Monday, September 30, 2013

1160. Lynne Stewart's Fight for Compassionate Release Continues

By Lynne Stewart, September 29, 2013 

From Deep in the Belly of the Beast ... that is, Texas.
Now another month has passed and I am getting increasingly irritable that these jokers are so cavalier with my life and what time I have left. (I also am getting weaker.)
My application for compassionate release is moving but glacially (Are there any glaciers left? Only in the bureaucracy...). We learned that the request has left the General Counsel's office of the Bureau of Prisons in Washington and is now being considered by an "Independent Committee" (whatever that means). From there it will ostensibly go to the Director, Mr. Samuels, for the final recommendation and request for a motion to the Judge.
As you can appreciate there is still plenty of room for slips between cup and lip. I truly understand that I, with the strong and consistent support of all 30,000+ of you, do constitute a "threat" in their small universe. That is to say that, the will of the People cannot be ignored forever. With that in mind, I want to urge everyone to come on out on
If you can do this please notify Ralph of your location by sending an email to my web site or to this site. We hope this will be nationwide and we can spread the word of the senseless cruelty in the way the Bureau of Prisons administers a program that is supposed to be compassionate. I may be the "poster child" but this is done on behalf of all the prisoners who are languishing, in pain or worse, trying to go home.
Be out there on October 8. It is already an historic day. Let's make it More So!!! Let's Win.
Lynne Stewart
Please sign the NEW petition for Lynne Stewart . Your signature will send a letter to Bureau of Prisons Director Samuels and to Attorney General Holder requesting that they expedite Lynne Stewart’s current application for compassionate release. The NEW petition is at (Please follow the link on the first petition site in case the link is stripped from this message.)

1159. Report on the September 21 Ecosocialist Conference in Los Angeles

By Michael Whitehead,, September 30, 2013
A presentation at the LA conference; Photo: Socialist Worker
THE U.S. Occupy movement has waned from view, but there is increasing evidence of a new wave of American activism and energy building in response to the accelerating climate emergency--under the slogan "System Change, Not Climate Change."
Evolving from this year's historic February 11, protest in Washington, D.C., the latest manifestation of these activities was the Ecosocialist Conference 2013 in Los Angeles, held on September 21, followed by a sister conference in Vancouver on September 23--both emerged in the wake of the highly successful April conference in New York City.
In the face of the climate crisis, a coalition is developing between a traditionally fractious American Left, the Green Party USA and other left groups in a Green-Red "ecology solidarity" that bears watching in the coming months.
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THE SEPTEMBER 21 event in Los Angeles was held, quite appropriately, in a repurposed (one could say recycled) former courthouse and police station, now a library and African American history museum. In fact, I thought I had awakened in an alternate reality, seeing former police station walls now celebrated with the likes of Malcolm X and other liberation figures (not to mention showcases of not-so-liberating Obama campaign memorabilia).
This was surrounded with a crew of hundreds of socialists of differing stripes, Green Party members, Occupy LA-ers, unionists, aging and teenage ecosocialists, and even more than a few former Democrats, all in numbers and with an energy and earnestness that one veteran activist with personal experience going back to the 1960s told me he had not seen in LA in years.
In the old courtrooms-turned-political workshops, instead of 1960's-era petty misdemeanor and traffic trials, conference attendees weighed topics of the utmost seriousness: How can we save humanity from the seemingly inexorable suicide train of looming climate catastrophe?
David Klein, director of Climate Science Studies at California State-Northridge, led the first plenary, with a sobering summary of the latest scientific climate model findings and a conclusion that cogently and glaringly expressed an opinion shared by most attendees about the futility of traditional reformist "green" activism in solving the global emergency:
Global climate models predict a worldwide range of average temperature increase of between 2 and 6 or more degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The upper end is potentially a mass extinction event.
Keeping temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is a generally agreed-upon goal worldwide. It has been estimated that carbon dioxide emissions between now and the end of the century need to remain below approximately 600 billion tons to achieve this goal. However, there is a carbon dioxide equivalent of 2.8 trillion tons in known reserves of carbon in the form of petroleum, natural gas and coal underground, valued at roughly $27 trillion to Wall Street firms, and this is included in stock values.
To meet the 2 degree Celsius goal, the vast majority of the carbon reserves must remain underground, unburned, meaning that Wall Street would have to lose approximately $20 trillion to protect the planet from a devastating future.
Humanity is thus faced with the ultimate Darwinian IQ test. It is a multiple-choice question. Choose: A) capitalism or B) the planet. We can only have one or the other, not both.
Lisa Lubow, a historian, activist and professor at Glendale College, made a similar point in her presentation, stating:
Radical changes are needed to save humanity and the planet: to leave fossil fuels in the ground; initiate an emergency program to convert fossil fuel systems to renewables; and radically reorganize our production systems overall for sustainability. The system itself is in direct conflict with the solution to the emergency. The capitalist imperative for unlimited growth through market-driven resource extraction, production and consumption is leading us on a suicide mission. But the system is unwilling and unable to "power down."
In his talk, author and Pace University professor Chris Williams observed that:
It is increasingly clear to a growing number of people that the ecological crisis is a direct outgrowth of the operation of our economic system; namely, capitalism. The crisis has many facets: environmental racism, energy production, pollution, gender oppression, biodiversity loss, agribusiness and climate change to name only a few. But they can all be traced back to a singular cause: the relentless pursuit of profit and the accumulation of capital.
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CLEARLY, ECOLOGY and economy are intertwined and inseparable, "two dimensions of one reality" in the words of writer, Green and socialist Scott Tucker in his presentation. In fact, as Tucker observed, the prefix "eco" common to both words, derives from the same Greek root: oikos, meaning "home" or "household."
"Ecology" therefore implies the greater household of nature. The word economics contains in addition the Greek root word nomos, meaning "law" or "custom". Using the root word meanings, one might therefore say that economics encompasses the customs and processes we use to regulate and operate our home (the Earth).
Ben Manski, Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein's 2012 campaign manager and president of the Liberty Tree Foundation, eloquently took this idea further in his discussion, arguing, "The exploitation of human nature and the exploitation of nature are part of the same process. An injury to one is an injury to all--that injuries to oppressed people are borne by the Earth, and injuries to our Earth are suffered first by oppressed people."
Continuing on the interconnection of economics and ecology, Manski argued, "Both practically and theoretically, in the long run there are no boundaries between jobs and environment. There are also no boundaries between class struggle and ecological resistance, and no boundaries between red and green."
The ecosocialism concept clearly has its roots in the Marxian tradition that calls for a re-organization of society to unleash all human potential. As Manski pointed out:
'Ecology solidarity' requires a struggle for democracy--what Marx called the 'species being,' the natural essence, of humanity--so that working people can finally 'become the human race,' and self-organize to make the most of our species' capacity to do good, to do right by the Earth, and to respect the rights of nature, so that we may all live in the prosperity that this living planet gives us."
Green Party presidential candidate and physician Jill Stein, in her rousing closing plenary, proposed a concrete program of "next steps" for the System Change Not Climate Change ecosocialist coalition, outlining a proposal for an "emergency green economic transformation," based, in her words, on "on the notion that the accelerating climate collapse intensifies all our struggles--for economic, racial and environmental justice, human rights, civil liberties, peace and democracy."
"While the climate crisis makes all of these struggles more difficult, it also provides unprecedented urgency and momentum for collaboration," she stated.
She called for an "Emergency Green Economic Transformation" program--a "Green New Deal" for full employment, 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030, demilitarization, and an economic bill of rights (including Medicare for all, free pre K-through-college education as a human right, labor and immigrant rights, affordable housing, and abolishing student debt).
The project is intended to have two phases with organization and planning starting immediately for a series of gatherings/conferences (Earth Day to May Day 2014) to expand the identities of our individual movements beyond our silos, build solidarity for an emergency green economic transformation in our communities and beyond, and lay the groundwork for a series of rallies and direct actions (Fall 2014) to push for a "Green New Deal" program. More announcements on the plan will be released in the coming weeks.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1158. China's One-Child Population Policy Faces Hurdles

Edward Wong, The New York Times, September 26, 2013

BEIJING — Nineteen province-level governments in China collected a total of $2.7 billion in fines last year from parents who had violated family planning laws, which usually limit couples to one child, a lawyer who had requested the data said Thursday.

The lawyer, Wu Youshui of Zhejiang Province, sent letters in July to 31 provincial governments asking officials to disclose how much they had collected in 2012 in family planning fines, referred to as “social support fees.” He said he suspected that the fines were a substantial source of revenue for governments in poor parts of China.
“We want to shed light on how the current family planning policy works,” Mr. Wu said via telephone. “Many are debating reform of the family planning policy. Learning how it works may help with that debate.”
Mr. Wu’s findings were first published Thursday by Beijing News. Mr. Wu opposes China’s one-child policy and has written on his microblog he is a Christian.
Last year, some prominent scholars and policy advisers started a major effort to push central officials to fundamentally change or repeal a law that generally punishes families for having more than one child. That push comes as economists point out that China’s economic growth rate is likely to slow because its pool of cheap, young workers is dwindling as the population ages.
The 2010 national census showed that the average birthrate for a Chinese household was 1.181; it was lower in cities and higher in rural areas. Some scholars say that number is extraordinarily low, and the real figure is probably a bit higher.
The family planning regulations are prone to abuse because local officials are often evaluated by their superiors based on how well they keep down the populations of their areas. There have been well-known cases of forced abortions or sterilizations across China. Last year, Chinese Internet users sympathized with the plight of Pan Chunyan, who said she had been abducted by officials in Daji Township when she was eight months pregnant with her third child. The officials forced her to have an abortion at a hospital. In June 2012, another woman, Feng Jianmei, was forced to abort a 7-month-old fetus in Shaanxi Province, in a case that also ignited national outrage.
Parents in other parts of China have accused local family planning officials of abducting babies who are considered “extra” children in a household and selling them to orphanages, sometimes for $3,000 per baby.
The Beijing News report said Mr. Wu, the lawyer, obtained data showing that Jiangxi Province had collected the most in fines of the 19 provinces that replied to him; it amassed $554 million in 2012. Sichuan was second with $400 million, and Fujian was third with $340 million. The provinces that collected the least were Qinghai, with $572,000, and Ningxia, with about $2 million. Both have low populations compared with most other provinces, and they are also home to many rural residents and ethnic minorities, who have more leeway in the number of children they can have without incurring fines.
The 12 province-level governments that did not provide data told Mr. Wu that the fines were collected at the county level and used there, so the provincial governments had no information.
On Sept. 18, the National Audit Office published a report on the collection and spending of the “social support fee” after it reviewed nine provinces. The office looked at five counties in each of those provinces. It found that “extra” children were not properly counted, that there were no uniform standards for collecting the fees and that management of the fees was poor.
Mr. Wu said that he suspected that the fines had been “managed in a chaotic way,” and that it appeared that county-level officials overseeing the punishments had been unsupervised.
He said the fee should be abolished altogether, and “it should be the family’s decision how many children to have.”

1157. IPCC Climate Report: Human Impact Is 'Unequivocal'

By Flona Harvey, The Guardian, September 27, 2013
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the authors are now 95 percent to 100 percent confident that human activity is the primary influence on planetary warming.
World leaders must now respond to an "unequivocal" message from climate scientists and act with policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations secretary-general urged on Friday.
Introducing a major report from a high level UN panel of climate scientists, Ban Ki-moon said, "The heat is on. We must act."
The world's leading climate scientists, who have been meeting in all-night sessions this week in the Swedish capital, said there was no longer room for doubt that climate change was occurring, and the dominant cause has been human actions in pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
In their starkest warning yet, following nearly seven years of new research on the climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it was "unequivocal" and that even if the world begins to moderate greenhouse gas emissions, warming is likely to cross the critical threshold of 2C by the end of this century. That would have serious consequences, including sea level rises, heatwaves and changes to rainfall meaning dry regions get less and already wet areas receive more.
In response to the report, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said in a statement: "This is yet another wakeup call: those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire."
"Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or commonsense should be willing to even contemplate," he said.
He said that livelihoods around the world would be impacted. "With those stakes, the response must be all hands on deck. It's not about one country making a demand of another. It's the science itself, demanding action from all of us. The United States is deeply committed to leading on climate change."
In a crucial reinforcement of their message – included starkly in this report for the first time – the IPCC warned that the world cannot afford to keep emitting carbon dioxide as it has been doing in recent years. To avoid dangerous levels of climate change, beyond 2C, the world can only emit a total of between 800 and 880 gigatonnes of carbon. Of this, about 530 gigatonnes had already been emitted by 2011.
That has a clear implication for our fossil fuel consumption, meaning that humans cannot burn all of the coal, oil and gas reserves that countries and companies possess. As the former UN commissioner Mary Robinson told the Guardian last week, that will have "huge implications for social and economic development." It will also be difficult for business interests to accept.
The central estimate is that warming is likely to exceed 2C, the threshold beyond which scientists think global warming will start to wreak serious changes to the planet. That threshold is likely to be reached even if we begin to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, which so far has not happened, according to the report.
Other key points from the report are:
• Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now at levels "unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years."
• Since the 1950's it's "extremely likely" that human activities have been the dominant cause of the temperature rise.
• Concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40% increase in C02 concentrations since the industrial revolution.
• Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C, by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.
• Sea levels are expected to rise a further 26-82cm by the end of the century.
• The oceans have acidified as they have absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emitted.
Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the working group on physical science, said the message that greenhouse gases must be reduced was clear. "We give very relevant guidance on the total amount of carbon that can't be emitted to stay to 1.5 or 2C. We are not on the path that would lead us to respect that warming target [which has been agreed by world governments]."
He said: "Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."
Though governments around the world have agreed to curb emissions, and at numerous international meetings have reaffirmed their commitment to holding warming to below 2C by the end of the century, greenhouse gas concentrations are still rising at record rates.
Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, said it was for governments to take action based on the science produced by the panel, consisting of thousands of pages of detail, drawing on the work of more than 800 scientists and hundreds of scientific papers.
The scientists also put paid to claims that global warming has "stopped" because global temperatures in the past 15 years have not continued the strong upward march of the preceding years, which is a key argument put forward by sceptics to cast doubt on climate science. But the IPCC said the longer term trends were clear: "Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850 in the northern hemisphere [the earliest date for reliable temperature records for the whole hemisphere]."
The past 15 years were not such an unusual case, said Stocker. "People always pick 1998 but [that was] a very special year, because a strong El NiƱo made it unusually hot, and since then there have been some medium-sized volcanic eruptions that have cooled the climate."
But he said that further research was needed on the role of the oceans, which are thought to have absorbed more than 90% of the warming so far.
The scientists have faced sustained attacks from so-called sceptics, often funded by "vested interests" according to the UN, who try to pick holes in each item of evidence for climate change. The experts have always known they must make their work watertight against such an onslaught, and every conclusion made by the IPCC must pass scrutiny by all of the world's governments before it can be published.
Their warning on Friday was sent out to governments around the globe, who convene and fund the IPCC.
It was 1988 when scientists were first convened for this task, and in the five landmark reports since then the research has become ever clearer. Now, scientists say they are certain that "warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia." That warning, from such a sober body, hemmed in by the need to submit every statement to extraordinary levels of scrutiny, is the starkest yet.
"Heatwaves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions," Stocker said.
Qin Dahe, also co-chair of the working group, said: "As the ocean warm, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years."
Prof David Mackay, chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said: "The far-reaching consequences of this warming are becoming understood, although some uncertainties remain. The most significant uncertainty, however, is how much carbon humanity will choose to put into the atmosphere in the future. It is the total sum of all our carbon emissions that will determine the impacts. We need to take action now, to maximise our chances of being faced with impacts that we, and our children, can deal with. Waiting a decade or two before taking climate change action will certainly lead to greater harm than acting now."

1156. Cuba Athletes Can Soon Sign with Foreign Leagues

By Ronald Blum, The Associated Press, September 28, 2013

NEW YORK — It will be up to the U.S. government to decide whether a new wave of Cuban baseball players can quickly make their way to the major leagues.
Cuba announced Friday that athletes from all sports will soon be able to sign contracts with foreign leagues, a break with a decades-old policy that held pro sports to be anathema to socialist ideals.
"I'm excited. I'm from Cuba. I'm happy for the guys from my country to play the best baseball in the world," said Milwaukee Brewers infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, a Cuban defector who left his homeland aboard a speedboat in 2003.
The decision was a step toward a time when the path from Havana to Yankee Stadium might mean simply hopping on a plane rather than attempting a perilous sea crossing or sneaking out of a hotel at midnight in a strange land.
But American baseball fans shouldn't throw their Dodgers or Rockies caps in the air in celebration just yet. The Cold War-era embargo against Cuba means it may not happen soon.
Economic restrictions were imposed by the U.S. after Cuba nationalized American businesses and aligned itself with the Soviet Union. They have been kept in place to try to pressure the authoritarian country to allow its people more freedom.
"Our policy has not changed. Cuban players need to be unblocked by a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control in order to play for the MLB," said John Sullivan, spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. "In order to qualify, the players must prove that they have permanent residency outside of Cuba."
Major League Baseball said the impact of Friday's announcement can't be predicted.
"Given that we do not have any details of this change in policy, it would be premature for us to speculate what effect it may have," the commissioner's office said in a statement.
"There are no provisions in the major league rules or bylaws that make it more difficult for Cuban ballplayers to play Major League Baseball, but MLB and its clubs have and will continue to act in accordance with the laws and policies of the United States government."
Athletes' wages are not made public in Cuba but are believed to be somewhere around the $20 a month that most other state employees earn — a tiny fraction of the millions many U.S. big leaguers make.
"It's the dream of many athletes to test themselves in other leagues — the big leagues, if at some point my country would allow it," said Yasmani Tomas, who is one of Cuba's top talents, batting .345 last season with the powerhouse Havana Industriales.
Under the new policy, athletes will be eligible to play abroad as long as they fulfill their commitments at home, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.
For baseball players, that means being available for international competitions as well as Cuba's November-to-April league.
"We have seen the press reports. This is an internal Cuban matter," Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "Generally speaking, the United States welcomes any reforms that allow Cubans to depart from and return to their country."
President Raul Castro's government hopes the move will stem defections by athletes who are lured abroad by the possibility of lucrative contracts, a practice that saps talent from Cuba's teams.
"I think this could help stop the desertions a little bit," said Yulieski Gourriel, a talented 29-year-old third baseman who batted .314 last year for the Sancti Spiritus.
"I don't even want to talk about how much I've been offered, because every time we leave the country, there are these offers. I've never paid attention because I've always said I'm not interested."
A number of his countrymen, however, are interested.
Cuban defectors now in the major leagues include outfielder Yasiel Puig, who signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2012 and had a sensational rookie season, helping Los Angeles win its division.
Hard-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman signed a $30.25 million, six-year deal with Cincinnati before the 2010 season.
Texas Rangers outfielder Leoyns Martin was surprised Friday when told about the news.
"Really? Oh my gosh," said Martin, wearing his Cuba Baseball jacket from the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Martin defected after playing for Cuba's national team in a 2010 tournament in Japan.
"I don't want to talk about that," Martin said. "That's a long history in my life."
Professional sports were essentially done away with under Fidel Castro in 1961, two years after the Cuban revolution, and athletes became state employees just like factory workers and farmhands.
Sport as private enterprise was deemed incompatible with the Marxist society Castro intended to create. In 2005, he railed against the "parasites that feed off the athlete's hard work" in professional sports.
Friday's announcement is part of a trend toward relaxing that stance under Castro's brother, who became president in 2006.
Earlier this year, Cuba ended a five-decade ban on professional boxing, joining an international semipro league where fighters compete for sponsored teams and earn $1,000 to $3,000 a month.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

1155. Cuba Sanctions More Private Businesses

By Anne-Maries Garcia, Associated Press, September 26, 2013
Real estate marketing in Cuba
Real estate agents, auto body workers and home builders can come out of the shadows in Cuba's expanding private economy under rules announced Thursday that allow 18 new categories of independent employment under President Raul Castro's economic reforms.
Among the most notable of the newly allowed private professions are real estate agents, who have long operated on the margin of the law. Even after the communist government legalized the buying and selling of homes in 2011 for the first time in decades, it was still technically against the rules to make money connecting buyers with sellers.
The number of approved independent employment activities rises to 199 with the newly legalized professions, which also include rental agents, repair and maintenance service providers, iron workers and welders.
The decision to license the latest crop of professions came about because the country is now better positioned to supply "prime materials, equipment and other inputs to the network of stores," Labor Ministry official Jose Barreiro was quoted as saying by Communist Party newspaper Granma.
In all more than 430,000 private employment licenses have been issued since the reforms began in 2010, and 436,342 independent workers are currently operating, Granma said. Some were already working independently before the reforms began.
Critics have lamented that so far there has not been a push to let many educated professionals such as lawyers, health care workers or scientists work independently of the state.
Published into law Thursday in the government's Official Gazette, the new rules bar the resale of imported goods such as clothing.
Many entrepreneurs who operate under tailors' licenses appear to make more money selling garments brought into the country one overstuffed duffel bag at a time than they generate from actual sewing.
"I'm worried, disgusted and disconcerted," said Reina Margarita Moreira, who sells clothing and household items at a kiosk in central Havana. "We don't agree with this measure. ... We knew a change was coming and we thought they would modify the concept of the license and raise the taxes, but we never thought they would prohibit us from selling clothing brought in from abroad."
"I have children and grandchildren to support," said her colleague Diana Sanchez. "I feel really bad. Three years ago they let us work here legally, and now they forbid it. I don't understand it."
Mariela Carrera, a 45-year-old homemaker who was shopping at the open-air bazaar, said Cubans want to dress in international fashions and predicted that the measure would only push sales of imported clothing back into the black market.
"And the state isn't going to make any money off that if nobody's paying taxes," she said.
Also prohibited will be the "speculative" resale of goods bought in state-run retail stores.
"The issue of goods purchased in stores for resale has generated constant opinions among the people, who complain about shortages and the high prices set by the hoarders," Barreiro said.
"Order will be imposed, since nobody is allowed to buy merchandise in a state-run establishment and then speculate with it," he added.
Granma said it will be a crime to obtain merchandise "for the purpose of resale at a profit."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

1154. World Population to Reach 9.6 billion by 2050–says UN

By United Nations, June 13, 2013

India expected to become world’s largest country, passing China around 2028, while Nigeria could surpass the United States by 2050
New York, 13 June—The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by almost one billion people within the next twelve years, reaching 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050, according to a new United Nations report, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, launched today.
Most of the population growth will occur in developing regions, which are projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050. During the same period, the population of developed regions will remain largely unchanged at around 1.3 billion people. Growth is expected to be most rapid in the 49 least developed countries, which are projected to double in size from around 900 million inhabitants in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050.
At the country level, much of the overall increase between now and 2050 is projected to take place in high-fertility countries, mainly in Africa, as well as countries with large populations such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States.
“Although population growth has slowed for the world as a whole, this report reminds us that some developing countries, especially in Africa, are still growing rapidly,” said Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
Fertility higher than expected
Compared to the UN’s previous assessment of world population trends, the new projected total population is higher, particularly after 2075. Part of the reason is that current fertility levels have been adjusted upward in a number of countries as new information has become available. In 15 high-fertility countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated average number of children per woman has been adjusted upwards by more than 5 per cent.
“In some cases, the actual level of fertility appears to have risen in recent years; in other cases, the previous estimate was too low,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
In addition, slight modifications to the expected fertility trajectories of a few populous countries have led to higher projections of their future population size. Another contributing factor is a more rapid increase in life expectancy at birth anticipated for several countries: longer life, like higher fertility, generates larger populations. Advances in methodology have also contributed to changes in projected population trends.
Give or take a billion
Most results presented are based on the UN’s “medium-variant” projection, which assumes a substantial reduction in the fertility levels of intermediate- and high-fertility countries in the coming years. For these countries, it is assumed that the pace of future fertility decline will be similar to that observed for other countries, mostly in Asia and Latin America, when they underwent similar declines during the second half of the 20 century.
“The actual pace of fertility decline in many African countries could be faster or slower than suggested by this historical experience,” Mr. Wilmoth said. “Small differences in the trajectory of fertility over the next few decades could have major consequences for population size, structure and distribution in the long run.”
The “high-variant” projection, for example, which assumes an extra half of a child per woman (on average) than the medium variant, implies a world population of 10.9 billion in 2050. The “low-variant” projection, where women, on average, have half a child less than under the medium variant, would produce a population of 8.3 billion in 2050. Thus, a constant difference of only half a child above or below the medium variant would result in a global population of around 1.3 billion more or less in 2050 compared to the medium-variant forecast.

More and more large countries
The new projections include some notable findings at the country level. For example, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China around 2028, when both countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion. Thereafter, India’s population will continue to grow for several decades to around 1.6 billion and then decline slowly to 1.5 billion in 2100. The population of China, on the other hand, is expected to start decreasing after 2030, possibly reaching 1.1 billion in 2100.
Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the United States before the middle of the century. By the end of the century, Nigeria could start to rival China as the second most populous country in the world. By 2100 there could be several other countries with populations over 200 million, namely Indonesia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and Niger.
Large variations in fertility levels
Based on the information in the report, countries of the world can be classified into three groups depending on their current levels of fertility. In recent decades many countries have experienced major reductions in average family size.
It is now estimated that 48 per cent of the world’s population lives in “low-fertility” countries, where women have fewer than 2.1 children on average over their lifetimes. Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe except Iceland, plus 19 countries of Asia, 17 in the Americas, two in Africa and one in Oceania. The largest low-fertility(2) countries are China, the United States, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Japan and Viet Nam.
Another 43 per cent lives in “intermediate-fertility” countries, where women have on average between 2.1 and 5 children. Intermediate-fertility countries are found in many regions, with the largest being India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mexico and the Philippines.
The remaining 9 per cent of the world lives in “high-fertility” countries, where the average woman has 5 or more children. Of the 31 high-fertility countries, 29 are in Africa and two are in Asia (Afghanistan and Timor-Leste).
Africa growing rapidly
More than half of global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. According to the UN’s medium-variant projection, the population of Africa could more than double by mid-century, increasing from 1.1 billion today to 2.4 billion in 2050, and potentially reaching 4.2 billion by 2100.
Rapid population increase in Africa is anticipated even if there is a substantial reduction of fertility levels in the near future. The medium-variant projection assumes that fertility will fall from 4.9 children per women in 2005-2010 to 3.1 in 2045-2050, reaching 2.1 by 2095-2100. The gap for Africa between the high and low variants of the new projections, corresponding to half a child more or less per woman compared to the medium variant, amounts to roughly 600 million people by 2050 (2.7 vs. 2.1 billion) and potentially 3.2 billion people by 2100 (6.0 vs. 2.8 billion).
Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the future population of Africa, the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of world population during this century.
Europe shrinking
Beyond Africa, the population of the rest of the world is expected to grow by just over 10 per cent between 2013 and 2100, with Europe’s population projected to decline by 14 per cent. Fertility in almost all European countries is now below the level required for full replacement of the population in the long run (around 2.1 children per woman on average). Fertility for Europe, as a whole, is projected to increase from 1.5 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 1.8 in 2045-2050, and to 1.9 by 2095-2100. Despite this increase, childbearing in low-fertility countries is expected to remain below the replacement level, leading to a likely contraction of total population size.
Longer lives around the world
Life expectancy is projected to increase in developed and developing countries in

Life expectancy is projected to increase in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), which include many countries highly affected by HIV/AIDS. Life expectancy at birth in the LDCs was estimated to be 58 years in 2005-2010 but is expected to increase to about 70 years in 2045-2050, and 78 years by 2095-2100.
Low fertility drives population ageing
As fertility declines and life expectancy rises, the proportion of the population above a certain age rises. This phenomenon, known as population ageing, is occurring throughout the world.
Overall, the more developed regions have been leading this process, and their experience provides a point of comparison for the expected ageing of the populations of less developed regions. In 1950, the number of children (persons under age 15) in the more developed world was more than twice the number of older persons (those aged 60 years or over), with children accounting for 27 per cent of the total population and older persons for only 12 per cent. By 2013, the proportion of older persons in the more developed regions had surpassed that of children (23 versus 16 per cent), and in 2050, the proportion of older persons is expected to be about double that of children (32 versus 16 per cent).
Population ageing is less advanced in developing regions, especially in countries where fertility remains relatively high. In these regions, the proportion of children declined from 38 per cent in 1950 to 28 per cent in 2013, while the proportion of older persons increased from 6 to 9 per cent. However, a period of more rapid population ageing lies ahead for the less developed regions. By 2050, their proportion of older persons is projected to reach 19 per cent, whereas their proportion of children is projected to decline to 22 per cent.
For China and other areas, especially in East Asia, where fertility has been below the replacement level for several years, the report points out that population ageing is more advanced and is progressing more rapidly than in other parts of the developing world.
About the report
The report’s figures are based on a comprehensive review of available demographic data from around the world, including the 2010 round of population censuses. This information has been carefully compiled and systematically analyzed over the past two years by demographers working within the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
For the results of World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, visit
or contact the Office of the Director, Population Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.: +1 (212) 963-3179, email: Send media inquiries to Mr. Wynne Boelt, UN Department of Public Information, tel.: +1 (212) 963-8264, email:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

1153. Raccoons in Alabama: How Can We Help Them?

By Kim Severson, The New York Times, September 19, 2013
April Russ fed a baby raccoon that she and her husband, John, are caring for in Woodville, Ala. The state has said raccoons should not be rehabilitated.

WOODVILLE, Ala. — There are at least two types of Alabamian you don’t want to anger. One is a wild raccoon. The other is a person who rehabilitates wild raccoons.

The state conservation agency that gives permits to volunteers who help injured and orphaned wildlife sent out a letter this month telling 72 groups and individuals to stop rehabilitating certain animals.
Instead, the animals should be left to their fate or euthanized, either with a bullet or at the hand of a veterinarian. From the state’s perspective, the move would help prevent rabies and keep the food chain in balance.
“There is no biological reason to rehabilitate these animals,” said Ray Metzler, assistant chief of wildlife for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “People need to learn to let nature take its course.”
On the list were feral pigs, coyotes, bats and foxes — animals that do not often end up in the care of the volunteers. But at the top of the list were raccoons.
Raccoons have never had it easy in Alabama, where a hunting license and a good coon dog are cultural currency in some parts of the state.
Hunting associations here can legally keep up to 10 raccoons in a cage to train coon hounds. And since the 1950s, the state has offered permits for an event called “coon on the log.”
The contests, which are rarer these days, are designed to test a coon hound’s mettle. A raccoon is tied to a log and floated into a lake. Owners then release their dogs and see which ones have the fortitude to knock the raccoon into the water.
But rehabbers, as the people devoted to helping injured wildlife call themselves, love raccoons. They are as cuddly as puppies and easy to train when they are young but extraordinarily ornery once they hit adolescence, which is when rehabbers generally release them back into the wild.
John Russ, a 65-year-old former Marine, just last week released two raccoons on his 144-acre sanctuary here.
He and other rehabbers say the new restrictions stem from a conflict between members of one rehabilitation group and local wildlife officials. But they also believe an inherent anti-raccoon bias is at play. “These guys, they have some issue with raccoons,” Mr. Russ said. “They always have.”
A hunter-first mentality, the rehabbers say, led to the state’s suggestion that raccoons, along with possums and skunks, which are also on the list, be euthanized or just left to fend for themselves.
Baby raccoons are often orphaned because trees felled to clear land leave animals homeless or new ribbons of roadways bring more cars, which kill mothers.
“A Ford truck is not nature taking its course,” said April Russ, Mr. Russ’s wife, who is also a rehabber.
The state’s rehabbers have vowed to fight the ban, even if it brings trouble in a state where keeping a wild animal without a permit is illegal.
“If somebody brings me a baby raccoon, I’m not going to turn it away,” Mr. Russ said. “It’s a death sentence.”
Pleas for support have been sent to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and to Ellen DeGeneres and Bob Barker, both animal rights activists. Two petitions with at least 28,000 signatures are being prepared for Gov. Robert Bentley.
Word is getting out to more rehabbers, a tight-knit group that has worked for decades to develop national guidelines. They share best practices, like what to feed a baby squirrel, how large a raccoon nesting box should be or how to make sure animals do not get too accustomed to humans while they are nursed back to health.
“The whole world is going to see this horrific thing happening in Alabama,” said Kim Baker of Coast and Canyon Wildlife Rehabilitation in Malibu, Calif.
Mr. Metzler insists there is nothing nefarious in the new policy, which he said was developed not out of a dislike for rehabbers or raccoons, but after a year of study and consultation with federal wildlife and rabies experts.
He said the goal was to standardize policies that regulate both rehabbers and people who get paid to remove nuisance wildlife, like a snake in a garage or a raccoon in an attic.
“We are not trying to put them out of business by any means,” Mr. Metzler said, adding that rehabbers can still save rabbits, deer and squirrels.
“The point is we would like for people to leave wildlife alone,” he said. “That raccoon that’s accustomed to eating out of the dog bowl — it’s not going to survive in the wild.”