You know the cliché “power corrupts,” but what does corruption look like? Wherever people have a little bit of power over other people, at least some will misuse it. Most people are not evil or cruel, but if they think they’ll get away with it, they’ll game the system to get rich.

Each year, at least 5 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) is wasted by corruption. Corruption makes everything cost more. You might be forced to pay bribes for a permit to build your house, pay police to use roads or bridges, pay kidnappers to avoid violence, to save your child’s life from disease. But corruption costs more than just money.

When the wealthy and well-connected get special access to power, we all suffer. Corruption threatens civic and human rights. Citizens lose autonomy over their bodies and their property, journalists lose their right to speak truth to power. Checks and balances get weaker: elections may be cancelled or rigged to protect the corrupt. Prosecutors and judges are bribed into silence. The rule of law begins to unravel.

Around the world and throughout the centuries, people with power have found ways to exploit others and enrich themselves. The costs—both economic and humanitarian—are devastating.

1. Russia: (Cost of Corruption: 30 Percent of GDP)

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians were pressured to pay for a “krysha” (literally “roof” but meaning “protection”), essentially safety from criminal gangs. Recently, extortion has become an accepted function of government. The government offices that control access to medical care, education, housing, and utilities are highly corrupt bureaucracies, and demand bribes just to do their jobs.

Officials who can hand out contracts or land triple their salaries in graft and kickbacks. Police can be bought off and judges bribed, so criminal extortion often goes unpunished. Organized crime syndicates conspire with government ministries to exploit average people and then evade justice.

2. China: (Cost of Corruption: 10 Percent of GDP)

Though growing wealthier by the day, China has lagged behind other developed economies due to corruption. Bribery of public officials is commonplace, with 35 percent of Chinese companies admitting to paying bribes for special licenses or to evade taxes.

Average citizens often must pay “facilitation payments” to access public services. An accepted system of favors, bribes, and gifts known as guanxi (literally: ‘relationship’) obscures the total cost of corruption, which may be 10 percent of China’s GDP.

Recent crackdowns that saw 58,0000 corrupt officials indicted were politically motivated and highly selective. The strict rule of the Communist Party in China, and its close ties to the military, perpetuates further enriching the wealthy through “public” power.

3. South Africa: (Cost of Corruption: 10 Percent of GDP)

South African police officers are among the most corrupt in the world. Women are particularly vulnerable, sometimes accused of being sex workers and then assaulted by officers as a “test.” Actual sex workers suffer abuse to avoid arrest. Police often accuse drivers of being under the influence, then demand money to release them.

Prison-building corporation Bosasa secured profitable deals by bribing individual cabinet ministers and the president’s close associates with cash, cars, vacations, and homes. Bosasa’s executives also bribed journalists and prosecutors, resulting in (according to Corruption Watch) “the near destruction of the law enforcement agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of corruption.”

4. Somalia: (Cost of Corruption: Up to 20 Percent of GDP)

Somalians live with corruption in every aspect of civic life. 80% of state funds are withdrawn by individuals, and not spent on social services. Would-be voters meet with violence, threats, and harassment. Journalists—at least 30 since 2008—have been murdered for investigating corruption or human rights abuses.

Entrepreneurship is barely legal, and most transactions include bribes or violence. Trade is dominated by those with financial ties to the ruling elite. The embezzlement of public funds saps what little money Somalia has to invest in the welfare of its people. Courts lack authority to prosecute corruption.

5. India: (Cost of Corruption: 1.5 Percent of GDP)

As many as 90 percent of Indians work in semi-legal “gray” markets, so they live in constant fear and become easy to extort. Two-thirds of Indians report bribing an official at least once last year. The typical fee to obtain a driver’s license is more than doubled by bribes, and truckers are routinely stopped at makeshift highway checkpoints where regulators or police demand cash.

An exceptionally high tax rate is selectively applied; buying favorable rates or exemption from fines is an established part of the tax system. Few independent media sources exist, and investigative reporting on corruption, especially at high levels, is dangerous for journalists.

6. Venezuela: (Cost of Corruption: >50% of GDP)

The well-publicized devastation of the Venezuelan economy followed a decade of embezzlement and rampant theft at the highest levels of government. Customs officials sell illegal passports to non-citizens, often for the purposes of transporting weapons or drugs.

Government price controls encouraged officials to overstate the costs of basic goods, then sell subsidized goods on the black market for personal gain. Venezuela’s military was caught trafficking food rations. Shortages of medicine, electricity, and clean water are still widespread. Government officials went on printing (and then pocketing) money as inflation increased to nearly 1 million percent. Now 90 percent of the population of a once-wealthy nation lives in poverty.

To retain power while the country’s economy fell apart, President Maduro murdered journalists, attacked protesters, jailed opposition leaders, and terrorized their population.

Is Corruption Human Nature? Is There Hope?

US data is much harder to acquire. Trillions can get lost, $16 Billion missing here, $10 Billion overpaid there... a person could get suspicious. Likely, it’s 5-10 percent of government spending, or 3-5 percent of GDP.

In general, the wealthier and freer the people, the less corrupt and more transparent their government.

Independent courts, a free press, lower taxes, and less government spending all contribute to oversight of power and the ability of citizens to oust abusers.

Corruption is a constant, but strong civic institutions can help combat its worst effects.

 

Dr. Laura Williams  teaches communication strategy to undergraduates and executives. She is a passionate advocate for critical thinking and individual liberties. Her opinions are her own. This article originally appeared on fee.org, then pennypress. This is an edited version, reprtinted with permission. 

Published in World

A 6th case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in Clark County, Nevada. The Southern Nevada Health District has declared an “outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases” following new cases of the virus being reported.

This summer has been a wetter season in the Southwest, most likely causing an uptick in mosquito activity.

States throughout the country have been reporting cases of West Nile virus as well, with the highest occurring in Arizona (42 cases as of 7/23/19 per CDC).

 

wnv-activity-07092019.jpg

 

West Nile Virus Disease Cases* and Presumptive Viremic Blood Donors by State – United States, 2019 (as of July 23, 2019)

State

Neuroinvasive

Disease Cases†

Non–neuroinvasive

Disease Cases

Total

cases

Deaths

Presumptive viremic

blood donors‡

Arizona

42

15

57

1

16

Arkansas

1

0

1

1

0

California

2

0

2

1

1

Colorado

0

1

1

0

0

Iowa

0

2

2

0

0

Kentucky

1

0

1

0

0

Maryland

0

1

1

0

0

Missouri

1

0

1

0

0

Nebraska

1

0

1

1

0

Nevada

1

0

1

0

0

New Jersey

1

0

1

0

0

North Dakota

1

0

1

0

0

Oklahoma

1

2

3

0

0

South Dakota

0

1

1

0

0

Virginia

0

1

1

0

0

Wyoming

1

0

1

0

0

Totals

53

23

76

4

17

*INCLUDES CONFIRMED AND PROBABLE CASES.
†INCLUDES CASES REPORTED AS MENINGITIS, ENCEPHALITIS, OR ACUTE FLACCID PARALYSIS.
‡PRESUMPTIVE VIREMIC BLOOD DONORS (PVDS) ARE PEOPLE WHO HAD NO SYMPTOMS AT THE TIME OF DONATING BLOOD THROUGH A BLOOD COLLECTION AGENCY, BUT WHOSE BLOOD TESTED POSITIVE WHEN SCREENED FOR THE PRESENCE OF WEST NILE VIRUS. SOME PVDS DEVELOP SYMPTOMS AFTER DONATION.
PLEASE REFER TO STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT WEB SITES FOR FURTHER DETAILS REGARDING STATE CASE TOTALS.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus was originally discovered in the 1930’s in the West Nile district of Uganda.  It is believed to have reached the United States in the late 1990’s.

It’s in the family of Flaviviridae in which the disease is vector transmitted, such as by ticks, or mosquitoes, and can infect mammals as hosts. West Nile is in the same family as Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, and Japanese Encephalitis.

Culex genus/species of mosquitoes are the usual culprit.  They feed from evening to morning, hence are more active during those times.

How is West Nile transmitted?

A mosquito contracts the disease while feeding on an infected bird and then can transmit it to humans.

 

WNV-transmission-cycle.jpg

 

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus infections?

80% of those infected do not exhibit symptoms.  Some however, may elicit the following if they have mild illness:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint  pains
  • Weakness
  • Rash

Rarely (1 in 150 people) may become seriously ill with neuroinvasive symptoms.  These include:

  • Headache
  • Neck pain/Stiff neck
  • High fever
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Since mosquitoes are the primary vector, avoiding them is paramount to limiting infection.  We recommend the following:

Clean up areas of standing water around the house such as kiddie pools, puddles, buckets as they provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Wear light long sleeve clothing, pants tucked into socks/shoes when outside.

Use DEET or insect repellant that can also be sprayed onto clothes when planning to be outdoors.

Be aware that many mosquitoes are active from dusk till dawn.

If bitten by a mosquito, contact your local medical provider if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms.

 

---- 

Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health