History Part 3: 2012 & 2013

It’s hard to believe that the would-be Mayan apocalypse passed nearly four years ago. Here’s what happened in 2012 and 2013 in…

The World

Screenshot of Earth from the Celestia application. Screenshot by NikoLang, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 Share and Share Alike.

 

Population: 7.08 billion – 7.16 billion

Population growth: 80 million

Life expectancy: 71.0 years – 70.9 years

Top 3 causes of death:

  1. Ischaemic Heart Disease
  2. Stroke
  3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The Three Largest Empires

United States

This image is in the public domain because flags are not copyrightable.

GDP: $14.6 trillion

China

This rendering of the Chinese flag by Sabine Deviche.

GDP: $5.93 trillion

Japan

This rendering of the Japanese flag by kahusi, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Share and Share Alike.

GDP: $5.46 trillion

Africa

 

Collage of photographs of uprisings in Egypt (Tahrir Square), Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria by The Egyptian Liberal. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 Share and Share Alike.

  • Egypt was named the “most dangerous country for journalists” by the Committee to Protect Journalists, who published worrisome findings that legal and violent retribution against journalists by governments was on the rise globally.Most of the retribution against journalists reporting news that the Egyptian government didn’t want people to know occurred under President Mohammed Morsi.Hailing from the Muslim Brotherhood political party, Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically elected president following the ouster of long-time U.S.-backed president-cum-dictator Hosni Mubarak via peaceful mass protest in 2011.

    Mubarak’s ouster was an initially promising and impressive development, the resignation of a strongman known for human rights violations similar to those that continued under Mohammed Morsi, without any bloodshed. Middle-class Muslims, Christians, and secularists from Egypt’s major cities took to the streets for 18 days to demand Mubarak’s ouster after he was “re-elected” amidst claims of intimidation and threats against supporters of his opponent at the polls.

    Impressively, in addition to Muslims and Christians forming human shields to protect each other’s congregations from possible violence during their respective times for prayer, military personnel refused to orders to use force against these peaceful civilians. During the peaceful protests, military leadership ignored orders from President Mubarak and ordered troops to protect the protesters instead of suppressing them.

    Morsi was then elected with the support of the majority of rural Egyptians, who are largely poor, under-educated, and deeply religious. Promising a new era of religiously inspired morality, he quickly resumed Mubarak’s old tricks for violently quashing dissent and arguably made them worse.

    As of 2015, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military leader who protected the protesters of Tahrir Square in 2011, is now President of Egypt, having assumed power by military coup and promptly charged Mohammed Morsi with crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, he, too, has received criticism for quashing pluralism and dissent.

The Middle East

 

Syrian rebel soldiers hold a planning session in a damaged building in the once-prosperous city of Aleppo. The “Battle of Aleppo” began with peaceful protests demanding greater freedom and democracy. It turned violent after the government attempted to disperse the protests using force, and large numbers of Islamist fighters from surrounding rural areas joined in the anti-government battle.

    • Israel made headlines briefly after it was discovered that the Israeli government had been requiring Ethiopian immigrant women to get long-acting birth control injections to prevent pregnancy, without the women’s knowledge or consent.

      Some women were told that the injections were disease-preventing vaccines which were legally required to enter the country; others were told they would be at risk of medical complications if they gave birth.

      This compounded concerns about racism in Israel, which were also stoked in 2013 by news that a prominent Israeli neighborhood had created a separate, racially segregated kindergarten for the children of African immigrants after white Jewish residents complained about their children having to attend kindergarten with children of African immigrants.

 

  • Concerns were raised about yet another problem for Iraqi citizens to contend with, as one study showed that up to 50% of babies born in Fallujah in recent years had birth defects.

 

A sharp increase in environmental levels of uranium, lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals which have a particularly severe impact on fetal development are blamed for the staggering increase in birth defects and miscarriage since the start of the American invasion of Iraq.

Critics blasted mainstream Western media, particularly in America, for failing to report anything about these findings to the American public.

  • In Syria, civil war continued to rage between the forces of Syrian government leader Bashar al-Assad and Syrian citizens who were dissatisfied with the government for various reasons.Like the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt, the Syrian conflict began in 2011 with massive peaceful protests by educated middle-class Syrians in several cities demanding more free and fair elections, more freedom of speech and assembly, and an end to corruption.

    The protests turned into a conflict after President al-Assad attempted to put down the protests using deadly force, prompting many citizens to reciprocate with equal violence against government forces.

    And like the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt, this conflict which began with educated, middle-class pro-democracy protesters in big cities was eventually joined by large numbers if Islamists from the countryside, including Hezbollah.

    The anti-government forces of the Syrian rebellion eventually joined forces with the anti-government forces of Al Quaeda in Iraq to seize control of a large swath of territory encompassing parts of western Iraq and eastern Syria, which are now referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    The bloodbath, which has included the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the Syrian government and mass execution of non-Muslims and destruction of historical sites by ISIL forces, continues to this day.

 

Europe

This photograph of protests during the Icelandic revolution by OddurBen. Iceland peacefully disintegrated and completely reformed their government through peaceful mass protest in 2008; under their new constitution their economy has made what some term a ‘miraculous’ recovery.

  • Iceland experienced an unprecedented economic comeback after the “peaceful revolution” of 2008, in which mass peaceful protests forced the dissolution of the government and the writing of a new constitution.

    The revolution had been triggered by a financial crisis caused by a credit bubble that formed following the privatization of the country’s banks. The bankers had borrowed an estimated 10 times the total wealth of the country’s economy from foreign nations, and doubled housing prices.

    The country’s new constitution was written by a democratic process and formulated to avoid entrapment by foreign loans; as of 2013, Iceland’s unemployment rate was at 5%, and its economy and currency were growing faster than that of the European Union.

  • British researcher Nafeez Ahmed raised concerns that global food shortages and rising food prices could get worse in coming decades if counter-measures are not taken.

    Ahmed cited a combination of climate change with increasing economic inequality, debt, and profit-driven behavior by large corporations as reasons why hunger is making a comeback.In the United States, the 35% increase in the average price of food during the 2000s was attributed to economic troubles related to the Great Recession. Food riots and increasing economic woes among farmers globally have often been treated as isolated and unrelated.

    However, Ahmed argued that policies by Monsanto and many other corporate giants, combined with climate change which is projected to cause wide-spread droughts and temperature changes that will impair food production by 20-40% in the next century, pointed to a global systemic problem in need of global systemic action.

  • German researcher Margrit Kennedy found that a staggering amount of the price of many goods and services in Germany could be attributed to interest payments on borrowed money at some point in the goods’ production line.

    These results – finding that 10-77% of the cost of everything from garbage collection to public housing were attributable to interest rates being paid back to lenders, are expected to be generalizable to the globe.This finding might help to explain some burning questions which have become of increasing global importance, such as why income inequality is increasing globally, why virtually everyone seems to be in debt, and why the price of everything seems to be rising at the same time.

    Kennedy’s findings suggest that a large proportion of prices paid by lower- and middle-class citizens for goods and services around the world are being collected by already-wealthy lenders and investors.

Asia

 

This photograph of an anti-Monsanto protest in India by infoeco. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 Share and Share Alike. Although genetically modified crops helped to reduce hunger in India in previous decades, recent increases in the price of seeds, combined with Monsanto’s policy that farmers must buy new seeds from Monsanto every year and may not replant the fruits of their crops, has led to a spike in debt and a great deal of anger against Monsanto.

  • Concerns were raised over drastic increases to the price of genetically modified seeds sold by Monsanto.While genetically modified crops have done a great deal to alleviate hunger and poverty in famine-stricken regions, in recent years the price charged for these seeds, which are proprietary intellectual property of the Monsanto corporation, have risen, forcing many farmers to go into debt to buy seeds to continue growing their crops.

    Monsanto also does not allow farmers to plant seeds from their own Monsanto-provided plants; instead they must purchase new seeds from Monsanto each year, or face legal action on charges of patent infringement.

  • The United Nations Development Program reported that all three of their Asian regions had made “significant progress” towards their Millennium Development Goals, although they were behind schedule on tackling their #1 goal – the elimination of extreme poverty.

    The top Millennium Development Goals for the region include: 1) Elimination of extreme poverty and hunger, #2) Achieve universal primary education, and #3) Promote gender equality to empower women.

    A lack of social safety nets provided by governments, as well as a lack of good job opportunities, were blamed for the behind-schedule status of the poverty initiatives. As of 2013, 743 million Asian workers lived on less than $1.25 per day, and many were forced to take any work they could find, regardless of how poorly compensated or unsafe, by the lack of government safety nets.

  • The United Nations also appealed for the universal adoption of refugee asylum laws across the region. As of 2015, there are 7.7 million people of concern for refugee status, including refugees, people who have been internally displaced within their own country due to conflict, and stateless people who have nowhere to go.

    Afghan refugees have been in particular trouble, as some have been living in neighboring countries if Iran and Pakistan for up to three decades following various conflicts in their home country.

    The situation of refugees from Myanmar, regarded by many as the world’s second-most-oppressive regime after North Korea, is similar. Refugees from Myanmar are most commonly found in Thailand, Malaysia, and and Bangladesh.

North America

Occupy protests in America. Born in 2011 and continuing through 2012, tens of thousands of American protesters rallied around the slogan “we are the 99%” to protest the continued losses of the middle- and lower-classes while America’s wealthiest get richer.

    • The 100 richest people in the world, who together control more wealth than the “bottom” 50%, or 3.5 billion people in the world, saw their collective net worth increase by $241 billion.The 80 wealthiest people in the world control the same amount of money per person as 35 million members of the world’s “bottom” 50% of earners. More of these uber-wealthy live in the United States than in any other country.

      Concerns have been raised in recent years about a “trickle-up” effect whereby monetary, trade, and patent policies have allowed the world’s already-wealthiest people to profit by charging more than necessary for basic goods, services, and loans.

      The United States itself has been a microcosm of this “trickle up” effect whereby the rich have gotten proportionally richer and the poor have become proportionally poorer, to the point that the U.S., which has the largest GDP of any country on Earth, has millions of people who cannot afford basic health insurance.

 

  • In the United States, a bill was introduced which would place a $0.03 tax on each $100 spend on non-consumer financial transactions. If passed, the bill was projected to bring in $352 billion in tax revenue each year.

 

A near-identical bill had been previously proposed in 2010 and thrown out by a Congressional committee before getting the chance to reach the President’s desk.

Similar legislation has already been passed in France and elsewhere, and has been shown to succeed in increasing tax revenue while having little to no effect on market growth. The legislation was co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, who is now running for president in 2016.

  • The organization No More Deaths published a report describing a “culture of cruelty” among both Mexican smugglers transporting illegal immigrants into the United States, and American law enforcement workers patrolling the U.S.-Mexican border.

    Alternet.Org picked up the a series of interviews with women who crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally, who reported fleeing severe poverty in their hometowns, being charged thousands of dollars by smugglers promising to get them into the U.S., and then faced violence and sexual assault on both the Mexican and American legs of the journey.

    Some analysts blame NAFTA for the upsurge in illegal immigration from the U.S. to Mexico in recent decades saying that the same legislation which gave Americans access to cheaper Mexican-made goods and expanded America’s food exports into Mexico also resulted in severe poverty for many Mexican workers and farmers.

 

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