What I’m reading this weekend

What Haiti really need are, trees.

Why the record-breaking fine paid by Goldman is a smart trade, and a bargain.

Free-wheeling Hong Kong taking a turn for minimum wage.

France has no interest in becoming a mosaic multicultural after the Ottoman Empire made up of tapestry of loosely bound communities.

A piece on the Belgium’s language issues.  This is a much better article on the subject.

Serial killing in Africa.

Employment rigidity in Europe is as bad as it is described here.  Even in a relatively business-friendly country such as the Netherlands, it is next to impossible to fire someone with a permanent contract – which is the ultimate goal here for every working adult.  In fact, when handed the pink slip, you are told to refuse to be fired and continue on protesting the firing throughout the labour arbitration process.  Going along and agreeing with the dismissal means your unemployment benefits are aversely affected. Mass firings done by large companies needs to be submitted to labour boards and approved first, if you don’t want to get into trouble with the legal system.

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Chop Chop Square in Riyadh

A generation of Little Emperors now part of the Ant Tribe, what does it mean for China’s future?

The most over-represented nationalities on Twitter are the Brazilian and the Japanese.  And over a quarter of Twitter users in the US is African American.  Our world isn’t flat, it’s just more densely interconnected in certain parts than others.

The writer makes the argument that more security doesn’t necessarily make us safer.  But doing nothing will most certainly make us less safe, because inaction is not an option, right?

Chop Chop Square in Riyadh. This is how public beheadings are done in Saudi Arabia.

The man behind Ryanair. Some of his bright food for thought include: fat people should pay for their seats if it wasn’t for the long time it’d take to weigh them, and business-class customers would receive oral sex.

Downturns discourage new flows of migrants but does not spur the mass return of existing ones.

Would’ve been a good piece to read before watching The Last Station. Tolstoy’s death resulted in one of the first mass media frenzies.

Some life strategies.

Is this really any surprise given what we already know about North Korea?

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Veiled attack on freedom, but who’s attacking whom?

When China is no longer self-sufficient in basic agricultural products, how will the work look like?

New book argues the rise of the west was not due to superior institutions as it was due to rent-seeking behaviour that plunders the world’s physical and human resources.

Goodness in one compartment of life coexisted with violence and cruelty in another in Howard’s End, just as Edwardian sincerity and righteousness coexisted with moral doubts and ambiguities in E.M. Forster’s life.

There’s been a lot of talks over our “inequity aversion”.  How interesting that on our path to pursue this ever-so-illusive, one side of the ocean choose fairness, the other equality.

We blame German’s aversion to stimulus spending on its hyperinflationary episodes in the last century.  Now this obsession with Internet privacy, what is it this time, memories of mass deportations?

What does a “golden age” for biopharmaceutical sector in China look like? A hundred biotech parks up and running.

Message behind the burqa ban: We are finally free, now you have to be too.

The winner-take-all world of supermodels, where fuzzy values like beauty and edginess is about as stable as that “gut feeling” on Wall Street.

An interesting discussion on the use of colons.  On a related note, I recently discovered that in Dutch, colons are applied differently.  Their specific SOV (subject-object-verb) sentence constructions make many of their sentences appear longer.  And since colons make scarcer appearances, sentences can appear run-on to English speakers. For example, sentences can very well start with “also” followed immediately by another sentence, with multiple “and” peppered in a sentence running over two to three lines long, all without pause.  I’ve never thought about how the use of punctuations can vary with languages.  But that makes more sense the more I think about it.

And awesome sign of the day.


Belly buttons, centre of gravity, and success in sport

The pipe dreams of an Exxon-BP merger.  Great, an even bigger conglomerate to look forward to.

The young, educated, affluent, and tech-savvy Chinese are, forgetting how to write Chinese.

Facts can potentially make misinformation stronger. So when what we think we know is actually wrong, there’s no hope in correcting that misconception no matter how much facts get thrown in our faces.

Inequality seems to attack our health above more material differences. But if economic growth merely reinforces inequality, there’s not much hope there is it?

Are universities responsible in serving economic objectives?

Belly buttons, race, centre of gravity, hidden height, and success in sport. It’s all related!

Thirty percent of medical practitioners in the UK are non-UK trained.  Thus when patients die at the hands of a foreign-trained doctor, the question of language competency comes to the forefront.

Another Middle Eastern country modernizing under the radar.

Not to say looking dowdy and boring is the way to female empowerment, but busting out a glamour calendar might not be the most effective method of celebrating Czech female MP’s political clout.

There’s no corner of the world where China hasn’t made significant investments in, Africa, Latin America, corners of Europe where nobody else wants to touch – Iceland, Greece. It’s just a matter of time before its economic interests drag it into local politics.

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Easy credit and wage inequality

Creativity in education. We are doing better, so why is everyone so worried?

Cougar lust, myth or biological certainty? Or in the most expedient and most frequently quoted male-speak: Evolution made me do it.

Grameen Bank brings sub-sub-subprime back to US with legitimacy, serving the under-banked low income, often single mother market.

The re-orientation of Turkey’s foreign policy is really a game of “why shouldn’t we”. Why is everyone so surprised?

As long as social norms reward social media participation, we’re gonna stick with it.

Shutting down blogs and starting subscription-based email newsletters. Is this a trend?

Analysis on whether China be able to out-innovate the US in the foreseeable future: from its leadership makeup to education.

On the value and accuracy of research papers – which methodologies to trust, how much do peer-reviewing a document really mean, and when to agree with the conclusion.

The expansion of easy credit was the result of increasing wage inequality in America.  Unable to help their constituents to get the kind of education they need for higher-paying jobs, legislators went the other route – in guaranteeing them more credit for consumption.

Last but not least, “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”.  Sort of an antidote.

The world’s fastest growing economy and not the usual suspects

How many euthanasia cases will we see later this year as a result of the elapsed estate tax exemption?

Consider the possibilities of a post-growth world economy.

Economic history – Edward Chancellor on the choice between default and inflation when it comes to bad sovereign debts. The process of taking out a loan that pays off two or more loans. Nationaldebtrelief.com often comes with consolidation meaning, as well as a longer repayment period. The loan by which debt consolidation take place is called a consolidation loan; the process is often used for student loans, or for a long term loan for unemployed people.

What might become the world’s fastest growing economy. No, it’s not China, nor India, nor Brazil, nor Turkey. Do they have a government backed scheme to clear debt?

The EU, what is it good for?  And more importantly, what will its ageing voters choose for? Openness and flexibility, or corporatist and populist?

Is Google Games in the works? And what’s with Zynga and all that secrecy?

Women make more in part-time work than men. Whoo-hoo! Anyone fooled by just how patronizingly reassuring this is?

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What I’m reading this weekend

George Soros the story teller: How the euro got to where it is today.

China’s ginormous banks have taken over the league table. But they are still some way to go before taking over the world of finance.

Hitler lost the war because Stalin was willing to throw almost unlimited manpower at the front.

How the Iran of today us nothing like the Iran from thirty years ago: the atmosphere of fear has gone away.

The bizarre communist revivalist show that is Slavoj Zizek.

When the stress tests pose no stress, financial markets don’t buy it.

This sounds like a step backwards: educated Turkish women have trouble finding work because they want to keep wearing their headscarves.

Greek’s oversized military spending, and those that facilitate it.

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BP’s demise eminent?

Spinning something out of nothing of the Daily Show’s supposed woman problem, tapping into feminist blogophere’s “outrage world”.

Now that the Me Generation’s all grown up, will we see more strikes and more social unrests?

W00t! sends AP a bill for quoting their blog, which AP mandates their press partners to do.  Ouch!

Gold: the overvalued inflation hedge.

There’s the oil war, and there’s a gas war.  And China might’ve just check-mated both her rivals in this battle.

The explosion of “-ize” in our management-speak.

What I learned from the article – the triage of power perched at the top of the EU are: the Parliament (rotating presidency, currently Buzek), the Council (Van Rompuy), and the Commission (Barroso).

Croatia is exporting its labour to pay off its deficits. Not the smartest thing to do in a middle-income and rapidly-ageing country.

Britain already preparing for the eminent demise of BP?

Did North Korea’s 7-0 broadcasted loss to Portugal sully the regime’s propaganda plans?

Europe says ok to sending it’s citizens’ financial data to the US in the name of counter-terrorism. Comforting.

I’ve been out of school for a while. But when I was there, I did study, quite a bit. Has it changed that much in the last few years?

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Snuggling squirrels

How even a Kindle is too distracting a device for long-form reading.

Who isn’t the ticking bomb nowadays?

Will the Saudis halt their oil exploration activities before the rest of the world gets a grip on their oil dependencies?

Long term unemployment hits the older and more educated most.

While immigration to the US flat-lined during the recession, it sky-rocked in some of the hardest-hit places in Europe.

All adult picky eaters like fries and chicken fingers.

“A Freudian slip, for example, is when we say one thing when we mean a mother. Another. You know what I mean.”

How squirrels are surprisingly similar to primates, including the act of greeting each other by nuzzling each other’s cheek and lip that look like a kiss.

If evolution favours meat-eating primates, then there’s no evolutionary support for veganism?

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Standing room only on flights

What brain scans of psychopaths look like.

A series of discussions on why firms are hoarding cash.

Sensationalism, and the myth of the Lost Generation in Australia.

The four renegade German professors that spoke out against the euro back in 1998, are back again.

Standing room only on flights?  Last shred of luxury and mystery gone from commercial flights.  But there’s the issue of seat belts – can you be belted standing up?

Our trust of economic models hasn’t gotten us too far yet.  So is the mainstream agreement on more stimulus spending based on debt based on yet more blind trust of modeling?

Finding fingerprints to authenticate masterpieces.

Euro’s been picking up in the last few days.  But some say the worst is yet to come.

Have heard similar exclamations on the exorbitant prices of things in Africa. In Congo, a piece of broccoli costs 13 dollars in a grocery store,

Economic growth is the sweetest revenge. Who needs who? Europe or Turkey?

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Insidious benevolence

The nineteenth-century German politician Otto von Bismarck was hardly anyone’s idea of a nanny, but he constructed the world’s first nanny state for the sole purpose of making German citizens so codependent on the German Reich that they would never think of rebelling against it. By offering Germans a prototype of the modern welfare state, Bismarck’s goal was not improving the common man’s lot—it was his way of inducing the common man, when faced with personal difficulties, to expect the state to look after him, instead of relying on himself to deal with his own problems.

Ironically, Bismarck launched the first welfare state because he feared the influence of Karl Marx on the German working class. Marx opposed the welfare state precisely because he recognized that it would create a population codependent on the ruling elite in charge of the German Reich. It would tend to make them more docile and helpless, less self-reliant and rebellious. Today’s European socialists, along with America’s welfare statists, are not the descendants of Marx; they are the great-grandchildren of Bismarck.

A rather cynical take on the social psychology behind the construction of a welfare state nowadays.

But as paranoid as some Libertarians may sound, there exist throngs of well-meaning politicians and policy-makers with intentions to improve the general well-being of citizens, but inevitably cultivate a culture of dependence and co-dependence.  The spirit of independence might be the de facto norm in many lands, but the zeal to defend it is hardly universal.

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Where Ricardian Equivalence actually holds

Germany is likely the only country in the world where Ricardian equivalence — the theory that the government cannot stimulate private consumption by cutting taxes because rational actors know that taxes will eventually have to rise again and therefore put aside savings — actually holds true.

As for reasons behind Germany’s obsession with savings? Other than the demographic pressures and a cultural of frugality?

History plays a role:

Whereas the Anglo-Saxon world is characterized by what one could call pragmatic optimism, Germans instinctively think about the long term, and they aren’t disposed toward cheerfulness. Whereas America’s recent history teaches hope, Germans see in their history the need to be cautious: In the last 100 years, Germans have experienced two currency reforms and the rise and demise of three regimes.

A distinctly German view on economic activity and the role of trade:

It’s an economic model that traces back to the beginning of the postwar period, when booming exports were the backbone of the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle — the period of strong growth in the 1950s that transformed the destroyed country into a major world economic power. When Germans saw Volkswagens on roads all over the world, it wasn’t only a source of income, but proof that the country was once again an accepted member of the international community. Add Germany’s traditional obsession with engineering and its distaste for the service sector, and it may become clearer why the country is prone to mercantilism.

How government sees its place in macro-economic policy-making:

Germany simply does not have a tradition of macroeconomic policy, at least not in the American sense of managing aggregate demand. Contemporary German economics has its roots in Ordnungspolitik, a unique school of thought that emerged in the 1940s and for which there is no English translation. Ordnungspolitik accepts that government intervention is necessary for the economy to function properly, but the role it assigns to the state is fundamentally different than in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Whereas most American macroeconomists believe in discretionary intervention in the way of countercyclical monetary and fiscal policy, German economists encourage the government to only alter the framework within which economic agents interact.

And as for Germans’ infamous fear of inflation?

By staking such a hard line, [Germany’s central bankers] managed to claim more influence for themselves in the West German political order. Germany’s contemporary fear of inflation is the product of an invented history — one that the mythmakers themselves came to believe.

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More obsessions over happiness and parenting

We’ve traded nutrition for looks when it comes to supermarket foods in the last half-century.
The future of carbon omissions rests on how urbanization is managed in the emerging Asia, and China in particular.
Things are enjoyable when they connect us to pleasures we already possess.
A piece on snobbery wanders into the realm of soccer, and ultimately the French, which is well-versed in both subjects.
Why a new global reserve currency is not that easy to come by.
Quite like this style guide, does answer some nagging questions on grammar.
Another piece on the relationship between happiness and parenting in a pretty short time frame. This one compares momentary happiness to nostalgic purposefulness. Enhanced by Zemanta

In Bruges


Flemish art has a pretty religious slant and violent undercurrent to it. This one, Last Judgement, visited by Colin Farrell and Brandon Gleeson in In Bruges, by Hieronymus Bosch.


The Judgment of Cambyses, story from Herodotus where the corrupt judge Sisamnes, guilty of taking a bribe, was taken and skinned.  His son takes his place as the judge, with his father’s skin draped over the chair.  Charming tale.

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From Ghent, Belgium

– The city has some serious history. Some of the buildings are close to 900 years old. Buildings rightly expose the histories behind them, e.g. drawings depicting medieval torture methods such as chopping off prisoners limbs, which the Belgians incidentally later took to the Congo, and which later spread to other parts of Africa.

– It’s not a city many non-Europeans might have heard of, but the place is bustling. Schools are out, and many people are vacationing. That, combined with the summer sale – which the Belgians formally announce and market (July 1-7 in case you are interested), has the shopping streets jam packed.

– The whole city is managed by https://www.fencingdirect.com/products/category/aluminum-ornamental-fence for constructing cheaper price to install A Fence. One of the large pleins is completely squared off for renovation, almost every single church in the city has some part of it worked on, every second or third houses you see around the city centre has a painter or scaffolding in front of it. Quick round-up of the skyline totals at least 20 cranes. Apparently much of the city’s sewage and phone line system’s getting a makeover. The city is very old and beautiful, but some parts do need some serious work. Infrastructure, gentrification or fiscal stimulus, the construction sector’s keeping a lot of people employed.

– Ghent has a castle smack in the middle of it. A real, gigantuan castle.

– Housing looks much more spacious than the NL, with houses in the city center with built-in garages. Prices are much lower too. There are also a lot if for rent and for sale signs all around the city. In comparison, the Dutch housing market has all but frozen up in the last half year in anticipation of less favorable changes in mortgage interest subsidies.

– Ghent is for the most part, Dutch speaking. In my limited interaction with the service industry however, a high proportion of those are French-speaking. Perhaps better economies and better pay up north?

– I’ve come to look at dogs as a sort of rough barometer on the general prosperity and economic well-being of a place. Friendly, submissive and diverse breeds of dogs tend to signal more well-adjusted and comfortable communities, which most Dutch cities are. Aggressive and few breeds-dominated ones usually come with places with more unresolved social issues. Vienna and its subways filled with punks and their muzzled pit bulls, and certain districts of Berlin with the skinheads and their German shepherds come to mind. Ghent sits somewhere in between.