“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is the Pope Getting the Catholics Ready for an Economic Revolution?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore 
 
Is the Pope Getting the Catholics Ready for an Economic Revolution? (Maybe He Read Marx) A specter is haunting the Vatican.

 AlterNet / November 27, 2013      

In 1992, the Catholic Church officially apologized for persecuting 17th-century astronomer Galileo, who dared to assert that the Earth revolved around the sun. In 2008, the Vatican even considered putting up a statue of him.   Could a certain 19th-century atheist philosopher be next?

It is true that in 2009, a Vatican newspaper article put a positive spin on one Karl Marx. The author, German historian Georg Sans, praised Marx for his criticism of the alienation and injustice faced by working people in a world where the privileged few own the capital. Sans suggested that Marx’s view was relevant today: “We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system....” Indeed.

To read more....

Coming Out as a Modern Family

By MARIA BELLO

The New York Times - November 29, 2013

When my 12-year-old son, Jackson, asked me if there was something I wasn’t telling him, I replied, “There are a lot of things I don’t tell you.”
“Like what?”
“Adult stuff.”
He persisted: “What kind of adult stuff?”
This was the moment I had been anticipating and dreading for months. “Like romantic stuff,” I said, fumbling for words.
“What kind of romantic stuff?” 
“Well,” I said. “Like how sometimes you can be friends with someone, and then it turns romantic, and then you’re friends again. Like with Dad and me. Or romantic like Bryn and me were, and then he and I became friends.” 

To read more....

The marketisation of our universities

By Luke Martell

Economic criteria get precedence over what’s good in human terms

The London School of Economics and Political Science - November 29, 2013

In 2010 the UK government announced 100 percent cuts to the funding of most teaching at universities. To fill the gap, students’ contributions to fees in England trebled widely to £9000 a year or close to that. 12 years earlier higher education had been free. The government say the changes are necessary for deficit reduction, the reason also given for cuts and marketisation across health, welfare and local government.
But these cuts are not necessitated by budget deficits. Tuition fees, already low, are being abolished in Germany. In the UK there isn’t less money involved. It’s just that students cough up rather than taxpayers, without getting more for the greater contribution they make. Loans and defaults might actually cost the government more. And students could find interest rates hiked, so their debt is retrospectively increased.
The marketisation of universities is a political choice, made without a democratic mandate. Changes are in line with conservative ideology to reduce, privatise and marketise the public sector. They alter what a university and society are all about. It’s argued that working class applications haven’t been hit by students paying fees. But the data’s flawed. Since the Robbins Report more people from all classes are going to university but the relative chances for working class people have reduced.

To read more....
 

Arab World Sinks Deeper into Water Crisis, Warns UNDP

By Thalif Deen

Inter Press Service - November 30, 2013

The Arab world is widely perceived as blessed with an embarrassment of riches: an abundance of oil (Saudi Arabia), one of the world’s highest per capita incomes (Qatar), and home to the world’s tallest luxury building (United Arab Emirates).
But it lacks one of the most finite resources necessary for human survival: water.
“The average Arab citizen has eight times less access to renewable water than the average global citizen, and more than two thirds of surface water resources originate from outside the region,” says the U.N.Development Program (UNDP) in a new study released this week.
Titled “Water Governance in the Arab Region: Managing Scarcity and Securing the Future,” the report warns that water scarcity in the region is fast reaching “alarming levels, with dire consequences to human development”.

To read more...

Friday, November 29, 2013

China in the Middle East Lecture Series: Zan Tao Wednesday, December 11, 2013


CHINA IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Tao Zan (PEKING UNIVERSITY)
Wednesday December 11, 2013
Urban Center - room 710 - 12:00 - 2:00 PM

Portland State University

Dr. Zan Tao is an Associate  Professor of Turkish Studies, History Department, and Deputy Director of the Center for Global Modernization Studies at Peking University. He completed his PhD in History at Peking University in 2007. He has been a visiting scholar at Middle East Technical University (2005-2006), Center of Afro-Oriental Studies in Brazil (2008), Bogazici Univeristy (2008), and Indiana University-Bloomington (2012-2013). He had also worked for one year at Tibetan University (2010-2011). He is the author of Modern State and Nation Building: A Study on Turkish Nationalism in the Early 20th Century[Xian Dai Guo Jia Yu Min Zu Jian Gou: 20 Shi Ji Qian Qi Tu'erqi Min Zu Zhu Yi Yan Jiu] (Beijing: Sanlian Publisher, August, 2011), "Turkish Model: history and present" [tu'er qi mo shi: li shi yu xian shi] Journal of Xinjiang, Normal University (March, 2012),  "A analysis on contemporary foreign strategy of Turkey" [shi xi dang dai tu'er qi de dui wai zhan lve] Peking University Center for Study of International Strategy: Chinese International Strategy Review (Beijing: World Affairs Publishers, 2011), “An Overview of Turkish Studies in China," Turkish Studies Review, Issue 15 (Spring 2010),  “Meeting Kurds in Turkey,”SEPHIS: Global South (April 2009), “Sino-Turkish Relationship and Turkey’s Perceptions on the Rise of China,” Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in Asia, Vol. 3, No. 1 (March 2009).

CO-SPONSORED BY
INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
CENTER FOR TURKISH STUDIES
HATFIELD SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
INSTITUTE OF ASIAN STUDIES
CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE 
OTTOMAN AND MODERN TURKISH STUDIES AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY


Monday, November 25, 2013

'Golden rice bowl' attracts China's best and brightest

By Feng Ke and Katie Hunt

CNN November 25, 2013

College student Wang Zixu was among the 1.1 million hopefuls who packed out school and universities across China on Sunday to sit the country's civil service exams.
It's a tradition that dates back more than 1,300 years when exams were first held to select the best applicants for ancient imperial bureaucracy. Today's young job seekers are vying for government posts in record numbers.
Like many of the candidates, Wang, who will graduate next year, says the prospect of stable salary and good benefits make more it appealing than the private sector that attracts many of the most ambitious minds in the U.S. and Europe.
"I think the exam wasn't too hard. I answered all the questions," Wang told CNN after taking the three-hour exam outside the China Institute of Political Science and Law.

To read more....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Iran's Nuclear Triumph

Tehran can continue to enrich uranium at 10,000 working centrifuges.

The Wall Street Journal - November 24, 2013

President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," and we devoutly wish this were true. The reality is that the agreement in Geneva with five Western nations takes Iran a giant step closer to becoming a de facto nuclear power.
Start with the fact that this "interim" accord fails to meet the terms of several United Nations resolutions, which specify no sanctions relief until Iran suspends all uranium enrichment. Under this deal Iran gets sanctions relief, but it does not have to give up its centrifuges that enrich uranium, does not have to stop enriching, does not have to transfer control of its enrichment stockpiles, and does not have to shut down its plutonium reactor at Arak.

To read more...

Europe's first secular Jew is born Philosopher

Baruch de Spinoza was banned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his allegedly heretical views on God and religion.

By David B. Green

Hareetz | Nov. 24, 2013

November 24, 1632, is the day that philosopher Baruch de Spinoza was born, in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. The son of a family that originated in Spain before the Inquisition, and eventually settled in Holland, Spinoza was banned by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his original and allegedly heretical views on God and religion. Although he never recanted his beliefs, he also did not convert to Christianity, and continued developing his philosophy, producing a number of works that are studied to this day. As such, he has been called Europe’s first secular – or modern – Jew.
Baruch de Spinoza (after his excommunication, he Latinized his name to Benedict de Spinoza) was the second son of Miguel, a Portuguese-born merchant, and his second wife, Hanna Debora de Espinoza, conversos who re-embraced their Judaism on their immigration to Amsterdam.

To read more...

Chongqing’s Challenge

Tom Miller

The Cairo Review of Global Affairs - November 24, 2013

China’s urban expansion is breathtaking. In 1980, fewer than 200 million Chinese people lived in towns and cities. Over the next thirty years, China’s cities expanded by nearly 500 million—the equivalent of adding the combined current populations of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. Today more than 700 million people are crammed into urban areas, a little over half the population. By 2030, China’s cities will be home to one in every eight people on earth.
Nowhere is China’s urban transformation more striking than in Chongqing, the largest city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, with a population of around seven million. Once a rusting laggard, marooned far from the dynamic cities of the eastern seaboard, this rough-and-ready river port is undergoing spectacular change.  Over the past decade, hundreds of towering apartment blocks have sprouted from the city’s deep red soil and new bridges have soared across its muddy riverbanks. Chongqing’s skyline, now a thicket of skyscrapers, resembles Hong Kong’s. And the construction frenzy shows no sign of slowing down. On the city’s northern outskirts, bulldozers flatten wooded hills and lush ravines to satisfy property developers’ insatiable appetite for land. Near the airport, teams of construction workers lay track on a new monorail that will eventually run to nine lines. And at the heart of the old city, wreckers armed with pickaxes hack at a tangle of grimy slums.


To read more....

States of War: How the Nation-State Made Modern Conflict

By Andreas Wimmer

Foreign Affairs - November 7, 2013

To explain recent conflicts in countries such as Syria or Sudan, observers have been quick to point their fingers at proximate causes specific to our times: the power vacuum created by the end of the Cold War offered opportunities for rebels to fill the void; the recent globalization of trade flooded the developing world with cheap arms; rising global consumer demand generated new struggles over oil and minerals; jihadist groups spread using networks of fighters trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Yet such explanations miss a bigger picture. If we extend the time horizon beyond the Cold War to include the entire modern period -- from the American and French revolutions to today -- we can see repeating patterns of war and conflict. These patterns are related to the formation and development of independent nation-states.
Until the eighteenth century, empires, dynastic kingdoms, tribal confederacies, and city-states governed most of the world. This changed when nationalists introduced the notion that every “people” deserved its own government. They argued that ethnic likes should rule over likes. In other words, Slovaks should be governed by Slovaks, not the House of Hapsburg; and Americans by Americans, not the British crown. Over the past two centuries, in wave after wave of nation-state formation, this new principle of political legitimacy transformed the world.

To read more....
 

Inflation, corruption, inequality top list of Chinese public’s concerns

By Jacob Poushter

PEW Research - November 8, 2013

This weekend, top leaders in China plan to focus on a whole host of reforms, ranging from initiatives to open up the nation’s economy to addressing challenges such as corruption, environmental problems, and social issues. In our years of asking the Chinese questions about their views about the state of their country, here are their answers on key issues:

Inflation – Rising prices are seen as a very big problem by 59% in China, according to a spring 2013 Pew Research Center survey. When asked which is the issue most important for the government to address first, 53% of the Chinese public said inflation, while 26% named inequality and only 11% cited unemployment. Inflation shot up to 3.1% in September, making it a pressing issue for China’s Communist party elite.

To read more....

Do Skyscrapers Promote Inequality?

It's not an accident that China and New York City, which have perhaps the greatest distance between their rich and poor, also lead the world in skyscraper construction.

by Alex Marshall

Governing.com  | December 2013

Like tall, new, elegantly dressed kids in class, they poke their shoulders and heads above their classmates, peering out over and into Central Park. There is the just-completed One57, a 1,004-foot-tall building where a duplex inside its shimmering, multicolored glass walls costs $90 million. There’s the under-construction 432 Park, designed by South American architect Rafael Viñoly, whose top floor at 1,398 feet will be higher than that of the Empire State Building’s. And there’s the planned 1,550-foot Nordstrom Tower, where the luxury department store will take up the first eight floors and residences most of the rest.
It’s the latest trend in New York City: “super tall” residential skyscrapers. A half dozen or so, maybe more, are going up, and they are remaking the city’s skyline. Not many other American cities are joining New York in this trend, but it’s a different story across the waters.

To read more....

Stark inequality: Why political mobilisation on the basis of caste & class is likely to persist

By Avinash Celestine

ET Bureau | 24 Nov, 2013   

Despite heavy political mobilization, inequality between Dalits, tribals, OBCs and the rest of the population is still stark, and has changed little in the past decade.

As elections approach, with a series of state polls already underway and a general election next year, appeals by various parties for votes of the Dalit, tribal and other backward classes will only intensify.

Ever since the Janata Party government set up the Mandal Commission in the late '70s to identify the  ..

Despite heavy political mobilization, inequality between Dalits, tribals, OBCs and the rest of the population is still stark, and has changed little in the past decade. As elections approach, with a series of state polls already underway and a general election next year, appeals by various parties for votes of the Dalit, tribal and other backward classes will only intensify. Ever since the Janata Party government set up the Mandal Commission in the late '70s to identify the socially or educationally backward - and even before - parties in both the north and the south have tapped these castes for votes. Historically less-welloff than upper castes despite being in the majority, they were ripe for political mobilization. Politicians and parties as diverse

Read more at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/26278468.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

The blood libel that reawakened racism in Europe

The wave of kidnapping accusations brought against the Roma is in line with hundreds of years of racism, discrimination, neglect and poverty.

By Asaf Ronel  

Hareetz | Oct. 30, 2013

The affair of Maria, described by the Greek media as "the blonde angel", has unfolded in a manner that is a far cry from the story weaved by the newspaper headlines decrying a Roma ring that kidnapped children for the purpose of sex trafficking.
The little girl's biological mother, also a Roma, was located in Bulgaria and told how she had given her daughter to the adoptive parents of her own free will because of financial distress. The Greek authorities have not yet decided what to do with the girl, whose adoptive parents are still under arrest, but the entire affair points at a serious problem of racism in Greek society.
Such severe accusations against a Roma couple and an entire ostracized minority group would not have arisen without the fierce hatred of foreigners in Greece. The same xenophobia also characterized the behavior of the police and other authorities involved in the affair, who hastened to assume the worst possible about the parents, and also leaked details to the press.

To read more....

14 unbelievably racist things European politicians are saying about the Roma

Anti-Roma hate speech in Europe is nothing new. But somehow, it's always worse than you expect.





Last month Greek and Irish authorities did something truly ironic. In three separate incidents, they took blond, blue-eyed children away from their Roma families and put them in state care. Why? They saw their light skin and assumed the kids must have been — wait for it — stolen from their families.
The Roma are a linguistically and culturally diverse group of people who originated from northern India about 1,500 years ago. They make up Europe’s largest ethnic minority, with at least 10 to 12 million members. Most Roma are European Union citizens. But even though they've lived in Europe for more than 700 years, they’re still treated with suspicion and hostility.
DNA tests now confirm that all three of the blond children are Roma, but an informal witch hunt had already begun, feeding into centuries of superstition that the Roma steal children.

Yes, America Has Gotten Better About Racism, but It Really Doesn’t Matter

By Mychal Denzel Smith

The Nation - November 22, 2013

Because I write about race and racism in the United States, I’m often asked some variation of this question: are things better now?
I don’t mean to be condescending when I answer, but usually my response is frustrated laughter followed by a firm “no.” It’s the most polite thing I can think to do in the moment. At least, it’s more polite than saying, “That’s a stupid fucking question.”
But that’s how I actually feel. It sounds harsh, but I truly believe “Are things better?” is one of the most useless questions in a discussion about racism. It’s another in a repertoire of rhetorical tricks we use in this country to avoid the hard work of addressing racism in its modern form. By reframing the conversation around how much progress has been made, we further the false narrative that racism is a problem that belongs to history. While we pat ourselves on the back for not being as horrible as we once were, we allow racism to become further entrenched in every aspect of American life.
Of course we’re doing better than chattel slavery. Of course we’re doing better than legal segregation. But what material benefit do we get from the comparison?

To read more...

The Banality of Televised Anti-Chinese Racism

Recent incidents on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and on Holland's Got Talent reveal the persistence of casual bigotry—intended or not—toward China and Chinese people.

By Matt Schiavenza

The Atlantic - Nov 22 2013

Last week's episode of Holland's Got Talent featured a 30-year-old Chinese-born contestant named Xiao Wang, a PhD candidate who moonlights as an opera singer. Xiao was on hand to sing "La donna e mobile," an aria from Verdi's Rigoletto, and performed beautifully.
However, one of the talent judges on the show, a Dutch singer named Cornelis Willem Heuckeroth, used the segment as an opportunity to mock Xiao's Chinese-ness.

Here were a few of Heuckeroth's comments: 
"Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?" 
"This is the best Chinese I've had in weeks, and it's not takeaway!" 
"He looks like a waiter from a Chinese restaurant." 
"This is the best Chinese person I've ever seen, and he's not even a delivery boy." 

Hueckeroth, who for some reason goes by the name "Gordon," also called Xiao's performance a "surplise." 
The other two panelists on the show both looked embarrassed by Gordon's remarks; one, an American named Dan Karaty, even told him that he's "really not supposed to say things like that."

To read more.....

An issue of men By Shashish Shami Kamal

The Daily Star - November 25, 2013

THE issue of gender inequality and violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Bangladesh is mainly placed on the public agenda by women and women-focused organisations only. Men and boys still remain passive participants by being the target group of workshops, posters, leaflets telling them to ‘Stop Violence.’ This approach of men’s participation in the issues of gender inequality and VAWG is an effective short term solution for awareness building and information dissemination. But we do realise that the issue of VAWG is rooted in the unequal position of women in the gender order of the society. That is why a sustainable change in the society requires the interventions to go beyond individual and interpersonal levels and address the institutional and structural levels of the society. This needs active engagement of men and boys. Men’s capacity should be utilised for changing the social practices that reproduce the systematic dominance of men over women. Active engagement proposes that men and boys.

To read more...

Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program


The P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) has been engaged in serious and substantive negotiations with Iran with the goal of reaching a verifiable diplomatic resolution that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
President Obama has been clear that achieving a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is in America’s national security interest.  Today, the P5+1 and Iran reached a set of initial understandings that halts the progress of Iran's nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects.  These are the first meaningful limits that Iran has accepted on its nuclear program in close to a decade.  The initial, six month step includes significant limits on Iran's nuclear program and begins to address our most urgent concerns including Iran’s enrichment capabilities; its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium; the number and capabilities of its centrifuges; and its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium using the Arak reactor.  The concessions Iran has committed to make as part of this first step will also provide us with increased transparency and intrusive monitoring of its nuclear program.  In the past, the concern has been expressed that Iran will use negotiations to buy time to advance their program.  Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community's concerns.
In return, as part of this initial step, the P5+1 will provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief to Iran.  This relief is structured so that the overwhelming majority of the sanctions regime, including the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place.  The P5+1 will continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously.  If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the limited relief and impose additional sanctions on Iran.

‘We chose democracy & human rights over banks’ – Iceland president

Russia Today - September 27, 2013  

As Iceland’s banking system went into meltdown at the start of the global financial crisis, it came under enormous pressure from the rest of Europe to accept crippling austerity measures that would have burdened its people for generations to come. And yet the tiny island nation stood up to the European Goliath, defiantly opting for democracy even as it stood on the brink of bankruptcy.
What can Iceland teach the world about the power of the people and the rule of law? To discuss these issues, Oksana is joined by the President of Iceland, Olafur Grimsson.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: An Ally Frets About American Retreat

Influential Saudi royal Prince Alwaleed bin Talal talks about the U.S. debacle in Syria, the Iranian threat, and 'this perception that America is going down.'

By Matthew Kaminski

The Wall Street Journal - Nov. 22, 2013

'The U.S. has to have a foreign policy. Well-defined, well-structured. You don't have it right now, unfortunately. It's just complete chaos. Confusion. No policy. I mean, we feel it. We sense it, you know."
Members of the Saudi royal family have voiced their displeasure with the Obama administration's approach to the Middle East through private channels and recently in public as well. None of them puts it quite like HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud.
One of some three-dozen living grandsons of the first Saudi King Abdulaziz, this prince is a prominent but atypical royal. His investment company made him the Arab world's richest businessman. He strikes a modern image for a Saudi, employing female aides and jet-setting on a private Boeing BA +2.29% 747. He's at ease with Western media.
Passing through New York earlier this week, Mr. Alwaleed, who is 58, sits down with the Journal editorial board between a couple of television appearances. He wears a blue suit, shirt and tie. These days, his bouffant widow's peak has more salt than pepper. The prince holds no important government post in Saudi Arabia, but it's hard to shake the impression that here is the uncensored id of the reserved House of Saud.

To read more....

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System

By James Ker-Lindsay

The London School of Economics and Political Science - November 16, 2013

Until recently the subject of recognition received relatively scant attention amongst politics and international relations academics. Long the preserve of international law scholars, the topic was often seen as rather dry and pointless. However, in recent years, this perception has started to change with the emergence of a number of states that have yet to establish a firm and uncontested presence on the world stage.
At the more successful end of the scale is Kosovo. After having unilaterally declared independence in 2008, it is now recognised by the majority of UN members. In contrast, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have only been recognised by Russia and a handful of other countries. Then there are Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria, which have yet to be recognised by any UN members. Meanwhile, a number of other territories, such Kurdistan, seem poised to make a claim for full statehood in the years ahead. Against this backdrop, the subjects of secession and recognition are therefore becoming an ever more interesting area of study, especially as many of the seemingly arcane theoretical issues regarding statehood and recognition – such as the possibility of engaging with these states without recognising them – have become pressing questions for policy makers.

To read more....

A Belated Triumph for French Soccer

By Siddhartha Mitter

The New Yorker - November 22, 2013

The Stade de France, just outside of the Paris city limits, is the site of France’s greatest sporting triumph: its victory in the 1998 World Cup final, when the peerless midfielder Zinedine Zidane scored twice in a 3–0 defeat of Brazil. Since then, the French soccer team has delivered mostly disappointment, and when France took the field against Ukraine before eighty thousand fans at the same stadium on Tuesday night, all signs pointed toward ignominy. At stake was a berth in the 2014 World Cup: France had placed second in its qualifying group, and needed to win a two-match playoff to earn a trip to Brazil. A listless and clumsy French squad had lost the first game, in Kiev, two goals to none. Les Bleus (as the team is known) needed to win by three goals, no easy task—or miss the World Cup for the first time in twenty years.
After the first match, gloom had descended on the French media, which anticipated a failure even more abject than the team’s past three World Cup efforts: the mediocrity of 2002, when the defending champions didn’t make it past the preliminary stage of the tournament; the epic collapse of 2006, when France lost to Italy in the final after Zidane was ejected for head-butting a defender; and the implosion of 2010, when the players rebelled against their coach and went home early again. Some reasoned that a failure to qualify altogether might have its benefits—among them a long overdue housecleaning of the team’s leadership and the sport’s national governing body. It might even do the country good, for a couple of years, not to have to think about soccer at all.

To read more....

We live in a world where social class is strongly inherited

By Neil Cummins

The London School of Economics and Political Science - November 8, 2013 

Findings from a recent study by Neil Cummins and a colleague suggest that social mobility in modern day England is little greater than in pre-industrial times. Using surnames, they show that intergenerational correlation in status is close to .85, meaning that the progeny of the rich and poor will take over 20 generations, or 600 years, to converge to the average of society. This indicates that there is very little effective policy that could affect an improvement in social mobility in human societies.
When I ask students or friends about social mobility, the impression they usually convey is one of a class system that is strongly inherited over generations. There is a loose notion that we live in a world stratified by timeless elites at the top, a persistent middle class and a lower class, the kind usually ridiculed on reality TV. Academic economists know better and for decades the data has shown that the economy constantly ‘churns’ family fortunes over time. My students and friends had it wildly wrong: Status does not persist in families beyond a few generations. So are academic economists correct in this characterization?

To read more....

17 Most Offensive Adverts That Would Be Banned Today

In the present age of marketing, advertisements often tend to cross limits in a race to elevate the sales or to get the limelight of media. Advertisements often use lies and exaggerations as their main tool for grasping the attention of the masses. But what line did advertisements cross in the past? The answer lies in these offensive, racist vintage adverts:



To see more of these advertisements....

Review: Susan Buck-Morss, Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left

By Arya Zahedi

Insurgent Notes - Oct 5, 2013 

The current global crisis has once again brought the questions of global struggle and world revolution into a position of importance. The basic questions posed are whether it is possible to build a “global Left” and how to rethink the idea of universal human liberation, which was the utopia once central to the left, and which has perhaps re-emerged once again. The unity of the world is indeed clearest to us in times of crisis. Susan Buck-Morss’s book on the relationship between critical theory and political Islam is an interesting and important contribution to this discussion, as it attempts to create a dialogue between critical thought in the “west” and that within the Islamic world. In keeping with her previous work on Hegel and the Haitian Revolution [Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009), Zahedi is somewhat off in the chronology], she attempts to resurrect and redeem the idea of universality after it had become a bad word among many in the academic activist milieu. Although the book was published some time ago, its relevance has only increased.
The loss of any conception of human universality, especially as it relates to the political struggle, has affected the understanding of social revolution. Many events have occurred since the publication of the book that demonstrate the importance of returning to the discussion of the world revolution and the universal subject that is supposed to be the agent of this revolution. Events such as the “Arab Spring” and the Iranian “Green Movement,” the riots and strikes against austerity, the unrest in Brazil in the midst of the World Cup qualifiers, Occupy Wall Street, all demonstrate some sort of global shift.

I was Virginia's executioner from 1982 to 1999. Any questions for me?

I was responsible for putting 62 inmates to death in Virginia. I regret it deeply and now campaign to end capital punishment         

Jerry Givens

theguardian.com, Thursday 21 November 2013

Jerry Givens worked for 25 years for Virginia's department of corrections. He was the state's executioner from 1982 to 1999 and administered the death penalty to 62 inmates, some by lethal injection and some by electrocution. For many years, even his own family did not know the truth about his job. Now Jerry campaigns to end capital punishment. He is the author of Another Day Not Promised and is on the board of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Today he opens up on Comment is free about his old job, what caused him to change his mind and the realities of America's criminal justice system.

Post questions for Jerry in the comments below. He will respond to as many as he can later today.

1. Can you describe what the day was like when you had to perform an execution?

On the day before, we begin what we call a 24-hour "death watch". Normally I would be there starting at 9pm during the death watch and spend the night at the institution in case something would occur during that period. Everything is reported that happens. We have security guys for the "death team", a special group of people who simply maintain security for the death chamber. Inmates arrive at Greensville, the institution with the death chamber, 15 days prior to the execution date. For those days, we have to provide security around the clock.

To read more.....

Thursday, November 21, 2013

China's Economic Blueprint: Who Wins? Who Loses?

 The Wall Street Journal - Nov. 21, 2013 

Business could win big if China follows through on its pledges to give the market a greater role in the world's second-biggest economy.  The Chinese Communist Party's leaders last week issued a broad blueprint for overhaul over the next decade that calls for empowering consumers and easing Beijing's grip on key industries long controlled by the state. Its sweeping goals include easing barriers for foreign capital in some industries,...

Business could win big if China follows through on its pledges to give the market a greater role in the world's second-biggest economy.

The Chinese Communist Party's leaders last week issued a broad blueprint for overhaul over the next decade that calls for empowering consumers and easing Beijing's grip on key industries long controlled by the state. Its sweeping goals include easing barriers for foreign capital in some industries, increasing the involvement of private investors in state-dominated businesses and giving the country's vast rural population greater access to money.

Over the long term, one significant move—a call to ease China's one-child policy—signals a willingness to grapple with the mounting pressures of an aging society. Many demographers say even more dramatic moves are needed.

But Beijing's statement suggests that leaders want to ensure that China has a stable pool of labor—and remains a robust growth market—for years to come.

To read more...

Shanghai's Forgotten Jewish Past

In the 1930s and 40s, the Chinese city hosted a large, vibrant community of refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. Can survivors, rabbis, and historians preserve this heritage?

By James Griffiths

The Atlantic - Nov 21 2013

SHANGHAI—When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Shanghai in May 2013 and hailed the city’s role as a “haven” for Jewish people fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1930s and 40s, his comments highlighted a part of the city’s history that many contemporary residents don’t know. Today, few would guess that this quintessentially Chinese city once played host to a bustling community of over 20,000 Jews.
While a Jewish community has existed in Shanghai since the late 19th century, the first large wave of immigrants came in the 1920s and 30s, as thousands of Russian Jews fled the Bolshevik Revolution for the more business-friendly foreign concessions in Shanghai. A decade later, the mainly Russian and Sephardic Jewish community was supplemented by tens of thousands of Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, who fled during the early stages of Nazi rule in Germany.

To read more....

A New Book: Tony Bennett - Making Culture, Changing Society Routledge, 2013

Making Culture, Changing Society
Tony Bennett
Routledge – 2013

by Dave O'Brien

New Books in Sociology - November 13, 2013

[Cross-posted from New Books in Critical Theory] In his new book Making Culture, Changing Society (Routledge, 2013), Professor Tony Bennett aims to change the way we think about culture. The book uses four core ideas about the nature and meaning of culture to present a view that does not see culture as just a set of signs and symbols. Rather culture is a form of knowledge practice, bound up with material conditions and institutions, which is implicated in the production of persons and freedoms. Making Culture, Changing Society justifies this view of culture in two ways. In the first instance the book considers how specific humanities disciplines, associated with anthropology and aesthetics, have been used to distribute ideas of freedom and ideas of the person within liberal government. Bennett uses examples from anthropological studies of colonial societies, along with discussions of the role of aesthetics for theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu, to show the function of culture and its interdependence with forms of knowledge. At the same time the book insists on the material aspects of these discussions, using the example of Melbourne’s National Museum of Victoria and Paris’ Musee de l’Homme.
The book offers an important intervention into debates on culture and public policy, grounding questions of rights and representations within the historical project of liberal government. Moreover it develops a critique of the assumptions surrounding culture as a potentially positive or beneficial force for social change, raising profound questions for public, politics and policy.

To listen the interview.....

A New Book: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown



A New Book: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: 
How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown
by Philip Mirowski 
Verso, 2013

After the financial apocalypse, neoliberalism rose from the dead—stronger than ever

At the onset of the Great Recession, as house prices sank and joblessness soared, many commentators concluded that the economic convictions behind the disaster would now be consigned to history. And yet, in the harsh light of a new day, we've awoken to a second nightmare more ghastly than the first: a political class still blaming government intervention, a global drive for austerity, stagflation, and an international sovereign debt crisis.

Philip Mirowski finds an apt comparison to this situation in classic studies of cognitive dissonance. He concludes that neoliberal thought has become so pervasive that any countervailing evidence serves only to further convince disciples of its ultimate truth. Once neoliberalism became a Theory of Everything, providing a revolutionary account of self, knowledge, information, markets, and government, it could no longer be falsified by anything as trifling as data from the “real” economy.

In this sharp, witty and deeply informed account, Mirowski—taking no prisoners in his pursuit of “zombie” economists—surveys the wreckage of what passes for economic thought, finally providing the basis for an anti-neoliberal assessment of the current crisis and our future prospects.

The Ottoman Caliphate And Its European Legacy

By Muhammad Jilani  – Analysis    

EurasiaNews - November 21, 2013 

Mehmed VI, the last Sultan of the Ottoman State, 1922 Mehmed VI, the last Sultan of the Ottoman State, 1922

The Caliphate system has left its mark on history, but contrary to a basic view of history, the Caliphate did not just leave one mark but several.
It was able to adapt to different cultures and people and moved from one seat of power to another. The Ummayad Caliphs, for example, were responsible for amazingly beautiful design and inventions, including the first computer. This great civilisation managed to dominate all of Spain (except the troublesome Catalan region).
Despite its close proximity to France and Britain, it is another incarnation of the Caliphate that haunts Europe to this day, namely the Ottoman Caliphate. European historians still refer to it as the “sick man of Europe” to this day and deny its greatness, despite some of its Caliphs being unanimously regarded as the most powerful men in the world during their day. Its rule was uninterrupted for over 600 years and is comparable to any civilization throughout history. It is still a scar on the psyche of Europe and to this day breeds resentment and hatred towards Islam and Muslims.

To read more....

File under: Dutch Liberalism

Chandra Frank & Serginho Roosblad

Africa is a country | November 21st, 2013

In the Netherlands, many people convince themselves that racism is something that exists elsewhere — in South Africa, for example, or in the United States. For this is a ‘tolerant,’ liberal nation. To maintain the facade, often blatant acts of racism are downplayed, rationalized or swept away. As an exercise, see some of the comments on our Facebook page whenever we post something about racism in the Netherlands.
We have written before about the Dutch blackface tradition of Zwarte Piet (in English: Black Pete), and what passes for ‘debate’ on the topic at this time of year every year. This year though the debate about Zwarte Piet — dressed in a golliwog-style wig, pronounced red lips and gold earrings — has reached new levels, confronting in the process what many for a long time have tried to address: racism in Dutch society.
In September, activists pressured the Amsterdam municipality to have a public hearing into whether to give permission for Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) festivities in which Sinterklaas’ “helper” Zwarte Piet would be prominent. (The public hearing was a first, though the municipality eventually granted the permit.) Then Verene Shepherd, chairperson of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, told a TV program, “she would object to the character of Zwarte Piet if she lived in the Netherlands.” The result was a nasty racist backlash followed. Nearly 2 million people “liked” a Facebook page that expressed support for Zwarte Piet. Racist remarks in traditional and on social media were common and, as CNN reports, death treats were also made against anti-Zwarte Piet activists.

To read more....

Rock & Roll Ambassador

Saudi Aramco World - November/December 2013 

The future impresario was born in the pine-forested, hilly enclave of Sultantepe, on the Asian side of Istanbul, on July 31, 1923, a week after the Treaty of Lausanne granted international recognition to the Turkish Republic led by Kemal Atatürk. Ertegun’s father, Mehmet Münir, was part of the Lausanne negotiating team, and he stayed on in Europe for 10 years to serve as Atatürk’s ambassador to Switzerland, France and Britain. In 1936, when surnames became mandatory in Turkey, Münir chose “Ertegün” (air-teh-gən), “living in a hopeful future,” as his family name  

Ahmet Ertegun’s first childhood memory was playing in the gardens of the Turkish embassy in Bern, Switzerland. Later, in Paris, he attended an exclusive lycée, where he achieved perfect scores in French and calculus. In London, Ertegun and his younger sister, Selma, were put under the care of a strict English governess whose previous charges had been Princess Elizabeth, the future queen, and her younger sister, Princess Margaret. 

Ertegun’s mother, Hayrünisa, was an accomplished musician who could play any keyboard or stringed instrument by ear. She bought the popular music of the day, and at night, Ertegun and his elder brother, Nesuhi, would sneak her records into their rooms. In 1932, Nesuhi took Ahmet to the London Palladium to see Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. “I had never really seen black people,” Ertegun recalled in a 2005 interview. “And I had never heard anything as glorious as those beautiful musicians wearing white tails, playing these incredibly gleaming horns.” His infatuation with jazz got a boost two years later when his father was posted to Washington, D.C. as the Republic of Turkey’s first ambassador to the United States.

 - See more at: http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/201306/rock.and.roll.ambassador.htm#sthash.mNegJKAJ.dpuf

The Man Who Knew Almost Everything

Inside the great social historian Eric Hobsbawm there was an aesthete waiting to come out.

Ramachandra Guha

The Nation - November 12, 2013

I first read Eric Hobsbawm as a doctoral student in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in the 1980s. I started with his books on popular protest, Primitive Rebels (1959) and Bandits (1969), before moving on to his trilogy on the ages, respectively, of revolution, capital and empire. In October 2012, when Hobsbawm died at 95, I happened to be in London. Curious to see how a historian of such enormous influence was remembered, I picked up every paper at the newsstand next to my hotel. The Guardian had a large photograph of Hobsbawm on the front page, a fulsome full-page obituary (by two writers associated with the Communist Party), and an editorial saying that his death was a “shared national loss.” Another news report in the same paper carried the heartfelt homage of Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (whose father, the Marxist political theorist Ralph Miliband, had been a friend). Hobsbawm was “an extraordinary historian…who brought history out of the ivory tower and into people’s lives,” Miliband the younger proclaimed.
The Guardian is, of course, the standard-bearer of left-liberalism in Britain (and beyond). Meanwhile, the centrist Times and Independent both ran long and respectful obits. However, the conservative Daily Telegraph carried a skeptical signed piece by the distinguished anti-communist historian Michael Burleigh. Captioned “A believer in the Red utopia to the very end,” it overlooked Hobsbawm’s contributions to history from below; dismissed the synthetic global histories, such as The Age of Capital and The Age of Empire, with faint praise (“dazzles readers with the author’s apparent fluency as he zigzags from First to Third World contexts—unless you happen to be an expert on Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela”); and ended by saying that “Hobsbawm’s implacable refusal to recant his [Marxist] views when faced with their grotesque consequences tells us something about the belligerent mindset of the wider British Left.”

To read more...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The NSA’s Global Threat to Free Speech

By Kenneth Roth

The New York Review of Books - November 18, 2013

Following months of Snowden disclosures, the extent to which the National Security Agency’s extraordinary surveillance infringes on the privacy of our communications and other vast areas of our lives has become widely apparent. Far less appreciated, however, is the global threat that the NSA’s spying poses to freedom of expression over the Internet.
The NSA’s seemingly limitless prying into our personal electronic data is predicated on a cramped vision of our right to privacy. As I have described in this space these intrusions are facilitated by various shortcomings in current US law. For instance, the law recognizes a privacy interest in the contents of our communications, but not in what is known as our metadata, the electronic details about whom we communicate with, what we search for online, and where we go. The rationale, stated in a 1979 US Supreme Court ruling, is that we have no privacy interest in the phone numbers we dial because we share them with the phone company, even though the court could just as easily have ruled that the phone company has a fiduciary duty to respect the privacy of its customers.
In addition, on the weakest of legal authority, the NSA assumes that the mere collection of our communications does not invade our privacy until they are examined, or “queried.” Using facile metaphors about needing a haystack to find a needle, the NSA asserts that it is free to assemble that haystack unimpeded. It is as if the NSA were to mount video cameras in our bedrooms while assuring us that we have nothing to worry about until it looks at the film.

To read more....

Glimmers of Hope in Guatemala

The New York Review of Books - December 5, 2013 

Stephen Kinzer

From Silence to Memory: Revelations of the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional with a foreword by Carlos Aguirre and a preface by Kate Doyle University of Oregon Libraries, 476 pp., available at scholarsbank.uoregon.edu

A few weeks ago in Guatemala, I participated in a long-overdue commemoration. September 14 was the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of President Jacobo Árbenz, a former army officer who was elected in 1950, then ousted in 1954 in a coup organized by the CIA, and replaced by a military junta. His name has been taboo in Guatemala for most of the time since then. Many in the ruling elite still consider the causes he championed—land reform above all—repugnant and mortally dangerous. September’s commemoration included speeches, conferences, and a vote by the city council in Quetzaltenango, where Árbenz was born in 1913, to name the local airport in his honor.
This commemoration unfolded at the end of a year during which Guatemalans’ attention was focused on a very different period of their history, the horrifically violent 1980s. In May a Guatemalan court convicted General Efraín Ríos Montt, who was head of state from 1982 to 1983, of genocide. A higher court quickly annulled the verdict, but nonetheless it was a spectacular triumph for victims of the thirty-six-year civil war that broke out soon after Árbenz was overthrown.
While I was in Guatemala, I visited a chilling police archive that reflects yet another aspect of this country’s attempt to confront its past. It came to light after investigators entered a Guatemala City police compound in 2005 and found, piled in moldy and vermin-infested heaps, nearly 80 million documents comprising a minute history of the National Police from 1882 to 1997. I was led past teams of archivists who, wearing gloves and hairnets, are meticulously digitizing this collection. They have scanned about 15 million documents so far. A single-volume collection of highlights was published in Guatemala two years ago, and an English translation, From Silence to Memory, has just appeared. It is a cold but intimate self-portrait of the terror state.

To read more...

Monday, November 18, 2013

China's new mining strategy in Africa

The China Africa Project

Many of China's largest mining companies are implementing a new strategy in Africa where they no longer want to buy assets outright but rather make strategic investments and partnerships. This is a dramatic shift and further undermines the assertion made by China's critics that Beijing is engaging in a "neo-colonial" agenda in Africa.

To Listen this radio show: https://soundcloud.com/chinatalkingpoints/chinas-new-mining-strategy-in  

Ending Overfishing




What is International or Global Studies?

By Shawn Smallman

http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2013/11/what-is-international-or-global-studies/#more-1713

One of the most common questions that faculty in International or Global Studies hear is: “What is International Studies?” In the past I used to begin to answer by talking about the history of the discipline, to explain that it is distinct from International Relations in Political Science. If I was really ambitious, I might have talked about the emergence of interdisciplinary programs in the 1960s, and how post-structuralism created spaces for diverse methodological approaches. In my experience over the last 20 years, this is not a successful way to define our discipline. So now I have a simpler answer.

International and Global Studies is about globalization in all its aspects, economic, cultural, political, social and even biological. The advantage of this approach is that -since globalization is an omnipresent phenomenon- everyone can understand this definition. The challenge is that globalization is now commonly perceived in terms of economic globalization, which people associate with neoliberalism. This narrows how people view the discipline very quickly. So I try to convey that people can study flows of people and flows of information from many different vantage points, only some of which focus on economic issues. Because of globalization’s diversity as a phenomenon, it also entails a diversity of methodologies to begin to understand this process. So International and Global Studies programs are inherently multidisciplinary. In my program, a humanities professor teaches a class  on the literature of espionage, while my political scientist colleague teaches about the European Union from a Political Science perspective.

This definition implies a number of things. One is that not all things international pertain to International and Global Studies. As interdisciplinary programs we often encourage students to take courses in diverse programs. But this can lead to a lack of coherence: is a class on Korean art appropriate for an International and Global Studies major? I would argue that art, literature, music and other classes are part of the field provided that they speak to globalization in some way. So a class on Korean art in and of itself would not fit, but a class on Asian art in a larger context might. After all, think about the diverse scholars in the humanities within the Frankfurt School, who all thought about modernity in its different aspects. Similarly, this definition allows us to judge which history courses could relate to the field. Do we include a class on Northern European myth or the literature of the Renaissance? My answer that history courses are relevant to the extent that they relate to the processes of globalization. So classes on Imperialism, tropical diseases, world history, economics, and intellectual history would likely be relevant. But courses confined to a particular region or historical moment would not.

Although scholars in the field use a diversity of methodologies, this definition also leads to some common topics of interest. For example, most International and Global Studies scholars outside the humanities use commodity chains, whether examining such diverse topics as agricultural products, viral samples or business supplies. In some respects, even humanities scholars use the equivalent of commodity chains in the field when they study cultural influences, although they would not use the term. And even though our field is distinct from International Relations, I’ve come to believe that it’s impossible to escape the relevance of the nation-state in the field. So we all discuss nations in some context.

I’m curious to hear how other people think about and define the field in their work. So please use the comment feature to share your thoughts, disagreements or suggestions. And if you have a succinct definition of the field that you use, please let us know.

Prof. Smallman, Portland State University

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chile's Bachelet Favored to Win Presidency

By LUIS ANDRES HENAO
SANTIAGO, Chile

Associated Press - November 17, 2013 (AP) 

Chileans were preparing to return Michelle Bachelet to the presidency on Sunday, with supporters hoping she can fulfill promises to reform a dictatorship-era system they blame for keeping the working classes poor and indebted to the privileged few.
Chile is the world's top copper producer and its fast-growing economy, low unemployment and stable democracy are the envy of Latin America. But millions of Chileans have taken to the streets in recent years, venting their frustration over the huge wealth gap between the rich and poor and a chronically underfunded education system.
Many voters blame free-market policies imposed during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship for keeping wealth and power in very few hands. He sold off water services, undid land reforms, privatized pensions, cut wages, slashed trade barriers and encouraged exports
Bachelet, 62, is a former political prisoner, pediatrician, defense secretary and Socialist Party stalwart who is a centrist at heart.

To read more... 

Analysis: Latin America grows increasingly hooked on U.S. fuel imports

By Marianna Parraga 
HOUSTON

Reuters - Sun Nov 17, 2013


Despite its own vast oil reserves, Latin America has doubled its reliance on the United States for fuels like diesel and gasoline over the last five years to keep its economies humming - and the dependence is growing.
The culprit is an outdated refining network that has not been upgraded to add capacity as growth has surged across much of the region.
Though Latin American leaders spent much of the last decade opening markets in Asia and in some cases distancing themselves from Washington, the rising fuel imports show they still must tap the United States for crucial supplies.


To read more...

Emirates inks huge deal for new airliners

Dubai-based airline will purchase Boeing and Airbus long-haul aircraft in deal estimated to be worth over $100bn.

Al-Jazeera - 17 Nov 2013

Emirates Airline has placed an order for 150 Boeing 777X long-haul jets, as well as a separate 50 Airbus A380 airliners, in a deal said to be worth over $100bn.
With a previous order of 90 Airbus jets, the agreement will bring total orders for the world's largest aircraft to 140, Emirates chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, announced at the Dubai air show on Sunday.
The Dubai-based carrier said the Boeing contract was valued at $76bn and that the new deal with Airbus exceeded the $18bn agreed at the last event in 2011.
Boeing launched the long-awaited new version of its 777 long-haul jet with 259 orders from the top three Gulf carriers, including Dubai's Emirates, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, as well as Germany's Lufthansa which has already tentatively committed to buy 34 of the planes.

To read more...

Why do journalists prefer Twitter to Facebook?

By Ezra Klein

The Washington Post, Wonkblog - November 11, 2013

I spent the weekend at O'Reilly Media's "News Foo" conference, which brings together journalists, publishers, tech types, and Werewolf players. A lot of the attendees worked for major social networks like Facebook and Twitter, had built products to help publishers manage their social-media presence, or worked for outlets that create content designed for social media. And over and again, I got the same question: Why are journalists so obsessed with Twitter?
You can see the source of their confusion in this Shareaholic report, which tracks 13 months of data from 200,000 publishers who reach more than 250 million unique visitors each month.

To read more....

The Robots Are Here

Not only are they taking our jobs—they’re harbingers of a new libertarian age.

By TYLER COWEN

Politico Magazine - November 2013  

Isaac Asimov, the astonishingly prolific science fiction writer, died in 1992, but he foresaw much about American politics today. One of his most profound works is the neglected short story “Franchise,” written in 1955, in the days when computers were bulky, room-sized machines powered by vacuum tubes and operated by a high priesthood of punch card-wielding technicians. For a work of fiction, it is stunningly prescient.
In Asimov’s tale, set in November 2008, democratic elections have become nearly obsolete. A mysterious supercomputer said to be “half a mile long and three stories high,” named Multivac, absorbs most of the current information about economic and political conditions and estimates which candidate is going to win. The machine, however, can’t quite do the job on its own, as there are some ineffable social influences it cannot measure and evaluate. So Multivac picks out one “representative” person from the electorate to ask about the country’s mood (sample query: “What do you think of the price of eggs?”). The answers, when combined with the initial computer diagnosis, suffice to settle the election. No one actually needs to vote.

Read more...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The mindfulness business

Western capitalism is looking for inspiration in eastern mysticism

The Economist - Nov 16th 2013

IN HIS 1905 book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, Max Weber credited the Protestant ethic with giving rise to capitalism. Now it sometimes seems as if it is the Buddhist ethic that is keeping capitalism going. The Protestants stressed rational calculation and self-restraint. The Buddhists stress the importance of “mindfulness”—taking time out from the hurly-burly of daily activities to relax and meditate. In today’s corporate world you are more likely to hear about mindfulness than self-restraint.
Google offers an internal course called “search inside yourself” that has proved so popular that the company has created entry-level versions such as “neural self-hacking” and “managing your energy”. The search giant has also built a labyrinth for walking meditation. EBay has meditation rooms equipped with pillows and flowers. Twitter and Facebook are doing all they can to stay ahead in the mindfulness race. Evan Williams, one of Twitter’s founders, has introduced regular meditation sessions in his new venture, the Obvious Corporation, a start-up incubator and investment vehicle.

To read more....

Remittances to Latin America Recover—but Not to Mexico

PEW Research Center - Hispanic Trends Project
November 15, 2013

Remittances to Spanish-speaking Latin American countries overall have recovered from a decline during the recent recession, with the notable exception of Mexico, according to World Bank data analyzed by the Pew Research Center.
Migrants’ remittances to Mexico, an estimated $22 billion in 2013, are 29% below their 2006 peak. For all other Spanish-speaking Latin American nations overall, the 2013 estimate of $31.8 billion slightly surpasses the 2008 peak.
Remittances from all sources to Spanish-speaking Latin American countries have more than doubled since 2000 but remain below their peak in 2007, the year in which the U.S. Great Recession began. The 2013 estimated total ($53.8 billion) is 13% below 2007’s $61.6 billion (in 2013 U.S. dollars).

To read more...


Young and Educated in Europe, but Desperate for Jobs

By LIZ ALDERMAN

The New York Times - November 15, 2013

MADRID — Alba Méndez, a 24-year-old with a master’s degree in sociology, sprang out of bed nervously one recent morning, carefully put on makeup and styled her hair. Her thin hands trembled as she clutched her résumé on her way out of the tiny room where a friend allows her to stay rent free.

She had an interview that day for a job at a supermarket. It was nothing like the kind of professional career she thought she would have after finishing her education. But it was a rare flicker of opportunity after a series of temporary positions, applications that went nowhere and employers who increasingly demanded that young people work long, unpaid stretches just to be considered for something permanent.

To read more....

Friday, November 15, 2013

The hard road from reform to implementation

By Matt Andrews

A few years ago I was part of a team working on an economic growth strategy for an African country. In a meeting with members of the business community I was asked what kinds of reforms the government should adopt. My answer seemed surprising to those present: 'There is nothing new the government should adopt', I said. 'It has adopted every best practice you can imagine, from results based management to multi-year budgeting. It has the best anti-corruption laws you can think of, and IT systems better than those in many developed countries. The problem is that the government has not gone beyond adopting these new laws, systems and procedures to actually implement them and make them functional. It looks like a state but it is not actually a state, and no easy reform will close the gap that exists between its form and its function'.
The gap between form and function is one that I see in many countries, particularly in Africa. For instance, my research shows that public financial management reforms lead to better looking budget preparation processes in most African governments, but the budget execution processes remain weak. This means that governments produce good looking budgets but actual spending results differ substantially from these budgets. Another example comes from reforms designed to tackle corruption. African countries have increasingly improved the laws addressing corruption (to the point, for example, where Uganda has the best-rated anticorruption laws in the world). There are typically huge gaps between the appearance of these laws and their implementation, however. The watchdog agency Global Integrity calculates this gap as 51 for Uganda (where laws score 100 out of 100 points but implementation garners only 49 out of 100 points). The average gap is about 35 for African countries, compared with less than 15 for the average OECD country. Germany scored 81 for the quality of its laws in 2011; nearly 20 points lower than Uganda and lower than countries like Ethiopia, Malawi, Liberia and Kenya. Germany scores 76 out of 100 when considering how well it implements these laws, however, which is over 20 points higher than the average implementation score for the African countries listed. Germany does not look as good on paper as Uganda or Malawi but 'what you see is what you get' in Germany (where the gap between laws on paper and practice on the ground is only 5). In contrast, the African examples just look like states-with impressive laws they do not actually implement and a degree of dysfunction that undermines growth and development.

To read more...

China’s Economic Plans ‘Ambitious,’ Lew Says

By JANE PERLEZ

The New York Times - November 15, 2013 

BEIJING — Treasury Secretary, Jacob J. Lew, described China’s declaration that market competition should have a decisive role in the country’s economy as an “ambitious reform agenda,” according to remarks on Friday by the secretary to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.
After meeting with Mr. Xi and other officials here, Mr. Lew said the outcome of China’s long-awaited meeting on its economic program showed there would “continue to be progress, but the question is how much and how quickly.”
“The direction is significant, but the character and the pace of change matters,” Mr. Lew said.

To read more...

Capitalism and Unemployment

By Richard D Wolff

Truthout | News Analysis - Friday, 15 November 2013

Capitalism as a system seems incapable of solving its unemployment problem. It keeps generating long-term joblessness, punctuated by spikes of recurring short-term extreme joblessness. The system's leaders cannot solve or overcome the problem. Before the latest capitalist crisis hit in 2007, the unemployment rate was near 5 percent. In 2013, it is near 7.5 percent. That is 50 percent higher despite the last six years of so-called "effective policies to address unemployment."
Capitalism makes employment depend chiefly on capitalists' decisions to undertake production, and those decisions depend on profits. If capitalists expect profits high enough to satisfy them, they hire. If capitalists don't, we get unemployment. Capitalism requires the unemployed, their families and their communities to live with firing decisions made by capitalists even though they are excluded from participating in those decisions. The United States revolted against Britain partly because it rejected being victimized by tax decisions from which it was excluded. Yet employment decisions are at least as important as tax decisions.

To read more....

The U.S. Airways-American Airlines merger is a go. Here’s why it maybe shouldn’t be.

By Steven Pearlstein

The Washington Post - November 12, 2013

Just three months ago, Justice Department antitrust enforcers sued to stop U.S. Airways and American Airlines from merging. Now, the parties have reportedly agreed a deal in which the Justice Department will allow it to go through in exchange for concessions from the companies. As the Post's Ashley Halsey reports, citing people familiar with the matter the deal "will require the merged airline to relax its stranglehold on Washington’s Reagan National Airport, one of the people said. The compromise will also force the combined company to give up slots at New York’s LaGuardia, Boston’s Logan Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare airport, among others, by the end of the year."
Back in August, Steve Pearlstein explained why the suit came to be in the first place--and those slots at Reagan National are a key part of the story.
For the last decade, the government has given the green light to a series of airline mergers for one basic reason:  the industry had fallen into a pattern of ruinous competition.  So many airlines were competing for passengers and market share that none of the old-line carriers could make any money. The only realistic choice for such “legacy” carriers was either to merge or go through another bankruptcy reorganization.

To read more...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Real Web of America's Economic Life

The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
Wednesday, 13 November 2013

There isn't much diversity in America's economic web of life.
An image that was first posted on Reddit last year, and was recently grabbed by the folks over at PolicyMic, shows just how out-of-control corporate America has become in the years since Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Right now, there are 10 giant corporations that control, either directly or indirectly, virtually everything we buy.
These corporations are Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg's, Mars, Unilever, and Johnson & Johnson.
These 10 corporations in turn own, market, or distribute what people think of as the products of hundreds of other companies.

To read more.... 

JPMorgan’s Fruitful Ties to a Member of China’s Elite

By DAVID BARBOZA, JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG and BEN PROTESS

The New York Times - November 13, 2013

To promote its standing in China, JPMorgan Chase turned to a seemingly obscure consulting firm run by a 32-year-old executive named Lily Chang.
Ms. Chang’s firm, which received a $75,000-a-month contract from JPMorgan, appeared to have only two employees. And on the surface, Ms. Chang lacked the influence and public name recognition needed to unlock business for the bank.
But what was known to JPMorgan executives in Hong Kong, and some executives at other major companies, was that “Lily Chang” was not her real name. It was an alias for Wen Ruchun, the only daughter of Wen Jiabao, who at the time was China’s prime minister, with oversight of the economy and its financial institutions.

To read more.....