Development and Humanitarian Politics | By Jamie Martin | April 8, 2015

In the summer of 1931, after months of anomalous heavy rains, several of China’s largest rivers overflowed their banks, flooding nearly 70,000 square miles of farmland and killing, on some estimates, up to 4 million people. These floods—one of the worst natural disasters in human history—came at a moment of major political instability in China, as the new nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek was struggling to consolidate its rule after years of civil war. In September 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria. Adding to the challenges of national unification and defense was a humanitarian crisis on a monumental scale: the millions of Chinese who had been displaced by the floods now faced starvation and disease. As harvests failed, reports of cannibalism abounded. Dikes had to be rebuilt quickly to prevent high waters from causing further devastation.

Desperate Chinese officials looked outward for help: foreign experts and civil servants—many of whom had been sent to China by the League of Nations—were placed into powerful positions in the Nanjing government to oversee relief and reconstruction and to centralize the state’s control over China’s water infrastructure. Responsibility for emergency aid and water management, traditionally the tasks of local elites, was placed firmly into the hands of the state. As the leading Chinese economist H.D. Fong wrote in 1936, the floods marked an important milestone in the state’s quest for “economic control” of China. Soon, the nationalist regime was working in close cooperation with many different experts from the League of Nations, who provided the technical know-how and training—and sometimes the funds—to realize the Guomindang’s ambitious plans for China’s infrastructural and economic development. By the time Nanjing was captured by the Japanese in 1937, plans to build a completely new China—dammed, electrified, and crisscrossed with highways and railroads—were underway. It was the first time an international organization, the League of Nations, had overseen the economic development of a sovereign state.

In just a few years, this practice would become commonplace. Since the end of World War II, an array of international bodies, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and others, acting with the backing of powerful states, have attempted to improve the economic lot of the world’s poorer countries by developing their industries and physical infrastructure, or by providing them with loans and the services of experts. After 1945, as the American economist John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote, “no economic subject more quickly captured the attention of so many as the rescue of the people of the poor countries from their poverty.”

After decades of experience, however, there’s still little agreement about how development should be done—and whether it solves more problems than it creates. Different approaches fall in and out of fashion quickly. The consensus of the 1990s and early 2000s—that growth in the global South would follow shortly on the heels of IMF- and World Bank-led market reforms—has been shattered. The Millennium Development Goals, to halve global poverty by 2015, inspire far less confidence today than when they appeared in 2000. The development community has lowered its expectations, and its search for workable solutions has taken an experimental turn. Borrowing a technique from medical research, many development economists now conduct randomized controlled trials on population groups to see whether their small-scale technical interventions—giving out free mosquito nets, for example, or providing microfinance loans—actually have any impact. The assumption behind this technique—that the results gained from an experiment in one setting are generalizable to another—is fiercely contested. But the current vogue for the experimental approach speaks to the problem at the heart of development: there are simply few successful models to follow.

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Historians have recently begun to investigate how development became central to the global humanitarian politics of the twentieth century, and why it has never been able to deliver on its promises. Most date the origins of the development era to Harry Truman’s inaugural speech of January 1949, when the newly elected president announced that the United States—in addition to pledging its support for the United Nations, rebuilding postwar Europe and establishing NATO—would dedicate its scientific and technological resources to facilitating “improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.” The domestic achievements of the New Deal would be spread abroad to promote peace and to counter the global appeal of communism. This was a new vision of American power for the postwar era: for the first time, the stability of the international order was seen as depending on shared global prosperity. Following Truman’s lead, the United Nations announced its own set of development agencies and aid programs, including the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. In the early 1950s, the World Bank turned its focus to the Third World, after responsibility for rebuilding postwar Europe—its original mission—was taken over by the Marshall Plan. Most early development ideas called for the rapid industrialization and top-down infrastructural modernization of the largely agricultural societies of the global South. These plans were guided by a new science of development economics, pioneered at breakneck speed by a group of mostly Central and Eastern European economists, many of whom took up influential positions in the United Nations, World Bank and United States—or as advisers to Third World governments—during the Cold War.

Development soon became a central plank of America’s strategy against the Soviets. In 1961, John F. Kennedy announced the creation of the USAID program and the Peace Corps, while social scientists-cum-statesmen—like the MIT economist Walt Rostow—developed plans for the “modernization” of the Third World based on grand philosophies of history, detailing the step-by-step progression needed for agrarian states to arrive triumphantly at American-style mass consumption. Inspired by these visions, Lyndon Johnson outlined a New Deal-style development of Vietnam—a “TVA on the Mekong”—to quell the rural insurgency.

The history of development is not, however, exclusively a Cold War story. Intentions to “modernize” the global South, and to raise the standards of living of its inhabitants, were well underway before 1945—not only in China, but also in Europe’s African and Asian colonies. Throughout the interwar period, and during the early years of World War II, the British, French and Dutch empires elaborated a variety of public health, nutritional and infrastructural development ideas for their overseas territories. These were generally designed more to win back legitimacy for imperial rule, and to counter the appeal of nationalist movements, than to bring prosperity to the colonial world for its own sake. As the political scientist Eric Helleiner has persuasively demonstrated in his Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods, the experience of US-Latin American financial cooperation from the late 1930s and early 1940s was also crucial for shaping later programs. Worried about the growth of Nazi influence in the Western Hemisphere, the United States facilitated programs for the industrial and financial development of many different Latin American states during these years. These provided an important precedent and model for US officials when they were plotting the shape of the postwar world economy at the Bretton Woods Conference of July 1944.

These early, pre-Cold War arrangements feature centrally in William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts (Basic; $16.99). An economist formerly at the World Bank and now co-director of NYU’s Development Research Institute, Easterly has in recent years become a well-known and influential critic of foreign aid. In this book, he provides a historical defense for his idiosyncratic, libertarian approach to development. On his reading, the fact that international development as we know it first emerged during the early decades of the twentieth century, when “racism and colonialism still reigned supreme,” explains why it’s been motivated, from the get-go, by a core paternalistic assumption: that the people in need of “development” are incapable of finding their own ways out of poverty without the help of enlightened experts. Throughout its history, development has been guided by a “technocratic illusion”—the idea that poverty is, first and foremost, a problem that can be solved through technical, and not political, means. This faith in ostensibly neutral expertise has resulted in policies that have, almost everywhere, empowered autocrats and violated the rights of the poor.

Easterly details one example after another of strongmen in the global South exploiting the hubris of economists and the naïveté of aid organizations to entrench their power and eliminate their enemies. In Nationalist China, foreign experts in the employ of the Guomindang government elaborated a statist approach to China’s economic modernization that did more to empower Chiang Kai-shek than it did to enrich the population. In 1940s Africa, British imperial administrators drew on an emerging science of “colonial economics” to offer social and economic improvement plans as a means of quieting dissent and extending imperial rule far into the future. These early examples of “authoritarian development” shaped how the Third World would be treated during the Cold War. Foreign aid to Colombia in the 1950s, for example, went to a regime that brutally exterminated its opponents at the same time that it implemented the World Bank’s policy recommendations. Little has changed today: international organizations and their Western backers continue to sponsor major development projects in states, like Ethiopia and Uganda, that are well-known for their human-rights abuses.

Easterly’s history is intended, in great part, to discredit the idea that “benevolent autocrats” can ever be trusted with responsibility for development—an idea made popular by the success stories of Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, South Korea under Park Chung-hee, and China under Deng Xiaoping. In addition to being oppressive and violent, authoritarians, in his judgment, simply don’t deliver good results. Lasting economic progress can never be directly engineered by the state through top-down planning and conscious direction; it can only be achieved through the competition of individuals responding to market incentives. Easterly’s disdain for technocratic approaches to development is matched by his zealous belief in the ability of capitalism—if left untouched by politicians and planners—to alleviate global poverty by itself. Material advancement has only ever been achieved on the back of what he calls “spontaneous solutions through market competition.” And the history of development, on his telling, is largely a story of powerful bureaucrats and economists ignoring this simple truth. The Tyranny of Experts reads like a morality tale. The warnings of free-market heroes, such as the Austrian economist Friedrich A. Hayek, go unheard, while those in power—like the Swedish economist and UN official Gunnar Myrdal—advocate centralized economic planning and thus legitimate the rule of brutal autocrats.

Easterly’s suggestion that development economists tend to be naïve about power is undeniably true. The original sin of the discipline—as one of its founders, Albert Hirschman, once wrote—was its assumption that the countries of the “underdeveloped” world, unlike those of the West, “were not all that complicated” when it came to politics, and that “their major problems would be solved if only their national income per capita could be raised adequately.” Easterly, however, repeats a similar mistake when he describes markets as neutral, power-free zones, where the best ideas naturally rise to the top and the voices of the weak can be heard loudly and clearly.

Easterly’s history also mischaracterizes the development community as having been single-mindedly committed to top-down and statist policies in the global South from the outset. As the historian Daniel Immerwahr demonstrates brilliantly in Thinking Small (Harvard; $35), the history of development has seen constant experimentation with community-based and participatory approaches to economic and social improvement. Even during the height of the Cold War and the heyday of “modernization theory,” American organizations like the Peace Corps were leading programs of “community development” in rural areas around the globe. These plans were driven by the idea that development is best pursued not through centralized and large-scale projects, but rather through empowering local actors to decide what programs were best-suited to the needs of their communities. Economic progress, on this model, was to be achieved without forcing societies to abandon their social and cultural traditions or to replace the institutions of village-life with those of the West. This approach to alleviating global poverty—which took the development world by storm in the 1950s and ’60s—entailed an entirely different vision of America’s role on the global stage: not as expert builder of dams and power grids, but as “sympathetic enabler of village-level democracy, plurality, and local knowledge.”

These “communitarian” approaches to development first emerged in the United States during the Great Depression, when bureaucrats in Roosevelt’s Department of Agriculture established participatory community-based planning committees in rural areas across the country. These decentralized programs provided a popular counterpart to the “high modernist” ideas of the New Deal, but were shut down in 1942 by an unsympathetic Congress. They did not go away completely, however: when the United States took up the mantle of international development at the end of World War II, these programs proved readily adaptable to states in the global South. The short-lived New Deal experiment with community development was soon exported to foreign shores.

It landed first in 1950s India, just as Jawaharlal Nehru was implementing his Five Year Plan for India’s top-down industrialization, modeled on Stalin’s program of the same name from 1928 to 1932. By the following decade, US advisers had overseen the extension of grassroots development programs in public health, hygiene and agricultural improvement—shaped according to the “felt needs” of local communities—into hundreds of thousands of villages across India. Despite its democratic promise, however, community development in India inadvertently provided the postcolonial state with a new means of consolidating its power. By establishing direct lines of contact between government bureaucrats and local elites, it gave the former greater access to and control over the lives of Indian villagers.

As a tool of social and political control, community development proved well suited to American Cold War strategy in rural Asia—particularly in the service of counterinsurgency. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the United States backed plans in the Philippines to empower barrio councils with local development projects that were designed, in large part, to pacify a rural communist insurgency. In the 1960s, these village-level programs were exploited by President Ferdinand Marcos to consolidate his authoritarian rule after he came to power in 1965. Far from seen as a failure, however, community development in the Philippines was considered by many in the United States an important success in the Asian theater of the Cold War. American advisers brought Filipino-style community development to South Vietnam, where President Ngo Dinh Diem built an archipelago of “strategic hamlets” across the country to counter the appeal of the Vietcong. While these efforts failed in Vietnam, they provided a lasting model for rural pacification: David Petraeus’s strategy for counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, Immerwahr argues, should be seen as the spiritual heir of community development plans in Cold War Southeast Asia.

Community development was also brought back to the United States, as experts who had gained experience addressing “underdevelopment” in the global South came home to fight poverty on American soil. The Community Action Program at the heart of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty was inspired directly by grassroots development aid overseas. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 established an array of community actions programs, some of which were designed as domestic versions of the Peace Corps. As these programs were extended throughout urban America, however, government officials were shocked to see them turn into seedbeds of radicalism: more than a quarter of a million dollars of federal funding for community development, for example, went to Saul Alinsky in Syracuse. These officials had wrongly assumed that community development in urban America would result in only limited, and largely conservative, reforms—as it had abroad. After the Watts riots of 1965, federal support for community action in urban areas withered, and responsibility for poverty-reduction programs was largely handed off to local bodies. But as poor urban communities were cut off from federal oversight, and economic inequality climbed at an increasing pace throughout the country, local control became less effective at combating poverty. Community development failed in its birthplace, just as it had overseas.

Immerwahr’s account of these failures should give pause to those who insist that going small is always better than going big. Localist and participatory “self-help” programs don’t boast a great historical track record, and have often had unintended and destructive consequences of their own. Those looking for lessons from his account might see it, as well as Easterly’s, as providing justification for the new experimental approaches to development. Methods could be designed and tested in ways to prevent the political abuses that they document. The burden of providing clear evidence for success could also provide a new means for local communities to hold development experts accountable. A chastened form of expertise, aware of its limits and willing to admit failure, might prove more difficult for autocrats to exploit.

But reflection on the history of development suggests that the problem is not just one of finding the right methods on the ground. The terms of the debate—top-down versus bottom-up, foreign expert versus engaged citizen, experiment versus theory—have drawn attention away from other reasons for the persistence of global poverty. Most development thinking, Immerwahr argues, sidesteps the fact that unequal access to the world’s resources is upheld by a system of trade and finance that favors wealthy countries. Voting power in bodies like the World Bank, IMF and WTO is weighted toward Northern countries, and their decisions are shaped by the lobbying of powerful and narrow interest groups. Southern countries have little hand in writing the international rules that help to shape their economic fates, and less opportunity to advance claims for a more robust set of globally redistributive measures. “Nationally, we aspire to live in democracies,” Immerwahr writes. “Internationally, we inhabit a plutocracy.” This situation allows for the persistence of policies, such as agricultural subsidies and restrictive intellectual property rules that stymie economic progress in the South. Climate change—the end result of centuries of Northern growth—threatens to derail it further, while restrictive measures on migration lock the global poor into place.

Development debates don’t tend to focus directly on the problem of global inequality, even though it’s at staggeringly high levels.  Outside of academic debates in political philosophy, and occasionally economics, however, little effort is made to think of policies that could directly redress the uneven distribution of global income and wealth. Finding the right methods to alleviate poverty receives far more attention—in part, because humanitarian questions are less discomfiting than distributional ones. “Every mention” of the latter, as Branko Milanovic, the doyen of global inequality studies, puts it, “[raises] the issue of the appropriateness or legitimacy of my income. Perhaps my charity will not be seen so very favorably if somebody argues that my income was acquired unjustly or illegally.” As inequality returns, after years of neglect, to the center of political debate on the national level, it remains far off the agenda on the global.

 
via The Nation

http://m.thenation.com/article/203761-development-and-humanitarian-politics

The Growth Conundrum

BERKELEY – The world faces a major dilemma. While rapid economic growth, such as that realized over the past 50 years, is critical to support development, we now also know that it can have serious adverse consequences, particularly for the environment. How can we balance the imperatives of growth and development with the need to ensure sustainability?

The unprecedented growth of per capita income during the last 20 years has lifted more than one billion people out of extreme poverty. In developing countries, life expectancy has increased by 20 years since the mid-1970s, and the illiteracy rate among adults was almost halved in the last 30 years.

But rapid economic growth has placed enormous pressure on the environment. Moreover, it has been accompanied by rising income inequality, which has now reached historic highs within many countries (though, across countries, such inequality has declined). Given this, one might argue that slower growth would be good for the world.

In that case, the solution would be at hand. According to a new report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), aging populations and declining fertility rates in many parts of the world could dampen global growth considerably over the next 50 years.

Indeed, even if productivity were to expand at the same rapid rate as during the last half-century, global growth would fall by 40%, far below the anemic rate of the last five years. Employment growth is also set to slow significantly. As a result, even with slower population growth, per capita income growth would fall by about 19%.

To be sure, GDP would still triple, and per capita income would double, over the next 50 years. Nonetheless this rate of long-term growth would constitute a sharp break with the six-fold GDP expansion and nearly three-fold increase in per capita income of the last 50 years.

Despite its potential benefits, especially for the environment, the impending growth slowdown carries significant risks. While growth is not an end in itself, it enables the achievement of a broad set of societal goals, including the creation of economic and employment opportunities for millions of vulnerable and poor people and the provision of social goods like education, health care, and pensions.

So how do we ensure that these imperatives are fulfilled, despite demographic and environmental constraints? The first step is to secure economic growth through productivity gains.

The needed acceleration in productivity growth – by 80% to sustain overall GDP growth and by 22% to sustain per capita income growth at the rates of the last half-century – is daunting. But, based on case studies in five economic sectors, the MGI report finds that achieving it, though “extremely challenging,” is possible – and without relying on unforeseeable technological advances.

Three-quarters of the potential pickup in productivity could come from “catch-up” improvements, with countries taking steps – modernizing their retail sectors, consolidating automobile production into a smaller number of larger factories, improving health-care efficiency, and reducing food-processing wastage – that have already proven effective elsewhere. The rest can come from technological, operational, and business innovations – for example, developing new seeds to increase agricultural yields, using new materials (such as carbon-fiber composites) to make cars and airplanes lighter and more resilient, or digitizing medical records.

Another significant growth opportunity lies in boosting the employment and productivity of women. Today, only about half of the world’s working-age women are employed. They earn about three-quarters as much as men in the same occupations, and are over-represented in informal, temporary, and low-productivity jobs
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MGI estimates that increasing women’s labor-force participation rate could contribute almost 60% of potential labor-force growth during the next half-century. Realizing this potential will require efforts by both employers and governments to eliminate discriminatory practices that impede the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women, as well as credit, tax, and family support policies to help workers balance their responsibilities at work and at home.

Meanwhile, in order to mitigate the environmental impact of continued rapid growth, the world must improve its resource efficiency considerably. MGI and others have identified numerous ecologically responsible growth opportunities emanating from the smarter use of limited resources.

Consider improvements in energy efficiency, which could halve projected energy demand between now and 2020. As California – the world’s eighth-largest economy – has demonstrated, strict energy-efficiency standards can actually be good for growth and jobs. Indeed, such policies have kept California’s per capita energy demand constant for the last three decades – even as such demand grew by 50% in the rest of the United States – without compromising growth.

There is a strong business and consumer case for improving resource productivity, as it could lead to substantial cost savings. Fortunately, policies that support this goal are gaining momentum in developed and developing countries alike.

Even if gains in female labor-force participation and resource-efficient productivity growth sustain high rates of economic growth, one key challenge remains: income inequality. In fact, there is no simple relationship between growth and income inequality; after all, inequality has been increasing in both slow-growing developed economies and fast-growing emerging economies.

According to the French economist Thomas Piketty, income inequality rises when the return on capital exceeds economic growth, meaning that, by itself, faster economic growth would reduce inequality. Using a different approach, economists at the International Monetary Fund also find a positive relationship between lower income inequality and faster growth, concluding that policies that redistribute income can foster faster, more sustainable growth.

Growth still matters. As demographic tailwinds turn into headwinds, and environmental challenges become ever more apparent, businesses and governments need to think carefully about how to improve resource efficiency while fostering more inclusive economic growth.

via Project Syndicate – (@LauraDTyson & Woetzel)

By: LAURA TYSON

Laura Tyson, a former chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers, is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, a senior adviser at the Rock Creek Group, and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Gender Parity.

JONATHAN WOETZEL
Jonathan Woetzel is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

Three cheers for democracy | April 2015

Muhammadu Buhari was the least bad presidential candidate in Nigeria. May he rise to his task

FOR the first time, Nigerians have ejected an incumbent president at the ballot box, in a broadly peaceful election. Muhammadu Buhari, the former military dictator who has defeated Goodluck Jonathan, will now preside over Africa’s most populous country, biggest economy and weightiest global actor. This is joyful news for Nigeria—and Africa.

One big reason to cheer is that Mr Jonathan has been such a dismal failure. So has his People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has run Nigeria ever since the generals gave way to an elected civilian government in 1999. His administration has woefully failed to defeat an insurgency by Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group that has tormented Nigeria’s north-east over the past few years. Mr Jonathan tried to improve farming and provide electricity to all, but proved unable to rebuild much of Nigeria’s hideously decrepit infrastructure. Above all, he was unwilling to tackle corruption, the country’s greatest scourge and the cause of much of its chaos. When the central bank’s respected governor complained that $20 billion had been stolen, Mr Jonathan sacked him. Nigeria is the biggest producer of oil on the continent, but most of its 170m-plus people still live on less than $2 a day. That is an indictment of successive governments.

Thanks to the resilience and vitality of ordinary Nigerians, the economy has been growing fast, especially around Lagos, the thriving commercial hub. But that is largely despite the government, not because of it. And with the oil price sharply down, Nigerians could well become even poorer.

Nobody can be sure that the 72-year-old Mr Buhari will turn things around fast, if at all. His brief stint as the country’s leader 32 years ago, when he was a general, was little better than Mr Jonathan’s. His human-rights record was appalling. He detained thousands of opponents, silenced the press, banned political meetings and had people executed for crimes that were not capital offences when they were committed. He expelled 700,000 immigrants under the illusion that this would create jobs for Nigerians. His economic policies, which included the fixing of prices and bans on “unnecessary” imports, were both crass and ineffective.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/02/graphics

Yet there is reason to hope that he has learnt from past mistakes. Although not always with a good grace, Mr Buhari accepted defeat in three previous presidential elections. As a northerner, a Muslim and a former soldier, he has a better chance of restoring the morale of Nigeria’s miserable army, which is essential if it is to defeat Boko Haram. His All Progressives Congress is a ramshackle coalition of parties, but the calibre of a number of its leading lights is superior to that of the greedy and incompetent bigwigs who dominate the PDP. Above all, Mr Buhari, whose style is strikingly ascetic, has a reputation for honesty. Corruption in Nigeria is so ingrained that nobody should expect him to root it out overnight. But it is vital that the new president makes a start. His vice-presidential running mate is a pastor who has fought hard for human rights and cleaner government.

Setting an example

Since 1991, when an incumbent leader on the African continent—in little Benin—was for the first time peacefully ejected at the ballot box after three decades without genuine democracy, at least 30 governments and presidents have been voted out of office. Though that is an incomparably better record than in the Arab world, Africa has recently become patchier again. Mr Jonathan’s magnanimous concession of victory to Mr Buhari will be a terrific boost to democrats across the continent. Just hope and pray that Mr Buhari does not let them down.

via The Economist

OBAMA: US CAN’T CUT ITSELF OFF FROM WEST AFRICA | October 18, 2014

AFP
AFP
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama urged Americans on Saturday not to succumb to hysteria about Ebola, even as he warned that addressing the deadly virus would require citizens, government leaders and the media to all pitch in.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama also pushed back against calls for the U.S. to institute a travel ban. Lawmakers have called it a common-sense step to prevent more people with Ebola from entering the U.S., but Obama said such a ban would only hamper aid efforts and screening measures.

“Trying to seal off an entire region of the world – if that were even possible – could actually make the situation worse,” Obama said.

Growing U.S. concern about Ebola and the three cases diagnosed so far in Dallas prompted Obama on Friday to tap a former top White House adviser to be his point person on Ebola. Striking a careful balance, Obama said there’s no “outbreak” or “epidemic” of Ebola in the U.S., but said even one case is too many.

“This is a serious disease, but we can’t give in to hysteria or fear-because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need,” Obama said. “We have to be guided by the science.”

As Obama sought to reassure anxious Americans, U.S. officials were still working to contain the fallout from the Ebola cases identified in the U.S. so far, rushing to cut off potential routes of infection for those who may have come into contact with individuals who contracted Ebola. Obama said he was “absolutely confident” the U.S. could prevent a serious outbreak at home – if it continues to elevate facts over fear.

“Fighting this disease will take time,” Obama said. “Before this is over, we may see more isolated cases here in America. But we know how to wage this fight.”

AP

In a Changing Climate, We Can’t Do Conservation as Usual | October 17, 2014

image

By Valerie Hickey and Habiba Gitay

At the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity happening right now in Korea, there has been a lot of talk about adaptation. Most importantly, how can nature help countries and communities adapt to climate change?

Ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA), or using nature’s own defense characteristics to reduce the vulnerability of people and capital, is an essential component of climate-resilient development. EBA isn’t about how we can protect nature. It’s about how nature – through the ecosystem services that constitute EBA, be it flood protection, water provision during droughts, or wave energy attenuation, among other things – can protect people and their capital.

We already know that we can’t eradicate extreme poverty without investing in nature because of the safety net she provides to families in the stubborn pockets of poverty at the rural frontier. Nor can we truly share prosperity with the bottom 40 percent unless we help them reap the benefits of what is often the only capital they have access to – natural capital. And now, climate change has given us another truism: We can’t eradicate extreme poverty or protect the development gains of the bottom 40 percent in the face of climate change, without investing in nature in a different way. And this is the first lesson that we are learning about EBA – it is not conservation as usual.

The success of EBA must be measured in how effectively it has enhanced the resilience of communities and their capital assets. It is about nature helping communities sustain their hard-fought economic gains and climate-proofing future development wins. This is what our investments in EBA through the Pilot Program on Climate Resilience are doing in Samoa and Zambia – we are using EBA to build a protective shell around communities that are vulnerable to coastal erosion, floods, and the loss of scarce freshwater resources. Yes, EBA delivers biodiversity benefits; but first and foremost, it must deliver real and timely benefits for vulnerable people and communities who rely on natural capital.

EBA is not a new idea. In many ways it is the archetype of the triple bottom line in action. A

First and foremost, it provides vulnerable families and communities protection from the vicissitudes and cruelties of a world that is experiencing a rapidly changing climate and a multitude of climate extremes. In a world where most of the poor live in rural areas, and live in dispersed, often remote communities, we know that other types of adaptation measures and infrastructure may never reach them. Islands simply don’t have the resources to ring-fence their entire sovereignty with high concrete sea-walls. Water-stressed countries don’t have the resources to channelize their scarce freshwater resources to support all small-holder agriculture. EBA is a cost-effective way to protect people against climate change, which reduces fiscal pressures on governments while accruing economic and environmental co-benefits.

This is the second lesson of EBA: While hard infrastructure depreciates over time, the benefits of nature-based approaches accrue value. Mangrove forests dampen wave energy, delivering adaptation benefits to coastal and island communities during storms. But over time they also provide nursery grounds for many fish species and critical habitat for marine biodiversity, allowing communities and countries to reap the food security, economic benefits and jobs from improving artisanal and industrial fishing.

But EBA is not a cure-all. While we know a lot about how ecosystems function, we don’t know enough about how they provide ecosystem services, including those that are critical to climate resilient development. Under what conditions will EBA work best? What are the ecological tipping points beyond which ecosystems stop functioning and helping people adapt to climate change? As we learn more about how to optimize EBA, we must embed EBA approaches within broader development strategies. We must employ multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approaches at multiple scales across time and space. And most importantly, we must interweave traditional and indigenous knowledge about local ecosystems and how they work into development decisions. This is the third lesson about EBA: Since we don’t know enough about how they work, we must apply them only with the informed and active participation of those communities and countries we are asking to trust in them.

We are investing in EBA, and the delegates at the COP are discussing EBA, because it must be part of our adaptive response to climate change. This is the fourth lesson of EBA: It can and must co-exist with other approaches to adaptation to give countries and communities every opportunity to confront a world that is experiencing climate change. Each approach to adaptation strengthens the other. Greening hard infrastructure will make it last longer and go further. Engineering green infrastructure will make it more effective and help us optimize the delivery of adaptation benefits. In a rapidly changing world where the rural poor are heavily dispersed and countries and communities have limited resources, a full adaptation toolbox that includes EBA is the surest salve to reduce vulnerability and enhance resiliency.

BY VALERIE HICKEY, CO-AUTHORS: HABIBA GITAY

iPhone 6 and why churches should stop trying to get more people to come.  

The Millennial Pastor

Last week, as throngs of people stood in line at the Apple store, Courtenay and I walked up to our cell phone provider’s mall kiosk just a little further down and asked if they had any iPhone 6s left. A short while later, we had traded our old iPhones for the shiny new ones of our choice.

applecrowdWhen we had tried the apple store earlier, it was so busy that we could hardly get close enough to a display model to see one. At the cellphone kiosk, we were given demo models to hold and play with. While you had to make appointments to receive service at Apple, walk-ins were welcome at the cellphone kiosk. Shipping problems meant pre-orders were delayed and backlogged at the Apple store. The cellphone kiosk? We were the first customers to buy the new iPhones from our sales associate, and it was the middle of…

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Two Views of Finance | September 29, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings will be held on October 10-12 in Washington DC, and the world’s financial sector is a central item on the agenda. That will make for an interesting meeting, because two diametrically opposed views of the global financial system will face off against each other.

The first view is that “we have done a lot” since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008. According to this view, which is put forward on a regular basis by some US Treasury officials and their European counterparts, there may be a bit more to do in terms of implementing reforms, but our banks and other financial firms have already become much safer. The crisis of 2008 cannot soon be repeated.

The second view is that we are a long way from completing the far-reaching changes that we need. Even worse, on at least one key point, the very language used among policymakers and leading journalists to describe finance is badly broken.

The issues are complex and nuances abound, but much of what divides the two sides in this debate comes down to this: Is it acceptable to say that banks “hold” capital?

This is an expression used with great regularity among top finance reporters (though not, for example, by Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, which has long been much more careful on this point). “Banks will need to hold more capital” is a common refrain, describing efforts by regulators – and, in the United States, some legislators – to require that financial institutions fund themselves with relatively more equity and less debt.

Using “hold” in this way is both completely conventional and deeply misleading. In any other common English language usage, “hold” is an active verb or a noun with a similar connotation. You hold a baby in your arms. Please hold on tight to this rope. He had a strong hold over his colleagues.

This matters, because “holding” capital has become a disguised or implicit metaphor. The implication is that banks are being asked to sequester part of the asset side of their balance sheets – and this naturally leads to the perception that somehow “less is available” to lend, for example, to the real (non-financial) economy. I encounter this view frequently, even in sophisticated circles – for example, on Capitol Hill.

But this interpretation is a complete – and sometimes deliberate – misunderstanding of bank capital and the policies being pursued. (Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig have pointed out that there are many misperceptions in this area; but, of these, misconstruing capital is surely the most fundamental.)

Capital, in this context, is simply a synonym for equity, which is on the liability side of a bank’s (or anyone’s) balance sheet. It refers to how a bank (or other firm) finances its activities, not to how it uses the funds that it has available.

Higher capital requirements mean, in essence, more equity funding and – by implication, under any sensible definition – relatively less debt for a given balance-sheet size. This is an attractive and sensible policy, because today’s global banks have relatively small slivers of equity underpinning their operations.

The best comparable measures of bank capital are those found in the Global Capital Index produced by Thomas Hoenig, Vice Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Hoenig looks at how much equity banks have in the simplest and most transparent measure (also known as leverage). Six years after the world’s largest financial crisis, our megabanks have equity amounting to no more than 5% of their balance sheets. (In fact, some banks have not much more than 3% equity.) That means that 95% of their operations are financed by debt – and thus that only a small negative shock would be needed to push them toward insolvency.

Many measures are still needed to address this vulnerability, including the formalization of international cooperation to handle failing financial firms. We need these firms to be able to fail without causing a global panic. They should prepare meaningful “living wills,” to show how this will be possible; in fact, such plans are a requirement – still unimplemented – of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms in the US.

But there is a much simpler step that would make a big difference: A senior policymaker, such as a member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors or the president of the New York Fed, should make a speech that explains clearly what bank capital is (and what it is not).

Journalists who ignore the guidance on terminology in this speech should be called – in private – by the Fed. The Fed devotes considerable effort to ensuring that the public understands its monetary policy; officials should devote similar effort to communicating regulatory policy precisely.

And Hoenig’s index should be picked up and publicized by a major organization, such as the IMF. We need not only more precise use of language, but also timely and accurate measurement of banks’ capital levels.

Project Syndicate

SIMON JOHNSON
Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the IMF, is a professor at MIT Sloan, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and co-founder of a leading economics blog, The Baseline Scenario. He is the co-author, with James Kwak, of White House Burning:

Nelson Mandela life in pictures: From prisoner to president: By James Nye | Dec 6, 2013

This picture taken on June 16, 1964 shows eight men, among them anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela

This picture taken on June 16, 1964 shows eight men, among them anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela

Feb. 11, 1990 file photo, Nelson Mandela, left, and his wife, Winnie, walk out of the Victor Verster

Feb. 11, 1990 file photo, Nelson Mandela, left, and his wife, Winnie, walk out of the Victor Verster

Nelson Mandela, a life in pictures: From prisoner to president | Daily Mail Online

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2519099/Nelson-Mandela-life-pictures-From-prisoner-president.html

Daily Mail

Nelson Mandela in prison.

Nelson Mandela in prison.

Nelson Mandela with Bill Clinton visiting Robben Island.

Nelson Mandela with Bill Clinton visiting Robben Island.

Two giants: The late Nelson Mandela lands a “straight left” to the chin of Muhammad Ali.

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, into a royal family of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe in Mvezo

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, into a royal family of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe in Mvezo

In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and helped establish its youth league.

In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and helped establish its youth league.

This photograph taken in 1957 shows South African anti- apartheid leader with his wife Winnie.

This photograph taken in 1957 shows South African anti- apartheid leader with his wife Winnie.

Nelson Mandela visits 10 February 1995 his former cell in notorious Robben Island prison, Cape Town.

Nelson Mandela visits 10 February 1995 his former cell in notorious Robben Island prison, Cape Town.

Pope John Paul II & South African President Nelson Mandela talking at the Presidential guest house.

Pope John Paul II & South African President Nelson Mandela talking at the Presidential guest house.

Queen Elizabeth II, President Nelson Mandela during the British monarch's state to South Africa,1995

Queen Elizabeth II, President Nelson Mandela during the British monarch’s state to South Africa,1995

In this Aug. 22, 1996 file photo, the Dalai Lama, left, walks hand-in-hand with Nelson Mandela.

In this Aug. 22, 1996 file photo, the Dalai Lama, left, walks hand-in-hand with Nelson Mandela.

In this July 9, 1996 file photo, Nelson Mandela stands with Queen Elizabeth.

In this July 9, 1996 file photo, Nelson Mandela stands with Queen Elizabeth.

Welcome to London: Nelson Mandela wearing a South African Olympic Squad tracksuit.

Welcome to London: Nelson Mandela wearing a South African Olympic Squad tracksuit.

Nelson Mandela (L) shares a joke with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates after their meeting in Cape Town

Nelson Mandela (L) shares a joke with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates after their meeting in Cape Town

In this March 17, 1997 file photo, Nelson Mandela, left, shows the way to Britain's Princess Diana.

In this March 17, 1997 file photo, Nelson Mandela, left, shows the way to Britain’s Princess Diana.

Prince of Wales (left) and Nelson Mandela at a photocall with the Spice Girls,  Pretoria in 1997.

Prince of Wales (left) and Nelson Mandela at a photocall with the Spice Girls, Pretoria in 1997.

In this Aug. 11, 1998 file photo, Nelson Mandela, (right), and Palestinian leader,  Yasser Arafat.

In this Aug. 11, 1998 file photo, Nelson Mandela, (right), and Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, iconic political prisoner Nelson Mandela (R) with Cuban Pres Fidel Castro.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, iconic political prisoner Nelson Mandela (R) with Cuban Pres Fidel Castro.

President Nelson Mandela, left, and American pop singer Michael Jackson in Cape Town.

President Nelson Mandela, left, and American pop singer Michael Jackson in Cape Town.

U.S. President George W. Bush looks up at former President Nelson Mandela as they address the media.

U.S. President George W. Bush looks up at former President Nelson Mandela as they address the media.

Nelson Mandela (L) and Irish rock star Bono pose together after meeting at Mandela's residence.

Nelson Mandela (L) and Irish rock star Bono pose together after meeting at Mandela’s residence.

Nelson Mandela (L) poses with television personality Oprah Winfrey in Henley, Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela (L) poses with television personality Oprah Winfrey in Henley, Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela receives an England team jersey with “Mandela” on the back from captain David Beckham

Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and former US President Bill Clinton attending a gala night.

Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and former US President Bill Clinton attending a gala night.

Quick Kiss: Former South African President Nelson Mandela kisses U.S. singer Beyonce Knowles.

Quick Kiss: Former South African President Nelson Mandela kisses U.S. singer Beyonce Knowles.

Former US President Bill Clinton (R) sharing a joke with former President Nelson Mandela.

Former US President Bill Clinton (R) sharing a joke with former President Nelson Mandela.

West Indian cricket star, Brian Lara (L) meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic political.

West Indian cricket star, Brian Lara (L) meeting with Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic political.

US actor Brad Pitt (top) with Former South African President Nelson Mandela.

US actor Brad Pitt (top) with Former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela, aged 94, is seen at his home in Qunu, during a visit from U.S. Hillary.

Nelson Mandela, aged 94, is seen at his home in Qunu, during a visit from U.S. Hillary.

Winnie: ‘Our divorce was a fraud’ | By Abongile Mgaqelwa | October 15, 2014

Nelson and Winnie Mandela married in 1958, but he soon went underground and in 1962 he was captured

Nelson and Winnie Mandela married in 1958, but he soon went underground and in 1962 he was captured

WINNIE Madikizela-Mandela has filed a sensational claim against her former husband’s will, submitting that her divorce from the famous statesman was fraudulently obtained.

Other revelations contained in court documents suggest she was not even in the country when her divorce from former president  Nelson Mandela was finalised – and that no settlement was reached.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Madikizela-Mandela has spilt the beans in a bid to wrest control of the Qunu property so beloved by Mandela, and which he placed under the aegis of a trust upon his death last year.

She initially pleaded her case in a letter to the trustees – who include lawyer George Bizos and Deputy Chief Justice  Dikgang Moseneke – earlier this year, but stepped up her challenge when her overtures were rejected.

Madikizela-Mandela’s   lawyer Mvuzo Notyesi filed papers in the Mthatha High Court yesterday.

In laying out her case, Madikizela-Mandela  has gone right back to their betrothal.

The Daily Dispatch has seen a copy of the marriage certificate which, according to the document, was issued in terms of Act 21 of 1978 (of the Republic of Transkei). The Mandelas were married in June 1958.

“The certificate is clearly a fraudulent document and is quite obvious that [during] the divorce hearing the court was misled and the divorce order was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation,” Madikizela-Mandela submitted in her affidavit.

Further, the Republic of Transkei did not exist in 1958 as independence was only granted in 1976.

Madikizela-Mandela also claims that the signatures on the certificate belong to neither her nor her ex-husband.  “Our marriage officer was reverend Gamndana and not GGK Madikiza,” as recorded on the certificate.

The certificate reads that the two were married in Embongweni Administrative Area in Bizana and that community of property is excluded.

Madikizela-Mandela will also seek to rescind the divorce order.

A divorce decree seen by the Daily Dispatch reveals the marriage between the two was dissolved and that (Madikizela-Mandela) should pay the cost of that part of the trial, including the costs of the two legal counsels.

In her court papers, Madikizela-Mandela says the court never ordered the forfeiture of the Qunu property as they never engaged in any settlement negotiations on their properties.

“Accordingly [Nelson Mandela] is not at liberty to dispose of our property at will. The divorce order makes it pertinently clear that the question of assets was never finalised.”

She wrote that she was not even present at court when the divorce order was granted as she was in Beijing attending a conference.

“[This] assertion is confirmed by Mr Ismail Ayob who was the attorney representing Mr Mandela during the divorce proceedings.”

Madikizela-Mandela also made a shocking claim that the first time she saw the divorce order was in August this year.

“I and [Mandela] had agreed to deal with issues of property at a later stage and, as it turned out, we never had the opportunity to do so. However, [Mandela] always knew that the Qunu property belonged to me.”

Madikizela-Mandela wants the court to declare the clause in which Mandela bequeaths the Qunu property to the Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela Family Trust to be set aside.

In the papers Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyers claim that Mandela misconstrued his powers and improperly donated the Qunu property to himself.

She claims the property as her own on the basis she allegedly acquired it in 1989 while Mandela was still in jail.

Mandela had registered the property in his name in 1998, two years after he divorced Madikizela-Mandela. At the time Mandela was still state president.

The papers say that the Minister of Land Affairs used the provisions of Section 6 of the State Land Disposal Act of 1961, (Act No.48 of 1961) to register the land in Mandela’s name. The act states that the president may sell, exchange, donate or lease state land on behalf of the state.

Notyesi wrote that Mandela had misconstrued his powers under the act, in that “the act does not empower the president to take the land for himself and therefore the late [Mandela] acted improperly when he donated the land to himself.”

She  wants the deed of grant to be reviewed and set aside as a nullity.

Mandela’s ex-wife Graça Machel and President Jacob Zuma are among seven respondents in the application.

— abongilem@dispatch.co.za

Daily Dispatch

Calculating the Grim Economic Costs of Ebola Outbreak | By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN | OCTOBER 13, 2014

Lagarde, the I.M.F. head, cautioned against scaring the world away from all of Africa. Reuters photo

Lagarde, the I.M.F. head, cautioned against scaring the world away from all of Africa. Reuters photo

The topic everyone on Wall Street is discussing urgently but quietly isn’t the volatile stock market.

It is Ebola.

While thousands of health care workers seek to control the deadly virus in West Africa, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical professionals seek to prevent its outbreak in the United States, financial analysts and others have been trying to estimate — or “model,” in Wall Street parlance — the potential effect on the global economy.

The math is not pretty.

The most authoritative model, at the moment, suggests a potential economic drain of as much as $32.6 billion by the end of 2015 if “the epidemic spreads into neighboring countries” beyond Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to a recent study by the World Bank.

That estimate is considered a worst-case scenario, but it does not account for any costs beyond the next 18 months, nor does it assume a global pandemic.

Over the weekend, the topic of Ebola was front and center at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, where central bankers, world leaders and some of Wall Street’s senior executives held a series of meetings and dinners.

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the I.M.F., was seen wearing a button that read: “Isolate Ebola, Not Countries.” She implored the audience: “We should be very careful not to terrify the planet in respect of the whole of Africa.”

That’s because the economic cost of fear, far more than medical costs, may be the most expensive outcome.

“Economic consequences also result when fear and concern change behavior,” David R. Kotok, the chairman and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors, wrote in a report late last week, addressing the potential fallout on gross domestic products. “If consumers and businesses retrench by reducing flights on airplanes, changing vacation plans or altering business connections in a globally interdependent world, G.D.P. growth rates will fall farther. We do not know how much, at what speed, or for how long.”

Shares of airline stocks like United and American fell on Monday as some investors began to worry about the prospect of travel bans for airlines from West Africa to Europe and the United States.

Andrew Zarnett, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, wrote a recent report that examined the potential effects of Ebola and compared it to the economic toll of the SARS epidemic, which cost Asian airlines about $6 billion in 2003.

“History has shown us that should the Ebola epidemic spread domestically, it will have a significant impact on the airline and the entire hospitality sector,” he wrote, according to FXStreet, a financial news service.

And nobody has yet fully calculated the numbers on the cost to the health care system: training, testing, treatment, waste disposal — and all the hospital beds that are sitting unused in isolation areas. (Perversely enough, many of the health care costs could conceivably help that industry in the short term because additional money is being spent.)

Of course, the greatest economic danger is in the economic isolation of countries. “By default or design, it really is an economic embargo,” Kaifala Marah, finance minister of Sierra Leone, said over the weekend about his country, which has been all but cut off from the outside world.

The newest estimates about the economic cost of Ebola, conducted by John Panzer and Francisco Ferreira of the World Bank, may be the deepest look at the problem by any analyst or economist. The report notes that in the very short term, assuming that the spread of Ebola is contained, the economic costs should be low, about $359 million.

The study gets more worrying as the authors examine the economic prospects 18 months out.

The authors developed the “Ebola Impact Index.” As one of their advisers, Marcelo Giugale, senior director of the World Bank’s global practice for macroeconomics and fiscal management, wrote of the index: “It roughly tells you how likely countries in Africa, Europe and the U.S. are to be affected by Ebola. They then used some pretty sophisticated statistical tools to model the economic links between West Africa and the rest of the world. And finally, they built two ‘scenarios’ for how governments and people might behave.”

One scenario contemplates containment of the virus with no more than 20,000 cases. That’s the good version. The bad version is this: Governments make a series of mistakes that lead to 200,000 cases of Ebola.

It is that scenario that they estimate would cost $32.6 billion. (This may sound cynical, but that is still lower than one-quarter of Apple’s annual revenue.)

“What makes all this very interesting is that the final economic toll of Ebola will not be driven by the direct costs of the disease itself — expensive drugs, sick employees and busy caregivers. It will be driven by how much those who are not infected trust their governments,” Mr. Giugale wrote.

Wall Street has long built spreadsheets trying to estimate employment, economic growth figures and the values of businesses. But the economic variables of a true pandemic are almost incalculable. It becomes a series of guesstimates about the psychology of global citizens.

Right now, the economic challenges of the outbreak of Ebola are minimal. Let’s hope they remain that way.

The New York Times

Jules Bianchi crash: Marussia ‘shocked and angered’ by speed allegations | October 15, 2014

Max Chilton and Marussia colleagues, pictured ahead of the Russian Grand Prix. Photo: Getty images.

Max Chilton and Marussia colleagues, pictured ahead of the Russian Grand Prix. Photo: Getty images.

•Formula One team deny telling Bianchi to ignore flags
• ‘At no point did the team urge Jules to drive faster’
• Bianchi in ‘critical but stable’ condition in hospital
• Father Philippe: ‘He will not give up, I’m sure of that’

Marussia have angrily rejected media reports suggesting that the team contributed to Jules Bianchi’s life-threatening crash at the Japanese Grand Prix by telling him to ignore yellow caution flags.

The 25-year-old driver remains in hospital having suffered a diffuse axonal injury when he crashed into a recovery vehicle during the race. Bianchi’s condition is described as “critical but stable”, while his father, Philippe, said on Tuesday: “His doctors have told us this is already a miracle, no one has ever survived such a serious accident. But Jules won’t give up.”

Reacting to what it called “isolated media reports” that the team had urged Bianchi to go faster during the caution period in order to keep ahead of Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, Marussia said: “We are shocked and angered by these allegations.

“At a time when its driver is critically ill in hospital, and the team has made clear that its highest priority is consideration for Jules and his family, it is distressed to have to respond to deeply upsetting rumours and inaccuracies in respect of the circumstances of Jules’ accident. However, given that these allegations are entirely false, the team has no alternative but to address these.

“Jules did slow down under the double waved yellow flags. That is an irrefutable fact, as proven by the telemetry data, which the team has provided to the FIA. In the FIA press conference which took place in Sochi on Friday 10 October, Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Race Director, confirmed that the team had provided such data, that he himself had examined this data and that Jules did slow.

“It is quite clear from the radio transmission and the transcript that at no point during the period leading up to Jules’ accident did the team urge Jules to drive faster, or make any comments suggesting that he should do so.

“The team sincerely hopes that, having clarified these facts, it can now avoid any further distractions to its primary focus at this time, which is providing support for Jules and his family.”

Guardian Sport

It’s not just Ebola. Health care is pretty dangerous work. By Jason Millman | October 14, 2014

Health workers in protective gear. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)

Health workers in protective gear. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)

The Ebola outbreak shows that being on the front lines of disease can be particularly dangerous business for health-care workers. More than 230 workers have died overseas trying to battle the deadly virus, and the infection of a Dallas nurse treating the first U.S. patient diagnosed with Ebola is a reminder that health-care workers put themselves at risk to treat the sick.

When it comes to treating Ebola patients, it’s hard to understate how careful health-care workers must be. As this graphic explains, there’s about 30 distinct steps workers have to take to avoid a risk of infection. After the infection of the Dallas nurse, the CDC is rethinking protocols for care — and that’s after the country’s largest nurse’s union has warned that its members haven’t been adequately trained on Ebola.

Of course, Ebola is a special case, but health-care workers face significant risks on the job. In fact, working in health care is about the unhealthiest profession you could choose.

Health-care and social assistance workers reported 653,900 injury and illness cases in 2010, far more than any other private industry sector, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That’s significantly more than manufacturing and construction, which used to be much more dangerous industries by comparison. The following chart showing injury and illness rates over a 20-year period indicates that health-care’s modest safety improvements have been far outpaced by other sectors.

So, what makes health care work so dangerous? Here’s OSHA’s explanation:

Healthcare workers face a number of serious safety and health hazards. They include bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards, potential chemical and drug exposures, waste anesthetic gas exposures, respiratory hazards, ergonomic hazards from lifting and repetitive tasks, laser hazards, workplace violence, hazards associated with laboratories, and radioactive material and x-ray hazards. Some of the potential chemical exposures include formaldehyde, used for preservation of specimens for pathology; ethylene oxide, glutaraldehyde, and paracetic acid used for sterilization; and numerous other chemicals used in healthcare laboratories.

Not for the faint of heart, basically. Fortunately, the U.S. health-care industry in the past 20 years has significantly reduced the risk of contracting pretty terrible diseases. Between 2003 and 2011, hospitals reported 37 cases of work-related fatalities from exposure to harmful substances — about 14 percent of all workplace deaths reported for hospitals during that time, according to OSHA. And in 2011, exposure to substances accounted for just about 4 percent of all hospital worker injuries resulting in days off.

There’s also been a huge drop in the reported cases of occupational transmissions of hepatitis B since federal regulators issued guidelines nearly 25 years ago to stem the epidemic of infections among health-care workers. Cases of contracting hepatitis B on the job decreased from 17,000 cases in 1983 to 400 in 1995, and there were only 10 reported cases in 2010, according to a Public Citizen report.

The health-care industry has been even better at preventing HIV transmissions. There’s been just 57 cases of documented transmissions and 143 possible transmissions of HIV to U.S. health-care workers on the job, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s been about 15 years since a reported case, though the CDC said it’s possible this could be because of underreporting. Again, the improvements are the result of better federal guidelines for limiting transmission risks on the job, as well as treatments when possible exposures occur.

But a comprehensive 2005 report from the World Health Organization painted a bit of a bleaker picture. The group at the time estimated 35 million people make up the global health workforce, with 2 million incidents each year of workers injured on the job by sharp instruments. Those incidents result in about 66,000 annual transmissions of hepatitis B, 16,000 of hepatitis C and about 1,000 HIV infections among health workers around the world each year, according to WHO estimates.

The Washington Post

Who Killed the Nokia Phone? October 14, 2014

HELSINKI – It seems to be a law in the technology industry that leading companies eventually lose their positions – often quickly and brutally. Mobile-phone champion Nokia, one of Europe’s biggest technology success stories, was no exception, losing its market share in the space of just a few years. Can the industry’s new champions, Apple and Google – not to mention titans in other tech sectors – avoid Nokia’s fate?

In 2007, Nokia accounted for more than 40% of mobile-phone sales worldwide. But consumers’ preferences were already shifting toward touch-screen smartphones. With the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in the middle of that year, Nokia’s market share shrunk rapidly and revenue plummeted. By the end of 2013, Nokia had sold its phone business to Microsoft.

What sealed Nokia’s fate was a series of decisions made by Stephen Elop in his position as CEO, which he assumed in October 2010. Each day that Elop spent at Nokia’s helm, the company’s market value declined by €18 million ($23 million) – making him, by the numbers, one of the worst CEOs in history.

Elop’s biggest mistake was choosing Microsoft’s Windows Phone as the only platform for Nokia’s smartphones. In his “burning platform” memo, Elop compared Nokia to a man on a burning offshore oilrig, facing a fiery death or an uncertain leap into the frigid sea. He was right that business as usual meant certain death for Nokia; he was wrong to choose Microsoft as the company’s life raft.

But Elop was not the only person at fault. Nokia’s board resisted change, making it impossible for the company to adapt to rapid shifts in the industry. Most notably, Jorma Ollila, who had led Nokia’s transition from an industrial conglomerate to a technology giant, was too enamored with the company’s previous success to recognize the change that was needed to sustain its competitiveness.

The company also embarked on a desperate cost-cutting program, which included the elimination of thousands of jobs. This contributed to the deterioration of the company’s once-spirited culture, which had motivated employees to take risks and make miracles. Good leaders left the company, taking Nokia’s sense of vision and direction with them. Not surprising, much of Nokia’s most valuable design and programming talent left as well.

But the largest impediment to Nokia’s ability to create the kind of intuitive, user-friendly smartphone experiences that iPhones and Android devices offered was its refusal to move beyond the solutions that had driven its past success. For example, Nokia initially claimed that it could not use the Android operating system without including Google applications on its phones. But, just before its takeover by Microsoft, Nokia actually built a line of Android-based phones called Nokia X, which did not include Google apps, but instead used Nokia maps and Microsoft search.

Why didn’t Nokia choose Android earlier? The short answer is money. Microsoft promised to pay billions of dollars for Nokia to use Windows Phone exclusively.

Given that Google gives away its Android software, it could not match this offer. But Microsoft’s money could not save Nokia; it is not possible to build an industrial ecosystem with money alone.

Elop’s previous experience at Microsoft was undoubtedly also a factor. After all, in difficult situations, people often turn to what is familiar. In Elop’s case, the familiar just happened to be another sinking company. After hearing that Nokia had chosen Windows, Google director Vic Gundotra tweeted: “Two turkeys do not make an eagle.”

Apple and Google should not rest easy. Like Nokia in the mobile-phone industry – not to mention Microsoft and IBM in the computing industry – one day they will lose their leading position. But there are steps they can take to prolong their success.

First, companies must continue to innovate, in order to improve the chances that disruptive technologies emerge from within. If market leaders implement a system for discovering and nurturing new ideas – and create a culture in which employees are not afraid to make mistakes – they can remain on their industry’s cutting edge.

Second, major firms should keep track of emerging innovators. Instead of forming partnerships with smaller companies that suit their current business model, major firms should work with inventive startups with disruptive potential.

Finally, though successful companies must constantly innovate, they should not be afraid to imitate. If Nokia had immediately begun to develop products modeled after the iPhone, while addressing related patent issues effectively, the mobile-device business would look very different today.

Nokia’s experience also carries an important lesson for regulators, particularly in the European Union. Attempting to quell disruptive technologies and protect existing companies through, for example, antitrust crusades, is not an option. Indeed, that approach would ultimately hurt the consumer, both by impeding technological progress and eliminating price competition – like that from Samsung’s Android devices, which forced Apple to lower iPhone prices.

Herein lies the most important lesson in Nokia’s fall. Technology companies cannot achieve success simply by pleasing their board of directors or even striking multi-million-dollar deals with partners. Whichever company makes the consumer happy – whether a well-established multinational or a dynamic startup – will win. Companies that lose sight of that are doomed.

Project Syndicate

Authors: PEKKA NYKÄNEN
Pekka Nykänen is co-author of the book Operaatio Elop, about Nokia’s rise and decline, which was recently published in Finland.

MERINA SALMINEN
Merina Salminen is co-author of the book Operaatio Elop, about Nokia’s rise and decline, which was recently published in Finland.

An army captain interrupted the NFL cheer performance to propose to his cheerleader girlfriend | Well he’s just earned himself brownie points for LIFE | By Catriona Harvey-Jenner | Oct 14, 2014

Well this is cute. A cheerleading performance at half time of an NFL Arizona Cardinals game earlier this week was interrupted by Air Force Captain Erick Straub, who had recently returned from his duties in the Middle East, so that he could propose to his girlfriend.

The officer wore his full Air Force attire as he strolled onto the pitch in the middle of his girlfriend Claire Thorton’s cheer routine to get down on one knee. And by the looks of it, she was absolutely gobsmacked.

Claire, who cheers by night but is a first grade teacher by day, was surrounded by her team, who all looked just as emotional as she did, while her partner offered up the diamond ring he’d bought for her.

Cosmopolitan UK

Serbia’s match with Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a political message sparked clashes | Oct 14, 2014

Serbia-Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a political message sparked clashes.

Serbia-Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a political message sparked clashes.

The match was already hotly-contested before the flag incident saw the match postponed.

The match was already hotly-contested before the flag incident saw the match postponed.

Serbia’s match with Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a political message sparked clashes involving players and fans on the Partizan Stadium pitch.

The Euro 2016 qualifier, refereed by English official Martin Atkinson, was suspended in the 41st minute at 0-0.

Trouble flared when an Albanian flag and message flew above the pitch and was caught by a Serbia player.

Albania players tried to take it before several fans broke onto the pitch.

Atkinson led the players off the field and, after a delay of around 30 minutes, Uefa confirmed the match had been abandoned.

Albanian fans had been banned from attending the qualifier between the two Balkan rival nations.

Serbia and Albania have a history of turbulent relations, predominantly in relation to the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia refuses to do so, as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.

“It is a regretful situation on which we will report; the referee, myself and the security adviser. The circumstances were such that we couldn’t continue the match,” Uefa match delegate Harry Been said.

“You all saw what happened and I cannot comment on who is to blame or what to blame. I will submit a report with my colleagues to Uefa and Uefa will decide what will happen further.”

Serbian national broadcaster RTS reported that Olsi Rama, the brother of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, was arrested in the stadium’s VIP box for instigating the drone stunt, but this could not be confirmed.

Serbian B92 Television journalist Milos Saranovic, who was at the match, told BBC Sport: “The whole atmosphere before the game was that Serbia and Albania was more politically sensitive than any other game.

“I cannot remember for years so many police at the stadium. Everything looked like a situation that is not normal.
“One small stupid situation made an explosion – that is the shortest way to describe the incident of the night.

“The players have usually been able to keep the atmosphere on the pitch normal. The game was normal for 40 minutes with no small accident on the pitch but when that flag appeared, the heat was going up.”

Albania had been looking for their second win in Group I, having started the day top with four points.

Denmark, in second place before Tuesday’s games, lost to Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a last-minute goal in a 1-0 win.

In other matches, Switzerland beat San Marino 4-0 in Group E – England’s group – while Gibraltar lost 3-0 to Georgia in Group D.

In that section’s other games, Scotland drew 2-2 in Poland while the Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 in Germany.

Northern Ireland recorded their third win in as many games to beat Greece 2-0 and top Group F with nine points.

Finally, in Group F, Hungary edged Faroe Islands 1-0 and Romania won 2-0 in Finland.

BBC Match Report

Stefan Mitrovic pulled down the flag, which sparked the trouble.

Stefan Mitrovic pulled down the flag, which sparked the trouble.

A skirmish between Serbian and Albanian players broke out on the pitch

A skirmish between Serbian and Albanian players broke out on the pitch

The flag is flown above the pitch by a drone with the message 'autochthonous', meaning indigenous

The flag is flown above the pitch by a drone with the message ‘autochthonous’, meaning indigenous

Mitrovic tugs at the strings holding the now-grounded flag to the drone flying above

Mitrovic tugs at the strings holding the now-grounded flag to the drone flying above

Tension boiled over as fans and officials spilled onto the pitch after the flag was pulled down

Tension boiled over as fans and officials spilled onto the pitch after the flag was pulled down

Fans and players clashed on the pitch as tensions reached fever pitch in Belgrade.

Fans and players clashed on the pitch as tensions reached fever pitch in Belgrade.

The players brawl while a chair is launched towards them by another pitch invader.

The players brawl while a chair is launched towards them by another pitch invader.

Albanian players try to take cover as they flee to the tunnel - chair can be seen being thrown about

Albanian players try to take cover as they flee to the tunnel – chair can be seen being thrown about

Serbian riot police try to contain the home supporters after fighting broke out in the pitch.

Serbian riot police try to contain the home supporters after fighting broke out in the pitch.

Serbia fans burn a NATO flag during the Group I qualifying game at the Partizan Stadium.

Serbia fans burn a NATO flag during the Group I qualifying game at the Partizan Stadium.

Hong Kong 0-7 Argentina: Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain net braces | October 14, 2014

Lionel Messi scored twice for Argentina against Hong Kong on Tuesday

Lionel Messi scored twice for Argentina against Hong Kong on Tuesday

Lionel Messi also signed a shirt for a pitch invader late on in the friendly match

Lionel Messi also signed a shirt for a pitch invader late on in the friendly match

•Lionel Messi only came on after an hour but netted his first after six mins

•Nicolas Gaitan also scored twice against Hong Kong
Argentina bounce back after 2-0 loss to Brazil at the weekend

•Messi signs a shirt for a fan after he rushes onto the pitch late on

Argentina made light work of Hong Kong in their second and final friendly of an Asian tour on Tuesday, with Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi both scoring twice.

The Napoli striker enjoyed getting in behind an inexperienced defence and was helped by Messi once the Barcelona forward came on.

Messi struck six minutes after entering the fray, and even had time to sign an autograph for a fan who rushed onto the pitch late on. Nicolas Gaitan also grabbed a double, while Ever Banega opened the scoring in Hong Kong. 

Manchester United winger Angel di Maria was also involved, albeit as a late substitute.

Argentina bounced back from their disappointing 2-0 defeat to Brazil at the weekend, in which Messi missed a hat-trick.

Things are looking up again for the 27-year-old, who said the side were still getting used to Gerardo Martino’s tactics.

‘It is different to Alejandro Sabella,’ he said. ‘We try to adapt quickly to what Tata wants to get right for the Copa America.’

MailOnline 

The Barca man struck a fine second past the defence as Argentina romped to victory

The Barca man struck a fine second past the defence as Argentina romped to victory

A young fan runs up to pitch as the match was delayed by several minutes

A young fan runs up to pitch as the match was delayed by several minutes

Argentina are preparing for the Copa America, and Ever Banega was also on target

Argentina are preparing for the Copa America, and Ever Banega was also on target

Gerardo Martino was happy with the win despite the lowly position

Gerardo Martino was happy with the win despite the lowly position

‘WWE Raw:’ Who’s Afraid of Seth Rollins? | By Kenny Herzog | October 14, 2014

Seth Rollins and Randy Orton face off during 'WWE Monday Night Raw.' (Photo: WWE)

Seth Rollins and Randy Orton face off during ‘WWE Monday Night Raw.’ (Photo: WWE)

1. Who’s Afraid of Seth Rollins?

Let’s forget for a second that Cena and Ambrose’s “Contract on a Pole” (a head-scratching stipulation if there ever was one) main event, which was originally slated for Hell in a Cell, concluded with a bit of a whimper. It’s probably also best to defer judgment on yet another hurried Cena vs. Orton feud until we see how it plays out (plus, both men have been at top form in the ring of late). The real question is: How excited are we for Ambrose vs. Rollins? Or, more to the point, was Rollins really looming as such an enticing prize for whoever snagged that clipboard?

As the war between Ambrose and Cena intensified, it’s become less-and-less clear what they’re fighting for. In recent weeks, Rollins’ in-ring work has amounted to a squash match here or there against the likes of Kofi Kingston, a lot of running and hiding behind Orton and Kane and, last night, narrowly edging out Swagger thanks to a handful of tights. Rollins’ M.O. has been cowardice, and it helped distinguish him as an unambiguous heel. But with Lesnar not around as schoolyard bully, Rollins would benefit from some added mystique, especially if he’s the precious target of WWE’s marquee act and top young face. Otherwise, it’s a long fall from the top of that pole.

Below the Belt:

I’m intrigued by this Orton/Rollins tension, although I’m not sure about the “Here, I just helped humiliate your opponent, take that!” technique of intimidation.
Lana been abusing the bronzer much?
Also, what was with that belated Braves diss?
Rusev does not crush on the mic.
Cesaro not so fluent in quality commentary.
Layla took some really solid bumps.
Loved mixing it up with the opening match.
Not so into that new Ambrose shirt.
That Bray promo had me up until the fog machine.
Time to film some pretaped skits with Miz and Mizdow out to dinner with Maryse, shopping at the mall, etc.
Gotta love Steph and HHH placing the old Trading Places bet.
So, this has been a thing on social media since Orton and Ziggler’s theatrical RKO moment.
Best line of the night: Stephanie, taunting Cena and Ambrose’s “blustering back and forth”: “Oh, you’re the veteran, oh you’re unstable…that’s just talk.”
Worst line of the night: Oh, Sheamus: “Take two brogue kicks and call me in the morning.”
Fan Gesture of the Night: The man feigning choking in the front row while Show and Rusev labored on the outside.
In case you fast-forwarded through commercials: Hate Chrisley? You’ll love Benched! Also, Subway ads have something to do with bacon-strip eyebrows and Michael Strahan is endorsing Metamucil. You didn’t miss much.

VIDEO:

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/wwe-raw-whos-afraid-of-seth-rollins-20141014

Suarez in tell all interview ahead of Real return | Oct 14, 2014

Luis Suarez tries to work the ball past Oman's Abdullsallam al-Mukhain while in action for Uruguay

Luis Suarez tries to work the ball past Oman’s Abdullsallam al-Mukhain while in action for Uruguay

Barcelona (AFP) – Barcelona striker Luis Suarez spoke candidly on Tuesday about his infamous World Cup bite and the Patrice Evra racism row ahead of his return at Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old goal-king is coming to the end of a four-month ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, his third such offence and one he long denied before coming clean.

After a diet of training and friendlies he will be available to make his competitive Barcelona debut against Real on October 25.

Reflecting on the Chiellini attack he told his club’s website: “I’m only human and sometimes it’s hard to face the truth.

“I found it hard to take in and to realise what I had done. Those were days when I didn’t want to know about it,” he explained.

“I didn’t want to listen to anybody, or speak to anybody. I didn’t want to accept it,” he added.

The controversial striker however remained unrepentant over a 2011 incident where he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

He was eventually banned for eight games after being found guilty of repeatedly making reference to Evra’s ethnic origin.

“I was accused without evidence and that’s what grieved me the most,” the Uruguayan said.

“The others were actions when it was me who did wrong. I accepted that and begged forgiveness, but the racism thing, when I was accused without evidence, that did upset me,” commented Suarez, who received widespread support in Uruguay, but was also heavily fined in England for the offence.

The racism incident and the Chiellini bite helped pave the way for his 81 million euros (£65 million, $109 million) transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona in July, the striker feeling the Catalan giants were a better platform for his brilliance.

“If I hadn’t had the attitude and mentality to lead the team, I don’t think Liverpool would have done as well as they did,” Suarez told Barcelona’s site, referring to Liverpool’s stunning 2013-2014 run of wins that saw them miss the Premier League title by a hair’s breadth.

Suarez also spoke at length of his comeback match, saying the Saturday week clash with “Real Madrid in the Spanish capital was written into his destiny.

“You know, I’m the kind of person who believes that things happen for a reason, and out of all 19 teams in the league, it’s precisely against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu that I’ll make my comeback.

“There must be a reason.”

AFP

Suarez celebrates scoring Liverpool's second goal in their 3-2 win over Norwich last season.

Suarez celebrates scoring Liverpool’s second goal in their 3-2 win over Norwich last season.

Suarez scores Liverpool's second goal in their win 4-0 win over Tottenham last season

Suarez scores Liverpool’s second goal in their win 4-0 win over Tottenham last season

Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011 and says it still upsets him

Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011 and says it still upsets him

Evra celebrated in front of Suarez when Manchester United won that season's return fixture.

Evra celebrated in front of Suarez when Manchester United won that season’s return fixture.

Suarez has admitted he was in the wrong when he bit Giorgio Chiellini at last summer's World Cup

Suarez has admitted he was in the wrong when he bit Giorgio Chiellini at last summer’s World Cup

The Prime Minister of Finland Blames Apple for the Country’s Economic Woes | By Lily Hay Newman | Oct 14, 2014

Prime minister Alexander Stubb in August.
Photo by THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images

Prime minister Alexander Stubb in August.
Photo by THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images

Finland’s economy has been struggling for the last few years, and on Friday, Standard & Poor downgraded the country’s debt rating from AAA to AA+. But in an interview with CNBC on Monday, Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb posited an explanation for the decline: Apple.

Stubb pointed out that two of Finland’s biggest industries, mobile innovation in Nokia and paper manufacturing/products, were hobbled by the success of Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad.

“We have two champions which went down,” he said. “A little bit paradoxically I guess one could say that the iPhone killed Nokia and the iPad killed the Finnish paper industry, but we’ll make a comeback.”

Phew, that’s rough. It doesn’t really seem like a paradox … but whatever, the man is clearly upset. Microsoft bought Nokia in April, and CNBC reports that the Finnish Forest Research Institute said there was a “poor situation” for the paper production business in 2013. Perhaps the trauma of layoffs at Rovio, the Finnish company behind the mobile game Angry Birds, was too fresh for Stubb to talk about.

Stubb put a brave face on though and added some positive comments. “Forest is coming back in terms of bio energy and other things. And actually a new Nokia is emerged in terms of (Nokia) Networks,” he said. “Usually what happens is that when you have dire times you get a lot of innovation and I think from the public sector our job is to create the platform for it.”

Hopefully he can make it happen before Apple is in the market for a country-sized, curved-glass campus headquarters.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Dallas nurse with Ebola gets blood from survivor | BY EMILY SCHMALL AND NOMAAN MERCHANT | OCT. 14, 2014

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas nurse infected with Ebola while treating the first patient diagnosed in the U.S. has received a plasma transfusion from a doctor who beat the virus.

Nurse Nina Pham was among about 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, according to medical records. The 26-year-old nurse was in the Liberian man’s room often, from the day he was placed in intensive care until the day before he died last week.

Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields — and sometimes full-body suits — when caring for Duncan, but she became the first person to contract the disease within the United States. Duncan died Wednesday.

Health care workers including Pham were told to monitor themselves by taking their temperatures. She went to the hospital Friday night after finding she had a fever.

As Pham was being treated in isolation Tuesday, the World Health Organization projected that West Africa could see up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week within two months and confirmed the death rate in the current outbreak has risen to 70 percent.

The agency’s assistant director-general, Dr. Bruce Aylward, gave the figures during a news conference in Geneva. Previously, the WHO had estimated the Ebola mortality rate at around 50 percent.

If the world’s response to the crisis isn’t stepped up within 60 days, “a lot more people will die,” Aylward said.

Meanwhile in Berlin, a U.N. medical worker infected with Ebola in Liberia died. The 56-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died overnight of the infection, the St. Georg hospital in Leipzig announced Tuesday.

Members of the Pham family’s church held a special Mass for her in Fort Worth on Monday night. Rev. Jim Khoi, of the Our Lady of Fatima Church, said Pham’s mother told him the nurse had received a transfusion that could save her life.

“Her mom says that she got the blood from the gentleman, a very good guy. I don’t know his name but he’s very devoted and a very good guy from somewhere,” Khoi said.

Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the nonprofit medical mission group Samaritan’s Purse, confirmed that the plasma donation came from Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the U.S. from Liberia to be treated for Ebola. Brantly received an experimental treatment and fought off the virus, and has donated blood to three others, including Pham.

“He’s a doctor. That’s what he’s there to do. That’s his heart,” Blume said.

Brantly said in a recent speech that he also offered his blood for Duncan, but that their blood types didn’t match.

Khoi said Pham’s mother assured him the nurse was comfortable and “doing well,” and that the two women had been able to talk via Skype. She was in isolation and in stable condition, health officials said. Another unidentified person who had close contact with her has also been isolated as a precaution.

Since Pham tested positive for Ebola, public-health authorities have intensified their monitoring of other hospital workers who cared for Duncan.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said he would not be surprised if more fall ill because Ebola patients become more contagious as the disease progresses.

Pham’s name appears frequently throughout the hundreds of pages of medical records provided to The Associated Press by Duncan’s family. They show she was in his room Oct. 7, the day before he died.

Her notes describe nurses going in and out of his room wearing protective gear to treat him and to mop the floor with bleach.

She also notes how she and other nurses ensured Duncan’s “privacy and comfort,” and provided “emotional support.”

Frieden has said a breach of protocol led to the nurse’s infection, but officials are not sure what went wrong. Pham has not been able to point to any specific breach.

Among the things the CDC will investigate is how the workers took off protective gear, because removing it incorrectly can lead to contamination. Investigators will also look at dialysis and intubation — the insertion of a breathing tube in a patient’s airway. Both procedures have the potential to spread the virus.

Members of a Texas task force on Ebola have scheduled their first public hearing for next week. They’ll develop recommendations and a comprehensive state plan to deal with emerging infectious diseases.

Officials said there was a dog in the nurse’s apartment that has been removed to an undisclosed location for monitoring and care. They do not believe the pet shows any signs of Ebola. A dog belonging to an infected Spanish nurse was euthanized, drawing thousands of complaints.

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

PHOTO: This 2010 photo provided by tcu360.com, the yearbook of Texas Christian University, shows Nina Pham, 26, who became the first person to contract the disease within the United States. Records show that Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields and sometimes full-body suits when caring for Thomas Eric Duncan. (AP Photo/Courtesy of tcu360.com)

___

Schmall reported from Fort Worth, Texas. Associated Press writers Mike Stobbe in New York, Martha Mendoza and Maud Beelman in Dallas and Tammy Webber in Chicago also contributed to this report.

Neymar scores all 4 as Brazil beats Japan 4-0 | Oct 14, 2014

Neymar celebrates his first goal in front of a sea of fans in Singapore.

Neymar celebrates his first goal in front of a sea of fans in Singapore.

SINGAPORE (AP) — Neymar scored all four goals Tuesday to give Brazil a 4-0 victory over Japan in a friendly match.

Playing at a neutral venue in Singapore, the Barcelona striker gave his team the lead in the 18th minute after running onto a through ball from Diego Tardelli.

He got his second three minutes after the restart, meeting a long pass from Philippe Coutinho and side-footing past Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, and completed the hat trick in the 77th when he beat Kawashima from close range.

The 22-year-old Neymar rose unmarked in the six-yard box to head in his fourth with nine minutes to go.

It was the fourth straight victory under Dunga for Brazil, which is rebuilding after a semifinal run at the World Cup.

It was a magnificent display from a player on top of his game as Japan failed to cope with Neymar.

It was a magnificent display from a player on top of his game as Japan failed to cope with Neymar.

Fans in the National Stadium in Singapore were backing Japan, but many were happy to see Brazil

Fans in the National Stadium in Singapore were backing Japan, but many were happy to see Brazil

The Barca forward almost got on the score-sheet early on, bending a beautiful free kick over the bar

The Barca forward almost got on the score-sheet early on, bending a beautiful free kick over the bar

Dunga (right) is enjoying a good start to his second spell in charge of Brazil.

Dunga (right) is enjoying a good start to his second spell in charge of Brazil.

Japan had no answer to Neymar's movement, skill and finishing, as he scored a perfect hat-trick.

Japan had no answer to Neymar’s movement, skill and finishing, as he scored a perfect hat-trick.

Neymar runs through to score his second goal after being fed by a wonderful outside-of-the-foot pass

Neymar runs through to score his second goal after being fed by a wonderful outside-of-the-foot pass

The Brazil captain was left unmarked at the far post to head in his fourth.

The Brazil captain was left unmarked at the far post to head in his fourth.

Brazil striker Neymar was in superb form in Singapore, rounding Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima.

Brazil striker Neymar was in superb form in Singapore, rounding Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima.

Like a flock of (metal) birds! See every plane landing at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in one HOUR in a single amazing image | By Chris Kitching | Sep 21, 2014

Photographer Paul Ker snapped a photo of every plane landing at La Guardia Airport

Photographer Paul Ker snapped a photo of every plane landing at La Guardia Airport

•Photographer Paul Ker snapped a photo of every plane landing on a recent summer day between 1pm and 2pm

•He photographed the passenger jets from his home in Woodside, Queens
 
•There are nearly 40 planes in the composite image, amounting to one landing roughly every 90 seconds

A New York photographer has created a fascinating image that reveals the sheer volume of air traffic at one of the city’s airports.

Paul Ker’s composite photo shows every plane landing at LaGuardia Airport on a recent summer day between 1pm and 2pm.

With nearly 40 passenger jets in the image, that amounts to one landing roughly every 90 seconds.

MailOnline

Pistorius’s parole officer was paid by defence | 14 October, 2014

State Prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Photo/Getty images

State Prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Photo/Getty images

The parole officer who recommended correctional supervision for paralympian Oscar Pistorius worked on the matter in her private capacity, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Tuesday.

“It will be the defence that will pay you for this work done?” prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Annette Vergeer during cross-examination.

“That is in fact so, My Lady,” she replied, standing in the witness stand.

She was testifying during sentencing proceedings for Pistorius.

On September 12 Judge Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius guilty of the culpable homicide of his girlfriend, model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp, but not guilty of her murder.

Pistorius had claimed he thought there was a burglar in his toilet when he fired four shots through the locked door in the early hours of February 14 last year, killing Steenkamp. The State had argued he killed her during an argument.

Vergeer told Nel she worked for the State and had a private practice.

She earlier told the court Pistorius should get three years of correctional supervision and community service for the killing.

Nel then asked her about a line in her report, which she compiled for the defence and read to the court earlier: “The accused has accepted responsibility for his actions within his framework.”

Nel wanted to know what she meant by “within his framework”.

After several minutes of back and forth discussion and Masipa intervening, Vergeer said: “That he fired shots through the toilet door because he thought there was an intruder… not because he intended to shoot and kill her.”

During the exchange Steenkamp’s cousin Kim Martins sighed audibly and looked up at the ceiling.

Masipa also found Pistorius guilty of discharging a firearm in public, when he shot from his friend Darren Fresco’s Glock pistol under a table at Tasha’s restaurant in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, in January 2013.

Pistorius was found not guilty on two firearms-related charges – illegal possession of ammunition, and shooting through the open sunroof of a car with his 9mm pistol while driving with friends in Modderfontein on September 30, 2012.

SAPA

Noose-carrying protestor outside the Oscar Trial court says he wants 'harsher punishment.'

Noose-carrying protestor outside the Oscar Trial court says he wants ‘harsher punishment.’

Bianchi will not give up – father | October 14, 2014

F1 drivers formed a 'circle of solidarity' for Jules Bianchi ahead of the Russian Grand Prix

F1 drivers formed a ‘circle of solidarity’ for Jules Bianchi ahead of the Russian Grand Prix

Marussia’s Jules Bianchi “will not give up” despite remaining in a critical condition after crashing at the Japanese GP, says his father Philippe.

The Frenchman, 25, suffered severe head injuries when he collided with a recovery vehicle at Suzuka.

“The situation is desperate,” said Philippe Bianchi. “Every time the telephone goes, we know it could be the hospital to tell us that Jules is dead.

“He will not give up, I’m sure of that. I can see it. I believe it.”

He added in an interview with Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport: “I speak to him. I know he can hear me.

“His doctors have told us that this is already a miracle, no one has ever survived such a serious accident. But Jules won’t give-up.

“His trainer Andrea says that if there is one person who can make it happen with his will, it’s Jules.”

Philippe said the family have been touched by the show of support from other Formula 1 drivers, who gathered at the front of the grid ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, arms around each other’s shoulders, forming a ‘circle of solidarity’ for Jules.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Philippe. “It touched us very deeply. We thank every one of them. So many of them have been in touch, written to me; [Fernando] Alonso, [Jean-Eric] Vergne, [Felipe] Massa have given strong messages.

“Hamilton wrote me a beautiful email in which he says that if there is anything he can do, he’s there. Rossi and Marquez from Moto GP too.”

Philippe also said that he is using the accident of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who continues his recovery at home after suffering a head injury in a skiing accident in December, as a reference point.

I was very sad when he got hurt,” said Philippe. “I kept wondering, like every one else ‘Why don’t they tell us more about how he is?’.

“But now I’m in the same position I understand. Everyone keeps asking me how Jules is but I can’t reply, there is no answer. It’s very serious, but he’s stable.

“One day he seems a bit better, other days a bit worse. The doctors don’t say. The damage from the accident is very bad but we don’t know how it will evolve.

“Even with Schumacher it took months to come out of the coma. [FIA president] Jean Todt said he hopes Michael will one day be able to have a normal life. One day I hope we can say the same about Jules.”

He added: “It’s tough. In a week the life of this family has been destroyed. What are we doing here? Living a nightmare in a place very far from home.

“But when Jules gets a bit better we can transfer him, maybe to Tokyo and things will be a bit easier. But who knows when that will happen. If it will happen. We have no certainties, we just have to wait.”

BBC Sport

Amal Clooney flies out to Athens to advise Greece on how to get Britain to return the Elgin Marbles | Oct 13, 2014

Amal Clooney arrives today at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, Greece

Amal Clooney arrives today at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, Greece

•Amal Clooney, 36, arrives in Athens for talks on returning Elgin Marbles

•Dressed in white cardigan and khaki trouser, she appeared in good spirits
 
•She will hold meetings with Greek government officials about their return

•Parthenon sculptures are currently on display at British Museum, London

•New husband waded into dispute earlier this year, favouring Greek side

•Amal has changed professional name to Amal Clooney – without maiden name – according to listing on law firm Doughty Street Chambers’ site

It will go down in history as one of the most glamorous celebrity weddings of all time.

But the honeymoon is over for Amal Clooney who jetted out to Greece today to advise the country’s government on how best to persuade Britain to return the Elgin Marbles.

Dressed in a simple white cardigan and khaki trousers, the new Mrs Clooney was spotted chatting happily to British Airways staff at the check-in gates at London’s Heathrow airport. She later landed in Athens to a flurry of media attention.

The 36-year-old, and her boss, Geoffrey Robertson QC, of London’s Doughty Street chambers, will hold a series of meetings with government officials during their stay, relating to the return of the Parthenon sculptures that are presently on display in the British Museum

It comes two weeks after Mrs Clooney married actor George Clooney in a lavish wedding in Venice, Italy, on September 27, which reportedly cost around £8million.

Since the ceremony, the human rights laywer has changed her professional name to Amal Clooney – losing her maiden name – according to a listing on the website of Doughty Street chambers.

It reads: ‘Amal Clooney is a barrister specialising in international law, extradition and criminal law.’ 

Daily Mail

The new Mrs Clooney (left), and her boss, Geoffrey Robertson QC (right), of London’s Doughty Street

The new Mrs Clooney (left), and her boss, Geoffrey Robertson QC (right), of London’s Doughty Street

Mrs Clooney is pictured smiling as she arrives at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in central Athens

Mrs Clooney is pictured smiling as she arrives at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in central Athens

The human rights lawyer attracted a lot of attention from the media as she landed in Athens

The human rights lawyer attracted a lot of attention from the media as she landed in Athens

Massive accident in Alberton as petrol tanker loses control | October 14, 2014

N12 Accident: This Cheverolet Avio caught fire after being hit.

N12 Accident: This Cheverolet Avio caught fire after being hit.

A truck reportedly crashed into 20 cars at N12 Voortrekker offramp.

A truck reportedly crashed into 20 cars at N12 Voortrekker offramp.

More than 20 vehicles were hit by a petrol tanker which went out of control on the N12 in Alberton this morning, paramedics said.

“A petrol tanker lost control heading down the N12 near Voortrekker Road in Alberton,” ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said.

“He collided with multiple vehicles.”

Paramedics are treating the injured.

Netcare911 spokesperson Santi Steinmann said a critically injured patient was airlifted to hospital.

It was believed the accident happened around 7.30am.

Ekurhuleni metro police were not immediately available for comment.

Sapa

The Future of Syria | SEP 29, 2014

DENVER – “Men and nations,” the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once observed, “do behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” Will this be the case for the United States with respect to Syria – the most intractable and dangerous issue in today’s Middle East?

Until now, US policy has boiled down to pinprick bombings against Sunni extremists and an effort to train some 5,000 Syrian “moderate oppositionists,” who presumably would defeat the other Sunnis, vanquish President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, and finally march victoriously into Damascus – perhaps with a flyover by US aircrafts. Thus, the US has continued to do the wrong – or at best inadequate – thing: listening to and, worse, believing those who have been part of the problem.

President Barack Obama is right that the destruction of the Islamic State is a long-term proposition. But, though Obama correctly identified the Islamic State as what the US does not want in the region, he failed to identity what the US does want for Syria – for which America should be galvanizing support in the region and in the broader international community. Just as Iraq cannot be governed by Shia alone, Syria cannot be effectively governed solely by and on behalf of the Sunni majority.

Syria is the proverbial problem from hell, a country whose borders have little to do with the tribal or sectarian identities found in the Levant. Syria’s borders, as many have noted, were hurriedly and secretly drawn a century ago by the foreign ministers of France and Britain. Syria will never have a day when someone does not mention this fact, or propose a new set of facts. Even the Islamic State, for which history seems to have ended in the seventh century, has pointed out the colonial legacy of the region’s borders.

But the Sykes-Picot line is not Syria’s uniquely underlying problem. After all, borders in Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and North America are rooted in complex histories that few of us would ever want to relive. In the Middle East, any effort to alter borders is likely to create many more problems than it resolves.

The problems that the US is encountering in Syria have a far more recent pedigree. In the wake of the Arab Spring, and amid growing unrest among Syrians seeking an end to the brutal Assad regime, the US and France sent their ambassadors to visit Hama in July 2011 to urge unity among the fledgling opposition movement. Hama was known for its Sunni population and anti-Assad sentiment, which frequently boiled over into violent protests and even more violent government crackdowns. It was also well known as a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood activity.

The visit certainly did not unite the opposition. The most important result was the elimination of any possibility of dealing with the Assad government. Indeed, the US decision to side overtly with protesters in Hama spelled the end of any influence over the Alawites, the tribe on which Assad’s regime is based, effectively marginalizing the US.

Syria’s problem is not simply Assad’s presence in power; removing his regime would not by itself harmonize the interests embedded in the country’s patchwork quilt of ethnic and sectarian identities. A far more sustained and thoughtful consideration of Syria’s future, and how the country will be governed democratically, is needed.

Obama has likened his Syria policy to the sustained operations against terrorist cells in the Horn of Africa. No doubt, this approach must be included. But, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey implied when he opened the door to a discussion of a US ground component in the campaign against the Islamic State, US military power cannot be used incrementally and indecisively. It needs to be an element in the solution to a conflict that shows little sign of abating on its own.

There are three concentric circles of US diplomatic engagement: the successful effort in Baghdad to push former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki out and thereby try to win back Sunni hearts and minds; the effort to deepen dialogue with regional states such as Saudi Arabia; and the broader effort to engage international leaders. The Obama administration has used its effort to remove Maliki as a springboard to improve its relationships in the region. But it is far from clear whether regional partners are prepared to cooperate with a Shia-led Iraq at all.

Important as this regional diplomacy is, a US approach that includes unitary governance in Iraq will be problematic, given the reality of Shia leadership. The current thinking about eventual political solutions envisage provisional elections, followed by a constitutional process that the warring parties accept. But the realities on the ground make it highly doubtful that any election process could result in a provisional authority able to create a sustainable political system.

This state of affairs argues for diplomacy at the international level to identify a workable plan for Syria’s future that reasonable people can support. Syria may be unique, but the problems of governing a multi-ethnic country are not. Many of the solutions (a bicameral parliament and highly decentralized provincial structures, for example) are well known.

There will be those who argue that identifying the outlines of an eventual political solution is patronizing to Syrians. But when a country’s dysfunctional governance has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and threatens neighboring countries, such complaints have no place in the debate.

Project Syndicate

Christopher R. Hill, former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, was US Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, Macedonia, and Poland, a US special envoy for Kosovo, a negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords, and the chief US negotiator with North Korea from 2005-2009.

Iceland: Only 26% possession and yet still managed to beat the 2014 World Cup semi-finalists | October 14, 2014

Iceland top Euro 2016 qualifying Group A, with Netherlands six points behind in third

Iceland top Euro 2016 qualifying Group A, with Netherlands six points behind in third

The Netherlands were beaten in Iceland to suffer their second defeat in three Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Two goals from Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson kept Iceland top of Group A, six points above the Dutch, who came third at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

In Wales’ Group B, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Belgium drew 1-1, while Omer Damari scored a hat-trick as Israel beat Andorra 4-1.

Southampton’s Graziano Pelle scored the only goal as Italy defeated Malta 1-0.

Pelle, 29, was making his debut in a match that saw both sides reduced to 10 men as Malta’s Michael Mifsud was sent off after 27 minutes, before Italian Leonardo Bonucci was dismissed with 17 minutes remaining.

It has been a terrible start to the Netherlands’ campaign for new boss Guus Hiddink, who took over the national side in the summer after Louis van Gaal left to join Manchester United.

The Dutch lost their first Group A game 2-1 in Czech Republic and needed to come from behind to beat Kazakhstan 3-1 on Friday, before losing in Reykjavik.

Elsewhere, the most emphatic win was Croatia’s 6-0 demolition of Azerbaijan in Group H, with Ivan Perisic netting twice and ex-Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric also on the scoresheet.

In the same group, Norway beat Bulgaria 2-1, with Martin Odegaard making his competitive international debut to become the youngest player to appear in a European Championship qualifier match, at 15 years and 300 days.

Meanwhile, in Group A, Czech Republic beat Kazakhstan 4-2 and Latvia drew 1-1 with Turkey.

BBC Sport

Nigeria’s global lesson for quashing Ebola | By William Wallis in Lagos | October 14, 2014

Bucking the regional trend & despite hurdles, Nigeria seems to have stopped Ebola spread.

Bucking the regional trend & despite hurdles, Nigeria seems to have stopped Ebola spread.

When Liberian development consultant Patrick Sawyer collapsed in the arrivals hall of Lagos airport with the symptoms of Ebola in July, the initial reaction, both inside and outside Nigeria, was close to panic.

The fear was that Nigeria’s rickety, overstretched health service would be unable to contain the deadly virus. In a sign of the strains the system was under, Nigerian doctors were on strike for higher pay when Mr Sawyer entered the country.

Against the odds, however, public health officials say one of the world’s more chaotic nations has provided an object lesson in how to deal with Ebola. It is a lesson that could prove salutary for western governments scrambling to come up with their own response.

For public-health experts, the idea of Ebola gaining a grip in Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy – is a nightmare scenario. There are 170m Nigerians, eight times the combined population of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the disease is raging. The country’s peripatetic elites and prolific traders have connections across the globe.

Yet Nigeria has quashed its outbreak – and is now just a week short of being clear of a live case for 42 days, the period required by the World Health Organisation before it can be officially declared Ebola free.

Dr Simon Mardel, a global specialist in emerging pathogens, describes the effects of the disease as a series of vicious circles. These attack the individual first and then the surrounding society, he says. On both counts Nigeria appears to have broken the cycle.

That outcome, far from assured at the outset, is the result of a rare national effort that saw the Lagos state government, federal institutions, the private sector and global non-governmental organisations all pulling in the same direction to defeat the disease.

Together they have provided hope at a time when public confidence in the state has been knocked by large-scale corruption scandals and the poor performance of the army in combating Islamist insurgents in the country’s north.

“President [Bill] Clinton, when he came here 14 years ago, said that from what he could see there is no problem Nigerians can’t fix if they get together,” says Dr Benjamin Ohiaeri, director at the First Consultants clinic where Sawyer was taken on July 20 and later died.

Like the current case in Texas, Nigeria’s outbreak was the result of a lone traveller entering from Liberia. Dr Ohiaeri’s clinic bore the brunt of the tragedy that subsequently unfolded and it was partly thanks to the courage of his staff in preventing Sawyer from leaving the premises that the disease did not spread further.

Eleven of his staff and their family members contracted Ebola, many in the 48 hours between Sawyer’s admission and the positive result of the laboratory tests. Four of them later died. But Nigeria got its act together quickly after that.

An emergency presidential decree enabled officials to access mobile phone records and empowered them to lean on law-enforcement agencies where necessary to track down people at risk. Thereafter, a strict system to monitor potential cases was put in place by the Lagos state government.

“They were very organised. They put resources into tracking down every contact. In the US the wife [of the first Ebola victim in Texas] was left for five days with contaminated material. Here they disinfected houses immediately,” says Dr Eilish Cleary, a public health expert on contract to WHO who has been debriefing the Nigerian survivors.

Senegal, which borders Guinea, where the current outbreak of Ebola took root, has been even more successful in containing an initial scare to just one case.

In total 20 Nigerians became infected, of whom eight died. Teams of state officials and volunteers tracked down more than 800 people who had primary or secondary contact with the Sawyer case. These included the congregations of two churches in the city of Port Harcourt where an infected man had worshipped, according to Dr Tochi Okwor, who runs the public awareness campaign in Lagos state.

In addition, hundreds of private clinics have been trained in identifying Ebola patients and keeping them away from the community until they are evacuated to isolation wards. A social media campaign set up in the wake of the first case by volunteer technology experts, manning twitter handles, web sites and helplines, complemented these efforts.

In the process, according to Dr Cleary and other top World Health Organisation officials, Nigeria has shown the importance of logistics and public information awareness on top of medical care in containing the disease.

Nigeria was fortunate that Mr Sawyer entered the country through the airport, into the commercial capital and straight to a top private clinic. The country could be far more vulnerable, according to Dr Mardel, if another case arrives by land, and ends up in a remote public hospital.

But if Ebola strikes again, the country will be better prepared. “People are determined that they don’t want Ebola in Nigeria. We could have had much higher casualty figures. But within weeks we would still have got it right,” says Dr Okwor.

Treatment: Rehydration seen as key for patients No one would guess that Dr Ada Igonoh recently emerged from two weeks battling Ebola in an isolation ward in Lagos.

Radiating good health, the doctor, who was infected at her Lagos clinic by Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian who brought Ebola to Nigeria, insists there is no magic formula or miracle cure to thank for her recovery. She credits plenty of water and her own determination to survive for her ability to defeat the deadly virus.

Her experience is consistent with other survivors of the disease in Nigeria – all of whom engaged in an endurance test of rehydration as soon as they were diagnosed, drinking up to five litres of a solution of water combined with rehydration salts each day.

“The disease knocks every system slightly. But when it comes to dehydration it is shocking. It takes you by surprise every time,” says Dr Simon Mardel. “Behind every survivor there is a heroic tale of rehydration.”

Dr Mardel, who has examined more Ebola patients than anyone, believes there are important public health lessons to be learnt from Nigeria’s survivors. He argues the case, in a forthcoming article for the Lancet magazine, that far more attention needs to be given to providing rehydration than is currently practised in the worst affected countries.

This means ensuring that patients are drinking a rehydration solution consistently during the early stages of the disease. Later it becomes much more difficult.

“With Ebola things multiply – they don’t add up,” he says, adding that if you miss a day of water, you have to make up for it the next with twice as much. “Changing this from an epidemic of fear to a disease that is treatable is central to defeating this outbreak,” he says.

The psychology of patients is key. In Nigeria, according to World Health Organisation officials, those victims who believed that only medicine from the west could save them, mostly died. Those who lived, would not have done so without simple H2O combined with salts.

“All of them decided to survive. Because they wanted to survive they forced themselves to take more oral rehydration solution. The mind has huge power over the body. That’s not talked about enough,” says Dr Eilish Cleary, the Ebola expert.

FT

North Korea’s Kim resurfaces after weeks out of public eye | BY FOSTER KLUG | OCT 14, 2014

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) is seen during an inspection tour of a newly built housing

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) is seen during an inspection tour of a newly built housing

SEOULNorth Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has made his first public appearance in five weeks, state media reported Tuesday, ending an absence that drove a frenzy of global speculation that something was amiss with the country’s most powerful person.

The resumption of the “field guidance” tours that had been a regular part of Kim’s public persona before he stopped showing up in media reports for 40 days allowed the country’s massive propaganda apparatus to resume doing what it does best — glorify the third generation of the Kim family to rule — and will tamp down, at least for the moment, rumors of coups and serious health problems.

Kim, shown in the North’s leading newspaper smiling and walking with a cane, toured the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District. He vowed to take the “necessary steps with loving care” to turn the area into a “world class science city,” a dispatch early Tuesday from the official Korean Central News Agency said in its typical fawning style. The North didn’t say when the visit happened, nor did it address the leader’s health.

Before Tuesday’s dispatch, Kim had last been seen in the media at a Sept. 3 concert. Then, nothing.

Still, from “Saturday Night Live” spoofs to the wild theories of journalists across the globe trying to parse his growing absence from the public eye, Kim captured nearly as many headlines as he did when he threatened to nuke his enemies last year.

This bewildering ability to command attention by doing nothing said a lot about the North’s propaganda focus on Kim as the center of everything. Remove for 40 days the sun around which that propaganda spins and the international media, both traditional and social, exploded with curiosity.

And while there was plenty of informed analysis from experts and frequent visitors to Pyongyang that said it probably wasn’t anything that serious, there seemed to be even more thinly sourced speculation.

Kim was, by turns, reported to be suffering from gout, from diabetes, from a brain hemorrhage, from a heart ailment, from a leg injury that required surgery from a French doctor, from mental illness or, according to a head-turning British report, from a cheese addiction. There were rumors of coups.

The speculation during his absence was fed by Kim missing several high-profile events that he normally attends and his description in an official documentary last month as experiencing “discomfort.” Archive footage from August showed him overweight and limping.

The South Korean government saw no signs to indicate any major problems.

At a South Korean parliamentary hearing Monday, Choi Yoon-hee, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a lawmaker that whatever health problems Kim might have, they “are not severe enough to disrupt his status as the ruler of the country.”

No unusual troop movements or other signs of a possible coup emerged. Diplomacy at the highest level continued: Three members of his inner circle made a surprise visit to the South, something analysts say would be impossible without the leader’s blessing. Foreign tourists and aid workers still traveled to the North, and there were no reports of new restrictions or warnings for diplomats.

There’s also nothing particularly unusual about North Korean leaders laying low for extended periods. Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, no fan of the limelight in his later years, would disappear at times; Kim Jong Un, who seems to genuinely like being at the center of things, took off without a word for three weeks in 2012.

Part of the interest in Kim’s absence stemmed from worries about what would happen to the country if the leader died without securing a succession.

Kim Jong Un emerged as the anointed successor after Kim Jong Il disappeared from public view in 2008 — by most accounts because of a stroke. The elder Kim died in late 2011.

Kim Jong Un’s two older brothers, for whatever reasons, were deemed unfit to rule by Kim Jong Il, and little is known about his sister.

Kim reportedly does have a direct heir who may one day extend the Kim dynasty into a fourth generation. Probably not soon, though. She’s believed to be a toddler.

AP

These Maps Show The Drunkest Countries In The World | JENNIFER POLLAND | SEP. 22, 2014

Perhaps surprisingly, Russia is not the drunkest country in the world. That title goes to Belarus, whose residents enjoy just over 2 liters of alcohol more a year than Russians.

Wasted Worldwide, a website that compares drinking habits around the world, created a series of maps that reveal which countries drink the most, what types of alcohol are most popular, and which countries have the most alcohol-related deaths. To create these maps, they used data from the 2014 Global Status Report On Alcohol and Health. 

They’ve allowed us to publish some of their maps below. 

Belarus drinks the most alcohol in the world, with an average consumption of 17.5 liters. Russia comes in second with an average consumption of 15.1 liters. The United States consumes a a relatively reasonable average of 9.2 liters, which is also less than the UK (11..6 liters) and Ireland (11.9 liters).

Unsurprisingly, countries in the Middle East and northern Africa drink the least: People in Libya and Mauritania drink an average 0.1 liters, Saudi Arabia drinks 0.2 liters, and Egypt drinks 0.4 liters.

Men drink the most alcohol in Belarus, consuming an incredibly high average 27.5 liters. Russian men also like their alcohol, drinking an average of 23.9 liters, as do Romanian men, who drink 22.6 liters. American men drink 13.6 liters on average.

Women generally drink less than men, but in some countries they drink a lot. Women in Belarus still drink the most of any country, consuming an average 9.1 liters of alcohol. Moldova comes in right behind at 8.9 liters. Russian and Czech women drink an average 7.8 liters, Portuguese women drink 7.6 liters, and Australian and Ukrainian women drink 7.2 liters.

Surprisingly, beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Yemen and Bhutan, where it’s the only type of alcohol consumed. It’s also the most popular drink in Vietnam (97.3%), Namibia (96.7%), Indonesia (84.5%), Myanmar (82.6%), and Mexico (75.7%).

Wine is the most popular beverage of choice in Europe by far. In Italy, 65.6% of the alcohol consumed is wine, in France it’s 56.4%, and in Portugal it’s 55.5%. It’s also a popular drink in Uruguay (59.9%) and Argentina (48%)

Haitians love their hard liquor: 99.6% of the alcohol consumed there is spirits. It’s also the most popular form of alcohol in Saudi Arabia (97.9%), North Korea (94.9%), India (93.9%), and Liberia (88.1%).

Clarkson ‘Exaggerated’ Top Gear Number Plate Row | Monday 13 October 2014

The number plate that has caused controversy.

The number plate that has caused controversy.

Jeremy Clarkson has been accused of “fabricating” his version of events after a Top Gear crew had to leave Argentina amid a row over a number plate which was interpreted by some as a reference to the Falklands War.

The country’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alicia Castro, wrote in The Independent that the presenter had told an “exaggerated story”.

The BBC show’s crew had to leave Argentina after trouble erupted when it emerged they were using a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL, which some suggested could refer to the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina over control of the territory.

Clarkson wrote in his Sunday Times column that he and his crew were attacked by an angry crowd armed with rocks and pickaxe handles, and he later told The Sun it was “the most terrifying thing” he had ever been involved in.

An executive producer denied the number plate was a “stunt” and the BBC said it was a coincidence and had not been chosen deliberately.

Ms Castro, referencing Clarkson’s column, wrote: “The presenter – in his column entitled ‘Make no mistake, lives were at risk’ – fabricates an exaggerated story. He describes being ambushed by a mob branding ‘pickaxes’.

“Later, switching narrative style, he recounts another scene: Clarkson claims that a mob was trying to burn the crew’s cars – which I understand did not actually happen – and he goes so far as to affirm that ‘one said they were going to barbecue us and eat the meat’.

“Clarkson’s imperialistic imagination is remarkably fertile: Argentina has never practised cannibalism. We do, it is true, eat a lot of beef. But we have never eaten a journalist.”

Ms Castro said the crew were given safe passage across the border into Chile by the authorities when locals’ anger threatened to boil over.

But she said: “As he ends a tale designed to portray Argentines as savages – and without acknowledging the security extended to him by the government of Tierra del Fuego – Clarkson reflects on what might have caused the protests.

“He reasons that the troubles were in no way linked to his provocative behaviour, but that they were in fact down to other causes: ‘We were English’, he concludes.”

Earlier this week, Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman said the presenters had bought the car in the UK because it was the best available vehicle of its kind and no one had noticed the number plate.

Richard Hammond, another presenter on the show, has said the team “felt a real chill” when they realised the number plate could cause offence.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2, Hammond said it would have been “a terrible gag if we’d planned it – we wouldn’t joke about soldiers, we simply wouldn’t. That one was a genuine accident”.

Undulatus Asperatus | By Phil Plait | October 11, 2014

I think someone opened one of the seven seals.
Photo by Agathman / wikimedia commons

I think someone opened one of the seven seals.
Photo by Agathman / wikimedia commons

I have been known, over the course of the past few years, to post pictures of the odd cloud or two. And I do mean odd. Sometimes they’re photos I’ve taken myself (and some of which have been very difficult to identify), sometimes they’re from machines in space, and sometimes from humans in space.

Still, I’m not a cloud chaser per se; you won’t see me hopping in my car and driving hundreds of kilometers to spy a weird cloud formation someone tweeted about, for example. On the other hand, if someone were to tell me they saw something like this nearby, well, I’d think pretty hard about getting my car keys and going for a look-see.

I have been known, over the course of the past few years, to post pictures of the odd cloud or two. And I do mean odd. Sometimes they’re photos I’ve taken myself (and some of which have been very difficult to identify), sometimes they’re from machines in space, and sometimes from humans in space.

Still, I’m not a cloud chaser per se; you won’t see me hopping in my car and driving hundreds of kilometers to spy a weird cloud formation someone tweeted about, for example. On the other hand, if someone were to tell me they saw something like this nearby, well, I’d think pretty hard about getting my car keys and going for a look-see.

Those are undulatus asperatus (agitated or turbulent wave) clouds, a type of cloud that is starting to get consideration as a wholly new category. From what I can tell, they are formed when there’s rising air that creates wide-spread cloud cover, together with wind shear that blows across the rising air. This can set up gravity waves, where air moves up and down as buoyancy and gravity battle it out, creating long rippling waves that carry the clouds up and down.

You can find out more about this on Slate’s Atlas Obscura blog. I urge everyone to bookmark that blog; it is always a fascinating tour of the weirder and wonderfuller places on our planet.

And let me leave you with this simply jaw-dropping video of undulatus asperatus in action. Make it high-def and full screen, because seriously: Holy wow.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/10/11/undulatus_asperatus_a_new_category_of_cloud.html

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Why we need the UN’s sustainable development goals | By Jeffrey D. Sachs | Sep 24 2014

To fight poverty do we need to fight inequality & environmental destruction?

To fight poverty do we need to fight inequality & environmental destruction?

Sustainable development is the central drama of our time. The world’s governments are currently negotiating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) for the period 2015-2030, following the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which ran from 2000 until next year.

The MDGs focus on ending extreme poverty, hunger and preventable disease. They have been the most important global development goals in the UN’s history. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty, but also add the challenges of ensuring more equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of curbing the dangers of human-induced climate change.

The starting point of sustainable development is our crowded planet. There are now 7.2 billion people on the planet, roughly nine times the 800 million people estimated to have lived in 1750, at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The world population continues to rise rapidly, by around 75 million people per year. Soon enough there will be 8 billion by the 2020s, and these billions of people are looking for their foothold in the world economy.

The world economy is vast, growing rapidly (by 3–4% per year in scale), and highly unequal in the distribution of income within countries and between countries. Ours is a world of fabulous wealth and extreme poverty: billions of people enjoy longevity and good health unimaginable in previous generations, yet at least 1 billion people live in such abject poverty that they struggle for mere survival every day.

The world economy is not only remarkably unequal but also remarkably threatening to earth itself. The unprecedentedly large scale of the world economy is creating an unprecedented environmental crisis, one that threatens the lives and well-being of billions of people and the survival of millions of other species on the planet, and perhaps even our own.

Thus we arrive at the Age of Sustainable Development. As an intellectual pursuit, sustainable development tries to make sense of the interactions of three complex systems: the world economy, the global society and the planet’s physical environment. How does an economy of 7.2 billion people and $90 trillion gross world output change over time? How does a global society of such inequality of income, wealth and power function? And what happens when the world economy is on a collision course with the physical environment?

As a normative (or ethical) outlook, Sustainable development suggests a set of societal objectives or goals to which the world should aspire. The world’s nations will soon adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) precisely to help guide the future course of economic and social development on the planet. Sustainable development: SDGs call for socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.

To achieve the economic, social and environmental objectives of the SDGs, a fourth objective must also be achieved: good governance. Among these core functions of government are the provision of social services such as health care and education; the provision of infrastructure such as roads, ports and power; the protection of individuals from crime and violence; the promotion of basic science and new technologies; and the implementation of regulations to protect the environment. And in our world today, good governance cannot refer only to governments. Our well-being depends on the world’s multinational powerful companies obeying the law, respecting the natural environment and helping the communities in which they operate, especially to eradicate extreme poverty.

Thus the normative side of sustainable development envisions four basic pillars of a good society and a globally integrated world community: economic prosperity; social inclusion and cohesion; environmental sustainability; and good governance by major social actors, including governments and business. It’s a lot to ask for, and there is no shortage of challenges to achieving sustainable development in practice. Yet the stakes are high. Achieving sustainable development on our crowded, unequal and degraded planet is the most important challenge facing our generation. The SDGs must be the compass, the lodestar, for the future development of the planet during the period 2015 to mid-century.

The world’s governments, within the framework of the United Nations, are currently attempting to negotiate a framework to help guide humanity through the very difficult environmental crises of our own making. 2015 is the most important year of diplomacy on sustainable development in at least 15 years. There are three mega-summits next year. The first is on Financing for Development, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015. The next is to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, at the UN headquarters in New York, in September 2015. The third is on climate change  the COP21 (21st Conference of Parties) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – in Paris in December 2015. It is vital that these negotiations be successful, with the UN playing a central role in leading the world’s governments to set a global sustainable development framework and then to implement that framework in the decades to come.

Setting Millennium Development Goals has made a huge difference in people’s lives, particularly in the poorest places on the planet. Sub-Saharan Africa has benefited enormously from the MDGs, and we can learn from that success in designing the SDGs. As special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the MDGs since 2001 (Kofi Annan until 2006, and Ban Ki-moon since 2007), I have seen how seriously many African governments take the targets, using them to set priorities, catalyse stakeholders, increase public awareness and motivation, and hold ministries accountable. Over time, the UN and the high-income countries’ donor agencies increasingly used the MDGs to help organize their own work in Africa as well. While the MDGs are not the only factor underpinning the improvements since 2000, they have played a huge role.

When UN member states turn to the next set of global development goals, they should learn from the MDGs. First, by keeping the list of SDGs relatively short – no more than 10 – the SDGs will be easier to remember and easier to support. Second, all governments, rich and poor, should be accountable for meeting the SDGs as implementers. Third, the SDGs should build on the MDGs. The MDGs helped to cut global extreme poverty by more than half. The SDGs should take on the challenge of ending extreme poverty for good. Finally, the SDGs should mobilize expert groups around the key challenges of sustainable development. A process of expert advice and problem solving is urgently needed on issues such as low-carbon energy, sustainable agriculture, resilient cities and universal health coverage.

Fifty years ago, President John F Kennedy declared: “By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it and to move irresistibly towards it.” The MDGs have helped to play that role in the fight against poverty. The SDGs can do the same for the even more complex global challenge of achieving sustainable development.

Author: ProfessorJeffrey Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals. His book, The Age of Sustainable Development, will be published in March 2015.

Image: People walk across a street in Tokyo. REUTERS/Stringer.

What monkeys and the Queen taught me about inequality | Russell Brand | Monday 13 October 2014

Russell Brand at a G20 protest in London. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

Russell Brand at a G20 protest in London. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

Poverty and wealth side by side in Bombay, India. Photograph: Viviane Moos/Corbis

Poverty and wealth side by side in Bombay, India. Photograph: Viviane Moos/Corbis

We humans have an inherent sense of fairness. Deep down, we don’t like inequality. In a second extract from his new book, Russell Brand goes in search of ways to build a more just world

When travelling in impoverished regions in galling luxury, as I have done, you have to undergo some high-wire ethical arithmetic to legitimise your position. If you can’t geographically separate yourself from poverty, then you have to do it ideologically. You have to believe inequality is OK. You have to accept the ideas that segregate us from one another and nullify your human instinct for fairness.

Edward Slingerland, a professor of ancient Chinese philosophy at Stanford University, demonstrated this instinct to me with the use of hazelnuts. As we spoke, there was a bowl of them on the table. “Russell,” he said, scooping up a handful, “we humans have an inbuilt tendency towards fairness. If offered an unfair deal, we will want to reject it. If I have a huge bowl of nuts and offer you just one or two, how do you feel?”

The answer was actually quite complex. Firstly, I dislike hazelnuts, considering them to be the verminous titbits of squirrels. Secondly, they were my hazelnuts anyway; we were in my house. Most pertinently though, I felt that it was an unfair offering when he had so many nuts. He explained that human beings and even primates have an instinct for fairness even in situations where this instinct could be seen as detrimental. “You still have more nuts now than before,” he chirped, failing to acknowledge that all the nuts and indeed everything in the entire house belonged to me.

We then watched a clip on YouTube where monkeys in adjacent cages in a university laboratory perform the same task for food. Monkey A does the task and gets a grape – delicious. Monkey B, who can see Monkey A, performs the same task and is given cucumber – yuck. Monkey B looks pissed off but eats his cucumber anyway. The experiment is immediately repeated and you can see that Monkey B is agitated when his uptown, up-alphabet neighbour is again given a grape. When he is presented with the cucumber this time, he is furious – he throws it out the cage and rattles the bars. I got angry on his behalf and wanted to give the scientist a cucumber in a less amenable orifice. I also felt a bit pissed off with Monkey A, the grape-guzzling little bastard. I’ve not felt such antipathy towards a primate since that one in Raiders of the Lost Ark with the little waistcoat betrayed Indy.

Slingerland explained, between great frothing gobfuls of munched hazelnut, that this inherent sense of fairness is found in humans everywhere, but that studies show that it’s less pronounced in environments where people are exposed to a lot of marketing. “Capitalist, consumer culture inures us to unfairness,” he said. That made me angry.

When I was in India, a country where wealth and poverty share a disturbing proximity, I felt a discomfort in spite of being in the exalted position of Monkey A. Exclusive hotels require extensive, in fact military, security. As we entered the five-star splendour through the metal detectors, past the armed guards, I realised that if this was what was required in order to preserve this degree of privilege, it could not be indefinitely sustained.

These devices that maintain division are what my friend Matt Stoller focused on when I asked him what ideas he had that would change the world. I first met Matt in Zuccotti Park, Manhattan, in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011. Matt understands power: at the time, he worked as a policy-wonk for a Democratic congressman and his days were spent in the cogs of the lumbering Washington behemoth. Beneath his cherubic, hay-coloured curls and proper job, he detested the system he was trapped in.

Since then, he has regularly prised apart the clenched and corrupt buttocks of American politics and allowed me to peer inside at its dirty workings. I asked Matt for ideas that would aid the revolution; his response was, as usual, startling and almost proctologically insightful. “No more private security for the wealthy and the powerful,” he said. I nervously demanded he explain himself. He did: “One economist argued in 2005 that roughly one in four Americans are employed to guard in various forms the wealth of the rich. So if you want to get rid of rich and poor, get rid of guard labour.”

This may be the point in the article where you start shouting the word “hypocrite”. Don’t think I’m unaware of the inevitability of such a charge. I know, I know. I’m rich, I’m famous, I have money, I have had private security on and off for years. There is no doubt that I as much as anyone have to change. Revolution is change. I believe in change, personal change most of all. Know, too, that I have seen what fame and fortune have to offer and I know it’s not the answer. Of course, I have to change as an individual and part of that will be sharing wealth, though without systemic change, that will be a sweet, futile gesture.

Now let’s get back to Matt Stoller, banning private security and ensuring that I’ll have to have my own fist fights next time I’m leaving the Manchester Apollo.

“The definition of being rich means having more stuff than other people. In order to have more stuff, you need to protect that stuff with surveillance systems, guards, police, court systems and so forth. All of those sombre-looking men in robes who call themselves judges are just sentinels whose job it is to convince you that this very silly system in which we give Paris Hilton as much as she wants while others go hungry is good and natural and right.”

This idea is extremely clever and highlights the fact that there is exclusivity even around the use of violence. The state can legitimately use force to impose its will and, increasingly, so can the rich. Take away that facility and societies will begin to equalise. If that hotel in India was stripped of its security, they’d have to address the complex issues that led to them requiring it.

“These systems can be very expensive. America employs more private security guards than high-school teachers. States and countries with high inequality tend to hire proportionally more guard labour. If you’ve ever spent time in a radically unequal city in South Africa, you’ll see that both the rich and the poor live surrounded by private security contractors, barbed wire and electrified fencing. Some people have nice prison cages, and others have not so nice ones.”

Matt here, metaphorically, broaches the notion that the rich, too, are impeded by inequality, imprisoned in their own way. Much like with my earlier plea for you to bypass the charge of hypocrisy, I now find myself in the unenviable position of urging you, like some weird, bizarro Jesus, to take pity on the rich. It’s not an easy concept to grasp, and I’m not suggesting it’s a priority. Faced with a choice between empathising with the rich or the homeless, by all means go with the homeless.

He continues: “Companies spend a lot of money protecting their CEOs. Starbucks spent $1.4m. Oracle spent $4.6m. One casino empire – the Las Vegas Sands – spent $2.45m. This money isn’t security so much as it is designed to wall these people off from the society they rule, so they never have to interact with normal people under circumstances they may not control. If you just got rid of this security, these people would be a lot less willing to ruthlessly prey on society.”

Matt here explains that at the pinnacle of our problem are those that benefit most from the current hegemony. The executors of these new empires that surpass nation. The logo is their flag, the dollar is their creed, we are all their unwitting subjects.

“People can argue about the right level of guard labour. You conceivably could still have public police, but their job should be to help protect everyone, not just a special class. If you got rid of all these private systems, or some of these systems of surveillance and coercive guarding of property, you’d have a lot less inequality. And powerful and wealthy people would spend a lot more time trying to make sure that society was harmonious, instead of just hiring their way out of the damage they can create.”

Matt’s next idea to create a different world was equally cunning and revolutionary: get rid of all titles. “Mr President. Ambassador. Admiral. Senator. The honourable. Your honour. Captain. Doctor. These are all titles that capitalism relies on to justify treating some people better than other people.”

Matt is an American, so when it comes to deferring to the entitled, he is, let’s face it, an amateur compared with the British. Look at me, simpering to Professor Slingerland. I can’t wait to prostrate myself before his sceptre of diplomas. Plus we’ve got a bloody royal family. What’s he going to say about that?

“One of the most remarkable things you learn when you work in a position of political influence is just how much titles separate the wealthy and the politicians from citizens. Ordinary people will use a title before addressing someone, and that immediately makes that ordinary person a supplicant, and the titled one a person of influence. Or if both have titles, then there’s upper-class solidarity. Rank, hierarchy, these are designed to create a structure whereby power is shaped in the very act of greeting someone.”

I’m getting angry again. Matt’s right! Titles are part of the invisible architecture of our social structure. I’m never using one again. If I ever see Slingerland in the street, I shall alert him by hollering: “Oi, fuck-face!” and then throw a hazelnut at him.

What does Matt propose?

“One thing you can do to negate this power is to be firm but respectful, and address anyone and everyone by their last name. Mr, Ms or Mrs is all the title you should ever need. This allows you to treat everyone as your equal, and it shows everyone that they should treat you as their equal.”

This is a provocative suggestion – particularly to those of us who live in monarchies. I mean, in England, we have a queen. A queen! We have to call her things like “your majesty”. YOUR MAJESTY! Like she’s all majestic, like an eagle or a mountain. She’s just a person. A little old lady in a shiny hat – that we paid for. We should be calling her Mrs Windsor. In fact, that’s not even her real name, they changed it in the war to distract us from the inconvenient fact that they were as German as the enemy that teenage boys were being encouraged, conscripted actually, to die fighting. Her actual name is Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha!! No wonder they changed it. It’s the most German thing I’ve ever heard – she might as well have been called Mrs Bratwurst-Kraut-Nazi.

Titles have got to go.

I’m not calling her “your highness” or “your majesty” just so we can pretend there isn’t and hasn’t always been an international cabal of rich landowners flitting merrily across the globe, getting us all to kill each other a couple of times a decade. From now on she’s Frau Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Come on, Frau Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, it’s time for you to have breakfast with Herr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. And you can make it yerselves. And by the way, we’re nicking this castle you’ve been dossing in and giving it to 100 poor families.

Actually, you can stay if you want, they’ll need a cleaner. You’ll have to watch your lip, Herr Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, some of ’em ain’t white.

We British have much to gain from Matt’s titleless utopia.

He continues: “If this became common, you’d shortly see sputtering rage from the powerful, and increased agitation from the erstwhile meek. People need to mark their dominance; that is the essence of highly unequal capitalism. If they can’t do so, if they aren’t allowed to be dominant, to be shown as being dominant, then the system cannot long be sustained.”

Matt’s ideas are like the schemes of a cackling supervillain from a Bond movie. At first, they seem innocuous, but then they elegantly unravel the fabric of society. He suggests we start now: “This is something that anyone and everyone can act on, a tiny act of rebellion that takes no money, influence or social status. You just need courage, and every human has that.”

• This is an edited extract from Revolution by Russell Brand, published by Cornerstone. To order a copy for £13.50 (RRP £20) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846

An Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

An Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

A security guard at a gated community in India. Photograph: Tom Pietrasik

A security guard at a gated community in India. Photograph: Tom Pietrasik

Russell Brand speaks at an anti-austerity rally in London. Photograph: Ben Cawthra/Rex

Russell Brand speaks at an anti-austerity rally in London. Photograph: Ben Cawthra/Rex

How the crisis changed macroeconomics | By Olivier Blanchard | Oct 6 2014

Until the 2008 global financial crisis, mainstream US macroeconomics had taken an increasingly benign view of economic fluctuations in output and employment. The crisis has made it clear that this view was wrong and that there is a need for a deep reassessment.

The benign view reflected both factors internal to economics and an external economic environment that for years seemed indeed increasingly benign.

Start with internal factors. The techniques we use affect our thinking in deep and not always conscious ways. This was very much the case in macroeconomics in the decades preceding the crisis. The techniques were best suited to a worldview in which economic fluctuations occurred but were regular, and essentially self-correcting. The problem is that we came to believe that this was indeed the way the world worked.

To understand how that view emerged, one has to go back to the so-called rational expectations revolution of the 1970s. The core idea – that the behaviour of people and firms depends not only on current economic conditions but on what they expect will happen in the future – was not new. What was new was the development of techniques to solve models under the assumption that people and firms did the best they could in assessing the future. (A glimpse into why this was technically hard: Current decisions by people and firms depend on their whole expected future, but their whole expected future itself depends in part on current decisions.)

However, these techniques made sense only under a vision in which economic fluctuations were regular enough so that, by looking at the past, people and firms (and the econometricians who apply statistics to economics) could understand their nature and form expectations of the future; and simple enough so that small shocks had small effects, and a shock twice as big as another had twice the effect on economic activity. The reason for this assumption, called linearity, was technical. Models with nonlinearities – those in which a small shock, such as a decrease in housing prices, can sometimes have large effects, or in which the effect of a shock depends on the rest of the economic environment – were difficult, if not impossible, to solve under rational expectations.

Thinking about macroeconomics was largely shaped by those assumptions. We in the field did think of the economy as roughly linear, constantly subject to different shocks, constantly fluctuating, but naturally returning to its steady state over time. Instead of talking about fluctuations, we increasingly used the term ‘business cycle’. Even when we later developed techniques to deal with nonlinearities, this generally benign view of fluctuations remained dominant.

This state of affairs, however, would not have developed (or at least not lasted for so long) without external factors playing a role. The state of the world – at least the economic world – provided little impetus for macroeconomists to question their worldview.

From the early 1980s on, most advanced economies experienced what has been dubbed the ‘Great Moderation’ – a steady decrease in the variability of output and its major components, such as consumption and investment. There were, and are still, disagreements about what caused this moderation. Central banks would like to take the credit for it, and it is indeed likely that some of the decline was due to better monetary policy, which resulted in lower and less variable inflation. Others have argued that luck – unusually small shocks hitting the economy – explained much of the decrease. Whatever caused the Great Moderation, for a quarter-century the benign, linear view of fluctuations looked fine. (This was the mainstream view. Some researchers did not accept that premise. The late Frank Hahn, a well-known economist who taught at Cambridge University, kept reminding me of his detestation of linear models, including mine, which he called ‘Mickey Mouse’ models.)

Dark corners

That small shocks could sometimes have large effects and, as a result, that things could turn really bad, was not completely ignored by economists. But such an outcome was thought to be a thing of the past that would not happen again, or at least not in advanced economies thanks to their sound economic policies.

Bank runs – in which a small shock, or indeed no shock at all, could lead depositors to panic and withdraw their funds from banks, with major adverse effects across the entire economy – were a staple topic of macroeconomics courses. But in those courses this was often presented as an illustration of how the introduction of bank deposit insurance had largely eliminated the problem. And, if the problem recurred nevertheless, the argument went, central banks could quickly provide liquidity (that is, lend cash) to banks against good collateral, allowing solvent banks to satisfy their depositors, tamping down any panic and avoiding disastrous outcomes.

Sudden stops – episodes when capital flows to a country dry up and all investors try to get out at once – could not be ignored either. They still happened with great regularity in emerging market economies – in Latin America in the 1980s, Mexico in the mid-1990s, and Asia in the late 1990s. But they were thought to be an issue for emerging markets, not advanced economies (this is why I wrote ‘US’ in the first paragraph above). As an example of the sometimes-provincial character of mainstream US macroeconomics, in a number of doctoral programmes a student can specialize in macroeconomics without knowing what an exchange rate is, much less an emerging market economy.

In general, issues of liquidity – the potential mismatch between assets with long-term maturities and liabilities with shorter-term maturities – were not seen as central to macroeconomics. That such an asset–liability liquidity mismatch might be pervasive, affecting not only banks but other financial players and corporations as well, was not well understood. Important work on the role of liquidity was done in corporate finance, but its incorporation into macroeconomic analysis did not reach mainstream status.

The probability that central banks would want to decrease nominal interest rates below zero and be unable to do so (nominal interest rates cannot go below zero because, if they did, people would hold cash rather than bonds – a constraint known in the jargon as the ‘zero lower bound’) was seen as very small. With nominal interest rates at roughly 4% before the crisis – split between 2% to account for inflation and a 2% real, or after-inflation, rate of return – most central bankers believed that they had plenty of room for manoeuvre in adjusting interest rates in response to adverse shocks. And, if more was needed, the argument went, the central bank could raise inflation expectations while keeping the nominal rate at zero, thus decreasing the real component of the interest rate.

Other nonlinearities were also recognised. For example, economists recognised that bank regulatory constraints, such as the minimum amount of capital (essentially a bank’s net worth, that is, its ability to absorb losses) institutions had to hold, could force banks to react more sharply to decreases than to increases in their capital. The way credit constraints faced by firms and households led to increasingly precautionary behaviour as they came close to running down their credit lines was worked out and used, for example, to study individual consumption behaviour. But again, these nonlinearities were not seen as central to fluctuations.

In short, the notion that small shocks could have large adverse effects, or could result in long and persistent slumps, was not perceived as a major issue. We all knew that there were ‘dark corners’ – situations in which the economy could badly malfunction. But we thought we were far away from those corners, and could for the most part ignore them. Japan sat unhappily in that picture – an advanced economy stuck in a long slump with deflation. But its situation was often interpreted as the result of misguided policies rather than a harder-to-solve problem.

Blindsided by the crisis

The main lesson of the crisis is that we were much closer to those dark corners than we thought – and the corners were even darker than we had thought, too.

The Great Moderation had fooled not only macroeconomists. Financial institutions and regulators also underestimated risks. The result was a financial structure that was increasingly exposed to potential shocks. In other words, the global economy operated closer and closer to the dark corners without economists, policymakers, or financial institutions realising it.

When the US housing boom turned to bust, a complex and opaque structure of financial claims led to worries about which institution was holding which claims and which institutions were solvent. This in turn led to major liquidity runs, not so much on banks, but on many nonbank financial institutions, such as investment banks – many of which over the years operated like banks but without the regulation and protections banks received. Standard bank deposit insurance just did not cover the needs.

Providing liquidity to the relevant institutions to enable them to meet creditor demands required the use of monetary policy on a massive scale and often in new ways. Fortunately, massive and often innovative monetary policy was undertaken. But it was not enough to avoid a large drying-up of credit and a sharp decline in demand and activity.

Fiscal policy, in the form of large increases in public spending, was used to offset declining private demand. But government debt levels rose quickly and policymakers and investors became worried. Perceived sovereign risk (the possibility that a government will default on its debts) – which, for advanced economies, had been close to zero before the crisis – increased in a number of countries, making it harder to use fiscal policy to sustain demand and at the same time creating risks in the balance sheets of creditors, such as banks, that held the sovereign debt.

So-called ‘diabolical loops’ developed between public and private debt: Weak governments weakened banks that held government bonds in their portfolios; weakened banks needed more capital, which often had to come from public funds, weakening governments.

As central banks tried to maintain economic activity by reducing the policy interest rate (for example, the overnight federal funds rate in the US), the zero lower bound was quickly reached, and we have been stuck there now for more than five years. Policymakers did not succeed in raising inflation expectations to enable them to further decrease effective real rates. The risk of deflation is still clearly present across the euro area, and in some euro countries it is a reality. Deflation increases the real value of public and private debt, which in turn makes repayment more onerous and forces debtors to reduce spending, and that in turn decreases economic activity – another diabolical loop.

In this environment, economic policy – especially monetary policy – has taken on an element of black magic. Some policies, such as, for example, the recent shift by the ECB to charge banks a tiny amount for deposits they maintain at the ECB (in other words, a very small negative interest rate) will have, on paper, very small mechanical effects. But if such policies are seen as representing the commitment of the central bank to do ‘whatever it takes’ – as Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, put it in a celebrated speech in 2012 – to stimulate lending, they can have much larger effects. The size of this psychological effect, however, is extremely hard to predict or control.

Where does this take us?

The crisis has one obvious policy implication: authorities should make it one of the major objectives of policy – macroeconomic, financial regulatory or macroprudential – to stay further away from the dark corners.

We are still too close to those corners. The crisis itself led to large accumulations of debt, both public and private. For the time being, the diabolical loops have receded, but it would not take much of an adverse shock for them to reappear. For a long time to come, one of the priorities of macroeconomic policy will be to slowly but steadily return debt to less dangerous levels, to move away from the dark corners.

More needs to be done

If the financial system had been less opaque, if capital ratios had been higher, there might still have been a housing bust in the United States in 2007–2008. But the effects would have been limited – a mild US recession at the worst, rather than a global economic crisis.

Can the financial system be made more transparent and more robust? The answer is a qualified yes. Authorities have required increases in bank capital ratios – an essential line of defence against financial system meltdown. But banks are only part of a complex network of financial institutions and markets, and risks are far from gone. The reality of financial regulation is that new rules open new avenues for regulatory arbitrage, as institutions find loopholes in regulations. That in turn forces authorities to institute new regulations in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game (between a very adroit mouse and a less nimble cat). Staying away from dark corners will require continuous effort, not one-shot regulation.

Macroeconomic policy also has an essential role to play. If nominal rates had been higher before the crisis, monetary policy’s margin for manoeuvre would have been larger. If inflation and nominal interest rates had been, say, two percentage points higher before the crisis, central banks would have been able to decrease real interest rates by two more percentage points before hitting the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates. These additional two percentage points are not negligible. Their effects would have been roughly equivalent to the effects of the unconventional monetary policies that central banks pursued when the zero bound was reached – purchasing private sector assets and long-term government bonds to lower long-term interest rates rather than using the standard technique of manipulating a short-term policy rate. (Harvard Professor Kenneth S Rogoff, former head of the IMF’s Research Department, has suggested solutions other than higher inflation, such as the replacement of cash with electronic money, which could pay negative nominal interest. That would remove the zero bound constraint.)

Turning from policy to research, the message should be to let a hundred flowers bloom. Now that we are more aware of nonlinearities and the dangers they pose, we should explore them further theoretically and empirically – and in all sorts of models. This is happening already, and to judge from the flow of working papers since the beginning of the crisis, it is happening on a large scale. Finance and macroeconomics in particular are becoming much better integrated, which is very good news.

But this answer skirts a harder question: How should we modify our benchmark models – the so-called dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models that we use, for example, at the IMF to think about alternative scenarios and to quantify the effects of policy decisions? The easy and uncontroversial part of the answer is that the DSGE models should be expanded to better recognise the role of the financial system – and this is happening. But should these models be able to describe how the economy behaves in the dark corners?

Let me offer a pragmatic answer. If macroeconomic policy and financial regulation are set in such a way as to maintain a healthy distance from dark corners, then our models that portray normal times may still be largely appropriate. Another class of economic models, aimed at measuring systemic risk, can be used to give warning signals that we are getting too close to dark corners, and that steps must be taken to reduce risk and increase distance. Trying to create a model that integrates normal times and systemic risks may be beyond the profession’s conceptual and technical reach at this stage.

The crisis has been immensely painful. But one of its silver linings has been to jolt macroeconomics and macroeconomic policy. The main policy lesson is a simple one: stay away from dark corners.

Published in collaboration with VoxEU

Author: Olivier Blanchard is the IMF’s Chief Economist (Economic Counsellor and Director, Research Department) and Professor of Economics at MIT, having taught previously at Harvard.

Image: A pedestrian is reflected in an electronic board showing the various stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo August 13, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

What governments can learn from Sierra Leone’s missing textbooks | By Shwetlena Sabarwal and David Evans | Sep 17 2014

Why is improving education so hard? The case of the missing textbooks

Why is improving education so hard? The case of the missing textbooks

Public programmes are designed on assumptions – nice, tidy, convenient assumptions. Then they hit the real world and very little goes as planned. The culprit, some philosophically inclined would argue, is human behaviour. After all, human beings are impossible to predict. They can react in ways entirely unexpected and fairly baffling – until you dig deeper.

We found this happening in one of the most commonplace and straightforward of public programmes: textbook provision to schools. In 2008, the Government of Sierra Leone implemented a scheme that delivered textbooks to primary schools: one core set of textbooks for each student. The government was interested in establishing the relationship between textbook provision and learning outcomes, so implementation was done using a randomized trial. The school sample was randomly divided into a treatment group (books) and a control group (no books).

Straightforward, right?

The first puzzle came when we found no impact on student performance. This was disappointing but not entirely unexpected. At least one other study, in Kenya, found similar results (at least for most students).

What was more odd, at least to the researchers, was what had happened to the books. In many treatment schools, textbooks had not been distributed to students; instead they were being stored on school premises. On our follow-up visits we found storage rooms filled with textbooks, while in classrooms students were still sharing, three or four children to a textbook. What’s more, students in treatment schools were not being allowed to take textbooks home.

What were the headteachers thinking, keeping textbooks from students who clearly needed them? Why did they let them gather dust? We explored several theories and carefully analyzed the correlates of book storage. We asked teachers if they thought the books were useful; they did. We asked students if they already had books at home; they didn’t. It turns out that headteachers who had high uncertainty about government transfers of textbooks were significantly more likely to store them: We measured this uncertainty by whether or not the headteacher knew how many textbooks were allocated to the school the previous year by the government.

Once we took this underlying uncertainty into account, the storing behaviour started to make sense. Think of consumption theory: if there is uncertainty about future transfers then current transfers are seen as a one-time (or transitory) shock. If this is the case, the impact of current transfers on current consumption (defined as intensive use of textbooks by students) will be limited. This is because when there is uncertainty, headteachers have incentives to store part of the current transfers in order to smooth consumption over time, particularly for things, such as textbooks, that depreciate quickly when used. Remember the permanent income hypothesis? This is a permanent public input hypothesis.

Taking uncertainty into explicit consideration makes the seemingly irrational, rational. Clearly, headteachers in this context are acting as forward-thinking agents who – in the classic spirit of homo-economicus – are deciding how to respond to the public programme based on their resources, constraints and expectations.

And these results illustrate what this decision-making looks like when prevailing expectations around government largess and reliability are bleak. And why wouldn’t they be bleak? Our survey data shows that in 2009, 17% of headteachers and 36% of classroom teachers reported not receiving their full pay in the past year. In Zambia, the unpredictability of government transfers to line ministries was well documented a decade ago. Anecdotal evidence tells us this is widespread.

This smoothing behaviour isn’t unique to textbooks. In a project providing grants to schools in Gambia, schools “were directed to use the grant towards some aspect of the school development that relates directly to teaching and learning”. Yet a quarter of schools reported that their biggest expenditure was on infrastructure (i.e. durable inputs rather than fast-depreciating learning materials).

Is this ill-informed decision-making, or are school committees trying to convert the books into goods that can be consumed well into the future?

When programme goals are subverted by beneficiaries (or intermediate agents, as in this case), it is common to blame low capacity, myopic decision-making, lack of information, human error, corruption or increasingly (and more charitably) the poverty-induced burden on mental bandwidth. But what we find here is rational behaviour.

Our modest argument is that public provision of inputs that depreciate quickly when used, such as textbooks, will be fully consumed only if agents have expectations of replenishment. Hence, for public programmes that are designed as recurring transfers, there is a need to establish a reputation of consistent delivery and to reliably communicate the timing of the next transfer. Otherwise, uncertainty can easily wreak havoc on the nice, tidy and convenient assumptions underlying the programme design.

Published in collaboration with the World Bank Blog.

Author: Shwetlena Sabarwal is an economist at the Education Global Practice of the World Bank. David Evans is a senior economist in the Chief Economist’s Office for the Africa Region of the World Bank.

Image: Malian pupils study during a French language class during a French language lesson in Mali’s capital Bamako. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly.

Luis Suarez fires double against Oman as Barcelona striker gears up for La Liga debut | By Anthony Hay | October 13, 2014

Oman shot stopper Al Habsi was unable to get his hand onto Suarez's chipped effort.

Oman shot stopper Al Habsi was unable to get his hand onto Suarez’s chipped effort.

Luis Suarez lobs Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi to score Uruguay's second goal of the match

Luis Suarez lobs Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi to score Uruguay’s second goal of the match

•Uruguay ace Luis Suarez netted twice in the second half

•The former Liverpool forward played 78 minutes of Uruguay’s 3-0 win

•Suarez could make his Barcelona debut against Real Madrid on October 25

•The 27-year-old made a £75million move to the Nou Camp in July

•He is currently serving a four-month ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez scored two goals during a friendly match against Oman on Monday.

The Barcelona ace, who could make his La Liga debut against Real Madrid on October 25, netted a brace in the second half to help his side claim a win.

His first came in the 57th minute when he was allowed the space and time to score past Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi from inside the penalty area.

 

LUIS SUAREZ’S POTENTIAL FIRST FIVE GAMES FOR BARCELONA 

Real Madrid v Barcelona – October 25

Barcelona v Celta Vigo – November 1

Ajax v Barcelona – November 5

Almeria v Barcelona – November 8

Barcelona v Sevilla – November 22

LUIS SUAREZ’S POTENTIAL FIRST FIVE GAMES FOR BARCELONA 

Real Madrid v Barcelona – October 25

Barcelona v Celta Vigo – November 1

Ajax v Barcelona – November 5

Almeria v Barcelona – November 8

Barcelona v Sevilla – November 22

The Wigan Athletic goalkeeper was forced into picking the ball out of his net just 10 minutes later when Suarez chipped Al Habsi.

Suarez’s deft lob over the onrushing custodian was clear evidence as to why Barcelona decided to fork out £75million on the former Liverpool ace.

Jonathan Rodriguez added a late third in the closing stages of the friendly encounter.

MailOnline

Horror of Kobani: Headless corpses left in the street and victims with their eyes ‘cut out’, the savagery of Isis laid bare | October 13, 2014

Smoke rising from Kobani during clashes between Isis and Kurdish fighters. Photo: Getty images

Smoke rising from Kobani during clashes between Isis and Kurdish fighters. Photo: Getty images

Kurdish refugees fleeing Kobani enter Turkey at Suruc. Photo: Getty images

Kurdish refugees fleeing Kobani enter Turkey at Suruc. Photo: Getty images

Refugees in Suruc, Turkey, have spoken of the atrocities witnessed in Kobani

Survivors of the fighting in Kobani have spoken of the horrors they witnessed as Isis militants took control of parts of the town from Kurdish forces.

Refugees in Suruc, in Tukey, have told The Daily Mail how relatives and neighbours were beheaded by the militants, while another spoke of how he had seen “hundreds” of headless corpses in the besieged town.

On Friday, the UN Syria envoy warned the hundreds still trapped in Kobani will be “massacred” by militants if the town falls, where only a small corridor remains open for people to flee.

More than 200,000 have already escaped across the border to Turkey but up to 700 remain inside the town.

The battle for the Syrian town has also sparked major protests in Turkey against its perceived inaction. Kurdish protesters have repeatedly clashed with security forces, leaving at least 31 people, including two police officers, dead.

Amin Fajar, 38, a father-of-four who left Kobani and made it across the border and into Suruc, told The Daily Mail: “I have seen tens, maybe hundreds, of bodies with their heads cut off.

“Others with just their hands or legs missing. I have seen faces with their eyes or tongues cut out – I can never forget it for as long as I live.”

Isis militants have laid siege to the town of Kobani for nearly four weeks and fought their way into it in recent days.
They have reportedly taken control of almost half of the town.

Belal Shahin, another Kobani refugee in Suruc, told MSNBC: “Isis came into the villages. They beheaded people as well as animals. They took animals and girls; they left nothing. Even animals don’t do what Isis are doing. They are doing these things and it’s not acceptable.

“But the whole world has blocked their ears in order not to hear. And they’ve become dumb. There’s nothing to stop them.”

Turkish officials today said there is no new agreement with the US on using an air base in southern Turkey for operations against Isis.

On Sunday, United States defence officials said Turkey would let US and coalition forces use its bases against Isis militants.

However, a Turkish government spokesman today said the two countries were still talking about the Incirlik air base, as well as Turkish demands for the creation of a no-fly zone and a safe haven for refugees.

As night fell on Sunday, the town centre was under heavy artillery and mortar fire, Ocalan Iso, deputy head of the Kobani defence council, told Reuters.

Heavy clashes were under way in the east and southeast, he said, with neither side gaining ground.

Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister in the Kurdish administration for the Kobani district, said heavy fighting had begun around nightfall in the streets.

Kurdish fighters had caught attackers in an ambush, he said.

After days of advances by Isis (also known as Islamic State and Isil), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Kobani’s Kurdish defenders had managed to hold their ground.

The Observatory said 36 Islamic State fighters, all foreigners, were killed the previous day, while eight Kurdish fighters had died. The figures could not be independently verified.

The news comes a video emerged over the weekend apparently showing fighting in the streets of Kobani.

The Independent has not been able to independently verify the video, but Isis expert Shiraz Maher said it appeared to have been made for “propaganda purposes, ostensibly demonstrating the group’s strength and prowess.”

The Independent

Draw revealed for The Rugby Championship 2015 | October 13, 2014

The Southern Hemisphere’s pre-eminent international competition gets underway on Friday 17 July when the three-time winners of The Rugby Championship, the All Blacks, host Argentina in Christchurch while the Wallabies and Springboks lock horns in Brisbane the following night.

The condensed three-round championship sees teams face each other once, with a champion to be crowned on August 8, before a stand-alone round serves as final preparation for September’s much-anticipated Rugby World Cup.

SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters said, “The Rugby Championship continues to be one of the game’s greatest tests, pitting the world’s elite rugby nations against one another.

“The intense rivalry between New Zealand and South Africa has risen to lofty new heights in recent years and subsequently evolved into one of sport’s ‘must watch’ events, captivating crowds in stadiums, bars and living rooms around the world.

“Argentina recently returned to the IRB’s Top 10 and will seek to build on their inaugural victory in the championship while the Wallabies and All Blacks renew another rivalry steeped in history and tradition with clashes in Sydney and Auckland.”

The first match – a Friday night battle between New Zealand and Argentina – will serve as AMI Stadium’s debut match in The Rugby Championship, although the temporary Addington, Christchurch venue has previously hosted the All Blacks on two prior occasions (a 22-19 victory over Ireland in 2012 and a 30-0 whitewash of France in 2013).

Brisbane meanwhile has proven a happy hunting ground for Australia with the Wallabies beating the Springboks on seven of eight occasions at Suncorp Stadium with their only blemish being a 38-12 defeat to the South Africans in September 2013.

The Rugby Championship commences a fortnight after the Super Rugby Final on 4 July with the last round of matches concluding on 15 August, giving teams just over a month before launching their Rugby World Cup campaigns.

The Rugby Championship 2015 schedule is as follows, with venues in Argentina and South Africa to be confirmed at a later date.

ROUND 1

Friday 17 July: New Zealand v Argentina – AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Saturday 18 July: Australia v South Africa – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

ROUND 2

Saturday 25 July: South Africa v New Zealand – Venue TBC

Saturday 25 July: Argentina v Australia – Venue TBC

ROUND 3

Saturday 8 August: Australia v New Zealand – ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Saturday 8 August: South Africa v Argentina – Venue TBC

ADDITIONAL WEEK (not for competition points)

Saturday 15 August: New Zealand v Australia – Eden Park, Auckland

Saturday 15 August: Argentina v South Africa – Venue TBC

SANZA News

No Risky Chances: The conversation that matters most | By Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them.

Although I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in anatomy class in my first term, our textbooks contained almost nothing about aging or frailty or dying. The purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise.

I had never seen anyone die before I became a doctor, and when I did, it came as a shock. I’d seen multiple family members—my wife, my parents, and my children—go through serious, life-threatening illnesses, but medicine had always pulled them through. I knew theoretically that my patients could die, of course, but every actual instance seemed like a violation, as if the rules I thought we were playing by were broken.

Dying and death confront every new doctor and nurse. The first times, some cry. Some shut down. Some hardly notice. When I saw my first deaths, I was too guarded to weep. But I had recurring nightmares in which I’d find my patients’ corpses in my house—even in my bed.

I felt as if I’d failed. But death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things. I knew these truths abstractly, but I didn’t know them concretely—that they could be truths not just for everyone but also for this person right in front of me, for this person I was responsible for.

You don’t have to spend much time with the elderly or those with terminal illness to see how often medicine fails the people it is supposed to help. The waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver’s chance of benefit. These days are spent in institutions—nursing homes and intensive-care units—where regimented, anonymous routines cut us off from all the things that matter to us in life.

As recently as 1945, most deaths occurred in the home. By the 1980s, just 17 percent did. Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to the very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by medicine, technology, and strangers.

But not all of us have. That takes, however, at least two kinds of courage. The first is the courage to confront the reality of mortality—the courage to seek out the truth of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped when one is seriously ill. Such courage is difficult enough, but even more daunting is the second kind of courage—the courage to act on the truth we find.

A few years ago, I got a late night page: Jewel Douglass, a 72-year-old patient of mine receiving chemotherapy for metastatic ovarian cancer, was back in the hospital, unable to hold food down. For a week, her symptoms had mounted: They started with bloating, became waves of crampy abdominal pain, then nausea and vomiting.

Her oncologist sent her to the hospital. A scan showed that, despite treatment, her ovarian cancer had multiplied, grown, and partly obstructed her intestine. Her abdomen had also filled with fluid. The deposits of tumor had stuffed up her lymphatic system, which serves as a kind of storm drain for the lubricating fluids that the body’s internal linings secrete. When the system is blocked, the fluid has nowhere to go. The belly fills up like a rubber ball until you feel as if you will burst.

But walking into Douglass’ hospital room, I’d never have known she was so sick if I hadn’t seen the scan. “Well, look who’s here!” she said, as if I’d just arrived at a cocktail party. “How are you, doctor?”

“I think I’m supposed to ask you that,” I said.

She smiled brightly and pointed around the room. “This is my husband, Arthur, whom you know, and my son, Brett.” She got me grinning. Here it was, 11 at night, she couldn’t hold down an ounce of water, and she still had her lipstick on, her silver hair was brushed straight, and she was insisting on making introductions.

Her oncologist and I had a menu of options. A range of alternative chemotherapy regimens could be tried to shrink the tumor burden, and I had a few surgical options too. I wouldn’t be able to remove the intestinal blockage, but I might be able to bypass it, I told her. Or I could give her an ileostomy, disconnecting the bowel above the blockage and bringing it through the skin to empty into a bag. I would also put in a couple of drainage catheters—permanent spigots that could be opened to release the fluids from her blocked-up drainage ducts or intestines when necessary. Surgery risked serious complications—wound breakdown, leakage of bowel into her abdomen, infections—but it was the only way she might regain her ability to eat.

I also told her that we did not have to do either chemo or surgery. We could provide medications to control her pain and nausea and arrange for hospice care at home.

This is the moment when I would normally have reviewed the pros and cons. But we are only gradually learning in the medical profession that this is not what we need to do. The options overwhelmed her. They all sounded terrifying. So I stepped back and asked her a few questions I learned from hospice and palliative care physicians, hoping to better help both of us know what to do: What were her biggest fears and concerns? What goals were most important to her? What trade-offs was she willing to make?

Not all can answer such questions, but she did. She said she wanted to be without pain, nausea, or vomiting. She wanted to eat. Most of all, she wanted to get back on her feet. Her biggest fear was that she wouldn’t be able to return home and be with the people she loved.

I asked what sacrifices she was willing to endure now for the possibility of more time later. “Not a lot,” she said. Uppermost in her mind was a wedding that weekend that she was desperate not to miss. “Arthur’s brother is marrying my best friend,” she said. She’d set them up on their first date. The wedding was just two days away. She was supposed to be a bridesmaid. She was willing to do anything to make it, she said.

Suddenly, with just a few simple questions, I had some guidance about her priorities. So we made a plan to see if we could meet them. With a long needle, we tapped a liter of tea-colored fluid from her abdomen, which made her feel at least temporarily better. We gave her medication to control her nausea. We discharged her with instructions to drink nothing thicker than apple juice and to return to see me after the wedding.

She didn’t make it. She came back to the hospital that same night. Just the car ride, with its swaying and bumps, made her vomit, and things only got worse at home.

We agreed that surgery was the best course now and scheduled it for the next day. I would focus on restoring her ability to eat and putting drainage tubes in. Afterward, she could decide if she wanted more chemotherapy or to go on hospice.

She was as clear as I’ve seen anyone be about her goals, but she was still in doubt. The following morning, she canceled the operation. “I’m afraid,” she said. She’d tossed all night, imagining the pain, the tubes, the horrors of possible complications. “I don’t want to take risky chances,” she said.

Her difficulty wasn’t lack of courage to act in the face of risks; it was sorting out how to think about them. Her greatest fear was of suffering, she said. Couldn’t the operation make it worse rather than better?

It could, I said. Surgery offered her the possibility of being able to eat again and a very good likelihood of controlling her nausea, but it carried substantial risk of giving her only pain without improvement or adding new miseries. She had, I estimated, a 75 percent chance that surgery would make her future better, at least for a little while, and a 25 percent chance it’d make it worse.

The brain gives us two ways to evaluate experiences like suffering—how we apprehend such experiences in the moment and how we look at them afterward. People seem to have two different selves—an experiencing self who endures every moment equally and a remembering self who, as the Nobel Prize–winning researcher Daniel Kahneman has shown, gives almost all the weight of judgment afterward to just two points in time: the worst moment of an ordeal and the last moment of it. The remembering self and the experiencing self can come to radically different opinions about the same experience—so which one should we listen to?

This, at bottom, was Jewel Douglass’ torment. Should she heed her remembering self—or, in this case, anticipating self—which was focused on the worst things she might endure? Or should she listen to her experiencing self, which would likely endure a lower average amount of suffering in the days to come if she underwent surgery rather than just going home—and might even get to eat again for a while?

In the end, a person doesn’t view his life as merely the average of its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much, plus some sleep. Life is meaningful because it is a story, and a story’s arc is determined by the moments when something happens. Unlike your experiencing self, which is absorbed in the moment, your remembering self is attempting to recognize not only the peaks of joy and valleys of misery but also how the story works out as a whole. That is profoundly affected by how things ultimately turn out. Football fans will let a few flubbed minutes at the end of a game ruin three hours of bliss—because a football game is a story, and in stories, endings matter.

Jewel Douglass didn’t know if she was willing to face the suffering that surgery might inflict and feared being left worse off. “I don’t want to take risky chances,” she said. She didn’t want to take a high-stakes gamble on how her story would end. Suddenly I realized, she was telling me everything I needed to know.

We should go to surgery, I told her, but with the directions she’d just spelled out—to do what I could to enable her to return home to her family while not taking “risky chances.” I’d put in a small laparoscope. I’d look around. And I’d attempt to unblock her intestine only if I saw that I could do it fairly easily. If it looked risky, I’d just put in tubes to drain her backed-up pipes. I’d aim for what might sound like a contradiction in terms: a palliative operation—an operation whose overriding priority was to do only what was likely to make her feel immediately better.

She remained quiet, thinking.

Her daughter took her hand. “We should do this, Mom,” she said.

“OK,” Douglass said. “But no risky chances.”

When she was under anesthesia, I made a half-inch incision above her belly button. I slipped my gloved finger inside to feel for space to insert the fiberoptic scope. But a hard loop of tumor-caked bowel blocked entry. I wasn’t even going to be able to put in a camera.

I had the resident take the knife and extend the incision upward until it was large enough to see in directly and get a hand inside. There were too many tumors to do anything to help her eat again, and now we were risking creating holes we’d never be able to repair. Leakage inside the abdomen would be a calamity. So we stopped.

No risky chances. We shifted focus and put in two long, plastic drainage tubes. One we inserted directly into her stomach to empty the contents backed up there; the other we laid in the open abdominal cavity to empty the fluid outside her gut. Then we closed up, and we were done.

I told her family we hadn’t been able to help her eat again, and when Douglass woke up, I told her too. Her daughter wept. Her husband thanked us for trying. Douglass tried to put a brave face on it. “I was never obsessed with food anyway,” she said.

The tubes relieved her nausea and abdominal pain greatly—“90 percent,” she said. The nurses taught her how to open the gastric tube into a bag when she felt sick and the abdominal tube when her belly felt too tight. We told her she could drink whatever she wanted and even eat soft food for the taste. Three days after surgery, she went home with hospice care to look after her.

Before she left, her oncologist and oncology nurse practitioner saw her. Douglass asked them how long they thought she had. “They both filled up with tears,” she told me. “It was kind of my answer.”

A few days later, she and her family allowed me to stop by her home after work. She answered the door, wearing a robe because of the tubes, for which she apologized. We sat in her living room, and I asked how she was doing.

OK, she said. “I think I have a measure that I’m slip, slip, slipping,” but she had been seeing old friends and relatives all day, and she loved it. She was taking just Tylenol for pain. Narcotics made her drowsy and weak, and that interfered with seeing people.

She said she didn’t like all the contraptions sticking out of her. But the first time she found that just opening a tube could take away her nausea, she said, “I looked at the tube and said, ‘Thank you for being there.’ ”

Mostly, we talked about good memories. She was at peace with God, she said. I left feeling that, at least this once, we had done it right. Douglass’ story was not ending the way she ever envisioned, but it was nonetheless ending with her being able to make the choices that meant the most to her.

Two weeks later, her daughter Susan sent me a note. “Mom died on Friday morning. She drifted quietly to sleep and took her last breath. It was very peaceful. My dad was alone by her side with the rest of us in the living room. This was such a perfect ending and in keeping with the relationship they shared.”

Excerpted from Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande, published on Tuesday by Macmillan.

Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to the very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by medicine, technology, and strangers.
Photo by Julio de la Higuera Rodrigo/Thinkstock

The gay divide: Victories for gay rights in some parts of the world have provoked a backlash elsewhere | Oct 11, 2014

THERE was a teenager in Arizona in the 1970s who “could no more imagine longing to touch a woman than longing to touch a toaster”. But he convinced himself that he was not gay. Longing to be “normal”, he blamed his obsession with muscular men on envy of their good looks. It was not until he was 25 that he admitted the truth to himself—let alone other people. In 1996 he wrote a cover leader for The Economist in favour of same-sex marriage.

He never thought it would happen during his lifetime. Yet now he is married to the man he loves and living in a Virginia suburb where few think this odd.

The change in attitudes to homosexuality in many countries—not just the West but also Latin America, China and other places—is one of the wonders of the world (see article). This week America’s Supreme Court gave gay marriage another big boost, by rejecting several challenges to it; most Americans already live in states where gays can wed. But five countries still execute gay people: Iran hangs them; Saudi Arabia stones them. Gay sex is illegal in 78 countries, and a few have recently passed laws that make gay life even grimmer. The gay divide is one of the world’s widest (see article). What caused it? And will tolerance eventually spread?

Two steps forward and one back

The leap forward has been startlingly quick. In the 1950s gay sex was illegal nearly everywhere. In Britain, on the orders of a home secretary who vowed to “eradicate” it, undercover police were sent out to loiter in bars, entrap gay men and put them in jail. In China in the 1980s homosexuals were rounded up and sent to labour camps without trial. All around the world gay people lived furtively and in fear. Laws banning “sodomy” remained in some American states until 2003.

Today gay sex is legal in at least 113 countries. Gay marriages or civil unions are recognised in three dozen and parts of others. In most of the West it is no longer socially acceptable to be homophobic. Gay life in China is now both legal and, in cities, undisguised. Latin America is even more gay-friendly: 74% of Argentines and 60% of Brazilians believe that society should accept homosexuality. Thais are more relaxed about transgender people than Westerners are. South Africa’s constitution is remarkably pro-gay. The young have tended to lead the way: although only 16% of South Koreans over 50 think that homosexuality should be accepted, 71% of 18-to 29-year-olds do.

Yet there are still parts of the world where it is not safe to be homosexual. Extra-judicial beatings and murders are depressingly common in much of Africa and in some Muslim countries. African gangs subject lesbians to “corrective rape”. In some countries persecution has intensified. Chad is poised to ban gay sex. Nigeria and Uganda have passed draconian anti-gay laws (though a court recently struck Uganda’s down). Russia and a few other countries have barred the “promotion” of homosexuality.

This is partly a reaction to the spread of gay rights in the West. Thanks to globalisation, people who live in places where everyone agrees that homosexuality is an abomination can now see pictures of gay-pride parades in Sydney or men marrying men in Massachusetts. They find this shocking. Meanwhile some homophobic Western preachers have gone to fire up anti-gay audiences in Africa, and American conservatives offer advice to countries thinking of drafting anti-gay laws.

Revulsion against homosexuals is ancient, deep and, in its way, sincere, even if some of the politicians leading the backlash do so for cynical reasons. By taking up arms against an imaginary Western plot to spread perversion, Vladimir Putin and Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan doubtless hope to distract attention from the corruption and incompetence of their own regimes. But they have picked their scapegoats shrewdly: 74% of Russians and 98% of Nigerians disapprove of homosexuality. In places like Indonesia, Senegal, Uganda and Malaysia the young are no more tolerant than the old—sometimes less so.

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism, at least in the long term. Urbanisation helps. It is easier to find a niche in a big, anonymous city than in a village where everyone knows your business. Gay life in the Indian countryside is still awful; in Mumbai or Delhi it is much easier, despite being illegal. In rural South Africa, to be openly gay is to court death; yet half of South Africans now say that their neighbourhood is a good place to be gay. As people move to cities, old traditions lose their grip; and by 2050 mankind is expected to be 66% urban, up from 54% today.

Emerging countries in Asia and Latin America have generally grown kinder to gay people as they have grown richer, more open and more democratic. The hope is that as Africa and the Arab world catch up, they will follow suit. Although religion is a barrier to tolerance—the more pious a society, by and large, the less enthusiastic it is about gay rights—it is not an insuperable one: plenty of devout nations, such as the Philippines and the United States, are friendly to gays these days.

Familiarity breeds tolerance

What could help spread tolerance? If the past half-century is any guide, the prime movers will be gay people themselves. The more visible they are, the more normal they will seem. These days 75% of Americans say they have gay friends or colleagues, up from only 24% in 1985. But it is hard to be the first to come out in a country where that means prison or worse.
Some Westerners would like to use aid budgets as leverage. That may have helped in Uganda, but attaching conditions to aid usually fails, and cutting it off may hurt the poor more than it helps gay people. It would be better to offer financial support to local gay-rights groups, to be generous when those persecuted for their sexual orientation seek asylum, to shame Western conservatives who encourage bigotry abroad and to buttress tolerance at home.

For those who cling to the notion of progress, it is hard to believe that tolerance will not spread. After all, gay people are not demanding special treatment, just the same freedoms that everyone else takes for granted: to love whom they please and to marry whom they love.

The Economist

To solve climate change, start by tackling plastic waste | By Andrew Wales | Sep 17 2014

As briefly rekindled hopes for a shift in climate-change politics sadly splutter a little, ahead of the forthcoming UN Climate Summit in New York, it was pleasing to see the World Economic Forum take a substantial step forwards in its coverage of the growth and value opportunities that come from tackling environmental issues. China, of all nations, knows why they must run hand in hand.

At this year’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China, business leaders participated in strong sessions and debates on climate change, circular business models, the sharing economy and the health of the oceans.

But how do all these issues connect? To understand this, we must move beyond seeing them as parallel themes. At the circular business models private session we saw all of this come together in one specific issue: polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and the challenge of its waste.

PET is a plastic packaging that companies use to protect their products for consumers, often with little thought for where it will end up, while municipalities deal with PET waste along with many other waste streams and often seek the lowest-cost disposal option. The design and disposal parts of the system are often completely disconnected, resulting in needless damage to the environment.

The Forum’s Circular Economy project connects the dots and, in the coming 12 months, will consider how to better design the PET system, with a view to improving environmental and economic outcomes.

But we mustn’t forget the consumers – or perhaps, more importantly, the citizens – in the centre of the value chain. PET is quite a carbon-efficient material, with a high level of recycled content. The recycling aspect is important. The role of the aware and activated citizen is key in achieving this. One of the issues that most motivates people is that of plastic waste in the world’s oceans, destroying marine life and the fragile ecosystems there.

Circular, carbon-efficient value chains that avoid polluting sensitive ecosystems present a great value opportunity for companies, as well as citizens and governments.

While the global political discussion on climate change stalls in the foothills, many major businesses are accelerating their climb up what Ray Anderson, the late and great founder of Interface, famously called Mount Sustainability. Business leaders from DSM, Desso and Philips were eloquent in their case for the integration of sustainability into core design, innovation and marketing strategies. The cultural challenge was also discussed, with the need for creativity and effective incentives identified as the way to raise consumer and employee awareness and commitment.

How appropriate, then, that the Forum’s Young Global Leaders chose the Annual Meeting in China to launch the Circular Awards. Open for applications until October, and to be presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Davos, the awards will celebrate the win-wins of business and environmental gains through smart innovations to improve the circular economy.

Author: Andrew Wales is the senior vice-president for Sustainable Development at SABMiller.

Image: A government sanitary worker collects and segregate garbage, mostly assorted plastic products polluting in Manila bay July 3, 2014. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the 1% Oxfam warns of widening inequality gap, days ahead of Davos economic summit in Switzerland

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The Swiss ski resort of Davos, home to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. Photograph: Christian Kober/Robert Hardi/REX

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

In an interview with the Guardian, Byanyima said: “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders.

“The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with a study showing that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people). The charity said this year that the comparison was now even more stark, with just 80 people owning the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people, down from 388 in 2010.

Byanyima said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.”

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

In an interview with the Guardian, Byanyima said: “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders.

“The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with a study showing that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people). The charity said this year that the comparison was now even more stark, with just 80 people owning the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people, down from 388 in 2010.

Byanyima said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.”

Separate research by the Equality Trust, which campaigns to reduce inequality in the UK, found that the richest 100 families in Britain in 2008 had seen their combined wealth increase by at least £15bn, a period during which average income increased by £1,233. Britain’s current richest 100 had the same wealth as 30% of UK households, it added.

Inequality has moved up the political agenda over the past half-decade amid concerns that the economic recovery since the global downturn of 2008-09 has been accompanied by a squeeze on living standards and an increase in the value of assets owned by the rich, such as property and shares.

Pope Francis and the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde have been among those warning that rising inequality will damage the world economy if left unchecked, while the theme of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital was the drift back towards late 19th century levels of wealth concentration.

Barack Obama’s penultimate State of the Union address on Tuesday is also expected to be dominated by the issue of income inequality.

He will propose a redistributive tax plan to extract more than $300bn (£200bn) in extra taxes from the 1% of rich earners in order to fund benefits specifically targeted at working families.

However, the odds of the White House having any success persuading Congress to adopt the plan, given the Republicans’ new grip on both chambers, are extremely long. But Obama’s embrace of what he calls “middle-class economics” – as opposed to the trickle-down economics of the Republicans – is likely to ensure that inequality remains a pivotal theme of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Oxfam said the wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009 and 2014, and that there was an increasing tendency for wealth to be inherited and to be used as a lobbying tool by the rich to further their own interests. It noted that more than a third of the 1,645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches, while 20% have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11% in the 12 months to March 2014.

These sectors spent $550m lobbying policymakers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571m in campaign contributions.

Byanyima said: “I was surprised to be invited to be a co-chair at Davos because we are a critical voice. We go there to challenge these powerful elites. It is an act of courage to invite me.”

Oxfam said it was calling on governments to adopt a seven point plan:

• Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals.

• Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education.

• Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth.

• Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.

• Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal.

• Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum-income guarantee.

• Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

Speaking to the Guardian, Byanyima added: “Extreme inequality is not just an accident or a natural rule of economics. It is the result of policies and with different policies it can be reduced. I am optimistic that there will be change.

“A few years ago the idea that extreme poverty was harmful was on the fringes of the economic and political debate. But having made the case we are now seeing an emerging consensus among business leaders, economic leaders, political leaders and even faith leaders.”

Steven Gerrard: Battleship player from bygone era is irreplaceable

The feet pointing at 10 to two, the chest out and the shoulders rolling with the easy familiarity of a man strolling up the path to his front door: there is no more recognisable walk in English football than Steven Gerrard leading his team out at Anfield. If you stayed late to work in the Anfield press box you would sometimes spot him stroll across the pitch after a game, suited and booted, the gait as unmistakable as Fred Astaire trotting down a flight of stairs.

When he walks out of Anfield for the last time on 24 May, the club will lose that comfort of an individual of undisputed quality. If you can judge a footballer’s value by the gap he leaves behind, then the truth is that there is no Gerrard replacement. There are other good players at Liverpool, and there are new ways of playing, but there is no new Gerrard, just as there was no new Roy Keane waiting in the wings at Manchester United, nor a new Patrick Vieira at Arsenal.
The simple truth about Gerrard, amid the comparisons to other greats across the ages, amid the nit-picking about where he stood in the pantheon, or the elusive Premier League title, or last season’s slip, is that he was one hell of a player. He could not bend every game to his will, but at his best he always offered the possibility. He was an amalgam of just about all the qualities top footballers should have. He was – he still is – four good players in one.

There are few more unforgiving tests of character than being an English football prodigy, when your awkward teens and early twenties are lived in the public gaze and your career is examined for what you failed to do rather than what you did. It was like that for Paul Gascoigne, and it has been the same for Gerrard and for Wayne Rooney, and yet Gerrard has not come close to either of the other two in the front-page material that can damage a footballer’s career.

There have, nevertheless, been a few scrapes along the way. We would never have known the finer details of how close he came to joining Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in the summers of 2004 and 2005 if Gerrard had not related them exhaustively in his 2006 autobiography.

By his own admission, he could be high maintenance emotionally, but then we are dealing with one of the most scrutinised footballers of his generation, not the reserve goalkeeper at Tranmere Rovers.

In that respect, he did not try to present himself as the idealised one-club man with never a thought for leaving Liverpool. In fact, the honesty of that book was typical of Gerrard, who has an unusual capacity among footballers to be able to talk openly about his fears and his shortcomings, as much as he does his strengths. It was a quality he had before the arrival on the scene of psychologist Dr Steve Peters and it seems to have served him well.

In England, where his career is judged through the smudged glass of club allegiances, and the endless, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about why he never left Liverpool, it is tempting to say that perspective has been lost. When you travel abroad there is a much simpler admiration for a player who is regarded as a heroic type of footballer, a last-gasp, one-final-attack match-winner. In England people seem to be embarrassed he is not more like World Cup-winners Andres Iniesta or Andrea Pirlo. In Europe, they appreciate Gerrard’s qualities for what they are.

He is one of the last footballers of a bygone era, and not all of that era good, either. He was born in Liverpool in 1980, by which time one reactionary Chief Constable on Merseyside had predicted an “army of occupation” might be needed to keep order in a city blighted with unemployment and depopulation. One year later, Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet was secretly discussing the city’s “managed decline” after the Toxteth riots.

Gerrard is proof that despite the best efforts of the British Establishment, talented, ambitious, successful young people can still walk out of ordinary houses on ordinary streets. Gerrard’s was the evocatively named Ironside Road on the Bluebell Estate in Huyton, and it always struck me that Ironside might have served as a good nickname for a battleship of a player who spent much of his Liverpool career seeing off the latest emergency.

A former team-mate of Gerrard’s once described to me the experience of playing alongside the Liverpool captain at his all-action best. The way Gerrard would ping a ball into his feet at twice the pace and three times the accuracy of anyone else. And how, by the time he had taken a fraction of a second to control the pass, Gerrard would have covered 40 yards and be demanding the ball back.

That is how Anfield will surely remember their captain, not for the league title that never was, but a man comfortable taking control of the situation – and shaping up to hit another winner.

via Independent

The man behind AirAsia: Flamboyant chief executive Tony Fernandes | By Elahe Izadi December 28. 2014

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AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes speaks at a news conference in Tokyo in July. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

AirAsia was failing and falling ever deeper into debt in 2001 when Tony Fernandes bought the carrier from Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom for a single Malaysian ringgit — worth less than 35 U.S. cents at the time, according to the Reuters news agency.

Fernandes, a flamboyant Malaysian-born, British-educated former Warner Music executive, had dreamed of operating his own budget airline since he was in school, he said in 2010 to the BBC.

Fernandes, 50, built the small, heavily indebted company into a dominant player in Southeast Asia with a low-cost model that focuses on short and cheap flights. He then started AirAsia X, which focuses on long-haul flights.

“Now everyone can fly,” became AirAsia’s motto. Since then, the airline has won numerous accolades as one of the world’s leading low-cost carriers. AirAsia, which started with two planes when Fernandes bought it, now operates a fleet of more than 160 AirBus A320 aircraft, according to the company.

As a young boy, Fernandes dreamt up the idea of cheap flights across Asia while he attended a boarding school in England and couldn’t frequently visit home because of the high cost of travel.

“For my first ever flight in AirAsia X, I refused to do the launch to Australia and China, and everyone thought it was a bit odd,” Fernandes told the BBC in 2010. “But I wanted my first flight to be London-Kuala Lumpur.”

Fernandes now faces his biggest crisis as AirAsia’s chief executive. After AirAsia Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control on Sunday, Fernandes took to Twitter to express support for his employees:

To all my staff Airasia all stars be strong, continue to be the best. Pray hard. Continue to do your best for all our guests. See u all soon

— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) December 28, 2014

“I as your group ceo will be there through these hard times,” he also tweeted. “We will go through this terrible ordeal together and I will try to see as many of you.”

Seen as the Richard Branson of Southeast Asia, Fernandes seems to have also adopted the Virgin airline owner’s public, larger-than-life persona.

Fernandes even once worked as an accountant for Branson’s Virgin company, and the two are now close friends. Last year, Fernandes — who is known to prefer jeans to suits — became the host of Apprentice Asia, a reality game show.

In 2013, Branson dressed up as an AirAsiaX female flight attendant after losing a bet to Fernandes over a Formula 1 race.

“He is an entrepreneur, visionary, knight and adventurer. Sir Richard can now also add AirAsia flight attendant to his long list of credentials,” Fernandes joked aboard that flight.

Fernandes has an estimated worth of $650 million and is the 28th-richest person in Malaysia, according to Forbes. The airline’s revenue increased by 3 percent in the most recent quarter compared with the same time last year, the company reported, although its profits have fallen by 14 percent as the political unrest in Thailand affects its flights there.

The region’s airline industry has already been hit with two major disasters this year; in March, a Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared with 239 on board and still remains missing. Then, in July, 298 people aboard a Malaysia Airlines flight died when it was shot down over Ukraine.

An article in an AirAsia in-flight magazine that went to press before the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing boasted that AirAsia pilots would never lose a plane because of their “continuous and very thorough” training. “Rest assured that your captain is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost,” the column said, according to the Associated Press.

In April, AirAsia executives apologized for the article, and copies were pulled after a social media backlash, AP reported.

“Once again, apologies,” Fernandes tweeted then. “It has been a difficult time for all in the industry.”

J. Freedom du Lac contributed

ISIS, BOKO HARAM, AND THE GROWING ROLE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN 21ST CENTURY TERRORISM | BY LOUISE I. SHELLEY12.26.2014

The list of atrocities committed by ISIS continues to grow, with the latest being a chilling pamphlet that details the organization’s policy on treating the women they kidnap and then use as sex slaves. This is the latest account of ISIS’s dealings in kidnapping and human trafficking in which they target women and children, often from the minority Yazidi religion, and sell them for as little as $25 or keep them as slaves.

ISIS is not the only terrorist group to engage in kidnapping and trafficking. Just a few days ago, Boko Haram kidnapped 200 villagers and killed dozens more in Nigeria, further terrorizing the already tormented community. Indeed, human trafficking plays a growing role in the operation of 21st-century terrorist organizations.

Several years ago I gave a public lecture on the topic and mentioned a case that is in the first chapter of my new book, Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime and Terrorism. The White Lace Case in Los Angeles involved women from the former USSR trafficked into high-end prostitution. Many of the women arrived in the United States as part of sports and religious delegations. In order to extend their legal residence in the United States, they had to obtain other visas. One of the leaders of this trafficking ring registered the trafficked women as students at a language skills school, thereby obtaining “student visas” for the prostitutes in her organization. The language school did not focus on providing instruction but instead was a visa mill. This same language school also provided visas to the 9/11 hijackers. In other words, the 9/11 hijackers and the trafficking victims shared the same “facilitator.” This facilitator was a point of intersection of crime and terrorism.

When I finished this talk, a government official approached me. He informed me that he was on a task force studying human trafficking and his role was to find the links between trafficking and terrorism. In his months in this position, he had not found a single example such as this. He asked how I found it. I answered that I had gone and talked to many members of law enforcement who through their investigations understood these links.

At that time, pre -9/11, the links were more subtle and had to be hunted down. But this case, already 15 years ago, shows that there were links at that time between human trafficking and terrorist activity even in the United States. Today they are more direct, especially in many conflict regions of the world. Yet policymakers focus nearly all their attention on more visible crime-terrorism links—primarily drug trafficking—and miss the important links between human trafficking and terrorist organizations.
Human trafficking now serves three main purposes for terrorist groups: generating revenue, providing fighting power, and vanquishing the enemy. For terrorists, human trafficking is a dual-use crime like drug trafficking and kidnapping. It not only generates revenue, but it decimates communities. As we see in Nigeria and Iraq today, trafficking intimidates populations and reduces resistance just as enslavement and rape of women were used as tools of war in the past.

Trafficking and smuggling are part of the business of terrorism, and constitute one activity in the product mix of terrorist groups. Terrorists smuggle drugs, arms, and people. Maoist insurgents in Nepal have exploited the long-standing trade of young girls taken from their country to the brothels of India to finance their activities. Evidence suggests that the LTTE smuggled Sri Lankans to finance their activities and the PKK exploited the porous mountain borders in eastern Turkey to facilitate human smuggling from countries in the Middle East and South Asia. Cells of the Ulster Volunteer Force of Northern Ireland received narcotics as payment from Chinese “snakeheads” in support of their smuggling networks. German authorities in 2006 arrested an Iraqi and a Syrian who smuggled individuals from their home region and were suspected of having links with the Ansar al-Islam terrorist network.

While trafficking and smuggling does generate revenue, they are not central money-making endeavors for terrorists and are committed primarily for other reasons. Pakistani terrorists buy children to serve as suicide bombers. Rebels in Africa trade in children to fund their conflicts and obtain child soldiers. More recently, Boko Haram shocked the world by kidnapping 276 female students and threatened to traffic them. ISIS members have taken young Azidi girls, raped and sold them off for trivial prices. The girls and women may sell for as little as $25 and sometimes even less, suggesting that this is not a revenue-generating operation when a million dollars daily is gained from oil sales. Rather, human trafficking, like slavery in the past, is a way of demoralizing the conquered.

Those not in the direct sight of terrorist groups may also become victims of human trafficking, even as they flee to safety. People displaced by terrorists are vulnerable to trafficking—both sexual and labor. Young girls fleeing with their families from the Syrian conflict today have been trafficked in Jordan and other neighboring states, just as occurred with earlier waves of refugees from Iraq. In Turkey, crime groups in border areas are exploiting the labor of Syrian male refugees who cannot find legitimate employment. Many more illegal migrants face labor trafficking in Europe as they flee the conflict regions of North Africa and the Middle East.

Human trafficking was once a crime associated primarily with a range of small to large crime groups. But as terrorist groups begin to function more as businesses, we unfortunately observe the expansion of terrorist groups into this criminality. Historically, conquering armies have seized inhabitants of conquered areas and enslaved them. But what is different is that traditional practices of the past have been combined with the business acumen of terrorist groups today. In their effort to diversify their revenue, they have capitalized on traditional practices to new advantage. Women and children are disproportionately victims, but they are not alone. Exploitation of trafficking victims may be most acute in conflict and adjoining regions, but it is not confined to these areas.

Religion Without God | DEC. 24, 2014

THIS Christmas our family will go to church. The service is held in a beautiful old church in the charming town of Walpole, N.H., just over the border from Vermont. The Lord’s Prayer hangs on the wall behind the sanctuary. A lectern rises above the nave to let the pastor look down on his flock. The pews and the side stalls have the stern, pure lineaments suited to the Colonial congregation that once came to church to face God.

Except that this church is Unitarian. Unitarianism emerged in early modern Europe from those who rejected a Trinitarian theology in preference for the doctrine that God was one. By the 19th century, however, the Unitarian church had become a place for intellectuals who were skeptical of belief claims but who wanted to hang on to faith in some manner. Charles Darwin, for example, turned to Unitarians as he struggled with his growing doubt. My mother is the daughter of a Baptist pastor and the black sheep, theologically speaking, of her family. She wants to go to church, but she is not quite sure whether she wants God. The modern Unitarian Universalist Association’s statement of principles does not mention God at all.

As it happens, this kind of God-neutral faith is growing rapidly, in many cases with even less role for God than among Unitarians. Atheist services have sprung up around the country, even in the Bible Belt.

Many of them are connected to Sunday Assembly, which was founded in Britain by two comedians, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. They are avowed atheists. Yet they have created a movement that draws thousands of people to events with music, sermons, readings, reflections and (to judge by photos) even the waving of upraised hands. There are nearly 200 Sunday Assembly gatherings worldwide. A gathering in Los Angeles last year attracted hundreds of participants.

How do we understand this impulse to hold a “church” service despite a hesitant or even nonexistent faith? Part of the answer is surely the quest for community. That’s what Mr. Jones told The Associated Press: “Singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. Which part of that is not to like?”

Another part of the answer is that rituals change the way we pay attention as much as — perhaps more than — they express belief. In “The Archetypal Actions of Ritual,” two anthropologists, Caroline Humphrey and James Laidlaw, go so far as to argue that ritual isn’t about expressing religious commitment at all, but about doing something in a way that marks the moment as different from the everyday and forces you to see it as important. Their point is that performing a ritual focuses your attention on some moment and deems it worthy of respect.

In Britain, where the rate of atheism is much higher than in the United States, organizations have now sprung up to mark life passages for those who consider themselves to be nonbelievers. The anthropologist Matthew Engelke spent much of 2011 with the British Humanist Association, the country’s pre-eminent nonreligious organization, with a membership of over 12,000. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, a prominent atheist, is a member. The association sponsors a good deal of anti-religious political activity. They want to stop faith-based schools from receiving state funding and to remove the rights of Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords. They also perform funerals, weddings and namings. In 2011, members conducted 9,000 of these rituals. Ceremony does something for people independent of their theological views.

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Moreover, these rituals work, if by “work” we mean that they change people’s sense of their lives. It turns out that saying that you are grateful makes you feel grateful. Saying that you are thankful makes you feel thankful. To a world so familiar with the general unreliability of language, that may seem strange. But it is true.

In a study in which undergraduates were assigned to write weekly either about things they were grateful or thankful for; hassles; or “events or circumstances that affected you in the past week,” those who wrote about gratitude felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the coming week. There have now been many such studies.

Religion is fundamentally a practice that helps people to look at the world as it is and yet to experience it — to some extent, in some way — as it should be. Much of what people actually do in church — finding fellowship, celebrating birth and marriage, remembering those we have lost, affirming the values we cherish — can be accomplished with a sense of God as metaphor, as story, or even without any mention of God at all.

Yet religion without God may be more poignant. Atheists trust in human relations, not supernatural ones, and humans are not so good at delivering the world as it should be. Perhaps that is why we are moved by Christmas carols, which conjure up the world as it can be and not the world we know.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you, however you understand what that means.

T. M. Luhrmann, a contributing opinion writer, is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 25, 2014

Pope Francis, in Christmas Address, Focuses on Children’s Plight | By ELISABETTA POVOLEDODEC. 25, 2014

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Pope Francis on Thursday used a traditional Christmas address to emphasize the plight of children in areas of conflict, pointing out their “impotent silence” that “cries out under the spade of many Herods,” a reference to the ancient king who slaughtered all the male newborns of Bethlehem, according to the New Testament.

Vast numbers of children today are victims of violence, objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers, and they need to be saved, he said.

The pope spoke of “children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence.” He singled out “infants massacred in bomb attacks,” including in the Middle East and in Pakistan, where 132 children were killed in a Taliban attack on a school this month.

“So many abused children,” Francis said, in one of several off-the-cuff asides during the address, known as the “Urbi et Orbi” message — Latin for “to the city and the world” — that popes traditionally deliver to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on special occasions like Christmas.

In calling for global peace and for an end to violence and conflict in the Middle East, Ukraine and parts of Africa, Francis went off script to denounce “the globalization of indifference” that permits suffering and injustice to persist.

“So many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference” are affected by hardness of the heart, he said, calling for reflection and change. And he chided the Vatican’s bureaucratic machine in another address this week for losing touch with its spiritual side in the pursuit of power.

As Christians exchanged gifts and shared family meals, the pope’s thoughts were with the world’s dispossessed; refugees and exiles; those suffering “brutal” ethnic or religious persecution; and those held as hostages or killed because of their religious beliefs.

“Truly there are so many tears this Christmas,” Francis said from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica before thousands of faithful in the square below. The address was also broadcast live on the Internet.

To underscore his closeness to those suffering religious persecution, a theme of his nearly two years as pope, on Christmas Eve, Francis spoke with displaced Christians who are in a tent camp in northern Iraq and told them that they were like Jesus. Many in the camps have been forced to leave their homes by militants of the Islamic State.

“You are like Jesus on the night of his birth when he had been forced to flee,” the pope told them in a telephone call broadcast live by an Italian Catholic television station. “You are like Jesus in this situation, and that means we are praying even harder for you.”

The pope also denounced abortion, and his thoughts turned to “infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life.”

In his message on Thursday, the pope said he hoped that the world would respond to the plight of the needy by increasing humanitarian aid, and he asked “that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided” for the victims of Ebola.

Closing the address, he called on Jesus’ strength to turn “arms into plowshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness.”

In Britain, the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, pulled out of the traditional Christmas Day ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral because of what his office described as a “severe cold.”

A draft of the sermon he had planned to deliver, and which was released on his website, reflected on the temporary truce on Christmas Day in 1914, early in the First World War, between British and German soldiers.

“The problem is that the way it is told now it seems to end with a ‘happy ever after,’” the draft said.

It added: “The following day the war continued with the same severity. Nothing had changed; it was a one-day wonder. That is not the world in which we live — truces are rare.”