Does need constitute a demand?
Awhile back I wrote about the time when Jesus refused to feed a group of hungry people. There are only two possible explanations for that: Either the Lord didn’t care whether those folks went hungry, or there’s something worse than hunger. Now I’d like to look at an incident in which Jesus rebuked disciples who wanted to give to the poor. If Jesus cares about the poor, the only remaining conclusion is that poverty is not an absolute demand on the resources of others.
Here’s Mark’s account of that event:
While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9 - Read parallel accounts in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8)
A barbarian will say to you, if you press him, that the reason we must seize the possessions of producers is because, if allowed to give as they please, they’ll give too much money to their churches. In other words, “Why this waste?” John identifies Judas as the one pretending to be offended, and adds, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” (John 12:6) That’s a pretty good description of Congress, it seems to me. Jesus says to those who dream of all the good they could do with other people’s money, You’re scolding this woman for seeing what you don’t see. Something greater than the poor is here.
Jesus explains: “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.” We can infer several things from that brief statement:
GOP Congressman’s Defense for Cutting SNAP Benefits: ‘If Anyone Is Not Willing to Work, Let Him Not Eat’
Ignorance is a word I often use to describe many antics of the Republican party. I wish that wasn’t the case and Republicans operated within the same reality that the rest of us seem to reside, but unfortunately that’s too much to ask of many conservatives.
Many of these individuals seem to live on some planet where faith is science, reality is debatable and you’re a “good Christian” by attacking the poor while supporting the rich. You know, basically the complete opposite set of values which the key character in Christianity — Jesus Christ — actually stood for.
So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise when people like North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer publicly prove their utter stupidity. When a constituent posted on Cramer’s Facebook page a long list of Biblical quotes showing the Christian support for feeding the sick, elderly and poor—Cramer decided to respond.
He did so by using another quote from the Bible to justify his vote to cut billions from funding for SNAP benefits. The congressman wrote back on his Facebook page, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
Well, let’s look at that quote, shall we? The keyword I see is “willing” to work. Now granted, I recognize that there’s abuse that goes on as it relates to our government assistance programs, but this blanket statement Republicans often use to act as if the majority of those on government programs are abusing them is simply baseless.
In fact, 76% of households who rely on SNAP benefits include children, the disabled and the elderly. Individuals who might be willing to work, but are simply unable. And that’s where this draconian cut to the SNAP program is reckless and irresponsible.
As we prepare to feast, let’s pay the customary moment’s attention, and maybe a somewhat longer period of serious thought, to those who won’t be eating enough.
How many? By the most recent estimate of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there are now 870 million people living in “chronic undernourishment.” Almost half of them are children, for whom hunger is deadly: A third of all child deaths are caused directly by malnourishment. Some 10 million people, mostly children, died of hunger in 2012.
This year has been a bad one: An abbreviated monsoon in India has left crops dying; poor rainfall in South America has slashed yields; soybean and grain output in Asia have been cut in half; a drought in the U.S. has dropped its corn reserves to a fifth of their normal level.
This has set international food prices soaring - 7 per cent higher than last year, and grain 12 per cent higher, close to the 2008 historic peak - and left even more people hungry.
How can this be?
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros mockingly dismissed the plight of hungry Americans, claiming that she would “look fabulous” if she were forced to live on a food stamp diet.
Tantaros’ vapid commentary came in response to Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker’s pledge to accept the food-stamp challenge and try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, just as food stamp recipients in New Jersey do.
After Fox Business panelists speculated whether Booker’s pledge is an effort at “positioning himself for a run for the presidency as a man of the people,” Tantaros quipped: “I should try it because, do you know how fabulous I’d look. I’d be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds.”
Tantaros’ comments are appalling and uninformed. While most of us feast on turkey and yams, stuffing and cranberries, on Thursday, millions of Americans will go hungry, just as they do every day. The food stamp challenge exists to demonstrate the struggles that food insecure families face trying to live on their monthly allotment of food.
Despite the difficulty in subsisting on food stamps, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps, helped keep millions of families out of poverty in 2011.
Tantaros’ commentary continues a long and extensive Fox campaign to dismiss hunger-related issues and to demonize SNAP recipients.
On a recent evening, a hip-looking young woman was sorting through a stack of crates outside a fruit and vegetable store here in the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas as it shut down for the night.
At first glance, she looked as if she might be a store employee. But no. The young woman was looking through the day’s trash for her next meal. Already, she had found a dozen aging potatoes she deemed edible and loaded them onto a luggage cart parked nearby.
“When you don’t have enough money,” she said, declining to give her name, “this is what there is.”
The woman, 33, said that she had once worked at the post office but that her unemployment benefits had run out and she was living now on 400 euros a month, about $520. She was squatting with some friends in a building that still had water and electricity, while collecting “a little of everything” from the garbage after stores closed and the streets were dark and quiet.
Such survival tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace here, with an unemployment rate over 50 percent among young people and more and more households having adults without jobs. So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution.
A report this year by a Catholic charity, Caritas, said that it had fed nearly one million hungry Spaniards in 2010, more than twice as many as in 2007. That number rose again in 2011 by 65,000.
It’s 10 a.m., and the 2-year-old is still waiting for breakfast. Aliou Seyni Diallo collapses to his knees in tears and plops his forehead down on the dirt outside his family’s hut.
Soon he is wailing inconsolably and writhing on his back in the sand. A neighbor spots him, picks him up easily by one arm, and gives him a little uncooked millet in a metal bowl. The toddler shovels it into his mouth with sticky fingers coated in tears and grime. The crying stops, for the moment.
Each day is now a struggle for the women of this parched village in north Senegal to keep hungry children at bay, as they search desperately for food. Aliou’s mother can only recall one time in her life when it was worse — and that was more than 20 years ago.
“I start a fire, put a pot of water on it and tell the children I am in the middle of preparing something,” Maryam Sy, 37 and a mother of nine, says in a raspy voice. “In reality, I have nothing.”
When food is in short supply women are more likely to bear daughters than sons, suggests an analysis of one of the most disastrous famines in modern history.
Shige Song, a sociologist and demographer at the City University of New York, analysed data from more than 300,000 Chinese women who gave birth between September 1929 and July 1982. This period included the Great Leap Forward famine, which resulted in millions of deaths and was linked to efforts by Chinese leaders to boost industrial productivity by means including ordering workers off the land.
Starting just over one year after the beginning of the famine, Song found a sharp dip in the proportion of boys being born — falling from 109 boys born for every 100 girls in April 1960 to 104 boys for every 100 girls by October 1963, about two years after the famine ended. The ratio did not return to pre-famine levels until around July 1965.
Song’s analysis, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B1 today, supports the sex-ratio adjustment hypothesis — the idea that species alter the sex of their offspring in response to environmental conditions. Unhealthy, poorly nourished males tend to have fewer offspring than similarly undernourished females, so the hypothesis predicts that, to keep populations up in times of famine, women should give birth to fewer boys.
Studies in animals including red deer2 have already lent weight to the hypothesis, but until now the evidence in humans has been “much less clear”, says Song. Findings from earlier studies of famines — the 1944-45 Dutch Hunger Winter3, 4 and the severe food shortages during the siege of Leningrad in the Soviet Union in 19425 — have been inconsistent.
Song thinks that he was able to observe the effect clearly in the Chinese famine because the food shortage was more severe, ran for longer and, crucially, affected many more people than previously studied famines, giving him a much larger data set to work with. The analysis also gives an insight into the time required to trigger the effect — about a year at minimum, he says.
Reasons for the ratio
The data that Song analysed were collected in 1982 as part of the national one-per-thousand-population fertility survey by the Chinese State Family Planning Commission, which asked women about their entire childbearing history. The survey’s accuracy depends on the women reporting the sex of their children correctly, notes Song, but he thinks that they would be unlikely to forget or lie about such a thing.
My favourite bit?
Maura Corrigan, director of Michigan’s Department of Human Services, assured lawmakers that changes to a core social safety-net program — cash welfare assistance — aren’t producing the kind of wide-scale woe critics predicted.
“There hasn’t been an uptick in the food banks; there hasn’t been an uptick in the homeless shelters,” Corrigan told the state’s House Appropriations subcommittee on human services, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday. “It’s a dog that didn’t bite, as far as we’re concerned.”
That’s because those services are already at and past their capacity, you brain dead, heartless harpy!
In other news, Hell is pleased with this development.
Spurred by rising global demand for the metal, miners are destroying invaluable rainforest in Peru’s Amazon basin
It’s a few hours before dawn in the Peruvian rainforest, and five bare light bulbs hang from a wire above a 40-foot-deep pit. Gold miners, operating illegally, have worked in this chasm since 11 a.m. yesterday. Standing waist-deep in muddy water, they chew coca leaves to stave off exhaustion and hunger.
In the pit a minivan-size gasoline engine, set on a wooden cargo pallet, powers a pump, which siphons water from a nearby river. A man holding a flexible ribbed-plastic hose aims the water jet at the walls, tearing away chunks of earth and enlarging the pit every minute until it’s now about the size of six football fields laid side by side. The engine also drives an industrial vacuum pump. Another hose suctions the gold-fleck-laced soil torn loose by the water cannon.
At first light, workers hefting huge Stihl chain saws roar into action, cutting down trees that may be 1,200 years old. Red macaws and brilliant-feathered toucans take off, heading deeper into the rainforest. The chain saw crews also set fires, making way for more pits.
This gaping cavity is one of thousands being gouged today in the state of Madre de Dios at the base of the Andes—a region that is among the most biodiverse and, until recently, pristine environments in the world. All told, the Amazon River basin holds perhaps a quarter of the world’s terrestrial species; its trees are the engine of perhaps 15 percent of photosynthesis occurring on landmasses; and countless species, including plants and insects, have yet to be identified.
The founder of Microsoft will today announce a huge investment in the development of improved varieties of rice and cassava.
Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he will offer grants worth pound stg. 11.4 million ($17.7m) to projects that will enhance the staple crops, which are eaten by hundreds of millions of people, with critical micronutrients, some of which can be added only through genetic engineering.
An award of pound stg. 6.3m to the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute will allow them to develop strains of GM “golden rice”, which is suitable for small-scale farmers. Golden rice is genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A.