“The truth is, we’re not living very naturally,” said Linda Buzzell, a therapist in Santa Barbara who publishes the quarterly EcoTherapy News and often holds sessions in her backyard permaculture food forest. “We’re in our cars, staring at the computer screen, separated most of the day from the people we love.”
“Activism can help counteract depression,” Ms. Buzzell added. “But if we get caught up in trying to save the world single-handedly, we’re just going to burn out.”
The days of easy shrimp fishing along the Rio Grande valley of Jamaica are gone. Shrimp are harder to find and those who live by the river's banks now eat more chicken and goat. When they do eat shrimp they must inspect them carefully inside and out for signs of poison.
Man's destruction of the natural world takes many forms. Poachers gun down elephants for the ivory and leave the carcasses to rot. Illegal foresters slash the trees of the rain forest for a quick buck. And in the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains here, people go fishing by dumping poison into the Rio Grance.
“Is there a tendency in France for the elites to be made in the same mold and close ranks?” asks Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher and social observer. “Yes, it’s an old French disease.”
In the United States, Britain or Germany, Mr. Lévy adds, “Daniel Bouton would not only have been relieved of his job, but he’d be in a judge’s office being questioned.”
“They behave like blood relations,” says Ghislaine Ottenheimer, a journalist and author who has written extensively about the French elite. “There is a sense of impunity because there is no sanction in the family.”
Rather than a rigid class system, it was Mr. Fourtou’s and Mr. Bébéar’s admission into the École Polytechnique that assured their place in the elite. And that is one of the great ironies of the French establishment: while it enjoys the privileges associated with the elites of the United States, entry is, if anything, much more rigorously meritocratic, based on exams and ever-narrowing selection from an early age.
Indeed, getting into Harvard, which accepted 9 percent of its applicants last year, is a breeze compared with getting into the École Polytechnique.
Out of 130,000 students who focus on math and science in French high schools each year, roughly 15 percent do well enough on their exams to qualify for the two- to three-year preparation course required by the elite universities. Of those who make it through that, 5,000 apply to École Polytechnique, which is commonly called simply “X,” and just 400 are admitted from France.
Admission is based strictly on exam grades; there isn’t even an essay requirement or interview. And there are no legacy admissions, sports scholarships or other American-style shortcuts for getting into X.
“You can be the president’s nephew and it won’t help you get in,” says Bernard Oppetit, a 1978 graduate of X who later worked for BNP Paribas before starting Centaurus Capital, a London investment fund with $4 billion under management.
England's enduring class system can be aptly summed up in two words: public school. Those who attend English public schools - in reality expensive private schools - inherit a kind of right to rule. They learn how to survive in a world no less riven by competition and cruelty than society itself. After graduating, they can forever recognize one another. Even those who rebel are shaped by the experience. To be an English public schoolboy - yes, most are still boys - is to belong to a caste.
"Transgenders in India are seen as immoral and evil. I will break that image by being articulate, intelligent and a bit like the girl next door," Rose, said, calmly leafing through the script of her first show - an interview with a prostitute about her recently published autobiography.
“We recognize tolerance as a basic component of democracy,” he said. “God has not created all of us alike — we are different — human society is a pluralistic society. In the Koran, God is telling us that man is created to be free. So we are free to think, and think different. So the aim of democracy is to recognize the pluralistic nature of human society. The second item is tolerance, I have to tolerate my opponent. With tolerance comes compromise; without compromise democracy doesn’t exist.”
Political opponents dismiss the plan as only his latest misguided idea unveiled without reflection or consultation. Some historians call the move a manipulation of the past that could distort France's history of collaboration with the Nazis and lead to an escalation of personal remembrances of victims of other horrors of history.
"Every day the president throws out a new unhappy idea with no coherence," said Pascal Bruckner, a philosopher. "But this last one is truly obscene, the very opposite of spirituality. Let's judge it for what it is: a crazy proposal of the president, not the word of the Gospel."
The initiative has also pitted Jew against Jew.
"It is unimaginable, unbearable, dramatic and, above all, unjust," Simone Veil, honorary president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust and a Holocaust survivor, said on the Web site of the magazine L'Express. "You cannot inflict this on little 10-year-olds! You cannot ask a child to identify with a dead child. This history is much too heavy to carry."
Veil was in the audience when Sarkozy spoke, and said that when she heard his words, "My blood turned to ice."
Medvedev, a young protégé of Putin, then expressed the notion more fully.
Kazmierczak parked near the lecture hall and carried the shotgun in a guitar case and the pistols and ammunition strapped to his body, concealed by a coat, Grady said. He went through a side door to the lecture hall's stage and immediately opened fire without speaking. Forty-eight casings and six shotgun shells were found at the scene, indicating more shots were fired than initially estimated by witnesses.
Sarah Wangoi has spent her entire life — all 70 years of it — in the Rift Valley. But last month, she was chased off her farm by a mob that called her a foreigner. She now sleeps on the cold floor of a stranger's house, seeking refuge in an area of Kenya where her ethnic group, the Kikuyu, is strong. It is, supposedly, her homeland.
"I am safe now," said Wangoi, though the mob still chases her in her dreams.
Across the country, William Ojiambo sat in a field where the ground was too hard to plow. He, too, sought refuge with his ethnic group, the Luo. He used to live in an ethnically mixed town called Nakuru but was recently evicted by a gang from another ethnic group that burned everything he owned.
"We came here with nothing, like cabbages thrown in the back of a truck," Ojiambo said...
Whatever deal is struck will have to address the growing de facto segregation, since a resettlement of the country may further entrench the political and ethnic divisions that have recently erupted. Shattered trust is much harder to rebuild than smashed huts, and many people say they will never go back to where they fled.
"How can we, when it was our friends who did this to us?" said Joseph Ndungu, a shopkeeper in the Rift Valley, who said that men he used to play soccer with burned down his shop.
The government is lending a hand in the country's separation, at least for the moment. Police officers are escorting people back to their ancestral homes, as the government calls them, which seems to be thinly veiled language for ethnic separation.
"We were worried about the smaller tribes getting dominated by the bigger ones," said Joseph Martin Shikuku, a 75-year-old opposition figure. "And you know what? That's exactly what happened."
Shikuku was one of the founders of an independence-era political movement that embraced a philosophy called majimboism that has been around in Kenya since the 1950s. Majimboism means federalism or regionalism in Kiswahili, and it was intended to protect local rights, especially those connected to land. But in the extreme, majimboism is code for certain areas of the country to be reserved for specific ethnic groups, fueling the kind of ethnic cleansing that has swept the country since the election.
Majimboism has always had a strong following in the Rift Valley, the epicenter of the recent violence, where many locals have long believed that their land was stolen by outsiders.
"Majimboism was submerged but it never really died," Anderson said. In some ways, the election in December was a referendum on majimboism. It pitted today's majimboists, represented by Odinga, who campaigned for regionalism, against Kibaki, who stood for the status quo of a highly centralized government that has delivered considerable economic growth but has repeatedly displayed the problems of too much power concentrated in too few hands — corruption, aloofness, favoritism and its flip side, marginalization.
Because Kibaki is a Kikuyu, the largest and most powerful ethnic group in Kenya, and Odinga is a Luo, a group that feels it has never gotten its fair share, the political and ethnic tensions aggravated by this election have often blurred — with disastrous results.
Other African countries have struggled with ways of defusing ethnic rivalries. Ethiopia set up a system in the mid-1990s called ethnic federalism, which carved the country into ethnic-based regions, each with broad power — at least on paper — including the right to secede. But Ethiopia's leaders soon concluded that too much regional autonomy would tear the country apart, and Ethiopia is now more or less centrally controlled by members of a small ethnic group.
Tanzania took the opposite approach. It de-emphasized ethnicity. It encouraged people to speak Kiswahili, and not their mother tongues, as a way to build Tanzanian-ness. The government sent children to high schools in different areas to expose them to different communities. Tanzanian election law even makes it illegal to campaign for office based on ethnic group.
There is deep skepticism among Africans and their leaders about the Pentagon's creation of a new "Africa command" aimed at coordinating military and diplomatic activities, with headquarters on the continent.
Only one country, Liberia, has expressed interest in playing host to the command. Last October, the legislative body of the African Union voted to encourage all African governments "not to accede" to the American plan, forcing the Pentagon, at least for the time being, to keep the headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, instead.
A B-52 bomber took off from a U.S. Air Force base in North Dakota in August and - in a startling mistake attributed to post-Cold War operational complacency - carried six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a 1,400-mile flight to a base in Louisiana. The missile tips should have been dummies, but somehow actual nuclear warheads were loaded for the cross-country trip. "No one knew where they were, or even missed them, for over 36 hours," said Senator Carl Levin in a hearing this week into preventing such a dangerous mix-up from ever happening again.
A culture of laxity "too extreme to be tolerated" has evolved among the nuclear weapon corps, according to the findings by the task force experts from the Defense Science Board. During the Cold War, when the nation's nuclear arsenal was kept honed on daily alert, it was managed by high-ranking senior officers and civilian specialists. But that responsibility has since slipped down the chain of command to air force colonels, navy captains and civilians, the study found. Inevitably, the perception has grown that careers in the nuclear forces are less prized in the current era of conventional warfare than other careers.
Since the start of the Iraq war almost five years ago, the percentage of recruits who have graduated from high school has dropped annually. It is now down to 71 percent, well below the 90 percent level the military would like to maintain.
Last week's report by the nonprofit National Priorities Project also found a 25 percent drop since 2004 in the proportion of "high quality" recruits, which the army defines as those who have at least a high school diploma and score in the top half of the military's qualification test. And in November, the Boston Globe reported that during the preceding month 12.3 percent of the army's recruits needed waivers because they have records, including felony convictions.
OPINION (Mia Fontaine)
Ten years ago, when I was 15, I was a high school dropout and heroin addict, living in the back of a dealer's van.
My mom first noticed red flags at 14: rapid weight loss, self-mutilation, coming home high, irregularly showering. The therapist she had me see, as well as my school counselor, believed that, cutting aside, my actions were typical teenage behavior.
COMMENTARY (Paul Krugman)
Why has a crisis that began with loans to a limited group of home buyers ended up disrupting so much of the financial system? Because, ultimately, it's a crisis of faith.
More important, however, is the way the ever-widening financial crisis has shaken investors' faith in the whole system. People no longer trust assurances that fancy financial instruments will function the way they're supposed to - after all, they know what happened to people who thought their subprime-backed securities were safe, AAA-rated investments. Why, then, should they believe that auction-rate securities are as good as cash?
The use of sneaky fees by service companies is growing
Moneysavingexpert.com, a consumer group supporting the suit, claims on its Web site that more than 1 million Britons have reclaimed an estimated £1 billion, or $1.9 billion, in bank charges.
Add this to the list of secondary effects of the global credit bubble: Consumers are paying more in fees and, in many cases, doing so without their knowledge or consent. It's a phenomenon that Bob Sullivan, who runs the consumer blog "Red Tape Chronicles" for MSNBC, calls "Gotcha Capitalism" - the title of his recent book, which catalogues the growing use of sneaky fees by service companies from banks to hotels to airlines:
- In early February, United Airlines began to charge customers $25 for an extra bag.
Some rental car companies charge an airport concession fee if the lot is conveniently located near the airport.
- A hotel in Las Vegas now bills customers for any item they take out of the minibar for more than 60 seconds, even if it is not consumed.
- Some bank gift cards lose part of their value if not used by a certain date.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will together pay about $203 million to settle a lawsuit brought by passengers who said the airlines illegally fixed the price of fuel surcharges on long-haul trips.
Last year, British Airways agreed to pay roughly $247 million in a settlement with British authorities for discussing fuel surcharges with Virgin.The pact resolves a civil lawsuit, brought in the United States as a class action, that contended that passengers were overcharged on the fuel surcharges and were told that the added fees were necessary to cover the rising cost of fuel, but in reality were used to increase the airlines' profits.
Frédérik-Karel Canoy, who represents around 200 small shareholders of the bank, said he asked the judges Renaud Van Ruymbeke and Françoise Desset to arrange a hearing with Martial Rouyère, the head of the Delta One trading desk where Kerviel worked. Canoy said shareholders were seeking answers to lingering questions about Kerviel's superiors, whom the former trader has said were aware of and even encouraged some of his positions as long as they earned the bank money.
"They put the system in place that enabled Kerviel to do what he did," Canoy said of the bank's management. "They cannot then claim to be victims."
Rouyère was interrogated last month by the French financial police.
Canoy claimed that at least five of Kerviel's Delta One colleagues had knowledge of his activities, including Rouyère and Eric Cordelle, the deputy head of the Delta One desk. "Rouyère is the weak link in the chain," Canoy asserted Friday. "If he falls, the rest will fall as well."
The Workplace as Clubhouse
“We believe that Boeing should be concerned with its community and encourage employees to find excellence in all they do at work and at play,” a company spokesman, Bob Jorgensen, said. “It’s just good business.”
Fat paychecks, pensions and health insurance are not enough to recruit and keep employees these days. Companies are again finding that adding a bit of social context to work is crucial to keeping employees happy and productive. That is where employee clubs come in. Workplace specialists say clubs are a way to build camaraderie and help people get to know fellow employees away from work. Companies benefit, too. Clubs help create loyal employees, reduce turnover and improve morale while costing very little.
Three years ago, Microsoft eliminated laundered towels in its bathrooms and shaved employee discounts on stock purchases. After fending off low morale and defections to rivals like Google, Microsoft reinstated the benefits, along with new ones, like on-site grocery delivery.
Many technology companies, like Microsoft and Facebook, have been forced to expand their benefits to compete with Google. Facebook offers a $600 housing allowance for all employees who live within a one-mile radius of its Palo Alto office. While some critics say Google's perks are only intended to keep people at work longer [claims] the perks help motivate and make employees more productive.
Four major U.S newspaper publishers have created an online advertising sales network in the latest industry attempt to claw back ad dollars that are increasingly migrating to the Internet.
Gannett and Tribune, the larges and second-largest publishers in the United States, are joining Hearst and The New York Times to form a company that would sell online ad space across a network of newspapers in many large cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The International Herald Tribune is owned by The New York Times Co.
YOUR MONEY: How a portfolio might look in 20 years
"Over the next 20 years the role of the dollar may diminish significantly, relative to currencies in the fast-growing countries," Inker said. "It may be quite small in value and use relative to where it is today," a fate similar to the one that befell the British pound after World War I, he explained.
Pete Kendall, co-editor of the Elliott Wave Financial Forecast newsletter, is not ready to count the dollar out, even though so many others seem to be.
"The dollar is so unloved right now that I think it may still be going in a bull market come 2028," Kendall said. "There's no reason the rally has to last 20 years, but on a relative basis the U.S. is politically stable, economically flexible and competitive and well defended. Which developed countries are as strong as the U.S. in these three areas?"
Two reasonable points of view about the dollar, two antithetical conclusions. The prediction business can be like that. The energy market is another example.
Inker's view: "Energy prices will probably be significantly higher than they are because it's likely that demand will outstrip supply, although one would hope that we would come up with decent alternatives."
The world that Sri-Kumar envisions: "When you correct for overall global inflation, the price of oil goes down, not up, with the passage of time." He is banking on the development of those viable alternatives that Inker only hopes for.
"The big thing will be technological innovation," Sri-Kumar said. "Resource shortages will not be an issue because eventually we're going to find substitutes. Maybe by 2028, 50 percent of our cars will be running on solar energy. If I have an oil company and a technology company that seems well placed to engage in significant innovation, you know which one I think makes the better investment."
The tech stock may be a much better long-term investment now, he said, because shares of companies that produce oil and other commodities are comparatively expensive. In fact, several of the sectors that he sees as the best for the very long haul have been out of favor.
Along with tech, Sri-Kumar likes global providers of health care and education. The first should do well because all of those people who will live longer will need help doing so; as for education, in an ever more connected, tech-savvy world, the attitude of parents will run something like, "Knowledge is king, and I'll pay a lot if you can educate my son properly," he said.
Inker also likes the prospects of health care businesses. No matter what the future holds, "we'll still need drug companies," he said, adding that he found their valuations low these days.
He would avoid more speculative biotechnology issues, the purchase of which he finds akin to "buying lottery tickets." Conventional drug stocks "are dull," he said, "but there's nothing wrong with dull."
'All the money in the world' by Peter W. Bernstein and Annalyn Swan
Sometimes, however, ambition will drive a person to the edge of the law: Hank Greenberg, who led the insurer American International Group for decades, said, "All I want in life is an unfair advantage." In 2005, he was forced to resign as chief executive shortly before Eliot Spitzer, then New York state attorney general, filed a complaint against him for fraudulent business practices. But then, to quote David Skeel, a corporate law professor at the University of Pennsylvania: "Ruthlessness is inevitable in the free market."
Susan Jacoby: Bemoaning an America that values stupidity
Jacoby is one of a number of writers with new books that bemoan the state of American culture.
Joining the circle of curmudgeons this season is Eric Wilson, whose "Against Happiness" warns that the "American obsession with happiness" could "well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation."
Then there is Lee Siegel's "Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob," which inveighs against the Internet for encouraging solipsism, debased discourse and arrant commercialization. Siegel, one might remember, was suspended by The New Republic for using a fake online persona in order to trash critics of his blog ("you couldn't tie Siegel's shoelaces") and to praise himself ("brave, brilliant").
T. J. Jackson Lears, a cultural historian who edits the quarterly review Raritan, said, "The tendency to this sort of lamentation is perennial in American history," adding that in periods "when political problems seem intractable or somehow frozen, there is a turn toward cultural issues."
But now, Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that "too much learning can be a dangerous thing") and anti-rationalism ("the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion") have fused in a particularly insidious way.
Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don't think it matters.
She pointed to a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don't think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located. So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.
Jacoby, dressed in a bright red turtleneck with lipstick to match, was sitting, appropriately, in that temple of knowledge, the New York Public Library's majestic Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue. The author of seven other books, she was a fellow at the library when she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.
Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day's horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:
"This is just like Pearl Harbor," one of the men said.
The other asked, "What is Pearl Harbor?"
"That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War," the first man replied.
At that moment, Jacoby said, "I decided to write this book."
Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin: "I think I feel the same way that many people feel in Germany. This is beyond what I could have imagined and what many people could have imagined."
REVIEW: Foreigners The Story of Nelson Mandela By Bill Keller
This book does not condescend to its young audience, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. A section on the ANC's turn away from nonviolence, for example, doesn't offer judgments. Mandela's own position was that "non-violence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon." Thus, the ANC turned to terrorism before it achieved political power, including a 1986 car bombing that killed three women and wounded 69 bystanders at two crowded bars. But Keller gives enough background on apartheid, including an early chapter on the horrors of Dutch colonialism, to explain why Mandela and his comrades would resort to such desperate measures.
To May 4: "Hannah Hoch: Aller Anfang ist DADA!"
A member of the Berlin Dada movement with George Grosz and John Heartfield, among others, Hoch (1889-1978) was a photomontagist and a painter. Her montages were a reaction to German Expressionism and a reflection on postwar confusion in German while her paintings borrow from abstraction and surrealism and, later in the years, from realism. But they also remained at all times a commentary on the German political situation: No wonder she was branded a "Bolchevist" by the Nazi regime. The montages and easel works on show belong to all periods of Hoch's creativity. www.tinguely.ch