World Population Awareness

South and Central America, Carribean

July 14, 2013

Why I Work on Family Planning and Reproductive Health: Reflections on World Population Day

July 11, 2013, MSH - Management Sciences for Health   By: Fabio Castaño

In the 1960s, during Columbia's demographic transition, Fabio's Castaño's father and mother came from large families and consequently never went to college, but instead had to work hard as teens to help their families. At that time Profamilia, a Columbian affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), was helping steer the country through successful demographic transition. Fabio's mother wanted an education for her children and convinced her husband that the best way out of poverty was hard work and having a small family.

Out of their large extended family of 70-plus, Fabio was the first one to graduate from college and medical school. Fabio's two sisters also received an education. Fabio's story exemplifies how access to reproductive health and family planning in a low-income country can have tremendous economic and life-transforming impact for young people and a whole generation -- beyond the reduction in fertility and improvements in health.

On July 11, World Population Day, we observed the one-year anniversary of the London Summit and the launch of the FP2020 initiative. The momentum for voluntary family planning and reproductive health is growing, However, globally more than 200 million females still have an unmet need. Many of them are adolescents.This unmet need leads to unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

This unmet need can be met through quality family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services. innovative public/private partnerships and high impact, evidence-based interventions, such as through integrating FP/RH with adolescent health and maternal, newborn, and child health services and HIV services, implementing community-based FP, encouraging healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, and by ensuring contraceptive security.

MSH - Management Sciences for Health - has over 40 years of experience in bolstering the capacity of local partners to dramatically expand community-based care, especially key maternal, neonatal, child health, adolescent, and family planning services. MSH has been actively engaged in helping end child marriage, such as through promoting equal access to health care for women and girls in more than 135 countries for over four decades.

Choosing to have a small family—and having access to quality family planning services and information—can lead to a multitude of positive effects for people's health, education, and economic safety. doclink

Seeing is Believing for Family Planning Advocates in Peru

February 1, 2013, Population Action International

Since 1998, PAI has taken eight Members of Congress and over 70 staff members to Africa, Asia, and South America, showing Members of Congress and their staff, donors, and advocates the need for and value of international family planning and reproductive health programs. This trip also expands upon a more recent PAI initiative to galvanize new voices in target U.S. Congressional districts to support the U.S. international family planning/reproductive health program and draw linkages between domestic and international choice issues.

Peru has extremely high rates of teen pregnancy and recently the Peruvian courts declared unconstitutional a law which made sex illegal for people under eighteen. This law had made it illegal for a teen to purchase or receive information about condoms or contraceptives.

Also Peru's has "graduated" from USAID's family planning program now that its economy has improved and it is now a middle income country and its government can provide access to contraceptives and reproductive health care. With a long history of underfunding and repeated attempts in the last U.S. Congress to cut funding for international family planning programs, USAID is left to make tough decisions on where to invest its inadequate resources.

Many worry that politics and a lack of solid health infrastructure will cause setbacks in the gains made with USAID'S support. Inequalities still exist between rural and urban, poor and rich, and educated and uneducated women.

PAI believes that "seeing is believing" and are excited to continue to work with all of our trip participants and partners to advance the funding and policy needed to expand access to family planning and reproductive health services worldwide. doclink

Population Control: Sterilization Scandal in Peru

December 17 , 2012, WOA!! website - Karen Gaia Pitts

Here are three stories about population control involving coerced sterilizations in Peru under President Fujimori. One of them is from over-reactionary Pop Dev (Population and Development Program at Hampshire College) folks, who make it their business to label everyone concerned about population as 'population controllers'. Note the wide variation in the number of victims reported.

New York Times February 15 1998

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/02/15/world/using-gifts-as-bait-peru-sterilizes-poor-women.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

In 1995, when President Alberto K. Fujimori announced plans to promote birth control as a way to reduce family size and widespread poverty in Peru, family planning experts, feminists and even many opposition politicians expressed broad support for the initiative. But the mounting criticism of the sterilizations has tarnished the image of the family planning program, one of the most ambitious in the developing world.

Tales of poor women being pressed and even forced to submit to sterilization operations that have left at least two women dead and hundreds injured have emerged from small towns and villages across Peru in recent weeks in what women's groups, politicians and church leaders here say is an ambitious Government family planning program run amok.

State health care workers, in a hurry to meet Government-imposed sterilization quotas that offer promotions and cash incentives, were taking advantage of poor rural women, many of whom are illiterate and speak only indigenous Indian languages. They were not telling poor women about alternative methods of contraception or that tubal ligation is nearly always irreversible. They also charge that many state doctors performed sloppy operations, at times in unsanitary conditions. If the women refused, the workers threatened to cut off the food and milk programs.

The Government denied there are sterilization quotas, though it acknowledges goals for budgetary purposes.

From its inception, Catholic church leaders vigorously opposed the family planning campaign because it promotes artificial forms of birth control, which the church disavows. Augusto Cardinal Vargas Alzamora of Lima has warned Catholics that they will be committing a "grave sin" if they resort to sterilization.

The Government denied there were sterilization quotas and vehemently rejected charges that it was conducting a campaign to sterilize poor women and said that all its sterilization operations were done with the patient's consent, as required by law.

Health Ministry officials said the program had suffered from "lapses in judgment" by individual health care workers and doctors, who had been reprimanded. The officials also said that such cases were isolated incidents that had been blown out of proportion.

In 1997, state doctors in Peru performed 110,000 sterilizations on women, up from 30,000 in 1996 and 10,000 in 1995. Last year they also performed 10,000 free vasectomies on men, a slight increase over 1996.

Health Ministry officials estimated that the 1997 sterilizations would result in 26,000 fewer births in 1998. The fertility rate was 3.5 per woman, compared with 3.1 for Latin America. The rate was 6.2 children for Peruvian women who had little or no education and 7 children for those who live in rural areas. That compared with a rate of 1.7 children for women who have at least some college education and 2.8 for urban residents of all educational levels.

Officials in Washington said that USAID had no role in the Peruvian Government's family planning program. They said that money and training for family planning services went directly to nongovernmental agencies in Peru that have no connection with the Government's program.

A fact-finding mission by the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on International and Human Rights Operations found that no United States money was directly used to finance the Peruvian Government's campaign, but there was concern that some money may have trickled through in the form of infrastructure, management or training support. Because some United States-sponsored food programs are operated from the same Peruvian Government medical posts that administer family planning in rural areas, it was possible that some of this food could have been used to bribe women to undergo sterilizations.

~ ~ ~

BBC News July 2002

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2148793.stm

More than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilised by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori, an official report has revealed.

The Health Minister, Fernando Carbone, said the government gave misleading information, offered food incentives and threatened to fine men and women if they had more children.

Poor indigenous people in rural areas were the main targets of the compulsive family planning programme until 2000, when Mr Fujimori left for Japan amid mounting corruption allegations against him.

Mr Carbone said there was evidence that Mr Fujimori and a number of high-ranking ministers could be held responsible for "incorrect procedures" and "human rights violations".

Between 1996 and 2000, surgeons carried out 215,227 sterilising operations on women and 16,547 male vasectomies. This compared to 80,385 sterilisations and 2,795 vasectomies over the previous three years.

The result has been a demographical drop in certain areas, leaving an older population and the economic disadvantages which will result from fewer people able to earn a living.

The report, by the commission investigating "voluntary contraceptive surgery" activities, concluded that there had been numerous programmes during the Fujimori regime which threatened poor women in Peru.

The sterilizations were also found to have been negligent, with less than half being carried out with a proper anaesthetist.

Five hundred and seven people, from rural areas such as Cuzco and Ancash, gave testimonies to the commission, but only 10% of these admitted having voluntarily agreed to the sterilisation procedure after promises of economic and health incentives such as food, operations and medicines.

Others said that if they refused they were told they would have to pay a fine and would not be able to seek medical help for their children.

The programme was found to have been designed, encouraged and monitored at the highest levels in Fujimori's government, including the president's office.

~ ~ ~

Population and Development Program at Hampshire College - December 3, 2008

http://popdev.hampshire.edu/blog/post/sterilization-a-weapon-in-the-war-on-poverty

The Population and Development Program at Hampshire College hosted A Woman's Womb, an investigative documentary about the forced sterilization of more than 300,000 indigenous women in Peru between 1995 and 2000.

The administration of Alberto Fujimori, Peru's president from 1990-2000, sought to reduce poverty and promote economic growth through lowering fertility.

Fujimori's family planning policy focused on Anticoncepción Quirúrgica Voluntaria -AQV (Voluntary Surgical Contraception), or sterilization and vasectomy, instead of offering women a full range of contraceptive methods. The women interviewed in Damoisel's documentary recounted being misinformed about the purpose and effects of the procedure. Some signed consent forms they couldn't read, or were coerced by health care professionals into undergoing surgery. Most importantly, roughly 90% of these Quechua women did not consent to sterilization.

Clinics that achieved the highest number of sterilizations per month received rewards. International organizations like USAID, UNFPA, and the UN Population Fund were slow to address these reproductive rights abuses, even funding and supporting the campaign in the belief that, through reducing these women's fertility, they were reducing poverty.

Any opposition to the government was considered anti-nationalist. Defying the repressive regime, Giulia Tamayo, a lawyer from a feminist organization published a report in 1998 exposing the sterilization campaigns. Tamayo did not have support from most feminists, who blamed her for criticizing what they considered a small compromise on the path toward reproductive rights. As a result of her publication, Tamayo had to seek exile in Spain after receiving death threats from Fujimori's administration.

The Population Research Institute (PRI) brought the issue to the attention of the U.S. Congress through Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). Even though this organization works toward exposing population control programs, it's also a pro-life organization that used the women's personal tragedy to advocate for pro-life policies in the United States, and successfully lobby former President Bush to restrict crucial global reproductive health aid. Rep. Chris Smith is well known to be a fervent anti-abortion supporter in Congress. This organization was not fighting for women's right to autonomy in their bodies, but using them as an opportunity to advance their political agenda.

The sterilization campaign was ended shortly after the human rights abuses against indigenous Peruvian women were exposed. Fujimori nor any health minister under his administration involved in the sterilization campaigns have been tried for these human rights abuses against Peruvian women.

The Woman's Womb documentary makes a connection between racism, classism, patriarchy and population control. The great majority of these women are low-income, rural, indigenous, and illiterate; after the attack on their bodies, they continue to be marginalized. The sterilization campaign did not modernize or bring development to Peru. Yet population control advocates and international organizations still consider population control a weapon to combat poverty. Cynically, the targets of those population control campaigns continue to be the most vulnerable populations, who remain poor after such painful and coercive campaigns. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I wonder if there was any coercion involved with the contraception. It seems that it would be difficult to coerce someone to take the pill daily or to use a condom for each sexual encounter, for example. Can we assume that contraception is usually not associated with 'population control'? That it is almost always a 'voluntary' method? Howit be called 'population control' when contraception is advocated? You could pay a woman to have an IUD inserted, but what can prevent her from secretly removing it herself.

I would like to know how many women in Peru benefited from contraception during the same period. Of course the sterilization was wrong and totally unnecessary, but that doesn't mean all the family planning programs in Peru at that time were a bad thing.

Brazil: Swallowing Rain Forest, Cities Surge in Amazon

November 24, 2012, New York Times   By: Taylor Barnes

The surging population growth of cities is turning the Amazon from the world's largest remaining area of tropical forest, interspersed by remote river outposts, to a series of sprawling urban areas with air-conditioned shopping malls, gated communities and a dealerships selling Chevy pickup trucks.

Scientists are studying such developments and focusing on the demands on the resources of the Amazon - deforestation in the region already ranks among the largest contributors to global greenhouse-gas emissions.

By enforcing logging laws and carving out protected forest areas, the country has made progress in curbing deforestation; however, biologists and other climate researchers fear that the sharp increase in migration to cities in the Amazon, which now has a population approaching 25 million, could erode those gains.

In the Amazon city of Manaus the number of residents grew 22% to 1.7 million from 2000 to 2010, according to government statistics. Of the 19 Brazilian cities that the latest census indicates have doubled in population over the past decade, 10 are in the Amazon. Altogether, the region's population climbed 23% from 2000 to 2010, while Brazil as a whole grew just 12%.

Larger family sizes and high levels of poverty in the Amazon are fueling this growth. While Brazil's birthrate has fallen to 1.86 children per woman, one of the lowest in Latin America, the Amazon has Brazil's highest rate, at 2.42.

There is also an economic allure: soybean farming fueled the growth of Sinop by 50% in a decade. In other cities, it is manufacturing, logging mining or hydroelectric construction.

Some researchers suggest that the migration to cities may increase deforestation by permitting cattle ranchers, already responsible for razing big portions of forest, to acquire lands held by small cultivators.

In the Amazon there is an intensifying an urbanization that has been advancing for decades. For more than 20 years, a majority of the Brazilian Amazon's population has lived in urban areas.

"It's great that people are moving out of poverty, but one of the things we need to understand when people move out of poverty is there is a larger demand on resources," said Mitchell Aide, a University of Puerto Rico biology professor. doclink

Bolivia: For Tsimane, Birth Control Access May Not Cut Fertility

October 12 , 2012, Futurity

While there is an assumption that indigenous populations are disappearing, many Tsimane "groups' population growth is actually astronomical." notes Lisa McAllister, a doctoral student in integrative anthropological sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In Bolivia some Tsimane populations have annual growth rates of 3% to 5%, which calculates to populations doubling in size in as few as 14 to 23 years.

"This is a problem, given their limited land and resources, and the fact that much of the land is already overused," McAllister says. "Many Tsimane already acknowledge the conservation issues that overpopulation is causing. For example, Tsimane commonly complain that they need to go farther and deeper into the forest to find animals to hunt; and close to town, farmland is in short supply."

And yet, despite having better access to education and contraception, fertility rates among Tsimane women remain, on average, nine births over a woman's lifetime.

"It's great to encourage education," says McAllister. "But it may be naïve to assume that education or economic prosperity will automatically lead to reduced fertility."

The rest of Bolivia follow the classic "Demographic Transition" pattern where drops in mortality are accompanied by drops in birthrates, while "Tsimane mortality has dropped over the past several decades, but fertility has not," co-author Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology, said.

When women don't have access to a different life, or to alternative life paths usually associated with greater education, they have no incentive to delay fertility, the researchers say. When jobs are only available to men, there is nothing women can do with their education. "There currently isn't a lot of economic value for women or men to have an education."

While Tsimane women say they want fewer children," if you ask them who they consider to be the most influential women, the answer will be those who have the most children," McAllister says. Social status is rooted more in having large families and kin networks, than in attempts to lead a more modern lifestyle.

In addition, women living close to the nearest major town have more children than their counterparts away from towns. "All else equal, women in better condition should be better able to conceive, carry a baby to term, and provide for an infant," McAllister says. "It is not surprising that women in the best condition have higher fertility."

"Maybe making education valuable by improving job prospects for Tsimane who are not used to marketing themselves might be a better way to spend money than sending people to a village and having them talk about IUDs the reproductive system, and the value of family planning," she said. doclink

Karen Gaia says:

1. Population growth and resource scarcity will eventually force the Tsimane to send many of their older children away to towns and cities where they will eventually be absorbed into those cultures and have fewer children themselves. This happens in many parts of the world where there are too many children for the land. What is sad is when these children end up on the streets or being sold into slavery or prostitution, or married early.

2. Perhaps 'spacing' children might be an attractive option to Tsimane women. This alternative can be an effective approach to family planning.

TR3S & MTV Latin America Co-Produce New Novela Thriller “Ultimo Año” - Networks Team Up with Population Media Center to Weave Social Consciousness Into Scripts

May 15, 2012

Tr3: MTV Música y Más and MTV Latin America announce the new psychological suspense thriller, 70-episode novela "Ultimo Año"; and teams up with Population Media Center (PMC). Researchers and writers will deliver engaging content with measureable results under new PMC methodology. Through the use of entertainment-education programming, characters will be developed to evolve into role models for the audience, encouraging the adoption of healthier behaviors to benefit individuals and their societies.

The novella takes place in the world of high school adolescence. It is filled with suspense, mystery, drama, and most importantly stories of love and relationships - a combination that will surely win over audiences and have a tremendous impact," commented Katie Elmore, Vice President of Communications and Programs for PMC.

"Social responsibility is always at the forefront of our brand, and our content continues to serve as a credible and valuable space to engage, educate and help shift the mindset of today's Hispanic Millennials," said Charlie Singer, of Tr3s. Fernando Gaston of MTV Latin America said "This new production, our third in the novela genre, will further complement our slate of premium content and reinforces our commitment of bringing entertaining programming, compelling storylines and social consciousness to our viewers."

"PMC brings forth an extensive amount of research on issues affecting today's youth and having them work closely with our creative teams is an excellent way to weave these topics into our storylines. I am certain that their expertise coupled with our creative vision will deliver an entertaining, yet compelling story that will open up a dialogue on various topics affecting our viewers," commented Mario Cader-Frech, VP of Public Affairs for Tr3s & MTV Latin America.

"By joining forces to develop this new novela, we have created a unique model that uses strong audience research to develop highly entertaining and engaging content with social and health messages that is also commercially viable," commented Katie Elmore, Vice President of Communications and Programs for PMC.

The characters in "Ultimo Año" are developed based on the realities facing youth today. PMC has put together a Program Advisory Board that has helped to identify sexual health issues affecting youth, in an effort to integrate influential messaging into the dialogue and creative of the brand's third co-production in the novela format. The issues that will be addressed include contraception, reproductive health options, peer-pressure, HIV/AIDS and STDs, gender equality, cyberbullying, and education, amongst others.

The multi-platform initiative will utilize blogs, social networks, and other transmedia extensions to stimulate discussions with the audience for quantitative and qualitative measurement. These informal discussions will be analyzed by Tr3s, MTV Latin America, and PMC to gain a deeper understanding of how the audience is relating and reacting to the storylines within the productions.

Characters are created that gradually evolve into positive role models for the audience. The emotional bonds that the audience forms with the characters and stories help inspire audiences to make positive changes in their lives. PMC's serial dramas have addressed issues such as: the use of family planning, reproductive health, avoidance of AIDS, elevation of women's status, protection of children, and related social and health goals, depending upon the relevance of each to the policies of the country in which PMC is working. Scientific research has shown that PMC's programs lead to population-wide behavior change.

Tr3s: MTV, Música y Más, owned and operated by Viacom International Media Networks, reaches 6.1 million Hispanic TV households (45% of US Hispanic Total TV HH) and 34 million total TV households. The network's programming embraces the trilogy of cultures that represents Latino life - Latin American plus American equals US Latino. Tr3s embraces the key lifestyle aspects of Latino identity -- milestones, making it and music -- as well as social responsibility through its initiative "Agentes de Cambio", which tackles issues that affect Latinos today. doclink

Petition Against Jail Time for Birth Control in Honduras

April 12, 2012, Avaaz.org

The Honduran Congress is about to vote on a proposal that would send women to jail if they use the morning-after pill -- even for rape victims. But the President of the Honduran Congress can stop this. He's concerned about his international image and his future in politics, so our massive outcry can shame him and stop this attack on women. http to sign the petition:/?cl=1718679404&v=13635 . The vote could happen any day.

Some Congress members agree that this law -- which would also jail doctors or anyone who sells the pill -- is excessive, but they are bowing to the powerful religious lobby that wrongly claims the morning-after pill constitutes an abortion.

Avaaz will work with local women's groups to personally deliver our outcry.

The emergency contraceptive pill delays ovulation and prevents pregnancy - like ordinary birth control pills. But if this new bill passes, Honduras will be the only state in the world to punish the use or sale of emergency contraception with a jail term.

Emergency contraception is vital for women everywhere, but especially where sexual violence against women is rampant, unplanned pregnancy rates are high and access to regular birth control is limited.

For more information see: Honduras, most sweeping ban on emergency contraception anywhere (RH Reality Check): http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/02/14/honduran-supreme-court-upholds-complete-ban-on-emergency-contraception-0 doclink

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Unmet Need for Contraception and Unsafe Abortion Are Widespread

January 21, 2012, RH Reality Check

On the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling from the United States Supreme Court that legalized abortion and changed the course of history for women in the U.S., we remember that women in Latin America and the Caribbean continue to struggle for this basic reproductive right.

95% of abortions in Latin America are unsafe, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Where abortion is illegal, women often turn to inadequately trained practitioners who employ unsafe techniques or attempt to self-induce abortion using dangerous methods. In Latin America and the Caribbean, complications from unsafe abortion results in the hospitalization of nearly one million women each year, and causes one in eight maternal deaths, according to the WHO. Poor and rural women are disproportionately affected.

Obtaining a safe abortions is difficult if there is fear of legal consequences, social stigma, high cost, or lack of access to trained health professionals. Banning abortion does not reduce the numbers of women who attempt it; in fact, the abortion rate is much higher where it is illegal.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, only 6 of the 34 countries -- accounting for less than 5% of the region's women ages 15-44 -- allow abortion without restriction.

In 2007 the Mexico City government lifted the ban on abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There MEXFAM (IPPF/WHR) provides safe abortion services. Where the law is more restrictive, MEXFAM works to reduce the public health impact of unsafe abortion.

Nearly half of sexually active young women in Latin America and the Caribbean have an unmet need for contraception. Providing contraception will not only reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, and the number of abortions, but also empower women by giving them the freedom to choose when and if they have children. doclink

Birth Rate Plummets in Brazil

December 30, 2011, Washington Post

Across Latin America fertility rates plummeted, even though abortion is illegal, the Catholic Church opposes birth control and government-run family planning is rare.

Migration to the cities, the expansion of the female workforce, better health care and the example of the small, affluent families portrayed on the region's popular soap operas have contributed to such a fast demographic shift that it caught social scientists by surprise. The number of children per woman when from 6 in 1960 to 2.3 by 2010.

Brazil has been particularly fascinating for demographers, it's fertility rate falling lower than in any other Latin American country except Cuba, which has state-sponsored family planning and legalized abortion. With a population of almost 200 million, there is a great gap between rich and poor, although millions have joined the middle class during Brazil's recent economic expansion.

The country's fertility rate has fallen from 6.15 children per woman in 1960 to less than 1.9 today. That is lower than the United States, which at 2 per woman is just enough for the population to replace itself.

Brazil's fertility rate took a big drop uniformly across the country. Suzana Cavenaghi, a Brazilian census bureau demographer. "We wouldn't expect that in a country that's so diverse, with a lot of poverty in so many places and so unequal, economically speaking."

Women were empowered by a pro-democracy movement that rose up against a 1970s-era military dictatorship. That dictatorship, which wanted to populate Brazil's remote areas, inadvertently contributed to fewer births by promoting industrialization. That led rural families to crowd into cities, where a brood of children could be a financial drain.

Women began to look for means of birth control, easily obtained without a prescription. Doctors in the public health service provided sterilizations, which became common, and women sought out pills that induced abortions long before those pills became the subject of controversy in the United States.

A report, "The Battle for Female Talent in Brazil," says that 59% of Brazilian women consider themselves “very ambitious" and that 80% of college-educated women aspire to upper-echelon positions. U.S. women are far less likely to give those responses.

The country's elaborate soaps, or telenovelas, have been an important factor in the drop in Brazilian fertility, researchers say. The protagonists inhabit an appealing, affluent, highflying world, whose distinguishing features include the small family. doclink

A Story of Hope in Mexico

December 16, 2011, ABC News








video platform
video management
video solutions
video player

As part of the Million Moms Challenge, 20/20 focused on maternal health in the developing world. There are five videos at the bottom of the page - click on the link in the headline above. Two are touted here. doclink

Consume Less: Costa Rica Offers a Model for Living More Simply

August 27, 2011, Durango Herald

by Richard Grossman MD, 2011

A child born in a developing country will have only a fraction of the impact that a child would have in the United States. And worldwide our numbers are increasing by 1 % per year while consumption is skyrocketing at 2 to 4 %.

Costa Rica is a good example of a nation that approaches sustainability. The income of an average Costa Rican (or "Tico", to use their nickname) is significantly less than that of an American. Our buying power is about $47,000 per person each year, but in Costa Rica it is less than a quarter of that, at $11,000. Obviously Ticos consume less than do norteamericanos.

Yet on the Satisfaction with Life Index, rates Ticos higher (13th in the world) than Americans (just 23rd).

Most Ticos do not own cars, but use their feet or public transportation to travel. On average, Ticos live a year or two longer than Americans. Tico people are physically active and fast food is uncommon.

Costa Rica is unique in the world in that it emphasizes education and health. It has no military—that's right, none! Instead it provides free health care to all citizens and free education through high school. In contrast, the USA spends a huge fraction of our finances on the military. Part of our expenditure is to support our extravagant use of petroleum, which largely comes from far away. A large portion of our military might is used to gain and protect sources of petroleum. Furthermore, our military consumes huge amounts of oil.

Contraception is free and available to all Ticos as part of their health care. Funding for family planning in the USA, however, has been shrinking when measured in real dollars, and its very existence has been jeopardized with recent political changes.

The Tico lifestyle uses much less of the planet's resources and adds less pollution to the environment. Costa Rica has also preserved a greater proportion of its land as parks than any other country in the world. Its rain and cloud forests have become a major tourist destination, and a major source of income. Almost all electricity in Costa Rica comes from renewable sources—hydro and wind—but it is affordable for all.

We cannot all move to Costa Rica. We here in the USA can, however, endeavor to reduce our consumption. People who choose "simple living" (or a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity) work less, spend less, and enjoy life more. Most important is that they are happier and have less impact on the planet. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Another reason for living simply is that our small GDP, unemployment, high food prices, and peak of natural resources is going to force us towards a more simple life style. Now is the time to develop a healthy attitude and the infrastructure necessary for a more simplistic - yet fulfilling - life.

Brazil's Girl Power: Machisma - How a Mix of Female Empowerment and Steamy Soap Operas Helped Bring Down Brazil’s Fertility Rate and Stoke Its Vibrant Economy.

August 23, 2011, National Geographic News

Not counting the stillbirth, the 3 miscarriages, and the baby who lived less than 24 hours. Dona Maria had 16 pregnancies and said she should have more than a hundred grandchildren by now, but only had 26. Her son José Alberto Carvalho has been studying the Brazilian demographic phenomenon that lowered their fertility rate to 2.36 children per family to the national average of 1.9, which is below replacement level and lower than the U.S. fertility rate.

Brazil is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church and no official government policy has ever promoted birth control. Abortion except for special circumstances is illegal there.

The decline has occurred across every class and region of Brazil. Two children is typically the desired number. When a women is done having children, we might hear her say: "A fábrica está fechada," meaning the factory is closed.

About half the world's population lives in countries where the fertility rates have dropped to below replacement rate, about two children per family. In most of the rest of the world they've rapidly fallen except for sub-Saharan Africa.

Carvalho said "What took 120 years in England took 40 years here." Central to the reasons Brazil's fertility rate has dropped so far and so fast are tough, resilient women who set out a few decades back, without encouragement from the government and over the pronouncements of their bishops, to start shutting down the factories any way they could.

Many women under 35 have already had sterilization surgery because pregnancy accidents happen too easily, pills make you fat or sick, and children are too expensive, too much work.

Carvalho suggested a formula for quickly lowering a developing nation's fertility rate without official intervention from the government:

1. Industrialize dramatically, urgently, and late; force the country into a new kind of economy, one that has concentrated work in the cities, where the housing is cramped, the favela streets are dangerous, babies look more like new expense burdens than like future useful farmhands, and the jobs women must take for their families' survival require leaving home for ten hours at a stretch.

2. Make sure birth control is easily accessed: over-the-counter, without a doctor's prescription, if they can just come up with the money. Foster in these women a dismissive attitude toward the Catholic Church's position on artificial contraception.

3. Improve infant and child mortality statistics so there is no longer the need to have extra for insurance. Add a pension program, so that a big family is not needed to support them when they grow old.

4. Reward doctor for performing cesareans rather than waiting for natural deliveries and spread the word that a doctor who has already begun the surgery for a cesarean can probably be persuaded to throw in a discreet tubal ligation. Yes, the Catholic church would disapprove, but many women of faith felt in some matters the male clergy is perhaps not wholly equipped to discern the true will of God.

5. Introduce electricity and television. Depict the modern Brazilian family as affluent, light skinned, and small in evening soap operas, or telenovelas. One study found that the spread of televisions outpaced access to education, which has greatly improved in Brazil. doclink

Cuba to Copy Dutch Sex Education

July 23, 2011, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, heads Cuba's National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX). Speaking at the 20th World Congress for Sexual Health held in of Glasgow, Ms Castro praised Holland's sex education, including Love Matters, Radio Netherlands Worldwide's website that informs young people on sex and sexual health in a clear and simple way.

Dutch sex education promotes the use of contraceptives, including condoms. Combined with sex education, which is offered at most schools, this model, United Nations figures show, has led to some of the world's lowest rates in teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions. In addition, youths in Holland tend to have their first sexual encounters at an older age than teenagers in countries where sex is taboo.

Ms Castro is studying Holland's sex education model as part of her efforts to introduce changes in Cuba. "Our talks with our health ministry are progressing, but things with the education ministry are slower."

One of Cuba's main problems is the high rate of unwanted teenage pregnancies.

Ms Castro hints that Cuba's Communist Party may soon be ready to recognise gay and lesbian rights, even though her father has cautioned her that the time may not yet be ripe.

"My father ...has told me one first has to create the right conditions - and Cuban society lacks them in many areas".

With socialism "we've made a lot of progress regarding women's rights. So I'd tell my father: why don't we do the same thing with these issues? But he'd say: look, some things have such deeps roots in our culture, that you'll face a lot of resistance unless you sort out some other things first."

Sex education, experts say, has three pillars: home, school and the media. Though Cuba officially instituted sex education in 1976, it is still suffering from a number of contradictions.

"Cuban families trust a lot what children are told at school," she says. “We began commemorating days against homophobia in 2008, and now people are beginning to tell their children. They didn't in the past, thinking we were only telling them how to avoid pregnancies, or telling them about infections and biological issues. But all that is proving complicated because the national media are not helping."

As the head of CENESEX, Ms Castro has made the fight against homophobia in Cuba a personal struggle, giving countless talks and interviews. At the last Communist Party Congress, held in April, President Raúl Castro launched a harsh attack on Cuba's media. Thanks to that, Ms Castro believes, the media reported on the latest day against homophobia.

"Men should be taught to be responsible, " and have vasectomies after age 50.

Cuba has no abortion law but, since 1965, abortions have been offered as a free public health care service. This led to a significant drop in the number of deaths resulting from clandestine abortions. A key role in institutionalising abortion and promoting women's rights was played by the former president of the Federation of Cuban Women, the late Vilma Espín—Ms Castro's mother. doclink

Latin America: Families in Action Pays Mothers to Improve Health: Program Helps Poor Women Lift Families

June 8, 2011, Los Angeles Times

Families in Action, an innovative social program partly funded by the World Bank pays 4,200 poor mothers in Tunja about $100 a month as long as they attend diet and hygiene classes, get their children to school and have them undergo medical exams.

Programs like Families in Action are offered in 19 Latin American countries, costing about $12 billion. Economist Ferdinando Regalia of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington believes that the schemes are a cost-effective means of reducing poverty and delivering health and education services.

The program helped one women leave her abusive husband, after attending "empowerment" classes where she learned she didn't have to tolerate his violent attacks and that she had a right to a look for a job. She is now pursuing a career as a hairdresser.

Besides the four required medical exams a year to check their weight and vision, as well as to test for bacterial infections, children ages 7 to 18 must be present for 80% of their school days, and adolescents must receive family planning classes or their mothers don't get paid.

An encouraging part of this program is that poor women in the program have become more politically active. And the program has helped save severely undernourished children.

The programs have grown to cover 112 million people in Latin America, or 19% of the region's population, according to United Nations figures. Columbia has 10.4 million people in the program, Brazil 51.6 million, and Mexico 23.2 million.

"The objectives are to lower poverty in the short term and raise human capital in the long term," said Helena Ribe, a World Bank economist.

There are concerns that the program may be discontinued if the region, now enjoying a commodities-fueled economic boom, suffers a downturn. However, the leaders may maintain the programs which are so popular and cost-effective to avoid political backlash. doclink

Guatemala: Hunger in a Land of Plenty as Global Elites Harvest a Banana and Biofuel Bounty

June 01, 2011, Guardian (London)

Guatema is a leading producer of food for global markets. Yet people who work on farms there often cannot afford to eat every day. Domingo Tamupsis works works 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, as a harvester on a sugar plantation for a firm that exports bioethanol to fill the fuel tanks of cars in the US. Some all he has to eat are the mangoes that drop from trees by the roadside.

His wife is so slight she might be mistaken for a girl. Her last pregnancy ended with a stillborn child. His two year old daughter is the size of the average European one-year-old. With a little land he'd grow food, but the promised government redistribution of unproductive land, which drew him to the area, never took place.

Oxfam says the global food system is failing, predicting that the average price of staple foods will double by 2030. It warns: "Spiralling food prices, climate chaos, rising demand on top of a collapsing resource base, and markets rigged against the many in favour of the few" are taking us into a new era of crisis in which more and more people are going hungry.

The world's poorest people spend up to 80% of their income on food and will be hit the hardest.

Half of Guatemala's children under five are malnourished - one the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, and its 14 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $2 a day. Yet the country has food in abundance. It is the fifth largest exporter of sugar, coffee, and bananas. Its rural areas are witnessing a palm-oil rush as international traders seek to cash in on demand for biofuels created by US and EU mandates and subsidies. The money to be made from the food chain here, as in most poor countries, has been captured by elites and transnational corporations, leaving half the population excluded.

Aida Pesquera, Oxfam director for Guatemala, says: "The food is here but the main problem is distribution. Land is concentrated in very few hands. The big companies pay very little tax. ... It's a classic case of how a very productive country, .. especially among the indigenous population, cannot feed its own people."

In the 1980s a structural adjustment programme imposed by the IMF on the debt-laden nation led to the slashing of technical assistance provided by the agriculture ministry to small farmers. Guatemala, which had been self-sufficient in grain, was encouraged to pursue growth through agricultural exports. Local production of staples declined.

Oxfam believes that Cafta, the free-trade agreement between the US and Central American states approved in 2005, has undermined farmers further as subsidised US grains have poured in, making it impossible for small farmers in developing countries to compete.

More than two-thirds of productive land is in the hands of 2% to 3% of the population.

Land reform is desperately needed, but there has been much conflict over it.

More from the article at http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx doclink

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Has Increased

May 19, 2011, Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased

The Brazilian government was surprised to learn that deforestation increased 27% from August 2010 to April 2011, Brazil's space research institute satellite images show.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the objective was "to reduce deforestation by July" .

Last December, a government report said deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate for 22 years.

The biggest rise was in Mato Grosso, which produces more than a quarter of Brazil's soybean harvest.

Some environmentalists argue that rising demand for soy and cattle is prompting farmers to clear more of their land.

But others see a direct link between the jump in deforestation and the message that "profiting from deforestation will be amnestied, that crime pays," said Marcio Astrini from Greenpeace.

The Forest Code, enacted in 1934 and subsequently amended in 1965, sets out how much of his land a farmer can deforest. Regulations currently require that 80% of a landholding in the Amazon remain forest, 20% in other areas.

Proponents say the law impedes economic development and contend that Brazil must open more land for agriculture. doclink

New Interactive Website on Adolescent Sexual Health Launches in Mexico

March 17, 2011, Population Media Center website

Over 70% of Mexican youth between the ages of 12 and 19 are using the internet, according to the National Population Council. So a new website, Sexpertos Saludables ("Healthy Sexperts"), www.sexpertos.net was launched with support from PMC and Carlos Slim Institute fo Health, Centro de Orientación para Adolescentes (CORA). It is a new interactive website in Mexico focused on improving adolescent sexual health.

The website features several interactive components geared toward youth aged 9 to 14, the centerpiece of which is several short animations featuring young Latino-style illustrated characters reminiscent of Japanese Animé. The animations follow a group of friends, three boys and three girls, navigating their way through puberty and adolescence. Segments deal with a variety of issues, including body changes, tips for surviving adolescence, gender roles, and self-examination for early detection of cancer in men and women.

The website also includes a forum and chat, the debunking of myths, games on self-esteem and responsibility, short video clips of interviews with youth leaders/role-models, an "apendisex" section where youth can get answers to commonly asked questions, and tests that look for signs that may lead to disorders or addiction. Private advice is avaiable via online chat from one of Mexico's leading psychologists. doclink

When Averages Mislead: Effects of "Graduating" Latin America From Contraceptive Support

February 15, 2011, International Planned Parenthood

Looking at the broader issue of funding for sexual and reproductive health (SRH), it was found that USAID and other providers of development assistance were reallocating aid for SRH on the basis of aggregate national statistics and consequently abandoning Latin America as they turned their sights increasingly on Africa.

Latin America countries are now considered "middle-income", but the gap in distribution of wealth and income is very, very large, especially if you look at things like contraceptive prevalence and fertility rate, comparing the top 20%, and the bottom 20% of the population. Also the rural areas are very much poorer and the indicators for indigenous populations in particular compare quite unfavorably.

IPPF/WHR and UNFPA Washington investigated the impact of this withdrawal of foreign aid for SRH and the graduation of Latin American countries from USAID population funding, focusing on Peru because it is fairly representative of many countries in the region, in that it has a rapidly growing economy, such that the aggregate data look very good, but on the other hand, it's highly unequal - rapid economic growth comes with growing inequality, and very high levels of poverty.

One of the things we focused on was "contraceptive security," a standard that USAID applies for "graduation," which means that before funding is eliminated, modern methods of contraception should be widely available to whoever wants them, and they should not only be available, but also free or for an affordable price.

In the public sector, there were no condoms to be found and also shortages of all types of contraceptives. Some had been out of stock for months, and they didn't know when the next shipment would be arriving. The whole contraceptive supply chain was in fact breaking down, and the overall profile could hardly be said to resemble anything like genuine contraceptive security.

In January IPPF/WHR and UNFPA hosted an event in Washington, DC to educating members of Congress, and to some extent a wider public, about this problem.

It's not that we disagree that there are bigger needs in Africa, we just feel that precipitous cutting of funding to Latin America and the Caribbean means that the criteria and the standards that were established by USAID itself in its graduation program are not being met. They need to take another look at the timing, and think about maintaining funding levels.

For the executive summary report, see http://www.ippfwhr.org/sites/default/files/DRAFT_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY_PERU_.pdf doclink

Mexico's New Agricultural Crisis

February 12, 2011, Commerce News

750,000 acres of corn crops were reported destroyed after unusually cold temperatures blanketed the north of the country in January and early February in northern Mexico. Hardest hit was the northwestern state of Sinaloa, known as the "Bread Basket of Mexico," one of Mexico's major producers of white corn, the variety of maize used to make staple tortillas.

The weather-related losses were labeled "the worst disaster" in the history of Sinaloa.

Altogether 1.5 million acres of corn, vegetable, citrus and other crops were either damaged or destroyed in Sinaloa, with a preliminary economic loss of approximately one billion dollars. Sinaloa provides about 30% of Mexico's grains and vegetables, and also exports food products to the United States.

In Sonora, more than 130,000 acres were reported lost, including 45% of the acreage planted in winter wheat. In Tamaulipas, nearly 800,000 acres in corn and sorghum were impacted, while crop losses in Chihuahua were estimated at $100 million.

Armed men reportedly robbed between 18 and 20 tons of corn seed from a truck in Sinaloa.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said it was incumbent for government agencies to cut the red-tape and get insurance payments, credit, seeds and technical support rolling out the door and into the hands of farmers. The federal Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries will release $100 million in emergency aid, while about 150,000 farmworkers will be paid $11 per day for clearing and replanting fields.

Prices for tortillas continued rising, now more than 50% higher than the 8 peso ceiling the Calderon administration pledged in 2007.

The agricultural crisis could have important political ramifications for the 2012 presidential election.

No mention was made in the latest round of news reports on any possible links between human-caused climate change and the present disaster. doclink

Amazon Drought Caused Huge Carbon Emissions

February 08, 2011, Reuters

The 2010 1.16 million square-mile drought in the Amazon rain forest was worse than a "100-year" dry spell in 2005, according to a study conducted by a collaboration between scientists at the University of Leeds and the University of Sheffield in Britain and Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute

More frequent severe droughts like those in 2005 and 2010 risk turning the world's largest rain forest from a sponge that absorbs carbon emissions into a source of the gases, accelerating global warming. Trees and other vegetation in the world's forests soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow, helping cool the planet, but release it when they die and rot. The 2010 drought was a tree killer and dried up major rivers in the Amazon and isolated thousands of people who depend on boat transportation, shocking climate scientists who had billed the 2005 drought as a once-in-a-century event.

The study predicted the Amazon forest would not absorb its usual 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in both 2010 and 2011. In addition, the dead and dying trees would release 5 billion metric tons of the gas in the coming years, making a total impact of about 8 billion metric tons, according to the study.

In comparison, the United States emitted 5.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use in 2009.

If the droughts are driven by global warming, a vicious cycle of warmer temperatures and droughts could conceivably lead to a large-scale transformation of the forest over a period of decades and large parts of the forest could turn into a savannah-like ecosystem by the middle of the century with much lower levels of animal and plant biodiversity. doclink

Colombia Launches Large-Scale Birth Control Effort

December 12, 2010, Los Angeles Times

This fall Colombia's Congress passed a law guaranteeing all citizens access to free contraceptive drugs and surgical procedures, including vasectomies and tubal ligations. Since then, clinics have opened, especially in impoverished areas where teen pregnancy rates are high.

The benefits are only now filtering down to shanty neighborhoods such as northeast Cali, where birthrates are among the nation's highest, particularly among teenagers, health officials here said.

"The law is a real accomplishment and is already creating a lot of demand," psychologist Maribel Murillo said in her office at the Diamante health clinic, not far from shacks made of boards and plastic sheeting. "It will advance the sexual rights of women of little means, many of whom already have several children."

The new President Juan Manuel Santos, after taking office in August put it at the top of his legislative agenda.

Columbia is largely a Roman Catholic nation whose constitutional court has recently ruled to remove penalties for performing abortions.

Colombia's healthcare system is on the verge of collapse because of the constitutional guarantees of universal care, as funding from tax and other government revenue falls short. Because maternity and neonatal care are among the healthcare system's fastest-growing costs, free contraceptive medicine and surgeries could end up saving the government money.

Moreover, Colombia's birthrate, which overall has dropped by nearly two-thirds since 1950, has risen recently among teenagers. Studies show that adolescent pregnancies feed a vicious cycle of social problems, including poverty, violence and low levels of education. doclink

Mexico's Population Tops 112 Million, Ranking 11th in World

November 28, 2010, Digital Journal

As of June 2101, Mexico has more than 112 million people, ranking it 11th most populous country in the world, according to census results. Previous census showed 97.4 million people in 2000.

While Mexico's recent population growth is partially explained by a reluctance on the part of migrant workers to leave the country in search of work, the latest figures show an increase that is 3.6 million greater than the numbers projected by experts.

Populations worldwide are becoming too large - and humanity is running out of vital resources to sustain the daily demand. Human population globally increases by 72 people every 30 seconds, 200,000 people per day, and 78 million people every year, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

Population Media Center has been working with CORA (Centro de Orientacion para Adolescentes) to target adolescents aged 11 to 16 on issues of sexual health and education. The organization also works in many hot-spot countries, such as Nigeria, Brazil, Rwanda, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The overpopulation issue is complex and spans social, political, religious, ethnic, and cultural divides. In the Philippines, for example, there exists a resistance to the idea that overpopulation is a national challenge. "This growth rate is not high, but the real numbers continue to grow because people finally 'stopped dying like flies'.

A recent column in The Philippine Star claimed that the average worker in the Philippines is much younger than his counterpart in most of the world, giving them a long term edge that has been lost forever in so many countries. Population controllers talk about 'exploding' numbers, without looking at the age structure, when the world's most serious problem is irreversible ageing, 'de-fertilization', 'depopulation' and 'dechristianization' now changing the face of Europe".

The UN predicts that African cities will triple by 2050 - a cataclysmic prediction for a continent that is unable to provide for such growth.

While family planning, the rights of women, and the implementation of condoms are the most common solutions put forward to tackle the problem, the options may become more grim if growth figures continue unabated. doclink

Karen Gaia says: 1/3 of the population growth in the world is due to incidental or unwanted pregnancies. Family plannning, rights of women, and contraception have not been adequately funded.

South American Transition to Low Fertility Spreads to Paraguay

Population Reference Bureau

Paraguay does not seem a likely candidate for rapid fertility decline: The population is poorer, more rural, and has lower educational levels than its neighboring countries. A large percentage of the population speaks Guarani, an indigenous language, rather than Spanish, the official language. Yet Paraguay recorded a remarkable increase in contraceptive use and a sharp decline in fertility over the past decade.

Paraguay's fertility transition through 2004 documented a fall in the total fertility rate (TFR), from 4.3 in 1998 to 2.9 in the 2001-2004 period, and suggested continued decline because younger women said they wanted fewer children. A new survey shows the TFR down to 2.5 children per woman by 2008, a faster decline than projected. The percentage of married women ages 15 to 44 using contraception increased from 57% to 79% between 1998 and 2008.

There is a wide gap in TFRs between the more modern and educated populations and the more traditional population groups. The TFR was down to 2.2 children per woman among urban residents, while it was still 3.0 among rural residents in 2002. Similarly, Spanish- speaking women averaged just 2.2 children, compared with 3.3 among Guarani- speaking Paraguayans. The most dramatic differences were by education: Women with less than five years of education averaged 3.6 children, while those with at least 12 years of education averaged just 2.0 children.

Paraguay has seen improvements in the education of girls in recent decades. Enrollment in elementary school is nearly universal, and data from UNESCO show the percentage enrolled in secondary school rising from 59% to 68% between 1999 and 2002, the most recent year statistics are available. This is well below the regional average of 92%, but a marked improvement in just a few years.

Recent increases in the education of women have been tied to greater contraceptive use up through 2004. The 2008 survey shows that acceptance of contraceptive use has spread among all education levels. Even among women with less than three years of formal education, 72% used a contraceptive in 2008, compared with just 36% in 1998. The gap in contraceptive use between urban and rural women disappeared by 2008. While there are still clear rural and education differences in actual childbearing, it seems likely that those differences will abate further in coming years. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Let's hope that sufficient women's advancement has taken place to ensure that female babies are valued as much as male babies, otherwise the TFR will hover around 3 children rather than at replacement level.

Abortion Politics Hit Brazil Elections

October 18, 2010, Aljazeera

The issue of abortion has turned into a weapon that threatens to take away votes in Brazil, with conservative religious groups using it as a bargaining chip in exchange for their support.

The majority of voters, who are in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion, say analysts and representatives of the women's movement, criticise the use of women's bodies as a means of electoral pressure.

The question of whether abortion, which is currently punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Brazil, should be legalised has become a flashpoint issue in the campaign between Dilma Rousseff of the governing Workers Party (PT) and her rival José Serra of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

Earlier indications that Rousseff favoured the legalisation of abortion were seen as the main reason she failed to win outright in the first round of voting, on October 3.

As in most of Latin America, abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

A decisive number of voters defected from the Rousseff camp to Green Party candidate Marina Silva, an evangelical Christian.

Silva, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's (no relation) former environment minister, is opposed to abortion and proposed holding a referendum on whether or not it should be legalised.

The Green candidate's strong performance was the big surprise on October 3, when she took nearly 20% of the vote, behind Rousseff, who won 47%, and Serra, who garnered close to 33%. According to a poll, Rousseff now has 48% support, compared to Serra's 40%.

In this month's campaign, Rousseff and Serra are presenting themselves as champions of the moral crusade against the decriminalisation of abortion, even though in the past both of them have expressed openness to women's right to choose.

Beatriz Galli with Ipas Brazil -- the national branch of IPAS, an international network that works for the sexual and reproductive rights of women worldwide -- told IPS she regrets that the debate has been reduced "to being against or in favour of abortion or in favour of life"...

A study by University of Brasilia professor Débora Diniz, an anthropologist and a researcher at the Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender, found that one out of five women interviewed had had an abortion before the age of 40.

And of the respondents who had undergone an abortion, 88% said they were religious -- a revealing figure in the country with the largest number of Catholics in the world, and where evangelical churches are growing at breakneck speed...

The "demonisation" of abortion in the campaign did not reflect the opinion of the majority of voters. Women resort to unsafe abortion "in order to be able to determine how many children they want and are able to have.

Oliveira and Silva both stressed that abortion has crowded out other women's issues, such as political participation, assistance for victims of violence, and equal employment opportunities. doclink

A World Too Full of People

August 30, 2010, Statesman

Politicians of western countries avoid talking about population control, but if we invest in family planning we might just save our planet.

A 60-year-old Bolivian woman, mother of eight, was born and raised in a mountain community in Bolivia. High above her home, a glacier is retreating three times as fast as predicted ten years ago. All but one of her children have already migrated to other parts of the country. Because of the dwindling water supply, she must spend hours hauling water and the fodder for her llamas and sheep is more difficult to find, with some of her llamas starving to death.

She and women like her are on the front line of the struggle against climate change. But her plight as a mother dramatizes an issue that was largely ignored at the UN summit last December and is missing from the agenda of the UN summit in Mexico (COP16), scheduled for late this year. It is the problem of human numbers. doclink

Preventing Teenage Pregnancy in Ecuador

August 27, 2010, Targeted News Service

Teens in Ecuador are often raped or abused, frequently resulting in pregnancy. Unfortunately there is terrible under reporting of sexual abuse.

An Ecuadorean programme for teenagers, sponsored by the Ministry of Health, explained that the high-risk groups for teenage pregnancy are often rural and poor, but that young people in large cities like Quito and Guyaquil are at equally high risk. Lack of access to condoms and other family planning methods are a serious obstacle to preventing teen pregnancies.

The UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is supporting the Ministry in establishing a nationwide network of reproductive health and information services designated especially for adolescents and young people.

Teenagers often do not seek family planning services at regular hospitals and clinics because they are afraid of gossip. "In some cases girls as young as 15 are forced to get married if they become pregnant."

The health service also provides information about reproductive health to teenagers through schools in the community.

18% of children born in Latin America and the Caribbean have teenage mothers. Having children at a young age exposes girls to greater health risks and often keeps them from continuing their education. Girls under 15 who become pregnant are five times more likely to die from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth than those at 20. doclink

Slavery in Haiti

July 06, 2010, Toward Freedom website

As an example, a former child slave sent four of her five children into slavery because she feared they would die of hunger in her home.

There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world, according to Free the Slaves. This is more than at any time in history, even including during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In Haiti, the only nation ever to host a successful slave revolution, 225,000 to 300,000 children live in servitude in a system known as restavèk. The numbers may rise dramatically due to the hundreds of thousands of children who lost their parents or were abandoned after the earthquake. In addition to likely trauma, hunger and health problems, these children usually do unpaid labor. Unprotected girls are also at risk of what amounts to sex slavery. Parents, usually from the countryside, where poverty is unrelenting, give up their child to a better-off relative, neighbor or stranger who promises to provide care and schooling. The children are as young as three, with girls between six and 14 years old comprising 65%.

Restavèk children toil long hours and rarely go to school. They are regularly abused. They usually eat table scraps or have to scavenge in the streets for their own food, sleep on the floor and wear cast-off rags.

The children usually stay because of the threat of severe punishment if they are caught trying to escape. Another reason is that they have no other source of food and shelter. Survival and safety options for street children in Haiti are not good.

The system has long been widely socially accepted, but efforts are underway to change this. doclink

More Earthquakes Or Just More People?

May 18, 2010, Californians for Population Stabilization

Earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and Turkey lead some to wonder if seismic activity is increasing, but seismologists say that improved monitoring and instantaneous news contribute to the sense of more earthquake activity.

A bigger factor though is that more people in a more populated world are now living in areas along fault lines. There are 130 cities with populations greater than 1 million, and more than half of those cities are on fault lines.

Haiti, with an estimated population of 9 million, has a fertility rate of 3.81, too high to be sustainable. It's estimated there are about 100,000 Haitians living in the United States illegally and another 30,000 who were awaiting deportation at the time of the quake. doclink

Growing Demand for Soybeans Threatens Amazon Rainforest

December 30, 2009, Earth Policy Institute

In 1765, the first soybeans were planted in North America. Today the soybean occupies more U.S. cropland than wheat. And in Brazil, the soybean is invading the Amazon rainforest.

For close to two centuries the soybean languished as a curiosity crop. Then during the 1950s, the demand for meat, milk, and eggs climbed. But with little new grassland farmers turned to grain to produce not only more beef and milk but also more pork, poultry, and eggs. World consumption of meat at 44 million tons in 1950 had already started the climb that would take it to 280 million tons in 2009, a sixfold rise.

In addition, animal nutritionists found that combining one part soybean meal with four parts grain would dramatically boost the efficiency with which livestock and poultry converted grain into animal protein.

In 1970 the U.S. was producing three fourths of the world's soybeans, and by 1995 the U.S. land area planted to soybeans had eclipsed that in wheat.

When world grain and soybean prices climbed in the mid- 1970s, the United States embargoed soybean exports, and Japan discovered that Brazil was looking for new crops to export. In 2009, the area in Brazil planted to soybeans exceeded that in all grains combined.

Today the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina produce four fifths of the world's soybean crop and account for 90% of the exports.

Rising incomes enabled many of China's 1.3 billion people to move up the food chain, consuming more meat, milk, eggs, and farmed fish. By 2009 China was consuming 55 million tons of soybeans, of which 41 million tons were imported, accounting for 75% of its soaring consumption.

Today half of all soybean exports go to China. Soybean meal mixed with grain for animal feed made it possible for Chinese meat consumption to grow to double that in the United States.

One tenth the 250-million-ton world soybean crop is consumed directly as food - tofu, meat substitutes, soy sauce, and other products. Nearly one fifth is extracted as oil, making it a leading table oil. The remainder, roughly 70% of the harvest, ends up as soybean meal to be consumed by livestock and poultry.

Satisfying the global demand for soybeans, growing at nearly 6 million tons per year, poses a challenge. The soybean is a legume, fixing atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, which means it is not as fertilizer-responsive as, say, corn, which has a ravenous appetite for nitrogen. But because the soy plant uses a substantial fraction of its metabolic energy to fix nitrogen, it has less energy to devote to producing seed. This makes raising yields more difficult.

Since 1950, U.S. corn yields have quadrupled while those of soybeans have barely doubled. Although the U.S. area in corn has remained essentially unchanged since 1950, the area in soybeans has expanded fivefold. Farmers get more soybeans largely by planting more soybeans. How do we satisfy the continually expanding demand for soybeans without clearing so much of the Amazon rainforest that it dries out and becomes vulnerable to fire.

The Amazon is being cleared both by soybean growers and by ranchers, who are expanding Brazil's national herd of beef cattle. Oftentimes, soybean growers buy land from cattlemen, who have cleared the land and grazed it for a few years, pushing them ever deeper into the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon rainforest sustains one of the richest concentrations of plant and animal biological diversity in the world. It also recycles rainfall from the coastal regions to the continental interior, ensuring an adequate water supply for Brazil's inland agriculture. And it is an enormous storehouse of carbon. Each of these three contributions is obviously of great importance. But it is the release of carbon, as deforestation progresses, that most directly affects the entire world. Continuing destruction of the Brazilian rainforest will release massive quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, helping to drive climate change.

Brazil has discussed reducing deforestation 80% by 2020 as part of its contribution to lowering global carbon emissions. Unfortunately, if soybean consumption continues to climb, the economic pressures to clear more land could make this difficult.

Although the deforestation is occurring within Brazil, it is the worldwide growth in demand for meat, milk, and eggs that is driving it. Saving the Amazon rainforest depends on curbing the growth in demand for soybeans by stabilizing population worldwide as soon as possible. And for the world's affluent population, it means moving down the food chain, eating less meat and thus lessening the growth in demand for soybeans. With food, as with energy, achieving an acceptable balance between supply and demand now means curbing growth in demand rather than just expanding supply. doclink

To Protect Galápagos, Ecuador Limits a Two-legged Species

October 4, 2009, Puerto Rico Journal

The human population of the Galápagos doubled to about 30,000 in the last decade. Environmentalists see evidence that the growth is already harming the ecosystem that allowed the islands' more famous inhabitants - among them giant tortoises and boobies with brightly colored webbed feet - to evolve in isolation before mainlanders started colonizing the islands more than a century ago.

The government, which still welcomes growth in the tourism industry, has expelled more than 1,000 poor Ecuadoreans in the past year from the area.

Unskilled migrants say they are being punished while the country continues to enjoy the many millions of dollars tourists bring to Ecuador, one of South America's poorest nations. It seems that a tortoise is worth more than an Ecuadorean citizen.

97% of the archipelago has been put aside as a park and the United Nations put the Galápagos on its list of endangered heritage sites in 2007.

Fuel spills, the poaching of giant tortoises and sharks and the introduction of invasive species - including rats, cats, cattle and fire ants are threats to the island's native flora and fauna.

Technically, residency is granted to a limited number of people, including those born here and their spouses, people who arrived before 1998 and those with temporary work permits. But the same government that oversees the expulsions also offers subsidies to people living on the islands.

Puerto Villamil, on Isabela, the largest of the islands has one of the Galápagos's highest rates of population growth, about 9% a year.

"I earn $1,200 a month here, while I could only earn $500 a month on the continent," said one resident, a construction worker. Most migrants are lured by relatively high wages they can earn as taxi drivers and hotel maids or workers in the bureaucracy. doclink

Mexico Hit by Lowest Rainfall in 68 Years

August 20, 2009, Planet Ark

More than 1,000 cattle have been lost due to lack of rainfall, and up to 20 million tons of crops managed by 3.5 million small farmers are at risk of being lost, and the government has been forced to slow the flow of water to the crowded capital, due to a lowest in 68 years rainfall. 80 of Mexico's 175 largest reservoirs are less than half full.

The arid northwest region of Mexico has been hardest hit, along with the central part of the country surrounding Mexico City where 20 million people live.

Trucks are delivering water to some parts of the capital where cuts have made the flow of water intermittent.

In neighboring Guatemala, the government is distributing emergency food to 56,000 families whose crops have been damaged.

"How much of this phenomenon is from El Nino? How much is from climate change? The best thing is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst," a water official said. doclink

Ecuador: Almost Extinct Galapagos Tortoise Mates at 90

July 21, 2009, Reuters

in the Galapagos Islands, Lonesome George, well-known as the last remaining giant tortoise of his kind, may be a father soon, if the five unhatched eggs found in his pen produce hatchlings.

Originating on Pinta island, the tortoise had shown little interest in reproducing since 1993, when two female tortoises of a different subspecies were introduced into his pen. At age 90, George is said to be in his sexual prime. The eggs were placed in an incubator from which they will hatch in 120 days if they are fertile.

Last year the 198-pound George mated for the first time, but the eggs laid by one of his female companions turned out to be infertile.

Tortoises were hunted for their meat to the point of extinction, while their habitat has been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland. Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos. doclink

Chilean Glaciers Melting at Unprecedented Rates

June 23, 2009, Santiago Times

The latest research by NASA Scientists Chile's Valdivia-based Center of Scientific Studies (CECS) revealed that alpine glaciers in the Chilean and Argentine Andes are disappearing at much faster rates than previously anticipated by the scientific community.

Masses of ice in the Patagonia are melting in larger proportions and in much higher alpine zones than in any other part of the world, including Alaska and the Himalayas. Glacier ice accounts for around 75% of the world's fresh water.

The loss of ice mass in the higher zones is a new phenomenon, the scientists said. With ice thinning both high up and down low, loss in glacial mass in Patagonia is likely to be much greater than what has previously been calculated by scientists.

Most of Chile's 3,500 identified glaciers have experienced significant losses in volume and surface area due to climate change and are in danger of disappearing altogether.

Between 1995 and 2000, Patagonian glaciers made up 9% of the total glacier contribution to global sea levels.

The Southern Patagonia Ice Field has the third largest concentration of continental ice, after Antarctica and Greenland.

The higher temperatures associated with glacier meltdowns and climate change are largely caused by CO2 or 'greenhouse gas' emissions. Chile's failure to develop a sensible renewable energy policy has resulted in a green light to highly-polluting coal and diesel fuel energy production.

State authorities confirm that the nation's CO2 emissions will quadruple in the next 20 year if no mitigating actions are taken. doclink

Amazon Deforestation Brings Economy Boom,then Bust

June 12, 2009, Environmental News Network

Chopping down forests in the Brazilian Amazon produces a boom-and-bust economy that draws poor people to newly-cleared land but ultimately leaves them no better off, according to a study published in the journal Science. The study followed 286 municipalities at varying stages along the timeline of deforestation, development and decline.

The development that occured following the deforestation was found to be transitory, not a sustained improvement in peoples' well-being.

Human prosperity, in terms of income, education and health, were measured among settlers along the Amazon's deforested areas.

Poor, often landless people from around Brazil flock to places where initial logging occurs, and soon experience an improvement in quality of life - in income and health and education. When the timber trade gives way to farming and raising livestock, the land is fertile and productive, but it soon declines. Settlers then either stay on whatever land they have managed to possess or head for the next deforestation frontier.

"What happens afterwards is a combination of population increase ... and the over-exploitation of natural resources," said lead author Ana Rodrigues.

The Amazon and other large old-growth forests are valuable as repositories of climate-warming carbon dioxide; vegetation on farm fields and pastures does not store nearly as much. doclink

Amazon Deforestation Brings Economy Boom,then Bust

June 12, 2009, Environmental News Network

Chopping down forests in the Brazilian Amazon produces a boom-and-bust economy that draws poor people to newly-cleared land but ultimately leaves them no better off, according to a study published in the journal Science. The study followed 286 municipalities at varying stages along the timeline of deforestation, development and decline.

The development that occured following the deforestation was found to be transitory, not a sustained improvement in peoples' well-being.

Human prosperity, in terms of income, education and health, were measured among settlers along the Amazon's deforested areas.

Poor, often landless people from around Brazil flock to places where initial logging occurs, and soon experience an improvement in quality of life - in income and health and education. When the timber trade gives way to farming and raising livestock, the land is fertile and productive, but it soon declines. Settlers then either stay on whatever land they have managed to possess or head for the next deforestation frontier.

"What happens afterwards is a combination of population increase ... and the over-exploitation of natural resources," said lead author Ana Rodrigues.

The Amazon and other large old-growth forests are valuable as repositories of climate-warming carbon dioxide; vegetation on farm fields and pastures does not store nearly as much. doclink

Dry Taps in Mexico City: a Water Crisis Gets Worse

April 11, 2009

In one of the most serious water shortages in sprawling Mexico City in recent memory, toilets remained unflushed for the quarter of Mexico City's 20 million urban residents who are without water. Officials have had to ration water of the main reservoir system due to depleting supplies.

The Mexican capital needs to seriously overhaul its water system. The biggest metropolis in the Western hemisphere is becoming an alarming cautionary tale for other megacities. Scientists have warned us about our pumping up too much water while destroying too many forests, and inviting conflict over the precious commodity.

One housewife says "We have got no toilets, I can't wash my children, can't cook, I can't clean the mess off the floor, And the worst thing is, we have got almost nothing to drink."

The thirsty city sits on what was once a great lake, where the Aztecs founded their island citadel in 1325. As the growing population lowers the well water, Mexico City is sinking about three inches a year, putting extra pressure on water distribution pipes, which are now so leaky they lose about 40% of liquid before delivering to homes.

Mexico City relies on a network of reservoirs and treatment plants that pump in water from hundreds of miles around. But rainfall is low, so the system is low. Its main basin is only 47% full, compared 70% average for early April. "This could be caused by climate change and deforestation," says the under director of the National Water Commission. In the April action, the entire system will be shut down for 36 hours.

Poor neighborhoods seem to be affected more than rich. Fleets of water trucks have been sent out. Ramon Aguirre, director of Mexico City's water department, says says the long-term solution involves teaching people to ration their water much better. "We need to educate people from when they are children that water is valuable and needs to be used wisely," he says.

The average Mexico City resident uses 300 liters of waters per day compared to 180 per day in some European cities, "Cheap subsidized water is not helping people. It is giving them a bad service." doclink

Haiti: Pregnant (Again) and Poor

April 4, 2009, New York Times*

Nahomie is an intelligent 30-year-old woman who wanted only two children, yet now she is eight months pregnant with her 10th. She lives in Cite Soleil, a Haitian slum, where she and her 10 children live in a $6-a-month rental shack. There is no food of any kind in it. Six of them sleep on the floor. They have difficulty paying school fees.

Nahomie is one of 200 million women worldwide who, according to United Nations estimates, have an "unmet need" for safe and effective contraception. They don't want to get pregnant but don't use a modern form of family planning.

This "unmet need" results in 70 million to 80 million unwanted pregnancies annually, along with 19 million abortions and 150,000 maternal deaths, according to the United Nations.

In the 1960s and 1970s contraception was advanced, but coercion in China and India and abortion politics, which led to a cutoff in American financing for the United Nations Population Fund - caused the push for contraception to wane and the result was more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

Family planning requires more than condoms or the pill - women in Haiti say they want fewer children - yet only one-quarter of Haitian women use contraceptives.

Nahomie's attempts at family planning were thwarted: injectables caused excess bleeding; a sexually transmitted infection meant she couldn't use an IUD, she couldn't use the pill because she has vascular problems; a family planning clinic seemed scornful of poor women; her second husband refused to use condoms (and then ran off after her 10th pregnancy).

Beyond contraception, we need more dignity for women in clinics, a greater choice of methods that are completely free - and a broad effort to raise the status of women. We need to educate girls and to give them opportunities to earn income through micro-loans, factory jobs or vocational training.

Unless family planning is more successful in poor countries, they won't be able to overcome poverty. doclink

Re "Pregnant (Again) and Poor," by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, April 5):

In 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the world recognized "the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so."

This pledge has been honored more in the breach than in the implementation.

You have to look at the small print of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5, "Improve Maternal Health," under Target 2, to find this language: "An unmet need for family planning undermines achievement of several other goals."

These "several other" goals include reducing poverty, providing universal access to education, reducing infant and child mortality, empowering women, attaining environmental sustainability, and developing in such a way that improvement is not eaten up by population growth.

Giving women choices and access to education and health is the key to any acceptable future.

Jane Roberts
Redlands, Calif., April 5, 2009 .....

Those of us who are devoting our careers to improving women's and children's health were delighted to read Nicholas D. Kristof's endorsement of our effort. But Mr. Kristof could have been clearer on two points.

First, family planning saves lives. Nahomie Nercure and her children, whom Mr. Kristof writes about, are lucky that they have all survived. Over the time Ms. Nercure had her nine children, several million women died from pregnancy-related causes, often because they lacked access to family planning and safe abortion services. Infant and child mortality are also higher in poor, high-fertility families like Ms. Nercure's.

Mr. Kristof also points to Ms. Nercure's problems using current contraceptive methods. He should also say that we need more research to develop new contraceptive methods for women and men. Such work should be a priority for the National Institutes of Health and others.

Peter J. Donaldson
President, Population Council
New York, April 5, 2009

Mexico's Troubles Are Our Troubles

March 11, 2009, Oil Patch Research

Mexico is our #3 source of oil, providing 1.3 million barrels per day (mbpd), or about 6% of our total.

Mexico's largest oil field, Cantarell, peaked in 2003 at 2.1 mbpd, but its production is crashing at about 38% per year. It is now producing about 0.77 mbpd, and will probably fall to 0.5 mbpd before tailing off at a gentler rate.

Mexico's largest producing region is now the Ku-Maloob-Zaap (KMZ) complex, adjacent to the Cantarell complex. It's smaller than Cantarell, and at 0.78 mbpd it is near its planned maximum production rate.

Nitrogen injection was initiated which we indicates that Mexico would rather maximize its revenue now than worry about tomorrow.

Oil is Mexico's number-one export. With its oil revenues in decline, the state is finding it increasingly difficult to fund operations-including operations against illegal drugs. Drug cartels have grown and have now taken to open war with the authorities, who are finding themselves outgunned against better funded adversaries.

An estimated 10,000 people have died since Mexico's president Felipe Calderan took office in 2006 and began a campaign against organized crime. The atrocities include torture, beheadings, and public displays of mutilated corpses. Extortion and protection rackets are proliferating. The nation's 32 independent states, a decrepit judicial process, and an ineffective and disorganized federal police force have left the nation ill-equipped to control the cartels.

US cities along Mexican borders Texas are contending with increased violence and trade in weapons.

What does the estimated $20 billion trade in illegal drugs from Mexico have to do with energy? Mexico's exports of oil and gas to the US account for over one-third of the government's revenues, and their decline is expected to widen the country's current-account deficit to an average 3.6% of GDP in 2009-13.

The declining production of Cantarell will deprive Mexico's economy of roughly $5 billion. At the same time, a large number of migrant workers in the US are going back home as their work here dries up.

Add to that declining tourism revenues, due to poor security and a loss of income due to the falling price of oil, and you have an economy that is on the ropes.

It will be very difficult for the Mexican government to maintain order, and fight the drug cartels under such severe pressures.

It will also make it very difficult for Pemex to raise the capital to expand its oil and gas production. Mexican law prohibits foreign companies from owning its petroleum resources, so it relies heavily on debt backed by foreign issuers to fund its operations.

Given the increasing uncertainty of Mexico's future, it is hard to imagine how Pemex will continue to invest at the necessary levels, $20 billion in capital expenditures are planned for this year, to keep its oil and gas flowing to US markets.

On current trends, Mexico's oil and gas exports to the US will cease entirely within seven years.

How will the US adjust to a 6% loss in its oil supply when all of its other major suppliers are also in decline?. Our remaining reserves at home will become an important answer, and those barrels will sell for much higher prices than they do today.

Much of our unconventional oil reserves are too expensive to produce at a profit while oil is still in the $40s. doclink

Mexico City Braces for Water Rationing

March 2009

Mexico City is launching a rationing plan in an effort to conserve water after development, mismanagement and reduced rainfall caused supplies to drop. Water will be cut or reduced in 10 boroughs in Mexico City plus 11 other municipalities in the state. This affects an estimated 5.5 million people and includes neighborhoods ranging from affluent Lomas de Chapultepec on the western edge of the city to poor, densely populated Iztapalapa in the southeast.

Similar cuts will be carried out every month until the rainy season begins, usually around May. "We are running out of water," a senior official with the National Water Commission, told Mexican radio.

The level at the main reservoir has dipped below 60% of capacity, the lowest in 16 years.

Experts say Mexico has failed to take actions needed to upgrade aqueducts, pipes and treatment plants and has allowed construction projects in areas that should be used for catching runoff and replenishing aquifers.

By one study, 10 million people nationwide do not have access to potable water; many must buy it from water trucks at exorbitant prices. Many Mexico City residents were filling buckets, cisterns and bathtubs to spell them through the weekend.

Polanco is a district where a building boom has stretched municipal resources.

Water is getting more complicated with all the people arriving. Water pressure is good at night, but in the day it gets very low.

Mexico City's population increased sixfold in the last half of the 20th century. Officials said rationing was a stop-gap measure and conservation and investment in water-delivery systems were necessary. doclink

Amid Mass Migration to Cities, Bolivians Learn to Adapt to Urbanization

February 12, 2009, Christian Science Monitor

El Alto city is at 13,000 feet, and thousands land on its doorstep each year. Over 90% of its population comes from somewhere else. According to the UN, more than half the world's population is living in cities for the first time, as people move for jobs, education, and better services. By 2050, 70% of the world's population is expected to be urbanized.

This poses challenges: creating new slums, overwhelming governments, and placing new demands on land and water. But the migrants themselves are showing resilience in adapting.

There are innovative ways that people have learned how to deal with the problems.

On a recent day, a group of indigenous women participated in a workshop to develop leadership skills. All these women had moved to El Alto for a better life. Like most migrants here, their economic status is precarious. Latin America and the Caribbean is the world's most urbanized developing region, with 78% of residents living in cities. But this search for employment challenges cities. El Alto's government runs employment programs for youths - giving them internships to work in the factories that draw so many migrants. If some migrants end up in urban poverty, they tend to be better off than the countryside.

Governments tend to blame migration on growth of slums and violence, but it is misplaced. Providing services such as electricity and water is easier in urban areas than dispersed agricultural ones. And urban migrants tend to have networks of friends and family to help them. Census numbers in El Alto reveal an almost equal ratio of women to men, women tend to migrate more permanently, while men migrate seasonally.

Women migrants are vulnerable, but living in cities gives them access to civic roles they would not have in the countryside.

Women who benefit from Pro Mujer tick off the difficulties - infidelity, violence on television, alcohol. doclink

A Green Tsunami in Brazil: the High Price of Clean, Cheap Ethanol

January 22, 2009, Truthout.org

Sugar cane is grown in Brazil to satisfy a demand for ethanol. Brazil hopes to supply drivers worldwide with cheap ethanol, considered an antidote to climate change, but thousands of Brazilian plantation workers harvest the cane at slave wages.

The plantations around Brazil's ethanol zone look like a war zone during the harvest, as the burning fields light up the sky. In the morning, when only embers remain, tens of thousands of workers with machetes head into the fields and harvest the cane, which is used to distill ethanol.

Cane cutters last an average of 12 years on the job before they are so worn out that they have to be replaced. There is nothing else, those who do not cut sugarcane go hungry. a million people toil on the plantations and in Brazil's ethanol factories. The power lies in the hands of militias, working for the sugar barons, who intimidate workers and drive away small farmers in support of a global vision.

"By 2030 we will be the world's largest fuel supplier," says Brazilian President In 2008 Brazil produced just under 26 billion liters of ethanol, projected to rise to 53 billion by 2017. More than 30 countries use ethanol as an additive to gasoline. The US plans to satisfy about 15% of its requirements with biofuel by 2012. Experts estimate that if every car in the world ran on ethanol, Brazil could satisfy one-fourth of global demand. Ethanol would even be cheap, with Brazil's factories producing it at a cost of about 20 cents a liter. But the nightmare of trans-Atlantic slavery began with sugarcane and this is only the beginning, with plans in place to expand production to cover 10 million hectares. The region bordering the Atlantic Ocean is called the Forest Zone. But the rain forests were cut down long ago, and it has been turned into Brazil's ethanol zone. doclink

Karen Gaia says: when will this craziness end?

Brazil Admits Amazon Deforestation on the Rise

December 19, 2008, ScienceDaily

Amazon deforestation jumped 69% in the past 12 months as rising demand for soy and cattle pushes farmers and ranchers to raze trees. Some 3,088 square miles of forest were destroyed between August 2007 and August 2008. Brazil's government has increased cash payments to fight illegal Amazon logging, and eliminated government bank loans to farmers who illegally clear forest. The country lost 2.7% of its Amazon rain forest in 2007, or 4,250 square miles. Monthly deforestation rates have slowed since May, but environmental groups say seasonal shifts in tree cutting make the annual number a more accurate gauge.

Most deforestation is in March and April, and routinely tapers off in May, June and July.

Environmentalists argue that INPE's deforestation report was to alert the government to deforestation hot spots in time to save the land.

The Amazon region covers about 1.6 million square miles of Brazil, nearly 60% of the country. About 20% of that land has been deforested. doclink

Abortion Move Divides Uruguay

November 12, 2008, BBC News

The decision by the Uruguayan Congress to decriminalise abortion is being hailed as a milestone for a country where most forms of abortion have been illegal, and it's a rare step in Latin America where abortion in most countries is considered a criminal act.

Previously abortion was illegal but a woman would not face sanction in the case of rape or if her life were in danger.

The new legislation would allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy in the first 12 weeks if her health is at risk or under certain other circumstances, such as extreme poverty.

Supporters hailed this as a victory which would reduce the number of women who die or become seriously ill after an illegal abortion.

However, Uruguay's President has said he will veto the legislation. doclink

Profligate Water Use in the U.S. Is Fueling the Flight of Mexicans Across the Border

November 11, 2008, AlterNet

On October 21, 2008, the Secretary of the Interior inaugurated the new Imperial Valley water reservoir near the U.S.-Mexico border. The 500-acre reservoir will store surplus Colorado River water for use by coastal Southern California, southern Nevada, and central Arizona; previously this water had been used by Mexican cities and farmers.

This reservoir and a project to line a 23-mile stretch of the All-American Canal with concrete to prevent water seepage to an underground aquifer, means dire consequences for Mexico.

An estimated 67,000 acre-feet of water seeps from the canal annually. This captured seepage water will be sent to San Diego for municipal use. The triumphant U.S. water and irrigation districts are gloating over their victory. The losers are Mexican peasants and subsistence farmers which will fuel illegal migration to the US.

US water negotiators see water as a commodity in this war over natural resources. There are other nails in the coffin of Mexico's water future: a mega-drought; lack of funding for water infrastructure throughout the country; rapid development and population growth; increasing pollution; water privatization and inequality in water allocation. Government corruption, incompetence, infighting, and mismanagement of water.

Mexico's government considers deforestation and the lack of clean water two national security issues. Vicente Fox repeatedly said that water is a national security issue. Mexico's poor have had to contend with skyrocketing food prices, general inflation which also raised the price of water, a calamitous drought, rising unemployment, and increasing hunger and malnourishment.

The poor have staged street protests to protest against a 50% price hike of corn tortillas. Now the subsistence farmers have even less water to irrigate their crops. But the livelihood of those living on subsistence farming will be affected as well by drought and water scarcity. Thus, water scarcity is triggering food insecurity in Mexico, which has implications for its national security.

Northern Mexico also has been afflicted by a drought since 1992. Climate scientists have predicted that the entire region from southwestern United States to north-central Mexico will be hit especially hard by global climate change and extreme droughts. Mexico's largest freshwater lake, has been steadily shrinking since the 1970s and lost approximately 80% of its water due to development in central Mexico.

Drought and water scarcity have exacerbated Mexico's food crisis for the urban poor and for medium-size and small subsistence farmers.

Many of our illegal aliens may be, water or environmental refugees. With intensifying global climate disruptions, there will be more of this category of people in Mexico. doclink

Karen Gaia says: what more evidence do we need that the U.S. is overpopulated and it is impacting the lives of people in other countries?

Caribbean: Island Species Among Most Threatened by Population Growth

July 3, 2008, Blue iguanas

Seven Blue iguanas were killed on Grand Cayman Island, and the incident brought attention to the plight of the iguana. The real problem posed for the species' survival - human population growth - has gone largely unnoticed. Staff writer Ben Block reports on the growing pressures facing island species. A captured breeding program has revived the reptile's population, but human overpopulation remains a leading threat.

A team of volunteers were shocked that someone had attacked the program's endangered reptiles, killing seven. this was a major blow to the recovery of the rare blue iguana, found only on Grand Cayman. Only 10 existed in 2002, but the breeding program has increased the population to about 340.

An influx of immigrants to Grand Cayman has led population size to jump 32.% since 2000. In recent decades, the iguanas were nearly driven to extinction with the construction of highways and the expansion of residential areas. Other island nations are facing similar challenges. Human populations in the Caribbean and Pacific are averaging a 1% annual growth, due to high fertility rates and poor access to reproductive health services.

The rising human populations, coupled with the pressures of global climate change and the spread of invasive species, have made island species among the most threatened in the world. Conservation drives are beginning to preserve more island territory.

The government has been negotiating an agreement that may set aside shrubland for the blue iguana, large enough to accommodate an estimated 1,000 animals to have a self-sustaining wild population. doclink

Ecuador's Yasuni Park: Oil Exploration Or Nature Protection?

March 21, 2008, CorpWatch.org

The Yasuni National Park is a 2.5 million acre rainforest at the intersection of the Andes, the Amazon and the Equator. It is also the heart of a struggle between oil exploration and to permanently protect one of the most biologically diverse regions of the planet.

Only 2.5 acres of this forest contains as many tree species as in the US and and is home to jaguars, woolly and spider monkeys, and harpy eagles. Some of the species live on the brink of extinction. This was the home of 16,000 Waorani, but yoday, there are no more than about a thousand. One of the key reasons is the arrival of multinational oil companies in the latter part of the 20th century. A new plan could bring a halt to this exploration.

Tasuni falls between Ecuador and Peru. The Ecuadorian government granted an environmental license for Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned corporation, to drill for oil in Block 31 that is believed to hold up to a billion barrels of oil. The Peruvian government has approved environmental impact studies for two areas. Armed with new contracts, the companies have attempted to win over the people of the forest by offering the indigenous villagers clothes and candy in return for permission to drill.

With the tacit permission of the villagers, Petrobras started to set up the infrastructure for oil exploration on the outer edges of Yasuni. Local authorities soon started to complain about Skanska's work in the area, saying Skanska behaved in a suspicious manner. An official in the provincial environmental office in Coca says that the company refused to cooperate with them. Petrobras' permit was revoked and the company was asked to conduct an environmental feasibility study.

Villagers say that Skanska hired people from the local population to perform dangerous jobs. They are accused of having purchased food supplies in the villages, but failed to pay.

One of Skanska's regional managers, an Argentinian oil exploration veteran said that "People here are slightly backward. You never know when the barbarians are going to start shooting arrows from the bushes". Skanska engineeers pay for security guards, but the company also has an agreement with the military for support. The oil companies supply the military with infrastructure, food, fuel, living quarters and emergency medical care in exchange for protection.

Attorney Bolivar Beltran says that the contract violates Chapter V of Ecuador's constitution. The population is being exposed to health hazards related to oil spills and waste dumping while they live in fear of the companies.

Today the future of the ITT fields remain uncertain. The government would refrain from exploiting Yasuni in exchange for receiving at least $350 million annually from the international community. A number of groups have put their weight behind it, but the plan has yet to get commitments for the full sum of money. doclink

Jamaica: No Condoms in School, Says Holness

February 14, 2008, Jamaica Gleaner

The minister of education, says that no condoms will be distributed in Jamaican schools. He says the health and family life education programme in secondary schools is the means through which students will make healthy lifestyle decisions. There is a debate that condoms should be distributed to students in schools. The curriculum explores human sexuality and prevention of unplanned pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

It is designed to help the students to make the best choices for themselves. Some 224 high schools have already implemented the programme. A partnership between the ministries of Health and Education was vital in the response to the HIV epidemic, particularly as it relates to Jamaican youth.

"Students 10-19 years old are at highest risk or are vulnerable to HIV infection. This is a result of socio-cultural factors, including the fact that, in Jamaica, young people start having sex early. doclink

Chile's Policy of Free Emergency Contraception Under Threat

February 12, 2008, Ms. Magazine

Conservative officials in Chile are threatening the emergency contraception (EC) policies with a lawsuit that would ban EC. Under the President Michelle Bachelet's administration, all forms of birth control have been free for women over 14 at public clinics since 2006.

Conservatives argue that the policy violates the Chilean ban on abortion based on the misconception that EC is a form of abortion. Despite the Catholic influence on Chile, 49% of Chileans believe that women should have the right to access EC.

President Bachelet's administration is battling pharmaceutical companies to force them to keep emergency contraception in stock. President Bachelet has enforced legislation to ensure birth control's availability. doclink

Brazil to Increase Monitors in Rain Forest as Illegal Clearing Spreads

January 25, 2008, Associated Press

Brazil said it would send additional federal police to the Amazon following an announcement that illegal clearing of the rain forest had jumped last year.

Authorities will also monitor areas where the deforestation occurred in an attempt to prevent anyone from trying to plant crops or raise cattle there. The clearing of Brazil's Amazon rain forest jumped in 2007, spurred by high prices for corn, soy and cattle. Officials will try to fine people or businesses that buy anything produced on the deforested land. The plan means a 25% increase in the police force assigned to the region. If the plan doesn't work, Brazil will have an environmental and economic loss.

As many as 2,700 square miles of rain forest had been cleared from August through December, and Brazil could lose 5,791 square miles of jungle by this August. That would be a 34% increase from the 4,334 square miles of forest that was cut down and burned from August 2006 through July of last year.

Although preliminary calculations prove only that 1,287 square miles of rain forest were cleared from August through December, officials were still analyzing satellite imagery and working under the assumption that the higher amount of jungle had been cleared. doclink

Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Seen Surging

January 17, 2008, Reuters

Deforestation of the Amazon has surged in recent months. The rise raises questions over Brazil's assertion that its environmental policies are effectively protecting the world's biggest rain forest. Nobre, whose government agency monitors the Amazon, said that 2,300 square miles of forest had been lost in the past four months.

That compares with an estimated 3,700 square miles in the 12 months ended July 31, which Brazil officials hailed as the lowest deforestation rate since the 1970s.

Policies such as more controls on illegal logging and better certification of land ownership were reducing the deforestation. But environmental groups warned that rising global commodity prices are likely to fuel more clearing of land for farms.

Nobre said the major drivers of deforestation were illegal logging and land clearing for cattle farming that remained intact, despite the recent annual declines in forest clearing.

The three years of reduced deforestation did not bring a cure for illegal deforestation.

Destruction of forests produces about 20% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions. But the government has struggled to stem deforestation, partly due to strong global demand that has made Brazil one of the world's biggest food suppliers. Infrastructure is associated with aggressive and progressive land use change. Continued high oil prices were likely to result in a surge in demand for Amazon land to produce ethanol. doclink

Paraguay's Traffic Hub Imperils Female Teens

January 16, 2008, Women's Enews

The central business district of this border city is lined with stalls selling counterfeit goods. Shopping centers offer seemingly everything and at the right price to a constant stream of shoppers from Brazil and Argentina and tourists on their way to the magnificent nearby Iguazu Falls.

A dollar buys a bus ticket from Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, through Foz da Iguazu in Brazil, and into Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. There is the Office of the Center for Awareness, Prevention and Companionship for Children and Adolescents in Situations of Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

Seventy percent of the cases are trafficking victims. Seventy percent of those have been trafficked internationally. All the children are female.

An important part of the charity's work is teaching skills to replace prostitution. The border area is a major hub in international people-trafficking.

Eighty-five percent is for sexual exploitation.

More than 90% of the victims are women. After women are sexually exploited, some are used to carry drugs.

The region attracts women from the countryside, mostly from Paraguay where almost a third of the population earns less than $1 a day each. Some of the young women have come following promises of work as domestic employees. Some are from local families desperate for any form of income.

In some cases, the girls and young women choose to stay so they can earn small amounts of money and send it back to their families. But many are subject to isolation, starvation and violence. With birth control proscribed by the Catholic Church, it is common to find families of eight children, all under 18, exacerbated by teenage pregnancies at the age of 13 or 14. Many of the families make the problem worse by making the children responsible for providing for the family. Another growth factor in prostitution is the influx of sex tourists drawn to the districts around the monumental Iguazu.

While the border is porous for traffickers it's tough for anti-trafficking efforts because the area requires triple-nation cooperation.

There are signs of progress. The International Office of Migration, an intergovernmental agency of 122 countries, opened an office in Paraguay's capital, to focus, on the outflow of its citizenry.

There is also a publicity campaign about the dangers of trafficking.

The problem is that some of the people involved are very high up and untouchable. It's on a very big scale. doclink

Bolivia's Bad Births Sit on Political Sidelines

January 15, 2008, Women's Enews

Bolivia's Constituent Assembly last month narrowly avoided adding a ban on all abortion to its new constitution. In the past two years, Nicaragua's former revolutionary government banned all abortions. The president of Uruguay has vowed to veto legal abortion. Venezuelans' push to decriminalize the procedure has come to a halt under socialist Chavez.

In Bolivia the controversy revolved around five words--"from the moment of conception" which would have outlawed all abortion in Bolivia. Abortion here was legalized in 1973 for victims of sexual assault or to prevent a life-threatening pregnancy. In practice, abortions are often performed without any legal inspection and the country has never seen an abortion provider prosecuted.

Bolivia has up to 80,000 procedures annually in a country of only 9 million people. Many are performed in more than a dozen clinics. But the average $150 fee is prohibitive, so many look for alternative methods.

At least one woman a day ends up dead in this type of swallow-hard-and-take-the-risk medical care.

But talking about abortion remains taboo here in Bolivia.

In Catholic schools, children are required to watch a video of a womb undergoing an abortion. It was church authorities who brought the conception clause to Constituent Assembly delegates when the body first began its proceedings.

Anti-abortion sentiment is widespread. "Regardless of religion, we learn that conception isn't an option, it's our function," she says. "Women who abort live with a lifetime of guilt."

Staff in medical clinics try to dissuade their patients from having abortions, telling them it is better to choose life than murder. Leftist indigenous women have, for the most part, steered clear of the issue.

Paul Bustillos, political director for La Paz-based Catholics for the Right to Choose, says that's because pro-choice leaders have not engaged the country's indigenous majority.

Many abortions are performed in rural areas where indigenous people predominate, and are called "bad births" and are followed by cleansing rituals.

Morales' ruling Movement Towards Socialism party blocked the conception clause from the final text of the constitution. Catholics for the Right to Choose went into a "state of emergency" when the conception clause was introduced. doclink

Costa Rica;: Fertility Rate at Record Low

December 18, 2007, Tico Times

The fertility rate reached 1.9 children per woman of reproductive age, reports Costa Rica, just below the two-child mark needed to sustain the population.

The average was 7.3 kids per household of 1960-1961. By 2003, the birth rate was 2.1 per women; in 2005 it fell to two.

The birth decline comes from a number of factors. Higher education among women and greater incorporation into the workforce, the high cost of raising children, more available contraception, changes in values.

Young people are placing less importance on maternity.

There is no difference between practicing Catholics and non- in terms of the birth rate.

Probably, the population will grow to 6 million until 2050, and will then stabilize, unless the birth rate continues to drop below 1.8, and immigration stops entirely. doclink

U.S.;: Sex, Science and Savings

December 02, 2007, New York Times*

President Bush's veto of Congress's main social spending bill has Democratic leaders looking for places to make trims. A small, place to begin would be to eliminate the bill's $28 million increase for abstinence-only sex education.

Spending on abstinence-only sex education has ballooned under President Bush, while evidence of the program's danger as a public health strategy has continued to mount.

A Congressionally evaluation found that students who received abstinence instruction were just as likely to have sex as students who did not get such instruction.

Last month, Virginia became the 14th state to reject federal grant money to, instead, pursue the approach supported by science and most Americans. That encourages abstinence but also arms young people with information about sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptives and pregnancy.

Expectations that the new Democratic Congress would confront the abstinence-only hoax have proved unfounded. Instead of cutting support, the vetoed spending plan increased money for faith-based and other groups offering abstinence education programs above the $113 million allotted for the current fiscal year.

The weak link is Nancy Pelosi who opposes the abstinence-only approach, but she ceded the issue to Representative David Obey, who continues to insist on using it as bait for Republican votes on a budget compromise. Forgoing principle failed to produce a veto-proof majority for the spending bill the first time. Ms. Pelosi needs to reconsider whether expanding a discredited sex education program should be on the meager list of achievements of the first Democratic Congress in a decade. doclink

Jamaica;: Condom Controversy- Statistics Say Condom Distribution Necessary in Schools, Government Says No

November 20, 2007, The Jamaica Observer

Officials at the St James Health department, Jamaica, Monday pointed to a dilemma involving the government's refusal to sanction the distribution of condoms in the island's high schools, despite statistics indicating the need to include this measure as part of a multi-pronged approach to curbing the spread of the deadly HIV virus.

The government's stance, According to Melanie Walcott, could place Jamaica in the same position as Sub-Saharan Africa which has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world followed by the Caribbean region.

The ever-controversial issue came up during a workshop for close to a hundred students from the island's western high schools at the Holiday Inn Sunspree resort.

The workshop hopes the participating students who were selected on the basis of their perceived leadership qualities will come up with action plans to raise awareness among their peers concerning the best way to go about curbing the spread of HIV.

Pointing out the need for condom vending machines to be placed in schools, Walcott invited the students to get proactive on the issue with an aim to engaging further public debate. Ask for condoms to be distributed in schools and then you will push the hands of the powers that be.

St James has distinguished itself as having the highest incidence of HIV cases.

When a student pointed to the need for condom distribution the response was mixed. Some participants called for the abstinence campaign to be raised instead while others pointed out that it was already deafening.

Persons who are in their teen years in school have HIV, and high rates of teenage pregnancy, herpes, gonnorrohea and syphilis that means teens are having unprotected sex. We have spent millions of dollars on abstinence campaigns in schools. Empower these persons that if you need to have sex you need to have sex but you need to at least do it safely. So we are advocating for the use of condoms in schools. doclink

Brazil Doles Out Morning After Pills

November 20, 2007, Christian Science Monitor

As part of a new fight against Brazil's unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions, the country's most populous state is offering "morning after" contraceptive pills and 90% off contraceptive pills at pharmacies.

Federal Health officials are offering to train teachers to give sex education and offering condoms to pupils. The Health Ministry wants men to take more responsibility and is offering free vasectomies.

These are part of a wide-ranging and controversial new initiative to address women's health issues and reduce the number of illegal abortions and complications.

We want to give access to the poorest citizens and let them choose what course of action to take. One of the main goals is to slash the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies. In 2004, the last year for which figures are available, 7 in every 100 Brazilian women between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth. Accurate figures are impossible to determine because abortions are illegal in this Roman Catholic country, but the Health Ministry estimates 1 million abortions are performed each year.

Many unplanned pregnancies go to term with around 1 in 3 pregnancies unwanted.

The medical costs of back-street abortions are enormous, with 240,000 women hospitalized each year suffering from complications caused by illegal procedures. The government slashed 90% off the price of contraceptive pills in government-run pharmacies and it will spend more than $50 million in doubling the number of free contraceptive pills it gives to state clinics from 20 million to 50 million.

Sao Paulo State has made the morning after pill available at pharmacies in metro stations. One city council tried to ban the pill but was denied by a judge who ruled the ban unconstitutional.

The Catholic church has protested. Bishop Orlando Brandes, underlined that the church is "radically against" any attempts to make contraceptives easier to get. Proponents stress that they see the pill as a last recourse to avoid pregnancy. doclink

Doctors Fight No-Abortion Policy

November 05, 2007, Associated Press Online

Two weeks after Olga Reyes danced at her wedding, her bloated and disfigured body was laid to rest in an open coffin, the victim of Nicaragua's new no-exceptions ban on abortion. Reyes, a 22-year-old law student, suffered an ectopic pregnancy. The fetus develops outside the uterus, cannot survive and causes bleeding that endangers the mother. But doctors seemed afraid to treat her because of the anti-abortion law, said husband Agustin Perez.

Nicaragua last year became one of 35 countries that ban all abortions, even to save the life of the mother. The ban has been followed, leaving the country torn between a strong tradition of women's rights and a growing religious conservatism. President Ortega, a former leftist and a Roman Catholic, has refused to oppose the church-supported ban.

But at least three women have died because of the ban, and another 12 reported cases will be examined.

Before the ban took effect on Nov. 18, 2006, fewer than a dozen legal abortions were recorded per year in Nicaragua. They were performed only when three doctors agreed a woman's life was in danger. However, the Roman Catholic Church estimates that doctors and other medical staff carried out about 36,000 "secret" abortions a year, because under the old law they had little fear of government reprisals.

This year the Health Ministry recorded 84 deaths of pregnant women between January and October, compared with 89 for all of last year and 88 the year before.

Abortion rights groups have disrupted Congress several times, demanding that lawmakers lift the ban. The Roman Catholic Church mobilized nearly 300,000 people to march and sign petitions in support of the ban.

Law student Reyes was one of three confirmed fatalities. She knew something was horribly wrong, They were sent to Bertha Calderon maternity hospital. There, Reyes was given a cursory exam, and told to return the next day.

By that time, the bleeding and cramping were worse. Perez said he rushed her to a hospital but after she had an ultrasound that confirmed her condition, they left her in agony for hours. When a doctor at a shift change saw her condition, she was rushed into surgery. She suffered three heart attacks and an exploratory surgery.

President of Nicaragua's Association of Gynecologists and a supporter of the abortion ban, said doctors are taking the new law too far. Surgery for an ectopic pregnancy isn't the same as carrying out an abortion.

But he acknowledged that many doctors fear they will be accused of performing an abortion. Some doctors admit to carrying out what they believe are illegal procedures, while others say they won't jeopardize their careers.

Many are thinking that instead of taking the risk, it is better to let a woman die. Because the people with some medical training who used to do illegal abortions have disappeared, women more frequently take drugs or pull the fetus out on their own using wires or other crude objects.

She sees hysterectomies and severe infections that leave women sterile or dead because obstetricians can't take any action that might harm a living fetus. doclink

Chile Pharmacies Warned Over Pill

October 30, 2007, BBC News

The Chilean government has warned pharmacies refusing to sell the morning-after pill that they could face fines or closure.

Major pharmacy chains have argued they could not buy stocks locally.

The government has imported supplies and said the stores now had no excuse for not selling the pill.

Pope Benedict said Catholic pharmacists had the right to object to dispensing emergency contraception.

The sale of the morning-after pill is controversial in Chile and has been challenged in the courts by religious groups.

The row has been building for several weeks, with the three major chains saying they were not selling it because it was not available locally.

The government's initial response was to fine the stores and import stocks.

Deputy Health Minister warned that the government would close a pharmacy that refused to sell the morning-after pill.

One of the chains said the government's actions were a violation of its freedom of opinion about the pill which it said was abortive.

Pope Benedict XVI said that pharmacists had the right to conscientiously object to dispensing emergency contraception or euthanasia drugs.

Pharmacists must raise people's awareness so that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, the Pope said. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Talking about a natural death: if our deaths were indeed natural, our lives would be shorter, and we wouldn't be needing to control our birth rate.

The Chilean Infant Mortality Decline: Improvement for Whom? Socioeconomic and Geographic Inequalities in Infant Mortality

October 16, 2007, World Health Organization

A study analysed Chilean registries from 1990 to 2005 for infant mortality by maternal education, head of household occupation, status, cause, age and location of death. Annual infant mortality rates and relative risk were calculated by maternal education and head of household occupational status for each cause and age of death. Socioeconomic inequalities were then mapped to 29 regional health services. Reductions in the national infant mortality rate were among educated mothers, while stagnation in the national rate is caused by high levels of infant mortality among uneducated mothers. These households are particularly prone to infant mortality due to infectious disease and trauma. Clustering of socioeconomic inequalities in infant mortality were identified throughout the poorer north, indigenous south and densely populated centre of Santiago. Finally, we report inequities in vital statistics coverage, with infant deaths among vulnerable households much more likely to be inadequately defined. The socioeconomically disadvantaged in Chile are at a higher risk for infant mortality by infectious diseases and trauma during the first month of life. Efforts to reduce infant mortality must target child survival for at-risk populations for specific diseases, ages and locations. doclink

Central America Free Trade Agreement Dividing Costa Rican Society

September 25, 2007, San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center

After more than 13 years of environmental degradation and increasing gaps between the rich and poor, the Bush Administration continues to push NAFTA.

The mistakes of NAFTA have been codified in the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which was negotiated starting in 2003 between the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua--the Dominican Republic signed in 2005.

The agreement requires that 80% of all tariffs on U.S. goods entering CAFTA-DR nations be eliminated and the remaining tariffs phased out over the next ten years.

Opposition groups in Costa Rica demonstrated against the agreement, and have forced the government to acknowledge the voice of the people.

For the first time a voting population will have the opportunity to vote on a free trade agreement in a referendum. Submitting the CAFTA to a referendum in Costa Rica is perhaps the most democratic approach to a free trade agreement that the world has yet seen. This is in contrast to the manner in which DR-CAFTA was negotiated, behind closed doors under President Bush's now-expired Fast Track Authority.

CAFTA-DR would change thousands of laws that are presently in place in Costa Rica, as it has done in other countries that are party to the agreement. One of the most critical changes required are the elimination or transformation of laws protecting natural resources from foreign purchase or control.

These provisions would inhibit the power of local communities to legally prevent multinational corporations from environment pillage. This represents placing the destinies of these communities out of their hands permanently.

Among other provisions in CAFTA-DR, parties to the agreement would be compelled to consider nuclear waste as a tradable good in the eyes of the law. This could potentially mean that if a private corporation were contracted by the U.S. government to dispose of its nuclear waste in another country, the company could sue for the right to dump these radioactive 'tradable goods' in Costa Rica even if existing laws prohibit it.

CAFTA bestows the right upon companies to sue local, regional, and national governments for not allowing such dumping of toxins and other public hazards and to also collect financial compensation should the arbitration panels side in favor of the corporations.

In the context of Costa Rica, this presents the possibility of environmental racism since Costa Rica's indigenous communities and their lands were excluded from DR-CAFTA's indigenous communities' exemption clauses.

Subsidized U.S. agriculture gains duty-free access despite the fact that these subsidies keep prices of U.S. goods at artificially low levels. CAFTA-DR markets protect U.S. textiles & apparel under the 'Yarn Forward' Rule; that requries that apparel using yarns and fabric from the United States and CAFTA-DR countries qualify for duty-free benefits. doclink

Brazil Ethanol Seen Good for Climate, Maybe Not Environment

September 17, 2007, CattleNetwork.com

Brazil's Environmental Minister said that ethanol production is cutting the country's greenhouse gas emissions, but another ministry official said that it remains to be seen whether ethanol is good for the environment.

Reductions in deforestation and increased ethanol use has reduced Brazil's CO2 emissions by 500 million tons. Between 2003 and 2004, Brazilian agribusiness and the civilian population cut down 27,000 square kilometers of forest. the number should be around 9,000 square kilometers in 2007.

The number one contributor to deforestation is the lumber and cattle industry.

Agribusiness is responsible for 25% of Brazil's carbon emissions, due to fertilizer production and burning of sugarcane fields. Sugar and ethanol production is a contributor to greenhouse gases, despite being a force in reducing overall contributions. Ethanol isn't as green as people might like to think.

Brazil is studying whether ethanol and biofuels in general are harmful for the environment. The remedy could be worse than the sickness. Sugarcane may be harmful to the environment. The impact of sugarcane expansion on Brazil's groundwater and potassium in fertilizer could be harmful to Brazilian aquifers.

Municipalities, state, federal laws and even federal departments often have opposing views on sustainable agriculture.

Many small and midsize sugarcane industries simply break environmental laws. One concern is the environmental sustainability of Brazil's ethanol industry. Brazil's government views ethanol much the way oil-producing nations view petroleum. doclink

Reflections on Cuba: Health, Terror,

September 17, 2007, Dissident Voice

Cuba has more doctors per capita, 1 per 170 people, than the US, 1 per 188. In addition to its current 70,000 doctors, 65,000 new students have enrolled in Cuban medical schools since 2004. If Cuba does not already, they will soon lead the world in doctors per capita, meeting their accomplishment in teachers. Most doctors in Cuba are women, as are most philosophers. Cuba also exports more doctors and health professionals to the third world - to 68 countries - than any other country, including roughly 15,000 doctors and dentists to Venezuela in exchange for much needed oil. The paradox is partly resolved in Fidel's comment "Human capital is worth far more than financial capital."

Cuba has a three-tiered model: (1) Health guardians, that include neighborhood-based teams of physicians and nurses, who interact regularly with citizens in their community, provides childhood immunization against 13 preventable diseases. That, along with guaranteed nutrition and a real sense of belonging to a community, is a key component in Cuba's low infant mortality rate that is lower than that of the US; (2) A network of healthcare polyclinics (over 470) dedicated to integrating multi-medical-specialties (e.g. pediatric medicine, heart treatment, ophthalmology, optometry, x-rays, rehabilitation, 24 hour dentistry, minor surgery, ultrasound diagnostics, etc.); (3) Hospitals: acute care facilities spread across the island. One of these larger Cuban hospitals was featured in SiCKO.

A 400+ page US document from 2004 called "A Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba," claims the US will apply to Cuba the lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq (Fallujah, Haditha, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, for example?) It says it will bring literacy and vaccines to Cuban children, not knowing that Cuba has a 100% literacy rate, and among the best vaccination programs for children in the hemisphere. Cuban social security will be eliminated and old people will be put to work (60 is the current retirement age in Cuba). The document proclaims that the US will abolish all Cuban social programs (schools, health care, sustainable farms, etc.) and privatize them. doclink

Brazil: Controversial Bill to Sterilize Younger Women

September 05, 2007, InterPress Service

A draft law to reduce the minimum age for voluntary sterilisation in Brazil's public hospitals from 25 to 18 is opposed by the government.

A Brazilian Republican Party senator and bishop of an evangelical sect, Marcelo Crivella, who introduced the draft law said it would help reduce violence, because "children who would be hungry and abandoned wouldn't be born".

The current law states that voluntary sterilisation is only for men and women over 25 years of age and have at least two living children.

The Health Ministry is against the law. Family planning is available including tying off the Fallopian tubes.

The Health Minister said he was opposed because that's not family planning, it's fertility control.

Coordinator of the Technical Area of Women's Health told IPS that tubal ligation is an irreversible contraceptive method. Studies indicate that between 2% and 13% of women change their minds, depending on age and circumstances. Among women under 30 at the time of the operation, most change their minds.

An NGO told IPS that the latest study carried out in 1996 showed that 77% of women who were married or in a stable relationship used some method of contraception. 40% had been sterilised between the ages of 15 and 49.

The study was undertaken by BEMFAM, which works on sexual and reproductive health issues in 13 Brazilian states.

The average age of the women at the time they were sterilised was 28.9 years, but 20% of them were under 25. Thirty-seven percent were aged 25 to 29, 28% were aged 30 to 34, 12% were aged 35 to 39, and three percent were aged 40 to 44.

Contraceptive methods used according to the women's age and circumstances. Many women at the height of their fertility use contraceptive pills, and when they have the ideal number of children, they choose to be sterilised.

The more education a woman has, the wider the variety of family planning methods used, and the more frequently their partners have had a vasectomy. We could do more through public policies, like giving the public more information about the variety of methods, and awareness-raising campaigns so that women can exercise birth control without resorting to a drastic measure. Sterilised women often change their minds when they begin a new relationship, or if one of their children dies.

In the context of poor populations with limited access to healthcare and education, sterilisation is often a vote-catcher. Many women who have little money or education choose to be sterilised, thinking they won't have to worry any more.

A census on family planning is being carried out by the Health Ministry to find out whether in Brazil, caesarean sections encourage sterilisations, or whether sterilisation encourages caesareans.

The new National Policy on Family Planning provides for a campaign to offer clear information and stimulate family planning, and mass distribution of educational material about contraceptive methods to schools and community centres.

It also plans to expand the supply of contraceptives to basic health clinics from 20 million to 50 million and to encourage vasectomy.

In 1960 the fertility rate stood at six children per woman, but by 1996, it had fallen to 2.3 children per woman, and in some urban centres it was 1.9.

The expert cited economic reasons for the decline in fertility, such as migration from rural areas to the cities, and women's entry into the labour market. doclink

Brazil Denies Amazon Logging Link

August 21, 2007, BBC News

Brazil has promised to investigate allegations that its policy of settling landless communities in the Amazon is encouraging deforestation.

Brazil's environment ministry says deforestation in those areas is falling but it will investigate the claims.

Land distribution to the poor is an important objective, but Greenpeace says it is encouraging logging and deforestation in parts of the Amazon.

Greenpeace claims the government's land reform agency, Incra, is setting aside areas for land settlement that are of value to the timber industry, instead of placing people on land that has been cleared.

Links are encouraged between logging companies and the settlers, which facilitates exploitation of the newly formed settlements.

In the state of Para, more than 30,000 families were said to have been settled in 2006.

Deforestation in the Amazon in the 12 months to July 2006 fell by 25%.

Satellite images show deforestation in settlement areas has been falling, not rising. doclink

Jamaica;: Women Having Less Children, Owning More Businesses

August 14, 2007, Jamaica Observer

Once you educate and liberate your women, everything else takes off, and in several decades we have seen a dramatic increase in women opting to have careers, getting educated, and becoming liberated.

Women are having one or two children, and later, due largely to Jamaica's family planning programme.

The total fertility rate has fallen, reaching 2.5 children per woman in 2002. In 1997, the fertility rate stood at 2.8 children per woman. This number continued to decline to 2.21 in 2001, 2.05 in 2002, 1.99 in 2003 and 1.93 in 2004.

20% of female-run businesses have been in existence for over 20 years, 57% are sole proprietorships or partnerships, 76% operate from well-defined business plans and 34% are college or university-educated.

The Bureau of Women's Affairs monitors government policy on women. The Association of Women's Organisations of Jamaica (AWOJA) co-ordinates women's organisations islandwide. Women's Crisis Centres help those in dire straits. The Women's Political Caucus facilitates participation in politics. The Women's Construction Collective trains women in construction. Woman Inc runs a crisis centre and shelter. doclink

Trinidad and Tobago;: Fertility Rates, Births Decreasing

August 14, 2007, Trinidad News

Trinidadians are not making enough children. The National Insurance Board (NIB) announced. The nation's total fertility rate (TFR) had remained around 1.76 children per family since the mid-1990s but a TFR of 2.1 was needed for each generation to replace itself.

The country was suffering from the aging population and this could have an impact on the NIS system. The future number of pension-aged persons is increasing because of increasing life expectancies and the number of children is expected to decrease. Trinidad and Tobago is expected to feel the impact of the aging population in about 20 years, when those who are in the labour market move into retirement, and there will not be enough children to fill that gap. doclink

Venezuela Fulfills Millennium Drinking Water Supply Goals 10 Years Ahead of Time

August 06, 2007, VHeadline.com

Venezuela has fulfilled millennium goals regarding drinking water. 94% of the urban population and more than 82% of rural communities have guaranteed drinking water supplies.

This is 10 years ahead of the United Nations goal. Achieving the goal relied on community participation via civilian organizations to analyze water problems in each region and then to present projects to resolve the situation. doclink

Venezuela Achieves Water Millennium Goal

August 04, 2007, Prensa Latina

Venezuela fulfilled millennium goals regarding drinking water assured the Vice Minister of Water Resources. Currently, 94% of the urban population and more than 82% in the rural region have drinking water supply guaranteed.

Achieving this goal counted on the participation of the communities through civilian organizations that analyses water problems in their region.

Projects are presented to government entities to solve the problem. It is set down in the nation's Constitution, that water is a public right.

The UN Objectives of Development call for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, reduction of infant mortality and universal right to primary education.

These goals should be reached before the end of 2015.

Objective number seven calls for a reduction by half of the percentage of persons lacking access to drinking water. doclink

Chile;: Condom Use Still Limited

July 24, 2007, Santiago Times

Chileans are unwilling to use to birth control. 49% between 15 and 19 did not use birth control during their first sexual experience, or thereafter.

About 18% use intrauterine devices, 9% sterilization and 6% use condoms. Wealthier Chileans are three times more likely to use birth control than lower income Chileans.

15% percent of Chileans experience problems with alcoholism, a 2% drop from 2000. Low-income residents have the highest rate of alcoholism, 38%, followed by those 20 and 44, with a 19% rate.

Nearly half of Chile's working population dedicates over eight hours a day to their job.

44% of Chilean women do most of the housekeeping, while 8% of men do housework. 19% of couples equally share domestic duties, while 18% of men and 2% women do nothing at home.

The poll was based on interviews with 6,120 Chileans over the age of 15. doclink

Mexico City's Abortion Law Hits Stop-and-Go Signs

July 19, 2007, Women's Enews

Federal officials are trying to turn back the law legalizing first-trimester abortion in Mexico's capital. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has teamed up with the federal attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of the law. The court has said it will hear the arguments but has not set a date.

While the Supreme Court resolves this matter, the secretary of health will grant all requested abortions that are within the 12-week time period. People know where to go for an abortion but often have trouble affording one. A single dose of the abortion pill costs just under $100. If a second dose is required, the cost rises another $30. Surgical abortion can run nearly $500.

The need also exists for health officials to make sure doctors are trained in the safest ways to perform abortions. Also, women need to be educated about the availability and new legality of abortion. Many doctors already perform abortions, making it legal by having the woman sign a form asserting that her life or health are in danger, but others refuse, even if the woman has been raped. The 14 city-run hospitals are all providing abortions. The federal government's social security agency, IMSS, has said it will not provide the service even in its Mexico City clinics.

In the first month of the law 1,300 women had sought abortion information and 230 abortions had been performed. Opponents of the measure argue that the law will attract women from all over the country. London, has long attracted Irish women seeking abortions. Of the 230 procedures performed in the first month after the law took effect, only a handful of women came to Mexico City from other parts of the country.

Botched abortion is the fifth-highest cause of maternal mortality. From 1990 to 2005, 21,646 women in Mexico died of maternal causes, of those, 537 were from abortion complications and badly performed procedures and 64% women who lack access to the public health system.

Latin America has the highest maternal death due to unsafe abortion. doclink

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