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Showing posts from November, 2010

The True Nature of the Wikileaks Scandal: Gossip Galore!

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Logo used by Wikileaks Image via Wikipedia
Wikileaks is having a field day with American foreign policy! And the media along with Wikileaks.  People who love gossip have never had it so good.

Here in Italy every newspaper put the news of the latest humongous "leak" on their first page. And humongous it is: the daily communications of American diplomatic posts, over 250,000 secret messages sent by American diplomats to the State Department

For two days before the release of the leaks, Hillary Clinton  did some damage control on a grand scale, contacting every country concerned, from India to Italy. I wonder whether she contacted Lybia too...Because the leaks on Ghedafi were pretty strong stuff, calling him a hypochondriac and worse.

The White House upon the release of the leaks immediately stated:“We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

Of course, one would expect the White House to…

Austerity = Less Income = Lower Tax Revenues = Fewer Social Benefits = More Poverty

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Protest in Greece Image by Getty Images@daylife
Austerity programmes have become all the rage - in Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, the UK, and next in the US -  yet...they can only lead to more poverty.

The equation is ironclad:
austerity = less income = lower tax revenues = fewer social benefits = more poverty.

Why? Because austerity programmes mean cutting back on government expenses, including  slashing employment in the public sector. That means fewer people with jobs, less income, less consumption throughout the economy. Remember that the income multiplier works both ways: with a stimulus policy, it expands the additional funds. With an austerity programme, it expands the cutback. And that means less revenues from taxes. And if taxes are also raised to reign in government budget deficits, the effect is even worse.

With less revenues, fewer social benefits can be paid for, and the most vulnerable areas are health, education and research. Health, education and research! Yes, it me…

Is India in Financial Trouble? When Dreams turn into Nightmares...

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Image by kalyan3 via FlickrSKS Microfinance client

Sorry, this post is late: I'm just back from Vienna (what a wonderful town and the Viennese are sooo hospitable! Do make sure you put Vienna on the map on your next tour of Europe!)

Watching the Irish debacle this week and the threat to the Euro, which in turn could jeaopardize recovery in Europe, and perhaps in the rest of the developed world, I was reminded once again how much we depend on the emerging markets.

Now that their GDPs have grown to about half of world GDP, trade with them has become the key to recovery. China and India have become preferred trade partners.

But how solid are they? 

We all know that China suffers from debilitating social tensions that could potentially become devastating. What about India? It  has been one of the great success stories of the Great Recession. It has grown at a fast pace and produced hordes of millionaires while the Western World was teetering on the brink of disaster. But there is a c…

French Food, the latest UNESCO World Heritage ? Ouiiiiiii!

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Image by bubbo-tubbo via Flickr         French Cousins eating French Fries
You've all heard about the UNESCO listing as World Heritage famous monuments like the Egyptian Pyramids with the objective of assisting in their preservation for humanity. Now, for the first time ever, gastronomy has been added to the list, under the wonderfully fexible category delicately called "intangible heritage".

No, it's not a joke!

A very serious UNESCO committee - called the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage - meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in the afternoon of Tuesday 16 November 2010,  has broken new ground. It has declared that the "French traditional gastronomic meal" to celebrate festive events is accepted in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Along with Mexican Food, Spanish Flamenco, Chinese Acupuncture, falconry and the Mediterranean Diet, bringing the list up to 229 protected cultural practices.

No ki…

The Roots of the Great Recession? Dead Peasants!

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Cover of Capitalism: A Love Story
What is the cause of the Great Recession? Yes, we all know, it's the sub-prime mortage collapse, it's derivatives, credit default swaps and other fancy financial instruments - those that Warren Buffett famously described as "financial weapons of  mass destruction".  In one word: it's Wall Street.

But, bottom line, what's behind all this financial hubris? Dead peasants!

No, I'm not joking, I'm dead serious. Dead peasants, I tell you!

Let me explain. I just saw Michael Moore's latest effort, Capitalism: A Love Story, a brilliant documentary that seeks to explain how we ever got into the Great Recession in the first place. Of course, as he points out, it all started much before  the collapse of Lehman Brothers on 15 September 2008. Moore takes us all the way back to the 1970s when President Jimmy Carter tried to tell America that it was fast becoming a society that had lost its values. The middle-class was in trouble…

THANK YOU, MR. BUSH, FOR ALL THE BLESSINGS YOU'VE BROUGHT ON AMERICA!

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Image via Wikipedia
Bush has just come out with the much-awaited memoir of his presidency, Decision Points, and is now doing the grand tour of media interviews starting with the NBC Today Show and going onto Oprah Winfrey and others. It was an occasion for him to settle some personal scores (like his relation with Cheney or his handling of Hurricane Katrina). As might be expected, he has provoked on the way, all sorts of reactions, most of them positives, which should come as no surprise given the results of the mid-term elections. I bet his book is going to be a run-away best-seller!

Indeed, a rumour has been started that this is the moment to reassess (positively) Bush's presidency and I'd like to add my (small) voice to the chorus: thank you, Mr. Bush!

Thank you for the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan!Without the war in Iraq, we could never have outdone Saddam Hussein in the number of Iraqi killed: Saddam with the help of his trusted Chemical Ali managed to massacre …

What's in a Pizza? A Calorie Bomb!

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How many calories in a pizza? The New York Times recently reported that in a quarter of a pizza, there could be as much as 430 calories...that's about one quarter of the number of calories allowed per day, assuming your are not aiming to become obese in the shortest possible time!

Of course, we're talking here about American pizza, which is vastly different from the stuff we eat in Italy. American pizza is chockful of cheese, even up to six different kinds of cheese and yet more cheese worked into the crust (!). I'm not sure who makes them, whether Dominos Pizza or Pizza Hut, but they're definitely not Italian. Pizza in Italy - the birthplace of pizza - can even be entirely devoid of any cheese and generally has only small quantities of mozzarella and never, NEVER, does one add cheese to the bread dough. A cheesy crust? Pouah! What you want is a nice contrast between the filling and the crust, not something that is entirely cheesy from top to bottom!

This said, Neapol…

IS AMERICA FOLDING UP? THE MID-TERM ELECTION SEEN FROM EUROPE

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It used to be that American elections were looked at as the perfect example of democracy in action. This time around the midterm election exercise has most people in Europe baffled. And I don't mean Europeans were surprised by the results: the Republican handwriting was on the wall, and, on both sides of the Atlantic, we saw it coming.

HOW MANY LIVES CAN A MAN LIVE?

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Cats are said to live seven lives. What about a man, or a woman for that matter?

On a recent evening, I was watching a fascinating biopic on ARTE TV. It was about Christopher Lee's life and that question popped in my mind. Christopher Lee is a man who has known amazing ups and downs in his long life. Born in Belgravia, London, he started off well with a silver spoon in his mouth, attending  one of the best public schools in England, the kind that leads you to Oxford and Cambridge, and a career in banking or diplomacy. Then things collapsed: his parents divorced, and as a young man,  he found himself struggling to earn a living before finishing his education. He suffered as an office boy until World War II. After honourably serving in Africa, he came back to London, still desperate for a job. The turning point was a meeting in 1946 (or 47) with his uncle Carandini, the Italian Ambassador to Britain, who suggested he might become an actor. An extraordinary suggestion if you conside…