July 2006 Archives

Efficient Rent Seeking and Economic Development

Rentseeking.jpg I recently asked a South Korean professor about the reason for the economic success of Korea. He said efficient rent-seeking and suggested the following book;

Rents, Rent-Seeking and Economic Development: Theory and Evidence in Asia by Mushtaq H. Khan (Editor), Kwame Sundaram Jomo (Editor)

Related; Chapters 1 and 2 are online.

Prostitution Cartels

Tyler Cowen asks, “Should prostitution be cartelized?

It’s effectively a cartel in some parts of the world;

“The police have arrested ten foreign nationals for alleged involvement in prostitution…

“From what we gathered from the investigation so far, it appears that they are sending the money made from prostitution to their agents in their country…The individuals themselves are paid by their agents. The investigation is still ongoing and the full report will be made public very soon,” a police spokesperson said.”

In countries with large relative expatriate populations it will be extremely difficult root out prostitution.

The Sorry State of Knowledge in Islamic Countries

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The Parmcy translation.jpg Skimming through Akbar Ahmed’s, Islam Under Siege, pp.96-97, I came across the following anecdote about lack of respect for knowledge in some Islamic societies of today;

“In January 2001 Dr. Sohail Zaidi, a distinguished Pakistani scientist in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at Princeton University, shared with me the enduring image of education in his homeland. It was a memory from his youth and it was seared in his mind. He recalled that he lived in a remote part of Pakistan and his school was at a distance. He would journey from his home to school everyday by train. The train was always full, so usually he had to fight his way into the compartments. He recalled one day, just before his exams, gathering his notes and books under his arm and jumping on to the moving train. He clung on to the railing with one hand while holding on to his treasure of knowledge with the other. To his great dismay the people inside the compartment refused to open the door to let him in although they could see his plight. He pleaded with them. They ignored him. The train now began to pick up speed. He had to decide whether to throw his books and notes away or save his life. He saved his life. All those years later he recounted the story with bitterness; his society had no respect for learning or books.

The scholar was aware that because he did not belong to an elite Pakistani family he was denied access to better schools. He was also aware that, because he was a refugee from India, he would find it difficult to work in the administrative and political structure of Pakistan, which was weighted heavily against people like him. Yet what burnt in him was an obsession to acquire knowledge. He had accumulated degree after degree in western universities.

Western universities had been good to him. He migrated to the United States. Pakistan’s loss was the gain of the West, and another scholar was lost to the Muslim world. His story reflects that indifference to ilm or knowledge that characterizes Muslim society. This is particularly poignant as ilm is so highly treasured in Islam itself.”

*The picture above is leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides ("The Pharmacy"), dated 1224 Iraq, Baghdad School


Ramin Jahanbegloo: a philosopher in prison; The Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo is currently behind bars in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement since April 27th, 2006, with no formal charges brought against him. Hundreds of scholars across the globe have signed an open letter to Iran's president demanding his immediate release. From ABC's Philosopher's Zone.

Anwar Ibrahim - Shakespeare, Islam and Democracy

The gods that failed; “The 280m Arabs spend a higher percentage of GDP on education than any other developing region, and yet some 65m adults are illiterate and about 10m children still have no schooling at all. There is little Arab writing, or translation from other languages: in the 1,000 years since the Caliph Mamoun, noted the authors, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain translates in a single year.”

Perspectives on the Middle East


The Academy of Economic Blogs

“Gas taxes make you happy”

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'Can Americans be prodded to invest more in friendships?' Asks Sebastian Mallaby in a recent column- Why So Lonesome?;

“The question about loneliness is: Why do people do this to themselves? Why do Americans, who reported an average of nearly three close friends in 1985, now report an average of just over two? And why does one in four have nobody with whom to discuss personal issues? This is the age of Oprah and MySpace, of public emoting on television and the Web. Apparently people watch "Friends" but don't actually have many….

But there's one antidote to loneliness that is at least intriguing. In an experiment in Austin, Princeton's Daniel Kahneman found that commuting -- generally alone, and generally by car -- is rated the least enjoyable daily activity, but commuting by car pool is reasonably pleasant. Measures that promote car pooling could make Americans less isolated and healthier.”

Some findings from the recent study from American Sociological Association;

- the number of people who say they have no one with whom to discuss important matters has more than doubled

- The trend toward social isolation mirrors other class divides: Non-whites and people with less education tend to have smaller networks than white Americans and the highly educated.

- Racial diversity among people’s networks has increased. The percentage of people who count at least one person of another race in their close network has gone up from about 9 percent to more than 15 percent.

-The percentage of people who talk only to family members about important matters increased from about 57 percent to about 80 percent, while the number of people who depend totally on their spouse has increased from about 5 percent to about 9 percent.

Related; The Strength of Internet Ties

Provocative Podcast of the Day- Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett on Religion; as the world wages war over geographical, religious and historical turf - a growing number of big note scientists want religious faith put under the microscope. Uber philosopher of mind and popular provocateur, Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea, is one of them. He joins Natasha Mitchell to discuss his latest controversial offering, Breaking the Spell. Listen to the podcast. More links on the Radio National's site.

Related; Neuroscience Carnival at Thinking Meat Blog.

The Outlook for the US Economy

The IMF released its views on the US economy;

The staff's baseline scenario for the short-term outlook is for a "soft landing," with growth easing to potential and inflation remaining contained. The housing market is likely to cool in response to high valuations and tightening financial conditions, reducing the impetus from consumption and residential investment, but strong fundamentals should continue to support business investment. The external deficit is likely to remain wide, but the drag on activity from net exports will lessen as growth abroad strengthens. On the supply side, solid productivity growth should accommodate wage gains while containing price pressures.

There appear to be competing risks to this outlook. The possibility of a more abrupt slowdown in the housing market, disappointments on the productivity front, and a disorderly adjustment to global imbalances, as well as the risk of higher oil prices more than offset the upside potential for business investment. Avian flu and geopolitical events represent further and more difficult to quantify downside risks. In contrast, inflation risks-which mainly stem from supply effects-seem mostly on the upside. These include the possibility of a larger-than-anticipated productivity slowdown pushing up unit labor costs, and the potential for pass-through of high commodity and oil prices.”

U.S. Is on Its Way to a Recession by Year End - Roubini


United States: 2006 Article IV Consultation - Staff Report and Selected Issues from IMF

Roubini of New York University Predicts a U.S. Recession -podcast from Bloomberg

Globalization is Working?

the future of globalisation.jpg
Philippe Legrain debates Robert Wade;

“Wade claims that, “If the liberal argument holds, we would expect the global shift towards free markets in the past 25 years to have raised the rate of world economic growth. Instead, there has been a slowdown in developed and developing countries. Between the era of managed capitalism (roughly 1960-78) and the era of globalisation (roughly 1979-2000), the growth rate of world output fell by almost half, from 2.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent.”

Not so. According to the latest IMF figures, the world economy grew by 3.3 per cent a year from 1986-95 and by 3.9 per cent a year from 1996-2005. Better still, while in 1986-95 emerging economies grew only fractionally faster than advanced economies (3.7 per cent a year compared with 3 per cent), in 1996-2005 they grew over twice as fast (5.5 per cent a year compared with 2.7 per cent). Far from stagnating, the world economy is booming—and developing countries are outpacing developed ones.

But in any case, Wade’s methodology is shoddy. Even if global growth had slowed since 1979, one could not deduce from such aggregate figures that globalisation wasn’t working. Contrary to what he asserts, there has not been a global shift towards free markets, let alone one that can be dated to 1979. Countries have opened their markets to varying degrees and at different times; some have failed to liberalise at all or have even become more protectionist. What’s more, globalisation is not the only economic change of the past 40 years, and so cannot necessarily be considered responsible for any particular change in economic performance. The right way to judge whether globalisation is working is to look at individual economies’ performance before and after they liberalised, controlling for other changes that might affect the picture—and one finds a mountain of evidence that it is indeed delivering the goods.”

*The picture is from the cover of the latest edition of The Economist

Philippe Legrain’s Globalization posts
Thomas Palley’s Globalization posts

chart 10_corruption.gif World Bank has published a new report, “Anticorruption in Transition 3-Who is Succeeding … And Why?” which suggests that incidence of corruption has declined in quite a few of transition economies- Russia seems to be an exception;

“Most observers believe that corruption in Russia has worsened in recent years, although the exact magnitude of recent changes and the severity of the current situation are subjects of continued debate. The Executive Opinion Survey carried out annually by the World Economic Forum (2005) confirms a worsening in experts’ perceptions of the governance environment in Russia from 2004 to 2005. Most notable is a decline in perceptions of judicial independence and protection of property rights and an increase in the burden of organized crime on business. Surveys of small businesses undertaken by the Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR, 2005), a Russian think tank, indicate that corruption fell from 2001 to 2002 but then worsened again by 2004. Russian firms that participated in the BEEPS also showed a similar pattern—a dip in assessments of corruption as a problem for business from 1999 to 2002 followed by an increase through 2005. (Reported bribe frequency rose to 2002 and then stayed level.) However, the BEEPS firms—500 in 2002 and nearly 600 in 2005—also reported a decrease in the bribe tax from 1.4 percent of revenues in 2002 to 1.1 percent in 2005.The most negative picture of corruption in Russia was painted last year by another Russian think tank, Information Science for Democracy (INDEM, 2005), which reported that bribes had increased tenfold in the four years from 2001 to 2005.

Demotivator of the Day- Happiness is a delusion


going sane.jpg
Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips is interviewed by The Guardian- some quotes below;

"A culture that is obsessed with happiness must really be in despair, mustn't it? Otherwise why would anybody be bothered about it at all?"

"It's become a preoccupation because there's so much unhappiness. The idea that if you just reiterate the word enough and we'll all cheer up is preposterous."

"I don't want happiness to be part of the currency," he sighs, "but by that I don't mean that I want people to be miserable, but I do think that if you have a sense of reality you are going to be really troubled. Anybody in this culture who watches the news and can be happy - there's something wrong with them.

"The cultural demand now is be happy, or enjoy yourself, or succeed. You have to sacrifice your unhappiness and your critique of the values you're supposed to be taking on. You're supposed to go: 'Happiness! Yes, that's all I want!' But what about justice or reality or ruthlessness - or whatever my preferred thing is?" ..

"It's very simple. The reason that there are so many depressed people is that life is so depressing for many people. It's not a mystery. There is a presumption that there is a weakness in the people who are depressed or a weakness on the part of scientific research and one of these two groups has got to pull its socks up. Scientists have got to get better and find us a drug and the depressed have got to stop malingering. The ethos is: 'Actually life is wonderful, great - get out there!' That's totally unrealistic and it's bound to fail."

The New Statesman Profile - Adam Phillips
Excerpt from ‘Going Sane-Maps of Happiness’ by Adam Phillips

A bird flu vaccine breakthrough

BBC reports;

“GlaxoSmithKline believes it has developed a vaccine for the H5N1 deadly strain of bird flu that may be capable of being mass produced by 2007.

The vaccine has proved effective at two doses of 3.8 micrograms during clinical trials in Belgium, BBC business editor Robert Peston has learned.

It is the size of the dose that is highly significant, Glaxo explained.”


Bird flu: risks, laws and rights

Responding to the Threat of a Pandemic Influenza- Frederick G. Hayden, Prof. of Clinical Virology in International Medicine at U. of Va. School of Medicine, considers the effectiveness and potential for resistance offered by antivirals.

The popular Avian Flu blog is now dormant.

How the Bird Blue has spread

Inauthentic Paper Detector

Can’t guarantee the authenticity of the following Inauthentic Paper Detector from Indiana University School of Informatics. According to the site;

“This web site is intended for detecting whether a technical document is human written and authentic or not. Predictions may work for documents intended for entertainment (novels, news articles etc.). The main purpose of this software is to detect whether a technical document conforms to the statistical standards of an expository text. You can easily take a human written technical document and add some nonsense text somewhere in the middle, or paste a document generated by an automatic paper generator. We are trying to detect new, machine written texts that are simply generated not to have any meaning, yet appear to have meaning on the surface.”

I tested George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language; the result “This text had been classified as INAUTHENTIC with a 17.7% chance of being authentic text”.

(via Improbable Research)

Why are we surprised that Doha Failed?

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"The cause of this collapse is not specific countries' unwillingness to concede on particular themes, but growing public opposition in poor and rich countries alike to the very WTO model," said Lori Wallach director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Last year, the World Bank estimated that global gains from trade liberalisation would equal roughly $287 billion, of which $86 billion would accrue to developing nations, lifting at least 66m people out of poverty
-The Economist

At least some people seems happy that Doha trade round has failed. Paul Blustein asks whether Doha failure could lead to more uncertainty about the path of future globalization in this op-ed. Stiglitz refers to as America’s New Trade Hypocrisy.

Q&A with Pascal Lamy
Doha Talks Break Down
Doha on Life Support
DOHA, R.I.P.????
Doha dead as dodo

Where are they now- Mikhail Gorbachev

“In 1993, former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, founded Green Cross International (GCI). Green Cross promotes legal, ethical and behavioural norms that encourage basic changes in the value, actions and attitudes of government and private sector and civil society necessary to build a sustainable global community.

Phillip spoke to Mikhail Gorbachev at Earth Dialogues Brisbane 2006: A World Forum for Sustainable Development and Resource Management, held between 22-25 July as part of this year's Brisbane Festival.”

Listen to the podcast- from Radio National’s Late Line Live.

It all depends on who you’re!

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Russ Roberts at Café Hayek recently posted a puzzle of a tourist who goes to a remote island for a vacation where barter is practiced- they don’t use money.

Here’s something that recently happened;

“International supermodel Kate Moss and a cohort of celebrity friends ran up a $500 000 bill when they stayed at Huvafen Fushi resort last week. But the owners reportedly agreed to forgo any payment in return for positive press publicity.”
So if the tourists were celebrities they could have got away with not paying the bill at all.

Be sure to check the answer to the puzzle here.

Other blogs discussing the puzzle; The Stalwart, The Faren Report

Related; Kate splashes out on Maldives detox

Gan Island- Used to be a British Base

Dhivehi Observer is running some old Times articles on the Maldives;

Gan Aft Agley (Feb. 23, 1959)

"It is difficult," pontificated the Times of London two years ago, "to imagine either extreme nationalism or a scrupulous addiction to neutrality arising seriously in the Maldives." Seldom has the Times been more wrong. Unceremoniously kicked out of their sea-air bases by newly independent and neutralist Ceylon, the British decided to set up new bases farther south on the placid island of Gan in the Maldives, a splatter of palm-fringed dots in the Indian Ocean 400 miles from Ceylon. There are only 93,000 Maldivians—nut-brown, peaceable folk who have been under the wing of the...”

Those who served at RAF Gan have their own website- Royal Air Force Gan Remembered.


“FOR sheer and pervasive fervor, the love of nationhood has no equal among contemporary political passions. Independence is the fetish, fad and totem of the times. Everybody who can muster a quorum in a colony wants Freedom Now—and such is the temper of the age that they can usually have it. Roughly one-third of the world, some 1 billion people, have run up their own flags in the great dismantlement of empires since World War II, creating 60 new nations over the face of the earth. In the process they have also created, for themselves and for the world, a congeries of unstable and uneasy...”

Why Mentors are Important

Even criminals need mentors!

"Our analysis," write Morselli, Tremblay and McCarthy, "focuses on the effects of mentors on two aspects of criminal achievement: illegal earnings and incarceration experiences ... Proteges with lower self-control attract the attention of some criminal mentors, who provide the structure and restraint that lead to a more prudent approach to crime. This approach involves fewer and more profitable offences that lower the risks of apprehension and, perhaps, promote long-term horizons in crime."

The researchers used a painstaking protocol: "We collected information on monthly illegal earnings and on the number of days that respondents were incarcerated. After calculating the total for criminal earnings and incapacitation experiences for the period, we applied logarithmic transformations to create our dependant variables."

Their calculation resulted in a big payoff. As they put it: "Our findings suggest that strong foundations in crime offer an advantageous position for continuous achievement and the presence of a criminal mentor is pivotal for achievement over one's criminal career."

- Dastardly development; Mentors are crucial - for a career in crime (Improbable research column)

Related; Incentives for Delinquency

Worth Reading… It’s All Numbers

Links to a couple of articles and blog posts that discusses mathematics and statistics in the news;

Putting a Number on Happiness- The Numbers Guy.
More on the Happy Planet Index.

"The 200,000 people of Vanuatu -- a South Pacific nation composed of 83 islands, with an agricultural economy and corporate headquarters of file-sharing service Kazaa -- are the happiest on earth, according to a wave of recent articles….

The problem is, no one has asked Vanuatuans how happy they are. The ranking was based on extrapolating happiness levels from other countries."

I'm told that in Bhutan for the census they include a question on happiness. From a small sample of people I've met Bhutanese seem more happy than the one Vanuatuan I've met.

Cheney's One Percent Doctrine- John Allen Paulos

"Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine as follows: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' … Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply."

How a statistical formula won the war (via The Amateur Economist)

Lying with Statistics: Today's Example

Carnival of Podcasts

Ray Canterbery, an author and economics professor emeritus at Florida State University, talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene about economic theory, Canterbery's book "A Brief History of Economics: Artful Approaches to the Dismal Science" and U.S. economic policy.

Dan Griswold, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy, talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene from Washington about China's currency policy, the benefits of imports from China to the U.S. economy and the need for increased national savings in the U.S.

James Galbraith on economics and contributions of his father.

How many logics? If we think about logic at all, we probably think of it as one and indivisible - truth is truth and an argument is either valid or it isn't. But perhaps we need a logic that is more subtle than that, one that allows for degrees or truth. This, it turns out, is the Australian way. For more see the blog of the guest.

Hearing Voices - the invisible intruders
Around 10% of the population hear voices that aren't there. Some people can live harmoniously with them, but for those whose voices are associated with a psychiatric illness, they can be frightening and menacingly real. We discuss the latest research on how auditory hallucinations occur in the brain, what it's like to live with voices in your head - and the healing power of the international Hearing Voices Network

U.S.-China Trade, Exchange Rates, and the U.S. Economy
Featuring Nicholas Lardy, Institute for International Economics; Frank Vargo, National Association of Manufacturers; and Daniel Griswold, Cato Institute; One year after China’s modest currency reforms, the issue remains a sticking point in U.S.-China trade relations. Critics argue that China’s yuan remains grossly undervalued, bestowing an unfair advantage on imports from China at the expense of U.S. producers. Other observers contend that benefits from trade with China far outweigh any concerns about its currency. Policy options range from doing nothing to aggressive diplomacy to imposing steep tariffs on Chinese imports. Three experts on U.S.-China trade will discuss the status of reform in China, the impact of U.S.-China trade and exchange rates on our economy, and what change, if any, should be made in U.S. economic policy toward China

Recent UN Reports on Development Themes

It continues to puzzle me the number of reports that continue to be published on development themes by multilateral agencies; the following list is only from the UN.

There is lot of talk about harmonization of donor practices- shouldn’t multilateral agencies harmonize production of research and reports?

The World Economic and Social Survey (WESS) 2006;

“According to the World Economic and Social Survey 2006, in the industrialized world, the income level over the last five decades has grown steadily while it has failed to do so in many developing countries, thereby causing a rise in already high world inequality.

Greater income divergence is partly explained by a rising number of growth collapses. Countries with weak economic structures and institutions and low infrastructural and human development have less capacity to gain from global markets

The importance of strong institutions and good governance for economic growth is now widely recognized. But contrary to some prescriptions, immediate institution of large-scale reform is not a necessary condition for growth, or even sometimes beneficial in the short run. The experience of China and Vietnam indicates that incremental reforms, if credible and perceived as steps along the way to further change, can be highly effective in shepherding strong and sustained growth.”

Millennium Development Goals Report 2006

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2006

“The world economy is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 3 per cent during 2006. The United States economy remains the main engine of global economic growth, but the growth of China, India and a few other large developing economies is becoming increasingly important. On average, developing economies are expected to expand at a rate of 5.6 per cent and the economies in transition at 5.9 per cent, despite the fact that these economies may face larger challenges during 2006.

Driven by higher oil prices, inflation rates have edged up worldwide. Core inflation rates, which exclude the prices of energy and food, have been more stable, indicating that the pass-through of higher oil prices to overall inflation is limited.”

Building Inclusive Financial Sectors for Development (The Blue Book)


GAO on Global War On Terror

The latest testimony by David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, on GWOT;

“GAO’s prior work found numerous problems with DOD’s processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD’s financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation. As a result, neither DOD nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs.”

Via Menzie Chinn

No Shame, No Sense and a $296 Billion Bill

The Great Yuan Debate

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Has China's Yuan Tinkering Changed the Global Economy? Debate between Nouriel Roubini and David Altig at Wall Street Journal Econlog.

Podcast of the Day- History of Democracy

Radio National’s Rear Vision presents a two part series on the history of democracy, from its beginnings in 2,500 BCE to today- Part 1 and Part 2.

Guests include John Keane, Professor of Politics at the University of Westminster and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB) and founder of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Tariq Ali London-based historian, novelist, filmmaker, playwright and anti-imperialist activist, Professor Charles Tilly Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University, Joseph Ketan,Visiting Fellow in Governance Programme, Pacific Institute of Advanced Studies in Development and Governance, University of the South Pacific.

What’s Democracy? Words of Wisdom from F.A. Hayek
Democratic Peace- blog by R.J. Rummel
Robert A. Dahl’s books are highly recommended
The Democracy Advantage; How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace

The Future of Middle East?


The Mecca of the economist lies in economic biology rather than in economic dynamics” – Alfred Marshall

Should economists use more evolutionary principles? According Eric Beinhocker, of the McKinsey Global Institute, author of the recent “The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics”, it’s a definite yes. The Economist reviews his book;

“The evolutionary formula—variation, selection and replication—is a formal, “all-purpose” principle, which can perform its magic equally well in either domain….

He argues that economists should abandon blackboard deduction in favour of computer simulation. The economists he likes do not “solve” models of the economy—deducing the prices and quantities that will prevail in equilibrium—rather they grow them “in silico”, as he puts it.

An early example is the sugarscape simulation done in 1995 by Joshua Epstein and Robert Axtell, of the Brookings Institution. On a computer-generated landscape, studded with “sugar” mountains, they scattered a variety of simple, sugar-eating creatures, which compete for this precious commodity. Some creatures move faster than others, some see farther, and some burn sugar at a higher metabolic rate than their rivals…

Surprisingly, the results of their myopic lives can be gripping. Even simple rules of behaviour result in collective patterns that are impossible to foresee yet easy to recognise. The sugarscape, for example, is quickly beset by a division between haves and have-nots, which bears a strong statistical resemblance to the distribution of income in real economies. These macro-results cannot be deduced from the micro-rules simulators write. Rather, they emerge from the interactions of the creatures in the model, just as “wetness” emerges from the interaction of water molecules, rather than being a property of the molecule itself…”

I’ll wait for a review by David Warsh before buying the book.

Political Podcasts

The Foreigner’s Gift
Fouad Ajami, Author, The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq; and M. Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

The Rise of China's Soft Power
Joseph Nye, Lan Xue, Ezra F. Vogel and Anthony Saich (moderator)

Do Some Countries Lose Out in Cultural Trade?

Every culture represents an equilibrium among current economic and social forces
-Eric Zones

According to UNESCO, three countries - the United Kingdom, United States and China - produced 40 percent of the world’s cultural trade products in 2002, while Latin America and Africa together accounted for less than four percent. So this implies to UNESCO head that;

“However, “while globalization offers great potential for countries to share their cultures and creative talents, it is clear that not all nations are able to take advantage of this opportunity,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “Without support to help these countries participate in this trade, their cultural voices will remain marginalized and isolated.”

Even the Pope is worried about globalization. Pope Benedict’s 2007 encyclical will address “ethical and spiritual questions posed by the process of globalization.”

I’m not sure whether Daniel Cohen’s observation (cited at Café Hayek) that globalization adds to cultural diversity is generally shared among the general public. The title of the book reminded me of the comment made by Jagdish Bhagwati of the difficulty he had getting a publisher for the French edition of his book, In Defense of Globalization- he had to include an additional chapter on capital flows.

As for me, growing up in the Maldives one is bombarded in a sense by the culture of the neighboring giant, India. A large number of Maldivians understand the Hindi language- learned through watching Hindi films. I think it adds to the richness of the local culture and doesn’t make me less of a Maldivian.



Does culture need protection?- Podcast of the Day

Is China the Paramount Power in South East Asia?

Dr Milton Osborne at Lowy Institute gives a summary of his recent paper The Paramount Power: China and the Countries of Southeast Asia. Listen to the podcast.

New Economist has more on the paper.

Miscellaneous on China;

Political and Economic Introduction to China from British Parliament’s research group

Web users urged on China policy

Why China Stagnated

Hidden factors may diminish China's actual trade surplus

Interview with Five Economists

Russ Roberts interviews Robert Barro. Listen to the podcast and see the additional readings. Cyberlibris is reading Robert J. Barro's latest book: Nothing is Sacred: Economic Ideas for the New Millenium. Be sure to comment about the puzzle at the end of the podcast.

Jagdish Bhagwati on immigration

Anwar Ibrahim- fired practitioner

Judge Posner- lawyer economist; the interview starts around the middle of the program

Larry Summers- a not so well liked economist (by some) who had two Nobel laureate uncles. See related post ‘Fearful Pig’ is resigning as the President.

Note; Some of the podcasts are available for limited time, so download now.

Facts about Poverty in South Africa

south africa education.gif

A recent article from UN highlights;

“According to the Basic Income Grant (BIG) lobby group, around half of South Africa's 47 million people are poor. But the government's welfare scheme - child grants, pensions, foster children support and disability payments - reach only 11 million people

Child support grants pay R190 (US$27) per child per month, roughly R6 (85 cents) a day - about the cost of a loaf-and-a-half of bread. Around seven million children receive the means-tested payments, and that money often supports an entire family

An unemployment rate estimated at around 40 percent…

It believes a total of 12 million children up to the age of 18 live in poverty.”

Interview with the author of recent survey on South Africa at The Economist

Value of foreign direct investment soars ; THE value of mergers and acquisitions in SA soared 63% last year, helping the country eclipse India for the first time in terms of foreign direct investment, according to Ernst & Young

Pharaonic Neurosurgery and other links on science

A couple of links on some science related news;

The latest Carnival of Neuroscience

Secrets of ocean birth laid bare; The largest tear in the Earth's crust seen in decades, if not centuries, could carve out a new ocean in Africa, according to satellite data

Magic mushrooms really cause 'spiritual' experiences; “My guess is that there will be people saying ‘You’re looking for a spiritual shortcut’” says Griffiths. He stresses that the drug is no replacement for the mental health benefits of continuous personal reflection: “There’s all the difference in the world between a spiritual experience and a spiritual life.”

A head for trouble; We like to think it’s our choice to help an old lady across the road or push her into the traffic. But an increasing number of scientists say we’re fooling ourselves. Are some of us just hard-wired to be bad?

Pharaonic Neurosurgery

The Neuroscience of Playing Chicken; If you don't know what chicken is (are you from this planet?), it involves two people in cars driving at each other at high speeds. The first person to get the hell out of the way is the chicken. Unfortunately, it's impossible to fit a car, much less two, into an fMRI machine, so Fukui et al. came up with a "game theoretical" version. They chose chicken over the more well-known game theoretical game, the Prisoner's Dilemma, because in Prisoner's Dilemma tasks, people don't always behave the way game theory says they should, which leads to empirical and theoretical problems. Chicken is different, largely in that there's no reward for trying to make the same choice as the other participant. In chicken, you want to make the opposite choice of your opponent. I'll let them describe their version of chicken (p. 3; figure from p. 2):…

Lessons of Zidane Incident

It all depends on the perspective of your side; have a look at these videos.

Meanwhile Materazzi is holidaying in the Maldives.


The original head butt video

French forgive as Zidane explains

Best of Materazzi- (via Division of Labour)

A New Carnival in Town- Carnival of Wal-Mart

The 'Business of America is Business' has started a weekly Carnival of Wal-Mart series (via Division of Labour).

Some Password Security, Please

I've been unamused by the lack of password security in many of the workplaces I've been to lately. A perfect example: a couple of months ago, as I was waiting for 15 minutes, alone, in one of my healthcare provider's exam rooms, I snapped this photo:


I gather that the computer could have been used to access -- and modify -- all of my health records. I did not try to see if the login and password worked... but I was alarmed nonetheless.

Podcast of the Day- A Guide to Nonsense

mumbo jumbo.jpg
British author and journalist Francis Wheen discusses his book, How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, with some entertaining examples of celebrities like Princess Diana, Cherie Blair and Hillary Clinton who are deluded by crystals and healing stones, cults, gurus and other quackery in what he calls our post-political era. Here is the podcast, and the transcript.


Writer's choice 1: Francis Wheen at Normblog

Reviews of the book; Crooked Timber, The Economist

Let’s Bomb Each Other


aaaab01.jpg I just had to post the following about the craziness of the middle-east conflict by a Tel Aviv blogger;

“…Al Manar TV, Hezbollah television, is showing Zvi live while he is in the Tel Aviv studio. They are broadcasting our broadcast in real time, from Beirut, translating from Hebrew into Arabic what Zvi is saying, and responding in real time. "We can see you!" said the Al Manar moderator, mockingly, as he smiled into the camera.

Zvi is listening to the whole thing via his earphone, and he even posed a question in Arabic.

This is just one example of how mad and complex this conflict is: We watch each other's television broadcasts, we talk to one another, and then...we bomb each other.

This morning a friend of mine called from Gaza. He's not a journalist, not a politician - just an ordinary Palestinian guy in his twenties. He lives down the street from the offices of Hamas's Ministry of the Interior in Gaza, which was bombed a few days ago by an Israeli fighter plane. He has about two hours of electricity a day in his house and about as much running water. But he called me to ask if I was okay, after he saw on Al Jazeera television that Nasrallah was threatening to bomb Tel Aviv. "I'm worried about you," he said.

And late, late last night I chatted via Instant Message with this Lebanese blogger, while he sat on the roof of his apartment building and watched Israeli fighter planes bomb Beirut.”

Break It Up

End of Iraq.gif
“There is no good solution to the mess in Iraq. The country has broken up. The United States cannot put it back together again and cannot stop the civil war.

The conventional wisdom holds that Iraq’s break-up would be destabilising and should be avoided at all costs. Looking at Iraq’s dismal history since Britain cobbled it together from three Ottoman provinces at the end of the first world war, it should be apparent that it is the effort to hold Iraq together that has been destabilising.

Pursuit of a coerced unity under Sunni-Arab domination — from the first British-installed king to the end of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in 2003 — has led to endless violence, repression and genocide.

I do not believe it is possible in the long run to force people living in a geographically defined area to remain part of a state against their will. Certainly Iraq’s Kurds will never reconcile themselves to being part of Iraq. Under these circumstances I believe that a managed amicable divorce is in the best interests of the peoples of Iraq and will hasten American and British withdrawal.”

So writes Peter Galbraith in his new book, "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End"


How to Get Out of Iraq by Peter Galbraith
The Breakup- Q&A with Galbraith
The Battle in Baghdad
Krepinevich: U.S. Military May Remain in Iraq for Decades (podcast)

Today's Funny Video

Go Daddy Hearings with slight wardrobe malfunction.

Fun with Google

In an earlier post I linked to the book 55 Ways to Have Fun with Google. Amongst many others, it talks about the following fun application of the Google Maps; If I dig a very deep hole, where I go to stop?

Another cool idea is the Wayfaring Map which is dedicated to academic podcasts across the world ( via Cyberlibris blog)


Google Pack

Sponsored Google Videos

Videos from the Googleplex

From Kevin Kelly; Google SketchUp, Google Answers, Google Hacks, The Search

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO talks at SIEPR

Digital Maoism- Podcast of the Day

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Radio National’s Philosophers Zone asks ‘Is a free market in ideas a good idea?More than two centuries ago, Adam Smith, the great theorist of capitalism, argued that the free market was a self-correcting mechanism: a lot of people seeking profits for themselves would produce general public benefit. But does it work with ideas? Can there be an encyclopaedia that corrects itself, as it grows ever larger on the Web?

DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism by Jaron Lanier
How and Why Wikipedia Works: An Interview with Angela Beesley, Elisabeth Bauer, and Kizu Naoko

No Phishing Attacks from IMF!

IMF released the following press release recently;

"The IMF has learned of various forms of identity fraud and financial fraud involving the unauthorized use of the IMF's name and emblem. This includes `phishing' attacks, in which the names of IMF officials have been misused to deceive recipients into disclosing personal financial information, and `spoofing' attempts, in which a false copy of the IMF website had been created with false contact information, to mislead potential users…”

Music Piracy- Russian Version

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shakira album.jpgAccording to this article;

“Russia is already the second-biggest source of pirate music, film and software in the world after China — costing U.S. companies nearly $1.8 billion last year, according to anti-piracy groups. The Web site www.allofmp3.com just adds to the dispute.

World music downloading leader iTunes charges a fixed 99 cents per song, but the Russian site offers tracks for a 10th of that price. Songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new double album, Stadium Arcadium, cost between 10 and 16 cents. The whole of Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, the latest album by Colombian pop star Shakira, can be had for just $1.40.”

Via Russia Blog

Quote of the Day- Who’s an Expert?

“Now that I was writing on public policy issues, I was surprised to discover how fast and how easy it is to become known as an ‘expert’ on a number of subjects. The only subject on which I considered myself an expert was the history of economic theory, but others apparently considered me an expert on all sorts of other things.

Someone associated with writing of The Harvard Encylopedia of American Ethnic Groups phoned me at the Center of Advance Study because, as he put it, “You are considered the leading authority on West Indians in the United States.” Taken aback, I replied:

“Everything I know about West Indians in the United States could be said in ten typewritten pages, double spaced.”
“ But who else could write five typewritten pages?” he asked.
Apparently there must be an expert for every subject, even if no one knows very much about it.”

A Personal Odyssey by Thomas Sowell ( p, 263, emphasis mine)

Related; Unofficial Thomas Sowell Fan Page

The American Religious Identification Survey of 51,000 adult Americans last month found some of the secularizing trends seen in Europe;

Unchurched increase: 14% claimed no religious affiliation. That number was 8% in a similar study from 1990.”

What do the Iranians think;

“The poll revealed a country divided on many issues, although united on the role that Iran should play in the region. Iranians said they believe their country should lead the region “diplomatically and militarily” – 56% supported this view, and only 12% said their country should not be the dominant regional power. Nearly equal percentages of respondents want Iran to become more secular and liberal (31%) as want the country to become more religious and conservative (36%)….

Despite tensions between the United States and Iran, most Iranians – nearly two thirds – said they don’t believe that the two countries will go to war in the next decade.

Iranian men were more interested than women in making the economy work better. Among men, 47% said the economy should be a top government priority, while just 33% of women agreed. The older the respondent, the less important they considered development of a nuclear arsenal.

A majority said they would be willing to suffer through a bad economy if that were the price the country had to pay to develop its nuclear program. Also, 25% said they would blame the United States if the United Nations imposed nuclear-related sanctions, although nearly 40% said they were not sure whom to blame. Only one in six would blame Iran’s own government. If their country were to develop nuclear weapons, 25% said it would make the Middle East a safer place, but 35% disagreed with that statement.”

Does culture need protection?- Podcast of the Day

Should cultures be protected from destruction by outside forces, or might the introduction of new ideas and global economics create positive change? We hear from two leading economic historians, Eric Jones and Tyler Cowen, on how cultures can merge.

Also in the podcast Former World Bank economist William Easterly talks about foreign aid and development. Listen to the podcast.

Also see Moscow Gets Mortgaged- the latest show of Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria.



Globalization now describes just about everything, from the way we do business right through to the way we watch the football World Cup. So what are the implications for sport in a world where global is rapidly replacing local? Listen to the podcast.

According to World Bank country director of China, David Dollar;

“In general, China's transition to a market economy appears to be both more advanced and somewhat less damaging than we thought. Only 8 percent of the firms in this random sample of manufacturing are majority state-owned. Though they control one third of the assets in the sample, this still suggests a larger private sector than previous estimates. The extent of the transition varies dramatically:, from 99 percent private firms in Wenzhou or Jiaxing on the southeast coast to 60 percent in Anshan in the old northeastern rust belt. But in the cities where the private sector flourishes, firms reported far less red tape—from faster times through Customs to fewer days dealing with bureaucracy and less frequent demands for bribes.

While corruption is inherently hard to measure, we get pretty good response rates on the question of whether firms have to pay bribes to get loans from commercial banks, which are still largely state-owned. In southeast cities such as Hangzhou or Xiamen, 1 to 2 percent of firms report paying bribes to gain loans; the figure is above 10 percent in more than 20 cities of the center and west.”


IMF worried about Russia?

The latest Article IV Consultation’s Preliminary Conclusions on Russia has been released;

We are concerned that the current high levels of growth cannot be sustained without an acceleration in structural reforms. Analysis suggests that potential output growth is largely driven by productivity gains, with only small contributions from capital and labor, notwithstanding the recent acceleration in investment. These gains reflect the catch-up potential at this stage of economic development, where enterprises have significant scope for upgrading equipment and technologies while labor and capital are reallocating to faster growing sectors. While the mission agrees that there is considerable potential for further unleashing such productivity gains going forward, it is concerned that this cannot continue to be achieved on the scale of recent years, even in an environment with continued high oil prices, without a more determined push for reforms. The fact that Russia's GDP growth is among the lowest in the CIS, despite the strong terms of trade gains, is a reminder of underlying vulnerabilities. We believe that addressing these vulnerabilities by accelerating reforms, while high oil prices are still boosting the economy, should be a matter of priority.

Chewing Gum Increases Recall of Words

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“Insulin mops up glucose in the bloodstream, and chewing causes the releasevof insulin, because the body is expecting food. Insulin receptors in the hippocampus may be involved in memory. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that chewing might improve long-term and working memory. In an experiment, one-third of 75 adults tested chewed gum during a 20-minute battery of memory and attention tests. One-third mimicked chewing movements, and the rest did not chew. Gum-chewers' scores were 24 percent higher than the controls' on tests of immediate word recall, and 36 percent higher on tests of delayed word recall. They were also more accurate on tests of spatial working memory. Chewing gum elevated heart rate significantly above that in the sham chewing and control conditions. This response may improve cognitive function due to increased delivery of blood to the brain. But attentional tasks, which might be described as assessing purer aspects of "concentration," were unaffected by chewing gum. Thus, chewing gum may improve performance in certain memory tasks. Nevertheless, teachers typically ask students to stop chewing gum when they enter the class.”

- Efficient Learning for the Poor- Insights from the Frontier of Cognitive Neuroscience, World Bank, p. 32.


Learning with All Kinds of Minds; We now know that we all differ in the way we think. We have different areas of natural strength and weakness which can deeply affect our learning experience. We look at some alternative approaches to helping children achieve their potential and we hear from the mother of a boy with Tourette's syndrome who's school experience has been transformed. Also a psychologist speaks about the importance of teaching children to manage their emotions in school- a podcast from Radio National, see also the various links on their website.

Enlightened Educator- weblog

All kinds of Minds; is a non-profit Institute that helps students who struggle with learning measurably improve their success in school and life by providing programs that integrate educational, scientific, and clinical expertise

Connecting Minds: Unlocking the Potential (upcoming conference)

Russia- an improvement for corruption!

A survey from a Russian think-tank finds;

“The principal feature of the practical everyday corruption resides in the fact that the volume of the everyday corruption market (i.e. sum of the bribes to be paid by citizens within one year) has not undergone any specific alterations along with a relevant increase from US$ 2,8 billion to 3,0 billion respectively. Although such a stable position is the result of the two dynamic processes being interacted. The first process may be seen as some corruption risk increase (authorities' corruption pressure onto citizens) and corruption demand decrease (citizens' readiness to bribe). The same trend reveals in some decreased everyday corruption intensity (average number of bribes per one briber annually) under significant growth of the average bribe amount. The second process appears as this average bribe amount within everyday corruption realm can be absorbed totally by national consumer prices' growth.”

Podcast of the Day- Interview with Alvin Toffler

From Radio National; a conversation with the writer and futurist who for the past 40 years has acknowledged and critiqued the collision of technology with the human race. There latest book is 'Revolutionary Wealth'. Alvin Toffler also speaks about his role in establishing the first NGO in Russia since the revolution, at the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev.

A related interview at TCS.

English woman develops foreign accent after stroke

Human brain is truly amazing;

“Linda Walker awoke in hospital to find her distinctive Newcastle accent had been transformed into a mixture of Jamaican, Canadian and Slovakian….

Researchers at Oxford University have found that patients with Foreign Accent Syndrome have suffered damage to tiny areas of the brain that affect speech.

The result is often a drawing out or clipping of the vowels that mimic the accent of a particular country, such as Spain or France, even though the sufferer has limited exposure to that accent.

The syndrome was first identified during World War II, when a Norwegian woman suffered shrapnel damage to her brain. She developed a strong German accent, which led to her being ostracised by her community.”

Related; Those of you in London might want to go the following debate; From bad to worse: the worst ideas on the mind (via Mind Hacks)- The human mind is complex, mysterious and vital to who we are, so it's probably no surprise that over the years some treatments for mental conditions have turned out to be complicated, ridiculous and damaging to patients. In this fun and interactive event four experts will each name and shame an idea from psychiatric history and try to get the audience to name it ‘worst idea on the mind.

The G8 Summit Shutdown of St. Petersburg

palace.jpg From July 15th to July 17th, Vladimir Putin will host the G8 summit in the Constantine Palace in Strelnya, in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, Russia.

To make his premier guests more comfortable, his government has decided to close Pulkovo, the international airport, the port, all major roadways, and all the museums -- to the general public. According to radio reports, while the subway will still operate, there will be no above-ground transportation except for your feet. How nice -- the visiting dignitaries won't have to mix with the proles.

All this is gleaned from family and friends in Piter, as the St. Petersburg Times has mostly dropped the ball on this one, except for the business section:

I do not know many businesses that have gained from the G8 summit, but I know that many of them will suffer because of it. For example, companies that serve Russian tourists traveling aboard...

As city traffic comes to a standstill, ATM machines will run out of cash, gas stations of fuel and shops of goods. In contrast to the entrepreneurs, almost everything done by city officials is devoted to the G8 summit, especially road works, which seem to be going on everywhere. Certainly it’s time for many city streets to undergo repair, but is has nothing to do with the arrival of such distinguished guests. Are presidents bothered if Moskovsky Prospekt’s pavements are perfectly flat?

Actually many local shops serving the everyman carry little inventory, so quite a number of kiosks will simply shut down, since entrepreneurs cannot ship their goods to the stores, and their employees cannot easily get to work. I gather that the fancy stores will be open for the visiting dignitaries.

Of course the travel industry is mighty angry:

As a centralised economy, the state still wields great power in Russia. For the summit, the city's airport is closed to all flights; the railway to and from Moscow is closed for days before the event, the wonderful palaces are being closed without notice to tourists to allow the G8 leaders and their entourages to visit in peace and safety. Half the port is closed to river traffic.

And yet, tour groups have been booked to come to the city for months and even years ahead.

The Scotsman has an excellent, though incomplete, summary:

WHOLE sections of one of Europe's most beautiful cities cordoned off. More than 20,000 police, special forces and troops moving in to set up a security ring of steel. Ports closed and tourist cruise ships banned from a famous waterway, but millions spent on upgrading airports and roads to welcome powerful visitors while any protest is stifled.

All this of course will make it much harder for anti-globalists and other protesters to do much of anything -- not that you would expect mass demonstrations in a politically repressive country, though the anti-G8 folks know that you have to lie on your visa application if you want to get near the summit.

The Economics of France's attempt to open up iTunes

The Economist’s Economic Focus column looks at French attempt to allow customers to play music bought from iTunes on one of the iPod's rivals;

“Put these practical difficulties aside, and ask whether France's policymakers identified a real problem. Are they right to worry about the inseparability of Apple's store and its player?

Such controversies normally turn on the analogy chosen to illuminate them: is the iPod like a CD or cassette player, or an inkjet printer? Since it appeared in 2001, the iPod has become this decade's answer to the Sony Walkman. Supporters of the French law point out that if you buy a music cassette at a shop, you can listen to it on any cassette player that takes your fancy. You do not have to play it on a Walkman. Why then can customers not listen to songs from Apple's music store on whatever player they like? Surely Apple is guilty of exploiting the popularity of its store to stifle rivals to its iPod?

The law's opponents reach for different analogies. They compare the iPod not to the Walkman, but to printers, games consoles and razors. Buy an inkjet printer, for example, and you must buy the manufacturer's cartridges to be sure that it will work properly. (Although French parliamentarians will not come to your rescue, European regulators might.) Indeed, manufacturers make much of their money from the cartridges, not the printer itself, which is often sold cheaply. Economists explain this business model as a clever way for companies to “meter” their customers, charging them according to use. If they could not tie their customers to their cartridges, they would charge more for the printer itself, and the kind of person who now uses his printer rarely would not buy one at all.

Apple's business model, however, turns this on its head. Apple makes its money from sales of the iPod, not sales of music; the printer, not the cartridge; the razor, not the blade. As Bill Shope, an equity analyst at JPMorgan, puts it, the music store is a “loss leader” that serves only to boost sales of the iPod. It is as if record stores existed only to sell record players.”

Other free-reads from the latest Economist;

Podcast of the Day- Anwar Ibrahim

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Earlier I posted about a recent speech by Anwar Ibrahim. Now the podcast of the lecture is available.

When justice becomes a joke

“… (But) Judge Abdul Baree Yoosuf refused to grant the defendants the right to obtain a lawyer. In fact when one of the defendants Areesha Ali requested a lawyer the Judge replied that the trial was now over and convicted them for 4 months imprisonment just minutes after the proceedings began.''
- JSC Ignores Petition Against Summary Justice


Final report of American Law Professor Paul Robinson on Penal Law & Sentencing Codification Project for the Maldives

Bridge Academy in the Maldives- American high school students learning about human rights in the Maldives

‘Iraqi Government - Paralysis by Consensus’

The latest edition of Foreign Exchange is up. The focus this week is on Iraq, fashion giant from Spain and continuation of the discussion with Franklin Foer on soccer and globalization;

- In the United States the debate has become quite fierce: Should the US pull out of Iraq or stay the course? Has the American military become part of the problem or is it holding the country together? To get an Iraqi perspective we sit down with Laith Kubba, currently Program Director of the Middle East and North Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy, but not long ago the spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrihim Jaffari

- In Part 2 of our discussion with Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World, we discuss how national identities are manifested through sport and how globalization is changing the way teams play soccer all over the world.


- This week’s In Focus takes us to Spain to learn the secret of a fashion giant one competitor calls “possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world.” In an era when clothing retailers outsource all their manufacturing to developing countries, one company, Zara, is having enormous success doing things differently: Much of their production stays in the region, and they spend almost nothing on advertising ( they can move the whole production chain in 2 weeks or if need be in 48 hours).

- Less than 5% of American donations go overseas. By giving to the Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet has chosen to be in the minority and focus on those less fortunate in foreign countries


- Spain’s Zara

- A discussion with Paul Markillie, Business correspondent of The Economist- “Could [companies] have become a little bit too lean and mean in their supply chains? They’re literally using vans and aeroplanes as their mobile warehouses. Could they have taken things too far and could there be risks in the system?”, authored the recent Survey on Logistics.

The Mother of All Flow-Charts


Integrated Defense Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics Life Cycle Management Framework (via FP blog)

Related; Hammer Time; Two decades later, perhaps the most enduring example of government waste is the $436 Pentagon hammer

Haaretz reports;

“The power station in Gaza was built over a period of five years, at a cost of $150 million. In 1999, the Enron Corporation, along with Palestinian businessman Said Khoury, began working on the project. In 2000, Khoury's Morganti Group purchased Enron's share of the project.

The power station began operating in 2002, reaching full commercial capacity in 2004. The owners of the power station insured it, through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, for a sum of $48 million due to "political risks." OPIC is a U.S. government authority that insures U.S. investments in developing markets.”

For Comment; Should governments be involved in political risk insurance?

Violence Plagues Middle East
MidEastWeb blog- a news blog on middle-east

It's not about the money


Easterly offers some advice to Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other would be philanthropists;

“The misguided media reaction to the Gates-Buffett union was, quite predictably, all about numbers: Warren's $31 billion gift, which roughly doubles the size of Bill's foundation to about $60 billion. Welcome to foreign aid wonderland, where it's always about the spending, never about the impact. "Double" has a venerable history; whenever anyone starts worrying about the world's poor, they almost always call for exactly doubling foreign aid -- from John F. Kennedy to last year's Group of Eight (G-8) Summit agreeing to double aid to Africa.

Alas, aid flow reflects the cost of providing services for the poor, not the value of those services. Would Microsoft Corp. promote an executive who bragged about setting a record for costs? Would Berkshire Hathaway invest in a business that headlined its remarkably high spending on office supplies? Unfortunately, the foreign aid business has a sad history of bureaucrats under heavy pressure to spend money on foreign consultants and four-wheel-drive vehicles but with zero pressure to find out whether that spending translates into the forever elusive "technical assistance," "capacity building" and "civil service restructuring" that are supposed to help the poor. Your challenge -- much harder in foreign aid than in business -- is to find out if your final customers are satisfied.”


Conversation Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett had about philanthropy with Charlie Rose (via Official Google Blog)

World development report 1993 : investing in health’- which according to Bill Gates opened his eyes and gave his mission (see the above interview)

Being smart with Buffett’s billions

How to get free access to JSTOR!


According to Kevin Kelly,

“The New York Public Library is not the only major library to offer memberships to non-residents. If you live anywhere in California, I recommend getting a library card to the San Francisco Public Library, which is free, and which does give you access to the coveted JSTOR online journals. Only downside: you need to show up at the library in person to get your card.”

(via Strategic Board- a great search tool for blog posts)


JSTOR: A History by Roger C. Schonfeld

Robots and writers and Googlers, oh my!- a lot of Google Talks are being put online

55 Ways to Have Fun with Google

Scientific publishing- Creative destruction in the library; Free access to research is proving more expensive than hoped. But it is spreading, nevertheless- PubMed Central, PLoS One, BioMed Central

Open Access to Research

Free the Journals

Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content

Sharing the Online Community

Indonesia has come a long way

Pablo links to a blog of Indonesia’s defense minister (which cannot be independently verified).

Even if this is a hoax, I think everyone would agree that Indonesia has come a long way since time of Suharto.

Earlier posts which talked about corruption in Indonesia; Excessive Anti-Corruption Drive Hurting the Economy?, Advice to Mr. Wolfowitz on Fighting Corruption

More on Survey Design

Andrew gives some advice on question-wording effects of survey design and avoiding double-barreled questions- issue mentioned talks about a CBS News poll on Iraq.

Earlier I commented about a useful book on the topic Survey Design and a review of the book.

If You Had One Day to Live

My high school teacher used to tell of the joke that if you had one day to live you would want to spend the day in the statistics class- it would seem so much longer.

I wish he had shown this video – Statz 4 Life. (via SSS blog)


Statistics 101, Como se dice "I hate statistics"?, The Law of One Price

The scholars behind the stout; That fundamental ideas in applied mathematics would be developed in a brewery sounds sufficiently improbable, but the story is true and intriguing. The statistical technique most often used to study events of low probability was discovered by a Polish mathematician and an employee of the Guinness brewery.

History of Monte Carlo

‘Religious Tolerance’ Dutch Style

Jerusalem Post reports;

“In an address to parliament on June 6, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende applauded Queen Beatrix for agreeing not to shake hands with the leaders of the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague during a state visit to commemorate the mosque's 50th anniversary on June 2.

Queen Beatrix agreed not to shake hands with the Muslim leaders in deference to their belief that Islam forbids men to touch women other than their wives. This move was a laudable "example of religious tolerance," the prime minister said, that would make Muslims feel more welcome.”

Fifteen People Who Make America Great

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Independence Day greetings to our American readers. The world needs you more than ever. Newsweek celebrates a few of those Americans who’re trying to make the world a better place; "Giving Back Awards" in recognition of people who, through bravery or generosity, genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others (via World Resources Institute blog);

Benita Singh and Ruth Degolia- Mercado Global
Their company will raise $600,000 this year to send Guatemalan kids to school.

Pierre Omidyar
He's using his $10 billion fortune to help people 'tap into their own power.'
"Business can be a force for good," he says. "You can make the world a better place and make money at the same time."

Randy Rusk - A conservative rancher stands up for his land by forging an unlikely alliance.
"People are starting to realize that open space is valuable—no matter what developers think,"

Brad Pitt
He lured the paparazzi to Africa, where people really needed the attention.
"Industrialized nations cost Africa three times what we give it in aid," he says. "We buy their coffee beans, but we don't let them process the beans, which is where the real money is. So what we're doing is digging a hole for them that they can't get out of, and then throwing a little money in the hole. The odds are just stacked against them."

Rick Warren
Mobilizing Christians worldwide to heal the sick and feed the hungry It starts as an ordinary success story.

Aaron Dworkin, Sphinx Organization
A violinist whose life is introducing the music he loves to inner-city children.
"You can't complain about something," he says, "unless you're doing something about it."

Boys & Girls Clubs
On its 100th birthday, this group stays relevant by caring for new groups of poor kids.
"They reach young people everywhere," says Frances Hesselbein of the Leader to Leader Institute, a former CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "They're one of the most outstanding and successful social-sector organizations in the country."

Ruby Jones
As Katrina raged, this nurse whispered comfort to her dying patients.
"We are like a family at the end," she says. "You don't just abandon them."

Soledad O'Brien
In a drowning city, who spoke out for those in despair? She did.
"When something happens, say your kid has a temper tantrum, you say, 'OK, this doesn't rise to the level of disaster.' Nothing is going to upset me in my personal life."

When it comes to giving time, talent and cash, this stylish retailer hits the bull's-eye.
In good years and bad, Target donates 5 percent of its pretax profits—more than twice the average of corporate America. That equals about $2 million a week, or $101 million last year. "Other companies wonder how Target does it," says Ian Wilhelm, who covers corporate giving for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "They ask me to ask them how they get that much money out the door."

Fact Attack on World Development and Water

UN has published a World Water Development Report- some statistics;

1 billion people lack access to improved water supply

2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation

Access to piped water through household connections
- Latin America and the Caribbean: 66%
- Asia: 49%
- Africa: 24%

Access to sanitation linked to a sewage system:
- Latin America and the Caribbean: 66%
- Asia: 18%
- Africa: 13%

Over 1 million people die from malaria every year.

Every day, diarrhoeal diseases cause some 6,000 deaths, mostly among children under five.

777 million people in developing countries do not have access to sufficient and adequate food.

Approximately 70% of all available water is used for irrigation.

Some 300-500 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes accumulate each year from industry.

Water withdrawals for industry
- World: 22% of total water use.
- High-income countries: 59% of total water use.
- Low-income countries: 8% of total water use.

Some 2 billion people have no access to electricity at all.

Cars in China- Some Facts

"Twenty years ago, I was driving a tractor — I was a model peasant! There were almost no cars in China. I didn't learn to drive until 1988.Under Deng Xiaoping, I got lucky because I was uneducated. Educated people think in traditional ways, but Deng said we should take chances."
- a Chinese businessman who now owns a major cement factory in Beijing

Ted Conover has an interesting article about Cars in China in NYT;

“The figures behind China's car boom are stunning. Total miles of highway in the country: at least 23,000, more than double what existed in 2001, and second now only to the United States. Number of passenger cars on the road: about 6 million in 2000 and about 20 million today. Car sales are up 54 percent in the first three months of 2006, compared with the same period a year ago; every day, 1,000 new cars (and 500 used ones) are sold in Beijing. The astronomic growth of China's car-manufacturing industry will soon hit home for Americans and Europeans as dirt-cheap Chinese automobiles start showing up for sale here over the next two or three years. (Think basic passenger car for $10,000, luxury S.U.V. for $19,000.)…

China's first modern expressway, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Superhighway, was built in the early 1990's by the Hong Kong tycoon Gordon Y.S. Wu. Wu studied civil engineering at Princeton in the mid-50's, when construction was beginning on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. At the same time, the New Jersey Turnpike was being widened from four lanes to many lanes, and Wu has said it inspired him. (His powerful firm, Hopewell Holdings, is named after a town near Princeton.) Though Wu ran short of money and the ambitious project had to be rescued by the Chinese government, the toll-road model of highway development caught on.

Wu's Guangzhou-Shenzhen Superhighway was the beginning of an infrastructure binge that seems to be only picking up steam: the government recently announced a target of 53,000 freeway miles by 2035. (The U.S. Interstate Highway System, 50 years old last week, presently comprises about 46,000 miles of roads.) Some new roads, especially in the less-developed western parts of the nation, are nearly empty: China is encouraging road construction ahead of industrial development and population settlement, assuming those will follow….

If highways in China's west are so far awaiting traffic, easterners have the opposite concern. As we headed south from Shijiazhuang toward Zhengzhou, the roads packed with vacationers and truck traffic, Zhu jostled for position with all the other people who were late getting where they were going. His style of driving helped me understand better why China, with 2.6 percent of the world's vehicles, had 21 percent of its road fatalities (in 2002, the most recent year for which figures are available)….

Three Gorges Dam, one of the largest construction projects in history, seemed a fitting first attraction for our trip, evoking superlatives in this land of superlatives. It has cost an estimated $75 billion so far (including corruption and relocation costs); it will require more than a million people to be relocated; it would generate more hydroelectric power than any dam ever had; and it spans the Yangtze, the third-longest river in the world. The reservoir began filling up in 2003 and has six years left to go; it presents a huge military target….

The next morning we hiked through the misty, craggy hills of Shennongjia. The area, known as "the Roof of Central China," is a Unesco biosphere reserve of 272 square miles, with six peaks measuring up to 10,190 feet above sea level. It was equally famous, among our group, as the home of China's Bigfoot. This creature, in the local lore, lumbered through the mists with a big-bosomed mate; an artist's rendition of the hairy couple appeared in the corner of a park billboard. But though the trails were beautiful and mysterious and we could imagine an ape-man happy there, none were spotted….

Carnival of Podcasts

Alan Krueger, a professor of economics at Princeton University, talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene from Princeton, New Jersey, about President George W. Bush's selection of Columbia University scholar Frederic S. Mishkin as a Federal Reserve governor, Mishkin's relationship with Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, and inflation targeting.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene from Washington about the results of a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll that finds more than six in 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track and that more than half disapprove of President George W. Bush's handling of the economy, Snow's disappointment at not gaining enough support for changes in Social Security and future career plans.

U.S. Trade Policy in the Wake of Doha: Why Unilateral Liberalization Makes Sense; Featuring Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law, Columbia University, Senior Fellow in International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations and Daniel Ikenson, Associate Director, Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute

World Economic Update ( a discussion at CFR, June 27,2006)

A Conversation with Hoshyar Zebari, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Iraq

Brazil's law-enforcing buffaloes ; Police have taken to an unusual form of locomotion in the Brazilian city of Belem

Behavioural Economics: Fear, Anxiety, Overconfidence, and the End of the Financial Year

Philanthropy; The world's two richest individuals are set to give away most of their money to the needy. The personal philanthropy of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will amount to tens of billions of dollars - so are they setting a trend - will others follow? And just how generous are Australian companies and individuals when it comes to charitable acts?

Emotions at work; This week we hear about some learnable techniques that might help people be more self-aware at work, allowing them to use their emotions as a positive force.

The 'curse' of having a girl ; India might be a country rushing headlong into 21st century but every year thousands of babies are aborted or killed at birth because they are girls

The Island of Minicoy – India

Sindbad Ship.jpg
In one of the islands in the Indian territory of Lakshadeep, the language spoken by the people is the same as that of Maldivians and yet in no time in history were the islands under Maldives rule, though there have been close cultural ties.

How the language of Minicoy came to be referred to as Mahl;

"The Lakhshadweep Administration refers to Divehi-bas as Mahl. This is due to a misunderstanding on the part of a British civil servant who came to Minicoy in the Twentieth Century during the time of the Indian Empire. The official asked a local what his language was and he said "Divehi-bas". The Englishman looked confused as he had never heard of this language. Noticing this, the islander said "Mahaldeebu" as he knew that people on the subcontinent referred to the kingdom to the south (the Maldives) by that name. The local name was and is Divehiraajje (Kingdom of Islands) and the language is Divehi-bas (language of the islands). The English official recorded the language of Minicoy as Mahl."


Globalization and the Maldives in the 14th Century & Today

Sohar; In 1981 the Irish adventurer Tim Severin wanted to build a replica of the ships that sailed the spice route 1,200 years ago. When he was looking for a reliable supervisor, Dr. Jones recommended Ali Manikfan to Tim Severin. Thus Ali Manikfan was given the responsibility of making the ancient Arab trading ship a reality. Ali Manikfan took this mission as a challenge and went to Oman to direct the team of carpenters. It took one year to build the 27 metres long ship and four tons of coir were needed to sew the planks of its hull, in the same way that ancient Maldivians had built ships

What the yuan can learn from the yen


A policy brief from ADBI on current and future issues for the Chinese economy; deals with various issues and challenges including regional imbalance, economic reform, exchange rate, and the PRC-Japan relationship.


Growth in jobless a problem for Asia as exports surge; China's economy grows at 10%; its employment grows at 1% - UN Report.

Why China Stagnated

China and Globalization

The Looming China Crisis

The "divisible by nine" rule; The "divisible by nine" rule is a tradition that the People's Bank of China follows when it changes interest rates

Men go to meetings, women go to ….

According to a recent survey,

“Of workers who attend meetings each week, fully 75 percent say that those gatherings could be more effective, the survey showed. That means a lot of unproductive time, because 91 million workers spend time in meetings each week. For most, it's one to eight hours, but a hardy 11 percent of men (men are far more meeting-prone than women) somehow survive 13 or more hours of meetings a week.”

Here is a take on the survey from a woman.


The Morning Meeting Ritual

Actionable Learning: A Handbook for Capacity Building Through Case Based Learning
See under Appendix 3- Team Skills for Fundamentals of Meeting Management

Learning Economics with Milton Friedman

Outsourcing Philanthropy

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How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Bill Gates quoted the above sentence after giving a gift of the Adam Smith’s two books to Warren Buffet for his very generous donation of some $ 31 billion to the Gates Foundation (only $ 6 billion was given to his children’s charities - he once derided those made rich by inherited wealth as “members of the lucky-sperm club”).

I watched the event online (would recommend highly) and was very moved by both the passion of Melinda and Bill to really make a difference in the world and Mr. Buffet’s belief in them. According to the Economist, Mr Buffett made his gift conditional upon Mr Gates giving up his day job at Microsoft;

“Mr Gates was taught by his mother that he had a responsibility to “give back”. Mr Gates famously brought forward his plans to give away most of his wealth after a World Development Report convinced him that by doing so it would have a greater impact than waiting until he grew old.”

NYT reports that Mr. Gates credited Mr. Buffett for encouraging him, in the early 1990's, to read a copy of the World Development Report.

But did the Sage of Omaha made the right decision in giving the largest share of his money to the Gates Foundation? The agency that seems to have had the largest impact on world development is arguably the World Bank and it currently has a monopoly in generating and disseminating policy ideas with regard to low income countries. I think one of the best ways to help the world’s poor would be to bring in some competition in this field.


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