What’s New July 2008

This page lists changes to this site for July 2008.

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Although many people have struggled, even sacrificed their lives for democracy, the reality has often been mixed. Issues range from things like paradoxes with democracy itself, to the challenges of keeping a population interested in participating while a poor quality free press limits the ability for people to make informed decisions. For many countries, the threat of foreign influence in domestic affairs, or the effects of corruption, voter intimidation and more subtle political manipulation can all shatter the dreams of those who have struggled for this ideal. Democracy, it seems, is under assault from many angles and many issues are being felt in even the most established of democracies. This article attempts to explore some of these issues.

Some tobacco companies have been found to target young children in places like Mauritius, Nigeria, Malawi and India, often despite their own marketing guidelines that ban such practices. In addition to health costs associated with tobacco production, tobacco use has some additional impacts on the environment and society. Examples include large numbers of forest fires caused by smoking, deaths from fires started by smoking, and use of additional resources to produce side-products that smoking requires (such as cigarette lighters) or that helps promote tobacco use (promotional materials and products). These all add up, especially as concerns about environmental damage and misuse are increasing. Tobacco production and use has therefore long been an example of wasteful use of resources, labor and capital. Another update to this tobacco article introduces some of these issues.

Biodiversity has long known to be an important issue; nature can sustain itself and humans often disrupt sensitive ecosystems and life chains which can lead to unpredictable consequences. A couple of examples were recently added to this section describing how fishermen who campaigned for killing whales many decades ago (for fear of whales threatening the fish supply) found that whale culling eventually led to a chain reaction that decimated fish larvae. In another example, two national parks decimated by increasing elephant populations were going to be restored by culling elephant populations. A scientist suggested to at least let nature take its course in one of those parks. Decades later, which national park flourished?

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