- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Order to procreate
Anyone, it seems, can be quoted in the media.
But Joseph Chamie, director of the U.N. Population Division, has been quoted by the pope.
In a speech to the Italian parliament last week, Pope John Paul II urged Italian families to have more children, and used language straight out of a U.N. report to warn of a "birthrate crisis."
The declining birthrate is "another grave threat that bears upon the future of this country, one which is already conditioning its life and its capacity for development," the pontiff said.
"He gets it," said a clearly tickled Mr. Chamie, who warns that Italy is one of several industrialized nations heading for "serious trouble" as its population grows smaller and older. Spain, Greece, Japan and Russia, he said, are in similar straits.
"Italy's population will decline by 25 percent in two generations," Mr. Chamie said in an impromptu discussion last week.
"This milestone is not fully appreciated, because the attention is on the Dow Jones averages and the price of oil. These are short-term concerns. The birthrate, the size of families, these are the long-term, critical trends."
Mr. Chamie, who carries improbable statistics in his head, said the world has never before seen an era in which population voluntarily declined.
"There are economic, social, geopolitical and cultural consequences," he said. "Pensions and health care for the elderly, economic growth, defense, productivity, international competition, consumption and real estate trends just watch what happens."
Referring to smaller areas that have suffered population contraction, Mr. Chamie warned: "Before long, Italy will be like Baltimore, or those rural towns where the young people have all escaped to New York. They'll have to start advertising for immigrants."

Timing is all
CNN came of age the day Peter Arnett climbed to the roof of Iraq's al-Rashid Hotel and broadcast the 1991 Gulf war live.
It was a heady time for CNN, but especially for the dozen or so journalists, producers and technicians who managed to keep the news on the air.
The new HBO movie "Live from Baghdad" is based loosely on producer Robert Weiner's memoir, a self-serving account of how to manage minders, manipulate and educate a suspicious regime and con colleagues into bringing in as much duty-free as they could carry.
It stars Michael Keaton as the overheated, hard-charging, sweet-talking producer and protagonist
At least one aspect of the marketing is accidentally brilliant: The show premiers on December 7 the day before Iraq's deadline to file a potentially war-provoking final accounting of all its prohibited weapons of mass destruction.
Or maybe it wasn't an accident: The advertising team was smart enough to buy the bus shelter outside the United Nations for the "Live from Baghdad" poster.

Iraqi oil sales flag
It appears that Iraq's failure or refusal to maintain oil sales has seriously hurt the U.N. humanitarian aid program, despite relaxed restrictions on what Baghdad can buy with its oil revenues.
"By the most conservative assessment, some $4 billion has been lost due to the low level of exports," said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the introduction of the semiannual report on the U.N. oil-for-food program with Iraq.
Iraqi oil exports dropped to an average below 1 million barrels per day in recent months from more than twice that much in 2000, according to the report, in which Mr. Annan ascribed the decline to Iraq's intermittent suspension of oil sales and its imposition of an unauthorized surcharge on customers.
Iraq had budgeted nearly $5 billion for food, medicine and investment in public service sectors, but less than $3.5 billion was available, according to the report.
The Security Council began the oil-for-food program in 1996 to ameliorate the effect of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis. Since then, much of the population relied on monthly Iraqi purchases of rice and other staples to survive.
"While understandably, the current discussions are focused on the resumption of the weapons-inspection regime, I should like to appeal to all concerned to also focus attention on the humanitarian dimension and to spare no effort in meeting the dire needs of the Iraqi people," Mr. Annan said.
U.N. weapons inspectors will soon be back to work in Iraq, intended as a first step to ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction so the Security Council can lift the crippling sanctions.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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