U.S. tech firms are replacing workers with cheaper talent in Latin America

January 24th, 2023


IMAGE/Camillo Freedman for Rest of World

Poaching and coaching novice developers is local startups’ only solution.

For Andrea Campos, founder of the Mexico-based mental health app Yana, finding developer talent nowadays reminds her of the dating scene growing up in Cancún. 

“If you wanted a boyfriend, you had to accept the hard reality that the guy you chose had already dated at least one of your friends before,” Campos told Rest of World. Much like potential dating partners in a small city, these days senior developers with experience and skills are a scarce commodity in Latin America, forcing her to flirt with other startups’ talent, she said. “There is just no option but to poach from other startups.”

Campos has been on the prowl for a while now. When Rest of World first met her early last year, Latin American startups and tech companies were struggling to recruit and retain talent. Her predicament was exacerbated by the fact that many U.S. companies had taken advantage of their geographic proximity to the region and outsourced jobs across the border — one company offered $15,000 a month to one of Campos’ former developers. “We can’t compete with that,” Campos had told Rest of World in January 2022. Now, she says finding experienced tech workers has become even harder.

Rest of World spoke to 18 entrepreneurs, recruiters, and developers in Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay, all of whom acknowledged that the recent layoffs across the tech sector globally haven’t freed up experienced developers for hire by regional companies. One of the major reasons for this, they say, is that though U.S. companies are tightening their belts, their technical needs remain the same, leading them to look abroad for cheap programming labor. This has forced Latin American startups to become creative in fulfilling their own hiring needs — from training junior employees to poaching more senior programmers from competitors.

Rest of World for more 

End medical debt: Fight grows to stop hospitals from suing patients, garnishing wages, ruining credit

January 24th, 2023


VIDEO/Democracy Now/Youtube

The growing problem of crushing medical debt was raised by Senator Bernie Sanders in a national address Tuesday on the American working class. We hear from patients and discuss the fight to stop hospitals from suing patients, garnishing wages and putting liens on homes of people facing medical bills they can’t afford. We are joined by Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York and co-founder of the Health Care for All New York campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

In a major address Tuesday evening from the U.S. Capitol, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont gave a national address on the state of America’s working class. He focused in part on the growing problem of medical debt.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I see — I see a nation where over 85 million of our people are either uninsured or underinsured. And as all of you know, we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people.

I see a nation where, unbelievably, over 500,000 people go bankrupt each year because of medically related debt. You got that? You were sick, you had a cancer operation, and you know what you get? You go bankrupt as a result. Does that make any sense to anybody?

I see a nation — and we don’t talk about this at all; virtually nobody talks about this — where over 68,000 people die each year because they can’t afford the healthcare they need. I have talked to doctor after doctor, in Vermont and around the country, telling me about patients who walked in the door terribly ill. And the doctor says, “Why didn’t you come when your symptoms — when you first felt your symptoms?” They said, “I don’t have any insurance. I can’t afford to pay it.” And thousands of thousands of people finally crawl into the doctor’s office, and it’s too late, and they die, in the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Bernie Sanders speaking Tuesday night in a major address on the state of America’s working class. To see the whole address, go to democracynow.org.

But today we’re going to look at how more patients are speaking out as they struggle with medical debt. The healthcare reform group We the Patients New York, a project of the Community Service Society, has spoken to many patients. This is Anthony Calafiura’s story.

ANTHONY CALAFIURA: So, slightly over a year ago from now, I was committed to the psych ward after a failed suicide attempt. I was there for 14 days. It genuinely helped me, until I received my bill afterwards. But, thankfully, I was under my estranged father’s insurance. But even then and currently today, I am over $2,000 in debt, and my mother has refused to help me pay, so I have essentially been forced to kind of figure out this whole situation by myself.

And when I was committed, I was 17. So, after I got released, when I tried calling, like, the hospitals, there wasn’t much I could do, because I was still a minor. And it just felt like a circle, and I never really got, like, actual advice on what to do.

Now that I’m 18, it’s been like six months since I’ve been released, so all my debt has been transferred to the debt collection agency. Nobody around me really knows what to do. And this whole situation has just been causing me so much stress. It’s like every time I check my mail, every time I receive an 866 call, which now I know is the debt collection agency’s number, every time I see a minor text, I’m just reminded of how much debt I’m in, and it just makes me really anxious, and it’s been really not good for my mental health, which is why I’m even in debt in the first place, was to get better.

I think there should be a law changed within the medical system. I think in schools they should teach you about how insurance works, even how to manage debt.

For the most part, I’ve just felt really alone, even when there are 23 million Americans in debt, which is, essentially, one in 10 Americans.

In general, the U.S. healthcare system, people shouldn’t have to go into debt, with like little knowledge on what to do after, just to get the medical care that they need. People also just shouldn’t be afraid and resistant to go in to the doctors in fear of the bill that they’re going to receive after.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is Sherel Wilson talking about her medical debt struggles after getting surgery.

Democracy Now for more

El Jones’s book, “Abolitionist Intimacies”

January 24th, 2023


In this series, we ask acclaimed authors to answer five questions about their book. This week’s featured author is El Jones . Jones is a poet, journalist, professor and activist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University, where she was named the 15th Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies in 2017. Her book is Abolitionist Intimacies .

Roberto Sirvent: How can your book help BAR readers understand the current political and social climate?

El Jones: Abolitionist Intimacies is a book about fighting for the abolition of prisons, borders, and carceral control across institutions. Focused on Canada, and more specifically on the province of Nova Scotia, it bears witness to the violences of the Canadian state that are often buried in our claims to politeness, diversity, and our mythology of not being “like” the United States.

It is not an “abolition 101” guide explaining political or activist steps; rather, told across essays, memoir, criticism, poetry, and journalism, it is a book documenting the voices and resistance of prisoners, and the frontlines work of those, particularly Black women, who resist prisons, deportations, and state violence. Based on a decade of grassroots work with incarcerated people, the book argues that far from being an academic project, abolition is lived by prisoners, their families, and working class women.

While the state uses carceral intimacies and forced proximities against us – the strip search, the recorded phone call, the surveilled visit – abolitionist intimacies are the acts of collective care and love that we draw on to organize.

From historical Black communities, to courtrooms, to front line actions, the book traces the many ways we encounter state violence in Canada and the strategies we use towards freedom.

What do you hope activists and community organizers will take away from reading your book?

Post 2020, with the mainstream introduction to concepts like defunding the police and abolition, there have been a number of books explaining these movements. Abolitionist Intimacies moves beyond theory to capture the living and lived experiences of those who are incarcerated or facing state violence, and the deep bonds of love and relation with those fighting alongside them for liberation. Ultimately, this is a book about love, and how love is built and sustained through collective action and organizing. It is a book about the “women’s work” of organizing, the legacies of colonization, diasporic life, and the current realities of African Nova Scotia, home of the oldest Black contact in North America. It is not a step-by-step guide to activism, but rather, a chronicle of what it is to do and live this work, with all the doubt, despair, and moments of joy and success as well.

Stylistically, the book is also an intervention into academia, offering spoken word, poetry, diary entries, archiving, reporting from court, and other language strategies to witness and to tell the stories of those caught in the belly of the beast.

We know readers will learn a lot from your book, but what do you hope readers will un-learn? In other words, is there a particular ideology you’re hoping to dismantle?

Robyn Maynard’s book Policing Black Lives (Fernwood Press, 2017) traced the realities of anti-Black racism and policing in Canada. Following in the wake of that book, Abolitionist Intimacies deconstructs the ongoing narrative that Canada is kinder, better, and more polite. In fact, there is a very Canadian way in which anti-Black violence takes place, buried in bureaucratic systems, absences in policy and data, and claims to being progressive (what I call the “violence of the paperwork.”) For U.S. or international readers, the book shatters the myth that mass incarceration is a largely U.S phenomenon, and that countries like Canada offer an enviable justice and policing system: documenting from inside maximum security units, from phone lines in detention facilities and prisons across Canada, and from the communities shattered by policing and border violence, the book shows over and over again the brutality of the Canadian system.

As Joy James (2020) observes, abolition has increasingly become an academic project divorced from the lives of the overwhelmingly working class Black people who actually suffer within these systems. Abolitionist Intimacies offers alternatives to an abolition contained to classrooms, showing the abolitionist acts of prisoners and their families and communities.

Which intellectuals and/or intellectual movements most inspire your work?

Black Agenda Report for more

How the brain calculates a quick escape

January 23rd, 2023


An impala runs away from a cheetah. IMAGE/Valerio Ferraro / REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Survival of the fittest often means survival of the fastest. But fastest doesn’t necessarily mean the fastest moving. It might mean the fastest thinking. When faced with the approach of a powerful predator, for instance, a quick brain can be just as important as quick feet.

After all, it is the brain that tells the feet what to do — when to move, in what direction, how fast and for how long. And various additional mental acrobatics are needed to evade an attacker and avoid being eaten. A would-be meal’s brain must decide whether to run or freeze, outrun or outwit, whether to keep going or find a place to hide. It also helps if the brain remembers where the best hiding spots are and recalls past encounters with similar predators.

All in all, a complex network of brain circuitry must be engaged, and neural commands executed efficiently, to avert a predatory threat. And scientists have spent a lot of mental effort themselves trying to figure out how the brains of prey enact their successful escape strategies. Studies in animals as diverse as mice and crabs, fruit flies and cockroaches are discovering the complex neural activity — in both the primitive parts of the brain and in more cognitively advanced regions — that underlies the physical behavior guiding escape from danger and the search for safety. Lessons learned from such studies might not only illuminate the neurobiology of escape, but also provide insights into how evolution has shaped other brain-controlled behaviors.

This research “highlights an aspect of neuroscience that is really gaining traction these days,” says Gina G. Turrigiano of Brandeis University, past president of the Society for Neuroscience. “And that is the idea of using ethological behaviors — behaviors that really matter for the biology of the animal that’s being studied — to unravel brain function.”

Think fast

Escape behavior offers useful insight into the brain’s inner workings because it engages nervous system networks that originated in the early days of evolution. “From the moment there was life, there were species predating on each other and therefore strong evolutionary pressure for evolving behaviors to avoid predators,” says neuroscientist Tiago Branco of University College London.

Not all such behaviors involve running away, Branco notes. Rather than running you might jump or swim. Or you might freeze or play dead. “Because of the great diversity of species and their habitats and their predators, there are many different ways of escaping them,” Branco said in November in San Diego at the 2022 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Of course, sometimes an animal might choose fight over flight. But unless you’re the king of the jungle (or perhaps a roadrunner much smarter than any wily predatory coyote), fighting might be foolish. When an animal is the prey, escape is typically its best choice. And it needs to choose fast.

Smithsonian for more

The NIEO as global Keynesianism

January 23rd, 2023


From left to right: India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Indonesia’s Ahmed Sukarno, and Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito. PHOTO/Voltaire

The countries promoting the NIEO were solidly anti-Marxist. Unlike Groucho Marx, they wanted to be a member of any club that might have them — specifically, the club of post-World War 2 developed, relatively sovereign nations using controlled domestic economies and particularly financial systems to promote faster industrialization and stable incomes for primary producers and workers more generally. 

In essence, by promoting a new deal for recently decolonized nations and the mostly Latin American countries operating as informal dependencies under first the British and then the US empire, the NIEO group sought to generate a global equivalent of the US New Deal. The New Deal famously legitimized collective bargaining, stabilized agricultural production and prices while also subsidizing incomes, and funded a massive developmental upgrading of the US American internal periphery. In essence, the NIEO proponents sought to expand that post-war ‘fordist’ regulated economy to a global scale, just as immigrant and racial minorities sought access to stable income and employment inside developed country labor markets. Those minorities wanted western democracies to live up to their promises of equality for all citizens; NIEO proponents wanted western democracies to live up to the unfulfilled promises of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference and post-colonial sovereign equality.  

This was not a forlorn hope for three reasons. First, the NIEO was at some level economically rational. Second, the Bretton Woods architects had considered and approved proposals like those of the NIEO already, though they were never implemented. Third, in the specific conjuncture of the early 1970s, rich countries’ internal political struggle over how to cope with the contradictions of the post-war regulated economies was still unsettled, opening room for a set of global compromises mirroring the earlier ones in rich countries. 

The rationality of the NIEO

The NIEO was economically rational for the same reasons the New Deal was economically rational. The continuous flow, assembly line-based mass production system that emerged in the US in the 1920s and 1930s required both stable demand and stable production to be profitable. Mass production systems were in principle extremely efficient and productive relative to craft production. But massive investment in specialized capital goods underwrote that productivity. And that massive investment could only be profitable if it ran more or less continuously at full capacity, so as to maximize economies of scale. The New Deal sought to create an institutional framework that would stabilize both demand and production.

Mass production required stability and predictability overall, as Aldous Huxley’s famous parody Brave New World emphasized. Continuous flow production can only work on the supply side if all required inputs arrive in the right quantities and quality, at the right time and the right place, to be assembled by workers with the right skills. One of the most important skills was tolerance for the extreme monotony and fast pace of assembly line work. Continuous flow production could only be profitable if that stable output more or less met stable purchasing power, and moreover purchasing power at a level that could accommodate the expense of what were in essence capital goods for households, like cars and refrigerators. 

The New Deal accomplished much of this at a domestic level. Unions for a largely white, male industrial labor force in the US American northeast and northern Midwest stabilized wages, while routinized collective bargaining assured that wages grew in line with increased productivity. Stable, higher wages and an expanding welfare state enabled those workers to buy cars and houses on credit. Cars and houses were the motors of post-war growth. But virtually every economic sector was the object of stabilizing regulation including, most importantly, financial flows. The Agricultural Adjustment Act stabilized farm output and income, which helped transform agriculture into a more predictable industrial enterprise closely linked to the vehicle and chemical industries — Ford designed the Model T as a multi-purpose farm vehicle. Federal legislation and the Texas Railroad Commission stabilized oil prices and quantities domestically, while the seven biggest US and British oil firms regulated global production. And regulations and plethora of special credit facilities channeled predictable capital to farmers, electrical power utilities, municipalities, defense contractors, and most significantly, the housing market. Finally, the US government brought electricity to the US periphery with three massive public hydropower projects: TVA in the southeast, the Columbia River projects in the northwest, and the Colorado river projects — primarily the Hoover Dam — in the southwest.

The approval of the Bretton Woods architects

The impending Allied victory in World War 2 opened a space for the United States to export some or all of this system to the rest of the world, given US productive superiority. (Russians won the war with blood; US Americans with sweat; Britons with tears for their empire). The 1944 Bretton Woods conference saw 44 free and occupied nations, including delegations from some colonies promised post-war independence, try to design a stable international economic order under the new United Nations. The US and Britain dominated the talks, but various would-be industrializers like Canada, Australia and India — the last still a British colony, the first two only semi-sovereign, but all crucial for Britain’s war effort — added a strong developmentalist element to the debates. 

We’wha – “Two Spirit” (1849-1896)

January 23rd, 2023


We’wha, a Lhamana (Zuni Two Spirit) individual, took on both male and female tasks as a Zuni cultural ambassador and pottery and textile artist. Also a spiritual leader, We’wha endeavored to preserve the history, traditions, and knowledge of the Zuni people.

We’wha was born into the Zuni tribe around 1849 in what is today New Mexico. We’wha’s mother was a member of the donashi:kwe clan (Badger People) and We’wha’s father was part of the bichi:kwe clan (Dogwood People). Orphaned as an infant (possibly the result of a smallpox epidemic) We’wha and their brother were adopted by a paternal aunt. We’wha remained part of their mother’s clan but maintained lifelong ceremonial ties their father’s clan. We’wha’s adopted family was wealthy and influential among the Zuni. Their position gave We’wha opportunities to gain special ceremonial knowledge and take part in revered cultural rituals.

Though born a male-bodied person, community members recognized that We’wha demonstrated traits associated with the lhamana as early as age three or four. In Zuni culture, lhamana (now more often described with the pan-Indian term “Two Spirit”) were male-bodied individuals who took on social and ceremonial roles generally performed by women. They usually, though not exclusively, wore women’s clothing and mostly took up labors associated with women. Lhamana constituted a socially-recognized third gender role within the tribe and often held positions of honor in the community.

We’wha received some instruction specific to men, but largely trained under their female relatives, learning critical skills for domestic tasks, such as how to grind and prepare corn. We’wha also studied crafts. Taught by a kinswoman who was an expert in ceramics, We’wha trained for years to master the elements of the pottery, many of which held ceremonial importance. We’wha became a skilled weaver (usually a male role), learning different looms in order to make blankets, belts, and sashes. We’wha became known for their talent as a craftsperson, during a period (approximately 1848-1880) in which Pueblo textiles, particularly those in the distinctive Zuni style, flourished. We’wha was among the first Zuni to sell their pottery and textiles, helping to bolster Indian arts more widely.

We’wha was a member of the men’s kachina society, which performed ritual masked dances. We’wha also joined the medicine society, beshatsilo:kwe (Bedbug People) after a shaman cured them of an ailment. Membership in these societies enabled We’wha to further their knowledge of Zuni lore and ceremonies. We’wha mastered the demanding memorization as well as the improvisational skills necessary to impart the tribal tales and stories that were part of Zuni rituals.

During We’wha’s childhood, the Zuni lived under threat of Navajo and Apache raids. As a result, they relied heavily on diplomacy, allying themselves with the Americans through the 1850s and 1860s for security purposes. However, the Zuni remained culturally and socially isolated from Americans until the 1870s. At that time, Anglo and Hispanic herders began to encroach on Zuni lands and Protestant missionaries arrived, determined to convert the Zuni to Christianity.

In 1879, the U.S. government’s newly created Bureau of Ethnology sent an expedition to collect artifacts and record the customs of the Zuni people. Anthropologist Matilda Coxe Stevenson, the wife of expedition leader James Stevenson, was immediately taken with We’wha, after encountering them working for the local missionaries. Stevenson was impressed by We’wha’s extensive knowledge of Zuni history and culture, describing them as “the most intelligent person in the pueblo.”

Women’s Voices Media for more 

Weekend Edition

January 20th, 2023

UAE should build film studios for South Asian filmmakers

January 20th, 2023


Filmfare Middle East Awards 2022 in Dubai VIDEO/Life 707/Youtube

VIDEO/DB World/Youtube

after long time, a Pakistani film, it seemed, was to be released in India

theaters in Delhi and Punjab were ready for “The Legend of Maula Jatt

but the Dec 30 2022 release was cancelled after a threat from MNS party

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Ameya Khopkar tweeted:

“There are plans to release Pakistani actor Fawad Khan’s Pakistani film ‘The Legend of Maula Jatt’ in India. It is most infuriating that an Indian company is leading this plan. Following Raj* Saheb’s orders we will not let this film release anywhere in India.”

*Raj Thackeray, Bal Thackeray’s nephew, is a rogue politician like his uncle

late Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, now run by his son, is not any better

on Jan 6, 2023, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath was in Mumbai

he was there to tell film people that his state is opening up a Film City

he also offered subsidies if they shoot movies in his state

Muslim artists didn’t participat because Yogi is a Muslim hating Hindu

he has bulldozed many Muslims houses in his state

actor Suniel Shetty told Yogi:

“The hashtag that’s going on, boycott Bollywood, yeh ruk bhi sakta hai aapke kehne se (it can stop if you say). It is important to spread the word that we are doing good work. One rotten apple is everywhere, but just because of that you can’t call the whole industry rotten. Today people think that Bollywood is not a good place, but we have made such good films here. I was a part of one such film too, when I did Border. I have been a part of many good films. We have to come together and work towards how we can get rid of the Boycott Bollywood hashtag. We have to figure how we can stop this trend.”

“Today, if I am Suniel Shetty, it is because of UP and the fans from there. If you take the lead, this can definitely happen. It is of great importance that this stigma that is on us is gone. It is a very strong emotion for me. Dukh hota hai bolne me ke humaare pe yeh stigma hai (it pains me to tell that there is this stigma on us) because 99% of us are not like that. Hum din bhar drugs nahi lete, hum galat kaam nahi karte (We don’t do drugs whole day, we don’t do wrong work). Hum achhe kaam se jude hai (We are associated with good work). Bharat ko agar bahar ke desho se kisi ne joda hai toh woh hai humaara music (Bollywood music has connected India with the world), and our stories. So, Yogi ji if you take the lead and talk to our beloved Prime Minister about it, it will make a huge difference.”

Shetty could have said:

drugs’ harmful effect is limited to a few people in our film industry

whereas you and your BJP party hate is destroying our country

it is about that hate that Pakistani actress Mahira Khan said:

“I had the most amazing time working in India. I am still in touch with so many people and there’s a lot of love there. Unfortunately, we are easy targets, soft targets, whether it’s us here in Pakistan, whether it’s them there in India.” “Because we’re artists, and we’re connected by that thread of art, we actually get each other. So we’re trying to look out for each other, more than anything. Even now, we are so careful with what we write on social media. It’s not that we don’t talk to each other. It’s not that we don’t wish each other on our birthdays. It’s not that we don’t meet each other in different countries. It’s not that – it’s just that we are actually not just protecting ourselves but protecting each other.”

“Unfortunately, it’s politics, it’s not a personal thing. On both ends, until the time that scapegoats are needed, we will always be that.” “But let’s say that it gets better. Let’s say that there is someone in power who does not use us as easy targets. That would be lovely. Can you just imagine the collaboration? It would be lovely.”

Dubai has one film studio Dubai Studio City and some small centers

UAE’s population density is not too high and has plenty of space

it could built a couple of new studios for South Asian film production

creating a great opportunity for South Asian film makers

Dubai and Abu Dhabi can jointly or individually go into this project

it could bring the Indo-Pak film fraternity more closer

Indo-Pak artists who’re above communal/national hatred meet in UAE

they could produce films, TV dramas, etc. in joint production

this could give people from both countries a chance to meet often

the more interactions and intermingling can counter hostility and bigotry

that could help both Pakistan and India to better relations

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Finding the first Americans

January 20th, 2023


Footprints from Site 2 at White Sands IMAGE/Aeon

The debate over how people first arrived in the Western Hemisphere continues to roil archaeology in the United States – and to capture public attention. Today, the scientific community is contending with significant amounts of new genetic and archaeological data, and it can be overwhelming and even contradictory. These data are coming from new archaeological excavations but also from the application of newly developed tools to re-analyse prior sites and artefacts. They’re coming from newly sequenced genomes from ancient peoples and their contemporary descendants, but also from re-analysis of prior sequence data using new modelling tools. The generation of new data at times feels as though it’s outpacing efforts to integrate it into coherent and testable models.

Did humans first populate the Americas 100,000 years ago, 30,000 years ago, 15,000 years ago, or 13,000 years ago? Did they come by boat or by an overland route? Were the ancestors of Native Americans from one population or several? The answers to these questions would help us understand the grand story of human evolution. We know that the Americas were the last continents that anatomically modern Homo sapiens – humans like us – entered, but we don’t know exactly how this happened. These long-ago movements give us hints about the challenges ancient peoples across the world had to contend with during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), a prolonged period of coldness and aridity, when animals, plants and humans retreated to environmental ‘refugia’ for several thousand years. How did we survive this Ice Age? What technological and biological adaptations arose as the result of these environmental conditions? These questions capture the popular imagination and challenge the scientists working to uncover the details of individual lives thousands of years in the past.

To their Indigenous descendants, the stories we tell about these First Peoples of the Americas are highly relevant for additional reasons. Their deep ties and claims to the lands have often been ignored or expunged by governments, media and corporations across North and South America in order to make room for narratives that are more palatable, exciting or convenient to certain non-Native groups. The historical exclusion of Indigenous peoples from making decisions about research on their own ancestors and lands has caused significant harms to Native communities and individuals; when Native scientists and community members are full participants in the research process, the stories that emerge are not only more respectful but also more accurate.

Archaeological evidence establishes that Indigenous peoples were present in the Americas at least 15,000 years ago. Scientists don’t agree, however, on when people first arrived. Some archaeologists claim it must have been much, much farther back, citing evidence such as flaked stones in layers dating to ~30,000 years ago at the Chiquihuite Cave site in Mexico, bones with cut marks in layers dating to 34,000 years ago in Uruguay, flaked stones in layers dating to 30,000-50,000 years ago in Brazil, and even broken mastodon bones dating to 130,000 years ago in California. All of these claims are heavily disputed.

As a rule, an archaeological site won’t gain widespread acceptance as legitimate unless there is clear evidence of human activity, that evidence can be securely dated, and it is found in an undisturbed geological context. For example, a hearth containing the remains of charred animal bone fragments and stone tool fragments at the Dry Creek site in Eastern Beringia (near the present-day Denali National Park in Alaska) was dated to 13,485-13,365 years ago from wood charcoal pieces taken from within the hearth. The stone tools – resharpened blades, flakes, end scrapers, and the byproducts of manufacturing them – and repeated controlled fires used to cook animal bones clearly indicate a human presence. The intact stratigraphy and multiple independent radiocarbon dates from the hearth tell us when people were using this particular part of the site. To archaeologists, this is uncontroversial. In contrast to the Dry Creek site, there is no consensus that the very early sites discussed above have met that standard; critics argue that the stone ‘artefacts’ and ‘butchering’ marks could be the result of natural phenomena (or even, in some cases, left by modern construction equipment). There simply hasn’t been any uncontroversial physical evidence of a human presence in the Americas more than 15,500 years ago.

Aeon for more

By the numbers: The de-dollarization of global trade

January 20th, 2023


IMAGE/The Cradle

Data suggests that US dollar reserves in central banks are dwindling, as is the influence of the US on the world economy. This presents a unique opportunity for regional currencies and alternative payment systems to enter the vacuum.

The imposition of US trade restrictions and sanctions against a number of nations, including Russia, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, and Syria have been politically ineffectual and have backfired against western economies. As a result, the US dollar has been losing its role as a major currency for the settlement of international business claims.

Because they do not adhere to the policies of the US and other western powers, over 24 countries have been the target of unilateral or partial trade sanctions. These limitations, nevertheless, have turned out to be detrimental to the economies of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and have begun to impact the US dollar’s hegemony in world trade.

In its space, a “new global commercial bloc” has risen to the fore, while alternatives to the western SWIFT banking messaging system for cross-border payments have also been created.

Geopolitical analyst Andrew Korybko tells The Cradle that the west’s extraordinary penalties and seizure of Russian assets abroad broke faith in the western-centric paradigm of globalization, which had been declining for years but had nonetheless managed to maintain the world standard.

“Rising multipolar countries sped up their plans for de-dollarization and diversification away from the western-centric model of globalization in favor of a more democratic, egalitarian, and just one – centered on non-western countries in response to these economic and financial disturbances,” he adds.

Dwindling dollar reserves  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recorded a decline in central bank holdings of US dollar reserves during the fourth quarter of 2020—which went from 71 percent to 59 percent—reflecting the US dollar’s waning influence on the world economy.

And it continues to worsen: Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that the bank’s holdings of dollar claims have decreased from $7 trillion in 2021 to $6.4 trillion at the end of March 2022.

According to the Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) report by the IMF, the percentage of US dollars in central bank reserves has decreased by 12 percent since 1999, while the percentage of other currencies, particularly the Chinese yuan, have shown an increasing trend with a 9 percent rise during this period.

The study contends that the role of the dollar is waning due to competition from other currencies held by the bankers’ banks for international transactions – including the introduction of the euro – and reveals that this will have an impact on both the currency and bond markets if dollar reserves continue to shrink.

Alternative currencies and trade routes

To boost global commerce and Indian exports, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) devised in July last year a rupee-settlement mechanism to fend off pressure on the Indian currency in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US-EU sanctions.

India has recently concluded agreements for currency exchanges of $75.4 billion with the UAE, Japan, and various South Asian nations. New Delhi has also informed South Korea and Turkey of its non-dollar-mediated exchange rates for each country’s currency. Currently, Turkey conducts business utilizing the national currencies of China (yuan) and Russia (ruble).

Iran has also proposed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) a euro-like SCO currency for trade among the Eurasian bloc to check the weaponization of the US dollar-dominated global financial system.

Mehdi Safari, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic diplomacy, informed the media earlier in June last year that the SCO received the proposal nearly two months ago.

“They must use multilateral institutions like BRICS and the SCO to this aim – and related ones, such as currency pools and potentially even the establishment of a new currency whose rate is based on a basket of their currencies, to mitigate the effects of trade-related restrictions,” Korybko remarked.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is being revived as a “sanctions-busting” project by Russia and Iran. The INSTC garnered renewed interest following the “sanctions from hell” imposed by the west on Moscow. Russia is now finalizing regulations that will allow Iranian ships free navigation along the Volga and Don rivers.

The INSTC was planned as a 7,200 km long multimodal transportation network including sea, road, and rail lines to carry freight between Russia, Central Asia, and the Caspian regions.

Ruble-Yuan Payment System

On 30 December, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a video conference in which Putin reported that bilateral trade between the two countries had reached an all-time high with a 25 percent growth rate and that trade volumes were on track to reach $200 billion by next year, despite western sanctions and a hostile external environment.

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