Monday, January 31, 2011

Mubarak orders economic miracle

CAIRO Jan 30 (Reuters) - President Hosni Mubarak, facing a popular revolt against his rule, ordered his new cabinet on Sunday to preserve subsidies, control inflation and provide more jobs, state television reported.
Seems like if that trifecta was possible it would have been done already.

Related: A new government, hopefully a truly democratic government, will face difficult economic choices. Eliminating subsidies and government provided jobs are necessary for setting an economy on a healthy path, one that will benefit just about everyone. But as we have seen in many other instances, when these policies have been adopted there are protests sufficient to threaten the survival of the government. The benefits of these policies are not well understood.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Headline of the day

Indian students duped by US univ forced to wear radio collars

From the "university's" website:
Our mission is to make Christian scientists, engineers, business leaders and lawyers for the glory of God, with both solid academic professionalism and Christian faith, therefore to live out Christ-like characters, value and compassion in the world, to make an impact and shine as its light. Our Institution Objective is to equip individual with academic excellence, practical skillfulness and spiritual maturity. We advocate Academic Excellence, Character Integrity, Christ-like Compassion, Inclusion and non-discrimination, and Integration-integration of academic professionalism with Christian faith, integration of principle with practical application, integration of career pursuit with spiritual growth.
The site also has this bible verse:
2 Thess 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
Here's what they say about accreditation:
5. What is the accreditation status of TVU?

The entire institution has submitted accreditation Candidacy status application to a prestigious accreditation agency. The accreditation agency is recognized by both the United States Department of Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Some individual academic programs also apply for specific accreditation, such as the J. D. program is seeking provisional accreditation status with American Bar Association (ABA).
The Rev. Ronald Cottle seems to be the man behind the curtain at Tri-Valley U.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Human Rights Watch issues report

HRW on the UAE:
Throughout 2010, UAE authorities censored and harassed human rights defenders and lawyers, impeding independent reporting that could help curb abuses. At the same time, Human Rights Watch said, the announcement on January 15, 2011, of new labor regulations to curb exploitative recruiting agents who entrap foreign workers with recruiting fees and false contracts signals an extremely positive commitment to address one of the country's most glaring human rights problems - the abuse of migrant construction workers.

"The actions by UAE authorities against its human rights advocates are completely inconsistent with the government's message that this is an open and tolerant country," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The UAE government should recognize that Emiratis who promote peaceful political debate are as important for the country's development and progress as its bankers and builders."

Over the past year, UAE authorities imposed mounting restrictions on the Jurist Association, a nongovernmental organization established in 1980 to promote the rule of law and raise professional standards. The government did not permit association representatives to attend meetings abroad and cancelled symposiums in the UAE that it deemed controversial. Members also complained of official pressure to quit the association.

That's from today's press release on the UAE. For more see HRW's World Report 2011 chapter on the UAE. The report covers more than 90 countries.

It wouldn't be the first time the UAE said it was solving the same problems with new laws.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Creating incentives for slaves

In colonial Virginia there were indentured servants, who served their master for a fixed term, and slaves who served for their lifetime. For example, in return for paying someone's travel to the New World they would agree to provide labor for a set number of years. By contrast, slaves were not parties to their sale.

But how did you motivate indentured servants or slaves to work? In the case of indentured servants, their term of service could be extended. That threat stood out as an incentive to work.

By definition, extension of service does not apply to a slave who serves for life.

Here's how the law of Virginia solved that problem (source):






An act about the casuall killing of slaves.

Edi. 1733 and 1752.
WHEREAS the only law in force for the punishment of refractory servants (a) resisting their master, mistris or overseer cannot be inflicted upon negroes, nor the obstinacy of many of them by other then violent meanes supprest, Be it enacted and declared by this grand assembly, if any slave resist his master (or other by his masters order correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not be accompted ffelony, but the master (or that other person appointed by the master to punish him) be acquit from molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepensed malice (which alone makes murther ffelony) should induce any man to destroy his owne estate.

Protests in Egypt - Where is Al Jazeera?

Marc Lynch:
The Egyptians are self-consciously emulating the Tunisian protests, seeking to capitalize on the new mood within the Arab world. Their efforts are not new, despite the intense Western desire to put them into a narrative driven by Twitter, WikiLeaks, or demonstration effects. Egyptians have been protesting and demonstrating for the last decade: massive demonstrations in support of Palestinians and against the Iraq war from 2000 to 2003; Kefaya's creative protests for political reform and against succession which peaked in 2004 to 2006; lawyers and judges and professional associations; the Facebook protests and April 6 movements; the plethora of wildcat labor strikes across the country.

One key factor was missing, though, at least early on. Al Jazeera has played a vital, instrumental role in framing this popular narrative by its intense, innovative coverage of Tunisia and its explicit broadening of that experience to the region. Its coverage today has been frankly baffling, though. During the key period when the protests were picking up steam, Al Jazeera aired a documentary cultural program on a very nice seeming Egyptian novelist and musical groups, and then to sports. Now (10:30am EST) it is finally covering the protests in depth, but its early lack of coverage may hurt its credibility. I can't remember another case of Al Jazeera simply punting on a major story in a political space which it has owned.
Read it all at Abu Aardvark's Middle East Blog.

If you're a Middle East news junkie you'll want follow his tweeter feed, too, @AbuAardvark.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Will President Assad hold his nerve?

The Economist on market reforms in Syria:
SYRIA has been edging away from a centrally planned socialist economy to a “social market” one. “The last five years have been about deconstructing the socialist ideology in favour of the market,” says an adviser to the government. “The next five will be about implementing it.” That means big cuts in subsidies and painful belt-tightening for Syria’s far-from-opulent masses. But will the government, seeing unrest simmer in the region in the wake of Tunisia’s upheaval, hold its nerve?

The proposed changes risk breaking the social contract long upheld by President Bashar Assad’s Baath party. The old deal meant low wages and secure jobs, while providing life’s basics, such as food and fuel, very cheaply. The new plan envisages raising cash by issuing government bonds and soliciting foreign investment to the tune—it is hoped—of $55 billion. As subsidies shrink, the price of fuel, electricity, water, transport and food should rise to market levels.

Fearing unrest, the government recently wobbled. It announced a 72% rise in heating-oil benefits for public workers and froze the price of electricity.
Read it all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Got that sinking feeling?

The Telegraph:
The World, the ambitiously-constructed archipelago of islands shaped like the countries of the globe, is sinking back into the sea, according to evidence cited before a property tribunal.... Now their sands are eroding and the navigational channels between them are silting up, the British lawyer for a company bringing a case against the state-run developer, Nakheel, has told judges. "The islands are gradually falling back into the sea," Richard Wilmot-Smith QC, for Penguin Marine, said. The evidence showed "erosion and deterioration of The World islands", he added. With all but one of the islands still uninhabited – Greenland – and that one a showpiece owned by the ruler of Dubai, most of the development plans have been brought to a crashing halt by the financial crisis.
I've heard of underwater properties, but this rises to a whole new level -- literal.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sentences to ponder

Make undergraduates write, and write:
Students majoring in liberal arts fields see "significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study." Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the smallest gains.
Here's more.

I must admit, I don't require papers.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Most beautiful woman in the world not white enough for ELLE

Check it out.

Not even I am that white.

For more on white skin click on the label below.


The result of 96% of HR positions being held by women


Attractive men were clearly favored, receiving a 19.9% response rate from employers–nearly 50% higher than the response rate for plain-looking men and twice the rate of the men not pictured.

Meanwhile, the opposite proved true for women. Female candidates who did not include a picture were most likely to receive a call from the employer, with a response rate 22% higher than plain-looking women and an incredible 30% higher than the attractive women. The authors said these findings contradict previous research that found attractiveness to be beneficial in terms of employment and salary levels for both genders.

Why are pretty women penalized? In almost every case (96% of the time), the resume screener was a woman between the ages of 23 and 34. This disparity is not nation specific either. Women are twice as likely as men to work in human resources positions in the U.S., according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Therefore, the researchers conclude that female jealousy holds other women back from recruitment.

In other news, US authorities make a bust.


More good paragraphs on Tunisia


Regardless of what happens next in terms of a Tunisian government, the inescapable fact is that a popular uprising has removed an Arab head of state – a truly historic event. Ben Ali has fled and he is not going to return, despite what anyone may say about whether he has formally resigned or not.

That alone is going to have a huge psychological impact throughout the region. As several people have pointed out on Twitter, while Obama says "Yes, we can", the Tunisians have said "Yes, we do."

Looking around the other Arab regimes, I can't see any of them (with the possible exception of Algeria) at risk of being toppled in the quite same way – at least, not in the immediate future. There are so many differences in the circumstances.

But – and it's a very important "but" – we can expect Arab publics to become increasingly assertive while the regimes become increasingly nervous. For the regimes, though, in the long run it's a lose-lose situation. Either they can seek to tighten their control, thus fuelling popular disaffection, or they can relax their control – which the public will duly interpret as a sign of weakness and seek to exploit. One way or another, they are going to sink deeper into the mire.

Read it all.


Good paragraphs on Tunisia

From Tyler Cowen/Marginal Revolution:

I've never been to Tunisia, but from readings I've found the country especially difficult to understand. They've had a corrupt autocracy for a long time, but some areas of policy they get (inexplicably?) right. And usually they are by far the least corrupt country in the Maghreb. Dani Rodrik called the place an unsung development miracle. Maybe that was exaggerating but for their neighborhood they still beat a lot of the averages and they've had a lot of upward gradients. They've also made good progress on education.

And now this. Perhaps it is no accident this is "the first time that protests have overthrown an Arab leader." The lesson perhaps is that the path toward a much better world involves...small steps. Civil society there is relatively strong and has been so for a while. Democracy is probably not around the corner, but if you're studying social change it's worth spending a lot of time on why Tunisia and Jordan are often so much better run than the other Arab states.

Read it all.

How will be the next Arab leader to fall? And when?


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Muslim women excel in America

Boston Globe:
"It’s actually quite empowering to be Muslim in America.’’

It is not always easy. Several Muslim women interviewed said they had been the object of abusive letters, e-mails, or blog posts.

Yet in their quest to break stereotypes, America’s Muslim women have advantages. They are better educated than counterparts in Western Europe, and also than the average American, according to a Gallup survey in March 2009.

In contrast to their sisters in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, they are just as likely as American Muslim men to attend religious services, which equates to greater influence.

And Gallup found that Muslim American women, often entrepreneurial, come closer than women of any other faith to earning what male counterparts do.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Peak oil?