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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since June 2011

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Hope and the Struggle for Equality

June 16, 2011 ·

Capital Pride, the annual week-long celebration of the LGBT community in Washington, D.C. concluded this past Sunday. Capital Pride spokesperson Scott Lusk described the week's events as a huge success; the nation's third-largest Pride event drew hundreds of thousands, including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Broadway star Jennifer Holiday, and corporate sponsors ranging from Saab to Macy's.

Yet while this past week gives cause for hope, the fight for gay rights and equality is hardly over. Far too many continue to be viciously harassed, barred from serving their country, and unable to marry or start a family.

In September 2010, Dan Savage began the "It Gets Better" campaign to reassure LGBT youth that a better, happier future awaits them. But gay youth continue to be bullied at nearly three times the rate of their straight counterparts, and a string of gay suicides in September and October 2010 reminded us of what is at stake. In February 2011, Obama stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to between a man and a woman. But gay marriage is outlawed in over three-quarters of states and gay parents face significant hurdles when trying to adopt children, despite the growing number that seek adoption. In December 2010, Congress struck down "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell." But this April, the Air Force discharged an airman because of his sexuality.  

And in perhaps the latest and nearest setback, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond has come under attack for flying a rainbow flag in honor of gay pride month. The New York Times reported that Bob Marshall, a Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates, wrote a letter to the bank’s president in opposition to the gesture. He wrote that gay and lesbian "behavior undermines the American economy, shortens lives, adds significantly to illness, increases health costs, [and] promotes venereal diseases."

Aside from being obviously offensive and unethical, Marshall's statement is factually incorrect. In fact, if gay marriage were legalized in all 50 states, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates an annual U.S. budget revenue increase of $1 billion each year for 10 years. On the whole, Marshall’s statement is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to generate fear among Americans, to "otherize" the gay community so that gay people appear to be societal menaces, somehow less than human. This tactic is not new. Recall those who argued that allowing interracial marriage would destroy the fabric of society, or those who believed that affording women the right to vote would lead to political chaos. We as a society should see past the ignorance in this mass hysteria. This is especially important as gay rights issues come to the fore for many states, with New York, for instance, poised to legalize gay marriage within the month.

On Saturday, I was proud to follow the Capital Pride parade from Dupont Circle to Thomas Circle. I marched for my friends, and for the countless others who have yet to experience full equality. And I envision a future in which we no longer talk about "gay" rights and "gay" marriage, in which we no longer classify or exclude others on the basis of their sexual orientation. Now is the time to act.

Nikita Lalwani is an Institute for Policy Studies intern, managing editor of The Yale Globalist, and a Yale Daily News staff writer.

The Lineup: Week of June 13-19, 2011

June 13, 2011 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Wenonah Hauter calls for a ban on gas "fracking" and Jim Hightower miraculously finds the humor in the GOP's efforts to kill Medicare. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

 

  1. Blowing the Whistle / Lacy MacAuley
  2. No Fracking Way / Wenonah Hauter
  3. America Shouldn't Scrimp on Food Safety / Amanda Hitt
  4. Enough Budget Slashing, Let's Flip / Shannon Moriarty
  5. Stay Healthy / Donald Kaul
  6. The GOP's Medicare Lies / Jim Hightower
  7. Segregation Still Strong 150 Years after the Civil War Began / William A. Collins
  8. Dr. Toughlove / Khalil Bendib

Dr. Toughlove

Building Resilience: The New Economy in the Shell of the Old

June 13, 2011 ·

This post originally appeared on Shareable.net.

On a Thursday night around 6 p.m., people gathered for the fourth meeting of my Resilience Circle. We were in the social hall of the local Congregational Church, a big churchy room with folding tables and chairs. The meeting started with a potluck. The Clearys arrived with some pickles and olives they’d preserved themselves. In her softly unassuming way, Sarah Cleary began talking about how easy it is to can some of your own food.

Luka, the facilitator, called everyone together and kicked off the session with the exchanging of “Gifts and Needs.” Participants had written their gifts – things they could offer – on one set of note-cards and their needs on another. Luka himself started. “I can give bike tune-ups,” he said, placing a note card into the center of the circle. “And I’d love to learn how to hem my own pants.”

A few moments later, after two others also said that they’d like to learn to sew, Sharon offered to run a sewing class for the group. And moments after that, I was somehow scheduling a time for the pastor of the church to cut my hair, a skill she had learned around the edges of her divine pursuits. A dog-sitting/child-care exchange began to bud. People began brainstorming about how to find and share a 20-foot ladder. Lots of folks offered to help Sarah weed her garden in exchange for veggies. I asked her if she could help us organize a community-wide canning workshop.

Exchanges like this are popping up in Resilience Circles around the country, sometimes known as common security clubs. We like to say we’re slowly “flexing our mutual aid muscles” since they’ve gotten so badly out of shape.

I began working as the Resilience Circle Organizer about six months ago, having just ended a job in a non-profit focused on policy change. At that job, we worked ruthlessly and relentlessly for financial reform and, ultimately, saw the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. We were in the midst of the perfect opportunity to start creating a new economy through federal policy. Wall Street had just crashed our economy. There was widespread agreement that the banking sector should be reined in. What better moment to end the practices that drove us off the economic cliff?

But as most people know, this didn’t happen. The sad truth is that the new law takes some great steps, but doesn’t get the job done. Even sadder, funding for the agencies which are supposed to police Wall Street is now at risk. This could torpedo the reforms in one of those horrible off-the-radar moves that Washington is so good at. All this to say that attempting to do policy change as an organizer or regular activist is damn hard. It’s draining. How can we keep up our energy when it seems that no matter what we do, the rules always favor the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us?

For me, Resilience Circle organizing has been the perfect antidote to this sense of helplessness. With or without Washington on board, I now see that small groups of people can – and are – creating a new, shareable, and sustainable economy from the ground up. And in this time of overwhelming economic uncertainty, people are exploring a new kind of security based on community ties instead of the acquisition of stuff.

In Resilience Circles, we say three things need to happen to make a transition to a new economy: we need a new story about the economy that dismantles the myth of “recovery;” we need stronger communities; and we need new “rules” – i.e. new policies befitting a democracy instead of rule by a corporate elite. To make this happen, Resilience Circles learn together, engage in mutual aid, and take social action. A (free and open source!) curriculum provides a guide for facilitators to lead groups through seven initial sessions. From there, groups pick their own projects and self-facilitate.

I now see clearly that connected communities are essential if we’re to beat the rich and powerful elite who keep the system rigged. No matter how many e-mails we send, isolated individuals calling for change can easily be ignored, whereas networked groups of committed citizens can get things done. And, community keeps us motivated and energized by showing us that we have lots to offer each other. Cheesy as it sounds, it shows us that we have lots to share, from hair cuts to veggies to a 20-foot ladder.

All of this is slowly unfolding in my Resilience Circle, and in the Circles I talk to around the country. It’s transformative, hopeful, and fun.

Get involved – start or join a Resilience Circle in your neighborhood. Visit our website for info.

A New Fund Could Revolutionize the Global Health Landscape

June 10, 2011 ·

This week, the United Nations is hosting its General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS, for which roughly 3,000 people and 30 Heads of State have flocked to New York to evaluate the past three decades of AIDS research and activism. This meeting provides an excellent backdrop against which to assess the current state of global health. Like many diseases, AIDS disproportionately affects people in developing countries. For example, according to the latest UN statistics, roughly 25 percent of the adult population in Lesotho and Swaziland suffer from the disease, as compared to 0.6 percent in the United States and 0.2 percent in the United Kingdom. The UN reported in 2007 that 95 percent of people afflicted by AIDS live in poor countries, with 76 percent of AIDS-related deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

But such disparity is preventable, according to Incentives for Global Health, a new NGO. This group — with an advisory board that includes among others philosophers Peter Singer and Baroness Onora O'Neill, economist Amartya Sen, and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — envisions a future in which everyone may access quality medication through a proposed "Health Impact Fund." The problem, the group's members argue, is that the current system of drug development and sales hurts the poor.

"Despite relatively low manufacturing costs, patented medicines are often very expensive and are therefore unaffordable for most people; and diseases concentrated among the poor attract little or no pharmaceutical research," wrote the group's leaders Yale Professor Thomas Pogge and University of Calgary Professor Aidan Hollis in their Health Impact Fund report. "As a result of both factors, the disease burden among the poor is, avoidably, very high."

The Health Impact Fund aims to solve both problems by giving pharmaceutical companies the option to sell their drugs at a uniform low cost worldwide. In exchange, the companies would for ten years receive payment from the fund — a fixed sum starting at roughly six billion dollars — proportional to the health impact of their drug, giving them incentives to focus on diseases that disproportionately affect the poor. The fund is to be financed by countries supporting the project, so as more and more countries sign on, the fund will grow and attract more pharmaceutical companies. At the conclusion of the tenth year, the company would also concede a royalty-free open license for generic versions of the medicine.

The project is designed to align the incentives of companies with social welfare. We shouldn't be surprised when companies fail to focus on finding treatments or cures for very important health needs if there's no money in it. And there's little point browbeating companies on the basis of "corporate social responsibility" if as societies we're really just passing the buck. Health innovation is a global social responsibility for which all must cooperate — companies will simply respond to incentives. If companies find it profitable to invest in developing drugs for the most pressing health needs, then results will follow.

"All people benefit when pharmaceutical firms organize themselves for optimal health impact: when their innovations target the most burdensome diseases and when they market their products for optimum disease reduction and not merely for sales," Pogge and Hollis continue in their report. "And low prices for advanced medicines will have a large impact on poor people in the United States no less than in Haiti, because high prices deter the poor everywhere from purchasing medicine."

Before the Fund becomes a reality, the group must test its efficacy in a few pilot runs. In particular, they must figure out the best way to assess a given drug's health impact. But the project is underway. If successful, it may revolutionize the global health landscape. As people who care about the well-being of others, we — scholars, activists, governments — have an obligation to get on board.


Nikita Lalwani is an Institute for Policy Studies intern, managing editor of The Yale Globalist, and a Yale Daily News staff writer.

Newt's Campaign Implosion

June 10, 2011 ·

The bulk of GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's senior staff abandoned him this week. "The professional team came to the realization that the direction of the campaign they sought and Gingrich's vision for the campaign were incompatible," said senior strategist Dave Carney.

Along with campaign manager Rob Johnson, Carney, already seemed weary of – and hardly loyal to – the former House Speaker. The two were also advising Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who is reportedly weighing a presidential bid of his own. Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor and Gingrich's national campaign co-chairman, has also checked out, and signed on to Tim Pawlenty's campaign.

This debacle highlights why OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower has called Gingrich "the political gift that keeps giving."

It also underscores Donald Kaul's characterization of Gingrich. "Not only does he have enemies, his friends hate him," Kaul said in his latest OtherWords column.

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