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Archive for April, 2012

Global Warming

Global Warming: What We Don’t Know

I just read a long exchange among scientists about global warming, in which they, sometimes harshly, argued against each other from opposite sides of what seems to be a great divide. Most of us know so little about how a climate works and how it might change that we must rely on distant experts to tell us what is going on and what might happen in the future.

I was struck by the agreement among these arguing scientists that significant warming had occurred across the earth, and that it could have major effects on human life. The scientists disagreed about the past and the future: what caused the warming and how much further warming is likely?

We don’t know the answers to these questions. Each model of climate change predicts a slightly different future.

We do know that global warming has occurred. 2010 was the hottest year on record, tied with 2005. Each year since 2001 has been hotter than any year before 2001, except for 1998. Last month was the hottest March on record in the US.

A warming climate could mean the end of maple syrup production and the proliferation of tree-killing insects, just to name two of many inevitable changes. If the trend of warming continues for the next 20 years, the odds of catastrophic floods in our coastal cities rise to dangerous levels.

Some things about global warming are uncertain. But one thing is not – if we do nothing, we will face enormous problems which could have been avoided.

We don’t know exactly how humans evolved from apes. Very recently another fossil find in Africa added a new species, not yet named, to the now long list of almost humans. We do know that evolution, working incrementally over millions of years, has allowed humans to develop larger brains, which in turn permitted us to make tools, create language, and build civilizations which lower animals could never dream of.

We don’t know exactly how the many chemicals which we have synthesized and then used all over the earth affect our health. An article on WebMD says, “How much hormone is in a hamburger, and could it hurt you? The answer is, no one really knows.” But we do know that pesticides can cause cancer, as do some of the additives fed to the animals we eat. The Food and Drug Administration has known for decades that putting antibiotics into animal feed to make them put on weight can cause more resistant strains of human diseases to develop.

We know that human inventions, created to make life better, can make life worse in unpredicted ways. Asbestos, lead, and mercury were employed in a wide variety of materials in our homes, because they appeared to be useful, until scientists realized that they were also toxic to humans. Then it took years to get them out of our daily lives.

A major uncertainty today is how much the process known as fracking, the injection of chemicals under high pressure into rock to release natural gas, could harm our health. Scientists in many states have documented that fracking contaminates water supplies, causes small earthquakes, and pollutes the air. But exactly how and how much is not certain, because the studies are scattered, and the oil and gas industry vociferously denies any dangers from fracking.

Although the vast majority of scientists in every nation agree that global warming caused by human activity will continue to levels dangerous to our society, the media and some politicians in the US continue to stress uncertainty. Americans are so confused by the claims of public figures that global warming is a “hoax” that a Rasmussen poll last year showed the majority distrusted science: 40% thought it was very likely and 29% thought it was likely that scientists have falsified global warming research.

There is no evidence for such falsification, just the wishful thinking of those who don’t want to face uncomfortable reality.

Here’s one thing we do know. Science works.

Tornado prediction is an even less certain science than global warming. Yet weather scientists were able to broadcast the earliest tornado warning in years and save lives across the Midwest earlier this month. Despite the uncertainties of such forecasts, weather science was on target.

Great and powerful people have argued against accepting the basic findings of science since well before Galileo. They have always lost, after a long, tiring, and wasteful battle. Their political unwillingness to accept science squanders society’s precious time, which it needs to face the real question: what does the science mean for us?

That question is devilishly difficult to answer. It’s the main thing we don’t know.

Steve Hochstadt

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Letter to Angela Davis from James Baldwin

A letter written by James Baldwin to Angela Davis

November 19, 1970

Dear Sister:

One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on Black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses. And so, Newsweek, civilized defender of the indefensible, attempts to drown you in a sea of crocodile tears (“it remained to be seen what sort of personal liberation she had achieved”) and puts you on its cover, chained.

You look exceedingly alone—as alone, say, as the Jewish housewife in the boxcar headed for Dachau, or as any one of our ancestors, chained together in the name of Jesus, headed for a Christian land.

Well. Since we live in an age which silence is not only criminal but suicidal, I have been making as much noise as I can, here in Europe, on radio and television—in fact, have just returned from a land, Germany, which was made notorious by a silent majority not so very long ago. I was asked to speak on the case of Miss Angela Davis, and did so. Very probably an exerciser in futility, but one must let no opportunity slide.

I am something like twenty years older than you, of that generation, therefore, of which George Jackson ventures that “there are no healthy brothers—none at all.” I am in no way equipped to dispute this speculation (not, anyway, without descending into what, at the moment, would be irrelevant subtleties) for I know too well what he means. My own state of health is certainly precarious enough. In considering you, and Huey, and George and (especially) Jonathan Jackson, I began to apprehend what you may have had in mind when you spoke of the uses to which we could put the experience of the slave. What has happened, it seems to me, and to put it far too simply, is that a whole new generation of people have assessed and absorbed their history, and, in that tremendous action, have freed themselves of it and will never be victims again. This may seem an odd, indefensibly pertinent and insensitive thing to say to a sister in prison, battling for her life—for all our lives. Yet, I dare to say it, for I think you will perhaps not misunderstand me, and I do not say it, after all, from the position of spectator.

I am trying to suggest that you—for example—do not appear to be your father’s daughter in the same way that I am my father’s son. At bottom, my father’s expectations and mine were the same, the expectations of his generation and mine were the same; and neither the immense difference in our ages nor the move from the South to the North could alter these expectations or make our lives more viable. For, in fact, to use the brutal parlance of that hour, the interior language of despair, he was just a n—–—a n—– laborer preacher, and so was I. I jumped the track but that’s of no more importance here, in itself, than the fact that some poor Spaniards become rich bull fighters, or that some poor Black boys become rich—boxers, for example. That’s rarely, if ever, afforded the people more than a great emotional catharsis, though I don’t mean to be condescending about that, either. But when Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and refused to put on that uniform (and sacrificed all that money!) a very different impact was made on the people and a very different kind of instruction had begun.

The American triumph—in which the American tragedy has always been implicit—was to make Black people despise themselves. When I was little I despised myself; I did not know any better. And this meant, albeit unconsciously, or against my will, or in great pain, that I also despised my father. And my mother. And my brothers. And my sisters. Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue, when I was growing up; and no one explained to them, or to me, that it was intended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it: and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave. So one was ready, when human terrors came, to bow before a white God and beg Jesus for salvation—this same white God who was unable to raise a finger to do so little as to help you pay your rent, unable to be awakened in time to help you save your child!

There is always, of course, more to any picture than can speedily be perceived and in all of this—groaning and moaning, watching, calculating, clowning, surviving, and outwitting, some tremendous strength was nevertheless being forged, which is part of our legacy today. But that particular aspect of our journey now begins to be behind us. The secret is out: we are men!

But the blunt, open articulation of this secret has frightened the nation to death. i wish I could say, “to life,” but that is much to demand of a disparate collection of displaced people still cowering in their wagon trains and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The nation, if America is a nation, is not in the least prepared for this day. It is a day which the Americans never expected to see, however piously they may declare their belief in progress and democracy. Those words, now, on American lips, have become a kind of universal obscenity: for this most unhappy people, strong believers in arithmetic, never expected to be confronted with the algebra of their history.

One way of gauging a nation’s health, or of discerning what it really considers to be its interests—or to what extent it can be considered as a nation as distinguished from a coalition of special interests—is to examine those people it elects to represent or protect it. One glance at the American leaders (or figureheads) conveys that America is on the edge of absolute chaos, and also suggests the future to which American interests, if not the bulk of the American people, appear willing to consign the Blacks. (Indeed, one look at our past conveys that.) It is clear that for the bulk of our (nominal) countrymen, we are all expendable. And Messrs. Nixon, Agnew, Mitchell, and Hoover, to say nothing, of course, of the Kings’ Row basket case, the winning Ronnie Reagan, will not hesitate for an instant to carry out what they insist is the will of the people.

But what, in America, is the will of the people? And who, for the above-named, are the people? The people, whoever they may be, know as much about the forces which have placed the above-named gentlemen in power as they do about the forces responsible for the slaughter in Vietnam. The will of the people, in America, has always been at the mercy of an ignorance not merely phenomenal, but sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy which democratically slaughters and victimizes whites and Blacks alike. But most white Americans do not dare admit this (though they suspect it) and this fact contains mortal danger for the Blacks and tragedy for the nation.

Or, to put it another way, as long as white Americans take refuge in their whiteness—for so long as they are unable to walk out of this most monstrous of traps—they will allow millions of people to be slaughtered in their name, and will be manipulated into and surrender themselves to what they will think of—and justify—as a racial war. They will never, so long as their whiteness puts so sinister a distance between themselves and their own experience and the experience of others, feel themselves sufficiently human, sufficiently worthwhile, to become responsible for themselves, their leaders, their country, their children, or their fate. They will perish (as we once put it in our black church) in their sins —that is, in their delusions. And this is happening, needless to say, already, all around us.

Only a handful of the millions of people in this vast place are aware that the fate intended for you, Sister Angela, and for George Jackson, and for the numberless prisoners in our concentration camps—for that is what they are—is a fate which is about to engulf them, too, White lives, for the forces which rule in this country, are no more sacred than Black ones, as many and many a student is discovering, as the white American corpses in Vietnam prove. If the American people are unable to contend with their elected leaders for the redemption of their own honor and the loves of their own children, we the Blacks, the most rejected of the Western children, can expect very little help at their hands; which, after all, is nothing new. What the Americans do not realize is that a war between brothers, in the same cities, on the same soil is not a racial war but a civil war. But the American delusion is not only that their brothers all are white but that the whites are all their brothers.

So be it. We cannot awaken this sleeper, and God knows we have tried. We must do what we can do, and fortify and save each other—we are not drowning in an apathetic self-contempt, we do feel ourselves sufficiently worthwhile to contend even with the inexorable forces in order to change our fate and the fate of our children and the condition of the world! We know that a man is not a thing and is not to be placed at the mercy of things. We know that air and water belong to all mankind and not merely to industrialists. We know that a baby does not come into the world merely to be the instrument of someone else’s profit. We know that a democracy does not mean the coercion of all into a deadly—and, finally, wicked— mediocrity but the liberty for all to aspire to the best that is in him, or that has ever been.

We know that we, the Blacks, and not only we, the blacks, have been, and are, the victims of a system whose only fuel is greed, whose only god is profit. We know that the fruits of this system have been ignorance, despair, and death, and we know that the system is doomed because the world can no longer afford it—if, indeed, it ever could have. And we know that, for the perpetuation of this system, we have all been mercilessly brutalized, and have been told nothing but lies, lies about ourselves and our kinsmen and our past, and about love, life, and death, so that both soul and body have been bound in hell.

The enormous revolution in black consciousness which has occurred in your generation, my dear sister, means the beginning or the end of America. Some of us, white and Black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecendented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

Therefore: peace.

Brother James

 

By Sharon Kyle

 

 

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I wasn’t surprised that the World Bank Passed over the most qualified candidate for the post, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. This most able African sister has made quiet an impact in her challenge of the status quo. The World Bank would have to change its ways if it wishes to remain relevant.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

Tuesday 17 April 2012

We asked a panel of experts what should be on Jim Yong Kim’s to-do list over the next 12 months

Nancy Birdsall: ‘The World Bank needs to shift from a culture that feels it must pretend it knows what to do to a culture of trying, failing, adjusting and trying again

The new World Bank president must overcome concerns about the legitimacy of the leadership selection process even as he tackles three key problems.

First, he must lead the Bank in creating new instruments to respond to common global problems, such as drug resistance, fisheries collapse and climate change. Country loans and grants – the Bank’s main product – are not well suited to these cross-border problems.

Second, he must reduce the hassle costs for middle-income countries that would welcome the Bank’s expertise but are discouraged from borrowing by long delays between loan requests and disbursements. This means streamlining procedures and treating borrowing countries more like clients taking on risks and responsibilities, and less like children.

Finally, the new president needs to lead the bank in finding better ways to help fragile and weak states, like Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Timor-Leste. The World Bank needs to shift from a culture that feels it must pretend it knows what to do to a culture of trying, failing, adjusting and trying again. To build a consensus around solutions to these problems, the new president could appoint high-level groups to study each problem and present proposed solutions to the World Bank board for discussion, modification, and eventual approval.

• Nancy Birdsall is president of the Centre for Global Development

Andrea Cornwall: ‘Step one should be a radical cull of those 9,000 economists. They’ve shown themselves to be part of the problem

The new World Bank president has a tough job on his hands. What he should focus on in the first year is getting his house in order. Step one should be a cull of those 9,000 economists. They’ve shown themselves to be part of the problem. Replacing the army of neoliberals with a more diverse crew who have some understanding of culture, context and complexity – and more of a concern about social justice – would be the wisest investment he could make.

Step two should be to lay the foundations for a more democratic, diverse and transparent Bank by a similar cull of the board. Open nominations for development visionaries from the global south to help the bank step up to the task of transformation, and let the new president take his pick and justify it to the watching world. Half should be women.

Step three would be to open the Bank’s headquarters to a carnival of ideas. Invite grassroots movements and visionary bureaucrats to come, share and inspire.

Step four would be to complement this with an ambitious new listening survey to help shape the Bank’s agenda. This time, rather than ventriloquising the “voices of the poor” to support neoliberal policies that cut away their security, the process should be genuinely deliberative, reaching out far and wide using a mixture of traditional forums and new digital technologies.

The next step would be the introduction of a new set of institutional incentives that measure success not by the size of disbursement but by positive contributions to social justice. If all of these steps are taken, my wish that the Bank would ditch empowerment-lite and invest instead in addressing the structural causes of gender inequality might just stand a chance of coming true …

• Andrea Cornwall is professor of anthropology and development in the department of global studies at the University of Sussex

Jayati Ghosh: ‘Most people in the developing world simply do not trust the World Bank

The Bank currently faces three major deficits: of relevance, credibility and trust. For many poor developing countries, its lending is too little and its approach too outdated to be relevant in a world where private flows have grown and some countries such as China have emerged as major donors. Its credibility has been dented by its continuing reliance on Washington-consensus arguments that should have been ditched long ago because of their poor results. Most people in the developing world simply do not trust the World Bank (or the IMF) to protect their interests – in fact, they are seen as working against such interests.

Symbolic fixes will not help. The new president has to make an honest and committed effort to change both the mindset and the functioning of this institution, to recognise and value heterodox economic approaches, and to transform the rigid and oppressive nature of its policy advice. The World Bank’s stated purpose is to promote economic and social progress in developing countries. Its track record in this has been less than impressive – and even negative – largely because its approach has been excessively market-oriented and investor-friendly, as well as swayed by fads in the development industry.

• Jayati Ghosh is professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India

Jonathan Glennie: ‘Get the management right, stand up to vested interests, and the rest will follow’

Why has the World Bank so often ended up on the wrong side of the argument, promoting policies that harm rather than help poor communities and countries? It is certainly not for the lack of economic policy talent. On the contrary, it has always been home to some of the world’s most brilliant development thinkers.

The answer lies in the interests the Bank responds to via its funding and board management structure, and the incentives that flow from this all down the organisation. The classic case is that of Joseph Stiglitz, one of the foremost development economists of his generation, sacked from his position as the Bank’s chief economist for daring to speak out about failed IMF and World Bank policy in the late 1990s. The message was clear – step out of line and you’re out.

The most urgent thing the new president needs to do is radically reform the structure of incentives and decision-making at the Bank, ensuring that heterodox policy directions that might not be ideal for the short-term interests of major shareholders are encouraged and rewarded. Get the management right, stand up to vested interests, and the rest will follow.

This will be difficult, but is already happening: shifting power at a global level is complemented by a crop of modern World Bankers aware of where things went wrong in the past, and keen to be given a context in which their institution can emerge as a beacon of internationalism and progress. A brave president could make a historic contribution to the future of development co-operation.

• Jonathan Glennie is research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute

Lawrence Haddad: ‘The new World Bank president should focus on the quality of growth’

The new World Bank president should focus on the quality of growth. He should promote the view that growth is not necessarily good and not necessarily bad. The Bank should instead set goals for what growth must achieve. How can we get growth that reduces poverty, creates jobs, uses natural resources sustainably, and does not breed corruption?

That will mean more of an emphasis on the governance and politics of growth. In turn that will require a better balance of disciplines represented on the Bank’s professional staff. The president should also lead the charge to change the way future presidents are appointed. The current system makes mockery of meritocracy and is hypocritical in the extreme.

• Lawrence Haddad is director of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex

Asif Saleh: ‘Rather than chasing the latest development fads, they can help scale up the homegrown, community-driven frugal innovations that are already happening all around the world’

The World Bank needs to be more humble, and this humility should make it listen more and prescribe less. If it listens, it will discover that there is a large group of ultra-poor who still need social and state protection; that market solutions can only work when the playing field becomes level for such groups, who have been left behind by the economic growth; and that rather than chasing the latest development fads, it can help scale-up the homegrown, community-driven frugal innovations that are already happening all around the world.

Failures are possible, but the Bank must be willing to take risks if it is to stay relevant to tackle today’s challenges in the “market” where it operates. In short, and ironically, the new president must aspire to be more responsive to the real demand of the emerging markets rather than being supply-driven like his predecessors.

• Asif Saleh is director, strategy and communication, of Brac

Antonio Tricarico: ‘Zoellick’s silent doctrine has transformed the World Bank into a global investment bank – forget about development’

Too many have focused on how new power dynamics with Brics countries might affect the World Bank once the new president steps into 1818 H Street in Washington. But too little has been said about what should stay at the door, and not be allowed in. Definitely, capital markets, and all those interested in subordinating development finance to the global economy.

Robert Zoellick’s silent doctrine has transformed the World Bank into a global investment bank – forget about development. That’s why lending to the private sector, and in particular the private financial sector, through the International Finance Corporation, boomed up to $19bn a year, including participation in dubious private equity funds pretending to help the poor from offshore.

Similarly, while facing food and climate crises, the Bank embarked on new programmes offering “pure financial” solutions, such as the promotion of weather derivatives among poor farmers, or support for speculative carbon markets to mitigate climate change. And now the Bank is ready to fly to Rio in June and teach UN delegates about how to measure ecosystem services through its new “waves” initiative, to possibly trade and financialise bits of nature. The new president should reverse this trend, and immediately affirm that financing development, rather than developing finance, is the Bank’s top priority.

• Antonio Tricarico is co-ordinator of the Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank, Italy

Guardian UK

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The Paradox of Mobility in America

We’re a species that has gotten around; we’ve wandered, pioneered and migrated to every corner of the world. The spear tip of technology is how we can get somewhere else: the wheel, the sailboat, the rocket. In short: we’re movers.

We are now as mobile as we’ve ever been as a culture. Our phones are not tethered to any particular location. Our keepsakes, like photos and letters, are all saved on devices smaller than your average drugstore paperback. The bitter visual of a breakup – the splitting up of a couple’s CD collection – no longer exists since you both have copies of the same MP3s. Your computer fits comfortably in your lap – everything else is in your pocket. We now have the ability to go anywhere and bring with us more things utilizing less space than at any other time in human history.

We have the ability – the freedom – to roam more now than ever before. And yet our upward mobility is standing still.

Jason DeParle in The New York Times wrote in January this year, “Countries with less equality generally have less mobility.” And as Occupy Wall Street successfully pointed out the top one percent “earn” nearly a quarter of the nation’s income. While they have enjoyed an increase in wealth and a decrease in taxes, the rest of the country has seen a flattening of their prospects. The U.S. ranks near the bottom in income inequality and therefore upward mobility.

Time noted, “The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project has found that if you were born in 1970 in the bottom one-fifth of the socioeconomic spectrum in the U.S., you had only about a 17 percent chance of making it into the upper two-fifths.”

Americans have mobile phones with immobile socioeconomics. Put that in your made-in-China travel mug and sip it.

Why is this so? There are many factors and usually when there is an issue with many factors it means there’s a partisan divide as to its “true” solution. Former Senator, former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum mentioned the lack of upward mobility but subscribed boilerplate Republican cure-alls like deregulating businesses and cutting taxes for corporations. Arguably if that helped upward mobility – we’d have upward mobility.

President Obama also talked about this fact earlier this month. “It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it – a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class,” said the President to a Florida audience.

He continued, “By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last – education and training; research and development; infrastructure – it’s a prescription for decline.”

The real solution is probably in the middle – which is often ever so slightly to the left of President Obama’s positions.

Conservatives, like the government-helicopter-hopping, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will say it’s the safety net that has made us lazy waiting for government checks. But countries with a better current mobility rate (most of the industrialized world) will note their social safety net is what makes mobility possible for the lower classes.

One thing which is supposed to ensure you’ll do better than your parents is getting a better education. However, tuitions are rising, grants are shrinking and student loans are becoming a plague of post-collegiate living. College is no longer the class-lift it once was.

This is where we are as a nation: Your Android can go anywhere with you … just probably not into the upper middle-class.

Tina Dupuy

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Accelerating Quality Growth, Creating Shared Opportunities
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 9-11 May 2012

The 22nd World Economic Forum on Africa, held for the first time in Ethiopia, is a unique opportunity to explore one of the world’s oldest cultural heritages and one of the fastest-growing African economies.
Addis Ababa, as the diplomatic capital of Africa and home of the African Union, also sets the stage for a truly pan-African agenda with deep government and institutional representation alongside that of top business and civil society participation.

Discussions will explore the key drivers that will see sub-Saharan Africa produce seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world over the next five years. The theme Connecting Africa will focus on how multistakeholder dialogue and new partnerships can transcend traditional boundaries and connect many diverse regions and constituents with global counterparts to further the political, economic and social environments in Africa.

  • How is a new continental agenda and greater regional integration spurring unprecedented opportunities ranging from consumer industries to agri-processing and mining to alternative energy?
  • How can regional and global leaders partner together to solve ongoing development challenges as well as growing risks pertaining to climate change, water scarcity and commodity price volatility?

For more information, please e-mail: Africa@weforum.org

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Turning America In to a Giant Casino

Turning America In to a Giant Casino

Anyone who says you can get rich through gambling is a fool or a knave. Multiply the size of the prize by your chance of winning it and you’ll always get a number far lower than what you put into the pot. The only sure winners are the organizers – casino owners, state lotteries, and con artists of all kinds.

Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.

Yet America is now opening the floodgates.

In December, the Department of Justice announced it was reversing its position that all Internet gambling was illegal. That decision is about to create a boom in online gambling. Expect high-stakes poker to be available on every work desk and mobile phone.

Meanwhile, states are increasingly dependent on revenues from casinos, lotteries, and the “Mega Millions” game (in which 42 states pool their grand prize) to partly refill state coffers.

Given who plays, this is one of the most regressive taxes in the nation. In the most recent Mega Millions game – whose winning tickets were drawn last week and whose jackpot rose to $640 million – lottery ticket buyers shelled out some $1.5 billion, most of which went to state governments.

And then there’s the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups” or “JOBS” Act, which President Obama is expected to sign into law Thursday. It allows so-called “crowd funding” by which people whose net worth is less than $100,000 can gamble away (invest) up to 5 percent of their annual incomes in any get-rich-quick scam (start-up) that any huckster (entrepreneur) may sell them.

Forget the usual investor disclosures or other protections. In the interest of “streamlining,” Congress has streamlined the way to fraud. Although start-ups will have to market themselves through third-party portals approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission, this is like limiting Bernie Madoff to making pitches over the radio. The SEC can barely keep track of Wall Street let alone thousands of Internet portals. Small wonder SEC Chair Mary Schapiro has been one of most outspoken critics of bill.

The bill was sold to Congress as a way to promote jobs (note the acronym) on the supposition that small start-ups create huge numbers of them. Wrong. That assumption comes from research by the Kauffman Foundation, which counted as a “start-up job” every laid-off worker who morphed into an independent contractor.

I’m all in favor of more entrepreneurship, and it’s good to give investors another way to participate in emerging companies. But this bill doesn’t do nearly enough to protect the vulnerable.

America’s capital market was already a giant casino. Why now turn the rest of America into one?

Robert Reich

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Ethiopia Investment Summit to Showcase Opportunities in the World’s Third Fastest Growing Economy

 

NEW YORK, April 5, 2012 — /PRNewswire/ —

The last decade has shown that in the race to claim the 21st century, Africa will give Asia and a rising Latin America a run for its money. McKinsey global recently published a ground breaking publication named, “Lions on the Move: the progress and potential of African Economies.”  Drawing a direct parallel to the economic emergence of the Asian Tiger Economies, the study fixed impressive numbers against the impending rise of the African Lion economies.  “There is no more impressive an African Lion economy on the move than that of Ethiopia,” says Henok Assefa, Managing Partner of Precise Consult International PLC, the organizers of the Ethiopia Investment Summit 2012.  “According to the conservative estimates of the Economist Magazine, Ethiopia will be the third fastest growing economy in the world in the period between 2011-15.  It is no surprise that the World Economic Forum has chosen Ethiopia as its host for its 2012 gathering of the continent’s best under the theme, “Shaping Africa’s transformation.”

With a population of 85 million, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and one of the largest unexplored markets in the world.  More than 70% of the country is aged under 30 and the country’s rapidly expanding education system currently boasts 20 million students.  The national economy has registered growth rates in excess of 10 percent for several years and the country appears to be emerging on the world scene and attracting much interest from investors.  The country is already the third largest coffee producer in the world and boasts the largest livestock population in Africa.  It is also the fourth largest sesame exporter in the world, second largest horticulture exporter in Africa, and one of the largest honey and beeswax producing countries in the world.

These solid hard facts are the platform on which the Ethiopian Investment Summit is based:  “The idea behind the Ethiopia Investment Summit 2012 is to help foreign investors understand this newly emerging giant of an African economy,” says Henok Assefa.  “We will have in one room 200 CEOs of Ethiopia’s largest and most promising enterprises, meeting with up to 200 foreign CEOs exploring the Ethiopian market, against a background of some serious economic analyses and information.  With the strong support we’ve so far received from the Government of Ethiopia, we expect a very strong and relevant participation from key decision-making personalities, including several key cabinet ministers.

The kind of interest the country is witnessing is clearly indicated in the type of companies who are sponsoring the Ethiopia Investment Summit 2012.  The list includes premiere consulting and finance firms the likes of The Boston Consulting group and Ernst and Young, and Schulze Global Investments, a private equity firm well experienced in Asia but currently betting on Ethiopia.  Access Capital and South West Energy are also two of the companies currently betting big in Ethiopia’s future.  “If you are an investor still upset because you missed the start of the Asian and Chinese economic revolutions of the last 20-30 years, then you owe it to yourself to attend the Ethiopia Investment Summit 2012,” concludes Mr. Assefa.

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