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Washington's enemies in the world remained remarkably modest-sized (though blown to enormous proportions in the American media echo-chamber). They included a couple of rickety regional powers (Iran and North Korea), a minority insurgency or two, and relatively small groups of Islamist "terrorists." Otherwise, as one gauge of power on the planet, no more than a handful of other countries had even a handful of military bases outside their territory.
Under the circumstances, nothing could have been stranger than this: in its moment of total ascendancy, the Earth's sole superpower with a military of staggering destructive potential and technological sophistication couldn't win a war against minimally armed guerillas. Even more strikingly, despite having no serious opponents anywhere, it seemed not on the rise but on the decline, its infrastructure rotting out, its populace economically depressed, its wealth ever more unequally divided, its Congress seemingly beyond repair, while the great sucking sound that could be heard was money and power heading toward the national security state. Sooner or later, all empires fall, but this moment was proving curious indeed.
And then, of course, there was China. On the planet that humanity has inhabited these last several thousand years, can there be any question that China would have been the obvious pick to challenge, sooner or later, the dominion of the reigning great power of the moment? Estimates are that it will surpass the US as the globe's number one economy by perhaps 2030.
Right now, the Obama administration seems to be working on just that assumption. With its well-publicized "pivot" (or "rebalancing") to Asia, it has been moving to "contain" what it fears might be the next great power. However, while the Chinese are indeed expanding their military and challenging their neighbors in the waters of the Pacific, there is no sign that the country's leadership is ready to embark on anything like a global challenge to the US, nor that it could do so in any conceivable future. Its domestic problems, from pollution to unrest, remain staggering enough that it's hard to imagine a China not absorbed with domestic issues through 2030 and beyond.
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The present capitalist model (the only one available) for a rising power, whether China, India, or Brazil, is also a model for planetary decline, possibly of a precipitous nature. The very definition of success—more middle-class consumers, more car owners, more shoppers, which means more energy used, more fossil fuels burned, more greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—is also, as it never would have been before, the definition of failure. The greater the "success," the more intense the droughts, the stronger the storms, the more extreme the weather, the higher the rise in sea levels, the hotter the temperatures, the greater the chaos in low-lying or tropical lands, the more profound the failure. The question is: Will this put an end to the previous patterns of history, including the until-now-predictable rise of the next great power, the next empire? On a devolving planet, is it even possible to imagine the next stage in imperial gigantism?
|When BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, it hemorrhaged roughly 210 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. We know now, thanks to recent court hearings and settlements, that all this happened because oil-company managers were cutting corners on safety, and the federal government’s monitoring system for offshore drilling was broken.
We also know that it wasn’t the first time oil companies had spilled in the Gulf. What we don’t know — and probably never will — is how much oil has been spilled. Even now, three years after the Deepwater disaster, many spills go unreported. And now we’re learning that even when companies report spills, they sometimes try to deceive regulatory agencies and the public into thinking their spills caused no harm to Gulf waters.
A recent Department of Justice case offers a glimpse into a practice that some industry workers say is commonplace in offshore operations. The case revealed that one Gulf-based oil company failed to report a major spill it was responsible for in 2009, and had some of its workers “collect” fake water samples so that federal authorities would think no contamination occurred.
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The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement was formed after the Deepwater spill as a way to beef up federal monitoring of offshore drilling operations. But the bureau has failed to perform any safety audits of companies operating in the Gulf. According to another report from Hammer, BSEE had one audit scheduled last year, but then cancelled it for unexplained reasons.
|The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world's toughest place to raise children, Save the Children reports.
Finland was named the best place to be a mother, with Sweden and Norway following in second and third places.
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The charity says that lack of nutrition is key to high mother and infant mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, with 10-20% of mothers underweight.
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Surprisingly, the report found that the US has the highest death rate in newborns in the industrialised world, with 11,300 babies dying on the day they are born each year.
The charity says this is due in part to the US's large population, as well as the high number of babies born too early. The US has one of the highest preterm birth rates in the world at a rate of one in eight.
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Troubling new numbers estimate that up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, according to survey results released on Tuesday.
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The report says that of the 1.4 million active duty personnel, 6.1 percent of active duty women - or 12,100 - say they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, a sharp increase over the 8,600 who said that in 2010.
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In a sharp rebuke on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he has no tolerance for the problem and that he had talked to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel about it. He said any military member found guilty of sexual assault should be held accountable, prosecuted and fired.
"I don't want just more speeches or awareness programs or training, or ultimately folks look the other way," the president said. "We're going to have to not just step up our game, we have to exponentially step up our game to go after this hard."