March 17, 2010
March 17, 2010
Frail, bone-cold and surrounded by death, Jewish teenager Anne Frank did her best to distract younger children from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp by telling them fairy tales, a Holocaust survivor says.
The account by Berthe Meijer, now 71, of being a 6-year-old inmate of Bergen Belsen offers a rare glimpse of Anne in the final weeks of her life in the German camp, struggling to keep up her own spirits even as she tried to lift the morale of the smaller children.
That Anne had a gift for storytelling was evident from the diary she kept during two years in hiding with her family in Amsterdam. The scattered pages were collected and published after the war in what became the most widely read book to emerge from the Holocaust.
But Meijer’s memoir, being published in Dutch later this month, is the first to mention Anne’s talent for spinning tales even in the despair of the camp.
The memoir deals with Meijer’s acquaintance with Anne Frank in only a few pages, but she said she titled it “Life After Anne Frank” because it continues the tale of Holocaust victims where the famous diary leaves off.
“The dividing line is where the diary of Anne Frank ends. Because then you fall into a big black hole,” Meijer told The Associated Press at her Amsterdam home.
Anne’s final diary entry was on Aug. 1, 1944, three days before she and her family were arrested. She and her older sister Margot died in March 1945 in a typhus epidemic that swept through Bergen Belsen, just two weeks before the camp was liberated. Anne was 15.
The stories Anne told were “fairy tales in which nasty things happened, and that was of course very much related to the war,” Meijer said.
“But as a kid you get lifted out of the everyday nastiness. That’s something I remember. You’re listening to someone telling something that has nothing to do with what’s happening around you — so it’s a bit of escape…”
March 17, 2010
March 17, 2010
March 17, 2010
Many of today’s most-respected thinkers, from Stephen Hawking to David Attenborough, argue that our efforts to fight climate change and other environmental perils will all fail unless we “do something” about population growth. In the Universe in a Nutshell, Hawking declares that, “in the last 200 years, population growth has become exponential… The world population doubles every forty years.”
But this is nonsense. For a start, there is no exponential growth. In fact, population growth is slowing. For more than three decades now, the average number of babies being born to women in most of the world has been in decline. Globally, women today have half as many babies as their mothers did, mostly out of choice. They are doing it for their own good, the good of their families, and, if it helps the planet too, then so much the better.
Here are the numbers. Forty years ago, the average woman had between five and six kids. Now she has 2.6. This is getting close to the replacement level which, allowing for girls who don’t make it to adulthood, is around 2.3. As I show in my new book, Peoplequake, half the world already has a fertility rate below the long-term replacement level. That includes all of Europe, much of the Caribbean and the far east from Japan to Vietnam and Thailand, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Algeria, Kazakhstan, and Tunisia.
It also includes China, where the state decides how many children couples can have. This is brutal and repulsive. But the odd thing is that it may not make much difference any more: Chinese communities around the world have gone the same way without any compulsion—Taiwan, Singapore, and even Hong Kong. When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, it had the lowest fertility rate in the world: below one child per woman.
So why is this happening? Demographers used to say that women only started having fewer children when they got educated and the economy got rich, as in Europe. But tell that to the women of Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest nations, where girls are among the least educated in the world, and mostly marry in their mid-teens. They have just three children now, less than half the number their mothers had. India is even lower, at 2.8. Tell that also to the women of Brazil. In this hotbed of Catholicism, women have two children on average—and this is falling. Nothing the priests say can stop it.
Women are doing this because, for the first time in history, they can. Better healthcare and sanitation mean that most babies now live to grow up. It is no longer necessary to have five or six children to ensure the next generation—so they don’t.
There are holdouts, of course. In parts of rural Africa, women still have five or more children. But even here they are being rational. Women mostly run the farms, and they need the kids to mind the animals and work in the fields.
Then there is the middle east, where traditional patriarchy still rules. In remote villages in Yemen, girls as young as 11 are forced into marriage. They still have six babies on average. But even the middle east is changing. Take Iran. In the past 20 years, Iranian women have gone from having eight children to less than two—1.7 in fact—whatever the mullahs say.
The big story here is that rich or poor, socialist or capitalist, Muslim or Catholic, secular or devout, with or without tough government birth control policies in place, most countries tell the same tale of a reproductive revolution.
That doesn’t mean population growth has ceased. The world’s population is still rising by 70m a year. This is because there is a time lag: the huge numbers of young women born during the earlier baby boom may only have had two children each. That is still a lot of children. But within a generation, the world’s population will almost certainly be stable, and is very likely to be falling by mid-century. In the US they are calling my new book “The Coming Population Crash.”
Is this good news for the environment and for the planet’s resources? Clearly, other things being equal, fewer people will do less damage to the planet. But it won’t on its own do a lot to solve the world’s environmental problems, because the second myth about population growth is that it is the driving force behind our wrecking of the planet.
In fact, rising consumption today far outstrips the rising headcount as a threat to the planet. And most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population, while most of the remaining population growth is in countries with a very small impact on the planet. By almost any measure you choose, a small proportion of the world’s people take the majority of the world’s resources and produce the majority of its pollution…
March 17, 2010
March 17, 2010
This image has been posted with express written permission.
This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.
IT COULD all come down to abortion. Health-care reform hangs in the balance. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, is desperately trying to round up the last few votes. If the House passes a bill the Senate passed in December, it can then be tweaked through the “reconciliation” process and sent to President Barack Obama for signature. But every single House Republican is likely to vote no, so Ms Pelosi needs 216 Democratic votes (out of 253) for a majority. This is proving surprisingly hard. Among the holdouts are a dozen or so pro-life Democrats, several of them Midwestern Catholics, who object to the abortion provisions in the Senate bill.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, abortion has been legally protected since 1973 and neither Congress nor any state has the power to ban it. But a law called the Hyde amendment bars federal funding for abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. The question now is whether Obamacare will use taxpayers’ money to subsidise abortion more widely. Mr Obama insists that it will not. Under his plan, many individuals and small businesses will buy subsidised health insurance through state-sponsored exchanges. Under the Senate bill, they would only be able to obtain abortion coverage through these exchanges if they paid for it with a separate, unsubsidised, cheque. Thus, federal dollars would be kept out of abortion clinics, say the bill’s supporters. But many pro-lifers are not convinced. So the version of the health bill that was passed by the House would have required those who wanted abortion coverage to buy a completely separate insurance policy. The Democrat who wrote the House abortion provision, Bart Stupak, says he won’t back the Senate bill. Several other pro-life Democrats may also balk.
As a candidate, Barack Obama spoke of soothing the rage that abortion arouses. He promised to seek common ground between the two sides, for example by trying to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. But there is only so much common ground between those who think abortion is a fundamental right and those who deem it murder. And since Mr Obama came to power, attitudes have grown less permissive. While a plurality (47%) of Americans still believe that it should be legal in most cases, nearly as many (44%) believe that it should not. Such views are heavily influenced by religion: 71% of white evangelicals but only 25% of religiously unaffiliated Americans would ban it.