Wednesday, July 27, 2011

America, god-king of the world

Gyanendra [the former King of Nepal, deposed 2008] felt he had a natural ally in a pugnacious White House. He felt spurned when he was ignored. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. Gyanendra's position in Nepal was the same as Washington's position in the world. Most of Nepal's difficulties (backwardness, poverty, war) stemmed from the inequality that still prevailed in the kingdom, and Gyanendra was the one who benefited most from that uneven system. Substitute the world for Nepal and the White House for the king, and the same broad logic held true. Many of the world's problems (backwardness, poverty, war) came from inequality, and the US was the country that benefited most from that uneven system.

Gyanendra was intelligent and ambitious. He recognized a God-King in the twenty-first century was an anomaly. He knew he was the problem. But he enjoyed power and genuinely believed he could help his people. Talking with his enemies wasn't going to improve his situation. Talking could only mean talking it all away. So he chose to fight.

Were these the same impulses guiding the West? If they were, it would explain why our leaders' responses to globalization often appeared to be so inappropriate. And there was some evidence to suggest that Western governments did realize that they, or at least the comparative richness of their economies, were the problem, and one that related to violence. What were the trillions of dollars spent by the West on overseas aid in the developing world, if not an implicit acknowdgement that the system of global income distribution was unfair? What was the deployment of hundreds of civil affairs specialists among the 800 Special Operations soldiers at the US anti-terrorist base in Djibouti, if not a Pentagon admission that Africa lacked and that, if unaddressed, such yawning deficits produced unrest? What were the billions of dollars spent on reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, if not an acceptance that quenching the fires of insurgency took wealth as well as war?

Like Gyanendra, the White House would never talk to terrorists. But beyond the old objection that talking to terrorists only encouraged others, was there another reason? That negotiations could only mean weakening the Western position? Again, there was evidence to suggest so. Look at Bush administration intransigence on climate change. Or the European Union steadfastness on preserving unequal terms of trade with Africa. Or look at the war on drugs, or the war on terror. Those seemed to show a preference for fighting, rather than diplomacy. In the late years of the Bush administration, critical newspaper columnists disinterred an ancient word to describe this overconfident, uncompromising, often damaging stance: hubris. That sounded a lot like Gyanendra.

What was clear was that Gyanendra's unilateralism – his hubris – added fuel to the fire in Nepal. It had been the same for the Bush administration in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

[Selected extracts from "Falling Off the Edge" by TIME foreign correspondent Alex Perry, Macmillan, London, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-230-70689-7)]

Submitted by Frank.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote of the Day

Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.
[Oscar Wilde]

Weaponized Stupidity in fashion

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More frightening statistics

$ 14,353,207,603,583 U.S. Public Debt

World Population
6,978,842,632 Current World Population
73,174,820 Births this year
263,726 Births today
31,252,327 Deaths this year
112,635 Deaths today
41,922,493 Net population growth this year

Government & Economics
$ 7,361,328,286 Healthcare expenditure by governments worldwide today
$ 6,493,904,020 Education expenditure by governments worldwide today
$ 3,344,190,968 Military expenditure by governments worldwide today
33,680,217 Cars produced this year
75,358,701 Bicycles produced this year
214,328,810 Computers sold this year

Society & Media
637,909 New book titles published this year
369,859,807 Newspapers circulated today
515,775 TV sets sold worldwide today
3,810,410 Cellular phones sold today
$ 129,589,127 Money spent on videogames in the world today
2,202,258,999 Internet users in the world
253,078,143,495 Emails sent today
2,952,346 Blog posts written today
155,594,895 Tweets sent today
2,608,051,857 Google searches today

2,874,078 Forest loss this year (hectares, net of reforestation)
3,869,286 Arable land lost due to soil erosion this year (hectares)
18,544,685,679 Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions this year, in tons
6,631,817 Desertification this year (hectares)
5,411,772 Toxic chemicals released in the environment this year (tons)

919,433,537 Undernourished people in the world right now
1,543,396,985 Overweight people in the world right now
514,465,662 Obese people in the world right now
22,275 People who died of hunger today
$ 346,617,938 Money spent for obesity related diseases in the USA today
$ 137,692,374 Money spent on weight loss programs in the USA today

2,739,873 Water consumed this year (billion liters)
995,208 Deaths from water related diseases this year
860,408,217 People with no access to safe drinking water

285,309,654 Energy used worldwide today (MWh), of which:
231,099,564 - from non-renewable sources (MWh)
54,210,091 - from renewable sources (MWh)
2,130,202,848,563 Solar energy striking Earth today (MWh)
61,057,020 Oil pumped today (barrels)
1,300,058,802,180 Oil left (barrels)
15,477 Days to the end of oil
1,157,165,572,510 Gas left (boe)
60,903 Days to the end of gas
4,410,143,783,470 Coal left (boe)
152,074 Days to the end of coal

7,173,865 Deaths caused by communicable diseases this year
4,200,441 Deaths of children under 5 this year
23,215,716 Abortions this year
189,978 Deaths of mothers during birth this year
33,665,050 HIV/AIDS infected people
928,977 Deaths caused by HIV/AIDS this year
4,538,568 Deaths caused by cancer this year
542,049 Deaths caused by malaria this year
11,025,063,554 Cigarettes smoked today
2,762,531 Deaths caused by smoking this year
1,382,137 Deaths caused by alcohol this year
592,593 Suicides this year
$ 221,072,174,019 World spending on illegal drugs this year
745,970 Road traffic accident fatalities this year

Statistics as of 15:30 GMT 21 July 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Global diets

These photos show family diets in an average week from around the globe. Also interesting to note are the relative family sizes, the difference between processed and raw or natural foods, and the total expenditures. 

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11 

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09 

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt : The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53 

Ecuador : The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan : The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quote of the day

If you came and you found a strange man teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you'd kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don't think twice about it.
[Jerome Singer]

Weaponized Stupidity in the wild

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Not even funny

You cannot solve your problems with the same mind that created them.
[Albert Einstein]

The global village needs a town crier

In the era of globalization, the slow death of foreign correspondence is a paradox. As economies and cultures integrate and our world becomes one, we need more and more information on the world – not least because that process often throws up violent reaction. But that information is diminishing. At first glance, that appears illogical. You might think our knowledge would increase as the world becomes closer. For business in particular, you'd think it was paramount. And with cheap air travel exploding, you'd think hundreds of millions more overseas tourists every year would add to the world's knowledge of itself.

I've argued before that the reality of globalization is that it is a force for standardization, with a bias towards the more powerful. That tends to mean that Western systems of business and Western culture dominate, and alternatives, and the poor and powerless, are squashed and ignored. Now think of the generic five-star, four-restaurant, three-pool resort now found on the coast from Phuket to Namibia, or the all-but-identical shopping malls being erected from Cape Cod to Cape Town. Look at the effort that goes into insulating the tourist from the place he is visiting – from five-star hotels to the backpacker trail – to ensure that he has all the amenities of home. It's hard to argue that you're seeing the world if you're merely visiting the same place in different locations.

Journalism is going through the same process of standardization. After all, why bother to get to know other parts of the world when, to the international traveller zipping between glass and steel airports and multinational hotel chains, they increasingly look like your own?

This "flattening" process affects news too. You'd expect British newspapers to splash on train wrecks in London, or the US press to headline on fatal bridge collapses in America. But India's newspapers will also lead on the same stories, relegating twenty-word items about "fatal mishaps" involving overcrowded Indian buses and Himalayan gorges to the inside pages. In the Philippines in 2001, I was astonished to see one national paper lead on the story of a Manila ferry disaster in which hundreds died and a rival splash on the story of four students who had been shot at a high school in the US. Hurricane Katrina was a story around the world. The story of Bombay's floods, in which many more died a month earlier, barely reached Pakistan. Many big stories – a war here, a shining beacon of hope there – are missed altogether. Our pool of knowledge is shrinking. And this narrowing of the world has a self-reinforcing effect. As people become less familiar with the world, they become less interested in it. One of the great paradoxes of globalization is that as the world becomes smaller and smaller, it knows itself less and less well.

In other words: to get globalization, you've got to go. And that means real travel. Not to five-star hotels in Shanghai or business parks in Bangalore or the Africa debate at Davos. But to entirely new environments, places with relaxed attitudes to issues like plumbing and roofing.

Only a few do. The most celebrated commentators on world affairs, the pundits, never do their own reporting, but gather the facts second-hand from CNN and Google. The journalists, academics and politicians who venture a little further – to the Bangalores and Shanghais – confine themselves to brief trips to the inner cities and mistake a tour of an elite shopping mall for a tour of the nation. That's like exploring New Orleans by visiting New York. It's how a couple of kilometres of Edwardian riverfront in central Shanghai came to be taken as a whole city, which was duly dubbed "the Paris of the East". And it explains how, on a 2006 state visit, George W. Bush hailed the "new India" from a podium in central Delhi, apparently unaware that he was looking out over a city where 10 million people had no toilet.

It's about perspective. You need to get close to see the detail. And you need to pull back to see the big picture. Too much of the former and the entirety of the object you're examining becomes obscured. Too much of the latter and everything looks (that word again) flat. Which is why, next time you hear someone say Bombay is the new New York, you should ask them how New Yorkers cope with all the cows in the street.

[Selected extracts from "Falling Off the Edge" by TIME foreign correspondent Alex Perry, Macmillan, London, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-230-70689-7)]

Submitted by Frank. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Further rape statistics

73% of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger.
38% of rapists are friends or acquaintances of the victim.
28% are intimate partners of the victim.
7% are relatives of the victim.
6 in 10, or 60% of rapes occur in the home of the victim, or in the home of a friend or relative of the victim.

From the U.S. Department of Justice's National Criminal Victimization Study [2005] and Sex Offense and Offenders Study [1997].

What the future holds