.
By Scott Klinger for Other Worlds - State and local governments give away at least $70 billion a year to business subsidies, most of it in foregone tax revenue. Local property taxes are the most significant tax most corporations pay. In most communities, they’re also the backbone of local school finance. So when subsidies slash corporate property taxes, our schools often get hurt the most. In Chicago, for example, we already have a glimpse into the unsavory relationship between tax subsidies and school finance.
By Anthony Cody for Living in Dialogue - Here is where we stand with the revived controversy over the Los Angeles Times’ 2010 “investigation” into teacher effectiveness. In 2009, Teachers College, which sponsors The Hechinger Report, received a grant from the Gates Foundation in the amount of $652,493 in order “to support the development of high quality education coverage in the nation’s leading newspapers and magazines.”
By Auset Marian Lewis for Tele Sur - Injustice is not happenstance. It’s systemic. Police shoot more unarmed black men than white because the slave system put a target on their backs centuries ago that has never been erased. Racism is in America’s DNA. It is a systemic problem built into the American culture ever since black people were counted as chattel and fed from a pig’s trough. Every American institution from prisons to politics, from Yale to Mizzou is laced with the inextricable venom of the slave system. The American system is so infected with racial injustice that even programs funded to mitigate systemic social and economic problems become fruit of the poisonous tree.