Here are our top “must reads” on what the world is saying about the U.S. today.
U.S. drone war becoming less of a secret
America’s controversial and covert drone campaign has been making waves in the U.S. lately. Last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) stopped President Obama’s pick to head the CIA with a lengthy, old-fashioned, 13-plus-hour filibuster. The drone campaign, and the Obama Administration’s tight-lipped, has stirred the ire of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike.
But Congressional outrage is lagging behind that of the rest of the world—drones have long been far less popular around the world than in the states. Pakistanis, home to the most aggressive U.S. drone campaign, are particularly fed up with the practice. No doubt many Pakistanis feel vindicated today: a UN team deployed to Pakistan to investigate civilian casualties in drone strikes has found that the U.S. is violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. As The Nation reports, “US officials have disputed claims that drones have killed many civilians in Pakistan. They have also said Pakistan secretly consents to the strikes.”
The Pakistani government claims about 400 civilians have died in drone attacks, and the UN investigator allegedly studied 25 individual attacks that killed civilians.
The cost of war
Eight years of war in Iraq cost the U.S. $10 billion according to a report in the British newspaper The Telegraph, as well as the lives of 4,800 coalition soldiers. Meanwhile, at least 116,000 Iraqi civilians died in the conflict. The figures come from a new study by two U.S. professors of public health published in the leading British medical journal The Lancet. As the authors write:
“Many Iraqi civilians were injured or became ill because of damage to the health-supporting infrastructure of the country, and about five million were displaced. More than 31,000 US military personnel were injured and a substantial percentage of those deployed suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other neuropsychological disorders and their concomitant psychosocial problems.”
The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and withdrew in 2011. But we’re not done yet: the study concludes that given the interest on money we borrowed to finance the war and other costs like long-term treatment for injured veterans, the occupation of Iraq could ultimately cost the U.S. $3 trillion.
Chopsticks on the way out?
In China, it might be the end of wooden chopsticks, a culinary tool in use for at least 3,000 years. Yesterday The Telegraph reported that China’s government admitted its forests cannot provide enough wood to produce disposable chopsticks. China now imports the most wood in the world, including chopsticks from a company in the American state of Georgia.
According to The Telegraph, the Chinese use 80 billion pairs of throwaway chopsticks each year, meaning 20 million mature trees get cut down annually. Bo Guangxin, the chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group, recently suggested at a major Chinese national political meeting that restaurants offer metal knives and forks instead.
Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has created a topic discussing whether the Chinese should use western implements instead of chopsticks. A Weibo user said, “The question is not about using the chopsticks. We can use the stainless steel chopsticks instead, and then the problem will be solved.” Another agreed, “Why there are so many people who prefer to use disposable chopsticks? Is it because the businessmen are lazy or because the customers are worried about the health issues related to chopsticks that can be used repeatedly? We need to change our bad habits for the sake of society.”