Recreational sex is a rich person's game

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A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

The US doesn't want poor people to have sex. Or rather, it has instituted policies that deny the economically disadvantaged easy access to low-cost birth control, either through insurance or publicly funded family planning programmes.

Catherine Rampell comes to this conclusion in a Washington Post column on Friday.

She notes that the US doesn't seem all that interested in teaching low-income children about contraception in school, giving them easy access to the abortions or caring for the resulting children, either.

"By process of elimination, the solution for low-income people is to never, ever have sex," she says. Enforced celibacy, it seems, is the hoped-for outcome.

While some on the right welcome what they see as a trend towards valuing virginity among teen girls, Rampell calls this kind of logic "magical thinking":

"The belief that we can get entire classes of Americans to practise abstinence until they're financially ready for marriage and children is a right-wing delusion on par with the left-wing delusions that go into socialism: both rely on a fundamental miscalculation about human nature. If the socialists wished to legislate away self-interest, the moralists wish to legislate away libido."

She concludes that it's just another example of the two Americas that live separate and side-by side, rich and poor.

High-income, highly educated Americans have plenty of options when it comes to fertility, she argues - help avoiding pregnancy when they don't want it; help getting pregnant when they do.

Meanwhile, Rampell says, low-income women "drift" into childbearing at an early age, unplanned and often unwanted, at a time when motherhood can have an enormous impact on future productivity and success.

The conservative response, touched on in a tweet by New Hampshire Union-Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline, is that objection to "free" contraception services does not mean they think the poor shouldn't have sex.

He notes that a month's supply of birth control pills costs $6 at retailer Wal-Mart.


Rumblings of internal dissent - Chinese President Xi Jinping can't survive the emergence - unheard of in his nation's 5,000 year history - of an educated, enquiring and restless middle class, says Peter Popham of the Independent. "That's why the rule of Beijing is so abhorrent to Hong Kongers."

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou had the same message earlier this month. "Now is the most appropriate time for mainland China to move toward constitutional democracy," he said. "Now that the 1.3 billion people on the mainland have become moderately wealthy, they will of course wish to enjoy democracy and rule of law. Such a desire has never been the monopoly of the West, but is the right of all humankind."

Popham says that the right way for Hong Kong and the mainland to integrate would be for the latter to take on the healthy attributes of the former. "Whether President Xi is sagacious enough for that task remains to be seen."


Karl Rove covered up Iraq's real weapons of mass destruction? - This week the New York Times accused the George W Bush administration of covering up US troops wounded by abandoned chemical weapons. Dave Wurmser - a former senior adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney - said that "in 2005-6, [White House political advisor] Karl Rove and his team blocked public disclosure of these (findings) and said: 'Let these sleeping dogs lie; we have lost that fight so better not to remind anyone of it.'"

"After the US found thousands of the old chemical-weapons shells, Wurmser and others at one point argued that they had an obligation to declare the stocks of chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention and destroy them," writes Eli Lake in the Daily Beast. "The United States was, after all, the occupier of Iraq and had assumed the country's sovereign responsibilities as a signatory to the convention… But 'it was all for nothing; Rove wanted the issue buried,' Wurmser said."

At the end of the day, Lake says, the White House behaviour at the time was not a cover-up, as was implied in the Times story. "I would just say they simply didn't want to discuss it."


A higher minimum wage in practice - Christopher Flavelle of Bloomberg View argues a $10.10 [£6.27] minimum hourly wage would neither change America for the better nor destroy a million jobs, based on the case study that is Canada.

In 2014 every province in Canada had set its minimum wage at $10 Canadian an hour or higher. British Columbia, which had the biggest increase of any province, saw its unemployment rate fall by almost a full point over the same period, to 6.7 %.

On the other hand, the share of people with low incomes fell just 0.4% in four years, even as the minimum wage increased 16% in real terms during the same period.

"The link with poverty and the minimum wage is almost zero," Stephen Gordon, an economics professor at the University of Laval in Quebec City, tells Flavelle. "Lots of people who earn the minimum wage are not in poverty, and a lot in poverty don't earn the minimum wage - the problem is they're not working, or the number of hours they get.


US pot movement has southern implications - It's time to legalise, or at the very least decriminalise, marijuana in Belize, argues G Michael Reid of the Belize Times. After all, he says, the country's stringent enforcement laws were precipitated by pressure from the US, where many states have already altered existing penalties for marijuana possession. To illustrate the international contradiction, Reid shares a bit of the US/Belize history on the marijuana prohibition.

"As early as 1973, but yet as late as 1984, [Belize] gave [the US] permission to destroy marijuana fields in Belize," he writes. "The destruction of the fields was carried about by the spraying of a deadly chemical known as paraquat. Interestingly enough, in 1983, the year before they came to spray in Belize, the US had banned the use of Paraquat in its own national forests, citing serious environmental concerns."

Reid explains that marijuana growers in Belize salvaged what they could of the destroyed fields and sold the toxic substance both at home and, ironically, to markets in the US.

"What has been proven and what makes much more sense is that the easing of marijuana laws would save the country a lot of money in enforcement expense and would free up the police to address the real and more serious crimes," he concludes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Palestinian commentators review efforts to rebuild Gaza after battles between Israeli forces and Hamas left much of the territory in ruins.

"The slow speed in dealing with the needs of thousands of displaced people will turn the entire Gaza Strip into a huge refugee camp with tens of thousands of tents. This is a violation of the dignity of the people and a denial of their steadfastness. It will also create dangerous social, humanitarian and health problems." - Ayman Abu-Nahiyah in Filastin Online.

"Let everyone rest assured that Gaza will be rebuilt and the resistance will continue strengthening and preparing itself ahead of any new act of aggression. Attempts to blackmail our people and link the reconstruction to disarmament will be to no avail." - Ibrahim al-Madhun in Al-Risalah.‎

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