Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The top 65 ways Israel is saving our planet

When 22-year-old Emmannuel Buso was pulled barely-alive from the rubble of a three-story building 10 days after an earthquake devastated the island of Haiti, the first faces he saw were those of the Israeli rescue workers who had flown across the world to save lives.

For Haji Edum, from Zanzibar, his life-saving moment came twice, when he was flown at age 15, and then again at 23, to Israel for open-heart surgery. He is just one of thousands of youngsters to receive emergency heart care from volunteer doctors in Israel.

War veterans suffering post-traumatic stress in the US; farmers in Senegal, India and China; young women in South Sudan; the wheelchair-bound in Africa; cardiac patients in Gaza and Iraq – all have received life-changing help and expertise from Israeli specialists.

Today we all know the story of Israel the startup nation. News of its technological prowess and incredible innovation has spread far and wide. But what many people don’t know is that Israel is exporting far more than just technology. It is also sharing its experience and skills in a whole range of humanitarian and environmental fields to help people everywhere live better, fuller and healthier lives.

Since Israel was founded in 1948, the country has set itself the goal of becoming a light unto the nations. In the early years of the state, despite austerity rationing, the Israeli government founded MASHAV, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Center for International Cooperation, as a vehicle to share Israel’s creative solutions with the rest of the developing world.

Israel remains true to that vision and every year, with little fanfare, and sometimes very little press attention, Israelis work long hours to find solutions and offer relief to some of the most pressing problems of our times.

From environmental breakthroughs that will help reduce greenhouse emissions, to technologies that can increase food production and save vital crops, to humanitarian aid missions in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters, Israelis are providing significant assistance.

To celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, ISRAEL21c takes a look at some of the many creative and varied ways Israel is helping to enrich and improve our planet.

The list comes in no particular order, and is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds, if not thousands, more worthy projects going on every day. If you’ve got a project worth hearing about, we’d be delighted if you include it in our comments section at the end.

1. An Israeli company is developing a toilet that needs no water, and generates its own power to turn solid waste (including toilet roll) into sterile and odorless fertilizer in 30 seconds. Liquid waste is sterilized and then used to flush the toilet. Developer Paulee CleanTec has been awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which reports that about 80 percent of human waste goes into rivers and streams untreated, and 1.1 billion people don’t use a toilet.

2. Fifty years ago, Lake Victoria carp was a significant part of the diet of Ugandan villagers. But when Nile perch was introduced to the lake, it decimated the carp population. Villagers had neither the equipment nor the expertise to catch the huge perch, and symptoms of protein deficiency started becoming apparent in their children.

Prof. Berta Sivan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem came to the rescue with a multiyear project to help these African families. Using expertise developed in Israel, her project not only successfully spawned carp on Ugandan fish farms, but also provided training on how to dig and fill ponds and raise the small fish. Now local children have an abundant supply of protein.

3. About 50 percent of every grain and pulse harvest in the developing world is lost to pests and mold, but an Israeli scientist has developed a surprisingly simple and cheap way for African and Asian farmers to keep their grain market-fresh. International food technology consultant Prof. Shlomo Navarro invented huge bags, now marketed by US company GrainPro, which keep both water and air out. The bags are in use all over the developing world, including Africa and the Far East, and even in countries that don’t have diplomatic ties with Israel.

4. In January 2010, Israel won international praise for the speed and expertise with which it responded to a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti that killed 300,000 people, injured hundreds of thousands and laid waste to the poverty-stricken country.

A team of 240 Israeli doctors, nurses, rescue and relief workers arrived in Haiti just days after the quake, bringing medicines, communications and medical equipment. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) volunteers set up the country’s most advanced and well-equipped field hospital in the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Israeli search-and-rescue missions pulled survivors from the rubble, saving many Haitians, including a man trapped for 10 days.

The delegation included volunteers from IsraAID, the IDF, ZAKA, Magen David Adom (MADA), Tevel B’Tzedek, the Negev Institute, and Alyn Hospital. It was the largest Israeli civilian relief mission ever assembled, and was one of the biggest and most skilled on the island.

In the wake of the disaster, Israel continues to send aid and assistance, including educational projects, trauma programs, micro-financing, development and relief work, rebuilding of communities and schools, aid packages, empowerment for women, and medical assistance.

5. The invention of drip irrigation by Israeli Simcha Blass and its development by Netafim, and later Plastro and NaanDan Jain, has completely revolutionized agriculture across the world, enabling farmers to increase their yields with less water. Constantly upgraded Israeli drip-irrigation techniques are regularly shared with other countries through MASHAV, Israel’s Center for International Cooperation.

6. Tal-Ya Water Technologies has developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent. The square serrated trays, made from non-PET recycled and recyclable plastic with UV filters and a limestone additive, surround each plant or tree. With overnight temperature change, dew forms on both surfaces of the Tal-Ya tray, which funnels the dew and condensation straight to the roots. If it rains, the trays – which are now on sale – heighten the effect of each millimeter of water 27 times over.

7. About 1.6 million children under the age of five die from untreated drinking water in developing nations every year. An Israeli company has developed a water purification system that delivers safe drinking water from almost any source, including contaminated water, seawater and even urine.

WaterSheer’s Sulis personal water purifier is a small 10-gram mouthpiece that attaches to the top of a water bottle. The company has also developed systems to treat large quantities of water.

Sulis has been used in Taiwan, Myanmar and Haiti, and will be part of contingency plans in case of disaster at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

8. Israel is building a model agricultural village in South Sudan to teach local farmers about Israeli agricultural methods and technologies to help the fledgling African nation thrive.

9. In plants in China, Italy and the United States, Israeli company Seambiotic is using algae to turn carbon dioxide emitted by power plants into fuel and nutraceuticals. The company’s algae ponds, which are nourished by power plant effluent and sunlight, generate 30 times more feedstock for biofuel than do crop alternatives. The algae are a good source of valuable nutraceuticals, especially popular in China and the East.

Seambiotic is also working with the US National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a commercially feasible biofuel variety from algae that has a higher freezing point than biofuels from corn or sugarcane.

10. The lives of thousands of endangered animals in West and Central Africa are being saved thanks to the tireless efforts of Israeli law enforcement activist Ofir Drori, who founded the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) in Cameroon, the first wildlife law-enforcement NGO in Africa.

The organization helped propagate a zero-tolerance approach to illegal wildlife trafficking in Cameroon, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests and prosecutions. The model has been replicated throughout West and Central Africa in activities that go beyond nature conservation to the defense of human rights.

Much more HERE


Healthcare for the Poor: An Alternative to Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act is expected to add up to 16 million more Medicaid enrollees and will significantly expand eligibility for families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the newly eligible, newly enrolled populations and 95 percent of costs through 2019. However, hidden costs will strain state budgets, and states will still find their share unaffordable.

The Cost of Enrolling the Already Eligible

An estimated 10 million to 13 million uninsured people are already eligible for Medicaid—but not enrolled. When the individual mandate to obtain health coverage takes effect in 2014, many states will find the cost of their Medicaid programs higher as a result.

For example, a decade after the new law’s implementation, Texas Medicaid rolls are predicted by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to rise by 2.4 million people. Of these, only 1.5 million enrollees will be newly eligible, so a significant share of the cost for the remaining 9 million will have to be borne by the state.[1]

Low Medicaid Provider Payments

On the average, reimbursements for Medicaid providers are only about 59 percent of what a private insurer would pay for the same service, but as shown below, it varies from state-to-state.[2]

*    New York pays primary care physicians only about 29 percent of what private insurers pay for primary care.

*   The comparable figure in New Jersey is 33 percent.

*    California pays primary care providers 38 percent of what private insurers pay.

*   Texas reimburses primary care physicians for about 55 percent of what private insurers pay.

Low provider reimbursement rates make it more difficult for Medicaid enrollees to find physicians willing to treat them. Initially, the federal government will bear the cost of raising Medicaid provider fees to Medicare levels—but only for two years, 2014 and 2015. Then the rates will fall back to their previous levels, or the states will bear much of the cost of keeping Medicaid provider fees at a level necessary to ensure enough physicians are willing to participate in the program.

Lower Payment to Safety Net Hospitals

Disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments are used to compensate hospitals that treat a disproportionate share of indigent and uninsured patients. The federal government distributes about $12 billion annually to offset part of the cost.

The ACA reduces DSH payments by about one-quarter, on average, through 2019. Beginning in 2018, annual reductions are about $5 billion per year. The federal government will initially deduct about three-quarters of hospitals’ historic allotment and then give back a portion of the funding reduction using complex formulas. The rationale is that as more patients have coverage, hospitals will have fewer uninsured patients. However, 23 million people will remain uninsured—some of whom may seek uncompensated care. States may have to bear some of the additional costs if their hospitals are to stay solvent.

Crowd Out of Private Insurance

Many of the newly insured under Medicaid will likely be those who previously had private coverage. Research dating back to the 1990s consistently confirms that when Medicaid eligibility is expanded, 50 percent to 75 percent of the newly enrolled are those who have dropped private coverage.[3]

A Better Solution: Give the States Control Over Medicaid

A good argument can be made for abolishing Medicaid. Given the freedom to spend the same money in other ways, state governments should be able to deliver more care and better care. Even if they decide to retain the basic structure of Medicaid, the states can implement a slew of reforms that will lower costs, improve quality and increase access to care.

The most straightforward solution is to give the states their share of Medicaid dollars with no strings attached except the requirement to spend the money on indigent care. The fairest allocation system is to let each state’s block grant reflect the proportion of the nationwide poverty population living in the state.



The joy of working longer hours in the Industrial Revolution

There's an interesting piece over at Bloomberg talking about those longer working hours that turned up with the Industrial Revolution. You know, the ones where the peasantry had to be whipped off the fields and into the factories so that the filthy capitalists could exploit them:
First, working-class writers put a very different spin on the increase in working hours that accompanied industrialization. The autobiographies make clear that in pre- industrial Britain, there simply wasn’t enough work to go around. As a result, few people were fully employed throughout the year. This gave them leisure time, but it also left most families eking out an uncomfortable living on the margins. The lack of consistent employment also forced workers to stay in positions that were unsuitable or grossly exploitative.

That the people suffering under such exploitation thought it was a good thing does rather change what should be our view of said exploitation. And it's also not clear precisely who had the power here:
Higher levels of employment also helped change the balance of power between master and laborer. So long as jobs remained scarce, workers, by necessity, obeyed their employers. The price of dissent or disobedience was unemployment. With more jobs, such subservience became less and less necessary. In the booming new industrial towns, workers could, and did, walk out on employers over relatively minor matters, confident that finding more work wouldn’t be difficult.

Or, as I might put it, the only thing worse than being exploited by a capitalist factory owner is not being exploited by a capitalist factory owner.

I will admit thought that I'm always very wary of people giving us pre-industrial working hours. There's a terrible tendency to only include paid working hours as working hours. And of course in a rural, largely subsistence, economy paid working hours are indeed few and far between. But that doesn't mean that each day isn't full of unrelenting labour: there's still the potato patch to dig, the firewood to be collected, the pigs to run for acorns, the cow to milk and muck out and so on. Indeed, when we get back to feudal times working hours seem to be measured as only the work that was done for the feudal lord. Which is obviously nonsense: that's the work that was done to pay the rent and pay the rent only. Think it through: one source tells us that villeins had 70 days a year holiday. Seriously? An animal keeping peasant has 70 days off a year? What the heck happens to all the animals?

But back to the effect of the industrial revolution: did it actually improve the lives of those sucked into the factories or not? Was Marx correct on the immiseration or not?

One very useful number that I've seen recently (offline, so no link) is the difference between farmhand wages in the North and the South. In the 1830s, 1840s, Somerset and Dorset were almost untouched by the new industries: farmhand wages were of the order of 8 shillings a week. Up north the entire countryside was littered with cotton mills and whippet flange factories. Farmhand wages were 16 to 18 shillings a week. The farmers had to pay double the wages to stop their labour going off to exploit the capitalists in the factories.

I'm still not entirely sure that the industrial revolution did lead to longer working hours. Longer paid working hours, most certainly yes, but really not sure about the combination of paid and subsistence hours. On the other hand I am absolutely certain that the factories improved the living conditions of those who worked in them. And I don't think us moderns quite understand the misery of a subsistence peasant lifestyle: if we did we'd understand a great deal better why people flocked to those factories and mines as they did.

Of course, if any of our Marxist inclined confreres were minded to actually find out about why people did so all they've got to do is buy a ticket to China and go ask the people in the factories there. "So, why did you live a life of rural idiocy and destitution to earn five times the wages making iPads?" would seem to be a useful start to such an interrogation.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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