Several recent developments reveal how political and institutional fragmentation in the United States has produced self-inflicted wounds for the U.S. abroad. In all of these instances, America’s ability to exercise economic power in the world has been deliberately curtailed through decisions made unilaterally in Washington by American political leaders.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the tsunami that changed life in South and South East Asia. Aceh bore the heaviest losses and the ASEAN remembers the toll of destruction. This event changed the way global agencies coordinate large scale disaster relief. Many lessons were learnt. Other regions which felt the impact hold memorial services too.
Here Be Dragons
People in the US are usually surprised when I say that my Thai mother lives in Ireland. “How did that happen? That’s so strange.” Strange, and their little laugh that accompanies the statement, are code for their assumptions about the education and mobility of this foreign woman of color, who in this case is my mom. She most recently worked for Salesforce, a fast growing tech company headquartered in San Francisco. When she moved to Singapore it was to work for Intel, another large tech company. She is ambitious and accomplished. She defies the stereotypes. My dad runs up against a different stereotype. That he, a white American man, lives in Thailand is not unusual. White American Men have more world-conquering powers according to a general, Western, unexamined assumption of normalcy.
Most people in the English-speaking parts of the world missed Putin's speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi a few days ago, and, chances are, those of you who have heard of the speech didn't get a chance to read it, and missed its importance. (For your convenience, I am pasting in the full transcript of his speech below.) Western media did their best to ignore it or to twist its meaning. Regardless of what you think or don't think of Putin (like the sun and the moon, he does not exist for you to cultivate an opinion) this is probably the most important political speech since Churchill's “Iron Curtain” speech of March 5, 1946.Via includes tl;dr of top 10 points
Currency Wars, or Why You Should Care About the Global Struggle Over the Value of Money In October 2010, the Brazilian Finance Minister made news by claiming an 'international currency war' had broken out. The term 'currency war' promptly became a buzz phrase with commentators and public officials warning about the dangers of these wars and their historical roots in the Great Depression. The U.S. government, in turn, has applied the idea to China, which it has accused of currency manipulation for the better part of a decade. So why does this matter? And how unusual is this all? Historian Steven Bryan puts currency wars in historical perspective and reminds us that currency policy is inextricably linked to national interests and that manipulation is the historical norm, not the exception. [more inside]
This blog will keep you up half the night when you should be trying to sleep for an early morning meeting. The post The Secret History Behind Today’s Algeria-Germany #WorldCup Match being timely and tweeted is what brought it to my attention. But what to share? There is so much good stuff, that the rabbit hole beckons...
Somaliland is an odd land. In global limbo since its birth, it continues to develop economically and socially in a reasonably stable and secure environment. Recently, the British town of Sheffield was the first to recognize its very existence as an independent country. In the meantime, the capital Hargeisa city, which has only one paved road, recently installed streetlights for the first time, and an enterprising entrepreneur returned home from Australia to start a familiar city service - the yellow cab. Investors and businesses have started paying attention while the major powers still prefer to pretend it doesn't exist. Even while experts debate whether their model can be utilized in far more volatile Somalia, Hargeisa's residents want you to know they are Happy.
Talking gender to Africa
International donors have sought to improve the social, political and economic position of women in Africa through an approach known as “gender”. This donor-driven strategy is failing. The jargon of gender programmes is ambiguous and easily misunderstood. It fosters inaction and lip service on the part of patriarchal African governments and civil servants. Gender has become the preserve of the educated elite. The voices of African women have been lost.[more inside]
Dr. Jason Hickel, LSE lecturer who was born and brought up in Swaziland, writes on Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index and its eyecatching global map. Here's a tiny snippet to encourage you to read the rest of the article on Al Jazeera:
Many international development organisations hold that persistent poverty in the Global South is caused largely by corruption among local public officials. In 2003 these concerns led to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which asserts that, while corruption exists in all countries, this "evil phenomenon" is "most destructive" in the global South, where it is a "key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development". There's only one problem with this theory: It's just not true.[more inside]
The Malayali Nurse on the Moon
She is everywhere, so it becomes difficult to see her. At some point you have to squint to see past the chimera that is the Malayali nurse. You have to ask why even Libya — broken, bullet-scarred and currently in possession of 14 psychiatrists for the whole nation — a better choice than any place in India? You have to ask why she chooses nursing at all. And if we don’t see her as a martyr to the family coffers, who is the woman emerging out of the smoke then?
Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There's no price the big banks can't fix
'Feminism' has often been seen as a Western concept, but African women are increasingly redefining it to suit their own purposes. This, in turn, is influencing the rest of the world.
A Renaissance in Economics The American President Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” I get the same shivers when someone introduces themselves as an economist.
To understand what is at stake we need to make our way through the rhetorical smog. For months prior to the WCIT, the Euro-American press trumpeted warnings that this was to be an epochal clash between upholders of an open Internet and would-be government usurpers, led by authoritarian states like Russia, Iran and China. The terms of reference were set so rigidly that one European telecom company executive called it a campaign of “propaganda warfare” (2). ~ Masters of the Internet, Le Monde Diplomatique
Why People Really Love Technology: An Interview with Genevieve Bell The thing I love about Intel researcher Genevieve Bell is that she finds surprising things by looking at what's left out of the dominant narratives about technology. She finds data that's ignored because it didn't fit into the paradigm of, say, how people adopt technology. The dominant narrative is that young men determine the popularity of phones, computers, websites, and the like. But when Bell looked at the data, the story we told ourselves about how the world worked was not reflected in the numbers. That's why I wanted to talk to her about what gadgets people around the world might be using over the next decade. I figured she was someone who could look past the conventional wisdom and find the missing pieces of the future
The Global Middle Class Is Bigger Than We Thought A new way of measuring prosperity has enormous implications for geopolitics and economics.[...] the number of passenger cars in circulation serves as the most reliable gauge we have about the size of a country's middle class.
The myth of English as a global language One would have to say that English, far from being a pure maiden, looks like a woman who has appeared out of some distant fen, had more partners than Moll Flanders, learned a lot in the process, and is now running a house of negotiable affection near an international airport
How America Is Making the Whole World Fat and Unhealthy It is hardly news that the United States faces epidemic health problems linked to poor diets. Nearly two out of every five Americans are obese. But according to a press release from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, "The West is now exporting diabetes and heart disease to developing countries, along with the processed foods that line the shelves of global supermarkets. By 2030, more than 5 million people will die each year before the age of 60 from non-communicable diseases linked to diets." [...] De Schutter, whose work usually focuses on ending hunger, just published a new report saying, "The right to food cannot be reduced to a right not to starve. It is an inclusive right to an adequate diet providing all the nutritional elements an individual requires to live a healthy and active life, and the means to access them."
The Traveling Hungryboy: A Californian now based overseas in Singapore but regularly on the road all over the world. I am in neither the F&B nor travel industries (and I'm horrible at cooking - so don't expect recipes in my blog), but I love food and will literally go the distance in search of it. (I plan vacation itineraries around food rather than sightseeing spots.) Although I can appreciate fine dining from time to time, I find that those places are usually a bit too snobby and overrated. More often than not, I'll prefer a hole in the wall or a street vendor instead - as long as the food is tasty and authentic. I hope you enjoy reading about some of my findings, and please feel free to browse the Archives too - there's lots of stuff in there.
Where do you think Apple’s iPhone is the most popular? Where do Nokia’s Symbian phones dominate? How is it going for Android in different parts of the world? What about Blackberry? We’re going to answer all of those questions and more in this article, which will closely examine mobile OS usage across the world.
Bruce Nussbaum kicked off a minor hubbub in designa circles this week with his provocative article "Is Humanitarian Design the new Imperialism?" which led to this response by Frogdesign's Robert Fabricant "In Defense of Design Imperialism" and WorldChanging's Alex Steffen's "The Problem with Design: Imperialism or thinking too small?" and finally a whole slew of blog posts, opinions and commentary artfully collated here by the editors of Design Observer. But the question still remains unanswered...
From A-lister to Aid worker: Does celebrity diplomacy really work? Rock stars," asked Homer Simpson, with his customary sagacity, "is there anything they don't know?" Only these days, of course, it's not just rockers but movie stars and businessmen – and indeed anyone with an above-average public profile – who, for one reason or another, are intent on telling the rest of us how the world should be changed for the better. Or at least, that's how it seems. So much so that a conference of eminent professors of international relations assembled recently in The Hague to explore the modern phenomenon of what they call "celebrity diplomacy", amid fears that it has reached the point where superstar lobbyists are damaging the traditional workings of international diplomacy and global politics.
In a recent Roundtable on Creative Capitalism hosted by TIME, CK Prahalad, author of "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" brings to our attention the insight that "the essence of poverty is the assymetry of information" and that this asymmetry was now changing due to the availability and affordability of mobile phones in developing nations. Jeffery Sachs supports him by pointing out that the digital divide was being closed by market forces not civic efforts. Global leader Nokia has already leapt into the breach by opening a Research Center in Nairobi, Kenya in order to develop concepts and products that are of value and relevance for those at the Base of the Pyarmid. The ubiquitious little cellphone has now been spotlighted as a key tool for poverty alleviation, although the debate continues. [previously]
"The model of economic development that we are currently pursuing is unsustainable. Our energy consumption per unit of GDP is seven times that of Japan, six times that of America, and even 2.8 times that of India. China’s labour productivity is less than 10 per cent of the world total, and yet our emissions are over 10 times higher than the global average." ~ Pan Yue - deputy director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). Part of a new generation of outspoken Chinese senior officials, Pan has given rise to a tide of environmental debate, attracting enormous attention and controversy. Read his articles here : - China: economic powerhouse, environmentally unsustainable - part one and part two
The 100 Most Powerful Women in the world has been an education in showing me the beauty inherent in strength, particularly when a woman has embraced her own sense of power. Look at these red lips, these kohl lined eyes, this frank face full of mischief. These are Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Heads of State, powerful government officials, CEO's and more. Just reading their bios tells you so much about who they are and what they believe in. Would a similar collection of 100 men offer as much to ponder over and respect?
March 8 is International Women's Day. And I stumbled across some stunning graphic design, a collection of classic Russian posters, the history of the poster as a form of protest, this cool pin to wear tomorrow, and much much more. Take a moment to commemorate a special woman tomorrow.
Freedom at Midnight - At midnight, on the night of August 14th 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru claimed Independence from the British in New Delhi, India. 58 years later today, India along with China is in the mainstream news media as a "super power to be". While there is much discussion on how exactly all of this will play out in the near future, there are also some concerns as to whether this is nothing more than an updated version of the "burgeoning middle class of 140 million people" that sent numerous multinationals to unsuccessfully launch new products in this emerging market. However this tryst with destiny plays out, Happy Birthday India.