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Showing posts from September, 2010

The Printed Book is Dead, Long Live the E-book...Right? Wrong!

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The death of the printed book? That and other portentous matters were discussed at the WFF in Matera (Italy) last week (23-26 September 2010). WFF? Sounds good and very international... some kind of new United Nations agency?


No, nothing as boring as that. WFF is the Women's Fiction Festival, a meeting of writers, editors, publishers and literary agents from the US, UK and Italy (not to mention bloggers and journalists). Now in its seventh year, it has achieved the enviable status of "BEST writers' meeting in continental Europe", drawing such heavy weights as Man Booker Prize finalist Simon Mawer with his extraordinary The Glass Room and Eileen Dreyer, New York Times best selling author and winner of numerous awards in not one but three completely different genres (medical thrillers, fantasy and historicals).

But it doesn't stop there. WFF is not limited to English speakers. It has drawn publishers from Italy, Germany and Holland and some important Italian write…

The Illegal Immigrants Conundrum: Is French Expulsion of the Roms a Solution?

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Nicolas Sarkozy, intent on reviving his support on the right, has launched France into a busy summer of bulldozing down illegal Roma encampments. A prize of  €300 (close to $400) was offered to those who left voluntarily and, of course, the flight home was paid for.



So far, this summer,  it has cost the French Treasury some €300 million to deport 1,700 Roms back to their countries of origin, Romania and Bulgaria. That compares with an average of 8,000 Roms deported every year since 2008 - annual deportation averaged only 2,000 before the European Union was enlarged to include Romania and Bulgaria, the countries with the largest Rom populations in Europe.

Are 1,700 or even 8,000 persons per year a lot of people?

Hardly, considering that France has between 350,000 and 500,000 Roms - but most with a French passport.

So if it's only a trickle, why does it matter?

Because of the way the French government is doing it.  First,  it is rushing through the dismantling …

Unemployment, a Misunderstood Beast and How to Fight it

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Obama has just announced a 50 billion dollar programme to fight unemployment, and Barroso has immediately followed suit in a speech to the European Parliament, calling for a bond programme to finance big construction projects. Infrastructure is "key to the recovery". What they're both talking about is really the old Keynesian recipe of throwing funds on big infrastructure project to kick start the economy.

Kick start? A big word. It might help the construction industry but it won't go very much further than that.

Why not? Because this recession may not be a double-dipped one but it is nevertheless a DEEP one. Unemployment is not just the result of fiscal or monetary policy flaws (nor can it be corrected with such tools). The main thing to understand is that a very large portion of it is STRUCTURAL and it has preceded the Big Recession.

Let me note in passing that even if jobs were to become suddenly plentiful in the construction industry, that wou…

Obama's Dilemma: Stay in the Middle or Turn Left? What if there's No Way Out?

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President Obama is a man with a dilemma: should he keep navigating the centre of the political spectrum to try and save whatever congressional seat can be saved from the Republican onslought? Should he veer left instead and do a real, no holds-barred liberal job, in line with what so many of the grassroots Democratic voters expected of him?






So far, he's tried to please both sides. At one end of the spectrum, he's pushed for Social Security for All and at the other he's maintained a war-like military stance in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had hoped he would close the Iraq question as soon as he got into office - but Iraq is still there, with a much higher military presence than he had at first promised: 50,000 troops remain to keep order. That's a lot for what should be a non-war! As to Afghanistan...well, he had never said he would pull out of that one, and indeed, far from pulling out, it's become …