"There is no conventional or chemical or biological threat out there that we cannot counter with our overwhelming conventional forces." ~ US President Barack Obama>
The US 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report (NPR) has been announced. (pdf) For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons except in "extreme circumstances", pledging not to develop new ones and limiting the use of those in storage -- even for self defense. Nuclear weapons will not be used against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even in response to a hypothetical biological or chemical weapons attack, or a crippling cyberattack. The new focus will be deterrence. [more inside]
Oil and conflict in Nigeria's Niger Delta region: Between the barrel and the trigger. In the most recent issue of The Extractive Industries and Society, Cyril Obi examines the "resource curse" explanation for the “failure” of African states: poverty, corruption and violent conflict. [more inside]
The political economy of a universal basic income: "your view of what is feasible should not be backwards looking. The normalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana seemed utopian and politically impossible until very recently. Yet in fact those developments are happening, and their expansion is almost inevitable given the demographics of ideology... UBI — defined precisely as periodic transfers of identical fixed dollar amounts to all citizens of the polity — is by far the most probable and politically achievable among policies that might effectively address problems of inequality, socioeconomic fragmentation, and economic stagnation." [more inside]
We’re all familiar with the stories of Russian oligarchs buying up mansions in London, but this is a much broader phenomenon. A torrent of capital from wealthy people in emerging markets—from China, above all, but also from Latin America, Russia, and the Middle East—has flowed into the real-estate markets of big cities in other countries, driving up prices and causing a luxury-construction boom. ... The globalization of real estate upends some of our basic assumptions about housing prices. We expect them to reflect local fundamentals—above all, how much people earn. In a truly global market, that may not be the case.James Surowiecki writing in the New Yorker on the rise of a truly global market in real estate.
Richard Edes Harrison was a trained architect, artist and mapmaker whose maps in the years leading up to and through WWII gave Americans a new perspective on the world. World War II Led to a Revolution in Cartography. These Amazing Maps Are Its Legacy [more inside]
VC for the people - "It's just that people who have options are much more likely to actually find success than people who don't." [more inside]
There is much talk today of a financial and economic crisis comparable to the 1930s. With the threat of a currency war and the euro’s collapse looming, the specter of the Great Depression’s bloody aftermath has returned with a vengeance. Several versions of how to make human beings and build society co-existed during the Cold War, when much of the world won independence from colonial empire. Yet, discussion of humanity’s growing interdependence is today limited to a one-world capitalism driven by finance. What have anthropologists to say about that? It would seem very little. But a positive case can be made for the discipline’s contribution to public debate. We make such a case here. We review recent developments in the anthropology of money and finance, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects, while referring back to the discipline’s founders a century ago. Economic anthropologists have tended to restrict themselves to niche fields and marginal debates since the 1960s. We hope to reverse this trend by focusing on money’s role in shaping global society and bringing world history into a more active dialogue with ethnography.Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization by Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz
The Great War’s Ominous Echoes — "It is tempting — and sobering — to compare today’s relationship between China and America to that between Germany and England a century ago. Lulling ourselves into a false sense of safety, we say that countries that have McDonald’s will never fight one another. Yet the extraordinary growth in trade and investment between China and the United States since the 1980s has not served to allay mutual suspicions. At a time when the two countries are competing for markets, resources and influence from the Caribbean to Central Asia, China has become increasingly ready to translate its economic strength into military power." By Margaret MacMillan, New York Times, December 13, 2013.
The Supreme Court has held that the First Sale Doctrine applies to copyrighted material manufactured and sold abroad. (Previously) [more inside]
"To the world of today the men of medieval Christendom already seem remote and unfamiliar. Their names and deeds are recorded in our history-books, their monuments still adorn our cities, but our kinship with them is a thing unreal, which costs an effort of imagination. How much more must this apply to the great Islamic civilization, that stood over against medieval Europe, menacing its existence and yet linked to it by a hundred ties that even war and fear could not sever. Its monuments too abide, for those who may have the fortunate to visit them, but its men and manners are to most of us utterly unknown, or dimly conceived in the romantic image of the Arabian Nights. Even for the specialist it is difficult to reconstruct their lives and see them as they were. Histories and biographies there are in quantity, but the historians for all their picturesque details, seldom show the ability to select the essential and to give their figures that touch of the intimate which makes them live again for the reader. It is in this faculty that Ibn Battuta excels." Thus begins the book, "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" published by Routledge and Kegan Paul. Step into the world of "the first tourist" who made his mark as the world's greatest traveler before the age of steam. [more inside]
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
"one can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of an argument at a materials handling convention"
Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment - "The poor do not employ one another, because the necessities they require are produced and sold so cheaply by the rich. The rich are glad to sell to the poor, as long as the poor can come up with property or debt claims or other forms of insurance to offer as payment..." [more inside]
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."
“You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.” Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher of the NY Times give an in-depth report on Apple's migration of electronics manufacturing to Asia and its impact on middle class Americans.
Everyone knows America's Oldest Brewery is D.G. Yuengling & Son (and daughters) of Pottsville, PA (and Tampa, FL) This family owned brewery was established as the "Eagle Brewery" in 1829 by a German immigrant named David Gottlob Jüngling. After the original brewery burned down in 1831 it was relocated to its current location. It was built into a mountain with caves dug into the side, a common practice to preserve beer and to achieve the cool temperatures required to make lager before refrigeration. Yuengling spent most of its history as a small regional brewery and only began to attract national attention years after the launch of Yuengling Traditional Lager in 1987, which went on to become the flagship product of the company and now accounts for 80% of Yuengling's production. On the strength of that growth, and with other brewers being bought out by or outsourcing production to foreign companies, Yuengling has now passed The Boston Beer Company to claim the title of America's largest brewing company as well. In this globalized beer era where giants war for market share, products from America's new largest brewer are only available in 14 states.
A unique urban ecology prompts a new look at globalization. Japanese architect Naohiko Hino visited Guangzhou's 'Africatown' after being inspired by an article in Le Monde Diplomatique* and wrote his view on the unique model of globalization he saw in the heart of China's manufacturing powerhouse. [more inside]
How Christmas lights are recycled in one of China's many recycling factories (with video). Reported by Adam Minter (whose blog, Shanghai Scrap, explores many aspects of the scrap and recycling industry in China).
Spaces of banana control. A visit to one of the four major artificial banana ripening facilities in New York City, for a research seminar on the "Artificial Cryosphere." [more inside]
"America?" he says. "I'll tell you about America. America is not all honey and roses the way they tell you. Truth is, 90 percent of the people there, you will find, they'll do the most stupid things, impulsive things. I know for a fact. At the same time, Americans are bighearted people, and the remaining 10 percent of them are smart. Bloody smart. That's why they rule the world." [more inside]
Made in America: small businesses buck the offshoring trend - "For US manufacturing to make sense, factories must make extensive use of automation. That's getting easier, given that the cost of robots with comparable capabilities has decreased precipitously in the past two decades." [more inside]
-Only an 'energy internet' can ward off disaster
-We must electrify the transport sector [more inside]
-We must electrify the transport sector [more inside]
In a pinch, upgrade the humans or redistribute the robots - "[S]uppose [as a factory owner] I replace all my workers with machines... This squeeze has many implications, one of them being that here is an important sector of the economy in which more or less all the gains accrue to the owners of capital and more or less none to the working class..." [more inside]
Current TV previously & previously, the media company founded by Al Gore after the 2000 election, has picked up the kinds of in depth long form journalism being rapidly dropped by major networks, but has been tantalizingly unavailable for those without cable; until now. They have been putting their Vanguard episodes up on their website and on YouTube. [more inside]
Container ships are the backbone of today's globalized world. Many people seem to be unaware of the invisible but pivotal role that they and their Merchant Navy staff play in our daily lives. One reporter spends five weeks at sea, and the resulting piece is an enlightening surprise.
The Rise of the New Global Elite The new global elite are fabulously wealthy, cosmopolitan, philanthrocapitalist, entrepreneurial, highly driven, frequently self-made, and confident they deserve their success. They are also often unsympathetic to the middle classes of the developed world. Said one senior executive: "...if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty [and] one American drops out of the middle class...that's not such a bad trade."
Future shock? Welcome to the new Middle Ages - The 21st century will resemble nothing more than the 12th [more inside]
Burial & Flight I BEGAN THIS SERIES TEN YEARS AGO in rural Kenya. When I started photographing, I thought I was working on a localized story about how HIV was destroying African society. Over the years, as I broadened my travels to China and Mexico, I began to see similarities in the composition of villages wherever I went. Only later did I fully realize that the quiet moments I documented in the African bush, Mexican plains, and majestic Chinese mountains represented small pieces of a great shift.
Hans Rosling [previously, previously] compares the health and wealth of 200 countries over 200 years in 4 minutes using the best infographic ever. Interactive Flash version here.
Solidarity Economics. (pdf) Strategies for Building New Economies From the Bottom-Up and the Inside-Out. [more inside]
Silicon Sweatshops is a five-part investigation of the supply chains that produce many of the world’s most popular technology products, from Apple iPhones, to Nokia cell phones, Dell keyboards and more. The series examines the scope of the problem, including its effects on workers from the Philippines, Taiwan and China. It also looks at a novel factory program that may be a blueprint for solving this perennial industry problem.
As turmoil continues in Iran, with protesters and members of the opposition party empowered by Twitter and camera-equipped cell phones, Clay Shirky gives a TED Talk on the emerging global era of bottom-up journalism, including the phenomenon of the transfer of social technology patterns from the second and third world to the first. Previously
What is the future of capitalism?
b) Canada* (,)
c) 'smart growth' (viz.)
d) none of the above** [more inside]
b) Canada* (,)
c) 'smart growth' (viz.)
d) none of the above** [more inside]
The Washing Machine That Ate My Sari: Mistakes in Cross-Cultural Design is a fascinating article about making cross-culturally sensitive products for the Indian market. The title refers to how the Whirlpool company's introduction of the World Washer into India proved to be a financial disaster, because a millimeter gap between the washer's agitator and its drum ended up shredding most traditional Indian clothing. You can also read about how the Indian preference for warm milk at breakfast turned Kellogg's corn flakes into a big flop in India.
Today's featured article at Wikipedia concerns the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly: a proposed UN body which, according to its proponents, would eventually consist of representatives elected directly by the people of the world. Might this proposal be a viable plan for a more global expression of democracy? Or is it just one more Utopian vision of "world government" doomed to wither under the vociferous criticisms that such proposals seem, inevitably, to attract?
Adam Smith in Beijing Embedded Flash film 1hr59mins "Is US power in decline? What are we to make of the rise of China? Will a possible equalization of North-South relations herald a more brutal capitalism or a better world? Giovanni Arrighi, Joel Andreas, and David Harvey give their perspectives in this forum, for a discussion of Arrighi's 2007 book Adam Smith in Beijing. The event, filmed in Baltimore, MD, in March of 2008, was organized by the Red Emma's collective."
A recent study shows that farmer suicides in India have not increased due to introduction of GM crops The Washington based research organization IFPRI claims that "Bt cotton is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the occurrence of farmer suicides. In contrast, many other factors have likely played a prominent role." Their study has been wielded in the empirical arms race by big pharmaceutical corporations such as Monsanto against NGOs that oppose GM modified crops in India such as Gene Campaign and activists such as Vandana Shiva.
Financial Regime Change? Robert Wade, professor of political economy and development at the London School of Economics, "argues that we are exiting the neoliberal paradigm that has held sway since the 1980s" and considers the "causes and repercussions of the crisis, and errors of the model that brought it to fruition." Prof. Wade was making similar predictions last year.
A view from Iran: Golboo Fiuzi, a young resident of Tehran, talks to fellow Iranian citizens about why they think the US hasn't attacked yet, their political views, opinions about globalization and their lives under UN imposed sanctions.
While Gerorge Soros and Jim Rodgers predict one of the worst recessions for the US, Americans seem to look for exit options in form of a second citizenship. [more inside]
In EU and NATO member Bulgaria, the state is a part of the Mafia. The world's "shadow economy" accounts for 10 trillion dollars each year. Chechen mobsters bent on revenge kill a young woman in London in a case of mistaken identity. Welcome to the global pillage following the fall of Communism and the 'liberalization' of trade. Misha Glenny travels through the underworld.
Chinese manufacturers are setting up shop in the U.S. due to a weak dollar, energy shortages, tax credits, and a desire to compete globally.
The Rise of the Rest. Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek article about a "post-American" world.
The Tata Nano (pic) is a car that costs less new than the amount I've spent on gas during single car trips, recently announced to the auto market in India. The Chery QQ ^, successful , widely exported, and recognized as the Hostage Taker's Vehicle of Choice by China Car Times, is the runner-up for the world's cheapest car but is still approximately twice as expensive. Yes indeed, the price of gas is not going to come back down. So much for my coast-to-coast road trips. [more inside]