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How accurate are these front page statistics??  Well, two things.  First, I'm giving you the best and most recent data I can find on the internet and I’m telling you – and linking to - exactly where I get the data from.  But if the truth be known, and the truth should be known, the powers-that-be don't think humanity is worth counting, and so they don't count it.  They give lots of lip service to improving the state of humanity and reducing unnecessary death and poverty, etc., but deliberately don't measure it so any efforts to alleviate it can never be properly judged.   The VERY FIRST STEP in solving any problem is, of course, to understand the true scope of it.  If you don't know what you're up against, how can you address it?  How can you measure the effectiveness of your efforts if you don't have a good baseline to measure success or failure?   

 

“Accurate and timely data on deaths and causes of death are essential. . . But for more than a quarter of the world’s population – largely in Africa, South-East Asia and the Middle East – there are no recent data available. . .The quality of the information suffers as proper systems for death registration operate in only 29 of 115 countries that report such statistics to WHO.  These systems represent less than 13 % of the world population.  In the remaining countries, mortality statistics suffer from incomplete registration of births and deaths, and incorrect reporting of the cause of death and age.”

http://www.who.int/research/cod_info_quality_20071005.pdf

 

“Millions of poor people are missing from national statistics.  Living in informal settlements, they are simply not counted.”  From the UN’s Human Development Report 2006, page 37.

 

“Even the most basic life indicators, such as births and deaths, are not directly registered in the poorest countries. Within this decade, only one African country (Mauritius) registers such events according to UN standards. Without reliable vital registration systems to track even the existence of births or deaths, naturally the data for the medical circumstances of those births or deaths—or the lives in between—are unreliable.”  An Immeasurable Crisis? A Criticism of the Millennium Development Goals and Why They Cannot Be Measured by Amir Attaran .

 

Because the powers-that-be haven’t seen fit to accurately count life and death despite the technology and resources available to do so (as demonstrated below), they instead come up with estimates using what they call statistical modeling and extrapolating of information based on the little information we do have, and engage in mumbo jumbo like this, beyond the reach of the average lay person, let alone scientific reporter, to follow or credit:

 

“For neonatal mortality and incidence of diarrhoea, a standard logit model was used. Logit estimations are used when the outcome variable has two possible values (thus logits are often referred to as binary models). . .  Formally, in the logit model the dependant variable Yi is assumed to follow a Bernoulli distribution conditional on the vector of explanatory variable Xi. The probability

of success is written as

P (Yi = 1 | xi ) = (xi ) and P (Yi = 0 | xi ) . . ."

 

The above was copied from p. 403 of the Human Development Report 2006.

 

The United Nations calls their current phony bullshit promises to help humanity "The Millenium Development Goals" or "MDG's" which are supposed to be met by the year 2015.  (To see a comparison of the bullshit promises of the past to help humanity and the bullshit promises of the present, see this page.  To get a flavor for them, here are just two of the MDG’s:  “Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger” and “Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.”  (Elsewhere on this site will be discussed the moral repugnancy of goals which seek to only save half of the people that can be saved, like on this page There Is Enough for Everyone)   To show the insincerity inherent in these goals, one only has to note that the goals selected are those for which progress in meeting them cannot be measured, and provisions to measure such progress, or lack thereof, are not also made along with the goals.  As professor/scientist/lawyer Amir Attaran points out

 

 “Probably the most useful discussion the United Nations could plan . . . would be one that asked world leaders to endorse new goals against which they could truly measure progress.  This is feasible . . . For instance, dozens of demographic surveillance sites could be set up in the poorest countries to document births, deaths, illnesses and social services.  This has already been done in countries like Tanzania and Ghana.  How disappointing it is that the United Nations leadership went to great lengths to ensure that no such discussion could happen . . . the United Nations deputy secretary general instructed the organization’s scientists that she didn’t want the summit meeting being “distracted by arguments over the measurement of the Millennium Development Goals,” and ordered that they refrain from proposing any refinements to the goals.  By putting that discussion off limits, and pretending the Millennium Development Goals are meaningful as they now stand, the United Nations has . . . sabotaged its own vital mission to help the world’s most unfortunate and needy people.”    Necessary Measures, op ed, NY Times, by Amir Attaran, 9/13/05, at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/13/opinion/13attaran.html

 

In reply, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the U.N. Millennium Project does not deny that our data is insufficient (at this link) :

 

Of course the data on the world's extremely poor people are weak . . . We need better measurements.”  He argues though, that “contrary to Mr. Attaran's claims, experts from the United Nations, the World Bank and academia have been working hard to improve the data. It has not been easy, particularly with so much foot-dragging and backtracking by governments of some of the rich and powerful countries.”

 

But as Attaran notes in his response to Sachs’ reply “we would not be having this debate if it were about rich people.  Imagine if the U.S. president set a Millennium Unemployment Goal to halve the number of people without jobs by 2015.  Then suppose some years later, an academic asked the government:  “So, how much unemployment is there?”  If the government’s answer were, “We never measured that, and you’re right that we don’t know, but shame on you for blaming us”, the public outcry would be huge.  So would the realization that the government was unaccountable and disdainful of the people it is meant to protect.  This is exactly where the UN finds itself today over several of its most important MDGs:  it pushed for goals that its own scientists knew it could not measure.  Largely it gets away with that because world’s poorest people are seldom in a position to complain. . . Setting measurable goals, measuring them to guarantee progress, and celebrating the progress as it happens – not just celebrating the goals because they are comforting – is the proper way to dignify and protect the lives of the world’s neediest citizens.”  MDGs Must Not be Political Playthings for World Leaders, by Amir Attaran, published in Science and Development Network.  (Amir Attaran is Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health, and Global Development Policy, University of Ottawa, Canada.)

 

Now some argue that we can’t afford to measure humanity accurately and I’ll respond to that bullshit argument in a minute.  First though, I’ll note that there have been criticism of the statistical data chosen to be utilized, good data intentionally ignored, ridiculous overlapping and disorganization in data collection, all of which are so egregious it appears to involve nothing less than intentional incompetence, having nothing to do with the expense of doing things correctly.  I’ll provide a couple of examples here:

 

For example, the world’s best dataset on the extent of malaria was published free in Nature this year and had been offered to the World Health Organization (WHO) for free (Nature 434, 214).  But for a long time the WHO spurned the data.  Then, just a day after the Nature paper was published, the WHO rushed out its in-house malaria figures in draft form.  Not only did the WHO reject an offer of free, reliable, peer-reviewed data, but it wasted its scarce money duplicating that work.”  (Amir Attaran in link above.)

 

Further "even within the UN, different agencies jostle counterproductively for data.  For example, in 2002, the WHO launched a new World Health Survey in over 70 countries to compete with the longer-running DHS andMICS.  Justified as a "sound basis for evaluating progress towards the millennium development goals", instead the WHO's new survey tied up the few qualified statistical staff in the poorest countries.  Three years later (at the time of going to press), the new project has yet to publish a single dataset.  (Ironically, the WHO has since created a new project called the Health Metrics Network, for "reducing overlap and duplication" caused by a "plethora of separate and often overlapping [data] systems".  One cannot yet say whether the Health Metrics Network will succeed at this important goal, or add a further layer to the problem."  Attaran, 9/13/05, at this link.

 

I just did a website news search and note that the “Health Metric Network” referred to by Attaran above was officially launched two years after his article, only a month ago in fact, on October 28, 2007, as the UN News Centre notes at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24455&Cr=health&Cr1=systems:

“The programme was launched today by the Health Metrics Network, a global, WHO-hosted partnership established to address the lack of reliable health information in developing countries.

The lack of civil registration systems – by which governments keep track of births, deaths and marital status of their citizens – means that every year, almost 40 per cent – or 48 million – of 128 million births worldwide go unregistered.

The situation is even worse for death registration: globally, two-thirds – or 38 million – of 57 million deaths a year are not registered. In addition, WHO receives reliable cause-of-death statistics from only 31 of its 193 Member States.

According to WHO, governments cannot design effective public health policies or measure their impact when deaths go uncounted and the causes of death are not documented.”

So, what has the Health Metric Network done to launch their program to improve this dismal state of affairs?  As the UN News Centre continues to report:

The drive to encourage countries to improve civil registration is launched today with a series of papers published in the medical journal The Lancet, entitled “Who counts?” The papers show that most developing countries have rudimentary or non-existent civil registration systems. They also underscore the challenges of establishing civil registration, including new legislation and governance structures.

The Health Metrics Network has already started working with Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Syria to improve their civil registration systems, and three other countries are expected to be identified for assistance by the end of the year.  http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24455&Cr=health&Cr1=systems

 

Wow, Health Metric Network, you published papers showing humanity needs to be counted . . . and have started working with 3 countries.   I am just . . . under whelmed. 

 

How clueless or arrogant are the people in the UN and elsewhere in charge of gathering data on the state of humanity given the absolutely dreadful state such measurement is in at this time - as just indicated above?   You probably have no idea.   Drum roll please.   They’re so clueless or arrogant that - they actually have the nerve to  . . . yes CELEBRATE THEIR SUCCESS.  This February, no joke, they had their 60th Anniversary Celebration.  Here’s what the Director of the UN’s Statistical Division had to say on this momentous occasion  (at http://unstats.un.org/unsd/newsletter/speeches/statement%20on%2060th-2007.pdf ):

“The Statistics Division, or affectionately and more popularly known as UNSD, has, over the years, diligently facilitated the functioning of the Commission and dutifully implemented the tasks assigned.

 

Yep, that’s what I affectionately call the Statistics Division too (when I’m not filled with repulsion that is, at the thought that these people think they’ve actually dutifully implemented tasks assigned.  I guess they were never assigned to count  the inconsequential stuff, you know, like the life and death of humanity.  Perhaps that’s not in their job description.)

 

“In the past 60 years, we have seen real progress in the establishment of the global

statistical system, of which the Commission has firmly established itself as the apex

entity.”

 

Oh yeah, they’re the apex alright.  A “global statistical system” you say?  Funny, if it wasn’t so sad. 

 

And real progress?  Again, there aren’t even valid statistics on the most significant number affecting humanity, you know, it’s actual life and death.

 

But keep celebrating.

 

In fact, those who want can also continue to be VERY, VERY PATIENT, just as patient as Mr. Pali Lehohla, the head of statistics in South Africa, is.  He’s willing to wait 51 years for accurate statistics about the people residing on the African continent.   I’m NOT making this up.  Here’s the quote from his speech, also made on the momentous occasion of the 60th anniversary celebration of the United Nations Statistical Commission, which does not appear to have been made tongue in cheek:

 

“We have initiated the Africa Symposium for Statistical Development, an initiative that will see the 53 African countries each hosting the symposia. Two such events have been hosted, one in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006 and the other one in Kigali, Rwanda in 2007. The next one is scheduled to be held in Ghana in 2008. So, in the next 51 years we should see the development of statistics on the African continent grow from strength to strength and when we convene in South Africa in 51 years from now in 2058 we should proudly say “mission accomplished”.”

http://unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom/doc07/Speech_South%20Africa.pdf  

 

The World Bank also advises people to be patient.   It advises that “Building statistical systems is a long-term process.”  (at p. V of their preface at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/WDI07frontmatter.pdf) The World Bank continues “So is our commitment.”  Yeah, right!  See also the last section below on how the World Bank charges money for those who want access to the Bank’s data on the development of humanity.  You want to know how humanity is developing?  The World Bank says you’ve got to pay to see that data.

 

But first to the bullshit argument that we can’t afford to measure humanity.    

 

What is the approximate cost of being able to gather RELIABLE data on the scope of global poverty and the needless death and types of suffering it causes, and what does the failure to have already expended such relatively paltry sums to measure it say about the genuineness of the philanthropists and UN Millennium Development participants’ efforts when they have already been made aware of this failure?   Okay, the second question was really rhetorical but the first – how much would it cost to get accurate statistics – I’ve only seen one estimate in my reading and searching thus far, that it would cost $40 million dollars annually to obtain reliable data, this from Amir Attaran’s follow-up to his article entitled An Immeasurable Crisis?  A Criticism of the Millennium Development Goals and Why They Cannot Be Measured:

 

“Why is measurement of the MDGs so generally poor? According to Sachs and colleagues, it is money. They write that "developing countries and the international system", which presumably includes the UN, "lack the resources to measure" the MDGs.

However, this belief too contradicts the evidence. Concerning the health MDGs, my paper recommended to expand the network of Demographic Surveillance Sites (DSS) as the single most efficient way to obtain timely, accurate measurements. According to a recent study of DSS in Tanzania, this costs $0.01 per person, per year.  Thus to institute DSS and good quality MDG measurements for the 4 billion poorest people worldwide would cost perhaps $40 million annually.

In that context, for Sachs and colleagues to argue that the "international system lacks the resources" to effectively measure the health MDGs is without credibility. The sum of $40 million is under 0.1% of the global foreign aid budget."

 

Let’s Do It – Humanity Deserves to Be Counted

 

If the international system continues to refuse to spend 0.1% of the global foreign aid budget on accurate data so we’ll know where the foreign aid should really be going to help the most people the fastest, where else might we get the money it would cost?  Does anyone have Max Levchin’s phone number?  Somebody who does, give Max a call and some free advice to start the accurate statistical ball rolling.   He told the New York Times last month that he has $100 million dollars in the bank but doesn’t have time to figure out which charity to give any of it to.  Let him spend the first 40 million so we’ll get a bench mark of real statistics on the state of the world and the number that live, die and starve in it each year.  Let him use his money to show that humanity deserves to be counted.  Maybe it will even increase Max’s self-esteem.

 

“They are happy to be wealthy, of course, but many of these baby-faced technology tycoons often seem indifferent to the buying power of their money, at least at this stage of their lives. . . Mr. Levchin acknowledges that he has already earned more money than he could ever spend. . .the phenomenal success of PayPal, which gave him the bulk of a fortune worth around $100 million. . . He wishes he gave more to charity, but he can never seem to find the time. “It’s pathetic how much I give compared to other people I know worth considerably less,” he said. And his desire to earn even more means he pays little attention to the wealth he already has in the bank.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/business/28invent.html?pagewanted=print

 

The above is copied from a New York Times article entitled “After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again”, part of the New York Times “Ages of Riches” series.  The Times indicates that “[a]rticles in this series are examining the effects of the growing concentration of wealth.”  The effects they are examining, however, are only about how the wealthiest are affected, like this poor Max Levchin guy who is driven to work on a new startup company despite his financial success:  “I’d run any company; it’s completely irrelevant to me,” Mr. Levchin said. “It’s really about this drive to win.”  How the “growing concentration of wealth” affects the poor is not examined in this Times series, nor are any comparisons made between what the rich have and the poor don’t.   These riches aren’t placed in any context, true to mainstream media news form. To see some comparisons, click here, at my comparison page.

 

After Levchin pays for the $40 million necessary to start getting good statistical data on the state of the world, what about the following year and the year after that?  It’s not really a problem.   There’s plenty of money in the world to pay for the counting of humanity (as there is to pay for the saving of the humanity currently ignored - see There is Enough for Everyone webpage.)  As the Forbes 2007 list indicates, there are nearly 946 billionaires in the world with a combined wealth of 3.5 trillion dollars.  As the Forbes editor noted:  “This is the richest year ever in human history.”  See http://www.forbes.com/2007/03/07/billionaires-worlds-richest_07billionaires_cz_lk_af_0308billie_land.html  and http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN0821626920070308.

Can anyone spare $40 million/year?   Let the billionaires account to us if they won’t spend some of their money counting us.   

 

Let’s also not forget about the $30 million dollar plus multi-millionaires too:

 

The 2007 World Wealth Report revealed that there are 94,970 human beings who have $30 million dollars or more.   Their total net worth of 13.1  trillion dollars shows they actually average $120 million dollars each.   The 2007 World Wealth Report calls these 94,970 human beings “ultra high net worth individuals” or UHNWI’s and indicates that only 17 percent of these people gave any of their money to philanthropy and the 17 percent that do, gave away on average less than 11 percent of their wealth to philanthropic causes.    (See p. 2 and p. 21 of the http://www.capgemini.com/resources/thought_leadership/world_wealth_report_2007/ put out by Merrill Lynch/Capgemini) 

 

And how about the ordinary millionaires?

 

Only 11 percent of your ordinary “high net worth individuals” (those with a million dollars or more) contributed to philanthropic causes, and those contributions amounted to less than 8 percent of their wealth.    There are 9.5 MILLION of these “high net worth individuals” in the world today.  (See p. 2 and p. 21 of the 2007 World Wealth Report put out by Merrill Lynch/Capgemini) 

 

Tell me again that there are insufficient resources to accurately count the life and death, yes life and death, of humanity.  I dare you.

 

Finally, I want to return to something I wrote in the first paragraph on this page, that I'm giving you the best data I can find on the internet.  Some of that data and statistics I actually have to pay for because some organizations that collect basic data on the very  state of humanity don’t think it should be provided to the world free of charge.  Yeah, it’s about the state of the development of humanity and all that, the most important thing to humanity, but hey, they’ve decided to charge humanity to get access to such data.

 

“Looking for accurate, up-to-date data on development issues? World Development Indicators, the World Bank's respected statistical publication presents the most current and accurate information on global development on both a national level and aggregated globally”.  BUT IT’S NOT FREE, BABY.  WE CHARGE YOU TO GET ACCESS TO THE MOST CURRENT & ACCURATE STUFF.   They only make their publication’s chapter introductions available for free on its website.  I learned this while trying to access the data myself.  For an individual user, they charge $200 for a one-year subscription to these World Development Indicators (WDI’s for short) on-line, or $275 for a cd-rom of same.  (See http://go.worldbank.org/3JU2HA60D0 and http://go.worldbank.org/6HAYAHG8H0 )  For institutions, it all depends on how many of their patrons might access it.  I gave them the relevant factors and asked them how much they would charge the New York Public Library to subscribe to the on-line version and was advised they would charge the library $4,500 a year.   (You can also “try before you buy” by accessing information from a limited database with limited queries available so you can see how the real WDI online one will work, at http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org/ext/DDPQQ/member.do?method=getMembers&userid=1&queryId=135.)  Also, don’t worry, if you are from a war-torn destitute country like Afghanistan, the World Bank will cut you a break and give you a 75 percent discount, so you can get your on-line subscription for $50.  If you live in Mexico, they’ll give you a 35 percent discount.  You can’t make this shit up!  To see the Country list so you can see how much it would cost you, see http://publications.worldbank.org/discounts (note to USA residents - no discount).  Anyway, I’ve already paid for a subscription and will add data from the WDI online to this website, a continual work-in-progress, as I make note of it.  (The World Bank has advised that the proper way for me to footnote data I get from this on-line subscription is simply by citing this link:  http://publications.worldbank.org/WDI ).  Do not send me any donations.  This website is a labor of love and I bring up the price charged for accessing WDI data on the state of humanity only to make the point that there shouldn’t be a price for it!  When this data on the very development of humanity is already in databases which are website accessible, there is no excuse for not making it accessible to anyone lucky enough to have a computer and internet connection.  No password should be required.  Only shame is for those who make it so.

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