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Falling Birthrates
Nations around the globe worry that falling birthrates will cause severe economic problems, including shortages of workers to pay into Social Security system to support ever-growing numbers of retirees. Japan is already facing labor shortages and declining demand for its products. And Europe, the United Kingdom, China and the United States are also worried about the future. Politicians are casting about for solutions, including cutting government spending on the elderly and letting older people work longer. Meanwhile, the nonprofit organization Civic Ventures is matching up people who are of retirement age with new, socially conscious careers. They argue that rather than increasing birthrates, one solution to the coming Social Security crisis is having older people work longer. But critics say that defeats the purpose of retirement and isn’t a realistic solution.
By Sarah Glazer

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
As climate change rises on the government’s policy agenda -- and an economic crisis looms -- more and more consumers are trying to change their behavior so they pollute and consume less. To reduce their individual so-called carbon footprints, many are cutting gasoline and home-heating consumption, choosing locally grown food and recycling. While such actions are important in curbing global warming, the extent to which consumers can reduce or reverse broad-scale environmental damage is open to debate. Corporate and government policy must lead the way, many environmental advocates say. And well-intentioned personal actions can have unintended consequences that cancel out positive effects.
By Thomas J. Billitteri

Mexico’s Drug War
A violent drug war between police and vicious drug gangs is escalating just over the border in Mexico – and causing concern among U.S. law enforcement officials and the incoming Obama administration. The cartels already effectively control significant stretches on the Mexican side of the border, and they’re establishing themselves on the U.S. side. More than 4,000 people have been killed this year compared with 2,500 last year. Some victims have been beheaded. Mexican soldiers and police fighting the narcos are among the victims, along with journalists and innocent civilians. The Bush administration has stepped up security assistance to Mexico, but the aid hasn’t dented the gangs’ firepower, which depends on smuggled U.S. weapons. Moreover, extraditing drug kingpins to the United States seems only to have spurred the conflict, by creating new opportunities for rival gangs.
By Peter Katel