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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 22-Oct-2013
22-Oct-13 World View -- Police crackdown tries to control exploding violence in Karachi, Pakistan

Web Log - October, 2013

22-Oct-13 World View -- Police crackdown tries to control exploding violence in Karachi, Pakistan

UK throws out 30% of all the food it grows

This morning's key headlines from

Police crackdown tries to control exploding violence in Karachi, Pakistan

Paramilitary soldiers arrest suspects in a residential area in Karachi (AFP)
Paramilitary soldiers arrest suspects in a residential area in Karachi (AFP)

Officials are bragging that they've arrested or killed over 5,000 "criminals" (killers, extortionists and kidnappers) in Karachi, Pakistan, in a massive operation that was launched last month on September 7. In addition, the police recovered 1,209 arms and 52 bombs.

The police operation was launched because of an explosion of violence in the last few years. Last year there were 2,124 people killed on the streets. This year there were 2,058 murders just till the end of September, but "only" 155 of those were in September, indicating that the police crackdown is having some effect.

Karachi is the economic center of Pakistan, and contains highly volatile mix of different ethnic and religious groups, many of whom openly hate each other, and others of whom just hate everyone.

There are the Mohajirs, who are Urdu­speaking migrants from northern India who came to Pakistan following Partition, the 1947 partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, leading to a horrific war between Hindus and Muslims. There are the Pashtuns, a major ethnic group mainly in northwest Pakistan, but which in recent years has been moving south into Karachi in order to escape the Taliban violence. To pursue their territorial, economic and political interests, both the Awami National Party (ANP), which represents the Pashtuns, and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), which represents Mohajirs, are increasingly turning to violence through proxy forces. If that isn't bad enough, Karachi is increasingly the home of terrorists from Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP, the Pakistan Taliban). Dawn (Pakistan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) and The Diplomat

The cost of Obamacare

The facts and figures about the Obamacare web site just keep pouring out in gruesome detail. It's like watching a traffic accident. You have to slow down, and you can't take your eyes off of it, despite the horror of it.

According to one analyst I heard on tv on Monday, cost $300 million to develop, much higher than the $93.7 million that we heard last week. According to that analyst, that means 1.5 million man-hours at $200 per hour. Can I get one of those jobs?

The NY Times is quoting one analyst as follows:

"One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly."

Given that 1.5 million man-hours have already been spent on this project, the figure of 5 million lines of code needing rewriting is quite plausible.

As I've said several times in the last few days, I've had a lot of personal experience with IT disasters, and this is easily the worst I've seen. ( "15-Oct-13 World View -- Aetna CEO predicts Obamacare IT failures until 2017") The prediction by Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini may be optimistic, in the sense that this web site may never work. Slate

UK throws out 30% of all the food it grows

UK food waste figures (BBC/Getty)
UK food waste figures (BBC/Getty)

According to a survey conducted by the UK supermarket chain Tesco, every family in the UK wastes an estimated $1,200 per year, throwing away food. Tesco found that 68% of salad sold in bags is thrown out, 50% of bakery items, 40% of apples, 25% of grapes, and 20% of bananas.

I've seen stories like this before. The Tesco study only covers food that reached Tesco's shelves, but I saw a story last year that claimed that if you add in the amount of food that's thrown out by farmers and distributors, then 30-40% of all food grown in the UK is thrown out. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted - around 1.3 billion tons per year.

My reaction to this story is: What the hell is going on? Can't some of this food be shipped to starving people in Africa and Asia? Or starving people in Europe, for that matter.

Every now and then I do a story on how food prices have been rising fairly steadily since the 1990s. (See, for example "21-Nov-10 News -- Food prices skyrocket to 2008 crisis levels" from 2010.) My conclusion is that rising food prices is destabilizing populations, especially in megacities, where children have to search through garbage dumps to find food for their families to eat.

And the obvious question is this: Why are people starving when one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted? Why doesn't some smart entrepreneur start a business shipping wasted food from UK to Africa?

The answer, unfortunately, is that food is cheap only when you can grow it yourself, or it's grown nearby. Food is horrendously expensive when it has to be shipped somewhere. Grown food is very heavy, since a lot of it is mostly water, so shipping costs are high. And most grown food has to be refrigerated if it's not going to be eaten right away, which makes shipping costs astronomical. And if an apple is shipped for a long time, it's not going to look very good, so the entrepreneur won't make any money charging higher prices.

So, unfortunately, food prices are going to continue to go up, and the starvation problem is only going to grow worse, especially in megacities, where food has to be shipped in from long distances. BBC and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Oct-13 World View -- Police crackdown tries to control exploding violence in Karachi, Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Oct-2013) Permanent Link
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