Monday, January 19, 2009

Dissident Notes on January 20

Dissident Notes on the Obama Coronation, by David Boaz
Cato at Liberty, January 19, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

It’s wall-to-wall Obama in the newspapers and on the airwaves, and I keep wondering, Was it quite so overwhelming in the run-up to previous inaugurations? I think not. Presumably the gushing media response is generated by some combination of Barack Obama’s being our first African-American president, his being the antidote to an epidemic of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and our growing cult of the presidency. I complained once about people who see the president as “a combination of Superman, Santa Claus, and Mother Teresa,” and this month journalists are leading the way. Even New York Times reporter Helene Cooper, writing the “pool report” for other journalists on Obama’s visit to the Washington Post, noted that “around 100 people–Post reporters perhaps?–awaited PEOTUS’s arrival, cheering and bobbing their coffee cups.” Post reporter Howard Kurtz assured readers that his fellow journalists did gawk, but they did not cheer or applaud.

The Washington Post banners Obama’s “centrist approach.” Even Blue Dog Democrat Jim Cooper says he’s showing “great centrism.” He’s promising to spend a trillion dollars more than the most spendthrift president in history. If he promised to spend two trillion dollars more, would the Post see his program as left-liberal?

For politicians everything is politics: “It has been more than three months since he sat through a Sunday church service and at least five years since he attended regularly, but during the transition, Obama has spoken to religious leaders almost daily. They said Obama calls to seek advice, but rarely is it spiritual. Instead, he asks how to mobilize faith-based communities behind his administration.”

Nation’s Hopes High for Obama,” says the Washington Post-ABC News poll. Those polled say that they have high expectations for his administration, they think he has a mandate for major new programs, and they like his promise to give virtually everyone some money. Indeed, according to a graphic in the paper but apparently not online, 79 percent of respondents have a favorable impression of Barack Obama, much higher than the numbers for Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, or Bush II as they prepared to take office. In fact, the only modern president whose favorable ratings on the eve of inauguration matched Obama’s was Jimmy Carter. Hmmmmm.

Bob Woodward offers 10 lessons Obama could learn from the mistakes of the Bush administration. One of them is “Righteous motives are not enough for effective policy.” Woodward directs all his lessons at foreign and defense policy, but that’s a good rule for domestic policy too. The fact that a policy sounds right-minded — create jobs, raise the minimum wage, ban sweatshop products, mandate energy efficiency — doesn’t mean that it will work. Economic processes are dynamic, not static. Benefits have costs. Another of Woodward’s rules is “A president must do the homework to master the fundamental ideas and concepts behind his policies.” Again, that applies to economic as well as to foreign policy. Has Obama read any thoughtful criticisms of Keynesian economics or of “job creation” schemes or of renewable-energy mandates? He met with conservative pundits, but has he sat down and listened to any of the many economists who oppose his stimulus plans?

On a lighter note, former “Saturday Night Live” writer and Will Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay discussed Ferrell’s Broadway show, “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush” with the Washington Post. Asked how he might make Obama-related comedy, McKay said it would be tough because “Obama’s an actual adult who knows how to work.” Let’s see . . . four years ago Obama was voting “present” in the state senate, and now he’s going to be president. His supporters range from journalists who compared him to “the New Testament” to actual voters who exult, “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know. If I help [Obama], he’s gonna help me.” He himself said that his capture of the Democratic nomination “was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow.” If humorists can’t find some humor there, we need better humorists.

And maybe it’s appropriate that a singer known as “The Boss” headlined the inaugural concert for a candidate whose wife promised, “Barack Obama will require you to work. . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”

Average real hourly wage, 2001-2008

CPI Falls 0.7 Percent in December, Up 0.1 Percent for Year. By Dean Baker
Real wages rose at a 23.4 percent annual rate over the last three months.
CEPR, January 16, 2009

The overall consumer price index fell by 0.7 percent in December, the third consecutive month of sharp declines. As in the prior two months, the main factor was a sharp decline in energy prices, which fell 8.3 percent last month. The core index also declined in December, falling 0.3 percent. Over the last quarter, the overall CPI has fallen at a 12.7 percent annual rate. The core index has fallen at a 0.3 percent annual rate during this period, compared with a 1.8 percent increase over the last year.

The sharp fall in prices over the last few months translates into a very rapid rate of real wage growth, since the rate of nominal wage growth has not been affected much by the downturn yet. Over the last three months, the average real hourly wage for production workers has increased at an incredible 23.4 percent annual rate. Over the last year, the average real hourly wage has risen by 4.5 percent.

Over the eight years of the Bush administration, the average real hourly wage increased by 7.1 percent, almost the exact same as the 7.3 percent increase over the eight years of the Clinton administration.

In addition to the sharp decline in energy prices, there were also sharp declines in the price of several core components. Hotel prices fell by 0.7 percent, new car prices fell by 0.4 percent, and used car prices fell by 0.8 percent. Over the last three months, the prices of these components have fallen at annual rates of 12.9 percent, 5.7 percent, and 19.5 percent.

These declines are being driven directly by oversupply. There was an enormous amount of hotel construction over the last two years. This increase, coupled with plunging demand, is leading to soaring vacancy rates. The collapse of car sales has received considerable attention. In addition to providing stiffer competition for new cars, the lower prices for used cars also mean that many people will lack the money necessary for a down payment on a new car purchase.

Medical care and education costs continued to rise at a moderate pace, with health care costs rising by 0.3 percent in December and education costs rising by 0.5 percent. Over the last three months, prices for these components have increased at a 2.8 percent and 5.2 percent annual rate, respectively. Prices continue to fall sharply at earlier phases of production. The overall finished goods index fell by 1.9 percent in December. It has now dropped at a 24.3 percent annual rate over the last quarter. The core finished goods index rose by 0.2 percent, driven in part by a 1.2 percent rise in car prices. This index increased at a 2.9 percent rate over the last three months.

The core finished goods index is virtually the only index that is showing inflation at the producer level. The overall intermediate goods index fell 4.2 percent in December, while the core index dropped 3.0 percent. Over the last three months these indexes have declined at a 39.7 percent and 24.6 percent annual rate, respectively. The overall crude goods index fell by 5.3 percent while the core index fell 2.2 percent. Over the last quarter these indexes have declined at a 79.4 and 82.5 percent annual rate, respectively.

The rate of price decline in the producer price indexes is truly extraordinary. The sharp pace of price decline primarily reflects the collapse of commodity prices last fall, which is being passed on in later phases of production. It is likely that that these declines will slow or be partially reversed in the near future as the prices of some commodities, most notably oil, have fallen to levels where it is no longer profitable to continue production in many areas. If this happens, there will be some modest price pressure coming from commodities later in the 2009. There is also likely to be some modest price pressure later in the year if the dollar reverses some of its recent gains as financial markets settle down. For these reasons, concerns about deflation are likely exaggerated.

Dean Baker is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. CEPR's Prices Byte is published each month upon release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' reports on the consumer price and the producer price indexes.

EPA/CCSP Sea Level Rise Report Already Outdated

Dead On Arrival: EPA/CCSP Sea Level Rise Report Already Outdated
WorldClimateReport, January 19, 2009

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on the implications of future sea level rise on the mid-Atlantic coast (from North Carolina to New York). The report was one of the series of 21-reports commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Research Program (recall our less than favorable reviews of another recent CCSP product). As with most climate change “assessment reports” from large government and intergovernmental efforts, the science in the report is stale and out-of-date by the time the report is finally published (the EPA’s recent documents in support of its “Advanced Notice of Propsed Rulemaking: Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act” is a prime example).

Here is how the EPA describes the sea level rise scenarios considered in their latest report Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region:

• Scenario 1: the twentieth century rate, which is generally 3 to 4 millimeters per year in the mid-Atlantic region (30 to 40 centimeters total by the year 2100);
• Scenario 2: the twentieth century rate plus 2 millimeters per year acceleration (up to 50 centimeters total by 2100);
• Scenario 3: the twentieth century rate plus 7 millimeters per year acceleration (up to 100 centimeters total by 2100).

The twentieth century rate of sea-level rise refers to the local long-term rate of relative sea-level rise [i.e., it includes geologic processes which has resulted in sinking land levels] that has been observed at NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) tide gauges in the mid-Atlantic study region. Scenario 1 assesses the impacts if future sea level rise occurs at the same rate as was observed over the twentieth century at a particular location. Scenarios 1 and 2 are within the range of those reported in the recent IPCC Report Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, specifically in the chapter Observations: Oceanic Climate Change and Sea Level, while Scenario 3 exceeds the IPCC scenario range by up to 40 centimeters by 2100. Higher estimates, as suggested by some recent publications, are the basis for Scenario 3. In addition to these three scenarios, some chapters refer to even higher sea-level rise scenarios, such as a 200 centimeter rise over the next few hundred years (a high but plausible estimate if ice sheet melting on Greenland and West Antarctica exceeds IPCC model estimates).

The “higher estimates, as suggested by recent publications” have in fact, been un-suggested by recent-er publications.

Perhaps the recent-est publication applicable to future sea level rise was published on-line last week in Nature Geosciences by researchers Faezeh Nick, Andreas Vieli, Ina Howat, and Ian Joughin—folks who have been examining the processes governing glacial flow rates across Greenland. After collecting observations on the behavior of Greenland’s glaciers as well as on recent climate, Nick and colleagues developed one of the first computer models of dynamic glacial flows. From this model, they could examine the impact that various processes had on flow rate. The primary processes which have been hypothesized to control the flow rate include:

1) basal lubrication—a process by which surface meltwater drains down to the glacier/bedrock interface and increases the flow rates by decreasing the friction at bottom of the glacier. This is a favorite of Al Gore (recall his picture of a moulin on a Greenland glacier with a “massive torrent of fresh meltwater tunneling straight down to the bedrock below the ice”);

2) surface thinning at the glacial margin—a process by which the glacial surface melts from above with leads to a thinning at the end of the glacier which decreases the back pressure and thus allows for faster flow;

3) basal thinning at the glacier margin—a process by which the bottom of a marine-terminating glacier is melted by warming ocean waters leading to a decrease in back pressure (or a release from the ocean floor) and an increase in flow rate and ice discharge.

After carefully working with their model, and relating the modeled glacier behavior to the observed behavior of glaciers for the past several years/decades, Nick et al. came to the conclusion that basal lubrication was not the reason of the increased glacial ice loss in recent years, “our modeling does not support enhanced basal lubrication as the governing process for the observed changes” (Sorry Al). Instead, they found “that the dynamics of outlet glaciers are highly sensitive to near-front conditions and that the recent years of atmospheric or oceanic warming are probably a direct forcing of synchronous dynamic changes observed for many Greenland outlet glaciers.”

So, global warming has apparently been responsible for the recent increase in ice loss from Greenland’s glaciers and contributing to sea level rise—perhaps even to a greater degree than included in the IPCC projections.

Is this a sign of worse things to come? Is the EPA justified in worrying about a sea level rise that far exceeds the IPCC’s upper range of guidance?

Don’t sell the beach house just yet. Nick and colleagues go on to find that short-term rapid increases in discharge rates (such as the ones currently observed) are not stable and that “such extreme mass loss cannot be dynamically maintained in the long term.” In fact, for the one glacier that they studied (Helheim glacier), their model predicts that over the next 50 years, dynamic discharge only exceeds steady-state discharge by about 2%” and that “we suggest that in the long term, non-dynamical processes, such as direct surface melt under a warming climate, may dominate the future mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet.”

For those keeping score, the IPCC estimates that “non-dynamical processes, such as direct surface melt under a warming climate” will be responsible for between 1 and 12 centimeters (0.4 to 4.7 inches) of sea level rise from the Greenland ice sheet this century.

Thus, pointing at Greenland an exclaiming “The sky is…” er, I mean “The sea is rising!” (to any scary degree) is not telling the whole story.

According to the latest recommendations in the scientific literature as given by Nick et al. “Our results imply that the recent rates of mass loss in Greenland’s outlet glaciers are transient and should not be extrapolated into the future.” [emphasis added]

Advice clearly not taken to heart by the EPA/CCSP.


Nick, F.M., et al., 2009. Large-scale changes in Greenland outlet glacier dynamics triggered at the terminus. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/NGEO394, published on-line January 11, 2009.

UN: Don't change Afghan strategy

UN to Obama: Don't change Afghan strategy. By Fisnik Abrashi
USAToday, Jan 16, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The top U.N. official in Afghanistan said U.S. President-elect Barack Obama should resist calls to change strategy in Afghanistan, urging him instead to focus on implementing the one already being pursued.

Kai Eide said that the incoming U.S. administration "has a unique opportunity to gather strength, gather energy ... and build on the trends we have seen" toward building the Afghan security forces and propping up the country's economy.

"My appeal is not grand strategy discussion, my appeal is concrete implementation effort," Eide told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday inside the U.N. compound in Kabul.

Obama has pledged to withdraw American troops from Iraq and deploy more to Afghanistan, where Taliban and al-Qaida linked militants have made a comeback in recent years.

U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who toured the region earlier this month, said that "things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they're going to get better."

Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan increased in 2008 over the previous year and some 6,400 people — mostly militants — died last year as a result of the insurgency.

The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has forced the U.S. to plan to rush as many as 30,000 more troops to the central Asian country this year.

They will be joining some 32,000 U.S. troops already there who serve alongside 32,000 other NATO-led and coalition troops — the highest number since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.

Obama has said Afghanistan is one of his top priorities, but his incoming team have not yet disclosed a concrete plan.

Eide, the Norwegian diplomat who has been heading the U.N. mission in Afghanistan for the last nine months, warned against any major change in direction.

"Our problem is not that we need a new strategy. ... What happens very often is that we agree on something, we do not implement it and we say something must therefore be wrong with the strategy," Eide said. "That is not the case. The problem is in the implementation."

Eide said that there have been major improvements in two important sectors — building of local security forces and the economy.

"Every month we are getting better at handling the security situation," he said. "There is a greater momentum in building the key parts of the economy."
Staying the course and implementing the priorities set up at an international conference over six months ago must remain the goal, Eide said.

[...] Technology, Innovation and Government Reform

Inside the Transition: Technology, Innovation and Government Reform. By Kate Albright-Hanna, Monday, January 19, 2009 02:30pm EST

The Obama Administation’s commitment to reform and transparency is embodied by the one of the Transition’s most dynamic groups—the TIGR (Technology, Innovation and Government Reform) Team.

The experts who serve in TIGR advocated for some of our most innovative features on—including the Citizen’s Briefing Book and Seat at the Table. Watch the video and get to know the people behind the ideas—and let us know your reaction to some of the initiatives they’re proposing.

Brit SecDef Derides 'Freeloading' on US/Brit FM criticizes 'George Bush's war on terror'

Weakness Seeks a Friend In Obama Presidency, by Steve Schippert
The Tank/NRO, Jan 16, 2009

Earlier today, I remarked briefly about President Bush's statement in his farewell address to the American people that "If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led." I also noted, in criticizing our NATO allies' military timidity in the face of darkness, that there are a few exceptions. Britain has clearly been one of those exceptions, and the British defense secretary, John Hutton, demonstrates this.

Hutton offered up a scathing rebuke of the timidity of some fellow European NATO allies, who have often committed forces to Afghanistan but deployed them with orders and requirements that they avoid actual combat. He point-blank accused them of "freeloading on the back of U.S. military security." That'll leave a mark. And the Washington Post left that pointed quote for the final paragraph of their story.

"The campaign in Afghanistan is evidence of the limited appetite amongst some European member states for supporting the most active operation NATO has ever been tasked with," he added. "It isn't good enough to always look to the U.S. for political, financial and military cover. . . . Freeloading on the back of U.S. military security is not an option if we wish to be equal partners in this trans-Atlantic alliance."

Meanwhile, typical of the standard fare between our own Departments of Defense and State, Britian's foreign minister, David Miliband, is visiting Pakistan and speaking an altogether different and damaging language, criticizing "George Bush's 'war on terror'" to a receptive and sensitive foreign audience at the heart of a conflict we neither sought nor welcomed. That, too, will leave a mark.

To demonstrate the value of timidity, Pakistan rounded up over one hundred members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the hours before his arrival. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is the name assumed by Lashkar-e-Taiba after it was 'banned' by Pakistan and is the group behind the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks in India. When Miliband departs Pakistan, they will be freed from their cells. We've seen this before.

That's not the half of it. From this morning's DailyBriefing, it is clear that the overall condition is rife with weakness; a weakness hoping to find a friend in Barack Obama.

3. New Gates-Petraeus strategy for Afghanistan is meeting stiff resistance from outside Washington, and the UN is pleading with President-elect Obama not to change the current strategy, one which has been roundly criticized in the past for being ineffective.

The march on Washington — and away from our enemies — has already begun. Consider the related stories for context.

NATO Nations Scolded by Brit SecDef for Shirking Duties In Afghanistan - Washington Post
UN to Obama: Don't change Afghan strategy - AP
Resistance to U.S. Plan for Afghanistan - Washington Post
Top Afghan general dies in helicopter crash - Los Angeles Times
Separate Incident: US: Helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, all survive - AP

Pakistan cracks down on Jamaat ud-Dawa in Mumbai probe? - Los Angeles Times
Pakistan crackdown on eve of UK Foreign Minister's visit - The Independent (UK)

British FM David Miliband criticizes 'George Bush's war on terror' while in Pakistan - Telegraph

We must hope that such weakness finds no friend in our new president, because President Bush was unfortunately on the mark last night.

In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.

This much can hardly be disputed. It's right before your eyes.

How Energy Efficiency Can Ensure the Green Recovery Will Leave No One Behind

How Energy Efficiency Can Ensure the Green Recovery Will Leave No One Behind. By Charles K. Ebinger, Director, Energy Security Initiative
Brookings, Jan 16, 2009

Thirty two years ago this past October, Amory Lovins, in his Foreign Affairs article “Soft Energy Paths: The Road Not Taken,” alerted the world to how energy efficiency and conservation can transform the way the global economy wastes energy through over-reliance on centralized facilities requiring the movement of energy over long distances from where it is produced to where it is consumed. The potential of energy efficiency and conservation is demonstrated by the fact that since 1980, California has kept energy consumption flat – even as the state’s population doubled. Similarly, while the United States has dawdled in its promotion of energy efficiency, Europe has made its economy nearly twice as energy efficient as ours.

Despite notable advances in the efficiency of energy production, transportation and consumption, President-elect Obama needs to make energy efficiency and conservation the cornerstone of both his economic stimulus program, which is designed to revitalize the American economy and create American jobs, and his Energy Efficiency Plan, designed to address climate change while improving the security of the nation’s electricity grid. These programs, taken in tandem, will provide jobs, put more money in consumer wallets, reduce the need for additional expensive generating capacity to meet peak load electricity demand, and reduce carbon emissions.

While TARP 1, 2 and 3 were designed to stabilize financial markets and get our credit markets working again, to date they have been singular failures given Congress’ inability to force the Treasury to make the extension of credit to homeowners a mandatory obligation for receiving $360 billion in tax payer “investments.” Given that FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher has stated that, with an investment of $220 billion over ten years, the nation’s electricity infrastructure could be rebuilt into a fully-integrated national grid, one has to query whether the American taxpayer got the “biggest bang for the buck.” A national electricity grid will provide thousands of construction jobs, allow the full utilization of the nation’s wind and solar resources, reduce the need for fossil fuel plants, and lower carbon emissions.

To insure that not only the middle class but also those making $50,000 or less benefit from the stimulus programs, President Obama’s economic revitalization plan should include the expenditure of $150 billion, supplemented by requisite state and municipal policies to affect the following policies:
  • Seize all abandoned buildings in the United States’ four poorest cities (Miami, Newark, Cleveland and Detroit) – on a pilot program basis and under a new eminent domain federal statute to be passed by Congress – and retrofit them with the most commercially cost-effective energy efficiency construction, lighting and appliance technologies. Upon completion, lease them for 40 years to credit-worthy families making under $50,000 per year at rates not to exceed 15% of after-tax family income indexed for inflation.
  • Refine a model program in effect in Berkeley, California by enacting a low-interest (2%) 30-year loan for up to 100% of the cost of home and small business energy retrofits that will save at least 35% of total energy utilization against the average consumption of the previous 3 years. Such loans would lead to new technological innovations as local small business entrepreneurs respond to these incentives by creating jobs, putting money into consumers wallets from the energy savings achieved, and revitalizing work in communities across the nation.
  • Enact a low-interest loan (5% indexed for inflation for a period of 30 years) under a new “Revitalize American Home and Hearth Act,” with the government fronting the capital cost for the installation of solar roofs on medium and large-scale commercial buildings that can obtain an energy savings of at least 25% based on the average consumption during the previous three years. The commercial firms would rebate to the government not only the interest, but 25% of the energy savings during the life of the loan.
  • Issue on a one-time basis 14 million car purchase certificates (the average number projected for future demand for cars) for $10,000 and good for 7 years for the purchase of American-produced automobiles, including foreign brands, getting an average of 55 miles per gallon (based on highway and city driving). The creation of these permits would spark entrepreneurial innovation and create jobs.
  • Accelerate spending on mass transit and rail in the transportation sector, modeled on a recent Federal Transit Report demonstrating that that low-income households in urban, walkable neighborhoods spend just 9% of their incomes on transportation, while those in car-oriented neighborhoods spend a whopping 25%.
  • Enact a program to pay the “black book” value for any car ten years or older that can then be junked and the scrap recycled with payments to the Government.

Post mortem with President Bush's point man on science, John Marburger

After the Storm, by Adam Bly & TJ Kelleher
An exclusive and revealing post mortem with President Bush's point man on science, John Marburger.
Seed Magazine, January 13, 2009 08:33 AM


Seed: So let's start big. What is the state of science in America?


JM: All right. America continues to lead the world in its investments in science, in virtually every field. Although we have about 5 percent of the world's population, we employ about 20 percent of the world's scientists and engineers. No large country other than Japan devotes as much of its GDP to research and development as the US. On the federal level, about half is in the Department of Defense. The other half is the nondefense research. Nondefense research is always a constant fraction of the nondefense discretionary budget, so as the discretionary budget grows or shrinks, the budget for nondefense science grows or shrinks along with it. That pattern has held for four decades, and I expect that to continue.

There are some imbalances in funding. When the Cold War ended, support for physical science, engineering, math, and computer science really flattened out. But with that leveling off, the support for biomedical research was growing steadily, as it had been during the Cold War. In recent years the NIH budget doubled; 60 percent of that money was provided by this administration. The president embraced it as he had a number of things, including nanotechnology and information technology initiatives, that actually had their seeds in the previous administration.

Seed: Could we take the budgetary dimension out of the equation for a moment?

JM: That's very hard to do. The health of science depends on having money for people and facilities and infrastructure that science needs to fly. It's a major aspect, probably the primary aspect of science health.

Seed: But would you acknowledge that another aspect of the state of science is a culture of science? Could you compare the culture of science in America eight years ago to today?

JM: Virtually unchanged, as far as I'm concerned. Science has its own culture. And it's a relatively nonpolitical, almost apolitical, culture. We've seen some increased visibility of the science community during the Bush administration. I think that was part of a political strategy of the Democratic Party, which was somewhat successful, to undermine the credibility of the Bush administration by fixing on these issues. His position on stem cells was attacked as a scientific position, when in fact it's an ethical position. He was attacked for his position on the Kyoto protocol, despite its serious flaws, and the fact that the Senate had already refused to ratify it. But the way it was handled gave an opportunity to the detractors of the president to use those issues to portray the administration as negative toward science.

Seed: So there's no merit to those criticisms?

JM: That image is an urban legend. He made federal money available for embryonic stem cell research for the first time. Furthermore, his State of the Union addresses as well as other speeches often emphasized technology and how important it was. When he unveiled his American Competitiveness Initiative, he stated clearly that it was important to double the budgets for the agencies that did the most critical basic research in physical science.

Seed: Is America still competitive with the rest of the world in science and technology?

JM: The concerns are not about the present. The concern is all about the future. And certainly, the longest term issue in competitiveness is the preparation of a technical workforce. The weakness is manifest in the first place by the rate at which young people choose to go into technical careers of any sort. The No Child Left Behind Act, like other initiatives in science and education that the president has launched, sought to address that lack of preparation. The main criticisms tend to be that it has not been enough.

The quality of science education is very poor because we don't have qualified teachers in the classrooms. Important components of No Child Left Behind and also the American Competitiveness Initiative were designed to address that. The quality of teaching in science and mathematics needs to be enhanced in the US, absolutely.

Seed: Okay. Let's compare that with the state of science in the world.

JM: About a third of the world's R&D is performed in North America, nearly all of it in the US. About a third in Europe and about a third in Asia. Asia is dominated by Japan and now China. North America is dominated by the US. In Europe it is more balanced. Europe is trying to forge coherence in its very fragmented system of education and research, and doing a pretty good job of it. Then there is this huge north/south split. There is emerging research in South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, but it is tiny, and the infrastructure is growing slowly. The percentage of GDP devoted to research in those countries is very small.

Those are areas that we should be concerned about, because investments in science and technology are important stabilizing features for the economies, and they are important nucleations for development programs. You don't have to have people working on particle physics or cosmology in Africa, but you need people who understand them to act as role models and attract young people into technical studies.

Seed: Did America's strategy on science as a soft power change at all over the past eight years?

JM: Many countries pursue science as soft power, but America is unique among nations in this respect. After World War II, the US alone had the remaining economic capacity to develop the opportunities presented by science. Consequently, the world sent its aspiring scientists to us. Because of that, we haven't had to have a focused office of international science diplomacy. It is happening, and it is happening probably more powerfully than for any other country. Whenever I travel to other countries, I see colleagues and students of mine and other faculty. Now some of those students are getting a little old, and I'd like to see more and younger ones.

Seed: How does the US get more?

JM: It should be easier to get into the US as a student. And it should be easier to stay here and become a citizen if you want to, after you get an advanced degree. The president has some very interesting ideas about immigration, which are way out in front of his own party. I wish Democrats had supported them more strongly.

In any case, we've got soft diplomacy. We only have to avoid stepping on our own toes to let it work. By that I mean to be cautious about the post 9/11 provisions that we've made for homeland security. We really need to be careful about our openness to the world.

Seed: Has the US missed an opportunity to enhance American soft power by building something like the Large Hadron Collider?

JM: I don't think so. The US is actually — in a way, unfortunately — dominating the science community at CERN. And the CERN people are a little bit uncomfortable about that. And anyway, that's only one instrument. There are these lovely pictures of protein structures and glowing fish, for which two Americans just got the Nobel Prize. And you've got Hubble and the Mars rovers.

We have ongoing imaginative technological sagas that are capturing the world's attention. The world doesn't always connect them with the US, but the US is the primary player, even on questions like climate science. This is American science.

The biggest threat to that science is the inexorable growth of the mandatory budget for Social Security, Medicare, and other programs. The growth of the mandatory budget is squeezing everything. It is squeezing science, infrastructure, renewal. If not for that, we wouldn't have all these priority decisions to make. We could double NIH and NSF and NASA and everything else in reasonable amount of time. But the fact is that our discretionary budget is not increasing at the same rate as our economy or the needs and aspirations of our society. We have got to do something about it.

Seed: Our magazine has advanced the idea that we must consider science not simply as a thing that we fund, but as a lens through which we should look at the world. Does the structure of science advice to government correlate with the place of science in the world?

JM: Yes, it does. This is an area of vast ignorance because the majority of people motivated to understand science policy and the structure of science advice are government employees. Those are the people who are motivated to understand this stuff. What they know — what the science community at large does not — is that the structure of science advice reflects the full panoply of government activities in a very sophisticated way. Most of what we do here is to coordinate this vast machinery of science in government so that it produces a coherent science program.

When I want to know what to tell the president, I go to NOAA, I go to NASA, I go to NSF, I go to the Department of Energy and bring the right guys in. If I want to learn about climate change, I go to Jim Hansen. Jim Hansen has his own personal point of view. He will tell you that it's his own personal point of view that there's a tipping point, that we can't go over a certain atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. That's fine. As long as he makes it clear that that's his opinion, it's fine with me. He's a controversial person because he's one of the few scientists who's willing to state his opinion. It makes me a little nervous because of his authority as a scientist. Whenever science is recruited in the service of opinion, it makes me very nervous. Everybody wants to use the credibility of science to bolster their opinions. And I don't like that. I try to avoid getting into that trap in this office.

Seed: Did you see President Bush ever change his mind based on the scientific evidence that you presented him?

JM: As far as I can tell, the president, as a matter of principle, doesn't think it's wise to defy nature. By the time I've arranged a presentation about something for the president, all science questions have been resolved. And he expects it. He would probably fire me if I permitted a science question to leak into his briefings. I'm there to make sure that his advisors and his agencies have consulted with the science community, and that all the science issues have been taken care of before anything gets to him.

Seed: Was there a dimension, an approach, or a philosophy held by the president's other advisors that most commonly confronted your advice?

JM: I only give advice about science. I don't give advice about politics or foreign affairs or economics or legal affairs. I stay out of those things. All of the issues that the president needs to decide are in those domains. They are not in my domain. The president doesn't need to make decisions about science. Science does not tell you how to implement policies, except in rare cases. And the real tough part of governing is implementing.

I mean, the tough issues, about climate, for example, are not about whether the Earth is warming or whether it is caused by humans; the real question is how do you go about addressing the problem at a scale that is significant enough to make a difference.

Seed: Except if it takes an extra day or year or term to accept those scientific conclusions as foundational to economic or political strategy, doesn't that seem to be in violation of the principles of science?

JM: The president has had a very practical approach to a response to climate change. In 2001, before I came to Washington, the president established the Federal Climate Science Program to punch up our knowledge and focus on the remaining uncertainties in the science, and he started an initiative in climate technology, which was the seed for lots of subsequent energy initiatives, including the most recent advanced energy initiative. The president reentered ITER, the international nuclear fusion program. He has encouraged the use of nuclear power. Those were decisions that were made by the president.

The president has not said that we have to wait until the certainties are resolved before we do something about climate change. He has actually said just the opposite. It is not easy for me to understand how the public discourse can get so off track as to hold that the president says, "Oh, let's do more research, so we don't have to take any action."

Seed: Why do you think the public holds the belief that it does?

JM: That's actually a science question. I've read a wonderful book called Predictably Irrational, by Daniel Ariely, that addresses this. This is something marketing people, political consultants, and politicians know about, almost instinctively: informational cascades. Scientists, I think, are particularly vulnerable to the informational cascade phenomenon. They know who the good scientists are, and when a good scientist says something, the others tend to say, "Gee, I know he is smart or she is smart, so what he's saying must be right." So it doesn't take too much to tilt a community like this toward a mythology or a mistaken impression. In the absence of some strong rebuttal, I think it is likely to take root in the media environment that we have today.

Seed: Have you ever been troubled by the degree to which science informed the decision about a nonscientific subject?

JM: My job is to make sure that the president understands the issues. I think he has understood every science issue that I have ever talked with him about. Actually, I think he's understood well, much better than people would imagine.


Seed: What challenges will President-elect Obama face? What advice would you give him and his science advisor?

JM: President-elect Obama, godspeed to him, will face similar difficulties. He ran such a perfect campaign, I hesitate to give him any advice. But, I would say, have respect for the science and for the structures that generations of his predecessors have labored to put in place to make science work for America.

D.C. Prostitutes and Coke Dealers on Business Spiking for the Inauguration

D.C. Prostitutes and Coke Dealers on Business Spiking for the Inauguration
Daily Intelligencer, Jan 18, 2009

A brief phone survey yesterday of D.C.-area hookers found on Craigslist revealed that Barack Obama's inauguration is inspiring great hopes — for their business. A pair who work together expect 30 clients before Wednesday, all paying $200 a pop. Meeka, 21, a “sexy southern belle, new to town,” has come into the city specially for the festivities. “I'm busy over the weekend,” she told us. “I could make time for you, though.” Karina, 26, traveled five hours to get here, and was already “pretty booked up.”

All of the women, who charge between $100 and $300 per hour, voted for Obama. Charlie, who implores clients to “come start my engine, bad boy,” said she would even provide her services to Barack Obama, despite potential costs to his nascent presidency. Lei, a male prostitute, spoke to us at his plush apartment in an upscale neighborhood. “I actually just finished with a client who was from out of town, the South, I think,” the youthful-looking 38-year-old — who is from an Islamic country, and was in an arranged marriage for eight years before coming out of the closet — told us. “I hope the inauguration will bring more business. If it's guys here by themselves on business, then it will.”

Obama's inauguration might also make history for D.C. cocaine dealers — although there is no basis to the rumor that some are dyeing their product black. Over five days, one 29-year-old expects to earn cash in the high five figures from out-of-towners, not least because bars are open until 5 a.m. and there are a few hundred parties. The dealer, who grew up moshing to D.C. punk, laid out $3,000 to stock up because he plans on moving “serious weight.” On Saturday, lounging in the back room of the Rock N Roll Hotel nightclub, he slipped a bag of coke into the hands of a venerable fortysomething European reporter. “I’ve had people calling me about this for weeks,” the dealer says, as the reporter hands him $60. “I just sold out. I gotta re-up.”

Colin Powell: Let's Renew America Together

Let's Renew America Together, by Colin Powell
Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.
WSJ, Jan 19, 2009

Next week marks a fresh start for our nation. Whatever one's political leanings, each presidential inauguration is an opportunity for Americans to renew the energy required to deal with the challenges we face -- never more so than when the challenges we face are without precedent.

Over the course of their transition, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden have spoken with confidence and acted with competence. They've unveiled their plans for governing -- plans that recognize it will require federal money to solve our economic problems at home, and diplomatic and military skill to meet our obligations abroad.

But they also realize an equally important truth. While government has a role to play in restoring the American dream at home and rekindling the dream that is America abroad, there are limits to its ability to restore our sense of purpose as a nation. That task falls to us. Particularly in hard times like these, we are charged with living up to our shared responsibility to one another.

My experience is that in times of need, the American people recognize that when one of our fellow citizens is suffering, those of us with the power to ease or eliminate that suffering should come forward. This is not a time to retreat to our homes and wait until it's safe to emerge. It is the time to give more, to step forward and serve our fellow citizens, and to reach into the reservoir of this nation's unrivaled capacity for good.

That's why, at this moment of great purpose, Mr. Obama has chosen the eve of his inauguration to launch "Renew America Together," his call for all Americans to make an ongoing commitment to better the lives of others in their communities and their country. It's fitting that he will do this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when we honor the legacy of a man who lived his life in service to others and believed that "everybody can be great, because anybody can serve."

That's the beautiful simplicity of service. When I was a young man, I chose to devote my life to serving my country. I spent decades under her flag as a soldier, and later as a diplomat. In my time as a private citizen, my wife, Alma, and I have made service a part of our lives by founding "America's Promise," an alliance that connects our young people to mentors who teach them the skills they need to grow.

Each of these mentors proves that King was right. You don't have to wear the uniform of this country to serve others. You don't have to work in government. And you don't have to start a foundation. At a time when so many of our countrymen are in need, everyone has the power to help.

Pause for a moment, and ask yourself what you can contribute to the life of this nation. Perhaps you can find an hour each week to volunteer in a soup kitchen or help a child learn to read. Maybe you and your friends can spare an afternoon a month to clean up your local park or prepare care packages for our soldiers stationed in far-flung corners of the globe.

With our hectic lives, it might seem daunting to find convenient means of serving others in a way that matters to you. That's why Mr. Obama's team has unveiled an exciting new tool to facilitate that connection. is an online community that makes service easy and accessible. Even amidst the busiest of schedules, there is always a moment to log on and find a cause you care about in your own community. It's also easy for organizers to post and publicize projects. Already, Americans have used to create more than 5,000 events across the country.

What these participants will discover, if they haven't already, is that service is a two-way street of mutual benefit. By enriching the lives of others, you get back more than you give.

Barack Obama is asking us to join him on Monday in making a renewed and enduring commitment to enriching the lives of others. If we answer that call, I have every confidence that we as a people will ignite a new national sense of purpose necessary to meet the great need of this hour.

Mr. Powell was secretary of state (2001-2005) under President George W. Bush.

Engaging North Korea Didn't Work for Japan

Engaging North Korea Didn't Work for Japan. By Melanie Kirkpatrick
WSJ, Jan 19, 2008


In her confirmation hearing this week, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration would use the six-party talks with China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to press North Korea to give up its nuclear program. With U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill reportedly staying on at State, it looks like déjà vu for U.S. policy.

Somewhere in Pyongyang, a little man in a boiler suit must be must be smiling -- and marveling at how often Washington falls for his negotiating legerdemain. Dictator Kim Jong Il's latest diplomatic coup came in October when he got the U.S. to take North Korea off the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring countries. What did Pyongyang do in return? The six-party talks collapsed last month when the North said it wouldn't abide by the verbal commitments it had made on verification of its nuclear program. Thus ended Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's attempt at engagement with the North.

Since Mrs. Clinton is promising to pursue much the same policy, perhaps it's a good moment to review an even longer-running negotiation with dictator Kim Jong Il that has also faltered: Japan's attempt to get information about its citizens who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the victims, including a 13-year-old girl, were grabbed by North Korean agents on the streets or beaches near their homes in western Japan, hidden in ships bound for North Korea, and pressed into service training the North's spies to pass as Japanese nationals. The North also kidnapped South Koreans; several hundred are still missing.

The fate of their countrymen is understandably an emotional issue for the Japanese. The names of the 12 people on the official list of the still-missing are well known throughout the country. Prime Minister Taro Aso is often spotted wearing a blue-ribbon pin in their honor. Virtually every political leader supports Japan's longstanding policy: No aid for North Korea unless it releases information on the abductees.

Kyoko Nakayama, special adviser to the prime minister on the abduction issue, was in the U.S. last week to gain support for Tokyo's stance. "The abductions are a state-sponsored crime," she says. "One of the keys to resolving the abduction issue is for the U.S. and Japan to work together." She uses the word "disappointed" -- Japanese understatement for "outraged" -- in reference to President Bush's decision to take North Korea off the terror list.

Tokyo first raised the issue of the abductions with Pyongyang in 1991, Ms. Nakayama says. "We had had our suspicions for years but we couldn't prove [them]." In 2002, when then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was in Pyongyang, "Kim Jong Il acknowledged they [the abductees] existed, and apologized." Kim's admission "opened a door and we could really start negotiating."

Later that year "we were able to get five people back." Of the remaining 12 kidnap victims on Japan's list, Ms. Nakayama says, "the North Koreans told us that eight had passed away and four had never entered the country." Pyongyang sent a funeral urn containing what it said were the remains of one: Megumi Yokota, the 13-year-old girl. DNA sampling showed the remains not to be Megumi's, Ms. Nakayama says. When Tokyo confronted Pyongyang on the deception, "first of all they said they wanted the bones back. . . . Then they said the DNA test had been trumped up." Since that time "there has been no progress."

Given that background, what is Ms. Nakayama's view of dealing with Pyongyang? "Our experience with negotiating with the North Koreans is that they denied [that they had] abducted citizens for years, and they were very comfortable doing so," she says. "Our experience with agreements with the North Koreans is that they'll make excuses for not fulfilling them."

If that sounds familiar, consider the North's denials and obfuscations on its uranium-enrichment program, which it trumpeted in 2002 and subsequently denied. In 2007, the Bush administration backed off its claims about the North's uranium program. Now, in a valedictory speech this month, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley warned of "increasing concerns" in the U.S. intelligence community that the North has "an ongoing, covert uranium-enrichment program."


Ms. Kirkpatrick is a deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.

Linda Bilmes On The Fiscal Stimulus: Lessons from Katrina, Iraq, and the Big Dig

The Fiscal Stimulus: Lessons from Katrina, Iraq, and the Big Dig. By Alex Tabarrok Marginal Revolution, Jan 19, 2009

Linda Bilmes presented an interesting paper (not online) at the AEAs looking at the fiscal stimulus in light of Katrina, Iraq and the Big Dig. Here are some key grafs:

...We will be attempting to ramp up spending in a very rapid way in a government bureaucracy not set up to deal with this kind of effort. In any organization that starts to increase spending very rapidly there are risks of waste, fraud and inefficiency....

A good play to start looking for lessons is by analyzing the three biggest recent examples of heavy government spending on infrastructure: the Iraqi reconstruction effort, Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, and the Big Dig artery construction in Boston. Let me start by pointing out that all of these were plagued by a number of serious problems.

Iraqi reconstruction: [T]he Special Inspector General for Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen,...has found that the effort has been riddled with cost overruns, project delays, fraud, failed projects and wasteful expenditures...even though the first tranche of $19 billion in Iraqi reconstruction money became available in October 2003, the Defense Department did not issue the first requests for proposals for this money until 10 months later...

Hurricane Katrina: ...the US has appropriated, over $100 billion in short and long term reconstruction grants, loan subsidies [etc]...GAO found that FEMA made over $1 billion--or 16% of the total in this particular category--in fraudulent payments...items like professional football tickets and Caribbean vacations.

The Big Dig: ...the largest single infrastructure project in the US...many lessons on how not to run a project...officially launched in 1982, but it did not break ground until 1991, due to environmental impact statements, technical difficulties and jurisdictional squabbles...not "completed" until 2007.

Bilmes is the co-author with Joseph Stiglitz of The Three Trillion Dollar War.

Green jobs debate: Can Economists Have an Opinion?

Green Jobs: The Debate Is Over On This Issue, Too?, by Robert Murphy
Master Resource, January 18, 2009

When I passed around my critique of Nordhaus’ case for a carbon tax, a typical complaint was that I wasn’t a climate scientist, and so I had no business saying that some of the IPCC projections were possibly biased towards the alarmist side. Of course no one likes to be criticized, but I understood that it was a perfectly fair objection to raise. As an economist, I really wasn’t qualified to cast aspersions on the models of Jim Hansen and such.

So it is with great amusement that I watch the extreme global warming crowd react to minor expressions of doubt coming from their previous allies in the context of a “green recovery.” Many economists who are completely sold on manmade climate change–and even think that it is important for the federal government to take quick action to curb the problem–are merely pointing out that the Obama Administration efforts to link this issue with the recession may be inefficient. To repeat, they are NOT saying that the government should ignore global warming, or even that the government should ignore the unemployed. All they are saying is that it might be foolish to try to design a single, magic bullet policy that solves both problems in one stroke (i.e. “Green Jobs”).

For this heresy, these green economists have had their heads bitten off by some of the loudest alarmists. And some of the alarmists–most notably Joe Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress–have no qualms telling professional economists that they know nothing about job creation. In fact, Romm thinks mainstream economists should drop out of the debate altogether, even though one might have thought policy issues like a carbon tax would involve both climate scientists and economists.

The poor guys over at Environmental Economics are taking heavy fire too, and again for the heresy of questioning whether the stimulus plan will create jobs. To repeat, these two bloggers are professional economists and they favor a carbon tax. Yet when they raise practical concerns to make sure the policies deliver what they promise, many of the true believers will have none of it: Here’s the best one, but also one, two, and three. I think the environmental economists have seen how quickly they can be rejected once they simply raise concerns about the most effective way to enact environmental policies.

If professional climatologists want to say that people like me (though not Richard Lindzen!) have no business criticizing their models, that’s fine. But by the same token, when my colleague and I issue a critique of “green job” studies, these same critics ought to keep their mouths shut, right? (Note that I am not saying economists have a monopoly on economic truth–ha! Far from it. I am just making a point about the inconsistency in the rhetoric coming from the alarmists.)

The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen's Guide

The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen's Guide. By Sally C. Pipes
Pacific Research Institute, Jan 16, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO – The Pacific Research Institute has just released The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen's Guide. This is the latest book from health care scholar, and PRI President and CEO Sally C. Pipes.

The book's foreword is by Steve Forbes: “For anyone interested in getting to the core of America's health care troubles, this is the perfect book,” he writes. “And for health care policy makers, it should be required reading.”

In her 182-page book, Ms. Pipes takes on ten popular myths about the state of health care in America. The final chapter lays out several patient-centered prescriptions for reform.

“I wrote this short book as a citizen's guide. Each chapter tackles a complex issue in straight-forward, easy-to-understand language,” said Ms. Pipes.

The book challenges the conventional belief that only government can fix our health care system. In fact, says Ms. Pipes, “government overreach has put the system in a state of crisis.”

A complete list of chapters can be found below.

In her conclusion, Ms. Pipes offers some ways to fix the country's biggest health care problems. “If we want to bring costs down and extend coverage to more Americans, we have to open the health care marketplace to competition -- by abolishing costly government regulations and reforming the tax code to make insurance more affordable.”

“We can solve the health care problems that plague the United States,” concluded Ms. Pipes. “But we won't solve them if we continue to believe the many myths that plague the health care debate.”

List of Chapters
Foreword by Steve Forbes

Myth One: Government Health Care Is More Efficient
Myth Two: We're Spending Too Much on Health Care
Myth Three: Forty-Six Million Americans Can't Get Health Care
Myth Four: High Drug Prices Drive Up Health Care Costs
Myth Five: Importing Drugs Would Reduce Health Care Costs
Myth Six: Universal Coverage Can Be Achieved by Forcing Everyone to Buy Insurance
Myth Seven: Government Prevention Programs Reduce Health Care Costs
Myth Eight: We Need More Government to Insure Poor Americans
Myth Nine: Health Information Technology Is a Silver Bullet for Reducing Costs
Myth Ten: Government-Run Health Care Systems in Other Countries are Better and Cheaper than America's
Solutions: Markets, Consumer Choice, and Innovation

Drinking Water Treatment Becomes More Affordable with U.S. Help

Drinking Water Treatment Becomes More Affordable with U.S. Help. By Nancy Pontius
International partnerships expand treatment facilities in developing world

Littleton, Colorado — An affordable, sustainable drinking water treatment system designed by a U.S. laboratory is being used successfully in Ghana, India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, South America and the Philippines.

The technology, which uses ultraviolet light to disinfect water safely and cheaply, was designed by Ashok Gadgil at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“The lab conducts research in all areas of science and encourages transfer of innovations to the marketplace, including technologies benefiting the developing world,” lab spokesman Allan Chen told

The lab licensed the purification system to the U.S. firm WaterHealth International (WHI), which is working to expand access to affordable drinking water in developing countries and thereby reduce diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

“Around the world, waterborne diseases kill more people than AIDS and have a huge health and economic impact,” Tralance Addy, WHI president, told

His organization provides a weapon to fight waterborne disease, and works alongside nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries to improve living conditions.

For instance, 1 million people have access to clean water from more than 200 WHI water centers in India, where the technology was introduced in 2006 and established through a partnership with the Naandi Foundation.

Other NGOs such as the Lions Club also have provided funding, as have several foreign-born physicians residing in the United States who want to support their home towns.

Individuals in these communities have reported that they and their livestock are healthier with treated water, according to WHI, which studies health improvements from the water centers.

“WHI also partners with foreign governments who provide an umbrella of support to establish water centers, and sometimes provide funding,” said Addy, who was born and raised in Ghana.


In the past, donated or purchased water treatment technology sometimes failed, Addy said, because communities had to struggle to maintain the facilities.

To overcome this, WHI developed “WaterHealth Centres” where water is treated centrally for a small community using a variety of approaches, including:

• ultraviolet water disinfection technology, which is highly effective against harmful germs, and does not require high energy, high water pressure or sophisticated maintenance procedures.
• new buildings, which also can be used for community meetings and social events, to house the systems.
• local personnel hired and trained to operate and maintain the systems.
• hygiene and health education programs that emphasize the economic benefits of avoiding waterborne illnesses.
• narrow-neck water-storage containers to avoid water recontamination.
• marketing to inform residents of the water treatment and its benefits.
• financing for a portion of initial installation costs ($20 per person for a small village in India, for example).

WHI asks communities to make a down payment — sometimes provided by a local government, philanthropist or NGO — and then helps finance the remaining balance. Once the loan is repaid, the community owns the center.

To cover loan payments and operation and maintenance costs, consumers are charged a small fee for purified water. “Currently, one village in Ghana charges 5 cents for 20 liters of treated water,” Addy said.

Local entrepreneurs often start businesses delivering treated water by bicycle or truck. For many families, the time spent collecting water takes away from income-producing activities. “Men and women often walk long distances to get water, and water collection is a common reason why girls don’t go to school,” Addy said.


In Ghana, as in many developing countries, it is believed at least 50 percent of all illnesses are related to waterborne contaminants, Addy said. Ghana has a high number of reported cases of Guinea worm, a debilitating infestation by waterborne parasites.

To help its citizens, the Ghanaian government encourages private participation in the water sector and is working to improve water supplies to all rural citizens by 2010, Addy said.
In this West African country, WHI partners with U.S. nonprofit World Vision Ghana for the health-education component of the program. In December 2007, WHI opened a pilot water center in Afuaman, serving about 3,700 people.

“WaterHealth Centres are important because they provide potable water to communities out of reach from conventional water supply and empower communities by making them involved in the water supply process,” Bismark Nerquaye-Tetteh, a retired water supply specialist with World Vision Ghana, told

“Women in Afuaman who use the treated water have noticed a reduction in the incidence of diarrhea and cholera in their households,” said Nerquaye-Tetteh, who has worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s West Africa Water Initiative.

Construction of five additional WHI centers in Ghana will be completed by March in partnership with the U.S. nonprofit Safe Water Network, which funds the project.

“The government of Ghana has been extremely supportive at both the district level, by assisting the communities in raising the down payments, and at the federal level, by waiving import taxes and duties on imported equipment,” Nerquaye-Tetteh said.

This expansion “brings an important and crucial service to communities that would, under prevailing circumstances, not have this service,” he added.

WHI hopes to expand into other African countries in the near future.

More information on the program is available on the WaterHealth International Web site.