United States: Coping with Adversity
For several decades, the United States has nurtured the self-image of a great, affluent and invincible nation. It projected itself as a land of boundless opportunities. The pursuit of prosperity and affluence became a national obsession. Affluence generally breeds some undesirable traits, such as over-indulgence, waste, conceit and lack of concern for the deprived and disadvantaged sections of society. These traits have been a conspicuous feature of American society.
The United States, and other rich countries of the world, not only have the largest share of the world consumption expenditure but also waste an incredibly enormous amount of food. The US is home to the largest consumer class worldwide, comprising some 243 million people. A quarter of the world’s cars and a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources are to be found in the US. Nearly 40% of the world’s caviar sales (priced at $ 2,000 per kilogram) take place in the US. There are more telephone lines in Manhattan than in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2006 Americans threw out three million tonnes of electronic goods. This so-called e-waste is the fastest-growing part of the waste stream. According to a government study carried out in 2008, Americans waste an astounding amount of food, an estimated 27% of the food available for consumption. This waste takes place in supermarkets, in restaurants and cafeterias and in homes. Supermarkets discard products which are past the freshness expiry date or have minor blemishes. Restaurants recklessly throw away surplus and unused food.
A study carried out at the University of Arizona in Tuscan in 2004 revealed that almost half the food in the US goes to waste. It was estimated that an average American family of four tosses out food worth $ 590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products. Household food waste alone adds up to nearly $ 43 billion a year. A recent study by the environmental protection agency has estimated that Americans generate roughly 30 million tonnes of food waste each year. Nearly all of this food waste ends up in landfills. And the rotting food in landfills produces methane, a major source of greenhouse gases.
Food worth billions of dollars is dumped each year in the US largely because of inefficiency and callousness. Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm, estimates the quantum of waste—known as “shrink” in the industry’s jargon—at 8-10% of total perishable goods in the country. Food worth nearly $ 20 billion was dumped by retailers in 2006. In a recent report published on May 14, 2008, the United Nations estimates that retailers and consumers in the US throw away food worth $ 48 billion each year. The shrink rates of American supermarkets and retailers are twice as high as those of European retailers.
Americans tend to overeat and consequently substantial numbers of them—an estimated 65 million adults, according to a government health survey—are overweight or obese, leading to 300,000 deaths annually and more than $ 100 million in annual health costs.
The economic downturn and the aftermath
On 15 September 2008, the announcement about the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers woke up millions of Americans from a deep slumber and made them realise, in the following months, that they were faced with the gloomy prospects of recession, job losses, homelessness and food shortages.
The American economy fell off a cliff in the last quarter of 2008 and into 2009, shrinking at a 6 per cent annual rate. The crisis was marked by a severe credit crisis, the worst since the early 1930s, and a sharp drop in demand for goods and services and capital investment, leading to a severe recession. Many businesses cannot get access to capital because of the breakdown of the financial system. The Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman points out that in large parts of the developed world, especially in the US, there is a sudden realisation by many people that they have too much debt, that they are not as rich as they thought. US households have seen their net worth decline abruptly by $13 trillion. The housing bubble collapsed in the US and across much of Europe as well as in Dubai.
In the US, the economic downturn has developed into a social crisis the country has not experienced since the Great Depression early in the 20th century. In addition to bringing down stock prices and corporate earnings, the current crisis has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of their livelihood. The labour market in the US has shed 4.4 million jobs since the downturn began in December 2007. The unemployment rate jumped to 8.1 per cent in February 2009, the highest in a quarter-century. By the end of 2010, unemployment in the US and in much of the rich world is likely to be above 10 per cent.
America has one of the lowest social safety nets in the developed world. About 50 million Americans have no health insurance and more people are being added to their ranks everyday. More than 32 million people in the US receive food stamps. Since the beginning of the crisis in the summer of 2007, the total number of the unemployed in the US has swelled by 6 million. From October to November 2008, the number of New Yorkers living below the poverty line suddenly jumped to 3 million. The government’s social safety net is insufficient to allow people who have lost their jobs to continue living their normal lives. The demand for the services of soup kitchens, which offer free meals to millions of people, has quadrupled. In New York City, free meals were provided to 1.3 million people in 2007. The Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan currently distributes 1,250 meals a day, but many people have to leave without having received a meal.
The number of homeless people in the US has grown since the crisis began, with many people living in their station wagons parked on streets or in parks. Thousands of people, including many people who are no longer able to pay their rent, have moved into inexpensive motels. There is a tent city in the Californian capital of Sacramento, home to the poorest of the poor and inhabited mainly by dropouts and drug addicts. In recent months, thousands of people who have been hit by the economic downturn have moved into tent cities which are growing all across the US.
This gloomy scenario has led to a spurt in crime rates. A week before Easter, a 34-year-old man in Washington State shot his five children before turning his gun on himself. A day earlier, a man killed 13 people at an immigrant resource centre and then took his own life. During the same month, a man from Priceville, Alabama, shot his wife, his sister, her 11-year-old son, his own 16-year-old daughter and, finally, himself. The euphoria over the election of the country’s first black president and his high flown rhetoric of change and hope—yes, we can!—is ebbing away.
The economic downturn has affected not only the US and other developed countries but also many developing nations and has made the world’s poor even more vulnerable. The World Bank estimates that some 53 million people worldwide are expected to fall below the level of extreme poverty this year. Britain’s Overseas Development Institute reckons that, as a result of recession in the donor countries, official aid to poor countries may fall by about a fifth, or $20 million, this year. The World Bank reckons that between 200,000 and 400,000 more children will die every year between now and 2015 than would have perished without the crisis.
Reinventing Islamic Education in Singapore
The students at Madrasa Al Irsyad al Islamiyah in Singapore begin the day with prayers to God and hymns in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, followed by instruction in the regular courses according to the national curriculum. The madrasa, which has 900 primary and secondary-level students, combines modern courses and new information and educational technology with lessons in Islam.
Madrasa Al Irsyad al Islamiyah is the top academic performer among Singapore’s six madrasas. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, a statutory board that advises the government on Muslim affairs, gave Al Irsyad a central spot in its new Islamic centre.
A chemistry class at Madrasa Al Irsyad al Islamiyah
Mohamed Muneer, a chemistry teacher at the madrasa, said most of his former students had gone on to junior colleges or polytechnic schools, while some top students attended the National University of Singapore. “Many became administrators, some are teaching and some joined the civil service,” he said.
Madrasa Al Irsyad al Islamiyah has inspired educators in Indonesia to set up similar institutions in the country. Two madrasas in Indonesia have already adopted Al Irsyad’s curriculum and management.
Harassment of Muslims by British Security Forces
The UK has been a key ally of the US in the so-called war on terror. The anti-terror campaign launched by the British security forces has hit many innocent people. A high court in London ordered the Metropolitan police on 18 March 2009 to pay £60,000 to a British Muslim who was subjected to “serious, gratuitous and prolonged” attack by the security forces at his house in southeast London. Babar Ahmad, who was falsely accused of raising funds for terrorism, had been punched, kicked and throttled during his arrest by police officers in December 2003. Officers stamped on Ahmad’s feet and repeatedly punched him in the head and shouted, “Where is your God now? Pray to him”. The police had repeatedly denied its involvement in the torture, but lawyers for the police force’s commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, admitted at the high court that Ahmad was indeed tortured by the police.
The court held that since no evidence had been produced against Ahmad and that he had never been charged with any offence, he should be set free and adequately compensated by the security forces.
Binyam Mohammad, an Ethiopian-born resident of Britain, was arrested in April 2002 in Karachi by Pakistani authorities, who later turned him over to American intelligence officials. After his interrogation there, he was taken on a CIA flight to a black site in Morocco, where he spent 18 months in detention and was tortured by the authorities. While in detention in Pakistan, the police hung him up by his wrists and he was not allowed to sleep for days together. In Morocco the torture got worse and they even cut his genitals with a razor blade. From Morocco he was brought to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he was subject to even more severe torture.
British authorities who knew that Mohammad was being held illegally in Morocco did not do anything for him. In February 2009, Mohammad’s former military prosecutor declared that he presented no threat to Britain or America, and all charges against him were dropped. Mohammad subsequently returned to the UK.
On 20 May 2009, five Muslim community workers accused MI5, Britain’s secret service, of waging a campaign of blackmail and harassment against Muslims in an attempt to recruit them as informants. They were given a choice of working for the Security Force or face detention and harassment in the UK or overseas. They have made official complaints to the police and to their local MP Frank Dobson. Three of the men said they were detained at foreign airports on the orders of MI5 after leaving Britain on family holidays last year. After they were sent back to the UK, MI5 officials falsely accused them of links to Islamic extremist groups. They also received intimidating phone calls and threats. Two other Muslim men said they were approached by MI5 at their homes after police officers posed as postmen. They were warned that if they did not help the security forces they would be considered terror suspects. An MI5 agent told Mohamed Nur, 25, a community youth worker from north London, “If you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you travel to that you are a suspected terrorist”.
Britain’s Science Museum’s links to Israel
The Science Museum, one of Britain’s most prestigious public institutions which attracts an average of 2.5 million visitors every year, , was embroiled in a controversy in March this year for promoting Israeli universities whose research was used in the recent Israeli military campaign in Gaza. The Zionist Federation planned to run the “educational seminars” at the Science Museum. More than 400 academics, including the Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire and the former chair of the Science Select Committee, urged the museum to cancel workshops that promoted Israeli scientific achievements to schoolchildren. The critics accused the museum of promoting scientists and universities which were “complicit in the Israeli occupation and in the policies and weaponry recently deployed to such disastrous effect in Gaza”. Professor Jonathan Rosenhead from the London School of Economics pointed out that there was a host of evidence to suggest that there exists a sinister link between Israel’s scientists and defence policies. The Israeli Ministry of Defence is currently funding 55 projects at the Tel Aviv University, which would play a major role in enhancing Israel’s military edge.
The museum authorities brushed aside the criticism and carried on with the planned activities amidst enhanced security.
The Loot of Iraq
The invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US-led coalition forces will be remembered as a sordid saga of wanton destruction, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and plunder. American authorities have now started to investigate the role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125 billion in the effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. A report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction suggests the missing sum could exceed $50 billion. “I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad,” said one American businessman active in Iraq since 2003. Iraqi leaders are convinced that the theft or waste of huge sums of US and Iraqi government money could not have happened without the connivance and complicity of senior US officials.
In 2004-05 the entire Iraq military procurement budget of $1.3 billion was siphoned off from the Iraqi Defence Ministry in return for obsolete Soviet-made helicopters and armoured cars. The New York Times recently reported that American federal investigators have started an inquiry into the actions of senior US officers involved in the programme to rebuild Iraq. Court records reveal that, in January 2009, investigators subpoenaed the bank records of Colonel Anthony B. Bell, who was responsible for contracting for the reconstruction effort in 2003 and 2004. Hopefully, the inquiry will expose the vast network of loot and plunder that accompanied the invasion and occupation of that hapless country.
Jewish Control over Global Media
Six Jewish companies own or control over 90 per cent of the global media network. The largest media conglomerate is Walt Disney Company, headed by Michael Eisner, a Jew. Walt Disney Company owns several television and video production companies and has its own cable network with 14 million subscribers. The company is also part owner of several European TV companies.
Time Warner, the second largest media empire, is headed by Gerald Levin, a Jew. Time Warner’s subsidiary HBO is America’s largest pay-television cable network. Warner Music is the world’s largest record company. In addition to cable and music, Time Warner is also involved in the production of feature films and publishing. Time Warner’s publishing division is the largest magazine publisher in the US, which brings out Time, Sports Illustrated, People and Fortune.
Viacom Inc, headed by a Jew, is the third largest media corporation in the US, with revenues of over $10 billion a year. It produces feature films through Paramount Pictures. Its publishing division includes Prentice Hall, Simon and Schuster and Pocket Books. Viacom is the world’s largest provider of cable programming through its Showtime, MTV and other networks.
The world’s fourth largest media conglomerate is Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation, which owns Fox Television and 20th Century Fox Films. Though Murdock is a Christian, Peter Chermin, who heads Murdock’s film studio and oversees his TV production, is a Jew.
The fifth largest global media network is the Japanese Sony Corporation, whose US subsidiary, Sony Corporation of America, is run by Michael Schulhof, a Jew. The president and CEO of the Seagram Company, which owns MCA and Universal Pictures, is Edgar Bronfman Jr, who is also president of the World Jewish Congress.
Jews have controlled the production and distribution of Hollywood films since the inception of the movie industry in the early decades of the 20th century. A survey of 900 Hollywood film appearances of Arab characters found that the vast majority of them were racist caricatures. Images of ordinary Muslims and of Muslim societies are almost non-existent or distorted in Western media. Islam: What the West Needs to Know is a documentary film premiered at the American Film Renaissance Festival in Hollywood on January 15, 2006 and was also distributed on the web. The film argues that Islam is a violent religion and that Islamic violence is enshrined in the teachings of the Prophet and that the Quran sanctions and prescribes violence against non-Muslims.
Nearly 75 per cent of America’s 1500 newspapers belong to multi-newspaper chains. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, which dominate the country’s financial and political capitals, are in Jewish hands. They set the trends for nearly all the other newspapers. The Washington Post has a number of other media holdings in newspapers, magazines and television, notably America’s number two weekly newsmagazine, Newsweek, which has a subscription of 2.3 million. The Wall Street Journal, which sells 1.8 million copies each day, is America’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. Time, with a weekly circulation of 4.1 million, is published by a subsidiary of Time Warner Communications. Three of the six largest book publishers in the US are owned or controlled by Jews.
Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West
A controversial hate film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was made by the New York-based Clarion Fund in 2006. An unnamed Canadian Jewish businessman provided nearly 80 per cent of the film’s $400,000 budget. The film portrays Islam as posing a threat to Western civilization and compares the Islamic threat with that of Nazism before World War II. The film features scenes of Muslim children being urged to become suicide bombers, interspersed with incendiary and demonising commentary on Islam.
The film was initially promoted via the Internet and later through screenings at various university campuses in the US. It was also distributed at Jewish synagogues and Christian churches across the country. Parts of the movie were shown on CNN and Fox News. Some newspapers, including the New York Times, distributed nearly 145,000 DVDs of the film. About 28 million DVDs of the film were freely distributed by direct mail and through more than 70 American newspapers in 10 key electoral swing states just before the 2008 presidential elections.
A US Muslim advocacy group, the Council for American-Islamic Relations, has sought an investigation by the Federal Election Commission about the Clarion Fund that distributed the DVDs of the film. The Council said the Clarion Fund could be a front for an Israel-based group, which sought to help John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate. The Patriot News of Harrisburg reported that the Clarion Fund’s website ran a pro-McCain article before it attracted notice and was taken down. The Council has asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether the Clarion Fund violated election rules governing the contributions of charitable organisations and foreign nationals to a presidential campaign.