5 signs the United States are collapsing

Black Forest Fire

On August 12 the world turned its attention to  United States. That day hatred and violence held the quiet city of Charlottesville in hostage. White nationalist groups had a rally, “Unite the Right”, ended with deaths and blood. Everything went wrong that day. The “white supremacy” group clashed with the anti-racist group, which tried to manifest pacifically.

What the world had seen the August 12 is quite shocking. We watched neo-Nazis on the streets making the Hitler salute while chanting “hail Trump”, a big manifestation of hate and racism inside a country that defines itself the hearth of democracy.

Heather Heyer lost her life while she was manifesting pacifically: a white nationalist used his car as a ram on the crowd, killing the woman and injuring at least 20 people. In the same day, a police helicopter lost control and crashed, causing the death of two cops: Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates

Trump has been under fire for not having immediately condemned the white supremacy’s actions (the day after the President condemned the hate groups and defined the racism “as evil”). The 45th President of United States has often used a racist rhetoric during the last electoral campaign. For many analysts he is responsible to have fueled the far right’s rage.

The brutality seen in Charlottesville reminds us, once again, that United States are no longer the super power that we used to know in the previous century. If in the 20th century the world observed the USA’s dominance, in this century we may assist to a slow decline. In the first decade of the new millennium we have already assisted at two significant events: the attack on the Twin Towers and the financial crisis of 2008. Since then analysts and academics put the country under strict observation, as The United States remain a huge market and its economy is vital for the rest of the world.

What the United States can learn from the Roman Empire’s collapse

In the last years we’ve seen many articles and academic publications comparing the United States to the Roman Empire. However, is good to take in mind we are talking about different times and, as Steven Guess wrote in his article for The Guardian, the comparisons with Rome are imperfect but there are parallels worth to consider.

Rome’s aristocracy was too corrupted and selfish, and the highest class was too busy to defend its interests and forgot their citizens. The administration wasn’t able to control its vast and fragmented territory, and the inequalities among the main cities and rural areas were too severe. There are many other variables to consider – as the barbarian’s invasion – and historians are divided over the real reasons of the collapse.

Probably one of the key factors of Rome’s decay is the contraction of its middle class. The birth’s rate collapsed among the middle class, while the slavery continued to have children. This was fine for the aristocrats since they had more slaves to serve them, however they were forced to rise taxes among the middle class and finished to pump the proletarians and divide the Empire’s citizens.

This is somehow what’s happening in the United States nowadays. The economic indicators paint a country in rebound, but the middle class is still bleeding, and rising inequalities are devouring the country from inside. “The annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973”. “Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled”,  wrote in this article the Financial Times.

Solving the middle class crisis should be Washington’s top priority.

5 signs the United States will continue to collapse

  • 1) Lack of solutions for the middle class

Donald Trump’s programme is quite confusing. Slogans like “Make America Great Again” or “Americans First” give us a vague indication how he will do to solve the middle class issue. During the campaign he promised to cut taxes for the Americans. However, his tax plan released on April 26 leave many unanswered questions. It is no clear how people will benefit from the plan, while the wealthiest will receive a big tax windfall.

At the same time he is smashing programs like the Obama Care, that helped many people who couldn’t access to basic health care.

  • 2)  A more isolated country on the international scene

Since the Iraq’s invasion the United States lost momentum on the international scene, and the failure of the Iraqi war creates a common enemy for groups of people that used to hate each others.

Trump wants to put in action a plan that would isolate the country: He intends to force companies to produce within the USA’s borders and limit their foreign outsourcing; his rhetoric on immigration may refrain many people to come in the United States; investors, companies and people may start to look to other countries.

  • 3) The rise of China and other Asian countries will continue

The China had an impressive growth in the last 3 decades. The country has many internal problems, but it will play an increasingly role in this century. China is becoming an important technology hub and many students and entrepreneurs are now looking to Beijing for jobs and investment opportunities.

In the Asian continent there are many emerging economies, including the huge market of India, and with China as its centre, it could become an important business area (if countries will solve the political instability that dominates the area).

  • 4) A divided nation

In the last 10 years we’ve seen signs of a divided nation. We aren’t just talking about the differences between the wealthiest and the middle class. The United States are a melting pot but many racism problems have (re)emerged.

During the Obama administration many Americans have joined the #BlackLivesMatter movement, created in 2012 after the Trayvon Martin’s murderer. The statistics show a big disparity among ethnic groups when it comes to police shooting. As reported by The Guardian, in 2016 “black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers”. The movement is quite active to protest against the disparities and the unfairness carried out towards the black communities.

Under Trump things are only getting worse. Many analysts sustain his racists rhetoric fueled the far right groups, and after his election we have seen a surge of racism cases. The country looks divided in far right groups and anti-racist groups, while violence continues to escalate.

  • 5) The workforce is getting old

The American workforce is getting old. People have to remain in the workforce for different reasons, the first of all is that they can’t save enough money for their retirement. At the same time the job market offers less opportunities for work replacement, not to mention the fact that the birth’s rate has fallen in the last decades (and it will continue to fall).

People in old age need more money for their health, but they have less or no save for their retirement, and since the younger workforce can’t totally replace the old one, the pension system will be under pressure.

Every elements point to a crisis in the labour market, in the pension and in the health care system.

Are the United States really going to collapse?

It’s a difficult question to whom many are trying to reply. Some people make parallels with Rome while others explain why the USA will not fall like the Roman Empire.

The United States are still an impressive economic power, and still produce many innovations and technologies which serve people and companies around the world.

We can’t forget, however, that 40 millions Americans are still leaving in poverty and in 2015 food insecurity was still above the 2007 pre-recessionary level of 11.1 percent. Kathy and Luke in their blog 2$ a day publish their own researches on poverty, and what they find is quite embarrassing: the number of families with children with no more than 2$ a day per person are more than doubled between 1996 and 2011.

There’s still hope for the United States to avoid the collapse through the progress and innovative companies, but the Trump administration has to leave behind its primitive vision of the world.

 

9 nice pictures of planet Earth from Space

Space Station Flight Over Venice

Below 9 impressive images of our wonderful planet pictured from the space. The pictures come from the Nasa image of day’s gallery. These are random images, which show how beautiful is planet Earth from the space.

Sunrise from space
On July 26, 2017, a member of the Expedition 52 crew aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of one of the 16 sunrises they experience every day, as the orbiting laboratory travels around Earth. One of the solar panels that provides power to the station is seen in the upper left.
Credit: Nasa

 

Space Station Flyover of Super Typhoon Noru
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik photographed Super Typhoon Noru on August 1, 2017, as the International Space Station passed overhead. He shared images of the massive storm on social media, writing, “Super Typhoon #Noru, amazing the size of this weather phenomenon, you can almost sense its power from 250 miles above.”
Credit: Nasa

 

Watching the Aurora From Orbit
Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA shared photos and time-lapse video of a glowing green aurora seen from his vantage point 250 miles up, aboard the International Space Station. This aurora photo was taken on June 26, 2017.
Credit:Nasa

 

Florida from space
Expedition 51 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet captured this nighttime photo of Florida from the International Space Station. Bright lights include the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, and Orlando, with Cape Canaveral to the east, where launch preparations for SpaceX’s next cargo mission are underway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Credit: Nasa

 

Space Station View of Auroras
Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) photographed brightly glowing auroras from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station on March 27, 2017. Pesquet wrote, “The view at night recently has been simply magnificent: few clouds, intense auroras. I can’t look away from the windows.”
Credit: Nasa

 

Fiery South Atlantic Sunset
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed a sunset that looks like a vast sheet of flame. With Earth’s surface already in darkness, the setting sun, the cloud masses, and the sideways viewing angle make a powerful image of the kind that astronauts use to commemorate their flights.
Credit: Nasa

 

Cloudscape Over the Philippine Sea
Flying over the Philippine Sea, an astronaut looked toward the horizon from the International Space Station and shot this photograph of three-dimensional clouds, the thin blue envelope of the atmosphere, and the blackness of space. The late afternoon sunlight brightens a broad swath of the sea surface on the right side of the image.
Credit: Nasa

 

View From Gemini
The western half of Australia, looking west, as seen from the Gemini XI spacecraft, 850 miles above the Earth on Sept. 14, 1966. Reaching this record-shattering altitude was a highlight of a demanding, three-day mission for Gemini XI command pilot Charles “Pete” Conrad and pilot Dick Gordon.
Credit: Nasa

 

Space Station Flight Over Venice
Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency shared this photograph from the International Space Station on Feb. 14, 2017, writing, “Venice, city of gondoliers and the lovers they carry along the canals. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Credit: Nasa

Making war with North Korea is not a good option

Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un artwork.
Credit: Surian Soosay/Creative Commons 2.0

 

Tensions between United States and North Korea have reached new highs, as the belligerent rhetoric from both sides continues to rise. The context is worsening since July 28, when the Pyongyang’s regime tested a new intercontinental missile (ICBM). According to the analysts, the ICBM was capable to reach the west coast of United States.

The country tested an ICBM for the first time on July 4, 24 days before the last launch. The US administration fears that Pyongyang could obtain weapons of mass destruction in few years. Since then, Trump and Kim Jong-un are engaged in a war of words and conflict’s fears are rising.

People in South Korea are very worried. People in the South are used to the aggressiveness of the North, but this time is different. Ready to eat meals companies have reported a surge in the sales like never before. They have admitted that the record high sales are caused by the tensions between North Korea and United States.

 A story of missile’s tests under Kim Jong-un regime

Kim Jong-un has conducted in six years more tests that during Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung’s regimes combined together, as reported by CNN. In the first 7 months of 2017 we’ve seen 18 missile tests. Pyongyang is working hard to make progress with its program. Indeed, in the last two years North Korea’s ballistic program has advanced more fast then anticipated. Experts and analysts are concerned that new tests are around the corner.

Kim Jong-un’s goal is to obtain the nuclear warheads. He wishes to deter its enemies from attacking the country. He seems to have learned a lot from history and from the failures of Libya, Iran and Iraq. Kim Jong-un will continue to accelerate the nuclear program, not matter what the UN will try to do.

Why North Korea will not stop the nuclear program

Kim Jong-un knows his position and he has many reasons to not stop the nuclear program. First of all, he can use the nuclear development to consolidate his power. The regime rises its people to hate the USA since their childhood. This hate’s circle has its roots into the cold war, when Russia and USA divided the Korean peninsula. Since then, Pyongyang’s regime rises its children to think of USA as a former invader and a dangerous threat for their country. That’s why Kim Jong-un’s hatred dialectic on Washington strengths its consensus among the population.

Kim Jong-un is also well aware that his enemies can’t attack his country so easily. In the event the United States would attack Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un could retaliate and attacks South Korea. In this case millions of South Koreans will risk their lives. A war in the Korean peninsula could also have consequences for the nearby Japan. Even China will not tolerate the turmoil, as Beijing wants to maintain the balance in the area.

In addiction, Kim Jong-un believes that the nuclear warheads will deter any enemy attacks. Besides, the young leader wants to increase his international weight and nukes will give him more options. Lastly, he wishes to stop the sanctions against Pyongyang. This is why, despite Trump’s intimidation, he will not abandon the enrichment program.

Options against the North Korea are week and war is the worst one

In the last years, the international community has tightened the economic sanctions against North Korea. In 2013, on March 7, the United Nations approved new sanctions against Pyongyang for its underground nuclear test. And since the fourth nuclear test, occurred in January 2016, other sanctions have been hitting the reclusive nation. Even China, North Korea’s closest ally, reduced its economic support to Pyongyang. However, the sanctions have proven to be ineffective to stop North Korea’s nuclear development. 

The sanctions should undermine North Korea’s economy, but they are not working well. The country at its fastest pace in 17 years, according to South Korea’s Central Bank. However, we also need to think that the GDP growth includes the manufacture components, and with them the missile program.

The United Nations has recently announced new sanctions. They think to force Kim Jong-un at their table by slashing the North Korea’s annual export revenues by 1$ dollars. But the Korean leader is not likely going to accept their conditions.

That’s why it’s always been difficult to deal with North Korea. The options against Pyongyang are week and war is the worst of all. North Korea is not an immediate threat to the USA after all. Kim Jong-un will not order a nuclear attack against Washington. Such a move will turn Pyongyang into dust. In case he will attack the nearby nations the effect will be the same. Kim Jong-un wants the nuclear weapons to secure its country and gains international weight, nothing else.

A war with North Korea will trap the United States in a difficult conflict that could devastate the whole Korean peninsula. Moreover, Washington will risk to weaken its relation with Beijing. Is it really worth?

Italy: climate change hit hard the country in 2017

Climate change, fires in Italy, 2017

The climate change’s topic is becoming more hot each passing year. Media and newspapers are talking often about the issue since Trump took place in the White House. And the situation doesn’t look good as he decided to withdraw his country from the Paris Agreements in late May 2017. Trump’s stance on climate change has always been controversial, although many politicians have started to take it seriously.

Climate change brings “Lucifer” to Italy (and Europe)

In Italy the weather is a top trend subject in this period, as in the first week of August the temperature amply crossed the 40 degrees. Hot summers in Italy are the norm but this year the heat wave has been exceptional. We’ve already seen a similar condition in 2003, however this time many cities set new records. Is good to remind that 2003 summer is known as the hottest in Europe since 1540 and caused many troubles. The stretching of the African anticyclone from North Africa to Central Europe is what causes those heat waves.

Another exceptional aspect of this hot summer is its length. Since early June the country has counted five heat waves, reaching the peak in August. “Lucifer” is the nickname of this last sweltering heat wave. It may sounds good to tourists which are enjoying their vacations at the shores but the country and its citizens are facing big problems. For instance, the high temperatures are causing hundred of victims through the country. However it’s too early to realise if there are more victims then in 2003, when over 10.000 people lost their lives.

The Italian Ministry of Health has issued several level 3 warnings since June, remembering people the risks for their health.

The weather is also causing damages to the agriculture. Coldiretti estimates a loss of 2 billions of euros in the sector. Cereals, tomatoes, olive oil, vegetables, legumes and milk are the hardest hit products. Moreover, the breeders have claimed that many farm animals have died due to the burning hot.

A country engulfed in flames running out of water

In addiction to this, the country has to face a dramatic drought and a series of fires that are devastating the territory. Many regions will ask the state of emergency due to the low rainfall occurred in the previous months. As consequence of the climate change, the high pressure is hovering on the country for more time reducing the precipitation.

The drought is a complex phenomenon and one parameter alone is not enough to judge its state. For example, the ISPRA uses the volume of rainfall in a period of time to produce its studies. Now let’s take a look at the charts below.

SPI chart for Italy on 6 months period
The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) based on the last 6 months. (July 2017 as last month). Below zero values from moderate drought to extreme drought. Above zero values from moderate humidity to extreme humidity.
Credit: ISPRA
SPI index of Italy for 12 month period
The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) based on the last 12 months. (July 2017 as last month). Below zero values from moderate drought to extreme drought. Above zero values from moderate humidity to extreme humidity.
Credit: ISPRA

 

The first chart is indeed quite alarming. We can see that in the last 6 months the rainfall levels are quite low and therefore lands are drying up. However if we extend the period of time to 12 months we have a different picture. In fact, the second chart shows rainfall levels within the norm. This may indicate a country that is failing to retain his water sources. Italy after all is known for its hydrogeological instability, amply caused by ineffective policies and bad administration piled up in the last decades. Soon or later, politicians will need to make wise decisions since the pressure from the citizens is likely going to rise.

A country on fire

Drought and extreme temperatures have led to record fires within the country. The estimates from May to July tell us that about 75.000 hectares have been burned, as reported by Legambiente. It is an increase of 156,41% against the whole 2016, and the summer is not over yet. The country has requested, for the first time since 2009, the help of European Commission through the Civil Protection Mechanism. The image of the burning Vesuvius has spread around the world and it shows well the discomfort experienced by the people.

Vesuvius on fire
The Mont Vesuvius on fire during the summer 2017.

 

Forest fires wouldn’t have been so extensive without the criminal hands of the pyromaniacs. Indeed, those maniacs appear to be highly active in 2017. The police has already captured 28 of them, without counting the month of August, but the number of arsonists in circulation is higher. With all this devastation the government couldn’t just stay sit and watch. Is not a coincidence that the sentence for this kind of crime has been incremented in August. But if the government wants to resolve the issue it has to use more preventive actions.

The country is at risk of desertification and this year many lands look desert-like, in particular at the south. The process is likely going to get worst in the next years, so Italians need to prepare themselves to deal with climate change’s effects .

An alarming future

As in 2003, the heat wave has reached other regions of Europe as well. Spain, Southern France and several East countries faced extreme temperatures. And with perfect timing, the European Commission Joint Research Centre has raised a serious alarm. By the end of the century weather related hazards will put at risk 351 million people, as the study reported. The Commission concluded that from 2075 and 2100 the number of fatalities could rise to 151.000 per year. The most affected region will be of course Southern Europe, with Spain and Italy on the front line.

The sad thing of the story is that regardless of how intense the climate change’s effects are, some people still don’t believe that they are real or that they are caused by human activities or that they will harm them personally.