Category Archives: Africa
Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia.
The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent has 56 sovereign states, which includes Madagascar and various island groups, and two unrecognised countries.
Some Africans before a module of attention to migrants, in the city of Tijuana in the north-western border of Mexico with the United States. Credit: Guillermo Arias/Enelcamino
TIJUANA, Mexico, 27 Sep 2016 (IPS) – Saturday afternoon. From the city of Tijuana, Sergio Tamai, an activist for the rights of migrants, summarizes the new crisis in that part of the border between Mexico and the United States.
“You are creating a bronconón,” says with an emphasis – and idiom – in the northern Mexicans. “The government is already exceeded by more than tried to hide it could no longer and the anger is going to explode”.
Tamai, founder of the Organization Angels without Borders, speaks of an unpublished phenomenon that surprises to this city of the north-western end of Mexico, the most populated area of the state of Baja California and created by migrants: the arrival of thousands of Africans and Haitians seeking asylum in the United States.
It is not known how many. The City Council recognizes to 350, which are in their hostels, but civil organizations say they can be up to 7,000.
Many are in Tijuana since May 2016, but others appeared in the first two weeks of September. The flow has not been stopped and it is very possible that its origin is older than the of these estimates.
But only now is visible for three reasons: the number of migrants is increasing; the first who arrived exhausted their money and took to the streets to do this. Before lived in hotels.
And the third reason is that some local media began to publish on the phenomenon, after which the Government of the United States denounced a possible sale of tickets by the National Institute of Migration (INM) to request asylum humanitarian.
Beyond the numbers there are some elements that make unpublished the phenomenon, even in this city that immigration has seen almost everything.
The newcomers, especially those who come from Africa, are part of a suspiciously ordered and silent flow, which even has the backing of the INM, denounce pro-migrant activists.
Many have resources that have enabled them to survive in Mexico for months and not only that: it has clear the way to try to seek asylum in the United States, which implies knowledge of international laws or, at least, of the bureaucratic procedures of the U.S. authorities.
It is not common in the flow of human beings that crosses by Mexico. Go, even in the centennial tradition migrant of this country toward the north.
That is why it is unpublished the phenomenon. And some as the priest Alejandro Solalinde, founder of the Hostel Brothers in the way, have clear the picture:
The migratory crisis that is brewing in Tijuana, she says, is part of a strategy of transnational mafias of trafficking in persons, capable of moving through planet not only Africans but to migrants of any other nationality.
Groups that, according to international protocols as Palermo (on organized crime) can only exist with the support, active or by omission, of the authorities.
But now something ruled that the door to this migration of free passage, considered of privilege by the high cost of travel ($20,000 on average), has been closed.
And the consequences are seen in the streets of Tijuana.
Historically by the southern border of Mexico have crossed citizens of half the world. In Tapachula, the largest city in the area, there are few who speak of Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Chinese and of course of Central Americans, Cubans and Haitians who at some time in the past decades walked through its streets or took refuge in a hotel.
Few were references to Africans. Until a few years ago, that his presence began to be increasingly evident.
Appeared after the wave of Cubans who have fled their country before the thawing of relations between Havana and Washington, that put at risk the migrant privileges that the Islanders remained for decades.
Many of these Africans also came directly to the offices of the INM to be delivered and ask for a profession of output, which serves as a safe conduct for a month to avoid being arrested.
The document sets out its holder is in the process of voluntary leave the country and by the same, while keep their validity, cannot be deported.
A process that has existed for decades but which often did not apply to irregular migrants newcomers to Mexico. Until a few years ago the victims were generally foreigners with several years of lie in the country who are expired their temporary stay permit, known as FM3.
The office of departure obliges leave Mexico but does not prevent their re-entry, even hours after doing so. Many use it to regularize their immigration status.
The decision to apply this measure is arbitrary, certainly, because it is common in populations as Argentineans, Spanish or Chileans (almost never Americans, by the way), but there were a few cases in which Central Americans receive this benefit.
Now they have the Africans, said Solalinde. The document has allowed them to reach Tijuana where in recent months became a time bomb.
“already exceeded to the authorities. We are proposing to make a camp to concentrate and that are not in the streets but they said no, because they were going to reach thousands in little time,” explains Tamai.
“The only thing they did was to take them out of the Board and the places where they are concentrated and now walk irrigated in the streets. Up to beaches of Tijuana arrived already”, details.
This area is located on the western shore of the city, in front of the Pacific Ocean.
The presence of thousands of Africans and Haitians in Tijuana is not free, insists Solalinde.
The trip starts in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea or Burkina Faso, continues by Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Central America and Mexico.
It is a long journey that almost nobody does alone, and that is usually handled by transnational bands of human trafficking who had guaranteed the step toward the United States thanks to the corruption of immigration service officials of that country.
But this had since changed, said Solalinde. “four to five months ago had a regular traffic operated by the INM. Arrived regular flights for example of the southern border to Toluca with oriental, or Hindus and carried directly to Tijuana,” explains.
In little time, almost at the exit of the airport migrants arriving in the shacks migratory and crossed without problem, or used other irregular channels and more expensive.
“Had narco tunnels where people also passed, was very hard but they crossed. Now they are closing. Also spent in auto with micas false and that was there in La Garita agreed, but now no longer”.
It is not known why the clandestine door to the United States was closed, but the reality is that they were stuck in the city. “Paid and someone was no longer able to respond in the last milestone as they say, but continue to arrive and are still represando”, said the priest.
Never missing the profiteers. Every day the INM gives 50 appointments to meet with a U.S. consul and raise the application for asylum.
That does not mean they will do so and in fact the majority are rejected, but remain in Tijuana for two reasons: they do not want to return to their countries, and at the same time the Mexican government cannot expel them because in many cases do not have deportation agreements with those nations.
However, a few weeks ago we learned that passes, supposedly free, in reality were sold in hundreds of dollars. Many who already have a while in the city could not buy them but the newcomers. “One day arrived as a thousand to buy them, was when the United States suspended the process”, account Tamai.
Stuck without a chance of moving, began to wander in the streets. A few hundred were to Mexicali to attempt the crossing by there, but neither did so.
“by itself La Garita, there is more girl, the saturated then and they closed the door,” recalls the activist.
Meanwhile, the social problem in the border is exacerbated each week. Municipal resources to serve the population in situation of street was already sold out, says Tamai, and the government of Baja California does not want to release money to avoid a greater concentration of migrants.
The only way out is for the federal government to unlock the resources for the care of migrants, some 300 million pesos (15.7 million), and sends them to the border to solve the problem.
Going for long, said Tamai. But it will not lay to wait. “We are going to make noise, to protest to that released the money. This is a humanitarian crisis,” says.
This article was originally published by the way, a project of journalists on foot . IPS-Inter Press Service has a special agreement with journalists on foot for the dissemination of its materials.
Reviewed by Star Gutierrez
26.11.2016 Author: Martin Berger
Any election, and presidential elections in particular, are a sort of a test for the ruling party. Therefore, the number of votes received by the ruling elite shows if it is going to remain in power or be forced into the dustbin of history.
The latter happened in the US recently, where the ruling Democratic party had to give way to a new presidential candidate, which means that it has failed the test of the vote. It’s curious that to evaluate all the activities of the Obama administration one does not need to search for pro-Kremlin sites on the net, sites Hillary Clinton suggests are more capable of affecting US elections than any Western media source. Yes, we are being told that Russia was trying to manipulate the recent US presidential election, but let’s now take a look at what grade was given to “Obama’s reign” by the Western media itself.
As it was noted by Allen West, the executive director of the National Council for Policy Analysis (NCPA), an author, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and an outspoken former member of Congress in his interview for the Daily Caller, this recent election – is a rejection of the political class that failed the American people. “I think it is a huge referendum on the failures of Barack Obama” – he added, noting that after Obama, the US was reluctant to endure four more years of his successor in office.
In turn, the American Thinker would state that the US president is near the end of an eight year train wreck presidency. Though, it is no secret that he has done nothing for the black community, whose unemployment and crime rates are rising every day, while the demonization of police and the lauding of racist activists who condone assassination and lawlessness is carried on. This media source says that we all know that elitist progressives are nothing if not master liars and puppeteers. They have spent years tailoring and refining their manipulation of black communities, inflaming their resentment, bitterness and hopelessness by reminding them of how little progress they have been able to make, without reminding them that the Democrats have led them for decades into this dead end.
The Democrats are behind the declining role of the United States across the globe, the American Spectator notes. While the American Conservative goes further, noting that it’s looking like it may be Obama’s world vision headed for the proverbial ash heap of history.
Unfortunately for President Obama and his legacy, the American Thinker notes, history won’t be kind at all. Of course, he will always be the first black president but not much more than that. Obamacare is collapsing on its own. Yes, the GOP majority will move to repeal it, but that’s a bit like signing the death certificate on a person dead for months. It’s true that President Obama’s foreign policy is in total disarray. It’s hard to see anyone defending any of it, except for liberal Democrats from safe seats who just want to oppose President Trump. The US economy is desperately calling for liberation from Mr. Obama’s regulations.
According to the latest Gallup poll, Americans’ support for the healthcare law continues to be slightly more negative than positive, with 51% of the population disapproving of it. At the same time 29% of Americans say Obamacare has hurt them and their family. Yet another poll conducted by the same entity shows 50% of Americans say Obama deserves a “great deal” or “moderate amount” of blame.
The Economic Collapse says that President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers announced that 83% of men in the prime working ages of 25-54 who were not in the labor force had not worked in the previous year. So, essentially, 10 million men are missing from the workforce across the US today. This means that the Wall Street Journal is right about dubbing the situation in America as the weakest “economic recovery” since 1949.
This entire seven year stretch since 2008 has come while Barack Obama has been in the White House and he is solidly on track to be the only president in US history to never have a single year when the US economy grew by at least three percent.
It’s noted that under Obama, US national debt will come close to doubling. What that means is that during Obama’s eight years Americans would accumulate almost as much debt as they did under all of the other presidents in US history combined. Right now, the US government is responsible for about a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
The Foreign Policy Journal is convinced that the proximate cause behind the rise of Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and myriads of other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq has been Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria, which leads to the conclusion made by the Week that Obama will leave his successor a ticking time bomb.
So no matter where you look, it’s unlikely that anybody has any words of praise left for Barack Obama and his eight years in office. One can only hope that the new president-elect will not follow in Obama’s tracks, since it doesn’t look like the US and the world can take any more disastrous decisions right now.
Hillary Clinton is still lying about her illegal war.
October 22, 2015
Hillary Clinton has only one accomplishment; the Libyan War. Bombing Libya in support of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover was Hillary’s pet project.
Obama unenthusiastically signed off on a war that he had told members of Congress “is all Secretary Clinton’s matter.”
The Pentagon fought Hillary’s illegal war every step of the way. Both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs opposed Hillary’s plan to bomb Libya. One of the Chairman’s top aides said that he did not trust the reports coming out of the State Department and the CIA, then controlled by Clinton loyalist Leon Panetta. When it was clear that the Clintonites had gotten their war on, an irritated Secretary of Defense Gates resigned after failing to stop Hillary’s war and was replaced by Panetta.
As the State Department set the military agenda, the Pentagon retaliated by taking over the diplomatic agenda attempting to arrange a ceasefire with the Gaddafi regime over Hillary’s objections.
Hillary was using the State Department to start a war while the military was trying to use diplomacy to stop a war. The Pentagon lost the power struggle and one of her minions took over the military to make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Jihadists would be able to overrun another country.
Huma Abedin had beaten the Secretary of Defense.
Panetta, unlike Gates, shared Hillary’s Arab Spring agenda. After the war, he paid a visit to Tripoli and claimed that similar “uprisings” would be taking place around the Middle East, including in Syria.
Military people never stopped loathing Hillary Clinton for her war and its consequences, the usurpation of a defense matter, the Al Qaeda training camps and the abandonment of Americans in Benghazi. That came to the surface during the Democratic debate when Senator Webb challenged Clinton on Libya.
Hillary Clinton smugly recited the same old lies about Gaddafi “threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people” and European allies begging her to stop a “mass genocide.”
In reality, Hillary Clinton was the source of the claim that Gaddafi was about to commit genocide. This claim had no basis in reality and defense officials quickly shot it down. But that didn’t stop Obama from claiming during his war speech that he had bombed Libya to save Benghazi from a massacre. There was no massacre in Benghazi. At least not until Obama helped make a massacre of four Americans happen.
By September, the New York Times was asking where all the dead were. Morgue records showed that the dead on both sides actually numbered in the hundreds. The International Red Cross put the number of missing persons at around a thousand. The largest mass grave found had 34 bodies.
Obama claimed that he had seen Gaddafi “kill over a thousand people in a single day.” That never happened. It never happened when Gaddafi had actually captured a rebel city before.
“Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered,” Hillary Clinton had said. That would be more than the entire number of people, combatants and civilians, who had died in the Libyan Civil War.
Gaddafi was an insane dictator, but he had never done anything on that scale, nor were his forces, which had been beaten by Chad in the Toyota War (Chad militias had fought using Toyota pickups), remotely capable of pulling off Saddam level of atrocities or he might have won the war.
Hillary Clinton claimed at the debate, “We had the Arabs standing by our side saying, ‘We want you to help us deal with Gadhafi.’” But by the second night of bombing, the Secretary-General of the Arab League had already condemned the “bombardment of civilians.”
“We did not put one single American soldier on the ground in Libya,” Hillary Clinton said. That’s technically true and also a lie. It was Panetta’s CIA people who were on the ground.
Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two of the Americans murdered in Benghazi, were former Navy SEAL commandos who were working as contractors for the CIA. American soldiers still died in Libya. They were just officially contractors, more of the CIA’s “Sneakers on the Ground” approach that let hacks like Hillary and Obama claim that there were no American soldiers on the ground.
“The Libyan people had a free election the first time since 1951,” Hillary Clinton said. “And you know what, they voted for moderates, they voted with the hope of democracy.”
When Hillary says “moderate”, she means Islamist. The election was fake. It was rigged between the “moderate Islamist” Muslim Brotherhood and the “moderate Islamist” National Forces Alliance. While the media was repeating talking points about the fake election, fighting in Benghazi continued. But even though Hillary and Obama had used Benghazi as the basis for the war, no one was paying attention.
That would change soon enough. And before long every American would know the name Benghazi. But Benghazi was only an early warning. Before long entire Libyan cities would fall to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Hillary closed by insisting, “Unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous, which I do not, then when we send them forth, there is always the potential for danger and risk.”
Sending diplomats to dangerous places means providing them with adequate security.
Hillary’s State Department failed to do that. Even the whitewashed report of her cronies admitted that much. Benghazi’s compound was being protected by “moderate Islamist” terrorists who overlapped with the other “moderate Islamist” terrorists who attacked the diplomatic compound.
While Hillary’s State Department was spending fortunes on bad art, the Benghazi compound didn’t meet security standards in a city that had more terrorists than police officers.
And, best of all, the Muslim Brotherhood Martyrs of the Feb. 17 Revolution Brigade terrorists Hillary was paying to protect the ambassador, hadn’t even been paid.
Benghazi was a city that was effectively under the control of Jihadists, some of them blatantly identifying with Al Qaeda. Hillary Clinton might as well have sent Ambassador Stevens into an Al Qaeda training camp with terrorists providing his security. And that’s effectively what she did.
Her dismissive line about sending diplomats to dangerous places whitewashes what happened.
Now that we’ve cleared away Hillary’s lies, let’s get to the truth. The Libyan War, like the rest of the Arab Spring, was about empowering the Muslim Brotherhood.
And there were cruder motives in the mix.
Hillary Clinton hid emails discussing the exploitation of Libya’s oil fields. The Clintons had made an art out of merging their political and financial agendas. They had extensive ties with figures in the energy industry and the companies that dug into Libya’s energy sector, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, were Clinton Foundation donors.
Some of the deleted emails discussed this with Clinton Foundation employee Sidney Blumenthal, who was also providing Hillary Clinton with supposed intel from business interests while promising that the Libyan War would be an easy matter. Blumenthal encouraged “shock and awe” bombing in Libya.
According to Congressman Gowdy, who has been investigating the events in Benghazi, “Blumenthal pushed hard for a no-fly zone in Libya before the idea was being discussed internally by senior U.S. government officials.” He blasted Obama for being “unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya.”
Blumenthal called for providing the Jihadists with “armor piercing weapons” and called Secretary of Defense Gates a “mean, vicious little prick” who is “losing” the debate. Blumenthal also offered the very specific “national interest” argument that Obama would later echo, suggesting that he was unknowingly repeating the talking points of a man he loathed which had been handed to him by Hillary Clinton.
He also told Hillary Clinton that the war had to be ramped up or Obama would lose the election.
Having dragged Obama into Hillary’s war, Blumenthal was now pushing Hillary to blackmail him with the threat of losing the election if he didn’t escalate the conflict. Meanwhile he was pursuing his interest in getting the Libyans to pay for military training from a private military company he was linked to.
The entire nightmarish mess of Democratic conspiracy theories about Iraq, Blood for Oil, politicians fighting wars to win elections, corporate conflicts of interest and even private military companies are all here and no one will touch it. A roster of Democratic candidates still running against the Iraq War won’t talk about an illegal dirty regime change war that took place with their backing and support.
Bernie Sanders, who sputters incoherently about the Iraq War, co-sponsored the Senate resolution supporting a No Fly Zone in Libya. This was the Senate resolution that Obama exploited as a fig leaf of Senate approval for his illegal war.
Senator Sanders can’t criticize Hillary’s illegal war because he helped make it happen.
Hillary’s war has been an unmitigated disaster. Her lies about the war have been disproven. But not even the Democrats running against her are ready to hold her accountable for it.
by Tyler Durden on 11/03/2014 23:42
Two years ago, in hushed tones at first, then ever louder, the financial world began discussing that which shall never be discussed in polite company – the end of the system that according to many has framed and facilitated the US Dollar’s reserve currency status: the Petrodollar, or the world in which oil export countries would recycle the dollars they received in exchange for their oil exports, by purchasing more USD-denominated assets, boosting the financial strength of the reserve currency, leading to even higher asset prices and even more USD-denominated purchases, and so forth, in a virtuous (especially if one held US-denominated assets and printed US currency) loop.
The main thrust for this shift away from the USD, if primarily in the non-mainstream media, was that with Russia and China, as well as the rest of the BRIC nations, increasingly seeking to distance themselves from the US-led, “developed world” status quo spearheaded by the IMF, global trade would increasingly take place through bilateral arrangements which bypass the (Petro)dollar entirely. And sure enough, this has certainly been taking place, as first Russia and China, together with Iran, and ever more developing nations, have transacted among each other, bypassing the USD entirely, instead engaging in bilateral trade arrangements, leading to, among other thing, such discussions as, in today’s FT, why China’s Renminbi offshore market has gone from nothing to billions in a short space of time.
And yet, few would have believed that the Petrodollar did indeed quietly die, although ironically, without much input from either Russia or China, and paradoxically, mostly as a result of the actions of none other than the Fed itself, with its strong dollar policy, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia too, which by glutting the world with crude, first intended to crush Putin, and subsequently, to take out the US crude cost-curve, may have Plaxico’ed both itself, and its closest Petrodollar trading partner, the US of A.
As Reuters reports, for the first time in almost two decades, energy-exporting countries are set to pull their “petrodollars” out of world markets this year, citing a study by BNP Paribas (more details below). Basically, the Petrodollar, long serving as the US leverage to encourage and facilitate USD recycling, and a steady reinvestment in US-denominated assets by the Oil exporting nations, and thus a means to steadily increase the nominal price of all USD-priced assets, just drove itself into irrelevance.
A consequence of this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices, the shift is likely to cause global market liquidity to fall, the study showed.
This decline follows years of windfalls for oil exporters such as Russia, Angola, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Much of that money found its way into financial markets, helping to boost asset prices and keep the cost of borrowing down, through so-called petrodollar recycling.
But no more: “this year the oil producers will effectively import capital amounting to $7.6 billion. By comparison, they exported $60 billion in 2013 and $248 billion in 2012, according to the following graphic based on BNP Paribas calculations.”
In short, the Petrodollar may not have died per se, at least not yet since the USD is still holding on to the reserve currency title if only for just a little longer, but it has managed to price itself into irrelevance, which from a USD-recycling standpoint, is essentially the same thing.
According to BNP, Petrodollar recycling peaked at $511 billion in 2006, or just about the time crude prices were preparing to go to $200, per Goldman Sachs. It is also the time when capital markets hit all time highs, only without the artificial crutches of every single central bank propping up the S&P ponzi house of cards on a daily basis. What happened after is known to all…
“At its peak, about $500 billion a year was being recycled back into financial markets. This will be the first year in a long time that energy exporters will be sucking capital out,” said David Spegel, global head of emerging market sovereign and corporate Research at BNP.
Spegel acknowledged that the net withdrawal was small. But he added: “What is interesting is they are draining rather than providing capital that is moving global liquidity. If oil prices fall further in coming years, energy producers will need more capital even if just to repay bonds.”
In other words, oil exporters are now pulling liquidity out of financial markets rather than putting money in. That could result in higher borrowing costs for governments, companies, and ultimately, consumers as money becomes scarcer.
Which is hardly great news: because in a world in which central banks are actively soaking up high-quality collateral, at a pace that is unprecedented in history, and led to the world’s allegedly most liquid bond market to suffer a 10-sigma move on October 15, the last thing the market needs is even less liquidity, and even sharper moves on ever less volume, until finally the next big sell order crushes the entire market or at least force the [NYSE|Nasdaq|BATS|Sigma X] to shut down indefinitely until further notice.
So what happens next, now that the primary USD-recycling mechanism of the past 2 decades is no longer applicable? Well, nothing good.
Here are the highlights of David Spegel’s note Energy price shock scenarios: Impact on EM ratings, funding gaps, debt, inflation and fiscal risks.
Whatever the reason, whether a function of supply, demand or political risks, oil prices plummeted in Q3 2014 and remain volatile. Theories related to the price plunge vary widely: some argue it is an additional means for Western allies in the Middle East to punish Russia. Others state it is the result of a price war between Opec and new shale oil producers. In the end, it may just reflect the traditional inverted relationship between the international value of the dollar and the price of hard-currency-based commodities (Figure 6). In any event, the impact of the energy price drop will be wide-ranging (if sustained) and will have implications for debt service costs, inflation, fiscal accounts and GDP growth.
Have you noticed a reduction of financial markets liquidity?
Outside from the domestic economic impact within EMs due to the downward oil price shock, we believe that the implications for financial market liquidity via the reduced recycling of petrodollars should not be underestimated. Because energy exporters do not fully invest their export receipts and effectively ‘save’ a considerable portion of their income, these surplus funds find their way back into bank deposits (fuelling the loan market) as well as into financial markets and other assets. This capital has helped fund debt among importers, helping to boost overall growth as well as other financial markets liquidity conditions.
Last year, capital flows from energy exporting countries (see list in Figure 12) amounted to USD812bn (Figure 3), with USD109bn taking the form of financial portfolio capital and USD177bn in the form of direct equity investment and USD527bn of other capital over half of which we estimate made its way into bank deposits (ie and therefore mostly into loan markets).
More ( here )
And so on, but to summarize, here are the key points once more:
- The stronger US dollar is having an inverse impact on dollar-denominated commodity prices, including oil. This will affect emerging market (EM) credit quality in various ways.
- The implications of reduced recycled petrodollars has significant ramifications for financial markets, loan markets and Treasury yields. In fact, EM energy exporters will post their first net drain on global capital (USD8bn) in eighteen years.
- Oil and gas exporting EMs account for 26% of total EM GDP and 21% of external bonds. For these economies, the impact will be on lost fiscal revenue, lost GDP growth and the contribution to reserves of oil and gas-related export receipts. Together, these will have a significant effect on sustainability and liquidity ratios and as a consequence are negative for dollar debt-servicing risks and credit ratings.
By Mollie Hemingway October 14, 2014
As the Ebola situation in West Africa continues to deteriorate, some U.S. officials are claiming that they would have been able to better deal with the public health threat if only they had more money.
Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Huffington Post, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.” Hillary Clinton also claimed that funding restrictions were to blame for inability to combat Ebola.
Conservative critics have pointed out that the federal government has spent billions upon billions of dollars on unnecessary programs promoting a political agenda rather than targeting those funds to the fight against health threats.
Other limited government types point to the Progressive utopian foolishness seen in opposing political factions, both sides of which seem to agree humanity could somehow escape calamity if only we had a properly functioning government. People who don’t want an all-powerful government shouldn’t blame it for not having competence when crisis strikes.
What’s particularly interesting about this discussion, then, is that nobody has even discussed the fact that the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.
Before the media swallow implausible claims of funding problems, perhaps they could be more skeptical of the idea that government is responsible for solving all of humanity’s problems. Barring that, perhaps the media could at least look at the roles that waste, fraud, mismanagement, and general incompetence play in the repeated failures to solve the problems the feds unrealistically claim they will address. In a world where a $12.5 billion slush fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores, perhaps we should complain more about mission creep and Progressive faith in the habitually unrealized magic of increased government funding.
Lay of the Land
Collins’ NIH is part of the Health and Human Services Department. Real spending at that agency has increased nine-fold since 1970 and now tops $900 billion. Oh, if we could all endure such “funding slides,” eh?
Whether or not Dr. Collins’ effort to get more funding for NIH will be successful—if the past is prologue, we’ll throw more money at him—the fact is that Congress passed legislation with billions of dollars in funding specifically to coordinate preparation for public health threats like Ebola not 10 years ago. And yet the results of such funding have been hard to evaluate.
See, in 2004, Congress passed The Project Bioshield Act. The text of that legislation authorized up to $5,593,000,000 in new spending by NIH for the purpose of purchasing vaccines that would be used in the event of a bioterrorist attack. A major part of the plan was to allow stockpiling and distribution of vaccines.
Just two years later, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which created a new assistant secretary for preparedness and response to oversee medical efforts and called for a National Health Security Strategy. The Act established Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as the focal point within HHS for medical efforts to protect the American civilian population against naturally occurring threats to public health. It specifically says this authority was established to give “an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.”
Last year, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 which keep the programs in effect for another five years.
If you look at any of the information about these pieces of legislation or the office and authorities that were created, this brand new expansion of the federal government was sold to us specifically as a means to fight public health threats like Ebola. That was the entire point of why the office and authorities were created.
In fact, when Sen. Bob Casey was asked if he agreed the U.S. needed an Ebola czar, which some legislators are demanding, he responded: “I don’t, because under the bill we have such a person in HHS already.”
The Invisible Dr. Lurie
So, we have an office for public health threat preparedness and response. And one of HHS’ eight assistant secretaries is the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, whose job it is to “lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.”
In the video below, the woman who heads that office, Dr. Nicole Lurie, explains that the responsibilities of her office are “to help our country prepare for, respond to and recover from public health threats.” She says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to “have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency. So a large part of my office also is responsible for developing those countermeasures.”
Or, as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still another refers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”
Now, you might be wondering why the person in charge of all this is a name you’re not familiar with. Apart from a discussion of Casey’s comments on how we don’t need an Ebola czar because we already have one, a Google News search for Lurie’s name at the time of writing brings up nothing in the last hour, the last 24 hours, not even the last week! You have to get back to mid-September for a few brief mentions of her name in minor publications. Not a single one of those links is confidence building.
So why has the top official for public health threats been sidelined in the midst of the Ebola crisis? Only the not-known-for-transparency Obama administration knows for sure. But maybe taxpayers and voters should force Congress to do a better job with its oversight rather than get away with the far easier passing of legislation that grants additional funds before finding out what we got for all that money we allocated to this task over the last decade. And then maybe taxpayers should begin to puzzle out whether their really bad return on tax investment dollars is related to some sort of inherent problem with the administrative state.
The Ron Perelman Scandal
There are a few interesting things about the scandal Lurie was embroiled in years ago. You can—and should—read all about it in the Los Angeles Times‘ excellent front-page expose from November 2011, headlined: “Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal: A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.” This Forbes piece is also interesting.
The donor is billionaire Ron Perelman, who was controlling shareholder of Siga. He’s a huge Democratic donor but he also gets Republicans to play for his team, of course. Siga was under scrutiny even back in October 2010 when The Huffington Post reported that it had named labor leader Andy Stern to its board and “compensated him with stock options that would become dramatically more valuable if the company managed to win the contract it sought with HHS—an agency where Stern has deep connections, having helped lead the year-plus fight for health care reform as then head of the Service Employees International Union.”
The award was controversial from almost every angle—including disputes about need, efficacy, and extremely high costs. There were also complaints about awarding a company of its size and structure a small business award as well as the negotiations involved in granting the award. It was so controversial that even Democrats in tight election races were calling for investigations.
Last month, Siga filed for bankruptcy after it was found liable for breaching a licensing contract. The drug it’s been trying to develop, which was projected to have limited utility, has not really panned out—yet the feds have continued to give valuable funds to the company even though the law would permit them to recoup some of their costs or to simply stop any further funding.
The Los Angeles Times revealed that, during the fight over the grant, Lurie wrote to Siga’s chief executive, Dr. Eric A. Rose, to tell him that someone new would be taking over the negotiations with the company. She wrote, “I trust this will be satisfactory to you.” Later she denied that she’d had any contact with Rose regarding the contract, saying such contact would have been inappropriate.
The company that most fought the peculiar sole-source contract award to Siga was Chimerix, which argued that its drug had far more promise than Siga’s. And, in fact, Chimerix’s Brincidofovir is an antiviral medication being developed for treatment of smallpox but also Ebola and adenovirus. In animal trials, it’s shown some success against adenoviruses, smallpox, and herpes—and preliminary tests show some promise against Ebola. On Oct. 6, the FDA authorized its use for some Ebola patients.
It was given to Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died, and Ashoka Mukpo, who doctors said had improved. Mukpo even tweeted that he was on the road to recovery.
Back to that Budget
Consider again how The Huffington Post parroted Collins’ claims:
Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion—barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation.
Of course, between the fiscal years 2000 and 2004, NIH’s budget jumped a whopping 58 percent. HHS’s 70,000 workers will spend a total of $958 billion this year, or about $7,789 for every U.S. household. A 2012 report on federal spending including the following nuggets about how NIH spends its supposedly tight funds:
- a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
- $175,587 to the University of Kentucky to study the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail.
- $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
- $592,527 to study why chimpanzees throw objects.
Last year there were news reports about a $509,840 grant from NIH to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads. There are many other shake-your-head examples of misguided spending that are easy to find.
Indeed. The Progressive belief that a powerful government can stop all calamity is misguided. In the last 10 years we passed multiple pieces of legislation to create funding streams, offices, and management authorities precisely for this moment. That we have nothing to show for it is not good reason to put even more faith in government without learning anything from our repeated mistakes. Responding to the missing Ebola Czar and her office’s corruption by throwing still more money, more management changes, and more bureaucratic complexity in her general direction is madness.