12 May 2017

Sweatshops aren't too bad?


This question is regarding the discussion of arguments for and against sweatshops. Sweatshops are defined by International Labor Rights Forum, as an organization that violates two or more labor laws (2013).These laws could be those concerning wages, working hours, working conditions, safety and disciplinary methods implemented. Workers in sweatshop are claimed to be beaten, tortured, and even sexually harassed in occasion. However, many argue in defense of sweatshops that even though they violate these laws, they bring more benefit than harm over long term. While others are resolute that’ sweatshops should be abolished due to their deplorable conditions.
First and foremost, the predominant argument against sweatshop is that sweatshops exploit workers by paying them unconscionable wages. Especially, the wages paid by Multinational corporations(MNEs) operating in Third world countries are relatively low compared to wages paid for similar job in their home countries.For instance, ILRF website (2013) indicates 3.5 million workers in Bangladeshemployed in garment factories exporting to Europe and North America earn about US$10 a week. It is argued that sweatshops workers are trapped in an awful cycle of poverty due to exploitation and could barely afford daily expenses such as shelter, healthcare and their nutritional need.
In accordance with Immanuel Kant’s ethics, opponents of sweatshop dispute the arguments justifying unconscionable wages by asserting that sweatshop sweatshops overlook human dignity and human rights (Kant1971, p273). Immanuel Kant states that human beings should never be treated as means to an end, in fact they must be treated as ends itself (Kant 1971,p273).Kant’s Reformulation of Second Categorical Imperative emphasizes on humans beings as the most important aspect and stresses that MNEs should not make use of inexpensive labor available in developing nations.
However, this is justified by organizations, using the argument that corporations are attempting to minimize the cost of production as low as possible, by using cheap labor available due to the abundance of supply and exchange rate variant factors. Moreover, by setting up sweatshops, companies has distinct advantages such as specialization, rapid expansion capacity, reduction in production cost, increase in product cycle time and manufacturing flexibilities (Arnold & Bowie 2003, p223). This is supported by the Shareholders Theory that enunciates that the key characteristics of sustainability of any organization are through profit maximization, consequently maximizing shareholder wealth. As a firm is set up by those who have monetary share in it, the firm’s only resolution should be to serve the need and interest of these owners as the shareholders are reliant on their investment to procure return. As such, a firm has an obligation to ensure production at the least cost by any means available for maximum return.
In addition, Matt Zwolenski argued in Learn Liberty Website (2012) that sweatshops help the poor to escape poverty. The workers in developing nations find sweatshop the best income option available. This is due to the fact that sweatshops in countries such as Bangladesh and African nations tend to pay three to seven times higher than any other employments available in their economy. Zwolenski claims that’ sweatshops are a form of mutually advantageous exploitation between the workers and the employees. The wages enable the workers to sustain a better living condition than what would have been provided by other local industries. He also defend sweatshop on the grounds that relatively poorly paid jobs are better than no jobs at all.

6 May 2017

FIVE REASONS TO BAN THE BURQA

Belgium and France have banned the Burqa and the new Dutch government is considering doing the same.  Critics have charged that the ban is religiously intolerant, some even claim that it’s intolerant of women, but the truth is that the Burqa is dangerous to women. Both those who wear it—and those who don’t.
1. The Burqa Covers Up Abuse
Countries where the Burqa is commonly worn also have higher rates of domestic violence.  In Afghanistan 87 percent of women reported experiencing domestic violence. In Pakistan that number goes as high as 90 percent. Domestic violence is also a major problem in Saudi Arabia.
In cases of domestic abuse, the Burqa doesn’t just isolate the woman, it also covers up evidence of the abuse. It gives the abuser the freedom to brutalize his partner without worrying that anyone will even notice.
This is an especially vital issue in Europe, where spousal abuse is a serious crime, and the abuser has more motivation than ever to cover it up. The Burqa successfully isolates abuse victims, cuts them off from any prospective support networks and prevents anyone on the outside from even realizing what is being done to them.
The Muslim community has been in denial about its rates of domestic abuse. The Burqa is one reason why. It’s easier not to see abused women, when they are segregated and the marks of their abuse are kept out sight.
2.  The Burqa Justifies Sexual Assault on Women Who Don’t Wear It
In response to a gang rape, the Chief Mufti of Australia said, "If she was in her room, in her home, in her Hijab, no problem would have occurred." By wearing the Burqa or Hijab, women participate in a narrative that gives rapists a pass for sexual assaults on women who don’t dress the way the Mufti or Imam says they should.
The Koran gives a similar justification for a head to toe covering for women, “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies that they may thus be distinguished and not molested.” (Koran 33:59)
This distinction between women who can be ‘molested’ and those who cannot is what makes the Burqa such an explosive addition to Europe—which is already suffering from a high rate of Muslim sexual assaults on non-Muslim women.
The Burqa divides women into “good girls” and “whores” and gives potential rapists, religious ammunition for their crimes.
Banning the Burqa protects women who choose not to wear it from being assaulted because of their perceived immodesty.
3.  Civic Participation
The essence of a modern society is that it extends civic participation to everyone. Deliberately preventing an entire gender from participating in society as identifiable individuals is an assault on the democratic character of the state.
Individuals are recognizable through personal attributes. Remove those attributes and you remove the individuality as well. The Sahih Bukhari relates that one inspiration for the Burqa was that one of Mohammed’s followers was able to recognize one of his wives at night. The implication is that the Burqa is meant to prevent such recognition from taking place. Women are not meant to be recognized as individuals. Or to be empowered to make their own decisions.
The Burqa is designed to impede interaction outside the home. The failure to be recognized as an individual is dehumanizing and deprives women of their role in civic life.
Countries where the Burqa is in wide use, have low rates of female civic participation. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to vote. In parts of Pakistan, women are not allowed to vote as well. In Afghanistan women were shunted into female only polling stations, or forced to vote by proxy through a male family member.
The rise of such segregation in Europe would threaten the democratic character of the society.  But should the Burqa become widespread, the status of some European women living in national capitals would begin to resemble those of Saudi and Pakistani women.
4. Segregation is Discrimination
Purdah segregates women at homes and the Burqa segregates them in public. While the authorities cannot interfere with what people choose to do in their own homes—the public wearing of the Burqa is a statement that women are unequal and must be segregated.
Such an attitude is an assault on the legal place of women in society. It imposes the norms of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the streets of Paris and London. Like a Klan march, it a dehumanizing and intimidating statement of bigotry against a segment of society.  While in the United States, such marches are legal, in much of Europe they are not.
If radicals are prevented from making public statements about the inferiority of races, why should they be permitted to assert the inferiority of a gender.
“Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other,” the Koran asserts. Replace ‘women’ with any race or religion, and a public assertion of such a thing would be cause for criminal proceedings.
Imposing the segregation of the Burqa on women in an assertion of a bigoted creed that dehumanizes an entire gender. While Muslims are free to believe what they do, a public display that dehumanizes women as a gender by treating their faces as obscene, is an intolerant violation of the norms of civil society.
5.  The Wearing of the Burqa is Enforced Through Violence
“More often the girls were under orders from their fathers and uncles and brothers, and even their male classmates. For the boys, transforming a bluejeaned teen-age sister into a docile and observant "Muslim" virgin was a rite de passage into authority, the fast track to becoming a man, and more important, a Muslim man.... it was also a license for violence.”  (Jane Kramer, Taking the Veil, New Yorker)
In 2003 a French survey found that 77 percent of girls who wore the Hijab did so because of threats. Women in the Muslim world have been punished by having acid thrown in their faces for not complying with similar demands. There is no way to break through this climate of coercion except by giving women and girls immunity from such demands by banning the source of it. The Burqa.
The Burqa also exposes women to blackmail and intimidation when they deviate from the standard of full body covering. There is a rising number of cases in which women and girls who posted Facebook pictures of themselves in normal clothes have been blackmailed and threatened for it.
As long as the Burqa remains a threat hanging over the heads of Muslim and non-Muslim women alike, no woman in Europe can truly be free from its implied threat to her person and her political freedoms.
Author: Daniel Greenfield
Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com

Spain's lost generation: youth unemployment surges above 50 per cent

Spain's lost generation: youth unemployment surges above 50 per cent


More than half of young Spaniards are out of work, according to fresh statistics, signalling a lost generation that has been hit hardest by Spain's economic woes, as the total number of unemployed surged above five million.


The number of 16-24 year old Spaniards out of work rose to 51.4 per cent in December, more than double the European Union average, according to a report by Spain's National Statistics Institute. The national unemployment rate hit 22.85 per cent, the highest rate in nearly 17 years and the current highest in the industrialised world.
Spain's young have been dubbed 'generacion cero' or 'the ni-nis' – neither in work nor full time education- and for many their only hope of seeking a better future is moving abroad, sparking fears of a brain drain.
"This is the least hopeful and best educated generation in Spain," said Ignacio Escolar, author of the country's most popular political blog and former editor of the newspaper Publico. "And it's like a national defeat that they have to travel abroad to find work."
When the crisis began in 2008, Spain's under-25 unemployment rate was below 18 per cent but it has nearly tripled within four years as Spain's housing boom collapsed and it sank into recession.
Young Spaniards are now living in the family home longer than ever before, pushing the average age of independence from their parents to well into their thirties.
"These people are delaying their advance into adulthood. It's a very scary time for young people," said Sara Elder an economist with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which published a report into youth unemployment around the world.
"They find the path that worked for their parents is not working for them."
The ILO report, published last October, warned that the consequences of mass youth unemployment could be dire.
"Increased crime rates in some countries, increased drug use, moving back home with the parents, depression – all of these are common consequences for a generation of youth that, at best, has become disheartened about the future, and, at worst, has become angry and violent," it said.
Spain already has one of the highest rates of cannabis and cocaine usage among its young in western Europe.
The botellon, the social activity for younger people of drinking alcohol in public areas such as the streets, has also increased in popularity leading to police clampdowns.
Young Spaniards led the protests throughout last summer, setting up camps in plazas across Spain in the movement that became known as "Los Indignados" – the Indignant ones.
They complain that even a university degree leaves no guarantee of finding work.
"When you go to university, you develop very high expectations, and then you leave and get a reality check," says Tomás Muñoz, a 25-year old graduate of Alicante University and a spokesman for the Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth without a future) platform.
Analysts warn that youth joblessness could have a devastating effect on a nation that needs a dynamic young workforce to help economic recovery and lead Spain out of recession.
"It's a problem not just for them, but for all of us," believes economics professor Gayle Allard from the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid.

"This is the generation that will be paying for the welfare state and pensions in the future. If they can't get started with relatively secure, well-paying jobs, start to put away some savings, start to accumulate assets, start paying into the welfare system, where does that leave the rest of us?"

Travel Boom: Young Tourists Spent $217 Billion Last year, More Growth Than Any Other Group




Travel Boom: Young Tourists Spent $217 Billion Last Year, More Growth Than Any Other Group

Young people are traveling more, staying away for longer periods of time and spending more money, a new report indicates.

In 2012, $217 billion of the $1.088 trillion tourism "spend" worldwide came from young travelers, an increase that vastly outstripped that of other international travelers, according to a new study of youth and student travel released by Amsterdam-based World Youth Student and Education Travel Confederation. Young travelers now represent 20 per cent of international tourism, making the group an important economic force.

The WYSE Travel Confederation called the report "the largest and most comprehensive survey ever undertaken for the youth travel sector." The study, released in September, updated research initially conducted in 2002 and later in 2007, and looked at why, how and where young people travel and included survey responses from more than 34,000 young travelers from 137 countries.

“Our research shows that the nature of youth travel has changed enormously in the past decade,” said David Chapman, director general for the WYSE Travel Confederation. “Young travelers today want, more than ever, to enrich themselves with cultural experiences, to meet local people and to improve their employability when they return home.”

“With young people traveling further, staying away for longer, spending more, keeping in touch more and integrating with overseas communities on a scale not seen before, the industry is becoming far broader than ever before," he added.

Highlights from the report:

At a time of rising youth unemployment and global economic austerity, more young people than ever before are traveling to gain work, educational and cultural experiences, while those traveling purely for leisure has fallen from over 75 percent in 2007 to just 47 percent.


More young travelers are “shunning the traditional sun, sea and sand holidays” to improve their resumes. According to the report, 22 percent of young travelers want to learn a language, 15 percent want to gain work experience, and 15 percent travel to study – all significantly up from 2007. Student spending has increased by 40 percent since 2007 despite the global economic climate, with young travelers requesting more varied services. The age demographic of people identifying themselves as youth travelers has broadened.


Young travelers are spending longer periods of time abroad; the number of trips more than 60 days has increased over the last five years. Youth travel is not all about budget accommodation; there has been a significant rise in travelers identifying themselves as more up-scale ‘flashpackers,’ backpackers who travel with lap tops, smart phones and other high tech gear and who tend to have heftier budgets than traditional backpackers.


Hostels have overtaken hotels as the most popular form of accommodation; they are adapting to meet the demands of modern youth travelers and increasing the variety of services they offer. The places that young people are traveling to are changing; they are spending less time in major gateway cities and are exploring more remote destinations than previously.

TRAMP'S IMMIGRATION POLICIES


Who will be deported

The Obama administration issued guidelines for deporting unauthorized immigrants that placed the highest priority on gang members, felons and those who posed security threats. A goal was to concentrate limited resources on the most serious cases, but many Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents complained that the priorities tied their hands, taking away their discretion as to whom to pursue.

Under the new directives, the government “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” Immigration agents can now focus on picking up and removing anyone charged with or convicted of any criminal offense, even minor ones, as well as anyone already ordered deported, regardless of whether they have a criminal record.

But the Obama guidelines “translated into de facto protections” for people with no legal right to live in the United States, said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants. Unless they fell into one of the high-priority categories, Mr. Stein said, “the chance of being deported was virtually zero.”


‘Catch and release’

Under the Obama administration, people caught crossing the border without permission were often released into the United States while their requests for asylum wound through the immigration system, a process that can take years. Most requests are denied, but by then, the immigrant has been living in the United States all that time and may not be easy to find.

The Trump administration has declared an end to the so-called catch and release policy, though it may take awhile to see any significant change. “Catch and release” came about in part because the government had nowhere to hold detainees waiting for immigration decisions. One of the memos released on Tuesday directs officials to expand detention facilities, but it will take time to build centers big enough, or find enough room in jails, to hold the thousands of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers expected to cross the border this year.

The document also raises another alternative: sending migrants back to Mexico to wait out the immigration process, even those who are not originally from Mexico. That proposal comes with its own problems. Though United States law appears to allow it, Mexico’s laws do not, if the immigrant is not a Mexican citizen.


No judge required

Two decades ago, Congress passed a law allowing the government to quickly deport undocumented immigrants who have not been in the United States very long, without allowing them go before a judge.

In practice, the government has used this process, called “expedited removal,” relatively narrowly because of concerns about whether it violates constitutional rights of due process that are granted to anyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status. Since 2002, expedited removal has been applied only to immigrants who have been in the country less than two weeks and were caught within 100 miles of the border. That is because the Supreme Court has held that such immigrants can still be considered “in transit” and not here long enough to qualify for due process protections.

The Trump administration is now planning to use expedited removal as extensively as the original law allows, saying that limits on its use had contributed to a backlog of more than half a million cases in immigration court.

Immigration advocates vowed to challenge the change.

“Someone could be living in Chicago for a year and a half and then be swept off the street by an ICE agent,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. “He is going to be detained and removed right away without ever seeing a judge.”


Role of local police

A program known as 287(g), named for its section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows the Department of Homeland Security to train local and state law enforcement officers to work as de facto federal immigration officers, identifying undocumented immigrants in their communities and jails and turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

From 2006 to 2013, the program led to 175,000 deportations, according to federal statistics. But investigations and court rulings revealed an ugly side effect: In some jurisdictions, local officers were using their authority to racially profile Latinos. One of the most egregious cases was in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous, during the tenure of Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, who a federal judge ruled had discriminated against Latinos in patrols and other enforcement efforts.

The Obama administration curtailed the use of the program, which currently involves 32 agencies in 16 states. The Trump administration wants more agencies to take part, and some have already expressed a desire to do so.

WITNESSES FROM AN AMERICAN WOMAN/THE SITUATION OF AN INDIAN WOMAN

WITNESSES FROM AN AMERICAN WOMAN

“We’re not rich people … but it’s one way our family can give back in a really big way.” – Rayven Perkins, 32, Austin, Texas, married, mother to a 10-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy
I have been a surrogate mother three times (twins in February 2007 and a little boy in June 2008), and I’m about to give birth this month to my fourth surrogate baby. The best part is knowing you did this for the right reasons when you deliver the baby and the parents finally see him or her. But there are a lot of sacrifices a surrogate makes. There are hormone shots that my husband had to help me take for three months, prior to the transfer and then almost through the first trimester. With varying state laws on surrogacy, you may have to stay in state. My husband had to turn down a promotion in another state, and I missed Christmas with my in-laws during my 3rd trimester with twins because my doctor said I couldn’t travel.

[As for handing the baby off] I knew instinctively that I’m not an attached type of person. I always viewed surrogacy as a long babysitting project. I’m going to give birth any day now and I’m excited that the parents will be there. It’s not sad for me at all. I have no regrets whatsoever – I’m just glad I was able to participate. We’re not rich people. We’ll never donate a wing of a hospital, but it’s one way our family can give back to our world in a really big way. Without our assistance, there would be four less children in the world. We are showing our own children how to be generous and how to sacrifice for others.

THE SITUATION OF AN INDIAN WOMAN

Kalpita bore three children in two surrogate pregnancies, but she has only one photograph to show for it. It hangs on the wall of the narrow room she shared with her husband and three teenage daughters. In the photograph, taken in 2009, she stands between two handsome men with Mediterranean complexions, her head just reaching their broad shoulders. She told me the men were brothers. They were probably a gay couple, but the women I interviewed never acknowledged that their clients might be gay. (Gay sex is illegal in India, and homosexuality is often not a visible part of community life.)

For these men, Kalpita had carried twin boys. She was paid 2.75 lakh rupees (£2,840), in 2009. It wasn’t nearly enough money, she said, for such dangerous work, “delivering two babies, putting our life in risk”. But Puranik, who arranged the pregnancy, set a fixed rate, and the clients spoke neither Hindi nor Marathi, the languages Kalpita knows. They had left no phone number. Kalpita did not know where they came from, or where they went. What the photograph failed to show was that, in this deal, Kalpita could not negotiate or speak for herself, even as her clients stood smiling by her side. “They did not ask us how much we had been given, or what happened,” said Kalpita. “They never asked.”

5 May 2017

How Daredevils Work

Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, being shot from a cannon, walking on a tightrope high above a city street -- no one can dispute that daredevils captivate the public. From biplane wing walkers to Evel Knievel to the thick-headed morons of "Jackass" -- daredevils do what it takes to get attention.
So what makes a daredevil, and why do we watch? Some might say that any bungee jumper or mountain climber is a daredevil. Others might argue for NASCAR driver­s or Hollywood stuntmen. Aviators consider Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh daredevils for flying nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean.
The truth is, there's no set definition for the term, but one thing all daredevils have in common is that they put their life on the line -- often with a high degree of recklessness. Viewers tune in to daredevil television specials for the chance to see a spectacular crash as much as a riveting stunt. Or maybe we watch to see someone attempt something we'd never try. No one knows for sure why these people risk their lives to thrill others.
In this article, we'll look the history of these people who risk death for a brief moment in the limelight. We'll also look at some of the most famous daredevils and what they've done to earn this distinction.
It's not clear why the first daredevils did what they did. With little publicity and no such thing as television or radio, daredevil pioneers risked their lives for small live audiences. Some might argue that they were simply adrenalinejunkies, much like today's extreme sportsmen. Some of the early daredevils might be viewed as inventors and experimenters. Frenchman Jacques Garnerin experimented with the world's first parachute jump with a non-rigid frame in 1797. He graduated from jumping from trees and sending animals out as test jumpers to eventually jumping himself from a hot air balloon at 3,200 feet. His experimentation with the non-rigid frame led to skydiving as we know it today.

4 May 2017

GARMENT INDUSTRY- CHILD LABOUR



Would you pay more for clothes if they were manufactured ethically i.e. produced in a factory with fair working conditions and wages? What would ethical shopping look like to you?
Before answering, look at a garment that you recently purchased and find out the brand and where it was made. Take a picture and tweet it with the info (or post it in the comments section below).
Two weeks ago, KQED Do Now examined the human cost of making clothing cheaply, stating that U.S. fashion companies design their merchandise in the United States and then outsource the labor in countries like Bangladesh where workers are paid very little to sew the garments. Has the tragedy in Bangladesh changed our thinking? Have we made the connection between the cost of clothes and the conditions of these factories? Are we ready to acknowledge the human costs of this relentless fashion treadmill and shop ethically? If workers are to be paid a living wage, would we be prepared to pay more for clothes?
Take a look at the label on your latest bargain, those trendy, cheap items from stores such as H&M, Esprit, Lee, Wrangler, Nike, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart. Where were these clothes made?
In her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, journalist Elizabeth L. Cline describes buying “seven pairs of $7 shoes” at Kmart and admits to being a “reformed fast-fashion junkie. She writes “because of low prices, chasing trends is now a mass activity, accessible to anyone with a few bucks to spare.” Fashion trends dangle the constant lure of display and self branding in front of us and the drive to keep up becomes relentless. Quality is not the issue, but the fear of losing face in the social mirror.
There is now an “ethical fashion” movement and clothing companies like H&M, for example, has a “Conscious Collection.” American Apparel and Fair Trade Fashion offer natural, organic cotton or handmade clothing and sweatshop free production. Is then organic and locally produced clothing a way of shopping ethically? Does it also become a marketing strategy?
Another option is to follow Cline’s advice to “make, alter and mend” by which she means buying recycled clothes and taking care of the clothes we have, rather than discarding clothing on a whim because they are cheap and easily replaceable when the fashion moves on.
This could be a sustainable solution to the damage to the environment of endless stuff, which is disposable and easily replaced by yet more and cheaper versions of the same. But is it a choice we are ready to make?

ARTICLES AND LISTENING ACTIVITIES:

India's surrogate mothers are risking their lives. They urgently need protection

Premila Vaghela, a poor 30-year-old surrogate mother, died last month, while reportedly waiting for a routine examination at a hospital in Ahmedabad. The news was barely covered by the media – after all, she had completed the task she had been contracted for, and the eight-month-old foetus meant for an American "commissioning" parent survived.
In fact Premila was like many other economically marginalised surrogates, who may suffer or even lose their lives while carrying a child, and are quickly forgotten. The highly secretive and largely unregulated baby factories (many of which are dressed up as legitimate IVF clinics) now mushrooming all over India are usually only concerned with the end product: the child.
Even conservative estimates show more than 25,000 children are now being born through surrogates in India every year in an industry worth $2bn. These clinics are not just spreading in big cities but in smaller towns as well. Domestic demand is increasing, but as fertility levels drop elsewhere, at least 50% of these babies are "commissioned" by overseas, mainly western, couples.
Whoever the prospective parents, the pattern is the same: it is only India's desperately poor women who are tempted to rent their wombs. Since the cost of fertility treatment and that of the surrogate is comparatively cheaper in India than in the rest of the world, would-be parents are flooding in, eager to have a child that bears some part of their genetic heritage.
Most of the industry is operating unchecked. India's medical research watchdog drafted regulations more than two years ago, yet they still await presentation in parliament, leaving the surrogates and baby factories open to abuse. And even many of the supposedly well-run clinics do not appear to be transparent in their dealings.
Dr Manish Banker, from the Pulse Women's Hospital, is reported to have said that Premila had come for a check-up. "She suddenly had a convulsion and fell on the floor," he said. "We immediately took her for treatment. Since she was showing signs of distress, we conducted an emergency caesarean section delivery."
The child, who was born a month premature, was admitted to the intensive care unit. Premila was moved to another hospital, which claims she was in a highly critical condition, having suffered a cardiac arrest. Although there's no suggestion that this was the case with Premila, sadly, in many cases the surrogate's life is secondary. It is the baby, for whose birth the hospital is being paid, that is paramount.
Most mothers sign contracts agreeing that even if they are seriously injured during the later stages of pregnancy, or suffer any life-threatening illness, they will be "sustained with life-support equipment" to protect the foetus. Further, they usually agree to assume all medical, financial and psychological risks – releasing the genetic parents, their lawyers, the doctors and all other professionals from all liabilities.
Besides, in tragic cases like Premila's, the hospital would have quickly paid out the money owed for a 'successful' birth, so the family would be unlikely to complain. Premila herself had gone in for the surrogacy to provide her own two children a better life. In a country where thousands of women die every year in normal childbirths, who would complain about the death of one surrogate?
Anindita Majumdar, who is researching surrogacy for her doctorate, says she is personally distressed by how easily the "sheer horror" of it all is being swept away by the money paid out to the surrogates. There are many grey areas - and she fears that even the draft legislation, when it is passed, will favour the medical community over the rights of the surrogate.
Already many malpractices, such as implantation of more than four embryos in the surrogate's womb, as well as invasive "foetal reduction" frowned on the world over, are being followed. Often women undergo caesareans so the time of birth suits the commissioning parents.
While researching my novel I found that women are more than willing to undergo the risks. They feel that by renting their wombs (perhaps the only asset they possess), they can make enough money to look after their families. And indeed, many have earned enough to build small homes for their families, and buy some security for their children's schooling. One surrogate told me she wanted her daughter to receive a proper education and speak English just like I did. She was only 21, and carrying twins for a commissioning couple – but she was already planning her next three surrogacies.
One woman, according to another researcher, had over 20 cycles of hormonal injections. Since each child is often born through caeserean section (so that the birth coincides with the arrival of the commissioning parents) the health of the surrogate is likely to suffer with each operation.
I found that medical practitioners involved in it are rarely troubled about the fate of the women whose normal maternal cycles have been disrupted. As in Premila's case, they seem to be only interested in delivering the end-product: a child.
If India doesn't pass the regulatory bill soon, the international community should pressurise it to do so. This is now a global industry so requires an international law and a global fertility body to regulate it. Otherwise, it is likely that most of the unhealthy practices prevailing will go underground – and the fog of secrecy over the industry will become more dense.
 

3 March 2017

TAXING JUNK FOOD


A tax on junk food is the way to fight the childhood obesity crisis
Foods high in salt, sugar and fat should be taxed to discourage unhealthy eating and slow rates of childhood obesity.
It is well established that children growing up in the UK are much more likely to be overweight or obese than those in other European countries. As a result they are much more likely to grow up suffering a catalogue of health problems linked to being overweight. Many of the next generations will be vulnerable to conditions like type II diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, along with associated implications such as poor sleep quality, painful knees and backs, and higher infertility rates.
If we are to change these trends we must ensure that interventions for tackling the obesity crisis are concentrated in those areas where they are most needed, making healthy choices – whether through nutrition or exercise – easy.
Specific taxation on foods high in salt, sugar and fat is one way to help fight the obesity epidemic.
Worrying data
The latest statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that children in the UK are continuing to get fatter, with one-fifth of children aged between four and five and one-third of children aged between 10 and 11 now overweight or obese. Furthermore, children from lower income families were identified as being most at risk. A quarter of all children aged 10 or 11 in the most deprived areas of England are overweight compared with one in eight in the wealthiest parts of the country.
Cheap as chips
Although some grocery prices have recently gone down in the UK, healthy, fresh food is often more expensive to buy than fast food. For example, 2kg of potatoes are priced at £2 compared with 82p for stored-brand chips at one supermarket chain. A pack of two fresh chicken breasts at the same supermarket costs approximately £3 before the cost of spices or sauces used to cook with it, compared with a pre-prepared and ready-to-heat curry at just 95p. Many 2-for-1 offers and multi-buy options in supermarkets are for unhealthy products such as cakes, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks, so for low-income families, healthy food is a difficult option. This dilemma has been clearly demonstrated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent microeconomic research institute, whose analysis showed families reducing their expenditure on food purchase cheaper and less nutritious alternatives.
So why, in a country where obesity is estimated to cost the NHS £5bn a year, does most junk food remain cheaper than healthier alternatives?
For too long the UK’s coalition government has been gently “nudging” people to make healthier choices through traditional campaigns such as Change4Life and “5-a-day”, but reviews of these approaches indicate a consistent problem relating to the funds available to families to spend on food.
Hard-line measures required
If we are to get to grips with the obesity crisis, policy initiatives are required to make the healthy choice a more affordable choice. One such measure is to tax foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
Some countries including Hungary, for example, already do this. The strategy is not always popular and some research suggests it isn’t immediately effective. But there is considerable evidence that fiscal measures such as taxation not only lower the consumption of unhealthy foods, but are also cost-effective over the longer term.
For many people, such a food tax is seen as hitting those least able to afford it, but there are a number of ways this kind of tax could be implemented, rather than just a VAT-type tax on individual ingredients. One method incentivises manufacturers to adjust their prices to promote healthier alternatives and smaller portion sizes. To do this, government would need to excise a ‘SASS’ (salt, alcohol, sugar, saturated fat) tax on each gram of saturated fat, salt and sugar.
To illustrate, taxes on tobacco have certainly had an impact on behaviour. According to campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health the price of tobacco has increased by 80.2% between 2003-2013, making it 22.1% less affordable. The proportion of household expenditure on tobacco has decreased from 3.6% 1980 to 1.8% in 2013.
The UK Government could also look to New York, Mexico, Hungary and France, where authorities have introduced a tax on high-sugar carbonated soft drinks to much acclaim.
Soft drinks, causing obesity and tooth decay, are the biggest source of sugar for children. The latest NHS figures show that about 25,800 children aged between five and nine are admitted to hospital with tooth decay each year. This has rocketed by 14% in just three years. It is therefore logical to tax this food ingredient first.
Beyond taxation
Of course, fiscal measures alone are unlikely to prevent obesity. Collective action is required from many groups, including healthcare professionals, the government, parents, food manufacturers, supermarkets and advertisers.
If we want to get it right, data suggest we need to begin early in a child’s life. We must educate children on what constitutes a healthy meal and teach them how and what to cook at a much younger age. We also need to ensure all school meals, regardless of whether they are served in an academy, free school or state school, meet strict nutritional standards. It is encouraging that this policy is now in place for newly established free schools and academies, but we must make sure that those existing schools that have not yet made the transition to a healthier school menu catch up quickly.
Outside the classroom, we need to look at other factors that affect children’s food choices.
Advertising has a powerful influence on children’s food choices, parents’ purchase behaviour and, ultimately, consumption. This effect means we need a ban on fast-food advertising before the 9pm watershed in addition to a restriction on new fast-food outlets being established within short distances of schools and colleges. Local authorities must consider the impact on health and well-being when they are planning new developments so that children have safe places to play and exercise.

A concerted and collaborative effort is needed if we are to reduce the UK’s obesity rates. Interventions must target greatest need; healthy choices must become easier choices facilitated by policies such as fat and sugar taxes. There must be an expansion of work with young children to teach them the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. Only by taking all these actions will we be able to slow the UK’s obesity rate. 
source: http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/comment/a-tax-on-junk-food-is-the-way-to-fight-the-childhood-obesity-crisis/20067771.article 

FURTHER READING: Debate: Should higher taxes be placed on junk food?

12 February 2017

LABEL: LIVING ABROAD

These days it's very common to live abroad for some months or even years. But, as in all things, there are advantatges and disadvantatges.

On the one hand, you can meet new people and learn some cultures, maybe very different from where you come from. Secondly, you can be more independent and do whatever you like whenever you want. Furthermore, you're able to improve a new language so as to comunicate with other people.

On the other hand, you will probably miss your relatives because you're far from home and there you don't have your family or best friends. Maybe, that's the reason why, at first, you feel alone and with nobody to turn to.

On balance, it is very positive to live abroad for some time. Although you can feel alone the first days in the country that is not yours, you can make new friends. Moreover, with this experience you are going to be more open-minded.

8 February 2017

BULLFIGHTING


It’s widely known that bullfights are one of the most controversial celebrations in Spain. There are some cities like Seville and Granada where they’re still celebrated and others that are fighting against it, like Barcelona. For this reason, there are arguments for and against this celebration.
On the one hand, people who are for say that it’s part of the Spanish culture and tradition because it has been taking place for many years and it’s considered a national party. Furthermore, it’s an engine for the national economy because Spanish people and tourists go. Related to that, it’s true that many people depend on this celebration so they are working for this sector.
On the other hand, bullfighting is considered animal torture because it’s not fair for bulls to die in fatal conditions. Moreover, the government could spend this money on other things like improving education and healthcare. Finally, traditions have to change and we have to evolve towards other moral traditions.
In conclusion, even though there are people who are pro this celebration, we consider bullfighting immoral and we don’t see like art because there is no beauty in it.

Júlia Gonell and Laura Costa

Residence hall or sharing a flat?

Nowadays, most students have to study far from home, so they must find somewhere to live. Choosing the right place is very important and many families have a huge doubt: should they live in a residence hall or share a flat?

On the one hand, staying in a residence hall is very comfortable. There, you can focus on studying, as someone else will do the housework for you. In addition, in most residences, you don't have to cook and a healthy diet is guaranteed. Furthermore, you are surrounded by students like you, so you can meet new people or ask somebody for help if you have any problem. 

On the other hand, it's thought that residences don't train you for real life. For this reason, other options as sharing a flat are very popular. Living on your own or with friends also lets you make your own timetable, while in a residence you must obey their rules. 

To sum up, all living options have advantages and disadvantages so the decision depends on every situation. Anyway, in our opinion, parents should let their children choose what they want.

Pau Cardona and Ángel Molero