Global Food Crisis
Food prices have spiked around the world over the past year, bringing hunger and unrest to many developing countries, along with pain at the checkout counter for lower-income American families. In North Korea, for example, where 35 percent of the population is undernourished, the price of the major food staple, rice, soared 186 percent between 2007 and 2008, and overall food prices rose 70 percent. With 2.1 billion people living on less than $2 a day and 880 million living on less than $1 a day, such price increases may plunge hundreds of millions into malnutrition and starvation. Drought in food-exporting countries, high oil prices that make food transport pricey, and a growing diversion of corn for use as a biofuel all play roles in the price spike. The crisis has sparked international tensions, including disgruntlement over wealthy nations’ meat-heavy diets, which take many more resources to produce than grain- or legume-based diets.
By Marcia Clemmitt
Politics and Race
When Barack Obama was born, in 1961, people with skin his color were denied the right to vote in parts of the United States. Now, in the weeks leading up to the late-August Democratic convention, poll data show him running virtually even with the presumptive Republican nominee, war hero Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The Illinois senator did win a tough primary contest, but lost key races marked by significant race-based resistance, especially among some white working-class voters. Obama is trying to rise above America’s racial divide, pointing proudly to both sides of his mixed ancestry. Leading Republicans argue that political differences alone – not race – will decide the general election, but some Democrats scoff at the claim, even while arguing that prejudice in the United States has eroded enough for Obama to win.
By Peter Katel
Human Rights in China
As the curtain rises in August on the 2008 Summer Olympics in the Chinese capital of Beijing, not only the world’s best athletes but also China’s human-rights record will be on display for all to judge. Nineteen years after its violent suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square, China is trying to present a new face to the world that showcases its hypersonic economic growth and embrace of what it calls the “rule of law.” But human-rights advocates say that behind the sheen of Chinese progress and prosperity lurk repression and brutality that have grown worse – not better – with the approach of the Beijing games. The Communist Party of China continues to stifle dissent, trample basic freedoms of speech, religion and assembly and commit or abet other abuses that make China one of the world’s worst human-rights offenders, they argue. Chinese government officials say their nation has made huge strides on the legal and human-rights fronts and that the West has no business interfering in China’s internal affairs.
By Thomas J. Billitteri