Sunday, 6 April 2008

Saturday, 5th April 2008



Clinton Masheti, 8 years old and all alone, sits on a wooden bench rolling snakes out of clay. When the men came and started burning down houses in his village, his parents ran away - without him.
He now lives in the Nairobi Children's Home, a place with cheery paintings on the wall and lots of blank little faces. He is among thousands of children lost or abandoned during the fighting that followed Kenya's disputed election in December. If Clinton's parents are not found by August, he will be put up for adoption.
"My father was a farmer," he said.
That seemed to be all he knew.

Ideas & Trends
A Shift in the Debate Over Global Warming

Leaders of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change — the scientists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year with former Vice President Al Gore — have emphasized that market-based approach. All three presidential candidates are behind it. And it has framed international talks over a new climate treaty and debate within the United States over climate legislation.
But now, with recent data showing an unexpected rise in global emissions and a decline in energy efficiency, a growing chorus of economists, scientists and students of energy policy are saying that whatever benefits the cap approach yields, it will be too little and come too late.
The economist
Jeffrey D. Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, stated the case bluntly in a recent article in Scientific American: “Even with a cutback in wasteful energy spending, our current technologies cannot support both a decline in carbon dioxide emissions and an expanding global economy. If we try to restrain emissions without a fundamentally new set of technologies, we will end up stifling economic growth, including the development prospects for billions of people.”
What is needed, Mr. Sachs and others say, is the development of radically advanced low-carbon technologies, which they say will only come about with greatly increased spending by determined governments on what has so far been an anemic commitment to research and development. A Manhattan-like Project, so to speak.

In short, what is needed, he said, is a “major overhaul of energy technology” financed by “large-scale public funding of research, development and demonstration projects.”
At the same time, China and India continue to insist that economic growth is both their priority and right. They argue that the established economic powers should be responsible for spearheading the research to reduce carbon emissions. After all, the United States and Europe spent more than a century growing wealthy by burning fossil fuels.
Developing countries repeatedly made that point last week in Bangkok in the latest round of
United Nations talks over the shape of a new climate agreement. But the United States rejected a proposal from China that 0.5 percent of the gross domestic product of industrialized countries be used to disseminate nonpolluting energy technologies.
As if to underscore the energy and emissions trajectories in Asia’s emerging powerhouses —and the priority placed on growth there and among important international institutions — the International Finance Corporation of the
World Bank is planning to vote on Monday on helping to finance a four-billion-watt complex of coal-burning power plants, the “Ultra Mega” complex, in Gujarat State in India.


"I'm spending 95 percent of my waking hours" on the housing situation and credit squeeze, he said in an interview last week in his hideaway office off the Senate floor. The stakes are huge. "Potentially, this is as big an issue, given the implications, as the events of 1929," he said.


U.S. lenders turned blind eye to loan fraud

So while borrowers may have misrepresented their incomes, either on their own or at the urging of their mortgage brokers, lenders had the tools to identify these fibs before making the loans. All they had to do was ask the IRS. That in most cases they apparently didn't do so puts the lie to the idea that cagey borrowers duped unsuspecting lenders to secure loans that are now - surprise! - failing.
Instead, lenders appear to be complicit in the rampant fibbery that is one of the root causes of the continuing U.S. mortgage nightmare.
Mike Summers, vice president for sales and marketing at Veri-tax, in Tustin, California, knows plenty about this. His company handles the filing of these verification forms with the IRS on behalf of lenders and loan originators. He began selling the service to lenders in 1999 and said he was surprised at the reaction he received - like that of a skunk at a garden party.

"In 2001, I was going around the subprime world trying to get them to sign up," Summers recalled. "Ameriquest, and others I don't want to name, just didn't want to know because it would kill the deals. The attitude was don't ask, don't tell."
Ameriquest, just to jog your memory, is now defunct.
Summers said Ameriquest and other prospective clients used lame reasons for turning him down. Submitting the forms was too costly, they said ($20 per loan, on average), or too time-consuming (the information came back to the lender in about one business day).
"It was greed on a few different levels," Summers said. "I don't think $20 to protect your interest in a $500,000 loan and weed out things that aren't going to work is that big an investment."


HOLLAND, Michigan

More than 200,000 Michigan residents worked for subsidiaries of foreign companies as of 2005, according to government data.
Yet in a state that has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, foreign investment has not been enough to compensate; indeed, it has sometimes exacerbated the erosion.
Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, was bitterly disappointed by Electrolux's decision to abandon Greenville.
She had promised to persuade the company to stay, assembling a package of more than $120 million in state and local tax credits. The city offered to build a new plant. The local union agreed to give up as much as $33 million a year in wages.
"They said, 'There is nothing you can do to compensate for the fact that we are able to pay $1.57 an hour in Mexico,' " Granholm recalled during a recent interview. "That's when I started to say, 'Nafta and Cafta have given us the shafta,' " she added, using the acronyms for the North American and Central American free trade agreements.

McCain is outspoken about war, but not about his son's military service

Born in 1988, the third of John and Cindy McCain's children, Jimmy inherited his father's features and slight build, outrageous humor and family tradition of military service that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. His grandfather and great-grandfather were the first parent and son to achieve four-star admiral status in Naval history.

By the time Jimmy was in high school, he was scouting war memorabilia on eBay and playing video games like "Battlefield 1942," classmates said. He chose sports that simulated combat, like fencing and paintball, and his prized possession was a World War II Army hat.

At Culver Academy, a military-style boarding school in Indiana, he and his friend Nick Moore would fire up "Apocalypse Now" or "Platoon" on a laptop — critiques of war, but never mind — turn the sound down and talk about serving. "The testosterone was flying," Moore said in an interview. "He'd say, 'I'm just going to go in there guns blazing!' "



Based on American experiences in Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador and now in Iraq and Afghanistan, an advisory strategy can help the Iraqi Army and security forces beat Al Qaeda and protect their country

However, doing so will require America's ground forces to provide at least 20,000 combat advisers for the duration of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - soldiers specially equipped and trained to help foreign forces bear a greater share of the combat load.

Organization is inconsistent, for example, with most Afghanistan teams consisting of 16 soldiers with no medic, while most Iraq teams contain 11 soldiers, including a medic. The fact is, both types of teams are too small for the tasks they have been assigned, and many consequently have been augmented on the ground by regular troops on an ad hoc basis.
This is simply because not enough advisers are being produced - just 5,000 per year.

Finally, the American people must continue to be patient. In the 20th century, the average counterinsurgency campaign took nine years. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to run longer, and other commitments loom in the struggle against Al Qaeda and its imitators. Bitter experience has long recognized that only local armies can ultimately prevail in counterinsurgency operations.
Helping America's friends defend themselves will be critical for victory, and improving our adviser capacity will be the foundation of a long-term strategy.



Tet happened, and no one cared

Only 28 percent of Americans knew American casualties in Iraq were nearing 4,000 last month, according to the Pew Research Center. The Project for Excellence in Journalism found that by March 2008 the percentage of prominent news stories that were about Iraq had fallen to about one-fifth of what it was in January 2007. It's a poignant commentary on the whole war that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nonpartisan advocacy group, was reduced to protesting the lack of coverage.


In what may be the first such campaign of its kind, the city plans to publish multilanguage brochures and fill the airwaves with advertisements relaying assurance that San Francisco will not report them to the federal immigration authorities.

It is a trademark of a criminal predator to convince victims that because of the victims' immigration status that they - not the predator - will be treated as the criminal," said Kamala Harris, the city's district attorney. "We want to remove that tool from the criminal's tool belt."


It doesn't matter where you stand politically, or what you think of them personally. Whether you prefer Barack Obama's policies to Hillary Clinton's. What you think of her electioneering tactics, or his pastor. Or if you'd dump them both for John McCain. When it comes to choosing the best-designed U.S. presidential candidate, there's only one contender - Obama.
Every element of his visual identity has been masterfully conceived and executed to depict Obama as perfect presidential material. "It really is a treat to see graphic design applied so well," said the typography designer, Jonathan Hoefler. "Visually he is on message at every turn. I can't think of many corporations that use design so intelligently."
How has Obama done it?


Business looks for renewal in right-brain thinking

Now the master of fine arts, or MFA, Pink says, "is the new MBA."
He's not the only one saying it. When General Motors hired Robert Lutz in 2001 to whip its product development into shape, he told The New York Times about his new approach. "It's more right brain. It's more creative," he said.
"I see us as being in the art business," he said, "art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide transportation."
When a company like GM is in the art business, every company in any other industry is, too.
So it makes sense that business executives are turning to the original pop culture icon of right-brain thinking, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," for guidance into their right minds. Edwards retired in 1998, but her son, Brian Bomeisler, teaches scores of corporate and public workshops each year.
The list of companies that Bomeisler has worked with is a Who's Who of the Fortune 500. "That corny phrase 'thinking outside the box,' that's what I do for corporations," he says. "In teaching them how to draw, I'm teaching them an entirely new way to see.
They unbox their minds and absorb what's really there, with all of the complexity and beauty. One of the common phrases that students use afterward is that the world appears to be so much richer."


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