The U.S. Navy’s Diving and Salvage Center can be found in a location as obscure as its name—down what was once a country lane in rural Panama City, a now-booming resort cityMore
Human activity—mostly the burning of fossil fuels—has raised Earth’s atmospheric carbon content by 50 percent, from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 420 ppm. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we’ve released approximately 950 billion metric tons of carbon into the air. Every year, humans emit more than 40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, as of 2021 measurements. Even if we stop burning fossil fuels now, the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere will cause Earth’s climate to continue warming for decades, triggering heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather.
Climate scientists warn that if we want to avert catastrophe, a significant amount of excess atmospheric CO2 must be captured and sequestered. The process is called carbon dioxide removal (CDR), and it has been receiving more attention as nations, states, and industries strive to meet their climate goals. But how should we go about doing it?
There are two broad strategies: biological and mechanical. Nature already absorbs and emits about 100 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year through the natural processes in the biosphere—including plant growth—an amount 2.5 times humanity’s annual carbon output. So, according to advocates for biological carbon removal, our best bet is simply to help the planet do a little more of what it is already doing to absorb carbon. We could accomplish this through reforestation, soil-building agricultural practices, and encouraging kelp growth in oceans.
On the other hand, advocates for mechanical carbon removal point to technologies that successfully capture CO2 in the laboratory; if these machines were scaled up, those advocates tell us, we could create an enormous new industry with plenty of jobs while removing atmospheric carbon and reducing climate risk. Scientists are exploring several chemical pathways for direct air capture (DAC) of carbon and ways to sequester CO2 in porous rock formations. Revenue streams come from government subsidies or from the use of captured CO2 in enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
So, which pathway—nature or machines—holds more promise?
In its sixth assessment report, released in March 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that regularly assesses the current state of climate science, points out that “biological CDR methods like reforestation, improved forest management, soil carbon sequestration, peatland restoration[,] and coastal blue carbon management can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions, employment[,] and local livelihoods.”
On the other hand, notes the IPCC, the implementation of mechanical DAC along with underground sequestration of CO2 “currently faces technological, economic, institutional, ecological-environmental and socio-cultural barriers.” Further, the current global rates of mechanical carbon capture and storage “are far below those in modeled pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C.”
In a study published in the journal PLOS Climate in February 2023, a team of American scientists analyzed the benefits and downsides of the two pathways in detail. They used three criteria: effectiveness (“[d]oes the process achieve a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere” once all inputs and outputs are accounted for?), efficiency (“[a]t a climate-relevant scale… [of a billion metric tons of CO2 per year], how much energy and land are required?”), and impacts (“[w]hat are the significant co-benefits or adverse impacts [on nature and society]?”).
The team gathered data and crunched the numbers. The lead author, June Sekera, a carbon researcher and visiting scholar at the New School for Social Research in New York, concluded:
“[B]iological sequestration methods, including restoration of forests, grasslands, and wetlands and regenerative agriculture, are both more effective and more resource efficient in achieving a climate-relevant scale of CO2 removal than are techno-mechanical methods—which use machinery and chemicals to capture CO2. Additionally, the co-impacts of biological methods are largely positive, while those of technical/mechanical methods are negative. Biological methods are also far less expensive.”
In this comparative study, the scores for natural versus mechanical carbon removal methods were not close: Natural methods won in every category—and by a significant margin. The problem with machine-based carbon removal is not just that current technologies are immature (with the hope of getting better with more research and investment), but also that using machines is inherently inefficient, costly, and risky. On the other hand, removing carbon by restoring nature costs less, is more effective at reducing atmospheric carbon, and offers numerous side benefits.
The American study also noted that its findings “that biological methods exhibit superior effectiveness in comparison to DAC are consistent with data reported in the 2022 IPCC study.” It added in plain terms: “According to the IPCC, not only are biological methods of CDR more effective than DAC…, but their effectiveness is projected to increase significantly over time.”
As if to underscore that conclusion, a separate study published in March 2023 in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that the protection and rewilding of even a small targeted group of wildlife species would help facilitate the capture and storage of enough carbon to keep the global temperature below the tipping point of warming 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
You might expect, therefore, that policymakers would currently be directing all of their support toward natural carbon removal methods. But you’d be wrong. Government policy support in the form of subsidies is being shoveled mostly into mechanical carbon removal.
In the U.S., the primary subsidy for mechanical CDR is the federal 45Q tax credit, introduced in 2008, which offers $10 to $20 per metric ton of CO2 captured and stored. But there are also carbon offset credit programs (including the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard), subsidies for building CO2 pipelines, and subsidies for the production of alternative fuels (including ethanol and hydrogen) that rely on carbon capture technology to be considered “low-carbon.” The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 significantly increased the number of credits in 45Q and broadened eligibility, and included federal subsidies for oil producers who pump CO2 underground to make it easier to extract trapped petroleum—which is by far the most common way of using captured CO2.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Biden signed in November 2021, included billions in federal funding for carbon capture projects. In the Midwest, as a result, there has been a rush to build thousands of miles of CO2 pipelines for carbon sequestration—a frenzy that has set off regulatory chaos and is pitting farmers and Native Americans against biofuel plant operators and venture capitalists. Researchers continue to spend time and money finding new chemical pathways to mechanical CO2 capture—resources that could instead be diverted to biological CO2 removal methods. Even AI is being enlisted in mechanical carbon capture efforts.
There are also subsidies that, in effect, promote nature-based CDR methods, including soil conservation and wetlands restoration programs, but these programs were not initially intended for carbon capture and sequestration, and they are not optimized for that purpose. In November 2022, at the global COP27 climate summit in Cairo, the Biden administration announced the “Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap,” an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path to “unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions” to address “climate change, nature loss, and inequity.” The roadmap calls for updating policies, providing funding, training a nature-based solutions workforce, and prioritizing research, innovation, knowledge, and adaptive learning to advance nature-based solutions. However, the roadmap remains, for the most part, in the realm of good intentions.
There’s only so much funding available for climate solutions, and the total amount is woefully inadequate. Only strategic investment will obtain significant results for the dollars spent, and it is now clear which path will get results.
Given the clear superiority of nature-based solutions, why is so much support still going toward mechanical carbon capture? Poor judgments in the past have created funding streams and projects with a momentum of their own. Most of the gold-rush fever surrounding mechanical carbon capture can be attributed simply to the lure of subsidies for building new DAC plants and pipelines.
In a 2018 article published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Justin Adams—who at the time was the managing director for global lands at the U.S.-based environmental nonprofit Nature Conservancy—urged the European Union to take the lead on using nature-based solutions in the climate crisis fight. “Many economists and policy advisors ignore the potential of natural climate solutions at our peril,” warned Adams’s article, calling a 2018 report by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) “short-sighted” for downplaying the potential of nature-based climate solutions.
“Natural climate solutions are in fact the world’s oldest negative emissions technology,” Adams wrote. “By managing carbon dioxide-hungry forests and agricultural lands better, we can remove vast quantities of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them in trees and soils.”
The science tells us that policymakers and investors have so far been wrong to advocate so strongly for mechanical CDR solutions to the detriment of biological ones. The fate of future generations is at stake, and we cannot afford to waste both time and money on techno-fixes that are ineffective at achieving our climate goals. The clear path forward to addressing the looming catastrophic effects of climate change is to restore nature.
The name of China’s first domestically-built large cruise ship was unveiled in Shanghai on Friday.
“Adora Magic City” aims to offer a unique and immersive cruise experience that seamlessly blends Eastern and Western cultures, with Shanghai serving as its home port in the inaugural season, according to details released at an event held by the municipal culture and tourism bureau and China State Shipbuilding Corporation Cruise Technology Development Co., Ltd. (CCTD).
Jointly designed and built by the CCTD and Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., the cruise ship, measuring 323.6 meters in length with a gross tonnage of 135,500 tonnes, can accommodate up to 5,246 passengers and is expected to be delivered by the end of 2023.
After the successful delivery of the cruise ship, an array of international routes will commence between the home port of Shanghai and neighboring countries serving as the destinations. In addition, medium and long-term routes will be launched to enhance cultural exchanges between China and other countries. (Xinhua)
A changing world order, a shrinking U.S. empire, migrations and related demographic shifts, and major economic crashes have all enhanced religious fundamentalisms around the world. Beyond religions, other ideological fundamentalisms likewise provide widely welcomed reassurances. One of the latter—market fundamentalism—invites and deserves criticism as a major obstacle to navigating this time of rapid social change. Market fundamentalism attributes to that particular social institution a level of perfection and “optimality” quite parallel to what fundamentalist religions attribute to prophets and divinities.
Yet markets are just one among many social means of rationing. Anything scarce relative to demand for it raises the same question: Who will get it and who must do without it? The market is one institutional way to ration the scarce item. In a market, those who want it bid up its price leading others to drop out because they cannot or will not pay the higher price. When higher prices have eliminated the excess of demand over supply, scarcity is gone, and no more bidding up is required. Those able and willing to pay the higher prices are satisfied by receiving distributions of the available supply.
The market has thus rationed out the scarce supply. It has determined who gets and who does not. Clearly, the richer a buyer is, the more likely that buyer will welcome, endorse, and celebrate “the market system.” Markets favor rich buyers. Such buyers in turn will more likely support teachers, clerics, politicians, and others who promote arguments that markets are “efficient,” “socially positive,” or “best for everyone.”
Yet even the economics profession—which routinely celebrates markets—includes a sizable—if underemphasized—literature about how, why, and when free (i.e., unregulated) markets do not work efficiently or in socially positive ways. That literature has developed concepts like “imperfect competition,” “market distortions,” and “externalities,” to pinpoint markets failing to be efficient or benefit social welfare. Social leaders who have had to deal with actual markets in society have likewise repeatedly intervened in them when and because markets worked in socially unacceptable ways. Thus, we have minimum wage laws, maximum interest-rate laws, price-gouging laws, and tariff and trade wars. Practical people know that “leaving matters to the market” has often yielded disasters (e.g., the crashes of 2000, 2008, and 2020) overcome by massive, sustained governmental regulation of and intervention in markets.
So then why do market fundamentalists celebrate a rationing system—the market—that in both theory and practice is more replete with holes than a block of Swiss cheese? Libertarians go so far as to promote a “pure” market economy as a realizable utopia. Such a pure market system is their policy to fix the massive problems they admit exist in contemporary (impure) capitalism. Libertarians are forever frustrated by their lack of success.
For many reasons, markets ought not claim anyone’s loyalty. Among alternative systems of rationing scarcity, markets are clearly inferior. For example, in many religious, ethical, and moral traditions, basic precepts urge or insist that scarcity be addressed by a rationing system based on their respective concepts of human need. Many other rationing systems—including the U.S. version used in World War II—dispensed with the market system and substituted a needs-based rationing system managed by the government.
Rationing systems could likewise be based on age, type of work performed, employment status, family situation, health conditions, distance between home and workplace, or other criteria. Their importance relative to one another and relative to some composite notion of “need,” could and should be determined democratically. Indeed, a genuinely democratic society would let the people decide which (if any) scarcities should be rationed by the market and which (if any) by alternative rationing systems.
Market fetishists will surely trot out their favorite rationalizations with which to regale students. For example, they argue that when buyers bid up prices for scarce items other entrepreneurs will rush in with more supply to capture those higher prices, thereby ending the scarcity. This simple-minded argument fails to grasp that the entrepreneurs cashing in on the higher prices for scarce items have every incentive and many of the means to prevent, delay, or block altogether the entry of new suppliers. Actual business history shows that they often do so successfully. In other words, glib assurances about reactions to market prices are ideological noise and little else.
We can also catch the market fetishizers in their own contradictions. When justifying the sky-high pay packages of mega-corporate CEOs, we are told their scarcity requires their high prices. The same folks explain to us that to overcome scarcity of wage labor, it was necessary to cut U.S. workers’ pandemic-era unemployment supplement, not to raise their wages. During times of scarcity, markets often reveal to capitalists the possibility of earning higher profits on lower volumes of product and sales. If they prioritize profits and when they can afford to bar others’ entry, they will produce and sell less at higher prices to a richer clientele. We are watching that process unfold in the United States now.
The neoliberal turn in U.S. capitalism since the 1970s yielded big profits from a globalized market system. However, outside the purview of neoliberal ideology, that global market catapulted the Chinese economy forward far faster than the United States and far faster than the United States found acceptable. Thus the United States junked its market celebrations (substituting intense “security” concerns) to justify massive governmental interventions in markets to thwart Chinese development: a trade war, tariff wars, chip subsidies, and sanctions. Awkwardly and unpersuasively, the economic profession keeps teaching about the efficiency of free or pure markets, while students learn from the news all about U.S. protectionism, market management, and the need to turn away from the free market gods previously venerated.
Then too the market-based health care system of the United States challenges market fundamentalism: the United States has 4.3 percent of the world population but accounted for 16.9 percent of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Might the market system bear a significant share of the blame and fault here? So dangerous is the potential disruption of ideological consensus that it becomes vital to avoid asking the question, let alone pursuing a serious answer.
During the pandemic, millions of workers were told that they were “essential” and “front-line responders.” A grateful society appreciated them. As they often noted, the market had not rewarded them accordingly. They got very low wages. They must not have been scarce enough to command better. That’s how markets work. Markets do not reward what is most valuable and essential. They never did. They reward what is scarce relative to people’s ability to buy, no matter the social importance we give to the actual work and roles people play. Markets pander to where the money is. No wonder the rich subsidize market fundamentalism. The wonder is why the rest of society believes or tolerates it.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
The Redress Design Award 2023 has unveiled its 10 Finalists, representing the world’s top emerging sustainable fashion designers who have stood out among hundreds of applicants. These talented designers will compete at the Grand Final Fashion Show in Hong Kong in September, showcasing their innovative solutions to tackle fashion’s waste problem.
The Redress Design Award is the largest circular fashion design competition in the world, organized by environmental NGO Redress and supported by Create Hong Kong (CreateHK). The competition is unique in showcasing, educating, and empowering emerging designers who are committed to revolutionizing the future of fashion.
This year’s 10 Finalists represent nine different regions worldwide, including Sri Lanka. Among them is Ruwanthi Gajadeera, whose collection ‘kaeli – resurgence’ incorporates recycled yarn to create a handloom denim fabric, designed for recyclability with monofibres. The Redress Design Award invites the next generation of designers to use creativity, innovation, and circular design strategies to tackle fashion waste and create a better future for fashion.
The Finalists will join an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Hong Kong in September, where they will defend their collections in front of an international panel of industry-leading judges before showcasing them to the world on the runway of the Grand Final Fashion Show. The winner will have a chance to join global leading fashion brand Timberland by VF Corporation for an exclusive sustainable collaboration.
“We believe fostering talent and innovation is both good for business and a necessity for the future of our planet,” says Sean Cady, VP Global Sustainability and Responsibility at VF Corporation. “Mentoring the next generation of designers [through this competition] is incredibly rewarding.”
Redress’ headquarters being in Hong Kong, and the opportunities it offers to Redress Design Award Alumni in reaching neighbouring Asian countries and regions, are critical advantages in our efforts to push the needle toward a more circular fashion industry.”
To encourage consumer participation in driving sustainability in fashion, the Redress Design Award invited the public to vote online for their favourite Semi-finalist. The winner of the People’s Choice Award 2023, Pavneet Kaur of India, has automatically advanced to the final round of the competition based on receiving the most votes.
The Redress Design Award 2023 Finalists are:
- Aya Letzter, Israel
- Frances Brunner, USA
- Jasmine Leung, Hong Kong
- Mandy Fong Sze Man, Hong Kong
- Molly Ryan, Australia
- Nils Hauser, Germany
- Pavneet Kaur, India
- Ruwanthi Gajadeera, Sri Lanka
- Kim Yanghun, France
- Wen Hanzhang, Canada
The 10 Finalists will send their completed collections, including four physical looks and one digital outfit, to Redress for a professional photoshoot with Vogue Hong Kong. The garments will be safely delivered via UPS’ carbon-neutral shipping.
The Redress Design Award 2023 is an essential platform for designers who understand circularity and how the entire fashion supply chain fits together. By showcasing emerging sustainable fashion designers, the Redress Design Award is committed to creating a better future for fashion.
For more information on the Redress Design Award 2023, please visit the website at www.redressdesignaward.com.
Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) on Wednesday (May 10) filed a petition (SC SD 19/2023) with the Supreme Court, challenging the Anti-Corruption Bill, highlighting several key concerns.
While TISL welcomes the long-awaited Anti-Corruption Bill, TISL’s petition was filed challenging certain provisions of the law, on the basis that they are unconstitutional, considering that the law must be enacted in accordance with accepted international norms, whilst safeguarding fundamental rights ensured by the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
TISL has challenged 37 Clauses of the Anti-Corruption Bill in total, including clause 28(3), 161 and 119. (Refer to the full petition on our website- https://www.tisrilanka.org/tisl-files-a-petition-with-the-supreme-court-challenging-the-anti-corruption-bill/ )
In its petition, TISL raises concerns that several provisions of the Bill are disproportionate and could have a chilling effect on whistleblowing, the right to information and the freedom of expression, and could affect the concepts of transparency and accountability.
The Attorney General has been named as the Respondent in this petition. Attorney-at Law Pulasthi Hewamanna appears for the petitioners with Attorneys-at-Law Githmi Wijenarayana, Fadhila Fairoze, Piumi Madhushani, Harini Jayawardhana, Lasanthika Hettiarachchi and Sankhitha Gunaratne, instructed by Attorney-at-Law Niluka Dissanayake.
The case will be taken up today (12th May) in the Supreme Court.
In a crucial ruling on May 5, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria decided in favor of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and 18 other applicants seeking relief from severe power outages that have affected much of the country. The Court ordered the Minister of Public Enterprises to take “all reasonable steps” within 60 days to ensure that there is sufficient supply or generation of electricity to prevent any interruption due to load shedding to all public health establishments, all public schools, and the South African Police Service.
South Africa has been in the throes of an electricity crisis as Eskom, the state-owned energy utility company, has struggled to meet the country’s energy demands for over 15 years, resorting to load shedding in the process.
Record power outages over the past year have inflicted major economic losses and disrupted access to crucial public services including hospitals. Conditions are set to worsen with Eskom preparing protocols for Stage 9 load shedding, which could see outages lasting for over 14 hours a day.
In March, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and NUMSA joined political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups in calling upon the court to declare load shedding (or rotational power cuts) unconstitutional.
As such, the application not only named Eskom, but also President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Ministers of Mineral Resources and Energy and Public Enterprises, and the South African government as a whole.
from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service
Imran Khan, the former cricketer turned politician and ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, has been a controversial figure since he entered politics. Over the years, he has been accused of corruption and faced numerous legal challenges. In recent months, there have been renewed allegations of corruption against him, leading to his arrest.
Imran Khan rose to fame as a cricketing legend in the 1980s and 1990s, leading Pakistan to its first and only World Cup victory in 1992. After retiring from cricket, he turned his attention to philanthropy and activism, founding the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore and becoming a vocal critic of Pakistan’s political establishment. In 1996, he founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, with the aim of ending corruption and dynastic politics in the country. However, despite being one of the most popular politicians in Pakistan, Khan struggled to gain a foothold in national politics for many years. It was only in the 2010s that the PTI began to gain significant traction, with Khan’s calls for reform and anti-corruption message resonating with a younger, more educated electorate. In the 2018 general elections, the PTI emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly, allowing Khan to become Prime Minister. Since taking office, Khan has faced numerous legal challenges and allegations of corruption. However, his supporters argue that these allegations are politically motivated and that he is the victim of a smear campaign.
However, this is not the first time that Khan has been accused of corruption. In 2017, a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that Khan had failed to disclose assets and accounts held in offshore companies in his nomination papers for the 2013 general elections. The case was eventually dismissed, with the Supreme Court ruling that Khan was not liable for any wrongdoing as he had not been a public office holder at the time. However, the ruling did not fully exonerate Khan, with the court noting that “it is the duty of every citizen to be truthful and honest.” More recently, Khan has been accused of granting amnesty to a close aide who was facing corruption charges. The aide, Tareen, was a prominent figure. He was facing charges of money laundering and fraud, but the charges were dropped in March 2021 after the government reached a settlement with him.
Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was detained by NAB officials on Tuesday at the Islamabad High Court in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case. Al-Qadir University for Sufism was established in Sohawa, Jhelum district, in 2019 with the help of the country’s former prime minister, Imran Khan. However, he and a real estate magnate were accused of stealing Rs. 50 billion from the national coffers and registering the Trust on 450 kanals.
The ongoing allegations of corruption against Imran Khan are not only damaging to his reputation but also to Pakistan’s standing on the international stage. Corruption is a major issue in Pakistan, and any perception that the country’s leaders are involved in corrupt activities can erode public trust and undermine efforts to attract foreign investment.
Moreover, Khan’s image as a reformer and anti-corruption crusader has been central to his political brand. If he is found to have engaged in corrupt activities, it could undermine the legitimacy of his party, the PTI.
The allegations of corruption against Imran Khan are a cause for concern for his supporters and critics alike. The ongoing allegations and investigations are damaging to his reputation and that of his party. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to determine whether Khan is guilty of any wrongdoing. In the meantime, it is important for Pakistan’s leaders to take strong action to combat corruption and restore public trust.
Future historians will likely look back at the debt ceiling rituals being reenacted these days with a frustrated shaking of their heads. That otherwise reasonable people would be so readily deceived raises the question that will provoke those historians: How could this happen?
The U.S. Congress has imposed successive ceilings on the national debt, each one higher than the last. Ceilings were intended to limit the amount of federal borrowing. But the same U.S. Congress so managed its taxing and spending that it created ever more excesses of spending over tax revenues (deficits). Those excesses required borrowing to cover them. The borrowings accumulated to hit successive ceilings. A highly political ritual of threats and counterthreats accompanied each rise of the ceiling required by the need to borrow to finance deficits.
It is elementary economics to note that if Congress raised more taxes or cut federal spending—or both—there would be no need to borrow and thus no ceiling on borrowing to worry about. The ceiling would become irrelevant or merely symbolic. Further, if taxes were raised enough and spending cut enough, the existing U.S. national debt could be reduced. That situation has happened occasionally in U.S. history.
The real issue then is that when borrowing approaches any ceiling, the policy choices are these three: raise the ceiling (to borrow more), raise taxes, or cut spending. Of course, combinations of them would also be possible.
In contrast to this reality, U.S. politics deceives by constricting its debate. Politicians, the mainstream media, and academics simply omit—basically by refusing to admit or consider—tax increases. The GOP demands spending cuts or else it will block raising the ceiling. The Democrats insist that raising the ceiling is the better choice than cutting spending. Democrats threaten to blame the GOP for the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling. They paint those consequences in lurid colors depicting U.S. bondholders denied interest or repayment, Social Security recipients denied their pensions, and government employees denied their wages. The unspoken agreement between the two major parties is to omit any serious discussion of raising taxes to avoid hitting the debt ceiling. That omission entails deception.
Here are some tax increases that could help solve the problem by avoiding any need to raise the debt ceiling. The social security tax could be applied to all wage and salary incomes, not only those of $160,000 or less as is now the case. The social security tax could be applied to nonwage income such as interest dividends, capital gains, and rents. The corporate profits tax could be raised back to what it was a few decades ago: near or above 50 percent versus the current 37 percent rate. A property tax could be levied on property that takes the form of stocks and bonds. The current property tax in the United States (levied mostly at the local level) includes land, houses, automobiles, and business inventories, while it excludes stocks and bonds. Perhaps that is because the richest 10 percent of Americans own roughly 80 percent of stocks and bonds. The current property tax system in the United States is very nice for that 10 percent. Another logical candidate is the federal estate tax which a few years ago exempted under $1 million of an estate from the tax, but now exempts over $12 million per person (over $25 million per couple). That exemption makes a mockery of the idea that all Americans start or live their lives on a level playing field where merit counts more than inheritance. The U.S. could and should go back from that tax giveaway to the richest. There are many more possible tax increases.
Of course, there are strengths and weaknesses entailed in raising every tax, positive and negative consequences. But the exact same is true of raising the debt ceiling and thereby increasing the U.S. national debt. Likewise cutting spending has its pluses and minuses in terms of pain and gain. There is no logical or reasonable basis for excluding tax increases from the national debate and discussion about raising the debt ceiling and thereby the national debt.
It is rather the shared political commitments of both major parties that require and motivate the exclusion. There is no reason for U.S. citizens to accept, tolerate, endorse, or otherwise validate the debt ceiling deception perpetrated against us.
Nor is the debt ceiling deception alone. The previous national debate over responding to inflation by having the Federal Reserve raise interest rates provides another quite parallel example. That debate proceeded by debating the pros and cons of interest rate increases as if no other anti-inflationary policy existed or was even worth mentioning. Once again elementary economics teaches that wage-price freezes and rationing have been used against inflations in the past—including in the United States—as alternatives to raising interest rates or alongside them. U.S. President Nixon in 1971 used wage-price freezes. U.S. President Roosevelt used rationing during World War II. But the government, Federal Reserve, major media, and major academic leaders carried on their recent policy debates as if those other anti-inflationary tools did not exist or were not worth including in the debate.
Wage-price freezes and rationing have their strengths and weaknesses—just as tax increases do—but once again the same applies to raising interest rates. No justification exists for proceeding as if alternative options are not there. The U.S. national debate over fighting inflation was deceptive in the same way that the debate over the debt ceiling is.
Nor is the deception any less if it is covered by a claim of “realism.” Those who grasp elementary economics enough to know that tax increases could “solve” the debt ceiling issue become complicit in the deception by invoking “realism.” Since the two major parties are jointly subservient to corporations and the rich, they rule out tax increases on them. It thus becomes “realistic” to exclude that option from the debt ceiling debate. What is best for corporations and the rich thus gets equated to what is “realistic.” It is worth remembering that throughout history ruling classes have discovered, to their shock and surprise, that the ruled can and often do quickly alter what is “realistic.”
The debt ceiling deceptions favor corporations over individuals and the richest individuals over the rest of us. In our thinking and speaking too, the nation’s class structure and class struggles exhibit their influential power. The mainstream debt ceiling debate deceives by lying by omission rather than commission.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”
- On 21 December 2022 the UGC informed Minister of Education in writing on the course of action to be taken for SEUSL in terms of powers vested upon the Minister by the Universities Act.
- As of today, Rameez Aboobacker, a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud, continues to remain the chief executive officer and a professor at SEUSL, a national university run by the government of Sri Lanka at the expense of public funds.
A letter from UGC Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga to the Ministry of Education officials has recently surfaced making note of the fact that the UGC had informed Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha on 21 December 2022 on the course of action to be taken with regard to the situation at SEUSL following their own attention to the matters related to academic and administrative affairs at SEUSL while it is headed by Rameez Aboobacker. Details on the academic and research fraudulences committed by Rameez Aboobacker were brought to light by several articles on various national news media including Sri Lanka Guardian, Daily Mirror, Lankadeepa and TamilMirror. An ultimate summary of the said course of action is widely understood to have been concisely phrased as “a competent authority would be appointed for the Southeastern [sic] University soon” in the minutes of a meeting held between the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) and the UGC held on 27 January 2023 – a statement to have been made by the UGC Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, the top-most academic administrative official in the hierarchy of Sri Lankan higher education. As a side note, FUTA should be commended for taking such an uncompromising firm stand on matters of academic fraud in such simple cases of right vs wrong. For the layperson the above information from UGC means that the topmost academics of the Sri Lankan higher education establishment have already decided that Rameez Aboobacker is not fit for the job while there is need for further investigation into what appears to be just the tip of an iceberg for an academic scam at scale – more on that in future expositions.
What remains then?
As is indicated in the letter by the UGC Chairman, the power to remove the vice chancellor of a state university lies in the hands of the minister at the least, as per the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. In other words, the UGC cannot directly execute the removal of a Vice Chancellor from position. The execution of the recommendation by UGC has to be performed by an elected Peoples’ representative or any other Parliamentarian serving as the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Higher Education, if officially vested with power.
In this account, we point out to the mere fact that despite the written information provided to the Minister of Education, no action has been seen on the matter of Rameez Aboobacker. What lacks? Or better put, what works to safeguard outright corrupt individuals like Rameez Aboobacker while the Sri Lankan academia has decided to no longer leave him with credentials and power that he is no more fit to be entrusted with? We ask this question because the resolution for the matter is well established among the academic community and that the ball is now in the courts of those who deal with ordinary national politics – perhaps we have too many wildly behaving variables at action now than when the matter was under academic and administrative investigation/ scrutiny by the UGC.
The Ministry of Education, has all the authoritative rights to take the necessary actions against Rameez Aboobacker, the current vice chancellor of SEUSL. But the delay shown by The Ministry of Education raises several questions. The biggest one is whether the autonomy of the Sri Lankan Education System is practically superseded by the political willpower. If that is the fact, which is in direct contradiction to the status quo of all places advanced and developed among all of the democratic nations in the world, then it would be an alarming sign for systematic impedance to the maintenance of the quality of the education provided in this country. The influence of politics and politicians in determining the fate of a higher education institution, practically neglecting and eventually contradicting the national expert decisions and even tolerating obvious cases of globally-unacceptable absolute academic wrongdoing, can demolish the opportunity for a higher education of quality that future generations of this beautiful nation can continue to take pride in. The situation worsens even further at a time when the country has come under the watch of many international bodies including IMF – especially when we as a nation demonstrate that we are not even capable of properly handling academic corruption at a state-run university sitting at some periphery of our national higher education system. This issue has the potential to get itself evolve into a national crisis that can have a much greater impact on the course of economic recovery and overall development anticipated by both the government and IMF, at least for the sake of argument.
Literally, Rameez Aboobacker has been identified ineligible to serve as the chief academic and administrative officer at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka since 21st December 2022. But Rameez Aboobacker is still holding the position of Vice Chancellor of SEUSL to date and this is bringing to light an obvious dilemma whether the UGC has its autonomy and power in deciding the quality of higher education in this country; or is it the political system that has the ultimate power, making UGC a mere instrument that’s used as an excuse for bureaucratic time delays, in matters as serious as this? This imbalance in power can be witnessed at the moment through what’s happening in the case of Rameez Aboobacker. A public-funded institution is still being run by a fraud – a failed vice chancellor, whilst UGC has identified serious impact on the academic and administrative affairs at this institute. Another rational question is whether those in power within the government are purposefully destroying the fate of this university. But it should be emphasized that there are more than 6000 students from all parts of the Island and this is a national university – no profiling, be it region-based, ethnic or otherwise, is practically valid considering the actual student demography that is currently benefitting at this university. The government is demolishing the future of these students by maintaining such an undecipherable silence in this issue. His Excellency the President Ranil Wickremesinghe made some strong remarks about SEUSL in his speech a few months back and it is surprising to see his lack of interest in maintaining the quality of this Higher Educational Institute by practically exercising his powers to do what’s right in this crisis of absolute right vs absolute wrong.
Rameez Aboobacker is preparing to hold the Annual General Convocation of this institute in the near future. While UGC considers him ineligible to hold the position of Vice Chancellor, it only makes sense to question whether he will be seen academically and morally eligible to confer degrees to graduates at this moment. He is an academic fraud and conferring degrees under his chairmanship will perhaps be an unpreceded joke in this country since the dawn of Sri Lankan university education system. An ineligible, shameless Vice Chancellor is chairing a convocation to grace the occasion of some of the most precious moments in the life of a graduate – a shame and a humiliating situation brought upon the Sri Lankan higher education system by the political leadership within the Ministry.
In a parliamentary note on 04th April 2023, Hon. Susil Premajayantha stated that the Minister has no power in removing a vice chancellor as he is not the appointing authority. He made this statement in the context of the ongoing conflict regarding the Vice Chancellor of the Ruhuna University. But there is precedence in this country where the Ministers of Higher Education have removed vice chancellors and appointed Competent Authorities. UGC’s letter (Dated 16th March 2023) states that it has informed the Hon. Minister of Education through a letter dated 21.12.2022 regarding the course of action which could be taken in terms of the powers vested in him under the provisions of the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. The Minister and the Ministry of Education have not acted for more than 04 months since the recommendations were given by the UGC. It is then apparent that it is the political power that decides the nature of the Education in this country and not the top-most academic hierarchy such as UGC nor the academic unions such as FUTA. This is a clear case for an education system that’s gone corrupt by means of political power, either by exercising of it or by exercising negligence with authority. Rameez Aboobacker is a practical demonstration for the fact that one may easily become a vice chancellor and a professor (19 of 23 sociology journal articles within almost a year, all except for 3 articles in journals of questionable quality and a sociological recommendation for free medicine for elderly people in Sri Lanka in the year 2015) in this system with fake and fraudulent academic track records. A shame for the whole academic community! If this was a case in other countries, the Vice Chancellors who were found guilty would have resigned themselves or would be removed from their positions by the relevant authorities and their whole academic careers would be in trouble. On the contrary today in Sri Lanka, where we proudly boast about our free education system and the higher literacy rate, we are gradually losing the grip of the integrity and quality of our education system by politically letting fraudulent academics like Rameez Aboobacker go scot-free.
Currently the Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, having not brought into action what was recommended by UGC in December 2022, has handed over all the Duties, Institutes and Power related to higher education to Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan (the State Minister of Higher Education) through a gazette notification on 27th April 2023. Currently the State Minister of Higher Education has the power to execute the Universities Act 16 of 1978. Hon. Minister Dr. Suren Raghavan must certainly be well aware of the seriousness of these absolute academic issues and we believe that he won’t tolerate the academic fraudulences and wrongdoings committed by Rameez Aboobacker and what appears to be a larger ring of academic underworld at SEUSL, of which Rameez Aboobacker just seems to be a prominent and popular figure. These are natural expectations and hopes one normally has on an academic with reputed scholarly track record turned politician. Quite interestingly, Rameez Aboobacker has also been found guilty of plagiarizing content from Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan’s article (published in 2013; http://www.jocbs.org/index.php/jocbs/article/view/45 ) and has published a full paper at SEUSL in 2014 while he was a PhD student at the National University of Singapore. This fraudulent article by Rameez Aboobacker was titled “The wave of Sinhala Buddhist Supremacism and Muslims of Sri Lanka” and it can be found in the proceedings of the 4th International Symposium of SEUSL in 2014, from page number 166 to 171. This paper is reportedly made up with nearly 80% of content stolen from the paper published by Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan, the current Minister of Higher Education. What more the Minister needs to better understand this serial plagiarist! The details on this case of plagiarism by Rameez Aboobacker can be discussed in a separate article. The various cases of plagiarism and research fraudulence committed by Rameez Aboobacker and his associates can be made as reference materials for future researchers and academics; and Rameez Aboobacker, without doubt, can be considered the most prominent national case study example to quote when training the future academics and researchers on how not be a researcher. Not a single university Vice Chancellor, at present or in the past, in this country has been identified with this level of academic fraudulences and emergence of Rameez Aboobacker is a shame to the Higher Educational System in this country; the fall can only be our pride – and it’s not too late except for the fact that the SEUSL students who entered the university by the time Rameez Aboobacker took over, have already spent nearly half of their undergraduate life in an academic training under the leadership of an academically corrupt leadership. When the Rameez Aboobacker phenomenon was confined within the academic territory of SEUSL Arts and Humanities, it was one thing; spill over is much more likely and is even reportedly witnessed once the fraud is in power – more on this in a much more detailed coverage of systematic academic fraudulences at SEUSL later. It is surprising to see how the Vice Chancellors from other reputed universities of Sri Lanka allow someone like Rameez Aboobacker to sit next to them in an equal position at various occasions jointly making serious decisions that have impact on the whole of Sri Lankan academia, while being fully aware that Rameez Aboobacker is a demonstrated academic fraud and possibly even knowing that Rameez Aboobacker has been recommended by UGC to be ousted!
The powers from the Universities Act now lie in the hands of Hon. State Minister Dr. Raghavan and it is widely believed that Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan will act promptly to implement the recommendations made by UGC in 21st December 2022 to the Minister of Education Hon. Susil Premajayantha.
Finally, some food for thought for our regular readership:
- If a research fraud can be a professor and a university vice chancellor in this country and then imagine the quality of Education provided at this institute under such leadership! No wonder SEUSL couldn’t recover from being the last preference of significant proportions of newcomer students from many streams.
- There must be individuals, politicians, authorities, power brokers, corrupt academics and various other influencing characters helping Rameez Aboobacker to hold on to the position of Vice Chancellor to date. These individuals, if any, certainly are a curse to the whole nation due to the fact they directly or indirectly contribute to the demolition of this institute and the future of generations of what could otherwise become invaluable human capital for this economically suffering nation!
- When UGC has already recommended to remove Rameez Aboobacker from his position after he has been demonstrated to be a plagiarist and a research fraud, is he still academically and morally (legality aside) eligible to serve as a Vice Chancellor and would the decisions made by him be respected by an academic community after the fact of 21 December 2022 UGC decisions is brought to light?
- A Vice Chancellor identified as incompetent in terms of academic integrity and administration and recommended to be ousted by UGC chairs a convocation at SEUSL!
- Is there an autonomy for the UGC in this country or can the Politicians simply overrule or neglect the decisions made by the topmost officials of higher education hierarchy even in such black and white matters of absolute academic fraudulence?
- Why Rameez Aboobacker is still kept in the position of vice chancellor despite the fact there is a severe impact on the academic and administrative activities at SEUSL?
- Does the Academic Community at SEUSL consider the seriousness of this issue and have they acted promptly in this matter?
- A Research fraud without any academic integrity is chairing the academic and administrative meetings, conferences and all the evets at SEUSL. But the majority of the SEUSL academic community is keeping quiet in the cases of research fraudulency and academic integrity. Does this allow and accept the wrongdoings of Rameez Aboobacker?
- The Universities Act 16 of 1978 gives power to the Minister to exercise all or any of the following matters (a-c) relating to such Higher Educational Institution and what are the recommendations made by the UGC in addition to appointing a Competent Authority at SEUSL among the course of actions a-c?
- The closure of such Higher Educational Institution;
- The appointment of any person by the name or by office, to be a competent authority for the purpose of exercising, performing or discharging, in lieu of any officer, Authority or other body of such Higher Educational Institution, any power, duty or function under this Act or any appropriate instrument, and
- Any other matter connected with or relating to any of the matters aforesaid.
a. Parliamentary speech by Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Education (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebH_bHt-aBA from 11:42 to 11:56)
b. Gazette notification transferring powers to Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan (link: http://documents.gov.lk/files/egz/2023/4/2329-44_E.pdf)
c. Speech by H.E. the President Ranil Wickramasinghe (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlbiRnnv08E from 10:13 to 11:17)
An Eastern analogue is found in the Suvannahamsa Jataka, which appears in the fourth section of the Buddhist book of monastic discipline (Vinaya). In this the father of a poor family is reborn as a swan with golden feathers and invites them to pluck and sell a single feather from his wings to support themselves, returning occasionally to allow them another. The greedy mother of the family eventually plucks all the feathers at once, but they then turn to ordinary feathers; when the swan recovers its feathers, they too are no longer gold ~ Wikipedia
The above analogue may be interpreted to describe the open economy policy introduced in 1977 as a misguided, short-term fix to address a situation that prevailed at the time where some hardships were being experienced by the population due to import restrictions and the local industrialisation policy prior to 1977. These hardships could have been temporary if the policy and practice were improved where improvements were required rather than abandoning it or causing it to be abandoned as a consequence of the easy, quick fix. A nation of traders rather than industrialists was the consequence of the open economic policy.
The regime that came to power in 1977 had two major failings amongst some positive development initiatives. Introducing a no holds barred open economy was one of them. Not pursuing a reconciliation path to nip the evolving armed struggle of the Tamil militants was the other.
The introduction of the local industrial development strategy of the previous regime was stopped on its tracks and the stable doors were opened fully to allow imports of virtually everything from pins, match sticks, to more complex engineering goods. Many industrialists, large and small became traders and the nation lost many of its industries and the evolving industrialization focus. Although not perfect, the local production of many items that had been imported hitherto had set the country on an import substitution path and had given opportunities for entrepreneurs to embark on new ventures.
The negative effects of the open economy continued to be felt as succeeding governments chose the open economy path rather than giving an impetus to local industrialists to improve their industries. One could say that the economic debacle being experienced today has its foundations in the 1977 decision to open the economy without any thought given to the future of import substitution industries considering the country has been dependent on imports since the advent of the open economy and the current debacle occurred as the country had no money to import even some essentials.
Opening the economy per se was not the sole issue. But, doing so without an economic and social analysis of the impact on many industries, industrialists and those employed in the industry directly or indirectly, and an assessment of the long-term effect on what should be imported and what should be made locally was the issue. It is disheartening to hear some leaders saying even today that opening the economy was a significant achievement,rather than talking about its weaknesses as it tends to demonstrate the country has not learnt from its past mistakes in introducing policies without any thought given to the long-term effects of such policies. The blow inflicted on the local industry, particularly the import substitution industry, was not addressed and is yet to be addressed. The country is yet to see a policy on local industrialisation and how inputs for it including technical education, incentives to promote quality improvements, and mechanisms to identify and promote the potential for exports of finished products and/or components for finished products being made elsewhere.
Import restriction forced on the country due to the economic debacle has given some thought to import substitution industries. This however is not strategic thinking but rather on the hop circumstantial thinking as had been done in the past. It is more than likely that an avalanche of imports would commence if the country had the money to do so, smothering the local industrialists who may have been misguided by a belief that opportunities they thought were there, and commenced some industries.
The 1977 regime also had a great opportunity to introduce policies and mechanisms to foster a better understanding amongst all communities in the country, especially amongst the Sinhala and Tamil communities. Its inaction led to consequences that the country is very familiar with. No doubt there were sensitive political issues and stakeholder resistance to avenues for compromise on individual positions. Perhaps, looking at the issue from a humanitarian point of view rather than a political or historical point of view, both closely interlinked, may have been the stumbling block. More than 40 years later, there is no significant advancement on stakeholder positions as politics still seem to define the path to a solution.
The challenge now is to look at the present rather than the past and look towards the future of the current younger generation and generations to come. Very few of the younger generation seems to have confidence in Sri Lanka and any faith on a future for them in the country judging by the numbers who have left the country last year and who are likely to leave the country given a chance to do so. Politicians of today do not inspire any confidence in the younger generation and more of the same is the last thing they would wish for. But, that seems to be what they are in for judging by the politicians inability to think of the country before them and their welfare.
However, could one lose hope as without hope there is no light at the end of the tunnel? Despite individual reservations, the President appears to be genuinely attempting to chart a new course for the country. As with all politicians, people do have scepticism about the President as a politician. There would have been less of this had the Opposition parties buried their hatchet and with it, at least for the time being, their politics, and agreed on a medium term (at least 3-5 years) program of economic and social governance, and even better, a national government where every party takes equal responsibility for the governance.
In order to generate the badly needed confidence in the minds of the younger generations, besides an agreement on an economic and social governance compact or a national government, a new political governance system needs to be introduced to replace the current system at the end of the 3–5-year period. If the same system producing the same calibre of politicians were to resume the same type of politics, the younger generations, who are certainly not insane, could well echo what Einstein said, quote” Insanity Is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results” end quote.
The ball is therefore well and truly in the court of the politicians to rise above partisan politics and discuss ways and means of agreeing on an economic and social governance model. In such a model, there can only be a President and a small cabinet of ministers and perhaps some State ministers for specific subjects to assist the cabinet ministers, but not a Prime Minister nor a Leader of the Opposition. Both positions are irrelevant, unnecessary, and counterproductive to a unity model. Will the politicians have the guts to contemplate a model of this nature? Perhaps not.
In regard a futuristic governance model, readers are referred to an article the author wrote, and which was published including in the Daily FT titled “Contours for a new constitution with a difference, for the future, not the past”. This model was submitted in order to generate a discussion on what might be different to what the country has had for 75 years. Basically, it proposed the direct involvement of non-political experts in different fields of expertise in policy development and monitoring, a differentiation of political devolution and administrative devolution, political devolution to grass roots by strengthening the structure and role of local government so that the social compact between the people and the politicians will be stronger, the establishment of regional councils and the introduction of an electoral college to elect members of regional councils and even the national Parliament.
There is no evidence that the country has learnt from past mistakes. Successive governments have not continued the positive policies of past governments, with improvements where they were necessary. The import substitution industrialisation policy was one of them, with the open economy policy smothering it to nonexistence. There have been other major development projects begun by one set of politicians and abandoned or scaled down by others without proper assessments. Abandoning of the LLRC report implementation process, the Missing persons investigation and report presented by the Paranagama commission are just two others amongst many initiatives taken by one lot and abandoned by others purely for political reasons.
We can learn a lot from our mistakes if we have the guts and the courage to admit them and learn something positive from it. Your worst mistakes are your best teacher, making you better than before. The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing, and the successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way-azquotes